Sunday, August 18, 2019

last times

Like a scalpel lightly applied to epidermal flesh, intimations of mortality snuck into consciousness the other day as I hugged my older son goodbye while he prepared his return trip to Georgia: It might be, the tickles suggested, the last time I ever saw my older son and the first thought into my head was, "I'll miss him." I am now almost 80 and a prognosticator once told me I would die between 83 and 85. Assuming the prognosticator and actuarial tables are accurate, it is time for the 'last time's' to start kicking in.

It felt like a cut along the surface skin -- nothing horrific, just a cool nudge and some gap in my being opened up in that hug. A wet rag was dragged across some much-used blackboard and suddenly things were cleaned. Looking back, I do wish I could have done better, but as my wife observed doggedly, "Can you change any of it?" The answer is no, but that doesn't stop my wishing I had done somehow better by my family ... my wife, my children ... couldn't I have done more? Probably yes, maybe no ... there's nothing to be done now. Coulda-woulda-shoulda ... ah well, the scalpel tickles with precision.

What does an 80-year-old person do? I mean, like what? I watched a bit of a documentary about the gathering in Woodstock in 1969. Thousands of people, lots of music, and a sense of hope, I guess. I looked at the pictures of the crowds and realized that crowds did not appeal to me, then or now. I never was brought up in a family and the family of man struck me as dubious, then and now. The greater the number, the more suspect the conclusion ... and yet, how cozy. Individuals convince each other with abandon ... do they thereby convince themselves? Up to a point, I guess they do ... but then the scalpel tickles along the epidermis -- just the point of the scalpel.

Aloha!


Thursday, August 15, 2019

police suicides

Perhaps it shows nothing of the sort, but based on a rising police-officer-suicide rate, I would guess that it takes real balls to be weak.

Think a moment: Every child is brought up within the shadow of his or her elders -- the parents and family who do what they can to steer a social course. The elders are "right" and children rely on that right-ness to steer them. They are young and powerless -- adults are, well, adults, and as such wield the power. They are right. And for the adults to be right requires that others be wrong. Policing is a young (wo)man's sport.

Somewhere or other are statistics, I believe, of World War II veterans who shot their rifles, but always aimed to miss. Something within balked at the idea of taking another life. The adults may be right, but there is a higher imperative ... and the people who are asked to sort all this out are barely adults themselves. Who doesn't long for someone, something, to be right -- something to rely on and count on and point to as a suitable reason for force against fellow human beings? Soldiers rely on their superiors. Children rely on adults. Citizens rely on the law. It's OK because someone else (some formula or law book) says it's OK even as someone within says it's not OK at all.

This is not just namby-pamby peace pablum. It is visceral. I long, in some deep way, to trust you and live with you in kinship. When there is no one else to assume the responsibility for what is right, suddenly it is I who must don the mantle, make the choice, pull the trigger. The fact that the man or woman next to me is doing the same thing -- trying to slow the enemy -- cannot ease my uncertainty and weakness. All the boo-yah! in the world cannot drown out the humanity.

It's no easy matter. Human beings can be exceptionally cruel and much in need of a tighter rein if society is to work moderately well. But to rely on the rules and regulations, however comforting, simply isn't comforting enough.

Right and wrong -- what 20-something can figure that one out? I don't know. It takes balls to plumb these depths, to feel the knots tightening in the gut, to pray to god because, goddammit, there is no other recourse. I cannot rely on my brothers and sisters, mom and dad, superiors and subordinates ... and I cannot rely on myself either. Only a fool would rely on others in order to lead a decent life ... and yet not to rely on those others is ... is ... is ... outer space.

PS.  "While suicide among police is a problem in many countries, France’s rate appears exceptionally high."


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

old man and the kids pic


the canine 'solution'

If there's a buck to be made, you know someone will want in on the action.

The National Institutes of Health reports that “studies have found that animals can reduce loneliness, increase feelings of social support, and boost your mood”, and any pet owner can confirm that having an animal companion is one of the most effective non-pharmaceutical antidotes to anxiety you can get....
It’s easy to get your pet designated an emotional support animal. But abuse of the system takes a toll on those with genuine needs

If I had to guess, I guess I would guess that the sense of loneliness of the Binkie Generation (cell phone implanted in one hand) rose with the advent of the internet. "Friends" became the new friends without all the messiness of a human relationship. The trouble was, "friends" don't quite allay the sense of insularity and loneliness. Cure? Get a dog. An emotional support animal where emotional support dwindled and waned. Yo! This isn't just a dog -- it's an "emotional support animal."

