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.