Monday, December 27, 2010

On writing and family. We often hear about how terrible many kinds of artists have been as parents. I, even as a kid learning these things in school, felt that these could not be great men. What ever their accomplishments, they failed at the most basic of human tasks, taking care of your children.

As a writer, I write very little. For years it was due to putting my family first. Now it is a combination of that and my health. Family now does not impede my writing, except for my Prodigal Daughter, who wounds my heart and soul each and every day. I lose sleep and have had my health deteriorate stressing over my Lost Lambs. This makes me a better parent than so many artists, but it makes me a terrible artist. I produce far too little. I am not true to my art.

I do not excuse the artists, great and small, who neglected their families, but I understand them far better now. If they were not great men, they were great artists. I fear I am neither.

Sorry, but after the joy of Christmas Eve and the delight of a Christmas which turned out to be amazingly good, I am feeling down since I must mail gifts to my four little ones who live only an hour away. How my Prodigal Daughter can be so full of hate on Christmas, towards people who love her so much, eludes me, but so it is.

On that, let me note that Onna and James, both of whom she wants me to disown as a condition of seeing her and my Lost Lambs again, have never regarded her as a step sister. They grew up calling her, and still call her their sister. For a few months when she first tried to force them out of my life, they started calling her, for the first time ever, their step sister. It didn’t last. They love her too much, even when she is acting so abominably. They are back to referring to her as their sister. I seem to have managed to teach some of my children the value of love. I did something right.

Sorry to be so down, but so it is today. Remember the surprise and delight I had in having a joyful Christmas Eve and a wonderful family Christmas. Kids all over the place, noise, mess, presents to wrestle out of those horrible shrink wrap packages...well, you know a family Christmas. I loved it.

I wasn’t even upset by poor Alex's throwing up on the stairs and in front of the kitchen. I was worried about him, of course, but it wasn’t bad. He admitted he had sneaked a peanut butter cookie at another relative's house. He knows to avoid anything with peanuts, but when everyone else is enjoying a treat, it is so hard for a kid to accept that limit. He was fine, just an upset stomach. As soon as he threw up, he felt great. Ah, Christmas.

I remember as a custodian that the worst day of the year for those dreaded vomit calls from a desperate teacher was always the last day before Christmas vacation -- room parties and lots and lots of treats...
An addendum to Christmas Joy -- I forgot to mention that, while shopping at Target with Onna and Austin [oldest daughter and great grandson], I was looking for Christmas socks for my gift to Katie and Drew [the youngest of my Lost Lambs]. As we headed to checkout without having found any socks, Onna suggested we check the dollar bins. And there they were. Austin wanted a pair of socks with Santa on them, but I’d already bought several little things for him and Onna said no --Grandma holds the reins on Austin. But as I waited in the check out line I thought, why not? and hurried back over and grabbed a pair. It was only a buck, and Austin kind of liked them.

When we got home, I gave him the socks and he was ecstatic! When he went to bed , he refused to take them off--Austin always takes off his socks, even for a nap, but not his Santa socks. Such joy from such a tiny thing. Kids are wonderful. Grandkids are wonderful.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Some time ago, I stated I would make a blog entry on feeding the hungry. My body let me down, but ironically, I am back at the same spot. it has been a difficult Christmas, not due to finances, but because of my Prodigal Daughter’s determination to keep me from my grandchildren until I disown my other two daughters, my son, and their children. She flatly stated I could have her and her kids as my family, or I could have the rest of my children and grandchildren. I had to choose. I could have her and her kids or "those people". Of course, I chose both, and she cut me off. Last Christmas she let me see them for about 40 minutes at Del Taco to give them their presents. This year she won't talk to me, so even that is gone.

Yet, this is not an entry declaring my misery. Last night was wonderful. I haven't been able to get to Costco to resupply myself with shrimp and have been grumbling about the lack to the last few days. I spent yesterday finally getting Christmas cards ready and paying bills [long overdue bills]. I was tired, rather vertiginous, and yes, very depressed. Onna came home from work, got into sweats, sat down at her computer. Naturally, I decided to help her relax by insisting on her driving me to the Chinese buffet where I could get some shrimp. Um...I mean I kindly suggested she...etc.

I was not up to driving myself so I didn’t take, “I’m tired and I’m relaxing. I don’t want to go out again!” as a final answer. Eventually, she decided it would be more relaxing to take me than to put up with my requests.

Just before we left,Onna talked to Cory on the phone and I found that he and James had spent the day together, just enjoying each other. This filled me with pleasure. I love my family standing together. It eased the pain of my Prodigal Daughter’s harshness. At least some of us know the importance of family and enjoy our unity.

We all got ready and as we were headed for the door, [literally!], the neighbor called. The package I had been waiting for had been delivered to them. We stopped at their house and picked it up. I was feeling better already. Shrimp was coming, my boys had been together, the package had arrived. Nice.

Onna had been fussing about a present she had bought for herself which she had to repurpose for someone else. The store she worked at was out so she felt out of luck. We went to a local store from the same chain, and there it was. I bought it for her and she was happy, me too as I like to buy for my kids. As we walked into the store, a young man, looking about 18 or so was sitting at the entrance -- well groomed, nice looking, so I dismissed my first thought, that he was looking for money. On the way out, after we walked past, he called out, reluctantly, and asked if I could give him some change. Obviously asking was hard for him.

I asked if he was looking for money or a food. He said food, so I looked around and realized Del Taco was right across the street. I told I’d buy him a meal and asked Onna to drive over to the restaurant. As we walked over, he said thank you, quite a polite young man. I told him, as I do under such circumstances, that a man needs to eat. I also told him that once I tuned a man down and he looked so sad I never turned anyone down since. “And that was 30 years ago.”

It was, too.

I almost thanked him for giving me the opportunity to help out. I do feel that way, but I think it might be hard for those who are in need to understand that it is a blessing for me to help. I have fed I don’t know how many over the decades. Not a few. If I feel good when I do it, it makes me feel better. If I feel ill or depressed, it lifts my spirits.

We left him to his meal and went onto shrimp. On the way home, I was very joyful. Quietly so, but deeply so. The smell of the food, the nearness of Onna and Dion, the way the day had so suddenly turned from hard and depressing to happy and content, The glow lasted all night. Really until today when Joan’s nonanswer brought back the sadness of loss at Christmas.

Now, let me paste a parable in here:
Jesus was in the court where were the treasure chests, and He watched those who came to deposit their gifts. Many of the rich brought large sums, which they presented with great ostentation. Jesus looked upon them sadly, but made no comment on their liberal offerings. Presently His countenance lighted as He saw a poor widow approach hesitatingly, as though fearful of being observed. As the rich and haughty swept by, to deposit their offerings, she shrank back as if hardly daring to venture farther. And yet she longed to do something, little though it might be, for the cause she loved. She looked at the gift in her hand. It was very small in comparison with the gifts of those around her, yet it was her all. Watching her opportunity, she hurriedly threw in her two mites, and turned to hasten away. But in doing this she caught the eye of Jesus, which was fastened earnestly upon her.
The Saviour called His disciples to Him, and bade them mark the widow's poverty. Then His words of commendation fell upon her ear: "Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all." Tears of joy filled her eyes as she felt that her act was understood and appreciated. Many would have advised her to keep her pittance for her own use; given into the hands of the well-fed priests, it would be lost sight of among the many costly gifts brought to the treasury. But Jesus understood her motive. She believed the service of the temple to be of God's appointment, and she was anxious to do her utmost to sustain it. She did what she could, and her act was to be a monument to her memory through all time, and her joy in eternity. Her heart went with her gift; its value was estimated, not by the worth of the coin, but by the love to God and the interest in His work that had prompted the deed.
Jesus said of the poor widow, She "hath cast in more than they all." The rich had bestowed from their abundance, many of them to be seen and honored by men. Their large donations had deprived them of no comfort, or even luxury; they had required no sacrifice, and could not be compared in value with the widow's mite.
It is the motive that gives character to our acts, stamping them with ignominy or with high moral worth. Not the great things which every eye sees and every tongue praises does God account most precious. The little duties cheerfully done, the little gifts which make no show, and which to human eyes may appear worthless, often stand highest in His sight. A heart of faith and love is dearer to God than the most costly gift. The poor widow gave her living to do the little that she did. She deprived herself of food in order to give those two mites to the cause she loved. And she did it in faith, believing that her heavenly Father would not overlook her great need. It was this unselfish spirit and childlike faith that won the Saviour's commendation. -- From


When you give to someone in need, don't do as the hypocrites do--blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get

So why am I talking about this ? Aren’t I blowing my trumpet? Aren't I looking for praise and my immediate reward?

Not even close. I spend a tiny amount of money to feed a few hungry people for a few short hours. One meal. I get immense satisfaction from doing so. But in Christian terms, what I should do is much, much more. By American standards I am not wealthy. Yet I have enough that I could give much more. The story is not what a great guy I am. It is simply that small acts of kindness bring their own blessing. I do not deserve praise for this. I do far less than I could do, far less than I should do. I am not even close to the level of she who"hath cast in more than they all." But neither am I so low as the hypocrites. Let’s face it, I take care of my family first, which is good; but then I take good care of me. That's not bad, but I do far too little with what I have.

So that part of my story is simply about giving an occasional hand and how good it makes me feel. The whole of the story is about one evening of joy in a time of pain. We take what joy we can in this troubled world. We should always strive to make the world, each day, a slightly better place for having us living that day. That’s all I mean to say. I put in the parables to make it clear that I am not bragging. From a Gospel viewpoint, I have nothing of which to be proud. Still, the whole evening was memorable and precious.

I wish everyone a very happy and blessed Christmas. Believer or Doubter, I wish you all well. And I sincerely believe God loves you deeply. Peace on earth, to men of good will.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My response to Bobby's post

5.6 The limits of my language are the limits of my world.

Pinker refers to a Mexican man born deaf. Desperately poor, he never learned a language, not even a sign language. As an adult he finally became lingual. He is reported to have stated that he was able to clearly without words, suggesting that language is more a tool than a defining framework of reality.

