Goodenough Gismo

  • Gismo39
    This is the classic children's book, Goodenough Gismo, by Richmond I. Kelsey, published in 1948. Nearly unavailable in libraries and the collector's market, it is posted here with love as an "orphan work" so that it may be seen and appreciated -- and perhaps even republished, as it deserves to be. After you read this book, it won't surprise you to learn that Richmond Irwin Kelsey (1905-1987) was an accomplished artist, or that as Dick Kelsey, he was one of the great Disney art directors, breaking your heart with "Pinocchio," "Dumbo," and "Bambi."

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The hardest part is to hold onto "love" in the face of all that change and destruction. But that is what has always saved me throughout my turbulent life from childhood on. It is as if I have been bathed, baptized and drowned in divorce since I was very young, and yet each time I feel I straightened up and became even more strengthened by compassion and love - from some kind of unknown source within me - and especially from the kindness of strangers.


A related point, I think, is the importance of a stable, natural *place* (or places) in child development. The loss of the homestead, as the first two quotes suggest, can be traumatic. But in many parts of the country, that loss is as likely to be through the destruction of favorite woods and vacant lots from residential and commercial sprawl as through divorce. I've been uniquely fortunate in avoiding the worst of this (and my parents remain happily married, as well), but the clearcutting of a hundred-acre forest we used to walk through a lot as kids gives me an inkling of the sense of loss that people like my mother experience when trying to find traces of her girlhood haunts in south Jersey.

In this context, your remarks about Buddhism are very interesting. "Humans long for something relatively unchanging -- or at least slowly changing -- in a world in constant, accelerating change." This manifests itself in all kinds of ways, I think - especially in the growing appeal of "eternal verities" and rigid, literalist docrines within almost every religion. And though they may respond to it in opposite ways, conservatives no less than liberals prate the same dogma about the need for economic growth (actually metastasis) which lies at the root of so much of this chronic insecurity.


Wonderful comments, both. Tamar, I think many readers will identify with your description of being "bathed, baptized, and drowned in divorce." Dave, thank you for adding the excellent point that far-right religious rigidity is likely the other pole of the same panic -- how to deal with too much change? Dive in, dissolve and drown, or try to freeze it to ice? Make change your god, or make change your devil?

Also, I totally agree with you that the "development" that destroys those overlooked patches of woods, and even sleepy back yards and weedy alleys both rips out the roots of a lot of adults (to which psychologist James Hillman attributes much of the epidemic of depression) and prevents the current generation of kids from ever putting down such roots -- they live in a world completely fabricated by corporations, fast and snack food, videogames and TV. (There's also the explosion in numbers of pedophile predators that makes it unsafe for kids to play unsupervised in such places.) I had an early experience of that kind of loss, growing up inside Chicago in a neighborhood that was a paradise of yards and alleys and unimproved parks, where we kids ran as wild as city kids could. Cottonwood and spiders and ailanthus, butterflies and thunderstorms were large parts of my childhood. A block from my house there was a fenced-in half block of what must have been original prairie, completely overgrown, with tall grasses and a few huge trees, owned by some rich guy who just left it alone. We kids would wriggle under the fence and lose ourselves in there. Sometime in the '60s, it was sold and cleared and they built an elementary school there. To give them a little credit, they designed the building around the old elm trees instead of cutting them down. But I dare say the piece of wild prairie was the better elementary school.


That's a poignant story, Amba - and I dug your conclusion. (Maybe it deserves a post of its own?)


That is lovely. I like the image of others resting in the shade of a long, strong marriage. I bring couples with strong marriages to talk to my family class, so that the students can see what one looks like at different stages in the life course. Almost without exception, they write in their journals some version of "I want what they have."


Do they know what they have to give up to have it?

Charlie (Colorado)

wait a minute, why would our hypothetical American Buddhist (admittedly a straw man or woman) meditate on the impermanence of the relationship, and not on the impermanence of dissatisfaction with the relationship?

Yes, why?

Remind me of this in a few days.

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