Saturday, October 12, 2019

marathon run in under 2 hours

Eliud Kipchoge crosses the finish line in first-ever sub two-hour marathon.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

"flash drought"

CARTERSVILLE, Ga. (AP) — A furnace-like “flash drought” is intensifying as it blasts away the little moisture left across a vast swath of the South, wilting garden plants and raising alarm among farmers, according to a weekly report updated Thursday.
Nearly 56 million residents are now living in drought conditions in parts of 16 Southern states, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor report. That drought is classified as extreme in areas in Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina and Florida. From the arid plains of Texas to farms in Maryland, concern is spreading that cattle, cotton and corn are suffering after a summer of record highs and very little rain.

Dhammapada verse

If you find no equal or
Better in life,
Go alone.

Loneliness is preferable
To the company
Of fools.
Such is my probably-flawed recollection of one verse in the P. Lal translation of "The Dhammapada."

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

autumnal habits

About a half-mile out, a small herd of Canada geese headed north yesterday as I looked out the porch door. I couldn't hear their honk-snort-swallowing from a distance, but I knew they were probably talking, one to the next, as they flew. It was a first taste of autumn. The geese fly through this neck of the woods every year and rest at varying water pools along the way.

On the ground, frabjous jays are strutting and just D-double-daring you to contradict them. What cheeky devils they are. "When you mess with us, you mess with the best" they seem to say. And so another season gets its lift-off.

As Dylan Thomas might say, "Time passes. Listen! Time passes."

Sunday, October 6, 2019

no good deed goes unpunished




This Spanish police picture shows a speedboat surrounded by bundles of drugs packages, after a police high-speed chase with smugglers off Malaga.
Three Spanish police officers who were thrown into the sea when their boat crashed early during a high-speed chase were pulled to safety by the drug-smugglers they were chasing, police said.
The unexpected rescue happened on Friday after a police vessel began pursuing a speedboat “with four people on board that was suspected of transporting drugs” in waters off the southern coast of Spain, a police statement said....
The gesture did not spare them, however, when police found three tonnes of hashish in the water nearby.
“They were arrested for drug trafficking,” a police statement said, indicating that more than 80 bundles of hash had been recovered from the sea.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

patriotism

Let me get this straight:
My country is run on moral cowardice
And you expect me to be a patriot.
Is that it?

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

greatest change in 20th century

If asked, I imagine those who waxed in the 20th century might point to the internet as the single biggest game-changer. Culture, relationships, information -- the internet shifted the tectonics of life.

My mother, by contrast, once observed that the single biggest change in the 20th century was "the loss of servants."

The same or different, I'm not sure.

As Donald Trump works his way back to a society with servants, he confronts the internet with its over-the-top references to "democracy" and "transparency" and "patriotism" and "empathy" and "freedom."

I dunno ... it just crossed my mind. Servitude is so much easier, but it can make people crabby.

Monday, September 30, 2019

writing

Writing requires friction -- point A in tandem with or juxtaposed to point B. But where the sense of friction is lost, so the desire/drive to write also seems to dwindle.

Every morning, of late, I continue to scan the news wires -- a very old habit. But the sense of friction seems somehow to have dwindled and where once any topic could stir my verbal somersaults, now the excitement or interest appears to have run out of helium.

There is the impeachment hoo-rah about Donald Trump. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in hot water as he tries to lead Britain away from its participation in the European Union. And who knows what sigh of relief that other oligarch, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is breathing a sigh of relief that the world is focused on those troubled politicians and not on the fact that he is, or seriously might be, in judicial hot water. And then there is health care, wealth disparity, environment ... and the list rolls on, each item positing its mirror image and each more complex than my latter-day 'mind' can or will care about.

There was a time when I could write about anything. Now, nothing much seems worth writing about. It's age, I suppose, but it's also odd. Nowadays, I flow back to some earlier time ... and fly up my own reminiscing asshole ... and ... as it seems ... disappear.

