Sunday, December 31, 2017

Propaganda and Messaging

An Appraisal of Being in the year 2017 cannot retreat into the tomorrow without a contemplation of stems and branches. In too many of us the color of our skin, our language of birth, the accent on our tongue combine with the limbic system to mock the high flown phrases around which the disparate parts of our whole have attempted to combine to find a harmony in equal-ness and reason. Rewards wander through the filters and are then judged worthy. Those filters are written for us and by us in stories, a winding path to a mystical conclusion, each one of us a fragile hero, and with heroes it's not just about how much, never has been, it's more about an answer to the question "Why?"

 During the First World War following the silent killing of the first gas attacks a myth was added to the narrative. The enemy had Crucified an Allied Soldier. Whether it had happened or not, didn't matter to the viral nature of purpose. The war had rambled on past Christmas and another Christmas. In the stalemate, millions had already died for a yard or so of territory, and for the grass roots, us common folk in the blood and mud, "Because Archduke Ferdinand had been assassinated" didn't really go anywhere near to answering the question "Why?" Two years later in the November of 1918 the First World War ended.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Monastic Traditions

The Eremitic tradition has to do with hermits, a seclusion from society for the purpose of getting closer to God. The Cenobitic tradition has to do with a community devoted to getting closer to God in a more communal way. The Skete and the Lavra traditions are more about being a hermit in those parts where being a hermit is probably not practical as a result of bandits, locusts, water shortages and the like, so a degree of meeting and greeting becomes necessary to remain present in the world. The point being that God is an odd duck and you can never be sure what he means or wants unless you're concentrating most of your waking hours on what it is he or she is trying to say. Saint Teresa herself was about talking to God all the time and thereby never actually leaving the presence of God.

Naturally there will be those who disagree with my understanding of the monastic life and categories within the calling, and some of those disagreements have probably over the years resulted in things like burning people at the stake and stuff. Either way, Bronwyn the Seamstress' Carmelites of Saint Barbara do appear to have made some sort of peace with their understanding of God by building a structure that looks to my way of thinking like a very depressing Victorian military barracks, and like so many earthly matters, short of some kind of righteous rampage by the Kitten, I'm just going to have to live with it, even if I have been wandering for forty days and forty nights in the desert looking for insight, to absolutely no avail. I was roundly dismissed as a moaning old nag, I guess.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Seasonal Catalogues

Seed Catalogues. I'd imagine in some definitions these two simple words could well produce a youthful confluence with emotional phrases such as "Gosh! How exciting." My own reaction however joins with the exasperation of "propaganda, deceit, waste of paper and out right lying," and quickly finds something like a hybrid Carrot with purple flesh to vent several hours of spleen upon before embarking upon a tirade which inevitably wanders the universe before settling on the absolute conviction that senators and congressmen should be forced to retire when they reach the age of maybe sixty two. But while it lasts you're welcome to "Gosh! How exciting." Good luck to you, you poor deluded fool.

For me it all started going down hill with a Wax Gourd. There's still some pickled Wax Gourd in the cupboard, they've sat there since 07, and I should really throw them away, but I want them to suffer and at the same time serve as a reminder to those few remaining strands of hope that linger and begin to spark in me when I see a Seed Catalogue. My Wax Gourd curry would have surely elicited "Another Day that will live in Infamy" from Roosevelt. At the same time it's Seed Catalogues that kind of sum up the Age of Consumerism where reason, purpose, truth and language have been reduced to a product of feverish, money grabbing incontinence. Nor will I again be tempted by the Snake Gourd, even if her white bloom is indeed delicate and extraordinarily beautiful, pulling moths to her bosom as she fills the summer night with her fragrance.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Convent in Saint Barbara

Saint Teresa of Avila's Carmelite Convent in the county of Saint Barbara is beginning to look a little like a Victorian military barracks. All it needs is the cannon that won the battle of something and a bunch of aggressive looking flags. Could be that the iron discipline of the discalced matches the look, but I was rather hoping for something a little more dainty, if that's the correct word to use around Carmelite nuns. Chimneys help cozy the place a little, few trees might calm the structures down, give them a sense of serenity, but who knows. Always thought of Saint Teresa, one of the guiding lights of the discalced branch of Carmelites, as a bit of a free spirit, the odd random edge in her calling.

