Lost again in reverie, I gaze blankly into space, imagining beautiful words parading across the screen, words so poignant, so powerful, they bring tears. The words speak to the part of each reader that is within me, that common ground of fellow-feeling, that spark of humanity that connects us all. The tears are not always sad; often they are (in my mind’s eye) full of such joy that the tears fall of their own accord, as if the morning sun had arisen in our very souls. Whether sad or joyous, beauty remains, always there for us to reach out and touch, and be touched. And when the words have worked their benign magic, the world turns again, and a new day begins…….
“Life is cruel? Compared to what?” — Edward Abbey
One of the better methods for identifying wisdom is to learn that it is generally close by the person who asks the questions that occur to no one else. I’ve noticed this a lot with Edward Abbey’s writings; he has a pretty powerful grip on what is important to know, and a very deft touch in putting it into a palatable form.
This, as it turns out in reality, is a valuable characteristic, and one of the ways society passes knowledge from one person to the next. Not everyone is curious, even if they should be. All too many folks spend the greater portion of their mental energy just coping with everyday life, with little left over at the end of the day to put into “frivolous” activities. Sad, but true.
But, fortunately for society, not everyone can curb their curiosity; some of us just HAVE to know what is out there to be found, or seen, or learned. It’s like breathing; you can stop if you like, but you won’t enjoy the outcome at all. By learning to put questions to the universe in perspective, they are shared with others, thus sharing the product of their curiosity with their fellows, who don’t have the time or inclination to use their mind for anything other than mundane pursuits. I’m awfully glad that those folks are out there; the world would be a lonely, and confusing place to live if they were not……
“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” — Voltaire
“There is the truth, and there are lies, and there is nothing on Earth or in the Netherhells that does not fall under one of these two headings, with the exception of politics.” — The Teachings of Ebenezum, Vol. LXXXVIII
Watching the political scene in this country unfold over the last few months has been enough to place the impulse to make political commentary on a par with repeatedly banging one’s head against a brick wall. Hell, there are times when the brick wall looks like a better way to spend time than trying to either make sense of the circus, or waste time criticizing it.
I don’t yet have enough of a reading audience to spread my particular brand of ideology to the great unwashed masses, and I often feel like a blind man in a dark room, trying to hit a piñata with a wiffle bat while listening to bad mariachi music (which is, come to think of it, an oxymoron). I think, in fact that I will have to take a sabbatical from political discourse; it’s beginning to have a deleterious effect on my sleep patterns, and I’m certainly not going to allow such nonsense to affect my health.
Have no fear though; I am sure that the antics of the talking heads leading up to the election in November will pull and push me into commenting before too long. But, it’s so depressing….. makes me wanna go take a nap, and hope it goes away while I’m dozing……fat chance of that, though…..
Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp! cries she
With silent lips. Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me…
— Emma Lazarus, “The New Colossus”
As most know, this is the poem that was written for the Statue of Liberty, to show the rest of the world how tolerant and free American had become; it espouses the (supposedly) American ideal of society. Today, I’d wager a significant amount of money to bet that 75% of the Americans not only couldn’t tell you the source of the poem, but would tell you they disagree with it. Our leaders, and much of the populace, no longer believe in the melting pot; they would rather seal the borders, and keep the rest of the world out.
Diversity, while already fully ensconced in the structure of society, is being systematically attacked by the forces of ignorance and intolerance, who would rather keep freedom to themselves. They don’t even realize that they have already lost; there are too many outlooks and cultures assimilated into this society to be removed without destroying themselves along with those members of society of whom they disapprove. The pot has already melted the disparate parts into a homogeneous whole; the folks who want to make this a “one-book” society are already in the minority. They just refuse to admit it, which creates a lot of hassle for the rest of us.
Sometimes I am unsure whether to be optimistic, or pessimistic; both have their uses. Optimism feels better, but pessimism is right more often. Oh, well, I guess I’ll go take a nap…..
“You can always tell an old soldier from the inside of his holsters and cartridge boxes. The young ones carry pistols and cartridges: the old ones, grub.” — George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), “Arms and the Man”
Though I managed to avoid that whole mess in Vietnam, I was raised as an army brat, living mostly on bases where my father was stationed until he retired from the Army, when I was ten years old. Having been raised on army bases, I was made fully conversant with how the army works, by the process of osmosis; you can’t help but pick up a lot of abstruse knowledge living around soldiers all the time. Thus, I can say with some degree of confidence that although Mr. Shaw’s statement is true, it is only true as far as his knowledge goes. And, it is clear that he himself never served in an army, or he would never have made such a simple mistake.
Yes, an old soldier will carry food, but even more important to him (and his mates) would be to make sure he was carrying toilet paper and clean, dry socks. THOSE are the most highly prized items for a soldier in the field. Bullets and guns are never in short supply, unless a troop has an inept company clerk, and food will eventually show up (or you can commandeer it from the citizenry), but once the TP is gone, it’s gone, and there is no good replacement in nature. And, to an infantryman, dry socks are better by far than gold or jewels, for foot soldiers live only as long as they can still walk…..comfortably……
These in the days when Heaven is falling
The hour when Earth’s foundations fled
Followed their mercenary calling
And took their wages and are dead.
Their shoulders held the sky suspended
They stood and Earth’s foundations stay
What God abandoned these defended
And took the sum of things for pay.
–A.E. Houseman–Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries
It is said of people that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. In the case of my daughter, that is both true and not true; but mostly it is true. She followed my example and learned to read by age four. By the second grade, she was devouring books at an alarming rate, books well beyond her grade level (she read the Hobbit at age six). I say alarming only because she was reading so far above her grade level that I was worried it would cause problems in relating to her peers. But, she indeed didn’t fall far, because instead she learned to use, and still uses, what she has read to help her in dealing with the surprises that life brings.
The above is a a poem that she wrote down for me, from memory, one day when we were on a high-flying discussion of some of what we had read in common. She feels the same as I do about poetry, and for much the same reasons, in that she appreciates the poet’s ability to use the language in such a powerful way.
Both she, and her older brother, learned to read at four years, although he is of a personality type that, while he enjoys books and literature, and reads well beyond the average, he prefers to partake of the bulk of his learning from experience. Both of them make me proud, and glad that they will always have the comfort of books to ease their path through the mazes of life. And I am content that, if no other way, I gave them tools that will always serve them well……
Thus ends another morning’s musings. Hopefully, you have found some food for thought, or at least a humorous snack. I have been up since 5 AM again, so I may just take my own advice, and go back to bed until a more reasonable hour. Hmm….sounds attractive. Unless something pops up before I can get comfy, I can’t see any reason to deny myself that little indulgence. There ARE advantages to this retirement stuff, besides having a lot more time to write….good thing, too, as there are other parts that aren’t as pleasurable, like aging…..y’all take care out there…..
Sometimes I sits and thinks,
I just sits.