With this, the "cure" of the internet is "cured" by yet another addition and this one doesn't talk back. Hell, a dog is a living being ... not just a "friend."

And there's gold in them thar canine hills! Hence the rise of the emotional support industry.

What would life be without a cell phone ....

Or a dog.....

Or the next placating addition to an oh-so-busy life? Buy a pill to ease the distress of the other pill that was purchased to ease the distress ... etc.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

a time of dis-ease

In all, unless I am simply displaying these waning years, this is a time of unkindness, uncertainty, and a rise of barbarism. The joy and juice, however ill-founded, has been squeezed and reshaped and turned into a monetized quantity. Donald Trump is president and blessings are missing.

Use of words like "democracy" and "unacceptable" go un-examined or, when examined, are examined by those unwilling or unable to examine faithfully and with caring. It is a rag-tag sad time of unkindness and uncertainty and barbarism. My country feels prodded and edgy.

It is all very tiring. Trump became president vowing to "drain the [political] swamp." His tenure has repopulated it in spades.

I note with some interest his left hand as he descends from the presidential helicopter/plane ... the apparent need for balance and purchase. Is the 73-year-old feeling his age, perhaps?

Dis-ease is tiring.

Lack of policies is tiring.

Walls and guns and mass shootings and shooting of blacks that seems to rival Israel's willingness to fatally shoot knife-wielding Palestinians, excoriation of those trying to enter the country, white supremacy ...

I no longer read the news with care because the news now resides in the future ... how dumb is that?


Friday, August 9, 2019

world champion whistler


the Binkie Generation

Given today's sensibilities, sometimes I wonder how I ever stayed alive long enough to type this line. I grew up and learned to drive a car before there were the caring wonders of the automobile seat belt that is as much a part of getting into a car today as turning the ignition key. How did I, and millions more like me, survive? Yes, Virginia, it is possible to drive without a seat belt.

These days, the Binkie Generation will tell you of all the benefits and caring that a seat belt represents. They will retail the caring and safe-living attributes with cap-toothed smiles. You positively need the seat belt ... and yet millions lived without it. How is such a thing possible?

The Binkie Generation is my latest moniker for what others call Mellennials. The Binkie Generation is the one that cannot step into any given day without a cell phone in hand; the ones whose "friends" exist on a small screen, yet not so much in real life.

Cell phone, needing a shave air force glasses, and a plan for how to improve things without getting mixed up, confused, angry and -- oops -- joyful. Friends on a small screen are what once were friends on the hoof, up-close-and-personal, unpredictable. No friends, but lots of "friends." Imagined mother's milk replaces actual mother's milk. Nothing messy or contradictory about the small screen where all the latest "friends" coagulate. Small screens lack halitosis: Is that a blessing or a curse?

The Binkie Generation.

There is nothing wrong with a cell phone any more than there is anything wrong about seat belts. It's when anyone starts believing that "friends" are friends that the problems arise. Cell phones are neat and clean. Life, by contrast, is messy as hell, or can be. Seat belts can minimize damage ... but they can't abolish it or be the cure-all.

When the electricity goes off, will the Binkie Generation be able to find its own ass with both hands?

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Knife Angel


the need for water

Water.
No joke.
A quarter of the world’s population across 17 countries are living in regions of extremely high water stress, a measure of the level of competition over water resources, a new report reveals.
Experts at the World Resources Institute (WRI) warned that increasing water stress could lead to more “day zeroes” – a term that gained popularity in 2018 as Cape Town in South Africa came dangerously close to running out of water.
For example: Oil built Saudi Arabia – will a lack of water destroy it?

millennial binkie

A woman in what were once called Toreador Pants (calf-length) passed by the porch this morning at about 7:15. She seemed to be in the 50-60's bomb zone. Salt-and-pepper hair, etc. Out for a cardio walk, my mind assessed... a purposeful walk ... not too strenuous, yet purposeful. She had a bag over one shoulder and held a cell phone, face up, in her left hand, as if she didn't want to miss a call or text or Tweet.

A cell phone in hand.

A cell phone. The binkie of the millennial era. Another contributor to the aloofness of the internet.