The only Carmelite Monastery I've ever seen is the one in the lonely hills near Mount Snowdon in Wales. It looked like an old farm house with outbuildings, all of it well cloistered by walls and solid wooden gates with rusty hinges. Back then of course there was a whole language thing, and the local Presbyterian lads in the pub some miles away made the proud point of telling me the nuns sometimes conducted the holy mass in Welsh. The nuns had moved to north Wales from London 40 years previously, apparently. The other thing I remember being told, was that the nuns wore sandals with woolen socks, BUT when it was wet and muddy, pretty much ten months of the year in that part of the world, some of them had been seen wearing gumboots.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Paleo Pols

There's all kinds of odd ideas for the future of organized society before we all escape to the luxuries of hunter gathering groups huddling for warmth on bitter winter days, a north wind sucking the life out anything remotely sentient. Some of these ideas are pleasant, others a kind of nightmare to my way of thinking. But as a big fan of "Creative Is" many of these ideas ring just a little flat in the area of imagination, so much so the phrase "Used Tissue Paper" springs to an adventuring mind. The Paleoconservative Movement is up there with "Oh My God." It's a wholly revanchist approach to the past five thousand or so years, its tenets are anti free trade, anti multiculturalism, anti other countries, very limited central government and a return to what's called the traditional categories of race, ethnicity, gender, their point being there's a 'natural' order of things which we mess with at our peril and before you know it there are dashiki wearing transvestites in the US Marine Corp, a mosque on every corner, a Sharia law which means you lose a hand for doing the natural thing and pinching a girls bottom, all supported by the censorship of political correctness and to hell with the US Constitution, a wishy-washy document if ever there was one, "Que Les Trumps Soient Des Trumps " is the motto. More damning the movement places a relationship between property and freedom, and this does in my often simple view suggest that the motive behind the Paleocons can be found in the sadly fragile insularity of Anglo Saxon protestant males trying to deal with a failure of imagination by attempting to institutionalize not just ordinary common or garden mansplaining, but white mansplaining. And I say protestant because the great wealth of the Catholic Church comprise those scary free wheeling foreigners like the Spanish, the French and the Irish. What a Paleoconservative wants is correctly bred property owning and incredibly dull males in charge. In 2017 this movement seems to have made great strides toward achieving their grand solution, concentrating wealth and power in the hands of dominant clans while at the same time rolling back the hard won protections for the un-chosen, the differently colored, the improperly baptized, those struggling with the sin of poverty, the lame, the halt and the blind. Don't get me wrong, as an Anglo Saxon of some sort myself, my objection to the Paleoconservative Myth about us Anglo Saxons goes all the way back to the confusion wrought in us by King Alfred, who was a Christian who'd kissed the Pope's ring, which made him a Catholic.

 Back in the day we Anglo Saxons had peacefully intermingled with the natives in our new island home, we'd become a veritable rainbow of Briton, Celt, Angle, Saxon and the odd Italian who'd stayed in Britannia rather than go back to Rome. We had our clans, we had our chiefs, we had our farms, we had our light industries, we had our craven images, we had our blissfully short life spans and we were perfectly happy quarreling with each other about who owned what field, and occasionally we'd break down to form a united front against gangsters from Denmark or the thieving Norwegians, or the Terrifying Scots or the Dragons from Wales. Battles we'd usually lose gloriously so that our poets had something to contribute to our way of life. Then Alfred came along, not only did he lie about inventing the lantern and the Navy, he put an outrage and an inadequacy into us that was totally unallied to our own traditional values, and one of the ways he did this was by importing foreign scholars to do stuff like teach us reading and writing, accounting and how to make souffl├ęs and quiche. It worked for a bit, but with us Anglo Saxons old habits die hard, we are a simple and visceral people, easily led astray, breadth of scholarship is not innate in us, nor are things like new ideas, knives and forks, or napkins. And if it hadn't been for the Norman invasion of the English part of the Island we'd have quickly reverted to our traditional preoccupations of eating, drinking beer, getting drunk and fighting each other. It was these foreign Norman Kings and their insidious genius for central government that shaped us into an avaricious nation hell bent on stuff like World Domination. So the question for us more genuinely traditional Anglo Saxons is: "Have the Anglo Saxons in the USA gone totally mad, found another lying Alfred that eventually dooms us to some sort of William the Conqueror type hell on earth which could well involve an invasion of Canada?" Either one should fill a true blue Anglo Saxon with an ennui, which is a word the English upper classes stole from the French, and would use in the 18th Century as the fashionable way of saying "boring" and which is now commonly defined as being "listless, dissatisfied, insipid and uninspired." Interesting too, Edmund Burke an early Paleocon was from Dublin, which is in Ireland. Hobbes another guiding light of the Paleos was from Malmesbury, which is about as Norman a town as you kind find in all of England. And glancing at the names of the currently living lights of the Paleophiles I don't see a surfeit of Anglo Saxon names, Miller might be, but Bannon is Gaelic. It's obvious, we simple folk are being used again!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Reflections on a Trappist Monastery Cake

