Slowly Rising Pressure

Anyone who grows up in Mississippi gains respect for the effects of slowly moving fluid. The fertile soil of the Mississippi Delta, from Memphis down through Clarksdale and Yazoo City to Vicksburg, accumulated over millenia of flooding and deposition of silt carried by the river from northern tributaries. As a boy, Ott Guyton certainly heard about the Great Flood of 1927 and read with interest about the expansion of levees and scientific study of hydraulics by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.[1] Floods in Mississippi typically don’t burst upon the scene in an onrushing torrent. Instead the water rises inch by inch often under clear skies in bright sunlight with inescapable devastating effect. Continue reading “Slowly Rising Pressure”

Early Education: Counting to Ten

At the Guyton household in Jackson, Mississippi, new babies began to arrive. David, Robert, Johnny, Steve, Cathy, and Jeannie had moved with Ruth and Arthur from Oxford to a cramped small house on Meadow Road. Doug soon occupied a crib in a corner of his parents’ room. By the time Jimmy and Tommy arrived, the big concrete house was ready to welcome them.

That might have been enough, but later in the 1960s a bonus package arrived. It seemed only fitting that this Protestant mother would name her 10th child Gregory Paul after two Catholic popes. Ruth had to send a telegram to her Wellesley classmates explaining why she would not be able to attend their 25th reunion. “They were struck dead with horror,” she recalled with great amusement. Continue reading “Early Education: Counting to Ten”

Whirly-Go, Soldering, and Forgiveness

Struck by polio, Arthur Guyton could not pursue his chosen career of cardiovascular surgery and turned instead to basic medical science in physiology. In the fall of 1947 he joined the faculty of the 2-year University of Mississippi Medical School in his hometown of Oxford. The following year, despite some concern from the dean that he might not be able to withstand the rigors of leadership and research due to his disability, he became chairman of the Department of Physiology. Continue reading “Whirly-Go, Soldering, and Forgiveness”

Water to Cripple and Heal

Our grandparents, Luther and Clara Weigle, in the mid-1920s built a summer house on the wooded shoreline of Lake Sunapee in New Hampshire. The beautiful lake sits near the western boundary of the state, about halfway between Massachusetts and Maine. It stretches over ten miles mostly north-south, just over one mile wide in the middle part, with a prominent turn at the Tilson house at the north end. Sunapee swells with seasonal residents in summer and contracts in winter. Our mother’s family were among the part-timers, coming up from New Haven, Connecticut, every June. Continue reading “Water to Cripple and Heal”

Power and Systems

Witnesses from Schopenhauer to Frances Perkins agree that a sense of responsibility accompanies choices made by force of will, whether in the life of an individual or a nation. If I or we choose, then I am or we are accountable.

Yet on occasion something happens that looks very much like choosing, and it seems impossible to assign accountability. Nobody takes responsibility. Continue reading “Power and Systems”

Owning in Common

Can will be plural? Does it make any sense to speak of our will?

When ornate letters on aged yellow paper state “We the people…do ordain and establish this constitution,” shall the heirs of that document consider it to be (1) an expression of common will or (2) an astute contract among individuals? And is there any difference between the two? Continue reading “Owning in Common”

Treasure of the Heart

What do you own? And what sort of stuff do you possess?

Ordinarily we think that people own material things like land, houses, automobiles, and jewelry. People also own pledges or contracts – in the form of money, bank accounts, stock funds, insurance etc. – that support basic needs and interests beyond basic needs.

However, a few voices at either end of a spectrum, the most radical on one side and the most religious on the other, have asserted that we do not own those things and those pledges. Continue reading “Treasure of the Heart”