Thursday, April 29, 2010

A purple masterpiece

by Dubby Riley

Jo has raised the bar. "Friends, let's weave a masterpiece."

Joellen Floyd (No middle name) Lucas writes with precision, humility, eloquence and grace. Her message is inspiring and full of hope. We Ruskin friends have good reason to glow under the influence of her light. But really, neither she nor John Ruskin himself, exclude anyone from their invitation to grow... to "gaze without shrinking into the darkness."

My own ability is meager compared to hers. My vocabulary, my composition, my style--all seem feeble compared to her essays. Very few writers, in fact, will ever achieve her level of skill, let alone to have her vision. Isn't it fortunate for us that she invites us to be part of her inner circle? And we can rejoice that the masterpiece she insinuates doesn't require that we qualify as expert writers, or expert anything for that matter. That is, if I understand her point, we're not expected to be masters to weave a masterpiece.

Jo's "reflection" does seem to suggest a certain level of responsiblity though. I hear a gentle whisper, urging us to contribute to the greater good. And it moves me to muster strength and conviction and especially heart to be part of the solution, to help us succeed as a culture. I've been thinking a lot lately about the world and our place in it. Not just we grads of Ruskin, class of '71, but we who have had so much privilege and have enjoyed so much of the "fruit" of the world.

Just lately, and I mean literally within weeks or months, I'm having a change of heart about our differences as a country torn by politics. All agree that we're racked by gridlock. Some of us identify with liberal ideology and some with conservative. We've been stereotyped as red or blue as states go. I used to bristle by arguments made by supporters of certain leaders, and honestly I still am biased, but I see now that as long as I stay stubborn about these things, I'm as much a part of the problem as those who do the same thing on the other side. So I've been thinking--isn't purple the most incredible color? Purple is that lovely combination of red and blue.

Part of what has brought me to this place is our connections which have occurred because of Facebook. Here we were light hearted children, though we wouldn't have called ourselves that when we walked the halls of the proud Ruskin Eagles. We laughed and joked and went to our football games and dances, debated and cheered and met up at Paul's for burgers or just to be "in the scene." Now we're back as friends again, many of us without having ever talked in over 35 years! But now about half of us vote one way and the other half the other.

What has put such an intense magnifying glass on the situation for me is that we discover that some of our closest friends feel passionately different about policy. And I wonder, which is closer to our authentic self--how we were then or how we are now? Also, a key to resolution about progress may rest in our old friendships. They talk about how it used to be different in Washington. Republicans and democrats used to be friends. Should I stop loving someone, who I haven't seen in forty years because they feel strongly and passionately about their country? Sounds absurd doesn't it?

Jo mentions our preponderance of artists within our midst. Rick and Danny and Mo are lucky, I think, to be musicians. Not only do they feel good when they make music but others are healed by the music. I liken them to physicians. Jo and Reya and Linda, too, are artists with words. So others reap the reward by savoring the images from their canvasses. Dancers, painters, cinematographers, home builders, teachers, church or factory workers...artists all...delight us and nurture us by their inspiration.

Have you ever noticed that almost magically, when an intention is set that results follow? What if we devote our art...our cumulative art to creating the most wonderful shade of purple? Our politicians don't really know us. But we know each other. We survived a tornado. We've raised children. We've owned businesses and we've volunteered, we've coached teams and we've supported our communities.

I don't think either side has all the answers but I'll be damned if I'm going to go down as a stubborn liberal pacifist intent on proving he's right, at the expense of our culture being doomed to stalemate and stagnation. That doesn't seem like a masterpiece in the making to me.


  1. PURPLE! Perfect! "The color of nobility and spirituality. It holds an almost sacred place in nature"...and in terms of the metaphysical, the 7th chakra is purple..."a perfect balance of red and blue, instilling both strength and dignity...When this chakra is open, you are unprejudiced and quite aware of the world and yourself." (thanks,Yahoo)

    We could all stand to be more noble, spiritual, unprejudiced, and aware of the world and ourselves!

    How brilliant! Thank you for the shining golden thread in our vibrant purple tapestry!

    And your lovely words about my writing humble me. Stop it! ;-)

  2. I am so excited to read this, Dub. How healing it is to start the practice of tolerating diversity. They always say, "celebrate diversity," but honestly, that's SO hard. For me if I can just take a deep breath and admit that PERHAPS there might be other ways to view the world, PERHAPS ... I always feel more expansive.

    Tolerance of alternative points of view is SO NEEDED right now in the U.S. There's plenty of contentious, acrimonious energy circling around. We don't have to add more to it.

    I salute you!! Wow. You are mighty!!!