As one whole heartedly engaged in the joy of the war against, and who has boldly refused to use the C-word during the month of December I'm pretty much left with Happy Boxing Day. The phrase has a pugnacious charm, goes back to the simpler times when those engaged in the service industries had to work on the day of the savior's birth and for doing so their trickle down came in a box on the day after. Soap, socks and white gloves, perhaps, but quite why it was a box, researchers remain suspicious. All these things were a great deal easier to handle with liberal quantities of alcohol, and here the word Liberal is defined as "unrestricted" or for 12 happy days disappearing into a bar that has a duke box. Now that I am more saint than sinner I have opened my arms and warmly embraced restrictions, and by so doing I find myself increasingly intolerant of the more shameless and ill-disciplined in our number which does kind of put a mote in the eye of "Good Will to All Men." So this side of a banner proudly declaring "The End is Nigh" it's tricky to find a balance that doesn't upset the whole idea of a vomitorium as the motive force behind daily life. There's a madness to it, doomed to repeat the same thing for ever and ever, which I guess does grant Blessed Release a truer and more perfectly straight line meaning than is found in the nonsense about circles that we cling to at our peril as they rob us of hope and do absolutely nothing for faith..

 But in keeping with the cultural norms that require some kind of excuse for rampant excess or its opposite, those in my position who may have again over indulged in the traditional product of a Trappist Monastery, we will have to devise a myth that informs and justifies a bright new progressive attitude toward Fruitcake. The Walden Pond fellow might have had some kind of answer. He was a naturalist, engrossed in the habits, shapes forms and functions of creatures. Pausing in his quest for understanding, he took of his hat and remarked that he couldn't begin to understand the nature of things or belong to them unless he could feel them, and in science there was a feeling for science but there was no feeling for the objects of scientific examination, and if there was it wasn't glorious summer day science it was more like boring old accounting, the bottom line, and I paraphrase a little. It's also true that you don't spend two years as a hermit communing with a pond without coming away with a feeling of some sort that has you yelling back at the Mockingbird and discussing meaning with the Frogs, Grasshoppers, Tics and the like. Clearly new myths will have to include the stress of Jolliness, the ho-ho-ho quality is always a given, which means the issue to be resolved is a description of joy that currently relies far too heavily upon the miles and miles of indigestion products that can be found in the aisles of Grocery Stores, which means there's no punishment, doesn't it? It's just round and round, a vicious circle. On the other side, I imagine the purists would come up with some typical and feeble reply that blames the victim. "It's not the fault of Trappists scratching their living in silence you ate too much fruit cake."

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Tilt change

Last Winter Solstice I believe your correspondent was a little too engaged by the Edict of Worms, which led to the eviction of Luther from the Catholic Church, and the Diet of Augsburg, which finally produced a compromise that briefly settled growing tensions between the Catholic Church and what would become the Protestant Church. It was a moment of common sense at a time when peace between ambitious and quarreling European Princes had become very fragile, and this despite Ottoman progress up the Balkans toward the gates of Vienna. And why? Like so many of us I was attempting to make some kind of sense out of the results of the United Kingdom's referendum on whether to remain in the European Union and I was dealing with my own emotional responses to the consequences the general election in the USA would have on Liberal Democracy, here and around the world. I distinctly remember realizing that the Ottoman siege of Vienna was just the beginning of  years of Ottoman attempts to politically and militarily dominate Europe.

