Lower Education: NOT Damien Hirst

“Elizabeth said she should get to be president, because she isn’t good at math and this way she doesn’t have to do any.” The Kid was reporting on the doings of the day at her school, and how the “investment group” she is part of went about deciding on officers and stocks.

“So what does a president — say, of the United States — do?”

Blank stare.

“Well, which branch of government does he head?”

“Supreme,” the Kid said with conviction.

“Hmmm …  ‘Supreme’ is not a branch of government, kiddo.”

The glazed look was back in her eyes, but we kept trying.

“What are the three branches of government?”

“Judiciary, legislative, and executive,” she rattled off rapidly.  I suppose there is something to be said for rote learning …  too bad it didn’t seem to extend beyond rote.

“And what is the executive branch for?”  we prompted.

“He makes the laws,” our child answered confidently.

When The Kid was a baby, her grandfather assured us that because of her prominent frontal and occipital bones, she was one lucky child.  She has a skull of silver and gold, my father said.

Damien Hirst: For the Love of God

The Kid graduates from 6th grade in two weeks; perhaps I shall mutter her grandfather’s prognostications as a mantra: “Bones of silver and gold, bones of silver and gold, bones of silver and gold …”

A Glimpse of John Donne

The National Portrait Gallery in London has a wonderful portrait of John Donne, painted around 1595 when he was in his early twenties.  I had always imagined Donne as someone without a sense of humor, but this image of him is almost Byronic, as romantic as an Elizabethan painting can get.

I was confronted by John Donne this morning, outside a grocery store.  He shambled sideways across the road, calling to me.

“Excuse me, excuse me, can I talk to you?”

He wasn’t drunk … yet;  it was only 10 in the morning.

“It’s just that I’m homeless, and somebody stole my backpack  –”

“Are you asking me for money?”

He seemed surprised by my question.  Perhaps I should have listened to his spiel —  it was, after all,  a game of sorts.

“Umm, yes,” he said, hesitantly.

In the silence, life continued: traffic, a bird twittering somewhere overhead, the rise and fall of voices around the corner.

No man is an Iland, intire of itselfe; every man

is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine;

if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe

is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as

well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine

owne were; any mans death diminishes me,

because I am involved in Mankinde;

And therefore never send to know for whom

the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

I reached into my purse.

“Is this OK with you?  Is this OK?”  He edged away from me, staring at the bill in his hand.

I heard John Donne this morning; was this what he meant?