Tuesday, March 5, 2013

To Dance -- To Dance with a Wolf -- Loo-ten-nant Dunbar

A number of weeks ago after supper, some of us monks were talking about an e-mail message that had come to most of us from Christian (Andy) Dunbar, class of 1989. The message announced the arrival of another child-- the Dunbars' fourth child. Congratulations! Eventually, I will have a more extensive blog on Dunbar, but for now the talk of that evening and this blog will turned to another Dunbar, the main character of Dances With Wolves.

I will always remember the very first time I saw the film. A large group of us monks went to see it at a theater in Omaha. Although I must admit I have senior moments and memory sometimes fails, I do remember that Fr. Stephen Plank got this outing organized. It was really wonderful.

So that evening we monks were talking about Dunbar, that name clicked with me. I went to my room after Night Prayer, checked out my bookcase, found Dances With Wolves, and read the rest of the night. There are occasions when I get alittle crazy and do that sort of thing--spending the whole night reading.

Reading the book is always so much better than seeing the movie-- don't you students all agree about that? Michael Blake is the author. Read the book, but also listen to the music!

There were lots of aspects of Blake's story that struck me with this reading, but the following are the ones I want to mention now.

The first one would be Dunbar as a writer. I am always attracted to people who write and the reasons why they write. Dunbar's writing was a type of journal to report what he was doing at Fort Sedgewick. Perhaps it was to be a simple way of recording history, but then towards the end; when the military came back to take over the Fort, Dunbar thought his writing would incriminate him. Dunbar had learned a whole different way of life. In many ways, it was a much better life with the Comanches-- much more natural and even authentic. In the end, Dunbar's attempt to retrieve his writing almost cost him his life, but his writing was really treated as nothing. One soldier thought it might be good for toilet paper. I thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, when he says at the end of his life that all is really just "straw"-- his writing. Perhaps mine may be as well. But it is still a rather wonderful thing to be able to express oneself in such a way.

Another aspect of this story that I thought so wonderful to experience is the longing to communicate. Here are people who do not know a word in one another's language and yet within  a period of time communication becomes possible. Understanding becomes a reality. Complete strangers become good friends. It is an awesome thing.

The final aspect of this story that is so very, very awesome is: the meaning of names. By reading the book one really understands why Dunbar gets the name Dances With Wolves. And even more by the end of the book, one understands that the man Dunbar really is non-existent now. They only man that remains from the whole experience is Dances With Wolves.

In all my years of teaching, especially the classes of literature and theology, when I chose literature like Dances With Wolves, I knew that I could hook the MM boys, almost every one of them. It was my way to pull them into reading.

Read the book and you also will understand the deep relationship of Cisco and Two Socks to Dunbar, and Dunbar's relationship to them!

Below are some photos taken on March 4, 2013. Here is the closest I get to Two Socks right now. It is Gypsy, Tim Struckman's dog. Tim has been a dean here at Mount Michael for a good number of years now. There is a very special relationship between these two as well.

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