In "The Dhammapada," there is a line that goes something like, "if you find no equal or better in life,  then go alone. Loneliness is preferable to the company of fools."

A millennial binkie.

The aloofness of the internet and its adjuncts.

Ironic to think that when cell phones first started to gain traction, kids were daft-in-love with them and parents were delighted to have a surreptitious way to track the little darlings. Parents thought perhaps they had found the perfect spy tool. Now it is the ones once called parents who are hooked on this fake-o tit. The mother's milk of human relationships dwindles and dims ... hell, we've got our 'friends' on Facebook.

A millennial binkie.

The aloofness of the internet.

It doesn't mean loneliness is easy. It just means you don't have to be an asshole about it.

Monday, August 5, 2019

life before/without the internet

Interesting essay maybe:

In this age of uncertainty, predictions have lost value, but here’s an irrefutable one: quite soon, no person on earth will remember what the world was like before the internet.... When that happens, what will be lost?
Lonelier ad lonelier and lonelier  ... shunning real people and going for the printed facsimile which is no facsimile at all. Sucking the juice out of the complexities that make friendship a wonderful boon and a terrible pain in the ass. Everything and everyone keeping a distance from others until finally those distances are bound to claim the day.

It's above my pay grade.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

real, wet tears

I was watching a TV documentary about the rise of bluegrass, blues, honky-tonk et al. when the particular narrator for one segment began to cry. You could tell he didn't want to; he simply couldn't contain himself.

Widows and orphans were allowed to enter the particular gathering in the late 1920's or early 1930's for free and when the money handlers realized an orphan had paid unnecessarily, they attempted to give the money back. The orphan wept. The narrator wept and then said approximately, "he wasn't crying for the money. He was crying for the music. That's the way it's supposed to be."

Real. Wet. Tears.

It was as if I had put my fingers in a light socket and I teared up as well: "the way it's supposed to be." Weeping for the music. Money is small potatoes (even during the Depression times of yore) when compared with the music. Worth weeping for, even for those not brought up to weep on demand, even for those living in a "boys don't cry" time. Magic is priceless and it is worth weeping for.

Nowadays, everyone seems programmed to weep on demand. Politicians, actors, even the Joe Blows up one street and down another. The loss, whatever it is, is just too horrific. Or sort of. Anyway, it seems that every other person on TV knows how to water the flowers ... it's good TV, touching dontcha know. And maybe the horror is tear-worthily horrific. There is so much of it that it's hard not to get numbed-down or dumbed-down or something. Tears no longer have the clout they once possessed. Tears for the seemingly insufferable wounds.

And yet. And yet.

Who weeps for the music? For the way "things are supposed to be?" The loss of money or life is hard. But the life of music and magic, for the bright, bright sun?

My tears, like the narrator's, seemed to catch me off guard.

Friday, August 2, 2019

the boy with 526 teeth

A seven-year-old boy who had suffered occasional toothache was found to have 526 teeth inside his jaw, according to surgeons in India.
The hundreds of teeth were found inside a sac that was nestled in the molar region of his lower jaw, following surgery carried out at the Saveetha dental college and hospital in Chennai.
“The teeth were of variable sizes that ranged from smallest at 0.1mm to largest 3mm. They had a small crown, enamel and a small root,” said Pratibha Ramani, the head of the department of oral and maxillofacial pathology at the hospital.

incoherent muttering

"Giving it away" churns lightly in my mind ... giving it away before the war ... giving it away because life is easier that way, when someone or something else smooths the way yet again. Giving it away as in "artificial intelligence" that does the work we claim to hate, or the ascendance of drugs (marijuana at the moment) that smooths and soothes a way that is barely bumpy.

Bit by bit and drip by drip ... giving it away so that things will be easier when 'harder' is what builds muscles and character. When things are easier, of course, they are not really easier. They are harder. It's harder to reclaim what you have given away.

If you give it away long enough, eventually it is gone. The cars drive themselves and there is little or no thought of driving them. The boxes are folded by machines. The fruits are ripened with a magical spray that makes them 'look like' something that was once gritty and dripping with perspiration.

Today, I plan to call a financial counselor and ask if he can take some of my meager retirement funding and put it into marijuana. Drugs will be around a lot longer than the internet or fossil fuel. Gathering the bits and pieces of easiness. Shunning the bits and pieces of hardness. Drugs -- booze included -- are the wave of the future and if that's the way of the wind, I figure it might as well blow my sails, corrupt as that may be.

