The LitChatte Blog Introduction

 LitChatte for Lifelong Learners.  “The second half of my life,” by Murray Ellison, January 19, 2016.

Tags: Post Retirement Planning, Falling Upward by Richard Rohr, Lifelong Learning, Book Discussions, Edgar Allan Poe, Ernest Hemingway, Writing and Appreciating Poetry, the Zen of Tony Bennett.

Blog Writer’s Background

Murray grew up in Philadelphia and currently lives with his wife in Richmond, Virginia. He has three very wonderful adult daughters who live on the east and west coasts of the United States. He earned a Master’s Degree in Special Education in 1973 and a Doctorate from Virginia Tech in 1988. His successful professional career was cut short in when severe state budget cuts caused by the stock market crisis of 2009 forced his program to be cut. His early retirement gave him the opportunity to have more free time and time to explore his interests in ways that would not have been possible otherwise. This blog will be about what he has been doing, is doing, and will be doing as a lifelong learner

Introduction: “The Second Half of My Life.”


Murray (right) receiving his MA Degree with VCU English Department Head Professor David Latane

LitChatte is a discussion of literature, poetry, film, and music for lifelong learners. The majority of my post “retirement” activities have been inspired by my study of English literature, poetry, and creative writing in my senior’s returns to graduate school. I am proud to say that I completed my Master’s Degree in English Literature at Virginia Commonwealth University in December 2015. Going to graduate school when I was in my twenties and thirties was much easier than attempting such a task in my mid-sixties.  My professors commented that, although my writing was not as eloquent as many of the younger students, I had a lot more experiences to write about, and a higher commitment to learning than most of my younger classmates. Richard Rohr, in his book Falling Upward, calls the later lifelong learning period, “the second half of life.” Although the number of years may not exactly be the “second half,” Rohr gives it that name because it represents the period when you will have hopefully have the time and the motivation to develop into the kind of person you want or hope to be.


Fr. Richard Rohr on his porch

Richard Rohr, Author of Falling Upward, Center for Action and Contemplation, via Wikimedia Commons.



I plan to use LitChatte to as a journal to discuss the various learning activities that I have experienced in the second half of my life. I hope that other readers will enjoy and benefit from my Blog. Many of my entries will concentrate on books I have read, research I have conducted, or on literature discussions I have led as a volunteer at the Lifelong Learning Institute in Chesterfield County (near Richmond), Virginia.  At LLI, I have been teaching about two or three classes each semester for about four years. Each class runs for about ninety minutes and runs from between seven and ten weeks. I typically have about twenty to thirty students who are between fifty and ninety years old. The first class I taught at LLI was on Rohr’s book, Falling Upward. I was encouraged that several students in my first class told me that my class also helped to prepare them to gain a greater sense of direction for planning the second halves of their lives. I have often been asked to teach that class again. When I bring back that class, I will and focus some future blogs on that book.

In the subsequent semesters, I have been leading book discussions on a series I called, Classics of American Literature. I started off by offering a literary survey of the poetry and short stories of one of America’s first and most influential writers, Edgar Allan Poe. I had recently written and completed my Master’s Degree Thesis at VCU on Edgar Allan Poe and Science: Unravelling the Plot of the Universe, so I had much interesting information to share with the students. I am also a volunteer tour guide at the Poe Museum in Richmond and plan to write a separate Blog on Poe and Science as part of the museum website ( I followed the Poe class with a discussion of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, where we ended the class by viewing the entertaining Woody Allan movie on Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, called Midnight in Paris. We also read Hemingway’s Short Stories and The Old Man and the Sea. During those classes I discussed my visit to the Hemingway House in Key West, Florida and showed a YouTube video of his house and life in Cuba. I thought that after two class series, my students had had quite enough of Hemingway. But, they said they wanted more. Consequently, I will offer a class on Hemingway’s, The Sun Also Rises in the spring of 2016. Other literature classes I have taught have focused on Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, the short stories of Flannery O’Connor, and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

Tony Bennett in 2003.jpg

Photo: httpps://

I diverged little from my usual topics a little last term by offering a class on The Poetry of the Great American Songbook. This course focused on how the music of the 1930’s and 1940’s reflected the culture, lifestyles, and values of that period. We discussed the lyrics and heard some of the inspiring music of Cole Porter, Harold Arlen, Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Dorothy Fields, Billie Holliday, and Lorenz Hart. That class was so well-received that I am currently following it up with another music-based offering called, Life is a Gift: the Zen of Tony Bennett. The Bennet course will cover the music, paintings, career, influences, and philosophy of the artist who is in his sixty-fifth year in the recording music industry. He is also approaching his ninetieth year alive and  is still at the top of his creative abilities. What better example could I use in my next blogs than to write about Anthony Dominick Benedetto, a man who has fallen upward with such an unparalleled sense of grace and dignity.

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