    Also, ... wow.... Paul's. Hadn't thought of Paul's in forever. God. Riding in Linda McAllister's black mustang fastback to flirt and hang out - wow and wow and wow again.

    I'm in touch with Linda who is still as fabulous as she was way back then. Just like the rest of us here.

    Thanks for this. xx

  3. is Mac?! I just asked Linda (Ricketts) Hirsch about her this morning!! Too weird!

  4. Thanks Reya and Jo for your kind remarks. Really this isn't as exceptional as you give me credit for. When people asked my father how he ever had the nerve to become a fighter pilot in the Army Aircorps (before there was such thing as an Air Force) he said he just thought it would be safer to be in the air shooting down than to be down there being shot at.

    It seems our choices are either to accept this state of two sides, both refusing to "give in" or to seek an alternative way.

    We should have "purple rallies" or the equivalent with the intention to make friends with those we have decided are our foes. Break bread, let our kids play (our grandkids, most of us now) together.

    But not to make light of your lovely comments. Thanks for taking the time.


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  6. Dubby, thanks for speaking from the heart! John almost looks healthy in this clip! I can just imagine the cameraman saying, 'smile now for the camera'
    What airplanes did your father fly?

  7. Nancy. My father flew the shark mouthed P-40s and P-51s. He was in the Flying Tigers. He was an ace and he was shot down twice, himself. I never heard the stories until he was an old man. He didn't talk about it when I was younger. When we were in grade school and other boys were drawing pictures about their hero dads from "the war," I felt uninformed. I came home from school that day and asked mom, "What did dad do in the war--other boys' fathers were heroes. My mom said he was a hero too and that was the first time I'd heard it.

  8. Oh Dubby that is so interesting, and I hope you recorded any stories your father had! As I understand it, Flying Tigers (led by Chennault) volunteered to teach the Chinese how to fight the Japanese Zero. Basically the Zero could out-turn their airplanes, so they taught them to make the fight keeping the sun on their back, and dive down firing from above the target, then back to where the sun would block their view (sun to the back) - instead of letting the zero outmaneuver them. Fight on their own terms, and not be led into a chase that the zero could win. By the time the United States got involved in the war, the Flying Tigers had experience - and they were dispersed to work under brass that had NO the brass was miffed at these guys telling them (and rightly so) how to DO things!

    Also, the Japanese were very superstitious and the shark painted on the airplane was there for that reason.

    Is your dad Weldon Riley?

  9. Thanks Nancy. I just now saw this reply. Yes, Weldon was my dad. Interesting that my mom did save the patches but my dad gave his fighter jacket to my grandpa who put it in a Goodwill bin! Wish we had it today.

    The story of the Tigers is interesting. The P-40s they flew over India into China were so worn out and rickety that they were dangerous just to fly and the mission of flying over those mountains was extremely scary as my dad told us later (before he died). My mom knows more because he really never talked about it. This journal by Major Mcguire is a wonderful compilation. Thanks so much for uncovering it!

  10. Dubby, I am sorry to hear your father died. My father passed away 3 1/2 yrs ago, and my mom was determined to write down all of his stories - its just amazing what WWII stories they had to tell. My dad's bronze star (which I only heard about after I graduated - he never really spoke about it) came with a descriptive letter describing his contribution - that was burned in a St. Louis fire along with all of the other records - he was in the 8th. His copy went with the tornado, as did so many pictures, etc.... There are MANY wonderful autobiographical books written by WWI pilots (especially) that can make you feel as if you were in the rickety planes with them. Hard to find, but the BEST, most poetic writer - wrote Sagitarrius Rising (Cecil Lewis - not the famous author, but happens to be this pilot's name). I found some excerpts from this book at Cecil Lewis - and on the Excerpts 2 you will find part of the description of night flying for the first time. It is amazing that these rickety planes survived so much! Teaching strategy to the Chinese was really something, and I am told that DESPITE the new manuevers the Chinese deployed (thanks to those few men along with your dad), the Japanese never did change THEIR fighting strategy and really started losing. I hope you can put your mom's stories together, it would sure be nice to have that perspective. Arch Whitehouse wrote more WWI books that were pretty good to read, and another book I just finished 'Forever Flying' by Bob Hoover is more of a recent account by the famous aerobatic pilot. There are more - just these seem to give the taste of the era's. P40's were pretty tired by the time WWII started, and only used in the beginning - as P51 Mustangs, etc. started claiming fame. I am learning through all of this too - glad to share!

  11. Nancy. Thanks so much. I want to copy all your comments and forward them to my mother. Also, please tell us about your father.


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