Over a hundred years later the Ottoman's made a second attempt to take Vienna, and at this Second siege of Vienna Europe was no more or less fractured than it had been at the First Siege of Vienna. For some reason or other this realization gave me what used to be called Hope, but which these days is probably better thought of as "Oh well!" One of the things about Winter Solstice that figures large in my mind is that if you survive this day it does mean you probably have at least another year upon earth. The point being that the lead up to Winter Solstice is the time to grapple with those elements in the world beyond that enables a person to move the negative/positive balance within their being toward positive. Pretty difficult thing to do last year, and not much easier this year.  All the same, I'm wearing the water wings and will take the big roads to gather with others in the City of Lexington Kentucky should our Mango in Chief and his odious cronies chose to dismiss Robert Swan Mueller the Third.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Ping-Pong Balls, Bayonets and Water-Wings

Nietzsche's idea of will was never simple. There was nothing you could point to and say "That's the Will." He kind of reckoned that we people had drives and these drives bobbed around as something like ping-pong balls in a lottery machine. Not certain that the winning lottery number was "The Will" rather the will was when those drives all came together and blossomed into something that was recognizable as purpose, direction and all those things some of us still think of as enthusiasm that can become naked ambition. Pareto was more mathematically inclined, he just came straight out and said that a mere 20% of us were useful in the area of decision making and bossing everyone else around. The remaining 80% just had to be told what to do otherwise trains would never run on time, it would be total, complete and utter chaos and we all might just as well give up.  Nietzsche's view, which is the one I prefer, contains a less dismissive and irredeemable attitude toward the majority of us even if he did go on to suggest that those of us whose ping-pong balls have yet to come together and bloom remain 'slavish' or if you prefer sheep-like.

And in an odd way Trotsky, when he thought about "What is to be Done" knew that an enthusiastic Vanguard of Revolutionaries would only ever remain enthusiastic and dedicated to the dream for so long, which is why revolution was kind of a permanent thing that had to be frequently refreshed so that you didn't get a bunch of old farts stuck in their ways clinging to the reins of power because they thought knew best. Stranger still in Liberal Democracies elections can be thought of as permanent revolution, a refreshing of the ruling class by now and then getting rid of the more egregious and obnoxious in their number through more peaceful methods. The Romanovs, if I recall, were not only shot, they were bayoneted and clubbed to death, their bodies were then mutilated and burned. Which is the sort of grisly thing that can happen when 80% of us don't have regular elections, free and fair, to keep the other 20% in line. These days, of course, it's not a Revolutionary Vanguard, that sound far too sinister, this blooming of ping-pong balls in political consciousness is a called a Political Wave, so put away the lottery ticket, the bayonet and blow up the water wings.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Vanguards

One of the problems for Lenin was that those who had nothing much more than their labor to sell in order to earn their living were working in primeval factory conditions and they were doing so eleven or ten hours a day, six days a week. This meant that very few of them had much time or energy to sit around, contemplate the future or engage their minds in the complexities of economic and social theories. And it was by raising the consciousness of this working class Lenin reckoned would provide him with the foundation of a power base with which to make a much better world. It was frustration as much as anything else that led to the idea of a vanguard of revolutionaries, groups of the more enlightened would read the texts, maintain a purity of idea, avoid getting sidetracked. These groups would multiply and as they did so they would raise the consciousness of the working class. In those days they had no Face Book or Pintrest, so for the believer it was evangelistic footwork, like the Mormons except meeting people in bars was allowed, having useful discussions, raising money from sympathizers in the higher strata and so on.

Today you could think about the Tea Party as a sort of vanguard and same with something like Indivisible, Grass roots if you like. And too the Vanguard of Revolutionaries had a propaganda arm, it was dedicated and not nearly as cynical as say Fox Cable News. Interesting also, in the famous pamphlet "What is to be Done," which was the 1901 genesis of the vanguard idea, mention was made of "survival of the fittest" as the path by which groups within the Vanguard would advance and organize themselves rather than rely too much on a central organizing and always expensive authority. Oddly following the last election here in the USA a plethora of groups emerged in vehement opposition to the current president and what he represented. The Democratic Party was in chaos, still is, and when a bigwig in the Democratic Party was asked by eager reporters which of the emerging groups the Democratic Party would support, the answer was basically "survival of the fittest." Depressing, of course it is!  But you and I do have a duty to turn up occasionally, stamp a foot, yell things like "Pull yourselves together!" and generally remind them that we live here too and it's not all about them, the bastards. Either that or both Pareto and Nietzsche were right, we really are a lumpen proletariat.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Rustin, Reagan and Trotsky