Extreme deconstructionists have carried Wittgenstein's concept to the level in insisting that technologically primitive people could not even see things which were beyond their language limits. Thus, I suppose, the conquistadors were first seen as floating in the air, since the concept of a rideable draft animal was unknown to the locals. Said locals actually referred to the horses as god dogs. Horses may have been outside their language, but they adapted what they knew to a new concept. Large sailing ships were referred to as floating islands or clouds [due to the billowing sails]. I expect things like guns and steel swords were also invisible...

5.61 Logic fills the world: the limits of the world are also its limits

Only for those dedicated to logic. Most people find logic uncomfortable and alien to their thought processes.

What we cannot think, that we cannot think: we cannot therefore say what we cannot think.

So, since such things have not existed since, or even before, the evolution of humanity, there can be no internet, computers, cars, space stations, sculpture, etc.


Actually, I think you just said what you said you could not say.

5.621 The world and life are one.

Not sure what he means by this. In the light of the solipsism remark, I assume he means that to each of us the world exists only as long as we live to perceive it. Fair enough, but unless we are all horribly insane and impose suffering upon ourselves, the world nevertheless imposes a reality upon us which is independent of our perceptions. We may not be aware of it until it enters out perception, but it is there.

5.63 I am my world. (the microcosm).”

Maybe, but you don’t control your world. The world which apparently doesn’t exist except in your perception of it imposes perceptions upon all of us, you included.

6.4312 The temporal immortality of the soul of man...

Clearly outside of the area of scientific inquiry. Therefore not amenable to proof. One believes or does not. I am convinced that we believe based upon emotional reactions and then rationalize that belief after it is confirmed and established in our thoughts.

6.432 How the world is, is completely indifferent for what is higher. God does not reveal himself in the world.

“If you do things right, no one is sure you have done anything at all.” God’s ending soliloquy to the audience in a Futurama episode in which Bender is God, well a god, for a while.

6.4321 The facts all belong only to the task and not to its performance.

I have no idea of what this means. I can guess, I suppose, that this is related to Kant’s thing in itself (German: Ding an sich). That is, the facts are real and are what they are regardless of our perception or interpretation. But is that what he means by “performance”? You're the one who started all this, explain it to me, please.

6.44 Not how the world is, is the mystical, but that it is.

Fair enough. The very fact that something exists has puzzled the human race for at least millennia. Before the invention of writing who knows if it bothered our ancestors? It seems likely, but how could we know?

6.45 The contemplation of the world sub specie aeterni is its contemplation as a limited whole. The feeling of the world as a limited whole is the mystical feeling.

Had to look up “limited whole” and found too much info to absorb in time for this response. Still, it seems that Wittgenstein’s point is that since we are a part of the limited whole, we cannot logically explore those limits. Only thorough the mystical can we perceive, even conceive of our reality as a complete reality. From my point of view, this fits within my acceptance of an understanding of a reality which is not directly subject to logical or experimental testing.

6.5 For an answer which cannot be expressed the too cannot be expressed. The riddle does not exist. If a question can be put at all, then it can also be answered

Reminds me of my take on so called paradoxes. Actual paradoxes do not exist. There are only false paradoxes which are created by poor use of language and postulations of impossible events. For example, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” A silly question. If you believe in special creation then you believe, Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.Genesis/2-19. Clearly the chicken came first.

If you believe in evolution and science, then eggs predate chickens by many millions of years.

Either way, the question, this great paradox, is silly and nothing more than a poorly worded statement of mental confusion. It is so with all paradoxes, great and small.

6.51 Skepticism is not irrefutable...

I am not so certain that every question has an answer. This smack to my ear of the special pleading used by St. Anselm. Since God is perfect, He must exist, since not existing would not be perfect. Again, like the paradox, this is more about careless thinking and mistaking language for the reality which it is attempting to describe.

6.52 We feel that even if all possible scientific questions be answered, the problems of life have still not been touched at all.

Again, this is comfortable to me, with my insistence that there are two epistemological realities. One dealing with the real as studied and known by science and the other open to the spiritual and the mystic. I am not cetain what he means by the final phrase, Of course there is then no question left, and just this is the answer. The “just” seems out of place. Take it away and I am again comfortable with the statement.

6.521 The solution of the problem of life is seen in the vanishing of the problem

Yes. Again, there is a path to another reality, one which is not testable or measurable, but which is, nonetheless, knowable and accessible via meditation and transcendence.

6.522 There is indeed the inexpressible. This shows itself; it is the mystical.

In the words of my youth, “Right on!”

6.53 The right method of philosophy would be this.

This seems in direct contradiction to what has already been said. It is deliberately self contradictory even with in the statements, so I assume this is deliberate, but I fail to see the point. Demystify, please.

6.54 My propositions are elucidatory in this way:

If we must throw away the ladder and rise above the limits of what was taught, why teach it in the first place? Is Wittgenstein saying that this is the
only route to transcendence? That we must tread the path of plodding realism to reach a point from which we can then metamorphose into a higher and better perception of reality?

7 Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

So what is that of which Wittgenstein cannot speak? Does he see it as real or more profound than real [realer than real?] Is there value in attempting to speak about things which are beyond words? I cannot give anyone the feeling I have of oneness and completion and love that I feel at the best of my meditations, but I can refer to the numinous and give others a sense of what I fell. Is there not value in that?

Last time we spoke of Wittgenstein, I was sitting at the desk in my youngest daughter’s home and my grandson was tugging impatiently at me as I was not paying attention to him. There is irony in that as I am now not allowed to see him or his siblings until and unless I disown my other children and grandchildren. How strange life is.

I have never had the patience to deal with Wittgenstein. His ideas are interesting, but I find his writing of inferior quality. He does not explain what he means effectively. It is good that you bring these things up, because it exposes me to that which I would otherwise ignore.

That last time I wrote to you about W, I quoted Monty Python, “Wittgenstein was a terrible swine.” I must correct myself, the actual quote is, “Wittgenstein was a drunken swine.” Wouldn't now about that, but he was a lousy writer.

Almost 5 am. Feeling very nauseated and confused. Time to post and sleep. I miss you, Bobby.

My resposnse to

Bobby's post

Wittgenstein's Monster
by "" on Sunday, August 19, 2007 at 12:55pm
So, I finished Wittgenstein's Tractatus this summer. Much of it not written for a general audience, I had to reference a lot of stuff from Russell and Frege (and Whitehead) to make sense of the analytic philosophical arguments of the era. But, alas, I got through.
The ending takes this surprisingly mystical turn (and certainly why Russell disagrees with it). It's without a doubt, my favorite part (sorry Russell old chum), and worthy to chew on for awhile. So, I thought I'd transcribe the last 2 pages and let anyone else munch with me. Enjoy.

“5.6 The limits of my language are the limits of my world.
5.61 Logic fills the world: the limits of the world are also its limits. We cannot therefore say in logic: This and this there is in the world, that, there is not.
For that would apparently presuppose that we exclude certain possibilities, and this cannot be the case since otherwise logic must get outside the limits of the world: that is, if it could consider these limits from the other side also. What we cannot think, that we cannot think: we cannot therefore say what we cannot think.
5.62 This remark provides a key to the question, to what extent solipsism is a truth. In fact what solipsism means, is quite correct, only it cannot be said, but shows itself. That the world is my world, shows itself in the fact that the limits of the language (the language which only I understand) mean the limits of my world.
5.621 The world and life are one.
5.63 I am my world. (the microcosm).”

6.4312 The temporal immortality of the soul of man, that is to say, its eternal survival also after death, is not only in no way guaranteed, but this assumption in the first place will not do for us what we always tried to make it do. Is a riddle solved by the fact that I survive forever? Is this eternal life not as enigmatic as our present one? The solution of the riddle of life in space and time lies outside space and time. (It is not the problems of natural science which have to be solved.)
6.432 How the world is, is completely indifferent for what is higher. God does not reveal himself in the world.
6.4321 The facts all belong only to the task and not to its performance.
6.44 Not how the world is, is the mystical, but that it is.
6.45 The contemplation of the world sub specie aeterni is its contemplation as a limited whole. The feeling of the world as a limited whole is the mystical feeling.
6.5 For an answer which cannot be expressed the too cannot be expressed. The riddle does not exist. If a question can be put at all, then it can also be answered.
6.51 Skepticism is not irrefutable, but palpably senseless, if it would doubt where a question cannot be asked. For doubt can only exist where there is a question; a question only where there is an answer, and this only where something, can be said.
6.52 We feel that even if all possible scientific questions be answered, the problems of life have still not been touched at all. Of course there is then no question left, and just this is the answer (!!!! I like that part).
6.521 The solution of the problem of life is seen in the vanishing of the problem. (Is not this the reason why men to whom after long doubting the sense of life became clear, could not then say wherein this sense consisted?) (I like that part too: )
6.522 There is indeed the inexpressible. This shows itself; it is the mystical.
6.53 The right method of philosophy would be this. To say nothing except what can be said, i.e. the propositions of natural science, ie something that has nothing to do with philosophy; and then always, when someone else wished to say something metaphysical, to demonstrate to him that he had given no meaning to certain signs in his propositions. This method would be unsatisfying to the other – he would not have the feeling that we were teaching him philosophy – but it would be the only strictly correct method.
6.54 My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.) (!!!) He must surmount these propositions; then he sees the world rightly.
7 Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

If anyone wants to talk about this or other Wittgenstein, I'd love to.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

As many Americans know, Oklahoma banned Sharia law from being considered by state courts. Why was this important? It wasn’t, not as a real issue. There is no likelihood of Sharia being a part of the state court system. The action was taken by demagogues in the state legislature who wanted to distract tier constituency from their failures and to benefit form the fears and confusion of the electorate.
Doing good work and passing good laws is hard. Playing on fears and baseless panics is easy. I’m surprised the legislators didn’t also attempt to ban Kilingon law. It’s so much harsher that Sharia and as likely to ever be a part of the state court system.
The founding fathers attempted to create a balance between the outrages of Athenian democracy [see Alcibiades and the Syracuse expedition] and the suppression of the people under the Roman Republic. That’s why junior high school civics students learn that the US is a democratic republic. Its supposed to be a careful construction of the benefits of both systems without the inherent failures of each. Actually, it works pretty well, considering that its a wholly human effort. We do surprising well when compared to the rest of history.
Right now everyone is confused and frightened. Therefore we tend strongly to seek someone to blame. Someone who is not us. That’s important. Obviously we can’t be responsible for our own troubles. It must be a plot.
American voters hate politics and largely ignore it. Then they are surprised when politicians use their power to do bad things. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but somehow, it always is.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Some thoughts on Glenn Beck. Let’s begin with Glenn Beck on Glen Beck:

“I’m a rodeo clown,” he said in an interview, adding with a coy smile, “It takes great skill.”


