E. “. . . the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked . . .” Genesis 3:6
F. “A little learning is a dang’rous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.”
Alexander Pope, “Essay on Criticism,” ll. 215-18
For some, knowledge leads down the path to hubris, a “revenge of the intellect” as Susan Sontag warned (ironically, some might say) in “Against Interpretation” (1966). For others, knowledge is the source of enlightenment. Know thyself: as inscribed on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi and lived by Socrates, for whom the knowledge of anything was only as good as its limits.
However we look upon knowledge or follow where it leads, it’s almost certain we’ll wind up somewhere never intended, with consequences for good or ill that we may barely understand. Such is the way of truth.
The glass and St. Rita’s Church
The tumbler is half-filled with Apple and Eve apple juice, all natural, no added sugar, of unknown yet possible relation to the juice of the apples of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. At least that’s what I take away from the company’s name.
The etching on the glass is of St. Rita’s Church, Harahan, which was founded in 1950 by Monsignor Roy Champagne, who was a young priest at the time. The tumbler was part of a larger set created in 2000 for the parish’s 50th anniversary.
I went to St. Rita’s school from the fourth through seventh grades, and Fr. Champagne (he wasn’t a Monsignor yet) was still walking the grounds with the children and saying mass on Sundays. I attended church there until I left my parents’ home in 1986. For many years, I performed with, and then led, the youth choir. My son was baptized at St. Rita’s. I now attend St. John’s Episcopal Church in Park Slope, Brooklyn, but St. Rita’s is a cherished part of my life. It is a place I return to from time to time, to walk in the past and present, and to reflect on the lessons of knowledge and ignorance in my own life.
The desk and a dual journey from Michigan to Illinois
The tumbler was photographed on my desk, a sturdy workshop piece in the Mission Style, dating from the 1920s or 1930s (I am guessing here). I bought it in Rock Island, Illinois, in 1997 for $100.00 in rough but usable shape.
The desk was made in Michigan, by the Wolverine Manufacturing Company of Detroit. The company was organized in 1887, according to the tag, and at least this one desk is still going strong. Wolverine Manufacturing was one of the historical suppliers of parlor and other furniture in the Arts and Crafts style. I wonder sometimes at the happenstance (some might say magic) by which I took a similar route from Michigan, where I obtained my doctorate in 1996 from the university in Ann Arbor, to Rock Island, where I began my first teaching appointment the same year.
Almost everything that has been posted in truth and rocket science was written at this desk.
Notes and credits
The photos of the tumbler and the desk were taken by the author.
This image of the Wolverine Manufacturing Plant was taken from the State of Michigan’s Twentieth Annual Report of the Bureau of Labor and Industrial Statistics (Lansing, 1903), as found on Google Books.
Geotag: St. Rita’s is at 7100 Jefferson Highway, Harahan, Louisiana, 70123. St. John’s Episcopal is at 139 St. John’s Place, Brooklyn, New York, 11217.