After his death Bayard Rustin was praised by Ronald Reagan for rejecting racial quotas in the pursuit of equal opportunity. And it's true that Rustin was firm in his belief that people should be judged by their merit, rather than their color. The problem, Rustin was very aware of, was that for any thing like equality in a society there's always been that powerful element amongst us that preserves institutional and cultural assumptions about race, breeding, heritage, class and so on, and on endlessly.  These assumptions remain stubborn and are very difficult to change, impossible to do so overnight this side of the rapture. And here it's hard to avoid the contrasting views of Lenin and Trotsky on the subject of Marx's analysis of 19th Century society. In my mind I understand these contrasting views in terms of history and weather forecasts. If I believe the weather forecast for tomorrow I can anticipate what I need to wear, darn the socks, hunt down the gum-boots or whatever. And too if I believe the predictions of this or that economist or political theorist I can hold fast to the comfort of an inevitable and true vision of both tomorrow and the next day, and begin the process of arranging matters so that I will be emotionally able to maintain a presence in the predicted and inevitable future, do something truly ridiculous because theoretically it looks like the right thing to do.

Leninists would say that if tomorrow is known then to get the process rolling faster than a Snail's pace today can be pushed to look more like tomorrow, so the thing to do was to see to it that people whether they liked it or not are properly persuaded that indeed this is what their inevitable future would look like, and just get on with it. Trotskyites would say that what happens tomorrow might well be known but when that tomorrow might arrive will always be a bit of a mystery and better to be really flexible just in case what you thought would happen didn't happen, so it was wiser to maintain enthusiasm for the beautiful cause by keeping freshness and agility, and frequent changes at the top, in the pursuit of tomorrow instead of getting too bogged down in increasingly unrealistic and possibly corrupted convictions. The idea of quotas would be Leninist, attempting to force the future. So I guess Reagan and Rustin would fall into the category of Trotskyites on the subject of racial quotas. With Trotsky, he so pissed off the more authoritarian minded by the confusion, uneasiness and difficulties his constant questions were causing amongst the faithful that after several failed attempts he was assassinated in Mexico City by an agent of the NKVD wielding an ice pick.  Monotheistic religions and the current Republican Party here in the United States are in my view far too dominated by Leninists, and their current leader would just love to be Stalin.  Either way, tomorrow looks to be mostly cloudy with a high of 57 Fahrenheit and I'll spend tomorrow morning as an uncompromising Leninist commissar, or a Paul Ryan, happily sending Grapevines to the Gulag and to hell with the consequences.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Bayard Rustin

 Bayard Rustin participated in writing the Quaker pamphlet "Speak truth to Power." His name doesn't appear at the end of the document. If you want to know why, in 1955 engaging in homosexual acts was a criminal offence. Rustin had served 60 days in a California jail for a crime called sex perversion, or sodomy. There's argument of course, but when Rustin and Martin Luther King met, King was organizing the Montgomery Bus Boycott. King had "permitted himself and his house and his children to be protected by guns."  Rustin was one of the voices that persuaded King to abandon armed protection.

Rustin was influenced by Quaker passivism, Phillip Randolph who was the organizer of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Workers, and Mahatma Gandhi. The pamphlet "Speak Truth to Power" contains the following sentence,  "Our truth is an ancient one: that love endures and overcomes; that hatred destroys; that what is obtained by love is retained, but what is obtained by hatred proves a burden."  Rustin died in 1987. On August 8th 2013, President Obama posthumously awarded Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Of Rustin's many quotes "We need in every bay and in every community a group of angelic troublemakers" is the one I like best.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Murray Bookchin

In short, the difference between an Anarchist and a Libertarian is basically zero. But Libertarian's are more likely to live in gated communities and wear suits to work, while Anarchists are more likely to live in the Bistros and Cafes of the more free wheeling urban areas and Anarchists sound scary. Both cleave to the idea of a society unmolested, or at least un-dominated, by the apparatus of a State. The political philosopher, or social theorist, Bookchin, even though he was more Kropotkin than Koch, struggled with these two nomenclatures and came away with Libertarian Municipalism. Bookchin was like John Walking Stewart from the late 18th Century who kind of felt that small communities should be left to make their own decisions, a face to face democracy with fewer places to hide in and as a result fewer excuses. In time Bookchin suggested a confederation of municipalities would replace the nation state. His point being that culture, ethnic, gender and religious conflicts if left to the nation state always produce irrational and often crackpot solutions. An example of these irrationalities I guess is the way in which most societies upon our planet have somehow managed to encrypt an understanding of truth that includes perpetual economic growth as central to happiness. More likely, the argument goes, perpetual economic growth is a long way from rational, and has little to do with the balance in our world, but is central to the survival of the nation state. It's not the only example, just look around.

