Saturday, February 21, 2015

John Burroughs on Walking

"We are unwilling walkers.  We are not innocent and simple hearted enough to enjoy a walk.  We have fallen from that state of grace which capacity to enjoy a walk implies.  It cannot be said that as a people we are so positively sad or morose or melancholic as that we are vacant of that sportiveness and surplussage of animal spirits that characterized our ancestors, and that springs from full and harmonious life - a sound heart in accord with a sound body.  A man must invest himself near at hand and in common things, and be content with a steady and moderate return, if he would know the blessedness of a cheerful heart and the sweetness of a walk over the round earth.  This is a lesson the American has yet to learn - capability of amusement on a low key.  He expects rapid and extraordinary returns.  He would make the very elemental laws pay usury.  He has nothing to invest in a walk;  it is too slow, too cheap.  We crave the astonishing, the exciting, the far away, and do not know the highways of the gods when we see them - always a sign of the decay of the faith and simplicity of man."

from:  John Burroughs' America

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Where my mind is these days

I was driving to a nearby mall to make some necessary purchases but my mind was addressing the use of the phrase 'moral equivalence.'   Too often I find it seems to mean that our killers are not as evil as someone else's killers.
I parked the car, got out, and stood by the trunk.  I turned my shopping list over and made some notes with a pencil stub I carry with me.  Since when does morality require a test of validity?  Is there a registry of values to be applied to  morality?  And if there is...#*&+!

Suddenly a beetle the size of a penny landed  on the tiny paper list I was using.  Impatiently, I flicked it away with a finger.  Instantly I felt remorse.  What if, I thought, that beetle came with a message for me, for my thought.   What made it land on that little paper scrap at the point of my pencil?   What have I done?

Yes, this is a fair description of my daily confusion.  Trying to navigate between old age and living in a culture extremely different from the one I was formed by.  A ceaseless  grasping for mental handholds.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Faith versus Atheism

I observe that people who have powerful faith do better at survival and they have more useful responses to a cruel world.
They may be delusional but that is trumped by successful living.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A compass point

“Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go.

Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.”
Wendell Berry

Monday, January 12, 2015

The tragedy of our decline continues to unfold.

"There are no longer protagonists;  there is only the chorus."

-Ortega y Gassett


Friday, January 2, 2015

On American culture

"To really learn much about another culture is a very long and slow process and you're not liable to receive anything in a spiritual sense unless it's already in yourself waiting to be discovered.  In the past two decades there's been a great deal of spiritual shopping which, though understandable, carries with it and is disastrously married to our culture's collapsed sense of time, where speed is, finally, of the essence.  There is a fatal impatience to quickly count spiritual "coup" and get on with it.  This includes a great deal of the eco- and ethno-travel "opportunities," and the comic aspects of faux shamans selling three-hour "power visions" for a few hundred bucks.  That's just us, whether it's the Zen of tennis, or fishing, or shooting,  the Zen to make you a better businessman or help you write "spontaneously," or the "Apache" or "Redskin" football teams that abound, the warriors, the mightily white Mohawks, the secrets of Black Elk learned in an afternoon seminar after which Indian fry bread is served and then a buffalo ghost is ridden back to the suburbs.  Of course there is no kind of  absurdity we'll refuse to perform if the economics are tangible.  If anyone is truly sick of "the fucking American culture," as I frequently hear, they better get ready for a long haul.  An hour staring at a fifty-ton Olmec head will offer you a preposterous emptiness that all the sugar in the world can't sweeten."
Jim Harrison
"Off To The Side" (2002)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Torture is a crime

  Torture is exrtremely deviant behavior and must never be used.  The American government, acting at the behest of the President and the Attorney General, approved the use of torture and employed a variety of methods of torture on prisoners.
The Government deliberately made torture legal by calling it "enhanced interrogation techniques."
Unless this policy is officially condemned and unless the principals are prosecuted, or at least, censured, our nation will never be the same.  It will exist but with a cancerous shame deep within the national soul.  We will be saying to the world and to future generations that the "exceptional" country, the "indispensable" country, the "shining city on the hill" is a fraud. 

Lawlessness is now officially approved.   Future Presidents have legal precedent to follow.  Other nations may follow our lead.  Our lectures on human rights will be hollow. 
This is the path to self-destruction.

In 1993 Daniel Patrick Moynihan published an essay titled "Defining Deviancy Down."  In this essay Moynihan deplored the changing social standards of the American people, breaking this into three categories: altruistic, opportunistic, and normalizing.
The normalizing of crime, the acceptance of crime had become a serious problem and Moynihan quotes Judge Edwin Torres of the New York State Supreme Court who said "The numbness, the near narcoleptic state can diminish the human condition to the level of combat infantrymen who, in protracted campaigns, can eat their battlefield rations seated on the bodies of the fallen,  friend and foe alike.  The society that loses its sense of outrage is doomed to extinction."