"Form follows function" -- a useful observation that floats like a water drop in a space capsule. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Another one.  How does a threshing machine work? I had to look that one up. A technician is promised today ... someone who will straighten out the phone system which is on the fritz.

My wife and I drove into the hills yesterday. Leaves are changing, but I've forgotten the order ... is it green to yellow to red to brown or green to yellow to brown to red ... anyway, fall is on the way. Or, as CBS newsman Walter Cronkite once observed, "News isn't about how many cats did not get up on the garage roof."

Flying up my own reminiscing asshole ... smooth as dish soap. In the sixth, seventh and eighth grade, I carried a sheath knife with at least an eight-inch blade. No one thought anything of it -- they carried similar hardware ... it was mainly for cutting the string around bales of hay that needed to be shaken out for the horses or cows. Nowadays, such a tool would probably induce some good and kindly person to shit an 'altruistic' brick.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Trump helps to drain the swamp

In the midst of the impeachment tsunami that reared its roaring head last week in the U.S. House of Representatives, there are innumerable blind alleys, roads that lead to other roads ... and on and on it goes. Donald Trump may have been elected to "drain the (Washington legislative) swamp, but in the meantime, it seems, he has created his own.

And one of the indicators can be seen along the newswires.

Two weeks ago, every other story might have had Trump in the headline and left working Americans sucking hind tit. Now the headlines are as freighted by impeachment with the same frequency that Trump once ruled the waves. Every other story is an impeachment story .... Trump is not the focal point with his brazen lies: instead, the impeachment kerfuffle dominates the headlines and every other story is some aspect of that impeachment inquiry.

Impeachment may be wrong for all sorts of reasons, but getting Trump out of the headlines isn't one of them. What a relief to find other issues (Brexit, climate change, drug addiction, white supremacy, elections in the Middle East) floating to the surface.

What a relief not so see a tin-pan stand in for iron-pot issues. You know Trump is unlikely the drain the swamp of his own making, but lo-and-behold.....

Friday, September 27, 2019

impeachment piffle

Suddenly, there is no turning on the news without some new bit of information about the impeachment hearings, hopes, trajectories against U.S. President Donald Trump. Woo-hoo ... there is something satisfying about seeing the screw turn, if that's what it's doing. Trump is suddenly playing defense ... but ...

I think I would maintain that none of it matters. Trump, like George (the Shrub) Bush, has already served the purpose for which he was intended. The rest is eyewash. Trump's purpose was to reduce taxes on the wealthy. And he did it. And the Democrats helped. And the rest of us are fucked anew... or anyway that's my fake-news understanding.

Perhaps someone will correct this if it is too egregiously mistaken.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

shards andf snippets

Shards and snippets....

It's not so much, "I think, therefore I am" I suspect, but rather, "I want, therefore I am."

*******************

Over the past half-century, North America has lost more than a quarter of its entire bird population, or around 3 billion birds.
That's according to a new estimate published in the journal Science by researchers who brought together a variety of information that has been collected on 529 bird species since 1970.
Fewer birds, less song? Less song, less music? Less music, less magic?

The matter of music and magic is a matter of death minus the I'm-so-scared of it. To be swooned by music is a kind of death ... to give up everything for this delicious moment. A wowsers orgasm, perhaps.

Strange how giving things away can be so threatening on the one hand and so yearned-for in the same instant. Music is so comfortable that it is worth the surrender of positively everything. I thought of this when listening to portions of a latter-day TV series on country music by documentarian Ken Burns: The history is mildly interesting; the magic, where it is allowed to rise, envelopes me ... take me, I'm yours; take me, I'm nothing; really it's quite pleasant.

Can there be less music, less magic? I doubt it.

Bless the birds.
********************

The start gun for impeachment hearings sounded yesterday. A little late in the day, given President Donald Trump's moral cowardice and outright lying, but better late than never. It was Trump, I believe, who foresaw his own downfall in impeachment hearings.