A friend of Bookchin, by the name of Janet Biehl, wrote fondly of Bookchin in Ecology or Catastrophe, which you can buy if you want to. Later she came to the conclusion that being anti-statist was an error, but it didn't mean that she gave up on the idea of how central the local level was to a more rational potential for the future and this was particularly the case with the two political parties here in the USA, where both parties in the interest of pleasing their major donors have pretty much given up on doing anything much more than pandering to the wealthy and ignoring the rest of us. In the process the Political Class as representing us has suffered, their reputation soiled and most of them are dismissed as corrupt creatures bought and paid for, about whom we can do very little except in the short term, during a moment of blooming.  Another person influenced by Bookchin's idea of a rational community is called Abdullah Ocalan, a big influence on the Kurds and their worker's party the PKK. Apo or Uncle as Ocalan is called is in a Turkish prison and he would have been executed had it not been for Turkey doing away with capital punishment while it was attempting to enter the European Union. Bookchin died in the summer of 2006, he was eighty five years old. He appears in the 1983 movie "Anarchy in America." If you got the bandwidth you can watch it on Y Tube and feel young again.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

An Outing

The plan is to bravely venture into the unknown, explore the possibilities and return with sanity intact. God willing, I could be gone no more than four hours. And here we're talking yet another attempt to engage with the snorting and sniffling nightmare of the festive season. This time, despite my instinct against it, I intend to shave, shower, shampoo the hair, and I'll do this to avoid any suggestion from the purveyors of festive goods that I might be one of those who can't remember his telephone number or his billing zip code.  Over time a person begins to understand his own weaknesses, and should you share mine, it's better to have an excuse ready and waiting for why you can't remember stuff like bunches of numbers and have to find them on a piece of paper in your purse, otherwise it really looks suspicious. Keep it simple.  "That'll be the new number?" A questioning eyebrow, followed by an enthusiastic and willing "I've got it right here."

One things for sure, never again will I enter the Books A Million and enquire after a Book Token. This of course was years ago, before things like having to remember a telephone number or a zip code in order to conduct a financial transaction. In that simpler time you just paid cash. Back then I was still basically driving on the wrong side of the road, but at least I was doing it very slowly. Nor were my language skills adequate to the English as spoken in these here United States.  Book Tokens I discovered were clearly code for a nefarious and possibly criminal activity, right up there with soliciting. For those interested Book Tokens in book shops here in the USA are called Gift Certificates. Call them a Book Token or attempt to explain what they are and you risk getting more than some very peculiar looks. Call them a Gift Certificate and the sales assistant gives you the distinct impression that your seasonal gift giving lacks anything like imagination and you're probably a vegetarian with a Tofu Turkey to look forward to, but at least you don't get asked to leave the store, which oddly enough is incredibly embarrassing.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Zoroaster

Sometimes victory is sweet. But best to return to the hymns of Zoroaster, and recall his analysis of us people which gave us two sides to our minds. The one more visceral in it's reactions, the other more thoughtful. And of the two sides the wise mind always attempts thoughtfulness.

Yet there's something very heart warming about mud on another's face, watch the smart ass feint and duck, as he reaches for the truly pathetic excuse. Me, I'm enjoying visceral at the moment, it's a wonderfully pompous feeling. And yes, there should be a Marshal Plan for the GOP.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Reality Problem

As some of us have argued, Bluebirds are obviously chess playing birds. They don't fritter around with games like pick-a-sticks or charades in their quest for world domination. But Bluebirds confronting the ordeal of very cold winter nights do huddle together in their nest sites.  And if you don't believe me, while I was now-casting in this morning  I watched four Bluebirds emerge from a nest box, one after the other. To my mind they looked bleary eyed, and it did strike me that possibly they were late for some kind of avian civic obligation, they all headed off at high speed in different directions.

