The decision to install an AstroTurf Field was a “no-brainer” in more ways than one.

Turf vs. the Earth
Introduced to Socrates (Plato) at Bates, I was impressed with his recognition of a duality: a world of ideas that lies at the heart of everything, and a world of material objects. From more extensive reading of Plato I found myself in harmony with his view that philosophia (love of wisdom) is superior to techne (mechanical knowledge). He was adamant in his conviction that techne must be controlled. I learned later of the Logos—the word, thought, or essence that gives order and meaning to the world. The fourth Gospel in the New Testament makes reference to this source of world reason.

These things surfaced in my mind when I mused over what I felt was an incongruous decision on the part of Bates to employ AstroTurf for the advancement of its physical education program (“Splendor in the [Synthetic] Grass,” fall 2000). This glorified indoor–outdoor carpet may be one of endless stimuli required by the human economy, but it is detrimental to the real economy of our planet.

Probing what might be the idea of an economy in the mind of the Ineffable, and I like very much that name for the creator of the earth, I realized that indeed the earth does have an economy of its own—an economy upon which the gross national product is thoroughly parasitic. The earth’s own economy, which I think of as God’s economy, preceded humanity. The real economy of the earth, the one that provides us with food, fuel, shelter, and clothing and accounts for our very existence, is a photosynthetic economy. The factories of this economy are legion: every leaf and blade of grass is an individual factory. Through this assemblage nature’s economy produces some 300 billion tons of sugar or precursors of sugar annually. It’s quite amazing that Isaiah knew, without benefit of libraries or television, that “all flesh is grass.” The comment that “grass is dead” shows explicitly the deep meaning of sophistication.

We have known for many years that soil is inhabited by many life forms. A teaspoon of soil from temperate regions may be inhabited by as many as five billion bacteria, millions of actinomycetes and protozoa, plus hundreds of thousands of algae and fungi. The intense energy expenditure of these microorganisms may equal that of 10,000 people working on an acre of soil. A football Þeld, incidentally, is a bit more than an acre in size.

A field paved, in effect, with an artificial, life-smothering substance such as Astroturf will have been removed from its normal function as part of the life-support system of the planet. This truly seems to be counterproductive to the real economy of the earth, and therefore seems inconsistent with wisdom and, insofar as I can see, with the idea or Logos.

The double-entendre on the bottom of page 36 that “the decision was a no brainer” does invite my comment. It reminds me of Thoreau’s observation that “superfluous wealth can buy superfluities only, money cannot buy one necessity of the soul.”

Robert F. Harrington ’47
via e-mail

The author of several books, including To Heal the Earth, reviewed in Bates Magazine in 1994, Bob Harrington has recently published The Soul Solution, included in this issue’s Bookshelf.—Editor

Up in Smoke

I might be wrong, but a quote used in the fall 2000 article on, AstroTurf (“Splendor in the [Synthetic] Grass”) attributes a quotation—”I don’t know. I’ve never smoked AstroTurf”—to Joe Namath. I do believe that that was first said by Bill Lee (The Spaceman) of the Boston Red Sox.

Mark Diters ’77

via e-mail

A bit of Web surfing also gives quote credit to former Phillies reliever Tug McGraw. One can easily imagine Lee, McGraw, or Namath uttering the words.—Editor

Pity the Thesis-less

As a recent Bates graduate fresh from the thesis experience, I was delighted to read about the significance of the thesis on a liberal arts education (“Can We Make the Senior Thesis Even Better?” President’s Column, fall 2000 Bates Magazine).

I, too, dreaded the “Big T” senior year, but as I got into my research and met with my advisor and several other professors, I became engrossed in my topic. So much so, that, yes, I admit it, I actually began to enjoy the process. Late each afternoon, I would venture to the library and investigate what other sources I could find. Then I would return to the den of my room eager to read even more about a topic that seemed to have no end.

Honing my argument and collecting my resources, the crowning moment came on the day I drove to Kinko’s to bind the thesis, returned my books to the library (having to drive up the ramp because I could not carry them all!), and dropped off what seemed to be my life at my advisor’s office.

The thesis was the defining moment and culmination of my academic career. I employed all the research skills and the writing and critical-thinking methods developed in my four years at Bates. I had to “take responsibility for learning and employ all the skills developed during [my] Bates experience.” It was indeed the “keystone that [held] and [integrated] the full span of the undergraduate experience.”

I was once jealous of institutions that did not require a senior thesis. Now, I pity them, for their students are missing out on a vital part of their education. On my road towards a Ph.D. related to my thesis topic, I thank Bates for the thesis opportunity.

Lindy Forrester ’00
via e-mail

The Bell of Bates

It tolled for thee, O Bates! “Maxiflex” scheduling (On and Off Campus, fall 2000) sounds as if a committee had too much time on its hands. Do not the professors own wristwatches? Can they not use them to dismiss class? (Little hand = hours, long hand = minutes, right?) Enquiring old graduates would like to know.

Richard Davignon ’57
via e-mail

The new system is supposed to give professors (and their watches) more flexibility to hold class sessions for shorter and/or longer periods of time, at their discretion.—Editor

In Memoriam, Alfred Wright
As a student in Dr. Wright’s French classes in Hathorn Hall, I gradually developed an appreciation of, and a sensitivity for, French literature in general but in particular for 20th-century novels and theater.

Due to his enthusiasm for the genres and his stylistic and literary insights, I chose a 20th-century French author for my senior thesis. Throughout the writing process, Dr. Wright was most generous with his advice, encouragement, and his critical eye. As a fledgling writer at the time, I often strayed from correct grammar and acceptable style. Ever watchful, Dr. Wright set me on the correct path. During my four years at Bates, we developed a friendly relationship.

An example of his concern and kindness is indelibly etched in my memory. As I lay suffering in the infirmary for a week with mononucleosis during my junior year, I fretted that I would not be able to resume my duties as a language laboratory assistant when the semester resumed. Upon learning that I was incapacitated, Dr. Wright sent word to me in the infirmary that he would not finalize the assistants’ schedule until I had recovered. I was, indeed, most appreciative of that endearing gesture on his part.

My memories of the Bates College experience include so many conversations with Dr. Wright on a wide variety of subjects. He was always very generous with his time and his knowledge. I often stopped by his office to ask a question or just to say hello. He never failed to welcome me warmly, engaging me in a spirited conversation and sharing a few laughs.

I am grateful for Dr. Wright’s guidance, support, and constructive criticism during my years at Bates College. His professionalism and humor were a highlight of my life on campus.

Rick Melpignano ’68
via e-mail

To Our Letter Writers
We welcome letters of approximately 400 or fewer words. Letters may be edited for style, grammar, length, clarity, and relevance to College issues and issues discussed in Bates Magazine. Please address letters to Bates Magazine, Office of College Relations, 141 Nichols St., Lewiston, ME 04240, e-mail magazine@bates.edu.