He added later: “I say on the air all time, ‘if you take what I say as gospel, you’re an idiot.’ ”

[Source: New York Times]

Yet his declarations are taken as absolutely true by millions. That means, according to him, those who believe absolutely in him, are idiots. gullible are these people?

Well, they believe that when he picked the date for his holy crusade to restore honor to a long list of stuff [and to sell gold and get richer], it was a miracle that it just happened to be the anniversary of Dr. King’s I have a Dream speech. Yes, and if Beck chose to hold a special service on December 25 using a pine tree decorated with colored lights and a star on top, it would shock him to discover that these are symbols of Christmas and that the 25th is Christmas. Who would have thought it?

What is disturbing about all this is that so many blindly follow this self declared rodeo clown. He is now proclaiming that the Holy Spirit will speak though him at the rally. Having been so successful in scamming so many, he is now entering into the highly lucrative cult con. David Koresh and Jim Jones both went this way, Jones clearly was a con man at the beginning and there is good cause for believing that Koresh was doing the same. But both came to believe they really were Prophets. It is a dangerous route. All the more dangerous because Beck already has the devotion and blind obedience of far more Americans than Koresh and Jones put together.

Am I afraid of Beck? Only for the sake of the fools who believe in him. He can’t hurt me or America much, but he can destroy their lives. They may be fools, but it is their fear that drives away their rationality. They don’t deserve whatever Beck will do to them.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Hey, guess what ? I have doubled the number of followers of this blog. What a great accomplishment! Of course I only had one follower, Bobby. Still with the addition of Doug I have increased readership by 100%. Mathematical fact.
Obviously, I did not reconnect two days ago to continue my side of the artistic discussion with Bobby on the book we’re working on. I had a crash and lost a day to vertigo. Still not good today, and I must rest so that I can get out tomorrow to get some dental care and pay the rent. But I want to get my ideas out for Bobby’s response.

So, the original was a play which had a number of implications for the book, if the projects are to remain connected and not be completely different. For a variety of reasons, I wish the two to remain facets of the one project. Now a play has little description beyond general suggestions for staging and sets. Yet it is a profoundly visual experience when performed. The details are left the director and the stage manager [once these were one position], in the case of school plays, the functions remain one and are filled by the teacher. Moving the play to a book means both description and art create the setting. In effect the physical artifact of the book becomes the stage.

Now, if I keep the original age target of the play, the book becomes a children's novel-- I don't actually want to go that route. Remembering that the play was intended to be performed by fifth graders, but would be seen by groups as young as third graders, I can lower the intended age to roughly 9. This allows a format I feel is suitable to the material. After all, the stories are collected from many sources. The isolation imposed on slaves both by the nature of the system of exploitation and for defensive purposes [slaveholders wanted their “property” as ignorant as possible, therefore isolation was an active technique of suppression]. The effect of all this was to make the stories of TJ [Trickster John] to be local and very personalized.

To reflect this, I intended that the play use different characters for each story, rather than one actor being John throughout. Transferring the same idea to the book, makes for an odd hybrid. Imagine a picture book, but with much more text aimed at an older audience than usual for this format. In effect, I am still staging the play, you are then bringing it to life on the stage which is the pictures floating above the text. I don’t know any book like this. It’s a rather radical proposal as far as I know -- what do you think? Can do? Or am I way off on what is reasonable to ask of an artist?

Of course, an alternative is to use the format of a graphic novel. This has the advantage of making each story its own small volume. I find this alternative quite attractive too. I would be happy to tackle either challenge, both being new to me.

I wish you lived close by. We could wrangle these issues out more collaboratively. Think about it and let me know. Early planning and intent are so important as I proceed. As many authors have commented, the characters often take a story over and it goes where you did not intend, but that comes later. I still need a clear vision of what I want to accomplish and where I am going with a story to get it started. It may morph into something completely different, but that comes with the process. I still need a focus to begin the work.

Just think about the difference between a graphic novel and the picture book I suggested first. In the picture book, I write a book which stands entirely on its own, even without illustration. I feel the illustrations are vital, but theoretically, the written work could stand alone. In a graphic novel, I would write very differently, more like a play. Description fades and the “staging” becomes the illustrations. For me as author description fades out and dialogue dominates -- you know, this may be the better format after all. A graphic novel is, in effect, a play performed by the illustrated actors. I’m inclining in this direction.

Back to the painful issues of dealing with the problems of race and resentment. As I noted before, I see no real way to avoid the straight black vs. white aspect of this in a book. As a play it was easy. Whatever class was yours for that year was your pool from which the cast was to be drawn. Had I actually staged this particular play, every child would have tried out for whatever part he or she wished. When doing a play on the origins of Santa Claus [a curricular unit, of course, with historical trends and facts beginning with Saint Nicholas in Asia Minor], a role for God was included. No, I wasn’t preaching, God was needed to work the miracle to bring “”Santa” into reality. The point is that each child who wanted that God part tried out and the best actor won. Over the years I did the play I had at least one blue eyed, one black, and one female God.

This applies to TJ. I envisioned identifying slaves and slave owners, not by the color of their skin, but by sashes, black or white. This would allow each child to try out for whatever part appealed to them and also emphasize my intent to make the story a human, rather than a racial story Humans, Black and White, have been the oppressors and the resistors throughout history. Not nice, but factual. For example, coastal tribes of Africans happily enslaved and sold their interior neighbors. Even the American slave trade, when viewed globally, was exploited for profit by both Whites and Blacks. A truth which we might work into the story, but which would be a minor point, as I know of no stories of TJ which relate to the African end of the slave trade and I want to be true to the slaves who told his stories by not inventing tales, only repeating and retelling those which they actually shared in the antebellum South.

Silly ideas like drawing in the sashes on kids drawn as actors in a play occur to me, but I feel they would simply not work. I toss it out in the spirit of the brainstorming technique in which even bad ideas can stimulate good ones in response. I can’t see injecting some nice Whites into the story. Slaves on a plantation did not experience nice whites and even many abolitionists believed that Blacks were inferior [read Frederick Douglas on Lincoln for insight into this problem]. I can’t imagine original TJ stories including nice Whites [except for the plantation children. It is an odd, but very real phenomenon which is reflected in American literature that slaves and the children of the masters sometimes formed a mutual bond. Both were harshly disciplined -- harsh for the kids, horrible for the slaves -- and were subject to the whims of the adult masters. Of course, this faded as the white children grew into slave masters themselves. Some of this is reflected in the Uncle Remus tales.] I fear the only sympathetic White characters we can allow would be the children. I know of at least one original tale in which Ol Massa’s son is kind and friendly to TJ.

Then there is the problem of writing this as a comic story for kids. The humor was original to the slave folklore, but every slave knew the horrors of slavery. That didn’t need to be detailed. It was as natural as assuming that the character breathed air and lived on land. We, however, must make it clear that slavery was horrible, yet not give our young readers nightmares. Some ideas to this end might be in the background of illustrations. A Black mother who looks at Ol Massa, Ol Miss, or another authority figure with an instinctive fear for her small child. Clutching the child in an unthinking attempt to hide it from the threat? Something you don’t notice the first time you read the story, but which becomes obvious when you look for it?

Of course, the rich, fancy clothes worn by the masters against the rags worn by the slaves tells much of the reality too.

As I have been writing it occurs to me that the graphic novel format would also allow us to keep the target age are 10-12. A real advantage in many ways. Have you discovered the Mushishi series? Both in the graphic novel and the animated versions, a great set of stories, beautifully illustrated. I loved it as animation as it makes real the thinking and culture of a people who believe in spirits. Reading the novels, I found that the author was exploring exactly that. He was reflecting and examining the world as seen by an elderly relative of his. Wonderful!

I need some input from you on how you think the illustrations should be applied. Should they be a character essential to the story as in Mushsisi, Thomas Hardy’s novels, and John Ford’s westerns? The South certainly could add to the story -- Magnolia’s and huge oaks draped with Spanish moss... you can see it in your mind. Or is it better to go to the opposite extreme and make the background fade into minor detail? Not being the one responsible for the labor of doing the drawing, I am inclined to a rich, detailed, vigorous role for the settings. However, I am also picturing a sort of Mushishi style drawing. More pencil sketch, but detailed, than painting or watercolor. Or like the animated Mushishsi, lots of color with the same feel...

And should TJ be one character as normal story telling requires? Or should he change form story to story as happened since this was real folklore. He didn’t even have one name, being crated fresh within every group of slaves who told his tales.