The question that haunted this morning and some of the afternoon has been whether or not I have to reappraise my view of Bluebirds as being chess players. Huddling for warmth doesn't seem like something chess players would do. At the same time, I told myself, the Central European winters are absolutely awful and yet Central Europe has produced some pretty good chess players. And on it went, round and around, desperately hunting down reasons that might preserve my incredibly important assumption that Bluebirds play chess. Fortunately we can all relax, I've concluded that Bluebirds share the huddling characteristics of Emperor Penguins, and we all know Emperor Penguins are masters at the game of chess.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Right and Wrong?

Saint Augustine of Hippo, when he was a young lad, stole fruit from a neighbor. Not because he was hungry, but because it was forbidden. This for him was a big moment which for the remainder of his 76 years upon earth informed his thinking around the big questions. He realized that he had enjoyed stealing the fruit and he concluded that because stealing fruit gave him a thrill he was obviously flawed, there was something seriously wrong with him, and it wasn't really his fault that he'd got all excited about stealing fruit, he just couldn't help himself which meant something else, something much more profound was happening. For the curious Augustine was a high born male Roman citizen of the 4th Century and back then in the waning days of the Roman Empire kleptomania was more of a moving feast than it was an unfortunate clinical condition.

There will of course be debate about the accuracy of my claim to an understanding of one of the founding minds of Western Civilization, yet more often than not it's the simple things that become complicated, the point being that between Augustine's idea of Original Sin and Augustine's idea of the Grace of God there is no clear straight line this side of blind faith, so it's down to the political operatives to invent the narrative. And if you think God doesn't use focus groups you need help, which is why Saint Thomas Aquinas produced the brilliant idea of a corporeal hell, an actual place, so that upright, gentle and simple people like me who don't get out much can feel better about what happens to a Chipmunk who steals a Cherry Tomato. Like Corporations, politicians who wear cowboy hats and advertizing agencies, on judgment day they go straight to a fiery hell my friends.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Hell etc...

It's a Shivering Naraka out there and some of us might be struggling a little with the purpose of seasons. Wise of the Buddhists to come up with the idea of hell as a cold place, a sure sign they have a much better handle on the fate of souls than those of us who take our idea of hell from the burning of chaff, which are the apparently useless and sinful bracts of cereal grasses that remain after threshing. Then there's the sultry temptation of Karma. The sum total of actions good and bad, like an effort grade attached to the soul that follows a being into rebirth as a Fruit Fly or perhaps child of a Potentate. There are some in the Hindu calling who don't believe in Karma at all. Instead they consider all Karma bad and in life the object is to avoid having to be reborn ever again.

Frankly it's pretty damn obvious where I stand on these weighty issues. And to give you a hint the average life span of a happy Fruit Fly is around forty days spent buzzing cheerfully around dodging the occasional inelegant swat in a warm and fragrant kitchen, a totally perfect existence in my view. On the other hand moping around the fate of souls is a long way from being conducive to mental health and correct posture through the darker months, and probably the error of a vindictive and not very nice personality to raise the issue even if the idea of being poked by sticks in a frigid hell through the course of eternity does sometimes seem like a heart warming solution on a snowy day to the endless and usually unnecessary problems presented by the more disagreeable in our number. But fair warning! Tomorrow, if we don't get some sunshine, I will compare and contrast Augustine of Hippo's fairly wimpy and Aquinas' more viscerally satisfying views on the subject of hell.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Moral High Ground

The term "Cult of Personality" was used in a political context by Khrushchev in a speech he made bravely criticizing blind devotion to Stalin. And it's also the case that sometime in the late 19th Century the term was used by Marx to describe his aversion to the idea of assigning anything like popularity to the individual rather than to the usefulness or accuracy of the individual's idea. There's a suggestion Marx was here influenced by an earlier use of the term which referred to a more romantic "Cult of Genius" where it was the person, the Genius, who was worshipped as in someway extra special. If you go back to Pythagoras, his personal cult concluded that their leader could be in two different places at the very same time and they could prove it apparently, which several thousand years later was an interesting quantum quandary for Heisenberg's understanding of atoms. The point being that it's not the person, it's the person's idea that should be given solid consideration and/or reverence, otherwise you just have a bunch of yes-men, automatons who take their breakfast without ever having to think or question. In my own warped manner I think of the "Cult of Personality" in terms of the word "Savior." And it's this in my view that informs a more useful understanding of relationships between blind faith and reason, and can give me a sense of why it is that the current Vice President seems to believe that once long ago at a Christian Woodstock he shared the pain of crucifixion, became one with the cross and rather than devote his life to something like the peculiar consequences of hallucinogens he chose to accept the existence of a personal God, and was called by destiny to became born anew.