If true, then "from his mouth to God's ear." Because the Senate will never confirm such hearings, the House action is largely symbolic, but anything that turns up the fire on this man is probably a good thing.

Shards and snippets.

Monday, September 16, 2019

price per prayer

All things have a price – and if not, economists will find one. Researchers have calculated the going rate for thoughts and prayers offered in hard times.
This article left me utterly -- and I mean utterly -- flummoxed. What did it mean? What was its point? Why should I care? At what juncture could I find purchase and loll along in the lull of argument? Who thought up the thesis and then, by God, turned it into a "study?"  I desperately want to understand, but just plain don't.

Yes, OK ... I'm an old fart with dwindling capacities but, but, but .... what the fuck is going on?

Is there a cheat sheet that goes with this essay -- something to guide and support me? I'm lost, lost, lost.

Would it help if I asked for prayers... or eschewed them ... or something?

At least "Alice's Restaurant" makes some sense ....

I mean....
I mean .....

 

Thursday, September 12, 2019

beware the feral pigs!

Beware the feral pigs: They fuck like bunnies and are invading the U.S. from the north! They may or may not be a walking billboard for the large-capacity clips that some gun owners are keen to keep in their arsenals.
Feral pigs are widely known as “rototillers.” They root around for their food and spend much of their time wallowing in landscapes from farms and open fields to forests and riparian areas, leaving the terrains unrecognizable. Aside from the damages left behind, they are elusive in nature and often become nocturnal when “hunted or pressured by human activity,” said Ryan Brook, a researcher and assistant professor at the University of Saskatchewan.
The pigs are also highly prolific.
Steuber said females birth around three litters every two years or so, and litters have been known to contain more than a dozen piglets. When grown, mature adults weigh on average between 120 and 250 pounds, but larger ones have tipped the scales at 400 pounds.
“They can decimate the range land by tearing up everything,” said Tahnee Szymanski, an assistant veterinarian with the Montana Department of Livestock.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

footnote

Just get it straight.

There is magic everywhere.

Stop pretending it exists.

Or doesn't.

Monday, September 9, 2019

no hand-holders for this woman

A 77-year-old British woman has become the oldest person to sail around the world alone, non-stop, and unassisted.
Jeanne Socrates, from Lymington, Hampshire, completed her 320-day voyage in Victoria, Canada. She was accompanied by a flotilla of boats during the final moments of the journey, while hundreds of people cheered her on from the harbour.
The Royal Victoria Yacht Club congratulated Socrates on Saturday for completing her solo circumnavigation unassisted and setting the record for being the oldest person to do so.

ditch the climate dithering

Passed along in email:

What If We Stopped Pretending?

The climate apocalypse is coming. To prepare for it, we need to admit that we can’t prevent it.


Finally, overwhelming numbers of human beings, including millions of government-hating Americans, need to accept high taxes and severe curtailment of their familiar life styles without revolting. They must accept the reality of climate change and have faith in the extreme measures taken to combat it. They can’t dismiss news they dislike as fake. They have to set aside nationalism and class and racial resentments. They have to make sacrifices for distant threatened nations and distant future generations. They have to be permanently terrified by hotter summers and more frequent natural disasters, rather than just getting used to them. Every day, instead of thinking about breakfast, they have to think about death.

undignosed-illness list

At least 25 dogs in Norway have fallen victim to the undiagnosed sickness, which causes severe vomiting and acute diarrhoea. Photograph: ROMAOSLO/Getty Images/iStockphoto   
Pods of whales, river fish by the score, chickens, diplomats in Cuba, [were there also eels in there somewhere], dogs in Norway ... the list of those struck by largely-undiagnosed illnesses seems to grow longer. Or maybe I'm just making it up.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Jeffrey Epstein's little black book

I have to admit to a half-assed and ill-informed nosiness about the death of Jeffrey Epstein, a billionaire who procured (with assistance) underage women for his sexual gratification. He was also, it appears, a very canny 'philanthropist.' Epstein's death in a New York jail cell was ruled a suicide (Aug. 11, 2019) by hanging -- a ruling I find hard to believe, but who am I to say? (Sociopaths don't commit suicide is my line of thinking). Epstein's lawyers also doubt suicide.