Well, lots ideas here. I was thinking out loud in this entry, so forgive my chaotic style. I am very anxious to have your response. This project is really exciting me. I believe this can be a great work for both of us. That does not mean it will ever be published. I have no faith in the wisdom of publishers. Remember that Geisell, aka, Dr. Seuss, was rejected by almost 30 publishers before he found someone who thought his work was worth taking the financial risk of publishing it. Publishers also prefer to buy an author’s work, then add the illustrator they like or vice versa. Well, what happens happens. Getting published is a surprising extra for me. I am enjoying this already. The creation is what matters. As for the rest? Que serra, serra.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Post for Bobby, but interesting to all [maybe]:

About our Trickster John project -- I have no current title so TJ will do. To repeat what we discussed in person: Years ago I wrote a play for 5th or 6th grade. It was intended as the core of a curricular unit on slavery. I have always been interested in folklore , and when I took a course on the subject I learned that much of what I had loved was fakelore, usually invented by corporations to support their destructive habits and predatory ways. [ex: John Bunyon was created by logging companies to justify the rape of our natural resources. Only one actual folk tale featuring him could be found, and it was derivative and pornographic.]

Research into slave tales collected by ethnographers from those who had actually suffered under the South’s Noble Cause revealed a large collection of stories in the trickster mode. Most, if not all, societies have these tales. They range from Jack in the Germanic/English tradition; to Coyote or Raven in the Americas; to Anansi, who, Wikipedia informs me, is of West African origin. Torn from their native lands and cultures and forced into artificial groupings by the plantation system, the new Americans kept their old culture as alive as they could. One way was to turn old folk tales into new versions which reflected the horrors of captivity.

We all know of Brer Rabbit. Joel Chandler Harris’ character was based on actual slave tales, but Harris could not avoid racist assumptions, including a sense of Black inferiority. The tales of the character I prefer, sometimes called John, often called by many other names, were more edgy and often aimed at belittling and insulting Ol Massa and Ol Miss and other White authority figures. If Harris was told of these tales [and that is very unlikely], he was either incapable of or unwilling to repeat stories which suggested that the slaves could outsmart their White oppressors and strike back with demeaning stories about how smart a slave could be and how gullible a master often was. Think Hogan's Heroes with a sharp cutting edge.

I’ll do the re-write, unfortunately I haven’t yet found the play. I may have to start from scratch. You do the drawings. Which brings me to the purpose of this entry. I have asked you to join me in this project and that makes us partners. Should this ever be sold, we will simply split any royalties. The only problem that might arrive is if we disagree on contract terms with a publisher. Since these tend to be standardized, I don’t expect a problem. I will hold the copyright on the words, you on the art.

So, if we are to be coworkers, cocreators? coartists? artistes? Who cares? If we are to work together, let’s agree that you have the absolute final word on art and I on wording. Still, we need to work together. I suggest that we freely accept mutual critiques, but never forget who commands which portion and therefore has the final say.

All the verbiage in the paragraph above is an excuse for me to step outside the boundaries of common sense and discuss the artwork with you. Since my drawing skills are at a third grade level at best, this is extremely presumptuous of me, but you don’t mind. Do you?

If you do, stop reading now! You have been warned!

Continuing to read past this point constitutes complete acceptance of the above terms and conditions; plus any others I can think of later.

It’s OK, you can trust me.

Honest. You really can.

Of course, thousands of children's books go out to publishers every year. The whole issue is dependent upon many factors beyond our control, but who knows? It might sell.

So, to get to the grit and grind: The story is potentially divisive. It could be read as an attack on Whites, rather than on the White Supremacists who actually committed the crimes of slavery. It could also make slavery look fun and amusing. Here lie Scylla and Charybdis. We must navigate carefully. The point of the story, from my point of view, is to communicate nothing about Blacks or Whites, but instead to convey the inherent dignity and sense of personal value natural to all humanity. Unfortunately, slavery, which started largely nonracial, became purely racial as time wore on. While a form of white slavery found in bonded servants [one which reflected the biblical requirement that slaves eventually be freed], and slavery involving Amerinds faded, the Black/White version persisted and still haunts us today.

So why even go there? Because the issue is real and must be faced. I love both German and Japanese culture. Yet I feel the Germans have truly repented of the horrors their ancestors perpetrated in WW II, and made what repentance can be made, out of a genuine sense of contrition. A few [very few] Jews have actually emigrated back to their ancestral homes in Germany.

But, as much as I love Japan and her people, Japanese politics are still dominated by secret and powerful right wing groups which feel no remorse for the war or the atrocities committed during it. The issue is very complex, with most young Japanese as blissfully unaware of their past as most young Americans are of slavery [well, nonBlack young Americans anyway]. There are also many Japanese who are aware and wish to make appropriate acts of contrition and reconciliation with the world. For this, I hold Japan accountable. Not because they were worse than the Nazis, but because the nation remains sharply divided over the issue with many believing to this day that Japan was forced to go to war by United States’ aggression!

I see in Japan much of what I see in America. We need to face the horrors of slavery and make sincere acts of condition and reconciliation. We are better about it now than we were when I was child. I still recall the textbooks in school when Dad was stationed in Biloxi, Mississippi. They showed happy slaves who were well treated and benefited greatly from the benign rule of their masters. As I recall, the point was actually made that they were better off here than in Africa. God, it was sickening! Even at that age I knew it was a horrible lie.

Still, we have hardly faced our ugly past as well as the Germans have faced theirs. Worse, they have done so in only 60 years. We have had since 1865 to do so. I love my country too much to ignore this oversight. Curricula no longer justify slavery. Many teachers do fine units on the subject which are entirely fair and honest [within the context of the tender age of the children being taught. There are limits to what can be told to a child.] I recall a school wide project at Westside in which “slaves” escaped and were hunted by “slave catchers” It was fun, yes, but no one pretended that in real life there had been any joy in it for the escapees. Man, I have to pause and say, I had a fine staff back in those days. Genuinely great teachers who cared and made a real difference. I miss working with such people. That’s why I want to work with you on this.

My point is, great teaching notwithstanding, as a society we look a lot like Japan. Some of us, of all races, have and will continue to deal with the ugly past. Others, like the Texas Board of Education, want to rewrite history and make it clear that slavery was a minor and forgettable blip in American perfection and holiness. This work is, to me, a statement of man’s struggle for freedom and dignity under any conditions and a reaffirmation of the need for redemption.

How’s that for an inflated sense of self importance? I work at it.

Before I got deflected into all the verbiage above, I was going to talk about details. This is already too long for a blog entry, so I’ll make a second one later today for those details.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A few odds and ends:

Bobby, I have hope that I might yet be able to create those three art works I once described to you. I have no talent, but have been aware of the potential of "printers" which build up a three dimensional object layer by layer. The technology was not mature but was very expensive. Today, a home kit of the device is available. still rather costly at $750, but affordable. it can only create small objects, but it is a start.

I recall reading in the L A Times when I was in high school that there was too little water available to sustain a continually growing Southern California. Today we are suffering for ignoring what was well known to experts 40 years ago. In Monday's Times, an editorial comment on the water problem noted that Wesley Powell publicly declared, "Gentlemen, you are pilling up a heritage of conflict and litigation over water rights, for there is not sufficient water to supply the land." He was shouted down. This happened in 1893.

Today the superstitious, who prefer comforting advertising style sound bites to reality, refuse to believe in global warming. Here we go again.

The July/August issue of Skeptical Inquirer has an article entitled, Blindsided by a Culture of Disinformation by Alan J. Scott. and has, in its follow up section, another article entitled the Twenty Year Effort to Create Doubt about [sic.] Climate Change by John R. Mashey. Interesting articles, anyone who is interested can find the facts quite easily, so I won’t sum them up. the simple fact is that there is no serious scientific doubt about climate change, but more and more Americans are fooled by the noise of the deceivers into doubting reality.

I feel that the situation is well defined by the movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still. I love the original, and was very worried about a remake, but I found that I liked the new version. The point of the movie was that we humans are shortsighted, even self destructive in our refusal to face reality; but when the crisis becomes undeniable we muster our resources and make astounding efforts to correct the problem. Of course, it would have been cheaper and much easier to avoid it in the first place, but that is not how we function in a large group. To put it another way, we are very gullible and very easily conned, but eventually we manage to figure out what was obvious all along.

This offers hope, but the damage we are doing to the environment on many levels is very dangerous. We cannot simply assume that fixing our errors will be easy, or even possible. Still, hope exists.

Friday, June 25, 2010

On the McChrystal flap:

A couple of points force their way to my consciousness.

One: McChrystal's early judgment of Obama. He indicated that he felt the President was weak and intimidated in the presence of so many senior officers at an early meeting. This obviously laid the foundation for his later contempt of Presidential authority. I am inevitably reminded of Nikita Khrushchev's similar dismissal of Kennedy as weak and easily dominated. Both assessments were wrong and both men suffered for misjudging their opponent. [This actually points up a serious problem in the American military which I was pleased to see reflected in a recent L A Times editorial. More on this below.]

Lest any right wing extremist ever hear of this [yeah, that’s likely], let me point out that I am making a comparison only between the dangers of collecting bad intelligence data and underestimating your enemy, not saying anything about McChrystal's political inclinations. I find it sad that our nation is so polarized that I have to state that obvious fact.

Two: McChrystal's excellence as a military commander is surpassed only by his incompetence in dealing with the press and public, not to mention his superiors. Reminds me of Patton. One of the greatest generals of the war, feared more than any other allied commander by the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW) , Patton nevertheless managed to get himself fired more than once due to his in ability to accept his subordinate status and to make politically wise decisions. No, I don't think McChrystal's abilities rise to Patton's, but he is fine general in strictly tactical terms.

In summation, everyone needs to recall that McChrystal's actions were in direct violation of military law. The Uniform code of Military Justice prescribes a court martial for what McChyrstal did. The president did the right thing in not pursuing this option, but he could have done so.

Now to the issue of greatest importance. Anyone who is watching the Religious Right and the growing extremism which is seducing the Republican Party knows that the United States Military has become more and more political. The times editorial pointed out that until after WW II, many serving officers declined to vote in national elections. They felt that they need to remain pure in their service to their country and that to vote for a President would pollute that purity by making them partisan. Now that’s honor.