In Russia once, a young Muscovite said to me, "Russians have always leaned towards a strong leader." Artificial intelligence is a strong leader, is it not? And likewise drugs. Both make life easier ... until the hardness of it all dawns. And it is here that the war begins -- trying to claw back what may be gone forever. Life gets easier and easier and easier until it is less productive than tits on a bull.

And then there is an eek of despair. I gave away the hard stuff in order to find out what is harder still ... the easy stuff. Muscle and character give way to flaccid and weak.

Is it true? What the hell -- I'm just muttering incoherently. I'd better eat something for breakfast.

The new balloons could follow multiple

 cars and boats for extended


 periods. Photograph: Ron Chapple/Alamy
Hamburg port authorities found 221
 black sport bags containing 4,200 packets of pressed
 cocaine. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Thursday, August 1, 2019

dispensing with meaning

At the suggestion of a friend, I tried out the Netflix serial called "Versailles" today. Watching and listening, I realized as I have more frequently of late that things have become too fast and too complicated for me. I can no longer, as once, immerse myself in the unspoken complexities being unrolled before me. Or I simply don't want to or something.

The same is true for the news shows that dig and delve into the complexities of today's world as (largely) dominated by U.S. President Donald Trump. No doubt there is importance to be winkled from one collection of facts or another, but the importance no longer grabs me by the short and curlies. And everyone talks too fast.

Depending on the day or time, I find myself alternately dismayed and relieved by this situation. What I do not find is any sense of competence relative to what is unfolding. I am lost and have no special desire to be 'found.' Things/I am simply slower and can find little or no reason to despair of it. I was savvy and smart once. Now I am not: Why should I tease myself with an intelligence I no longer have?

Consider "meaning."
Consider "everything has a meaning."
And of course things may indeed have a meaning ... no need to be an asshole about what's staring you in the face.

But the meaning that continues to go begging is this: Take five minutes a week and divest all and sundry of all meaning. Everything is meaningless. It's not a matter of cynicism ... just a fact: Things-have-no-meaning. Give things a rest. Let them flop back to the place from which they arose ... so to speak.

No          meaning.

Try it.
For five minutes.

And after five, you can set about re-infusing them with the meaning that 'everything' is alleged to have.

No meaning ... slower and slower and slower and slower......

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

the rules

"Rules," I told my younger son yesterday because it popped into my head and I felt the need to inflict it on someone else, "are what a man needs patience and persistence to follow ... and what he needs the courage and intelligence to break."

It's probably true but feels a bit arch, somehow.

joining the majority

What do you say to or about someone who has "joined the majority" or died? The dead no longer mind what you say, which lends a hollow note to what 'we' may say.

Kobutsu is dead. He no longer has to take pills and his back has stopped aching and there is probably some satisfaction to be had from the fact that he vowed to bring Eido Shimano down ... and then did it. Ran a pretty good number on the Catholic church as well.

Joining the majority. Does a majority somehow verify things? Well, I doubt it. Majorities are for shoppers and the dozing.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Kobutsu Malone dies

Kobutsu Malone with Harley Bear, who preceded him in death.
Kobutsu Malone -- or "the Rev. Kobutsu Malone"  -- died over the weekend according to best guestimates. He was found yesterday lying on his floor somewhat stiff after several unsuccessful attempts to contact him by phone, according to friend David Scates. Kobutsu was 69. David was good enough to give me a call and the word seems to be getting around if my email in-box is any indicator.

I knew things were on a downturn when, last week, I talked to Kobutsu and he seemed not to care much ... care enough to get pissed off about old favorite topics like Eido Shimano or the Catholic Church. Pissed off was his happiest and most lively mode and I often used them to rouse him up from whatever lethargy was afflicting him at the moment. He could be an irascible son-of-a-bitch.

"It wasn't unexpected," said Scates. And that seems to me so sum things up nicely.

Nothing is settled as regards the remains or other post-mortem details.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

at recess

... sure, it's an abalone, but can it skip rope?

Saturday, July 27, 2019

the ARCTIC is on fire?