Not, apparently, in question, is Epstein's coterie of enablers or sycophants or whatever. Names like Bill Gates, the New York Times, MIT, TED talks ... crop up as those whose names need to be redacted from any upcoming lawsuits. The names in Epstein's little black book ... I wonder who will win the battle over whether and what and whom will be protected and kept out of the limelight. The ship is sinking and a variety of rats or look-like-rats are scrambling for the gunwales.

Can I keep up with it all? Nope. But one thing's for sure -- the rich and famous, the wealthy beyond compare and the oh-so-squeaky clean .... duck and cover, guys.


The Epstein scandal at MIT shows the moral bankruptcy of techno-elites Evgeny Morozov
The MIT-Epstein debacle shows ‘the prostitution of intellectual activity’. Time for a radical agenda: close the Media Lab, disband Ted Talks and refuse tech billionaires money.
And you thought Netflix had the latest and most up-to-date political trash/scandal tale.

Jeffrey Epstein's little black book....

oceanic heat wave

The ocean off the western coast of North America is five degrees Fahrenheit hotter than usual after warming at an unusually rapid rate, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa).
It has been dubbed the “north-east Pacific marine heatwave of 2019”.
Marine heatwaves are defined as oceanic events in which the surface temperature of the water is warmer than 90% of past measurIf the abnormal patch does not dissipate soon, it could become as destructive as the so-called “blob” of warm water in the same area that, in 2014-2016, created toxic algae blooms, killed sea lions and endangered whales by forcing them to forage closer to shore.ements for at least five days in a row. The current heatwave is the second-largest since scientists started tracking the phenomenon in 1981, Noaa reported on Friday.

make "swoon" a transitive verb

Watching a TV program about the history of bluegrass music on TV last night, it became clear to me that I would prefer it if the word "swoon" were to become a transitive verb.

Back in the days of yore, when women cinched their waists to a breath-taking 15 inches, it was commonplace -- or anyway there was much-bruited anecdotal evidence -- for women to "swoon" at the first sign of any lapse in decorum.

[I know of no connections made between cinched waists and swooning, but since people are never quite as smart -- and never quite as stupid -- as you might imagine, I figure there was at least one bright penny who probably forged the links.]

Anyway, women swooned at the drop of an indecorous hat or so the stories are told. Swooning men were not similarly anointed or named: Swooning was not for those lesser lights.

But as I listened to the history of bluegrass music, I realized that some of its sharps and flats, banjos and mandolins, fiddles and guitars were utterly capable of swooning me. Music can swoon me and therefore deserved a role as a transitive verb -- not so much "I swoon" as "it swoons me." Beethoven's 9th does the same. And there are other segments of music that can creep in, curl up in a warming ball and ... just ... swoon me.

It's to die for....

Or is it just, "it kills me?"

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Texas bans dick pics

Big news out of Texas this week: sending unsolicited penis pictures is now against the law, punishable by a $500 fine.
You might be wondering why Texas, of all places, is leading the charge when it comes to legislation like this. The Lone Star state, after all, is normally more focused on loosening restrictions on guns than tightening protections for women. Well, it’s largely because the female-focused dating app Bumble is based in Austin and lobbied local politicians to make it happen.
“If indecent exposure is a crime on the streets, then why is it not on your phone or computer?” Bumble’s founder, Whitney Wolfe Herd, asked Texas lawmakers at a hearing earlier this year. “We have to call on you because as tech companies, we can only do so much.” Legislators agreed and the bill got bipartisan support.
My own utterly-unscientific, thoroughly-anecdotal take on the sexy bits of entertainment/movies goes something like this: Women's breasts are making inroads in what once was taboo ... even an occasional vaginal bomb zone shows up. Men's asses are making inroads, though not yet peckers. And everyone, from galumphy redneck to button-down candidate is cussing with more and more abandon: The cussing words are all there, but the music of cussing is almost entirely missing. Unless I am entirely wrong, pretty soon the old cross-your-legs prurience that straightens America's imagined backbone should be back in vogue.