Today the military academies are struggling to end the prejudice in favor of fundamental evangelical Christianity and the pressure placed on plebes to join that sect and the Republican Party. This is fundamentally in contradiction to the most essential concepts of honor and duty as understood by our military for all its history. Yes, there are political and politicized generals, ranging for the mutinous [justifiably mutinous] revolutionary officers who wanted to rise up against Congress [some things never change], to political incompetents appointed by senators during the Civil War to the self serving presidential ambitions of McArthur, but the record as a whole is absolutely clear. Serving military officers must not become involved in politics.

The Times editorial indicated that much of the fault lies in poor training in this essential concept. I am certain that this is correct, but more fundamental is the leadership, both civilian and military. Flag rank officers lead by example. A politically motivated and directed senior officer demonstrates that this attitude is not only acceptable, but normative. Still, I feel the civilian authority is most at fault here. And more than anyone else I blame President Clinton.

When the military began to openly show contempt and disrespect to him, he needed to call in America’s military leaders and, as service men are apt to say, chew him some ass. By not forcing this issue and demanding the respect that the office of President of the United States demands, especially of it military, he gave covert permission to act in this manner. The rot was already present, but he permitted it to stay and therefore spread.

Once or twice, I happened to be around when Dad chewed him some ass. I hated it. Being a nonconflict sort of kid I thought Dad was being horrible. In retrospect, I realize that the officer who doesn’t at least occasionally dress down his subordinates, when justified, of course, will have no respect. While the President is not an officer, he is more, much more. He is the head of State, the representative of the American people. Respect is not optional. Obedience is not a decision to be made. If we permit these basic functions of a citizen army to become a choice, American will become another banana republic with every colonel dreaming of the day when he will El Presidente.

Do I fear for the Republic? Not at all. In my 6 decades plus as an
American I have only truly feared for our survival twice. One during the Cuban missile crisis, when I feared nuclear war would reduce not only our nation, but humanity to rubble and during Georgie Porgy's second term when the Religious Right looked like they would become the American ayatollah's who would decide who was and was not permitted to run for public office. Even during that second event, I decided there was nothing for fear unless Bush was replaced by another agent of religious oppression. When the Terry Shaivo case exploded and the Republicans began scrambling to lie their way out of their earlier extremist positions, I knew I had underestimated my fellow Americans. We will tolerate a certain level of abuse of authority, and no more.

When Obama replaced Bush, it was clear that I had done what I usually condemn. I allowed a brief political movement to seem to me to be a serious change in the nature of American democracy. My error.

All the problems we face are real and serious. I do not belittle them, but I am confident that we will solve them and that our nation will continue to inspire the world. No nation lasts forever, but we are here for the immediate future. Immediate future in this case means for this century at least, and I’d confidently bet on the next couple of centuries as well.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A continuation of the May 24th 2010 entry and comment by Bobby [keywords economics and Plutocracy]:

"ambit"--nice word. I'll try to remember that. Actually, I am not so anti-wealth as I may have seemed. My objection is that the rich have taken control of the government and intend to use it to adjust society to insure that their wealth is protected. This is presented as a function of free enterprise when it is the opposite. Freedom to succeed necessitates the freedom to fail.

I do not begrudge Bill Gates his wealth. I do begrudge the concept of a new aristocracy which is entitled to wealth, not by ability, but by birth.

As far as your concern not with , "income inequality in our country, but the poverty line and the portion of society below it." I am in agreement with you. The ancient Greek conceptualization of an enforced poverty is going too far. As you probably know, it was considered an offense against the gods and your fellow citizens to become too wealthy. A citizen who attained an excess of wealth, as perceived by his peers, was expected to donate that excess to the city in the form of public buildings or the maintenance of one or more soldiers for its defense. To fail to do so was to be seen as an outcast who thought of himself as superior to his fellow Greeks.

I believe instead that society, through its tool of government, needs to insure that the rules are equally and fairly applied to all citizens. No one gets a free pass to wealth or power, not even via your successful parent. Of course, it is human to provide for your children, and, of course, this means that being born to privilege will always have its effect. But this is different from a system which is fine tuned to keeping wealth in the hands of the select few and therefore, inevitably, out of the hands of everyone else.

What we need, then, is to insure that no one, especially children, are forced to go to bed hungry, or to shiver in the cold, or to be denied medical care. We also need to provide an excellent, tax payer supported, education system that reaches at least to Bachelor's level. This is not to deny the existence of private colleges and universities, which will, naturally, be used by the wealthy to give their offspring a boost up in the world. I don't think everyone has a right to wealth, only to the basic minimums which give one the tools necessary to have a fair chance at building wealth.

I have heard the statements that the mere existence of great wealth is a form of social obscenity. This assumes that if someone lives in a state of excess while others live in deprivation, the discontinuity is intolerable. I do not agree. Back in the early 90’s, I recall an author who declared that the only way to live justly was for everyone in the world to accept poverty. In his conceptualization, America, Europe, and Japan would need to accept a sharply restricted diet and life style so that the wealth could be evenly distributed among the world’s people. He acknowledged that everyone in the world would be poor, but felt that this was justified since everyone would be equally poor. [Anyone recall his name or that of his book?]

His reasoning was flawed in several ways. First, he ignored human self interest. Love or despise this drive, it is real and asking people to deny it is to ask them to cease to be human and to become some other species. What species, I can’t imagine, as this is an evolutionary force. Not a natural species then, but something engineered.

Second, he ignored the equal, or perhaps more powerful, urge to provide for and advance the interests of your own children and relatives. Even in social insects, it has been proven that what appears as sacrifice for the good of the hive is really sacrifice for the genes of your relatives. Again, he dreams, as utopians do, of over riding human nature for the sake of his vision of the ideal, or at least the much improved social order.

In short, he imagines that everyone will work for the benefit of others. First Worlders, he thinks, will struggle and sacrifice their own health to feed strangers on the far side of the globe. Utopians often fall into this trap. The simple fact is that we while are a social species and do care about the suffering of strangers, we care much more about ourselves and our children.

Finally, he ignores the fact that in the world he proposed, everyone becomes a peasant. Who is to create the wealth he wants to distribute? We are hugely wealthy because we eat so well, live so comfortably, have so much leisure. Eliminate these and everyone will be equally poor, but it will be the abject poverty of the third World made universal.

To sum it all up- The ability to accumulate wealth and share it with your offspring is the great engine of human desire and effort. Even macaque monkeys have aristocracies of inherited privilege. Moreover, there is a kind of trickle down effect, far weaker than that which St. Ronald of Reagan imagined. When society creates new wealth, a just society allows all members to have a fair chance at exploiting this source. The benefits are not automatic, but must be protected by governmental regulation--effective and nondestructive regulation. We must not allow guilt or an interest in social justice to strangle this natural and invigorating motivation. But, at the other extreme, we must provide a minimum of security and a maximum of potential to everyone, so that this motivation is universally available and utilized for the benefit of all humanity

Monday, May 24, 2010

Arthur Brooks. of the American Enterprise Institute [originally and more accurately named the Keep the Ultra Rich Rich and Screw Everybody Else Institute] published a screed today in which he declares [apparently ex cathedra] that the new culture war is between those who believe in free enterprise and those who believe in an “expanding and paternalistic government”. He continues this forced choice false dichotomy at length. This is rather like the salesman at a used car lot offering customers a choice. “You can buy this junk heap of a car at my price or destroy the American auto industry.” At least some of his customers might realize that there are a few other alternatives available to them.

What the anti regulation crowd really want is quite simple, and for them, quite attractive. They want to turn America into Mexico. In Spanish, an old saying goes, “Los ricos son los ricos y los pobrecitios son los pobrecitos.” In English, "The rich are the rich and the poor are the poor." The operative word here is the verb, son. It refers to a permanent state. In other words, the rich are rich forever and the poor are poor forever. In spite of Mr. Brooks Olympian declarations, this is not what made America a great and wealthy nation. Economic mobility is what made us great and wealthy. Fixing the system so as to create a new class of nobles who are entitled to their wealth forever is not a good idea. France attempted this with the ancient regime and you know what happened there..guillotines anyone?

Jefferson’s idea of a natural aristocracy was iffy at best, but at least he intended that those who were able to rise would, and those who were above their ability would sink. No government by, for, and of the rich.

In the dreams of the American plutocracy, the very few ultra elite will form a new aristocracy while everyone else will become their peasant class of illiterate workers. No thanks. I prefer a well regulated free enterprise system in which naked greed and corruption are least somewhat controlled. This is much like a well regulated militia. Somehow, the advocates of unbridled gun ownership and heavily armed, self appointed “patriots” overthrowing the government whoever they feel like it, miss the “well regulated” part of "militia". It applies to free enterprise too. There is a world of opportunity between zero regulation and socialism, but that’s hard work and takes effort. It is so much easier to rant and howl about only two extremes and not have to work at actually thinking about the situation.

It appears that the American Enterprise Institute sends its headhunters to beer bashes at American universities and colleges. Imagine what would happen to their mindless ideology if a studious or scholarly recruit arrived. God forbid anyone working there actually thinks things through or offers a realistic set of alternatives.

Think I‘m exaggerating? Check this out: a confidential report that Citigroup initially circulated only to it's wealthiest customers. Those reports, since leaked, plainly discuss the power of the Plutonomy in America, and how it would only strengthen, as long as "the rest us" (the non-plutonics) could be kept in the dark about the Plutonomy existence, its role, and its over-arching control in the American Economy.

A brief excerpt: v4) In a plutonomy there is no such animal as “the U.S. consumer” or “the UK consumer”, or indeed the “Russian consumer”. There are rich consumers, few in number, but disproportionate in the gigantic slice of income and consumption they take. There are the rest, the “non-rich”, the multitudinous many, but only accounting for surprisingly small bites of the national pie.

