City Life, Continuing Education, Emerson, Family, Life, Literature, Madison Senior Center, Senior Citizens, Transcendentalism, University of Wisconsin--Madison

Living lives of Quiet Desperation

Desperado, oh, you aint gettin no youger
Your pain and your hunger, theyre drivin you home
And freedom, oh freedom well, thats just some people talkin
Your prison is walking through this world all alone

The Eagles “Desperado”

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.

Henry David Thoreau “Walden”

I have been taking a class called “Emerson, Thoreau, and the Transcendentalist Movement” taught by Professor Ashton Nichols of Dickinson College at the Madison Senior Center at 330 Mifflin Street. It cost $10.00 which is a good deal by anyone’s standards.

It is on DVD, of course, and a number of us sit quietly in a room and listen to Dr Ashton lecture. Then we have a brief discussion. Very brief.  I wish there was more time, I wish I was more connected to this group of people who are taking this class.  Well, I will be in time.

I really did not study very much American literature when I was in college. I concentrated on Shakespeare’s Elizabethan contemporaries and all of the literature that came before them. It’s a deficit that I regret although I understand that you really can’t go to college forever and just getting through all of Shakespeare was a major accomplishment. So many great works, so little time.

The class I am taking started on the 22nd of August and we’ve already dispensed with Emerson! I want to call a halt and say “Whoa, hold on here! I’ve barely gotten a taste of this founding father of American literature. I want to spend some more time reading his work, discussing what he has written and exactly how it has influenced American thinking.”

I guess this class is not going to give me that. So on we go to Thoreau who I am somewhat more familiar with. Someone quoted the quiet desperation line and the class moderator said no that wasn’t a Thoreau line. Soneone else said it was Mencken. What??

My table mate and I looked at one another and I shook my head. He mumured that he thought it was Thoreau and I said I thought so too. I told him I would look it up when I got home.  Desperado started playin in my head–a mneumonic device to remember to look up that quote no doubt. <heh>

I looked it up and sure enough it was Thoreau. To get the Eagles off my inner mp3 player I youtubed Depserado. Youtube is a wonderful invention. Did Al Gore have anything to do with it?  I ran into my table mate in the hall when I went to get my mail.  He was doing laundry.  He was pleased to hear that we were right and have bragging rights next week.  <heh>

I called the University of Wisconsin today because I heard that Senior Citizens can audit classes for free. I want to audit a class in early American literature. A very nice young lady gave me this link to check out the age requirements and other auditing and continuing education opportunities.  Today is my birthday. I’m 55. I’m now considered a senior citizen by some agencies and can receive some services that only senior citizens are eligible for but alas, I will have to wait another five years to audit classes free at the University.

I wonder if my mind will be functioning well enough to manage that then? It is not cheap to audit. A three credit course is over $200 and you can’t audit any writing classes. Bummer. Maybe I could sneak in. You don’t think they’d notice the noisy fat old gray-haired lady sitting in the corner do you?

In the meanwhile I will try to read Emerson (and Thoreau because no doubt we will speed right by him on our way to Margaret Fuller) on my own and find ways to discuss them with other neophytes.  I have never heard of Margaret Fuller or if I have I have forgotten her.  And Bronson Alcott, father of Louisa May of “Little Women” fame, I had no clue he was so important a figure in American history!

I am also trying to learn html. My brain may explode. But I have heard and have been told that learning new things sets up new neural pathways so that your synapses will continue to fire allowing your brain to find ways to work around damage caused by stroke and other neurological problems.



2 thoughts on “Living lives of Quiet Desperation

  1. pat says:

    Happy Belated Birthday!!
    I got tied up (figuratively) last evening and didn’t get a chance to check your blog….otherwise I would have been on time with my celebratory greeting.
    I hope you had a wonderful and joyful day.

  2. bairbresine says:

    Aw gee, thanks Pat. It gives me warm fuzzy feelings to know you are out there reading. And that you stopped in to wish me a Happy day. It was good. Leaving tonight to see the grandkids & adult kids over in Edgerton this weekend. I feel like cooking so I think I’ll surprise everyone with roast beast tomorrow.


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