Oh, heck!

pity the poor [male and horny] tarantula

Gaggles of tarantulas are emerging from their burrows across the western US on a quest to mate, hunting for love in prairies, foothills and a garage belonging to Kim Kardashian West.
From August to October, the eight-legged crawlers go on a walkabout for a once-in-a-lifetime foray to find a partner. The phenomenon is now occurring on a unusually large scale from northern California to Colorado and Texas, shining a light on the arachnids’ remarkable mating behavior, which can involve dancing and cannibalism.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

kissing Trump's mideast 'peace deal' goodbye

Smoke and mirrors -- Mideast department:
Jason Greenblatt, the Trump administration’s special envoy for Middle East peace, tasked with working on the “ultimate deal” for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is to leave the post, it has been announced.
Greenblatt may stay in the role until the publication of the long-delayed plan, which is now due to come out some time after Israeli elections on 17 September. However, if those elections bring about the fall of Donald Trump’s close ally, Benjamin“Greenblatt’s leaving may have to do with the dim prospects of the so-called peace plan,” said Khaled Elgindy, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, and author of a book on US policy towards the Palestinians, Blind Spot. “What I do know is that it won’t make any difference to what is not really a plan – let’s call it a vision – because there is no chance of it going anywhere.” Netanyahu, the plan could be shelved indefinitely.
All of this might be funny if it were just some frat house getting organized on campus....look at the background credentials of those negotiating peace ... my grandmother's goat was Jewish and that surely qualifies me as a shaper of future peace in the Mideast.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

nothing beats a good gizzard

Chickens, it may be observed, do not go to dentists. This is largely true because chickens have no teeth. Instead, like other fowl of the realm, chickens have gizzards -- a sack laced with small pebbles that do their mastication for them.

From this, were anyone a member of the Trump White House staff, it might rightly be inferred that the scientific community should be bending every effort to create a gizzard fit for human beings. Dentists of every stripe might be incommoded, but dentists generally have enough money already and the loss is to a minor minority of the general population in the United States.

This all may sound wacky and whimsical, but it strikes me as finding a good foundation for yet another diversionary tactic in an administration that specializes in sidestepping serious issues like climate change, gun control, racism and other policies in need or redemption.

Anyway -- be prepared! The day of the human gizzard is right around the corner and you read it here first. Nothing beats a good gizzard.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

vote for Trump

Open a Twitter account?
VOTE FOR TRUMP
Moral cowardice is an unattractive presidential characteristic. Make America great ... for a change. Vote for Trump in 2020. Moral cowardice is his calling card.
Not sure what I'm getting at here. I guess that's the beauty of a blog -- you get to fly off the handle and hide behind the cowardice of a blog.

Friday, August 30, 2019

growing tooth enamel

Scientists say they have finally cracked the problem of repairing tooth enamel.
Though enamel is the hardest tissue in the body, it cannot self-repair. Now scientists have discovered a method by which its complex structure can be reproduced and the enamel essentially “grown” back.

drugs, the silly and searing

A "huge drugs bust" at Gatwick airport turned into an upside-down cake when 25 bags of white powder turned out to be vegan pizza fixings.
British Transport Police said: “‘Officers were called to Gatwick airport station at 1.34pm on 28 August after a suitcase was found containing 25 bags of powder.
“Following a number of inquiries and tests, it was determined these bags of powder were cake ingredients for a vegan bakery. They were soon reunited with the owner, who has promised officers and staff a slice of cake in return.”
In the silly, there is also the seriousness that has raised its head in the drug-related assassinations in Mexico ... just in time for Donald Trump. I wonder if Trump hired them or anyway might like to.

in pursuit of heaven

In pursuit of heaven, you have to raise a little hell.

