It has been some time, perhaps a year or more since I dropped in here. I'll post an interview here since that seems what people are interested in on this thread.-Ron in Tasmania
The content of this simulated interview was born from an article and interview I read in a journal called The Harvard Advocate(Fall 2004). The person interviewed was writer Maurice Manning, a native of Kentucky who was awarded the 2001 Yale Younger Poet’s prize, arguably the highest honour an American can receive for a first book of poetry, for his first collection, Lawrence Booth’s Book of Visions. In 2004 Manning taught writing and literature at the University of Indiana.
The piece in The Harvard Advocate began with a quotation from Daniel Boone and a short analysis of some of Boone’s life. I will begin my own interview here with this same quotation from Daniel Boone and some of the story of Boone’s life. –Ron Price with thanks to The Harvard Advocate, Fall 2004.
Curiosity is natural to the soul of man and interesting objects have a powerful influence on our affections. Their influencing power actuates, by the permission or disposal of Providence, from selfish or social views; yet in time the mysterious will of Heaven is unfolded and we behold our conduct, from whatsoever motives excited, operating to answer the important designs of Heaven. --Daniel Boone, The Adventures of Colonel Daniel Boone, Formerly a Hunter,” 1793(1784).
In 1769 Daniel Boone, thirty-five years old and already well-worn by two decades of frontier living, embarked on the journey that was to secure his place in American myth. To any sober-minded contemporary, his departure for the Mississippi River could hardly have seemed the most important of current events. In the same month, May 1769, the Virginia House of Burgesses would sign its “Resolves,” challenging the right of British Parliament to meddle in her colony’s affairs. The states of Pennsylvania, Maryland, the Carolinas and Georgia followed suit. Some distance east, Maria Bonaparte of Corsica was seven months pregnant with a certain future general; west, a group of Spanish missionaries had pressed through to the Pacific and, though besieged by locals, the group nonetheless set up the first Christian settlements on the Pacific.
It is unlikely that Boone was aware of these things in any explicit sense. He could not possibly have known how deeply the disquietude of the Virginia local assemblies would resound, the revolutionary rupture they would initiate. Still less could he have anticipated the influence the Corsican infant would have on European history, or the discord that democratic sensibilities like his own would inspire in France, before that infant should rise to claim it. Yet, at the heart of these axes or, if you would prefer, as one link of this extraordinary constellation, he pressed on through thick woods toward the Mississippi River.
Though it might seem strange to speak in sidereal terms of a man who these days is commemorated chiefly with plastic rifles and novelty mugs, his journey had profound implications. It was, for one, an act of political defiance: Boone set off in violation of England’s 1763 Proclamation, prohibiting settlement beyond the Appalachians, at the fore of the westward migrations that would have such profound effects on the development of his country. Further still, whether deliberately or not, Boone was a pioneer of pioneering—arguably the paradigmatic American mode of self-invention. With all the wonderment and pleasure of an actual return to nature, Boone would persist against hardship, a model of the self-sufficiency so praised by the philosophes of the European Enlightenment. If Thomas Jefferson pronounced the moral sense more powerful in a ploughman than a professor, because the former was less likely to have been “led astray by artificial rules,” Boone was the man plunging determinedly ahead into the unmapped wilderness without precept or precedent. It is precisely his seeming inconsequence—or, at least, his marginality—on the scene of truly cataclysmic developments, that makes him exemplary of a particularly American heroism: individual, grassroots, democratic, or practical—call it what one will. Especially today, in a political climate begging for self-reflection and introspection about our origins, about the character and duty of our country to its own professed ideals and to a global community its founders could not have imagined—Boone appears as the prototype of the reflective adventurer, of a national character to which we often allude.
I: What is the relevance of this Daniel Boone story to your own story as a Baha’i pioneer?
P: There are several points of comparison and contrast, but two stand out. One is the climate of self-reflection and introspection about origins, character, duty, ideals and global community. My entire poetic opus is a tribute to these aspects of the Boone story. The second point I want to emphasize is the “truly cataclysmic developments” in both Boone’s world and mine. There is certainly a “seeming inconsequence” and a “marginality” to my life and that of the Baha’i community from the point of view of the wider society I have been a part of for half a century. Like Boone I, too, plunge determinedly into the unmapped wilderness.” There is some precedent and precept in the writings of my Faith; I enjoy guides that Boone did not possess. He was a type of pioneer who had to invent and reinvent himself. I find him an inspiration in a way. He published his autobiography in 1784, 200 years before I started mine in 1984.
Interviewer(I): Ron, I’ve read in other interviews and articles that you grew up in southern Ontario Canada in a psychological landscape that was not unlike what people experience growing up elsewhere. It was an ordinary, a common, sort of place, not especially unique. Is that the case?
Price(P): As a child I had no sense, no awareness, that there was something unique about growing up beside Lake Ontario. It seemed about as ordinary then as it seems now looking back. It was free of violence and trauma, as far as I knew; it was a simple enough spot. Now, of course, with the benefit of hindsight, we know there was more below the surface than what I saw. The most accurate way I can characterize the negative aspects of my early life my is to say it was a kind of polarized social, familial and cultural experience. Two opposing extremes always seemed to be visible and palpable. By that I mean that I grew up in a situation where I felt exposed to poverty, at least a little poverty and much privilege, great intelligence and sensitivity on the one hand and great ignorance and prejudice on the other. The extremes were not painful, probably because there were many people in the middle and that was where I was. I could say more about these polarities, but I think that is sufficient--and I don’t want to get into a social scientific analysis of the late 1940s to the early 1960s, my childhood and adolescent years.
I: Could you describe the impact of your childhood on your work, more specifically, your writing?
P: What’s most powerful is that these kinds of polarities that I mentioned existed side by side, in very close proximity to each other. I think in any small town and in many rural communities this is especially true. The rich and the poor, the sophisticated and the uncultivated, the educated and uneducated, people see each other and have to interact with each other everyday in some way. And in my experience those were the extremes which ran the gamut from issues related to economics, religion and education. Many of us have a bittersweet relationship with home, with the whole process of growing up. It often becomes that way as we look back. I think part of that experience is that you’re aware of the things you love about your home on the one hand, but you are reluctant to admit sometimes that there are terrible things associated with the place you love on the other. It puts you in a grey area much of the time. I think I grew up in that grey area much of the time; I accepted its reality and for the most part was not disturbed by it.
Polarities continue into early, middle and late adulthood as well as old age, some of these polarities are the same and some different. There are many effects on my work and writing that come from this early experience. One becomes accustomed to the gradations of emotional experience, to the bittersweet realities of life, so that they are not as much of a shock when they hit you in early adulthood, say, 20 to 40. This is not to say, of course, that you don’t feel hurt. This is quite a complex question to deal with here. When grey changes to bright colours they seem even brighter.
--posted at ZEFRANK.COM-message board on: 13/7/09.