Dec. 20, 1999

On the Road to Buddhahood

by David Budbill

Trying to Be Who I Already Am

by David Budbill

Broadcast Date: MONDAY: December 20, 1999

Poems: "Trying to Be Who I Already Am" and "On the Road to Buddhahood" by David Budbill from Moment to Moment: Poems of a Mountain Recluse published by Copper Canyon.

It’s the birthday of fiction writer Hortense Calisher, born in New York City (1911)—who wrote almost exclusively about New York, where she grew up and lived her entire life. She wrote novels, but is most highly regarded for her short stories, which began appearing in The New Yorker in the 1940s. She once said that the action of a short story is "an apocalypse served in a very small cup." "When it begins to be said that I have a style, am a ‘stylist,’ I chafe. Doesn’t this mean I have nothing to say comparable to the way I say it—or else that anything I say will all sound the same?"

It’s the birthday of philosopher Sidney Hook, born in New York City (1902)—who wrote many books on Marxism, public policy, and education. After supporting the American Communist Party’s presidential candidate in 1932, he broke entirely with the Party. His sharp critique of Stalinism in the mid-1930s alienated him from many leftist friends; and while he stayed fervently anti-Communist, he was just as opposed to Senator Joe McCarthy. After writing 35 scholarly books, he published his autobiography, Out of Step: An Unquiet Life in the 20th Century (1987). "Man’s vocation should be the use of the arts of intelligence in behalf of human freedom."

It’s the birthday of revolutionary Maud Gonne [gun], born in Dublin (1866). A founder of Sinn Fein [shin fane], the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, she campaigned against the eviction of tenant farmers in Donegal [dawn-ay-GAHL], and for the release of Irish prisoners—and was herself imprisoned several times. William Butler Yeats modeled the heroine of his play The Countess Cathleen (1892) after her; he was overwhelmed by her great beauty from their first meeting at his father’s house in London. She refused his offers of marriage but encouraged his art, and shared—for a time—his interest in mysticism. She referred to their non-physical relationship as a ‘spiritual union.’ Her marriage to Irish Brigade officer John MacBride greatly disturbed Yeats, although he continued to write poems about her. But she soon accused her husband of adultery and divorced him; he was executed following the Easter Rising of 1916, by which time she was living in France as Madame MacBride. Her memoir A Servant of the Queen, which focuses on her ‘shining days’ between 1890 and 1900, came out in 1938.

In 1803 on this day, the Louisiana Purchase was formalized in New Orleans—one of the great real estate deals in history, doubling the size of the United States. 800,000 square miles of France’s Louisiana Territory were turned over to the U.S. for 60 million francs, or about $15 million—$20 a square mile. President Jefferson had sent James Monroe and Robert Livingston to Paris to negotiate navigation rights to the lower stretches of the Mississippi; when Napoleon Bonaparte offered to sell them the entire territory, they were delighted.

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