The report goes on to exult over the control the Plutonomy has held and expects to continue to hold over the government of the United States .

Now, generally despise the conspiracy theorists, but this report is from Citigroup. And no, its not like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, that is, a fake. This is the real thing. why did Citigroup publish such a thing? They are so confident that they have nothing but contempt for the rest of us. They probably aren't even worried that it did leak. After all, they control both houses of Congress and even have an in with center left Obama. What do we think we can do? Maybe we can eat cake.
From a message to Bobby, with additional comment: Life could be so wonderful if it weren't for all the living we have to do. Yeah, the desert is not what it used to be. I really miss the quiet little place it was. Too many people and not enough desert now. I enjoy the variety of restaurants, and some of the stores are convenient, but I would honestly rather go back to the days when you planned to go down below to do serious shopping at least one day a month. It was a pain in some ways, but things were quiet and semi rural then.

Worst of all is the horrible light pollution. You can hardly see the stars anymore. Pele and Pele's Plume [aka Scorpio] are back, but so low in the sky you can hardly see them. Ummm... did you know that I have my own names for the constellations?

It may seem odd are first, until you remember that this is me talking. Then it seems normative...for me anyway.

Speaking of light pollution... why do some people, so many people, slash and cut the night with so many light sabers? Street lights, parking lot lights, mercury and sodium flood lights in their yards, what did the night ever do to them? All the high desert has become full of glare. No matter where I go to meditate, I am assaulted by wild and angry photons. Well, while smog is here in the evenings, it is more a smell and a headache than the eye burning attack it was a few decades ago. There is hope. If we could get smog reduced and the air less poisoned, maybe we can do the same for the Cathedral of Night that God built.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

On immigration and ethnic studies. Arizona, determined to drive out all that nasty Hispanic and liberal money, has added strict new regulations on ethnic studies in public schools. While they seem obvious at first glance, at second glance they sound in clinical paranoia. I have always had hesitations regarding ethnic/women’s studies. Well, I have since their inception, which I am old enough to recall clearly. I seems to me a better route would be to be more inclusive in American and world history classes.

I note that the apparent source of the bizarre “Cleopatra was black.” movement is a Black studies program at one university where the theory is aggressively professed by the instructor. Anecdotal evidence such as this is often quoted by those who fear such courses, but I have yet to hear any verifiable data regarding how accurate and or how divisive such programs are.

I recall as a student at San Deigo State the resentment I felt that female students had a special lounge from which the rest of us were excluded. Why wasn't there a male only lounge? I have no doubt that that was wrong, but do ethnic studies really promote the overthrow of the United States? Do they actually “track” students racially? The law refers to these and other abuses and at least one Arizona official defended the law saying these excesses do occur. If so, this is one retired school administrator who thinks that a new law is less necessary than appropriate supervision by school authorities. If passing a law is the only way to make Arizonan principals and superintendents do their job, something is very rotten in the educational system of Arizona.

In any event, it seems clear to me that Arizona is wildly overreacting to show the world that they are tough on tolerance. The fact that the majority of Americans polled support Arizona’s hard boiled approach to the immigration problem encourages them, but they should remember that at one time, something like 90% of Americans supported the Iraq war. At that time I said, “The day will come when America will look at Iraq and ask, ‘How did we get into the mess?’” I was right then and I am convinced that Arizona will one day say the same thing about its new attitude.

I also can't resist pointing out that Arizona and many Americans are bitterly angry that the federal government failed to deal with immigration. I recall that one of the few things Georgie Porgy tried to do right was comprehensive immigration reform. He was prevented from doing so by the same people who are now so bitter that the government failed to serve their needs by listening to them. If only Bush had ignored their demands to do nothing, they would now be happy that he had done something against their will. Ummm... so they are now mad at the government for daring to do as they demanded in the past and also angry at it for not doing what they are demanding now. OK. Makes sense to me!

I must add a point that angers me to the maximum. Hispanics are regularly attacked for being racist due to the name of one political advocacy group. I refer, of course, to La Raza. I am not a member and do not know much about the group's activities, but neither do those who use the name to bitterly attack Hispanics, including the Arizonan official I listened to earlier tonight. If he does know something about the group, he didn’t mention it. all he did was point out the “obvious” racism inherent in the name.

The problem is that the definition of the word “raza” is more complex than the automatically assume bigotry crowd think. The definition is as follows: Race, generation, lineage, family, clan: branch of a family.

In other words, while it is possible the members of La Raza are implying that they are racists by choosing this name, it is also possible that they are simply affirming their membership in an ethnic group [ie: clan]; their feeling that they constitute an extended family [The family of man? Well, the Hispanic sub Family of Man anyway]; or simply acknowledging that they share a lineage and a culture.

Of course, a certain type of person automatically assumes the worst of those who are darker skinned than themselves. I think this is unwise and says a lot more about the person making the assumption than it does about La Raza.

I don’t want to make assumptions either. It is possible that La Raza is making a racist claim. Does anyone know? If you do, I'd like to see the evidence.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Elena Kegan has been nominated as the next Supreme court Justice. I am not certain about her nomination, though I have something to say in general. While Bush was busy appointing the most reactionary right wing extremists he could to the court, I said that nominees should be neither liberal nor conservative, but moderate and centrist. Since I aspire to be a man for all seasons [great play by Robert Bolt], now that we have a president of whom I approve, I will repeat, we need nominees to the federal judiciary at all levels to be moderate centrists. Conservatives and liberals both have private political agendas which should not be allowed to so strongly influence the nation which is occupied the rest of us.

I think she might be a good choice since liberals are upset that she is not sufficiently left wing for them. Since I doubt that Obama would actually nominate a conservative, especially not one of those odd creatures who have taken over the name in recent decades, I am willing to assume that she meets my standards in this area.

This brings us to an area in which I am not in support of her nomination. I believe that judges with a known track record and experience in actually making decisions regarding constitutional maters should be considered. I know that Earl Warren and several others are said to belie this conviction, but I sincerely believe that experience matters and that a track record helps to identify the nominee as of a particular bent in making decisions.

I want to add that I have always felt of divided mind on the issue of nominees answering questions regarding decisions they might have to make. It seems to me that a general question does not obligate a particular decision, and that even if it did, justices are allowed to change their minds. When commentators agree that nominees should refuse to answer specific questions about specific issues, I am puzzled. This insistence means that you can ask anything about a nominee, except how he or she will do the job for which you are hiring them for life. Imagine hiring a teacher and not being able to ask them how they will teach or what their beliefs are regarding curriculum. It makes no sense.

On the other hand, could anyone in today’s polarized political atmosphere ever be elected if they did answer such questions? I doubt it.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Just a quick comment. Take a look at Europe, specifically Greece. State's rights advocates should be aware of the dangers of sovereign nations gathered in to a loose economic confederacy. The consequences can be devastating. We left our own confederation to make a more perfect union -- please note that unions are united. I agree with Franklin, "Thus I consent, Sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure, that it is not the best. The opinions I have had of its errors, I sacrifice to the public good."

For the entire text of the speech --

Freedom Fighter or Terrorist?

Once again we hear that “one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist.” In this case it relates to the Middle East -- -- but the comment is universally made and is accepted to reveal a great truth. I disagree.

While is obviously true that what Israelis call a freedom fighter or a terrorist is often the exact opposite what the Palestinians call a freedom fighter or a terrorist, and vice versa, the two are entirely different states of being with different definitions. A freedom fighter is one who struggles to gain what he perceives as justice and, yes, freedom, for his nation or people. “Freedom fighter” describes the purpose of a person’s actions.

“Terrorist” describes the type of action taken by an individual. The purpose of terrorism is to bring about some result; usually political, sometimes moral, by inflicting terror and fear on a target group.

The two terms are clearly not interchangeable. It is entirely possible for a freedom fighter to abjure all terrorist actions. It is also possible for a freedom fighter to embrace terrorism.

I can’t call it extreme focus, since terrorism is always an extreme; but I use the example of a largely defused terrorist/freedom fighter situation to illustrate the case. Consider Ireland. Brutally invaded by the monstrously cruel war criminal, Lord Protector Cromwell, and held in savage bondage for centuries thereafter by the evil empire, Great Britain, Ireland’s people responded by fighting for their freedom. Sometimes they took legitimate and appropriate military action, sometimes they took terrorist action. Often the line between the two became blurred and confused. Nevertheless, the point is clear that one can fight for freedom with or without using the tactics of terrorism.

I have a deep emotional commitment to the cause of Irish freedom. I insist that Ireland must one day unite and become the one nation she justly deserves to be. Yet I condemned the terrorist actions of both the IRA and the various Protestant organizations that for so long caused what the Irish described as “The Troubles”. In other words, I supported the cause while condemning the more extreme tactics.

Consider Gandhi. A freedom fighter to be sure, but can anyone say he is a terrorist?

Note: I use the Irish example because so much progress has been made. a situation which existed in a state of mutual hate and terror/counter terror for centuries has moved to peaceful effort to resolve the issues. Thank you Bill Clinton, Rev. Paisley, and so many more. The impossible happened after 300 years in Ireland, it can happen in the Middle East, but let’s not wait quite so long.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Krista Tippett, on C-SPAN 2, talked about her book, Einstein’s God. Her points were complex and interesting, very non simplistic. Still, she made interesting viewing as she explored the vast ground between the fundamentalist extremists on both poles in the self declared war between the ultra religious and the ultra secular.

I recall a contest in which high school students were asked to make speeches responding to and defending their positions when answering the question, “Which is most dangerous, religion or science?” I was long out of high school and so could not participate, but I wished that I could, because my answer would have boiled down to, “Extremism in either is the danger. Neither is dangerous in and of itself.”

