Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Blowin' in the Wind, Jamestown, NC
A friend recently shared a seventy three year old letter from a Mississippi father to his son dated March 4,, 1941. The parents had recently signed over their permission for the seventeen year old son to join the marines. Of course, no one knew at the time that the Japanese would attack Pearl Harbor in Hawaii just nine months later and plunge the United States and her armies into a devastating world war.
Joseph Campbell’s classic study of the heroic journey in world mythology, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, observes that the journey begins with the potential hero leaving home, the familiar comfort zone. The heroic journey has all of us as its symbolic subject and traces the hero-paths of our own journey, from potential to full actuality of our true self.
The young man’s father writes that “We miss you a great deal, but we are all reconciled to the fact you are in the army now, where we have nothing to say about your going out at night or using the car…No one living has the same interest in you, or your welfare, as your father and mother. So what I am going to say now is with the sole purpose in mind of trying to help you, rather than hinder you.” The father gives his son “not ten commandments but the advice of a father, who has seen a great deal of life, who has faced the same problems you will be confronted with; it is my hope and prayer that what I have said will help you”.
In short, the father’s advice was to:
• Be absolutely honest.
• Be your own counsel.
• Be obedient.
• Be neat and clean in body, mind and life.
• Be tolerant of good natured “kidding” and don’t be a rough-neck.
• Don’t be promiscuous and be mindful of STD’s in the big world.
• Don’t permit others to take advantage of you.
• Don’t be a tattle-tale or news bearer.
• Don’t boast.
• Your own conscience is your best guide.
This letter, among possibly hundreds of others, has been saved and passed down as a priceless family heirloom because of the loving wisdom and concern of a father who was experiencing the departure of his son as he left the comfort zone of home. We read the letter knowing that the young adventurous son was walking into the onset of the most horrific world war of our times. And we sense the ominous implications for everyone. But the father finished with optimism by writing “In our minds we have followed you across the country and I know you enjoyed the trip. You saw many interesting sights and some not so interesting. You will find life a whole lot like that trip in many respects. There will be spots like the desert, barren and uninviting. It is easy when everything is pretty. It takes a man to ride out the rough spots and come out the better for the experience…Lovingly, Dad”
Where have all the young men gone?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.