WHAT’S ON DENNIS GREENE’S MIND? HUMILITY…

HUMILITY

by Dennis Greene

When things are going great and I feel smugly pleased with myself, I try to remember the famous words of Golda Meir:  Don’t be so humble–you are not that great.

And, because I save stuff, I have the documentary evidence to remind me just how not great I am.

In 1969, five years after compiling an abysmal academic record at Lafayette College, I decided to stop being a mediocre engineer and become a lawyer. I took the LSAT, did reasonably well, and applied to most of the best law schools in the country. Two of these schools, Harvard and Columbia, each required a recommendation from the applicant’s undergraduate institution. I had no contacts at Lafayette who might remember me favorably, but I nevertheless forwarded the forms to Dean Chase with a letter acknowledging that he might not remember me but nevertheless requesting that he complete and return the required recommendation forms. I had been one of only seven students in my class on the Dean’s List in our first semester, and I hoped that he would notice that and overlook that, later, I was on both academic and disciplinary probation. But nothing slipped by Dean Chase, and he replied as follows:

Contrary to the first paragraph in your letter, I do indeed remember you. In fact, I  remember writing to you a letter, perhaps it was prior to your sophomore year,  explaining why it was not wise for a student to have an automobile. I believe I  pointed out that academic difficulties often arose when this became the case.

In light of what happened to your academic record at Lafayette afterwards, I am  appalled at my success as a prophet. While I am sorry I was accurate in your case, I can only wish that my track record were as good with everybody else.

These somewhat garbled comments were followed by rejections from Harvard and Columbia. I also received rejection letters from Stanford, Penn, NYU, Berkeley, and  Michigan. The Stanford letter, received only weeks after my application had been submitted, was the most crushing.

I am aware that we have not yet received all the documents required to      complete your application…. however, the Admissions Committee… acts on  applications whenever in its judgement the information available is sufficient to  permit a decision to be made.

I had received an “early decision” rejection years before such actions became routine.

Happily (and luckily), I was admitted to BU Law School, but just barely. My application for financial aid was denied. When I met with the Dean of Admissions to discuss this decision, he informed me, with little warmth, that I should feel fortunate to have been admitted at all, as I had the lowest undergraduate GPA of any student who had applied that year.  He then repeated, with emphasis:  I don’t mean the lowest who was admitted, I mean the lowest of anyone who applied.

I asked if I could defer admission for a year so that I could  earn enough to pay tuition, and he coldly informed me that he would not recommend it.  I would be required to re-apply, and the way the BU applicant pool was improving, my board scores might not be enough to gain me admittance again.

I accepted admission in the class of 1973 and figured out how to make it work.  I finished the first year near the top of my class, worked hard,  got some breaks,  and have had a wonderful life, so far. But I might just as easily have ended up spending my life scraping the barnacles off the hulls of rich people’s sailboats.

I’m not that great.

Prolific “BOLLI Matters” writer Dennis Greene

Whether it’s pop culture, sci fi, memoir, or whatever is on his mind at the moment, Dennis provides us with his own blend of humble humor–which is, of course, great!

 

 

 

STORIES FROM STEVE: ON MIRACLES

On…

by Steve Goldfinger

“A miracle is a violation of nature,” wrote David Hume, the dour 18th century Scot philosopher.  He virtually demolished the possibility of a miracle ever happening by posing the following question double-edged question.  Which is more likely–that the event took place, or that the testimony describing it was fallacious?

It is easy to dismiss Jonah and the whale, but it may not be so easy to dismiss the Hanukah story of an oil lamp of burning for eight days rather than one.  But if archeologists could somehow recover a like oil, give it to scientists who could then identify an ingredient that increased burning longevity, would we still think of it as a miracle?  I don’t know.

Anyway, I began to think about Hume’s argument, asking whether his logic was too dismissive of those who believe in divine intervention, too oblivious of the realm of faith and hope in our lives.This was all occasioned by learning of a recent experience of a close friend.

Late in life, she struggled with advanced renal failure, the possibility of going on hemodialysis hinging on a blood test drawn each week. Then, completely unexpectably, a donor kidney became available, one that was extremely well-matched to her immune system.

Following its engraftment within her body, a couple of remarkable things happened. Her high blood pressure–which had required five drugs, around the clock, to obtain some semblance of control–settled into the normal range without any.  But the second remarkable thing, the one that defied belief, was this: her hair–which had long been colored by a beautician–began to grow out in its natural shade.  Yes, there it was–as auburn as when she was in her twenties!

No one could explain it.  Experts in developmental biology, immunology, dermatology and all other relevant fields were at a loss. Nor, I discovered,  had such a phenomenon ever been observed by others.

So, as banal as her hair story might be when compared to Jonah and the whale, was this a miracle?  Did my eyes deceive me when I sat across from her at dinner? Did she really sneak off to her colorist on the sly after she had her new kidney? Am I, in writing this, giving false testimony?  I know her well and cannot believe she would do such a thing.

When she and her husband describe the blessing that has enfolded for them during the past few months, they are not loathe to speak of a miracle in their lives.  No, not the hair.  The successful transplant, the avoidance of impending dialysis, the cure of her hypertension.

So where does this leave David Hume?

In the 18th century, in musty philosophy books, and in my own ruminations.

“BOLLI Matters” feature writer Steve Goldfinger

Since joining BOLLI two years ago, after a long career in medicine, Steve has been exploring his artistic side.  He has been active in both the Writers Guild and CAST (Creativity in Acting, Storytelling, and Theatre) as well as the Book Group.