In our currently so polarized and emotional nation, it pays to take some time to think and reflect on what we share rather than to obsessively focus on what divides us. Even between Democrat and Republican, Progressive and Tea Partier, there is much more in common than in contrast. Unfortunately, it is easy to deny this. Especially from the right at this time we hear cries about conspiracies to destroy America and etc. Do these individuals really believe that Obama wants his daughters to grow up in an America which he has destroyed? What parent would want such a thing? We may fiercely disagree with how to attain security in this dangerous world, or how to promote American prosperity. but can anyone actually think about the situation and sincerely believe that either of the opponents actually wants to hurt this country?

No one despises Bush more than I do, but I know that he thought he was doing the right thing and was sincerely trying to make America wealthier and safer. The left wing nuts who still insist that he lead a conspiracy to destroy the World Trade Center are simply not thinking clearly.

The problem is, of course, that we are emotional creatures who can, but often do not, use our ability to think. It is so much easier to emote and react than it is to think and plan. Hard work is not always pleasant, though it can be, and thinking is very hard work. The brain accounts for a huge amount of our body’s energy usage--even when we are being emotional. Thinking burns up even more power; and free will can only exist as a result of thought.

I remember, when I was a freshman in high school, becoming angry At Barry Goldwater’s declaration that “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.” I knew he was wrong, though I had not so thoroughly developed my sense of balance and my opposition to extremism. Today I say, he’s right. It is no vice. It is a mortal sin.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

And now, to an earlier exchange between Bobby and me regarding the current state of politics in the U.S. The first two entries are from Facebook, the third is new.

Bobby--what's your take on the political fury raging in our country these days? Brookings and another think tank concluded things are more polarized now than at any time since the 1890's. Sounds right.

Ah, good question with so many factors... There's definitely a political fury simmering. I respect Brookings but to assert that civil-political discord today is higher than, say the desegregation court rulings or 'Nam has a pretty hard case to make.
This acrimony, I believe, is from a broadly displaced fear and frustration originating from those ... See Moresectors whose lives are most disrupted by the severe recession, and taken up by associative communities who empathize with the precariousness. The demographic whose unemployment rate was most hit were working class whites (in terms of rate change) - social constituents (ie working class conservatives) seemed to have joined to direct their anger and what they see as irresponsible domestic policy. Unfortunately, that manifested protest appears to be channeling through those fears and anger exacerbated by our economic climate and outlook.
Peripherally, what has changed for the worse is the sophistication of media outlets in understanding how to maximize profit. Most striking case-in-point is Fox. About 8 years ago, decision-makers recognized that, interestingly, the more segmented an audience, the more valuable airtime was to relevant advertisers. Following the advertising dollars, they took a decidedly conservative spin. Their audience segmented and their revenue has climbed ever since. This is why shows like Glenn Beck seem preposterous to non-Foxxers, but sound like gospel to those who are looking for information to bolster their current worldview (sought my most, conservative or otherwise) and provide an enemy. Also, I think we are extra-sensitized to the political controversies du jour. Since the end of public service announcements in the 70's and recently the rise of the 24-hour news cycle, media outlets make issues seem 'snowpocalyptic'...
I expect the socialist-fascist-communist fever will continue to simmer as long as these affected groups are distraught by the recession and unemployment (ie a long time) wrought from factors exogenous to target - the current administration. I could rant forever!
March 23 at 10:46pm

Having lived through the 70’s antiwar movement as a college student, I understand your questioning of the current state of discord being at a higher level. Certainly what went on in the streets was more extreme, actually degrading into violence from time to time. And most certainly we have not had a Kent State in which the government actually killed unarmed students for daring to assemble peacefully. Still, I feel the current rancor is the greater when looked at as a political phenomenon. That is, from the perspective of the media and of elected officials.

True, “Love it or leave it” directly implied that to question the government’s policies was to be so unAmerican you should be forced out of the country, but no one attempted to claim that the president was an enemy of America plotting to destroy us from within. This has become dogma to the Tea Party and the Fox Propaganda Channel, and even of some elected officials [Michelle Bachman comes to mind].

As for the segregation attempts, even in the face of this perceived atrocity, I don’t recall any southern governor actually threatening to secede from the Union as the Governor of Texas has. Again, violence occurred, but no one called the president a traitor.

Lest it be imagined that I have forgotten the Weathermen and other left wing terrorists, I recall the murders of some officials and other acts which certainly were more extreme than current street actions, but again, these were the acts of small extremist groups, not major movements or supported by public officials.

In other words, on one hand, I recognize the case you are making as valid. I insist not that some are now more extreme than any time since the 1890‘s, but that the movements, as expressed in the media and in elected officials, has reached a point of extreme partisanship not seen since Reconstruction. I even concede that, from a street point of view, things are almost calm compared to the days of the Posse Comatutus [sp?], Waco, and the Simbionese Liberation Army. But at that time, the government, while acrimonious, showed a sense of mutual respect which has vanished. I recall no occasion in which congressmen stood on a balcony and whipped an antigovernment crowd into a frenzy as happed a few weeks ago.

In other words, much of the problem here is my being vague and not specifying that the Brookings report referred to partisanship in Congress, rather than in the nation in general. My fault. Apologies to the Brookings Institute for so misstating their findings.

As for the problem with Fox, the issue is as you have noted. I have long believed that the current leaders of the Republican party [in so far as anyone can be said to be such a leader of that fragmented and confused group], that is Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh will say anything that they believe will increase their income. I don’t believe that either really cares about the issues, although I will give Palin credit for at least trying to care. Indeed, I think that she began as a sincere, if confused, advocate. I am convinced that the glitz and glamour of the presidential campaign spoiled her purity and lead her into political statements as a business.

This brings me to an old hobby horse of mine [ever read Sterne’s Tristram Shandy? One of the funniest books ever written, nearing Gulliver’s Travels in its superb irony]...back to the hobby horse...When I was young, television stations were regarded as using the public airways. In return for this privilege, they were required to act in the public interest to a certain degree. Once year they had to make their case to the FCC that they had so served the public. One of the ways they regularly did so was to show that they presented news to inform the public. At this time, networks’ news divisions were expected to lose money! Ratings and profits were secondary to the concept of public service. It ain’t so no more.

I entirely agree with you regarding the economic dissatisfaction and social turmoil fueling the extremism. While I consider Fox to be exploiting these fears for profit, I sincerely wonder if Beck is actually a borderline psychotic. Have you ever watched his program? It is chaotic, irrational, and makes no sense at all except in so far as it expresses an inchoate fear. Of course, it is entirely possible this is just a good act. I can remember believing that Captain Kangaroo was a nice, grandfatherly fellow. Years later I laughed when he reported that he used to wear a white wig to convince me and his other fans that he was not young, but now could use his own hair!

About the Tea Party -- I heard a comment on one of the programs I regularly watch [CSPAN?] which I heard only there but which struck me as brilliant and possibly even correct. We all know that the Tea Party movement if almost entirely white [1 percent of members are Black according to a recent poll]. Most are southern males...sounding familiar? This is the group which once dominated American politics and which now sees that power being eroded. This is a simple fact. No wonder they are frightened Even if the economy were to recover, they would still see themselves, correctly, as losing their position of power and leadership. Who wouldn't be at least nervous, even frightened, by that?

I do not say that this justifies their cries of treason and betrayal. They need to realize that even when they were in their ascendancy they were not the American people, only the portion of the American people who held power. Of course, then whites were the majority of Americans. Again, simple fact.

These realities lead the guest to say that the Tea Party might be the beginning of the first White Minority Political Party. The demographics have suggested for decades that Whites were becoming less and less the majority and would one day [now soon] be not the majority of Americans, but the largest minority in a United States that no longer had a single race majority.

Since this group has run this country at least since the French and Indian War, the adjustment is difficult.

This was fun! I love discussing things with an intelligent individual with whom I can argue or agree and whose disagreements illuminate and expand my understanding. You are only surpassed in my affections by my family, there being no woman in life at this time.

Monday, April 12, 2010

CSPAN--during a conversation about nuclear disarmament, a caller asked the guest how the founding father would react to toady's bitter partisan politics. He specifically mentioned Washington and Jefferson. A great choice. The guest didn't answer that specific question, referring instead to Reagan's attitude, which is indistinguishable from Obama's. But the answer is clear and delightful.

Usually it is a matter of speculation how any of the founders would have reacted to today's wildly different state of affairs. Almost always, those referring to the founding fathers make two errors:

1. They assume the founding fathers were all in agreement. In fact, they were a contentious bunch who actually agreed on little. The constitution is a patchwork of compromise and not a uniformly agreeable document to any of the founders.

2. TheY assume that the founders were gifted with infallibility, like the Pope when he speaks ex cathedra. Better than the pope, in fact, they were always right, even when speaking in private letters.

Whenever I refer to the founders, it pays to recall that i speak with an inherent recognition of the two fallacies above.

Back to Washington and Jefferson. The question referred to the virulent state of partisan politics today. This is a state of affairs on which both men took a clear and simple positions in their own day, so we can actually answer the question with confidence.

Washington--the Father of our Country hated politics and was contemptuous of political parties. He thought they constituted a danger to democracy. Obviously he would sharply condemn the current state of affairs.

Jefferson, while giving hypocritical lip service to the dangers of party politics, disgraced himself with scurrilous personal attacks of his opponents, including his once dear friend Adams. While Adams, after the two men had retired from politics, accepted Jefferson’s overtures for reconciliation, Mrs. Adams never forgave her husband’s once friend, then foe then friend again. Jefferson would look at the lies and deceits regularly spread by the Fox Propaganda Channel and be amazed at how gentle and impersonal they are.

Note: The most popular of the mainstream media is the Fox Propaganda Channel. The problem with said is that they make up their own facts and simply ignore news they don't like. That’s why they are not a news channel and do not practice journalism. They practice party propaganda

Monday, March 22, 2010

The almost universal declarations of the pundits indicate the Republicans are rejoicing at their amazing success in the November elections. After all, they endlessly repeat that the American people are totally on their side and utterly reject everything Obama stands for. I think the Republicans may well wake up after the November elections are actually held and find that the American people are divided on these issues and that the Democrats are still in power and may even have made some modest gains. Gains are not likely but I simply don’t see the Republicans succeeding with their hysterical attacks and exaggerations.

