Or What I Want To Do When I Grow Up

I want to be clear with all of my readers. I am pushing 71-years old and I have a problem. I don't know what I want to do when I grow up. I love teaching, traveling, and writing. I have taught at several universities over two decades. I have traveled extensively to all the continents and to 40-countries some of which are no longer countries like West and East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia. In addition, I wrote a human interest column for over a dozen years. I have continued my writing and travel sections in my webpage and Facebook.

Immortal Beloved Immortal Beloved
What I want to do is to blend these three careers into one...somehow. They are morphing together even now. I teach an introduction to philosophy class and use my writing and traveling experiences all the time. Just last week, we were discussing the philosophy of art. The class read the chapter in the text and had to apply it to a required movie, Immortal Beloved, which is about Beethoven. It is a great film, but it is even greater as a teaching aid.
Pablo Picasso Pablo Picasso
One of my students posted on our online discussion board something that she read by Picasso. Picasso said about art: "Art is a lie that tells the truth."
I love it when my students think about questions that are raised in class and then go off to the Internet and discover things. Every semester one student will discover Picasso's statement: "Art is a lie that tells the truth."

I also teach art history and regular history classes and spend a lot of time especially in the regular history class dealing with the run-up to WWII with Picasso's Guernica.



What Picasso said about art being a lie, which tell the truth, is true with my teaching aid Immortal Beloved. That statement of Picasso's is true about Beethoven and his immortal beloved. Scholars have argued about the possible 6-or more different women being his immortal beloved. However, this list does not include who the film claims. The artistic expression of the filmmakers is a lie. Nonetheless, it isn't germane to his art or the art of the film that told the truth about this suffering composer.

I told the class that this modus operandi is true in a great deal of art. When I was much younger and still in high school, I saw the movie, The Bridge on the River Kwai. If you haven't seen it, see it. It won the Best Picture award and 6-others.

The movie

The movie

The novel The novel
It was a great film, but much of it was a lie...historically. Pierre Boulle, who was a French POW in Thailand during WWII wrote a book entitled: The Bridge over the River Kwai. Boulle, being French, didn't want to portray some of his follow French POWs as not so great people. Therefore, he said that they were British, which was a lie.
However, on a trip to Indochina, I made sure that I went to see the bridge...the one is still standing. There were actually two bridges...another lie. Nevertheless, there I stood on the Bridge over/on the River Kwai, which is another lie...it wasn't the Kwai River. Regardless, standing there was one of the greatest moments of my educational life. I knew more about the bridge than 99% of all Americans...I studied, read, thought, etc. about that bridge for years and needed to see it. What an experience it was.

I told my class that I had forgotten one slight detail about the bridge. The day before, I was in Chiang Mai, which is in northern Thailand. I ate in a restaurant, got food poisoning, and wound up in my hotel room's bathroom for several hours dealing with the results of food poisoning. Finally, I went to a local hospital for several additional hours. I felt so sick that I feared that I wouldn't die and just be deathly ill for days.

However, the next day, I flew to Bangkok and visited the bridge, which wasn't far from the city. I stood on that bridge. There I was standing on the bridge really knowing about the bridge.

Al Campbell

Some might say that I know more than any textbook or article about the Bridge on/over the River Kwai because I really know the whole story in detail. I knew something of what it felt like to be a POW and be sick with all sorts of illnesses far worse than my case of food poisoning. Those POWs were sick not for a day...but for months between June 1942 to October 1943 as slave laborers of the Japanese.

And all this was due to artistic lies. I learned the truth, because some Frenchman lied in book, The Bridge over the River Kwai and Hollywood lied in a movie, The Bridge on the River Kwai.

The Bridge over the River Kwai

My experience in Kanchanaburi, which is a small town near Bangkok where the two bridges were took place during winter break in 2009-10. Bangkok was the beginning point of the 258-mile Death Railway. During the winter break this year, I will be at the terminus of the Death Railway...Rangoon, Burma.

The way by rail to Rangoon/Yangon from Bangkok during WWII

The way by rail to Rangoon/Yangon from Bangkok during WWII

Traveling, learning, and writing quite easily morph into a common thread...that of learning the truth about life. There is so much out there that isn't in a book; you must experience it to know the truth. I'm already planning a trip to St. Petersburg, Russia and visit the Moika Palace where Rasputin, the Mad Monk, was assassinated. All that I need is a newspaper or Internet site that wants me to do a special on the 100th anniversary of Rasputin's death in late December 2016.

If you would like to view a very good documentary about the Death Railway, look at this video with much actual film about the building of the rail line.