 "Eh!" I hear the call. Well the answer is a simple. George Washington, while president had a bad case of the influenza and those around him thought he was going to die. Trouble was there was nothing in the US Constitution that would resolve the issue of what to do when a line of succession was waiting around for a very unwell president to journey into the next world. Madison during the war of 1812 created a similar problem when he started suffering from high fevers and delirium, not something a democracy really looks for in a Commander in Chief during wartime. Franklin Roosevelt who was pretty much at death's door throughout his third and fourth terms as president, really did get people thinking. With Roosevelt the line of succession was to the Vice President and many thought Roosevelt's second Vice President was obviously a wishy-washy communist, which is one of the reasons Truman became Roosevelt's third vice president just in time for Roosevelt's last breath.  In the end and what with one thing and another, the line of succession has moved around with the political conveniences of changing fortunes. Sometimes if the president became unwell or croaks the Leader of the House was President in waiting, sometimes it was a Cabinet Secretary, and sometimes it was the Vice President. Currently if the President becomes unfit, the Vice President becomes top man, and if the Vice President happens to experience The Rapture then it's down to our current Leader of the House, an objectivist who shares the Randian view that poor people and victims are stupid, sinful and undeserving, it's a form of eugenics that's very fashionable amongst the upper echelons. The moral high ground, I guess..

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Creepers

The trees, we have charge of, are awash with Grapevine and Virginia Creeper, and around the woodland edges some Honeysuckle. For well over ten years I have been meaning to deal with the problem. Might have been easier back then because while exploring the task I realize we're not talking ornamentals here, we're talking the sort of vines a man child raised by Chimpanzees or Property Speculators might have a familiarity with. They are yodeling while swinging from tree to tree size vines and a person almost needs to think about ruining a perfectly respectable day by running a chainsaw to deal with them.

As a winter outdoor project cutting back these vines does however offer a potential for fresh air and a little physical exercise, the sort of woodsman activity that puts the pants on a bloke, causes him to wax around the Victorian dreamscape of weary working men wending their frosty way after releasing a swooning Sycamore from an unrequested embrace. And yet there's actually a bigger question and this has to do with the extent to which fresh air and exercise are conducive to winter wellbeing. I'm beginning to wonder. First of all, it's a well known fact exercise for the sake of exercise is purposeless and contrary to the meaning of life. Secondly when temperatures are below 46 Fahrenheit, outdoor movement of any kind has a Gulag quality.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Tidings

The Nuremberg Rallies were an opportunity to let off steam, find unity in the irrational and for those looking for purpose yelling "lock her up" served as the cry of "liberty" as it did when heads rolled to the guillotines of the French Revolution. The veneer of established behavior must have felt good to be rid of if only for a while.  The results so far have been interesting and just a little predictable.

Yet at times of intense disappointment, always best to look for the bright side. Wander the imagination in search for the positive. Leave no stone or carpet unturned. And there it is, "The death planet Nibiru will collide with the earth on December 5th 2017." This means I won't have to go to the dentist on Wednesday.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Winter Wren

Winter Wrens pottering in that zone a gardener reserves for composting, hours of peaceful contemplation and pretending to be incredibly constructive. Winter Wrens are what you call a busy bird, and have to be, especially when it's cold, and insects scarce, they're very small even when they're fluffed up against the chill. Now the point is I'm a big fan of the Praying Mantis, especially in the vegetable garden and the Praying Mantis has a spongy egg sack the Praying Mantis glues to those parts of woody plants that too often have to be trimmed.

The rule for me is to hide the egg sacks found on trimmings in the longer term compost piles and if the warmer weather ever returns I strategically relocate the egg sacks to parts of the garden that might suit little Praying Mantis. And it's these egg sacks that attract Winter Wren to the composting zone. The other thing about a Winter Wren, like the Kitten, they probably have Wolverine in their ancestry. My little store of Praying Mantis Eggs had been pecked to death, weeviled around and have been pretty much turned into a sawdust.  I could have done something I suppose, taken action, been constructive, but the peaceful part of contemplation is watching.