As zippy as this observation may be, still, from where I sit, its invitation is outshone by the fact that, simply put, it's true. Honesty is not easy, as anyone pursuing heaven will tell you without thinking twice. Just about the time you think you've got things tucked under your belt, you notice your fly is open.

The Zen teacher Rinzai (Linji) once built a fire under the monks in his care with his needling encouragement, "Your whole problem is that you do not trust yourselves enough." How's that for a hell-raiser?

Heaven, like hell, is not for pussies.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Frances Crowe dies

Frances Crowe, a widget tornado of peace activism, died Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019, here in Northampton. She was 100. In her wake, there is little or nothing anyone can say except, perhaps,
AMEN!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

robotic spiritual life

A friend passed along this Washington Post rewrite about the unveiling of a robotic Buddhist priest at a Japanese temple. Since fewer and fewer young adherents can be drummed up in this age of the internet, someone seemed to feel that Buddhism might get a shot in the arm or kick in the ass with an artificially-intelligent priest.

Religion may be on the wane among 'the best and the brightest,' but turning Buddhism into bite-sized morsels for those whose spiritual cravings may be thin at best has a wonderful idiocy to it from where I sit.

The one question robots cannot address is, of course, "if I'm so smart, how come I'm not happy?" Couple that with my own growing conviction that everyone has to pick his or her topic in which to flounder and drown and the recipe for something called "Buddhism" remains lustrous.

Sometimes I think the golden rule is not so much the middle way as it is the observation that everyone is an asshole in one way or another and sweeping up the leavings is what this life is about.  That's right -- it's not kool to be an asshole and yet each husbands and nourishes that very seed. I am an asshole.....  And your point is?

At about 35, I set my course: Is spiritual life bullshit or not? I didn't want to know so that I could convince others, I just wanted to know for my own purposes ... was spiritual life bullshit or not?

A lot of tears, a lot of effort, a lot of asshole-dom, a lot of solemnity and seriousness crossed my prow between the formulation of my query and this morning's sunshine. Damn near 50 years -- imagine that!

Looking back is not so bad.

I wouldn't wish my training on my worst enemy and I wouldn't trade it for all the tea in China. I picked Buddhism ... others pick wealth or power or love or marriage or ... or whatever other topic allows ready access to asshole-dom. As on a submarine, "Dive! Dive! Dive!"

No one else can answer my question any more that I can answer theirs.

Is spiritual life bullshit or not?

Sure.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Trump's misdirection

Call me a political novice, but....

U.S. President Donald Trump is currently out of the country, hobnobbing with other members of the so-called G-7 -- the well-to-do nations of the world -- in, where else? -- Biarritz, France. Putting him in France puts him out of the limelight at home. It's like a breath of fresh air. Let the movers and shakers move and shake someplace else.

Oh yes, Trump is still throwing chaff into the air. There is climate change, which the Trump presidency sees as a "niche" interest. There is a trade war with China. American farmers are getting hammered and good-paying coal jobs, once promised on the campaign trail, are no where in sight. May Trump stay in France -- life is so much lighter without him.

But all of Trump's chaff has a wonderful effect, don't you think? The one thing it does admirably is to paper over the tax cuts he won for businesses in the United States. It is classic misdirection. George Bush did much the same -- selling trickle-down economics that simply won't wash and then sending money to those who need it least.

He delivered. Is it any wonder that Republicans near and far see him as a chip off the old Republican block?

He delivered what they wanted. Why wouldn't they kiss his ass?

And he knows it.