I used to despise both parties equally, but in the past three decades the Republican Party has steadily become more and more extreme, more convinced that the demagogue is the true voice of the American people. This has become so fundamental to the Republicans that they have begun to purge their party of those not regarded as sufficiently extreme. It has been pointed out out that Ronald Regan would be purged under the draconian standards considered acceptable to party loyalists today.

I said it during the first term of Bush Jr. and I will repeat it now. The Republican Party, if it is not to become a forlorn memory replaced by a less fanatic new political group, must put its extremists back on the extreme wing and return its base to those voters who are center right. When Members of Congress shout out epithets and make wild accusations as a regular part of their interactions with the public, it is time for a serous change.

The Founding Fathers, as a whole, hated the idea of parties and partisan politics, but however undesirable, they proved to be inevitable. Only George Washington himself could stand above such nastiness. As soon as he retired the demagogues took over. Adams and Jefferson split over the vulgarity of campaign politics and remained alienated for years. Adams’ wife never forgave Jefferson, even after her beloved husband had done so. It is true that things were even more nasty in those early years than they are now, but the Bookings Institute and another think tank, whose name escapes me, researched the matter and concluded that Congress is more antagonistic and acrimonious today than it has been since the 1890’s. Sounds right.

I am not saying that the Dems have gotten any better than they were when I damned both parties. I am saying that the Republicans have begun to sound more like the John Birch Society than one of the two parties who represent the voters. My enemy is extremism. When any party becomes extremist, it becomes my enemy. Add to this the incredible hubris of the Republicans and I believe that the gods will not tolerate or reward such behavior. The American people are divided on the issues today. Many are going to extremes and are terrified of the future. Yes, that is true. but for the Republicans to declare that therefore all Americans hate the Democrats and love the Republican efforts to neuter governnment is to ignore the rest of us. Note to the Right: I am an American too. You can declare members of your party who dare to disagree with you to be Republicans in Name Only, but you can’t take our citizenship away because we aren’t right wing extremists.

It is hubris, overweening arrogance which offends heaven. Believing your own propaganda is not an effective long term strategy. It sometimes works for the short term, but eventually it brings you down. Nixon fell because of this error and Bush and Cheney destroyed their hope of a positive legacy in history in the same manner. It is possible that the panic and fear mongering will work in November, but it is also possible that enough of the American people will tire of being told to panic and despair that it will backfire.

Health care may yet be Obamas’s Waterloo, but it is entirely possible that he will turn out to be the Duke of Wellington. .

Friday, March 19, 2010

Since I stopped to eat and rest a bit, I feel better and just can’t resist the following.

Flash from the last Glen Beck show: Some unknown, unnamed blogger said that his cousin’s wife’s third child's spouse saw President Obama washing his hands in the men’s room at some place he didn’t mention the name of. Oh! My! God! This is clear proof that Obama is a Natzicommie fascist who is plotting to conspire to create a Gestapo Bathroom Police State to take away our God given rights to choose whether to wash our hands or not after we pee in the privacy of our own bathrooms! Oh! My! God! It's proof. It’s absolute undeniable fact. Did you know that Hitler was obsessed with clean hands? Hitler! It’s true! Look it up!

Flash from tonight’s Glen Beck show: Some other unknown, unnamed blogger said that his wife’s brother's buddy from some war’s aunt’s daughter’s best guy friend saw President Obama leave a men's room without washing his hands! Oh! My! God! This is the best evidence ever that proves that Obama is a Commienatzi Muslim terrorist! He’s spreading disease among the American people The word, people is BIOTERRORISM! Yes, that’s right, BIOTERRORISM! Our president is a traitor, a terrorist! A natzicommiethugee! Stalin was into bioterrorism. Stalin! It’s true. It’s a fact! Look it up, people. It’s the truth!
Bekka-chan's comment on how hard she was hit by the movie "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" made me think of my beliefs of human free will. Most go to one polar extreme or the other [surprise, surprise!], either declaring that we have no free will and are simply biochemical robots or that we can choose whatever we like and are fully accountable for everything we do. This tendency to think in extremes has caused much grief in human history and, I think, helped to lead Hegel into his thesis, antithesis, synthesis view of history.

The fact remains that people do horrible, even unthinkable things, if they feel peer and superior pressure to do so. Yesterday, the L A Times reported that a French “reality show” was actually a psychology experiment repeated on national television. Participants were told to more and more severely electrically shock a man [actually an actor] until he died. Sounds impossible? Sadly, in both the original American experiment and in the television program, most participants did what they were told to do and willingly committed murder. In fairness, in the experiment, and I assume in the program, the participants were not told to actually kill the individual they were shocking, but they did hear him pleading for mercy and showing signs of major damage from their actions. Clearly, they should have seen that the man was near death and stopped--but they didn’t.

Much of the basis for Original Sin lies in the assumption that Adam and Eve had free will and abused it to decide to defy God’s will. The Greeks certainly believed in moira, or fate. The website,, refers to the Fates in this entry:

The ancient Greeks believed in Fate. They said there were three sisters of fate, the Moirae, tripple [sic.] Moon-goddesses robed in white, whom Erebus begat on Night. They were not the children of Zeus, but parthenogenous [sic.] daughters of the Great Goddess of Necessity, against whom not even the gods contend.

Yet the Greeks, for all their fear of Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, believed in free will. It was not that you could decide your course and control your fate entirely, but you could control how you faced your fate. The hero, the great man so important to Greek thinking, earned respect by struggling nobly against the impositions of the gods. He might not be able to change his fate, but he could refuse to meekly submit.

This places the belief in free will at the very foundations of our culture, both Greek and Judeo-Christian.

My own beliefs have developed over my life. when young I insisted on a more Judeo-Christian interpretation than Greek. Now I find myself much more in agreement with the latter. the evidence had=s compelled me [fate?] to acknowledge that we are biochemical robots, that we are another form of ape. Yet, I insist that we are apes plus, biochemical robots plus. Plus what? Plus free will. Call it intelligence, call it options, call it defiance of the gods.

Much of literature takes time to condemn man as a herd animal, as a member of the flock. But man is not a sheep, not cattle. We are apes. We are members of a troop. As social animals we feel not merely pressure, but biological and psychological needs to fit in. This is not limited to our experiences in high school [I was a loner--that’s a sort of group which, then again, isn’t a me to take the odd path. Must be my fate].

Still, how is it that some members of our troop gain authority to be the deciders for the rest of us? The answer is complicated, but well known to us all. We know who the leaders are, we help to publicly decide them in elections. But even the chosen have followers and deriders. This means that we also decide personally and privately who to trust and who to deride. There are those who choose to trust Fox News as their provider of facts and even as their leader in thought. As for me, I don't fully trust any source, but I refer to Fox as the Fox Propaganda Channel. And I’m not joking.

The problem with choosing someone or some group to lead us is that this means we have surrendered a portion of our free will, and remember that I find free will very restricted to begin with. That is not to say that doing so is a mistake. We operate on auto pilot for most of our lives because this is necessary. Imaging using free will for every single decision. The alarm goes off, do we choose to turn it off or to let it ring? Having decided to turn it off, we much decide which are to use to reach over to hit the sleep button...uh oh, should we turn it off or hit the sleep button? By the time we decide all of our choices, we will probably be too weak from starvation to get out of bed, which, of course, nearly eliminates free will.

The problem arises when we use auto pilot so much that our free will becomes atrophied from lack of use, like muscles that are never exercised. This is even easier to allow because we are not only biochemical apes, who can think and make choices but often don’t bother; we are also animals who are deeply emotional. When we do make choices, most of them are made not from thought, but from emotional response. Consider one of the most compelling and dominating choice we make, our religion. Ask individuals about this choice and most will assure you that they carefully decided this. Press for details and you will quickly realize that the “thought” that went into this decision was almost entirely emotional. Actual thought came in after the decision was made, as rationale for a choice already confirmed. This is why I insist, as I have since high school, that the only honest intellectual position in religion is a sincere agnosticism. Religion, even atheism, is about faith and emotion, not about rationality. Even the fundamental evangelical atheists who hate religion so bitterly are clearly being emotional apes, not thoughtful human beings in their hatred. Yes, I mean Hitchens and Dawkins--they sound more like Falwell and Robertson than like intellectuals when they rant against the evils of religion. The bitter sweet irony is that they have deluded themselves into thinking they are coolly rational on the subject!

For anyone who doesn’t know me, I suppose I must add that referring to these men as emotional apes is not an insult. We humans are all emotional apes -- You, me and the guy next door. It is what we are. We are also, to a very small degree, thoughtful human beings who can think and can utilize their limited free will. Also note that the very term “human being” incorporates the emotional ape base and the tiny, but potentially significant bit of intellect and free will at the top of the pyramid that is humanity. Finally let me add that any time anyone says ‘All humans...” you know they are talking about themselves. When Freud said everyone wanted to murder his father and marry his mother, he said a lot about Sigmund Feud, and almost nothing about the rest of us.

I’m getting disoriented so I’ll wrap this up. Most of human evil is done from blind obedience and a desire to fit in and do what is expected. From the experiment above to the infamous prison experiment in which college student played out the roles of brutality and resistance expected of them in a role play situation [see:], we humans surrender our free will to fit in, to be a part of the troop. This is not all bad, we are social animals and must fit in or become sociopaths, but it can quickly become a horror of Nazi extremism and murder. What is needed is what I always say is needed, balance. Homeostasis, the Vital Balance [Thank you, Karl Menninger]. We must fit in or become sociopaths, yet we must not fit in so well that we lose our thin and precious overlay of humanity.

Fate, moira, kismet, destiny, karma--they sharply restrict, but do not negate our free will. Unless we let them.