It's All In The Game
by A. Charles Corotis


It's All In The Game: A selected Collection of Gay Essays
on Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Mnemosyne,
Assayed from the Provocative Pages of
New Jersey's Literate Review Weekly, The Argus

By A. Charles Corotis



I dangled precariously and somewhat self-consciously, but certainly not unpleasantly, on the twin horns of a dilemma: one labeled mauvais honte, the other mauvais gout. Where does false modesty end and bad taste begin, anyway?

The scene was the elegant dining room of the Commo­dore. One of my luncheon companions had a clipping out of Sunday's Times, an Associated Press dispatch reporting the Freedoms Foundation awards made in Philadelphia the day before.

Should I try to deny a measure of pleasure at the stir that clipping caused? To do so would be to insult your intelligence. These were important, learned men, and they were impressed. It was one of a series of conferences I had in New York that Tuesday, and in every instance there were present some who had seen the piece in the metropolitan papers and commented upon it.

What made the story newsworthy, I assumed, were such award recipients as Harold Stassen, Dr. Robert Johnson, national chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Hoover Report; Dr. Daniel Poling, prospective mayor of Philadelphia; Robert Nishiyama, the former Kamikaze pilot who is studying at Lafayette on a scholarship given by the parents of an American who went down in flames to his death during aerial action against the Japs.

So mine was, at best, a role of reflected glory, I was certain. But lo! when I saw the article it was no such thing; for some inexplicable reason—maybe because my third-place prize was higher and larger than most of the others, or perhaps because it was for editorial work— anyway, my name, like Abou Ben Adham's, led all the rest, to my equal amazement.

Well, as I say, if I tried to deny a feeling of pride at the presentation ceremonies— a glow of pleasure at my meager mite to a noble cause— you wouldn't believe me— and you'd be right! I try to appear unaffected by tribute, and think I do a fairly convincing job of it, but let's face it: Shakespeare knew what he was about when he had Queen Hermione say in The Winter's Tale: "Our praises are our wages; you may ride with one soft kiss a thousand furlongs ere with spur we heat an acre."

So I don't go as far as Emerson in disdaining the "foolish face of praise." But neither do I entertain any self-delusions: I am too conscious of my own limitations. Epictetus warned 1900 years ago that "if you try to act a part beyond your powers, you not only disfigure yourself in it, but you neglect the part which you could have filled with success."

Believe me, therefore, when I say I have no illusions. Sometimes I take my work seriously; myself, never. The "un­remitting rage of distinguishing ourselves" is not my motivation in life.

But that is not to say that I would rather be a spectator than an actor in the plays exhibited on the theatre of the world. I think all men in the recesses and secret thoughts of their hearts like to think they are making a contribution, however slight. And there is solace for the slightest of us who are sincere, in the advice of Bacon: "The lame man who keeps the right road outstrips the runner who takes a wrong one . . . when a man runs the wrong way, the more active and swift he is the further he will go astray."

There is an effectual antidote to egotism in the critically antagonistic, in those whose "malignity and envy would determine them to endeavor to discover in our work what partiality conceals from the eyes of friends." It is wise, I have found, to court hostile comment, thus to temper the blindness alike of friendly devotion and preconceived opinion.

Have I convinced you I'm not overly impressed by ap­plause; that I don't esteem approbation too highly? Well, then, I can return to what I started out to say: I really got a charge out of those solemn exercises in the hallowed Chapel of the Four Chaplains, shrine to the heroic young martyrs of three faiths who stood united in prayer as they went down with the troopship Dorchester, dedicated to their exemplary memories only a month or so before by the President of the United States.

Here in Byzantine ruggedness in the Baptist Temple at Broad and Berks Streets stands this interfaith memorial, a sanctuary for brotherhood. An illuminated revolving altar is framed by an ornamental arch at the south end of the nave. As it turns slowly in response to a push button, it presents symbolic evidence of the greatness of each of the three faiths whose differences were transcended by those four who in service and sacrifice found a cause that surmounts all differences.

It was on the night of February 3d, 1943, off the coast of Greenland in freezing North Atlantic waters, that the Dor­chester was torpedoed. The heroism of the chaplains has be­come legend: their rescue work that saved lives as well as souls; their Godlike sacrifice that extended to giving up their life jackets to others, which meant giving up their lives for others. Shoulder to shoulder, arms linked in comrade­ship, each prayed in the tradition of his own faith but all to Him who first bestowed motion on this immense machine, as the frigid, smothering waters engulfed them.

And now here were men, noble men of faith and feeling, of rational insight, men who wish to see the hearts of all mankind bathed by an inundation of eternal love, men who understand how the lesser forces flow everywhere like river currents while the great forces of Creation go silently and steadily on, striving to preserve the unity, the brotherhood, the freedom for which those four died. Men like Dr. John Robbins Hart, the rector of Valley Forge Memorial Chapel, and Dr. Daniel A. Poling, father of one of the four martyrs. How earnestly must he wish that this shrine for freedom created by his son's death could purge humanity of those evils that excite such acute torments, that produce such ma­lignant humors in the body politic; could drive out those base thoughts that too often occupy and possess the minds of men. Who could own a soul so mean that he could re­main unmoved in such an atmosphere? The man who does not rejoice in noble actions is pitiable indeed.

It was singularly appropriate that Freedoms Foundation should present its awards in the inspiring presence of these four great spirits. For this is a worthy work designed to induce all to speak out for preservation of our American heri­tage, a cause for which thousands of fine young men have given their lives.

Do you wonder, then, why those of us who were being honored in that limestone-walled chapel, from the biggest of them like Harold Stassen and Dr. Robert Johnson down to the lowliest— me — must in all humility feel ourselves a tiny part of an earnest movement to get down to the solid substance of things? Are we dealing with intangibles, of spirits vexed by the muddiness and accidentally of the world of sensible things? I think not. Freedom and faith are the most tangible, the most basic of all properties. Life would be stunted and narrow if we could feel no significance in the world around us beyond that which can be weighed and measured.

I treasure— and shall to my last day— the beautiful gold medal, engraved with a replica of Washington at Valley Forge, my name inscribed upon it, encased in a velvet shield, that symbolizes my award. Of less value to me, but still welcome, is the two hundred dollars in cash, also given for a piece that filled one of these columns last year, But most of all, I shall remember the significance of that occasion, in that setting, with that background of heroic martyrdom to a great cause hovering over us, its spirit of sacrifice and brotherhood transcending all. It is a remem­brance I shall cherish always. I'm glad indeed to have been fortunate enough to be a small part of it..