Classic misdirection. Let the liberals and idealists whine ... we got ours.

spiritual transmission

Lightning strikes injured six people (none fatally) at a championship golfing tour in Atlanta, Ga., Saturday.
Multiple spectators were injured when severe weather hit the Tour Championship in Atlanta on Saturday.
Play at the East Lake Golf Club was stopped at 4:17 p.m. Saturday because of inclement weather, and with the tournament in a delay, players were cleared from the course, Golf.com reported. According to the Associated Press, fans were also told to find shelter from the storms.
Some fans chose a tree as their shelter point. Nature snickered and beat the shit out of the tree.

Even as kids, we knew not to take shelter under a tree in a severe storm: Lightning aims at the highest and most inviting point to get into the ground -- in this case, a tree. D'oh! As boys and girls sometimes do, so land and sky reach out for each other. Is information like that transmitted any more? It poses the question in my mind, "Who died and left you so stupid?"

Oh well, I guess everyone has a blind spot or two. But still ....

The Hindus, those granddaddies of spiritual smiles, have a tale that seems to amplify the question. Approximately, the story went like this:
Once upon a time a holy man was walking through the woods. He was deeply engrossed in his spiritual endeavors when, from afar, the voice of a mahout was heard screaming, "Get out of the way! Get out of the way! The elephant has gone mad!"

The holy man paid no attention: If everything was God, everything was fine and if everything was fine, he too would be fine, even in the face of maddened elephants whose mahouts had lost control of their beasts. The holy man continued his walk. In short order, the maddened elephant broke from the woods and charged the holy man. With an deep serenity, the holy man kept walking even as the mahout kept screaming, "Get out of the way!" Sure enough, the elephant ran right over the holy man.

Much later, the holy man woke up in a hospital with a friend perched on the edge of the bed.
"What happened?" asked the holy man.
"The elephant ran you down," his friend said.
"But, but ... if the elephant is God and I am God, why then did the elephant run me down?"
"You seem to have forgotten that the mahout is God as well," his friend explained.
I guess there are holes in the holy skein.

Following in the footprints of the Hindu tale, for a long time as a news person, I used to collect stories about pilgrimages (a lot of nuns seemed to be involved) in which acolytes were climbing a mountain when the storm arrived. There were few points of cover, and the pilgrims were the tallest thing on the mountain face... and ... guess what ... holiness is no barrier when it comes to ignorance.

I guess it is good to keep an ear open for the mahouts of this life.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Falun Gong boosts Donald Trump

“Over the last six months, the single largest organization that has spent money on Facebook ads promoting Donald Trump and Donald Trump’s re-election is as you might expect the Donald Trump re-election campaign. The organization that is second on that list, though, is this Falun Gong newspaper, the Epoch Times.
I like Rachel Maddow (I admit to thinking of her as a "brassy broad" from time to time) so I tried to listen to this report last night ... and make some sense of it ... and couldn't ... and played the age card. I'm too old for this shit.

Gawd!

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.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

the universe cares?

I wonder:

The enormousness of the impact of religion is sometimes blithely attributed to a human fear of death and "what comes next." I don't know what things are like where anyone else lives, but around here there are myriad brick-and-mortar testaments to that sort of religion in one form or another.

What I wonder is this: Is it possible that the fear of death is nothing when compared with the twinkling understanding that the universe simply is unfazed and uninterested in my being and predicaments. A little soft-soaping is in order and religion is that soap. Something, however ineffable, cares as much as I do about me.

Only as time passes, the proofs mount that that hope or assertion is simply not the case. Bruisingly asserted, the world simply does not give a shit and that recognition is so painful and so lonely that a comforting comforter of some sort arises like crab grass. Religion becomes a bulwark beyond the ostensible bulwark that holds death's fears at bay.

I wonder.

If I care, is it possible to arm-wrestle the universe into caring too?

Nope.

PS. "Not giving a shit" is not intended here as a snarky or critical remark. Rather, it is the suggestion that the universe simply isn't built that way any more than a pound of cheese would be expected to ride a unicycle. It isn't built that way.