The Arctic is suffering its worst wildfire season on record, with huge blazes in Greenland, Siberia and Alaska producing plumes of smoke that can be seen from space.
The Arctic region has recorded its hottest June ever. Since the start of that month, more than 100 wildfires have burned in the Arctic circle. In Russia, 11 of 49 regions are experiencing wildfires.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the United Nations’ weather and climate monitoring service, has called the Arctic fires “unprecedented”.
The largest blazes, believed to have been caused by lightning, are located in Irkutsk, Krasnoyarsk and Buryatia. Winds carrying smoke have caused air quality to plummet in Novosibirsk, the largest city in Siberia.

working with A's

Of late, the stories that once asserted a presence in my mind would arrive full-blown and adorned. But lately, they have been like confetti fluttering down -- just snippets that go no where in particular: They just arise without especial meaning and fade like a log in quicksand. Come-and-gone ... that's all.

Today, for example, I seemed to be working on A's as the suggestion arose, purpose and meaning unknown:
... ALL THE AFFECT OF AN AGITATED ABALONE.
Was it an insult? A descriptor? A rootless witticism? Where did it come from? What did it mean? Yes, it tasted good, somehow, but to what end and in what context? Did it have an application? What was its back story? I'd like to think it might be a pretty good insult, but an insult to whom?

I guess it's enough that it's tasty. There's too much white bread in the world. A little flavor, however weird, is a nice surprise.

Friday, July 26, 2019

mysteries in my wake

In a blast from the past, I spent some time on the phone the other day with a guy I had been friends with in college, Keith Davis. It was with him that I once played billiards from eight o'clock in the morning until midnight. And it was from him that I won the only athletic trophy I ever did win -- a billiards trophy ... we were the finalists in a tournament we had arranged and as it happened, I won.

Today, at Keith's request, I sent out a couple of copies of my book... a different part of the past. His daughter-in-law (or is it just daughter?) is into meditation with her husband and Keith wanted a copy for himself. So, before it slips off whatever memory shelf I may have, I shipped the copies out.

Strange confluence, somehow. So long ago (1960's), so near at hand (several days ago ... and then again today).

Strange how much credibility people of a certain age can lay at the feet of "a book." A book is an accomplishment, a fait accompli, a concrete something-or-other for someone else. And yet, since it is a book I cobbled together, it's all in the rear-view mirror ... back there ... somewhere. For Keith, perhaps, it is new. For me, it is barely remembered.

"A book" ("Answer Your Love Letters") reminds me that I planned at one time to write a companion volume whose title alone remains as a remembrance: "That Was Zen; This Is Now." I knew what I wanted to say in the second book but could not get straight the means by which to enunciate. And besides, I didn't have the money or energy.

Strange how, as age encroaches, I get nearer and nearer a time when there will be unresolved problems/conundra/mysteries. They simply won't get solved ... why/who made up the spelling of Tucson ... as in the city in Arizona. Or the wherewithal to fill a second book. I sometimes think it is better to leave mysteries in your wake ... not solutions, but mysteries unsolved. Leave some shit for the next poor schmuck.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

hi-jinx for the hi-jinx-er

And you thought we weren't still in high school!
At a student [7/23/19] summit hosted by the conservative group Turning Point USA, the president stood before what looks, to the casual observer, very much like the US presidential seal. A thorough examination by the Washington Post, however, revealed some odd tweaks to the image.
First, the eagle has not one but two heads – making it look a lot like Russia’s coat of arms. And instead of holding arrows, as the bird does in the US seal, it’s holding golf clubs.

feeling the tyrants

If the word itself weren't so incendiary, a part of me senses that I live in a time that might be called "the ascent of the tyrants." "Tyrant" is a little too comic-book-y ... not that much, perhaps, but some. And the names rattle around like marbles in a Bell jar:

Boris Johnson (becomes Great Britain's prime minister.)
Kim Jong Un.
Vladimir Putin.
Donald Trump
Chinese president (forever)  Xi Jinping
Benjamin Netanyahu (love the unsubstantiated Mossad raid on alleged Iranian nuclear machinations)

Back-slapping, "fake news" and a host of other Joseph Goebbels gadgets dot the horizon and I am too lazy to sort out every illustration in my mind. I feel it ... but as the tyrants rise, feeling is all the rage.


Wednesday, July 24, 2019

not-fake news?

