Monday, July 12, 2021

Who Cares About Adulthood?


A lot of forces in contemporary U.S. culture work hard to prevent people from becoming adults. Movies, TV, advertisements, pop culture and its endless parade of heroes and villains as seen from the 16-year-old perspective; the relentless cult of staying forever young; a shortage of stable jobs that offer stable finances and work that’s emotionally and mentally bearable (much less emotionally rewarding); the spoiled brat behavior of the rich and powerful; the lies, corruption and perpetual manipulation of our corporate and political cultures.

On the other hand, conventional adulthood as it used to be experienced was often just as narrow as it seemed: go to work; meet your financial responsibilities; provide for your children (financially more than emotionally, often); and most of all live within the range of values dictated as normal for conventional adulthood; that is, accept the systems of U.S. culture and live within them. I’ve been wondering lately if anybody asks themselves anymore what it means to be an adult, whether it’s valuable, what the point is of “growing up,” whether conversations about ‘being an adult” are even relevant anymore, and to whom.

“Nobody studies happiness”--I think it was Charles Olson who said that, with the implication that you can’t expect to have something when you haven’t identified what it is or thought about how to get it. At least in the U.S., “nobody studies adulthood” (although probably there are a few classes in it here or there) and I’m not sure what it would mean to do that or why it would be valuable. What are good ways to live when one is 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90?

Maybe, for me, the basic lesson of adulthood is the importance of learning how to deal with others without thinking that you and your own needs are the only ones that matter (and I know it’s easier to say that than to do it). Compassion, understanding, listening, being open to negotiation and sharing, knowing how to work and play with others; these traits seem to me things I’d like adults to learn and act on. Of course I’m aware that these are traits are not valued by everyone or considered by relevant features of what it means to be an adult, but in my mind (and I’m sure that of some others) they are at least associated with adulthood.

Who cares about adulthood anymore? Is it just an old limitation or is it a concept that still has some kind of importance, and to whom? Is it just an old lesson about responsibility or a concept that like many other concepts has to change as times change?

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Dewey D. Wallace (January 8, 1936 - February 4, 2021)


(This piece announcing the death of my father first appeared as a Facebook post on February 5, 2021. I'm posting it here so that it is more readily available.)

Now that immediate family has been notified, I just wanted to let people know that my father, Dewey Diaz Wallace, Jr. passed away late morning on Thursday February 4 from a variety of physical ailments not related to COVID. He was 85 years old.

I have many things to say about him, but one it occurred to me to share now: when he was visiting his own father at the time he was passing, in 1987, several days before my grandfather died he recited to my father “the whole of William Cullen Bryant’s ‘Thanatopsis,’” as my father said, a poem about the meaning and implications of death first published in 1817. It may have been written as early as 1811, when Bryant was only seventeen years old.

My grandfather had been required as a boy in school to memorize the poem, when he was somewhere between 6 and 10 years old, and at the age of 89 he could apparently recall the poem from memory.

I don’t think that in American public schools we ask young children anymore to memorize poems about the meaning of death, and that’s a good thing, but the family story has remained with me as an example of the power of memory even and perhaps especially at the point of death. On my final visit to my father, I have no idea what was going through his mind, but I think it’s safe to say that memory and dying are experiences more powerful than the living can comprehend. One of the few public lectures I heard my father give was on the subject of the power of mystery, and I learned from him, and from my grandfather, and from many others too, that death is a powerful and mysterious part of what it means to have lived at all. Curiously, although Bryant’s poem belongs to a world view that has faded, the message of his poem is close to that exact same one.

Bryant's poem can be found here:

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

My Father's College and Graduate School Papers

Pictured: Oliver Hall at Whitworth University, which was Whitworth College when my father attended.

I continue to find interesting things among my parents’ remaining property, which I have spent part of most weekends sifting through since my father passed away. Finding things of interest makes the process more bearable.

This time, it’s a set of my father’s papers he wrote as an undergraduate and a graduate student, all of them typewritten, mostly on onion skin paper, and each placed into individual three-hole folders. The list of them may not be interesting to most people, but I find it useful to see something of what my father studied in school. Here they are.

Dad’s college and grad school papers, from Whitworth College, Princeton Divinity School, and/or the Princeton Ph.D. program in religious studies:

Dated Papers:

“The Origin and Development of Greek Tragedy,” Dec 14, 1953, English Composition, Mrs. Eacker.

“The Symbolist School of French Poetry, “ May 1956 in the course Twentieth Century Poetry. Professor’s comment: “First-rate analysis which illuminates without oversimplifying!”

“A Psychological Study of Conversion,” April 10, 1957 in the course Psychology of Religion.

“An Exegesis of Ezekiel 33:12-20” with An Introduction to Ezekiel and An Essay on Ezekiel’s Eschatological Views, Dec 2, 1958, in the course Hebrew Prophets with Exegesis, Dr. Armstrong.

“The Doctrine of God’s Incomprehensibility According to Clement of Alexandria, The Cappaducian Fathers, and Chrysostom,” May 26, 1959, in the course Greek Patristics, Dr. Barrios

Undated papers:

“The Epistle of James and Wisdom Literature: Evidence of Relationship” (no date). Instructor’s comment: “Excellent. This is what I mean by a research paper.”

“Milton’s God” (no date).

“John Keats and Religion” (no date)

“The ‘Improvement’ of Baptism and The Meaning of History Lies Always in the Present”.

“Book Reviews” (no date). Reviews of Irrational Man by William Barrett and Kierkegaard’s Philosophy of Religion by Reidar Thomte,

“An Exegesis of Titus 2:11-14” (no date).

“Hebrews 13-8 With Reference to Christological Controversies” (no date).

“Tertullian’s Concept of Apostolic Tradition” (no date).

“The Use of Scripture in Gregory of Nazianus” (no date).

“The Understanding of Christian Salvation in the Post-Reformation Era” in the course Post-Reformation Doctrine taught by Dr. Hope (no date).

“William Jennings Bryan and His Part in Political Liberalism” (no date).

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Jefferson Hansen Thinks Along With The End of America, Book 15


Jefferson Hansen, a poet, fiction writer, and essayist, as well as my longtime friend and frequent collaborator, has written a brief essay in which he thinks through some of the issues raised in reading The End of America, Book 15. I hope you'll take a few minutes to read it and think along with him too:

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Now available: The End of America, Book 15, by Mark Wallace


My new little book, The End of America, Book Fifteen, is now available.

The End of America, Book Fifteen is a long poem exploring the cityscape of San Diego, California as it appeared between September 2015 and May 2016. Apartment complexes, streets, yards, cranes, boats, bicycles, windows, coffee shops: the poem moves through these and other constructions of the landscape and encounters the creatures, human and other, who live among them. The poem's meditative tone creates a calm into which deceptive or dangerous realities are always threatening to break. The observer is both separated from and entangled in the strangeness of place. "Every image falls short of a description of what's there, dusty green towel in the dirt, hawk overhead."

Price: $9.99

Publisher: Glovebox Poems

Pages: 46

Dimensions: 5.5 X 8.5 X 0.11 inches | 0.0 pounds

Language: English

Type: Paperback

EAN/UPC: 9781943899135

Please support independent booksellers and order this book from Bookshop:

The book can also be found on Amazon:

Or through my Amazon Author Page: