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Arthur Goodfriend Papers


"Only now, at ninety"

The following is an excerpt from Arthur Goodfriend's unpublished autobiography, Scrap-Book: A saga of one man's century.

When I was a child my mother took me to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City where, above all its other wonders, I was awed by the illuminated manuscripts of medieval monks. Thereafter, year after year, flowing from pen and paint brush, illustrated jottings on empty pages grew into an archive, preserved for posterity in the Hamilton Library of the University of Hawai'i.

Extracted from the archive, this picto-biography exposes my life to Plato's proposition that an unexamined life is not worth living. Whether I pass or fail the test I do not know. All I know is that only now, aged ninety, have I finally met myself, face to face, at long last learning where I've been, what I've done, who I am.

Only now, at ninety, do these scribbled lines, these hasty sketches, these patches of the past place my life in perspective. Only now do I sense how meagerly I myself managed my career. How strong the mystic force that steered my course between the Scylla of success, the Charybdis of failure. How something of the medieval monks rubbed off. . .veneration of the source from which life springs.

Only now, at ninety, does a century unparalleled in progress and pugnacity fall into focus. How quarrels, crises, conflicts consumed my career. In my memory march veterans of the Civil and Spanish American wars, doughboys of World War I. Vivid in my mind is my own combat in World War II, and soldiering in the Cold War that ensued. Ever since, bloodless battles with bureaucrats, pedagogues, politicians, government gurus. And the saddest scraps of all--those waged within one's family, among one's friends.

What a privilege it is, aged ninety, to examine one's life, to judge its quality, to ask what lessons have been learned, and what it has to teach. What a trial to face one's failures, confess one's crimes, admit one's sins. The residue of this life-long inquisition is less a memoir, more a revelation of the spur that drove my days--year after year after year--each a challenge to surpass in incident, adventure, substance and surprise what went before. A score-card of hits, runs and errors setting a standard by which my life might be measured. A legacy--not a flotsam of faded photos, a jetsam of senseless script--but enduring evidence of my presence on this planet.

Neither an exercise in ego nor penance in depravity, the purpose of this resume is to invite, incite, inspire junior generations to live lives that pass examination. Filling the blank pages of their scrap-books, from adolescence to old age, with endeavors and accomplishments worthy of an enduring record. Challenging Plato's pronouncement that only an examined life is well worth living. Adding to Plato's postulate that while a well-examined life enriches its record, it is the disciplined, dedicated writing of the record that enriches life.

--Arthur Goodfriend, Scrap-Book


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