Amid the quakes and shakes of today's news as I skimmed it, only one story really got my attention. Whereas other articles left some room for doubt, this one had the relaxing feel of a satin sheet. Its pit was summed up in
“The article published today doesn’t change the situation,” said Johana Tablada, Cuba’s deputy head of U.S. affairs. “The article recognizes that the changes detected are minimal, that their conclusions are uncertain and that they can’t identify the cause.”
Hot damn! -- a story that didn't segue as is derigeur these days into a future that NO one can know. A finality in a sea of maybe's and could-be's.

The story itself relates to a bunch of diplomats in Cuba who developed a series of non-life-threatening symptoms
Between late 2016 and May 2018, several U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Havana complained of health problems from an unknown cause. One U.S. government count put the number of American personnel affected at 26.
Some reported hearing high-pitched sounds similar to crickets while at home or staying in hotels, leading to an early theory of a sonic attack. The Associated Press has reported that an interim FBI report found no evidence that sound waves could have caused the damage.
Dozens of U.S. diplomats, family members and other workers sought exams.... Although some workers have persistent symptoms, most have improved with physical and occupational therapy, are doing well and have returned to work, Swanson said.
As more time passes, he said, “It’s going to be harder and harder to figure out what really happened.”
If you can't lay claim to knowing something (once the grist of news stories), at least have the decency NOT-TO-KNOW.

Finally, something to put your money on.

Monday, July 22, 2019

agnoiology

Passed along and gratefully received today in email -- the word and the meaning of:
agnoiology
Theory, study, or philosophy of ignorance.

Branch of philosophy studied by James Frederick Ferrier in the 19th century.
Also, according to Wikipedia,

agnotology (formerly agnatology) is the study of culturally induced ignorance or doubt, particularly the publication of inaccurate or misleading scientific data.

Gawd! The possibilities and applications are endless!!!!!

Question #1: Can I get a Ph.D. in agnoiology/agnotology?

Saturday, July 20, 2019

lady porn

We’re told men are biologically wired to be more sexual than women, but this is junk science used to excuse bad behavior
Another point of view?

hot times

The word "stultifying" takes on understatement meaning here and across much of the middle of  the nation today.

The heat is purely fat. It is blubber, swallowing all in its path.

For once, the overstatement that often characterizes meteorological pronouncements is ... is ... is warranted and then some.

The hot weather is expected to last several days.
The National Weather Service said 167 million people are under a heat advisory or excessive heat warning.

Friday, July 19, 2019

war and peace

War is easy.

Peace is hard.

I encourage you not to take the easy way out.

"conscientious objection"

Objectors at Dyce Camp in Aberdeen, where they faced 10 years of hard labour. Photograph: Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain
The list includes Horace Eaton, a 27-year-old from Bradford who believed war symbolised “the teaching of hatred and murder”, James Burchell, a gardener from Scarborough who regarded every life as sacred, and Norman Gaudie, a railway clerk, footballer for Sunderland reserves and committed pacifist.
All three were among the 20,000 men who registered as conscientious objectors in the first world war for religious, moral or political reasons.
Their stories are part of a heritage project, announced on Friday, which will recognise for the first time the names of 400 men who were barracked or imprisoned at Richmond Castle in North Yorkshire because they objected to conscription.
Conscientious objection. It seems an odd thing nowadays when whole countries like the U.S. cannot muster the congressional backbone to fight the country's 19-year-old war in Afghanistan. There was a time when the excoriation of such objectors was fierce. And the backbone it took to take a conscientious objector's stance was far from applauded. World War I, World War II ... the list goes on.

In the college I more or less attended (Colby in Maine), there was mandatory ROTC -- Reserve Officer Training Corps. Everyone had to take it. I pleaded conscientious objector before some sort of colonel (as I recall) who, without much demurer, allowed me to do so and thus I evaded the college format.

I pleaded conscientious objector, my status was granted AND...

Two years later I had signed on for three years in the army -- a federal mandate at the time. Why the change of heart? Well, first of all, a 19-year-old is never entirely clear in his philosophies. But second, and somehow nagging, I wanted the experience... to acknowledge my killer and cope with it. As it happened, I served my three-year hitch without incident and was never forced to kill anyone. Now I can say I've been in the army ... and I don't doubt that I am still a killer, potential or otherwise. I may wish I were better and I firmly believe that killing another human being is directly wired into killing yourself, but I prefer to do what I can to be honest.

A 19-year-old's philosophies may be flummoxed, but that does not prove a 69-year-old's are significantly cogent and serene by comparison.

But my admiration mat is out for those who plead(ed) conscientious objector.