Hammer and Sickle ’65

August 23, 2016

Here’s an excerpt from chapter 5 of the new novel, King of Soul,  now being researched and written. We’re talkin’ ’bout 1965:

       The manipulations of human history had conspired to contrive a vast, geographical hook. The hook itself was forged in the shape of a country; it was a skinny little wire of a nation, slung long and slender along the 900-mile S-curve of an Asian sea strand.  Upon this seacoast hook the fearless pride of Pax Americana would be fearlessly snagged, fish-like. But the snagging ended up requiring an extremely long expedition, for the catch fought on the line for eleven years before being reeled in.

       This was Ho’s intention all along; he was a very patient angler. Ho was not a novice; he had been around the world a time or two. He’d been to London and to Paris, Hong Kong and Can-ton. He had spent part of the 1930’s in Stalin’s Russia, and had learned a thing or two by observing Uncle Joe’s tactics. Ho Chi Minh understood what it would take to get his fish on the line, and how to handle the catch once it was snagged. The expedition would take 11 years, but eventually South Vietnam was dragged up into the Viet Minh boat.

       Uncle Ho had learned a thing or two.

       Around the world, especially in defeated France and in bold America, there was talk about Ho Chi Minh—who was he and who did he think he was and what the hell was he capable of.

       Some folks never saw the hook at all. When they looked at that odd-shaped southeast Asian country on the map, it resembled something else, with its long arc curving around the western shore of the South China Sea. .  . . . maybe a domino?

       No. Vietnam was no domino; there was nothing straight nor square about the place. Nothing predictable. But we didn’t know that until much later in the game.

       The shape of Vietnam did, however, have resemblance to a sickle, like that sickle of the  infamous hammer and sickle. It was a curved blade,  hauled upon the lean, hard backs of legions of peasant laborers. As the years of the 1960’s rolled by, the sickle was forged into a weapon, to be skillfully wielded in the hands of militarized Viet Minh insurgents and Viet Cong guerillas. And that army of sickles was backed up by the persistent pounding of Uncle Ho’s communist hammer.

       Vietnam was a hammer and sickle; that’s all. It wasn’t some great domino scenario that toppled the Republic of the South during the 1960’s, ultimately rejecting President Diem and killing him, and then later ousting Thieu and Madame Nhu,  like Ho had swung up at   Dien Bien Phu.

       After the French pulled out—with tail between their legs in 1954—when  the Americans pulled in, hellbent on showin’ the world how to defeat communist incursion, it was pretty slow going for awhile. B’rer Ho Chi Fox, he lay low, waitin’ to see what  B’rer Rabbit-ears would pickup on his radio, because B’rer Rabbit did have a pretty fancy radio, and a lot of heavy equipment to back it up with, and a heap o’ ordnance to fling around with a lot of fired-up thunderations. B’rer Rabbit-ears could sho’nuff make some powerful destructions when he put his mind to it.

       By the time things got really cranked up in 1965, the man in charge of yankee warfare had come up with a plan. But there was a problem.

       The problem was an old one; stated simply, from a mathematical viewpoint, it was this: the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

       No way around it; shortest distance between Hanoi and Saigon was a straight line. But the line didn’t go through Vietnam; it went right through two other countries.

       If Uncle Ho were to set a taut insurgent line of troop transport from, say,  Hanoi to Saigon—like from the handle of the sickle to the endpoint of the sickle’s curved blade—it  would pass, not through the south part of Vietnam, but through Laos and Cambodia.

       This was a problem. It wasn’t so much  a problem for Ho—his stealthy, low-lyin’ insurgent diehards just crawled right under the rules of international proprietary expectations; they slouched through Laotian jungles and beneath Cambodian canopies like it was nobody’s business. After a while, the clandestine route they had cut for themselves was called by the name of the one who had commissioned it: the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

King of Soul

It’s the Contest

August 13, 2016

TheContest

The destroyer is a spirit, a corrupted zeitgeist.

But in spite of his apparent worldwide heist,

he is no christ.

He’s eloquent in spreading fear

while whispering in your ear.

She slides in on a sled of doubt

chewing up our courage, then spitting it out.

He serves up fodder for defeat;

she slices delectable discouragement for meat.

The destroyer fastens our attention

on cultivating nervous tension.

He’s obsessive with dismay;

she casts hope and care away.

They display

excrutiatingly excellent excuses

to focus on all those world-driven abuses

for which we have no productive uses

so that accomplishments can be decimated,

achievements aggravated

and defeat elevated

to a sordid art form

so as to blot out our war-torn

mission

as if by atomic fission.

Hey, they say,

it’s all going to blow someday,

maybe the big one even comes today.

The destroyer will habitually say

conspiracy is the order of the day,

and rational order has been put down

as we’re all just fooling’ around.

She says decency went out with the tide,

been cast aside,

and integrity is dead

and that we should just party down instead

because the whole damn system is fixed

for sure, bewitched

and our course cannot be switched

cuz life’s a bitch,

not a beach.

So don’t bother to reach

out.

Just glory in the art of pout.

We’ll make of complaint an art form

and criticism a craft, to adorn

our death-wish thanatos

with exquisite, tragic loss.

On the other hand

as far as the east is from the west,

in spite of all that, we could be supremely blessed.

The comforter says you can do this;

your arrow is not destined to always miss.

If the system is rigged what does it matter;

your hopes and dreams aren’t doomed to splatter

on the mean streets of this world

because the true kingdom is not of this world;

it displays a flag unfurled,

that flutters in our heart

urging us to start

a work, an art

apart

to begin anew

a place for me and you

a place in the son

no matter what the gun

has done

to make us turn and run

from the challenges of this screwed-up life.

We can overcome and defeat this strife

by faith, by hope, by true love,

bestowed to us from above

if we can allow the destroyer in us to be crucified.

On a cross of sacrifice, that enemy has died,

and to its own defeat is tied.

But I’m not tied to it;

they can’t make you do it.

Death doesn’t have to overcome me, nor defeat you;

I tell you true.

We shall rise above it all

if you can hear the call

of resurrected victory

for you and me:

He’s signaling from the other side

if you can resist the tide

of death-wish thanatos

and the destroyer’s proposed eternal loss.

You may hear otherwise,

but death itself in the end just dies.

Selah.

Traveler’s Rest

Mysteries of 1964: Meridian and Tonkin

August 11, 2016

From the new novel King of Soul, now being researched and written, here’s an excerpt. In chapter 4, we find Uncle Cannon speaking about murder in Mississippi, and then the scene changes. As Uncle Cannon was saying, on August 4, 1964 . . .

        “Now these white-power types and KKK misfits who been runnin’ around for a hundred years like they own the place—now they won’t have a leg to stand on when Bobby Kennedy and Hoover’s FBI agents show up with their high-falootin’ writs of law.  I’m sure the Feds knew if they’d root around long enough, something rotten would turn up.”

       “Well now something has turned up. Three dead bodies. Over near Meridian, they found those three dead boys—two yankee college students and one local black, and all hell is gonna break loose. The old ways are gonna go, but they ain’t gonna die without a fight—probably a pretty damned ugly one.”

       The old man shook his head. “With Kennedy being shot last year in Dallas, and now Johnson, who is an extremely competent politician, following in his wake, this whole civil rights movement will mount up  like a tidal wave. It’s gonna break right over the Mason-Dixon line and keep on going, until it rolls all the way down to the Gulf. . .”

~~~

       It just so happened that, while Uncle Cannon’s projections were being uttered into the sultry southern air, a wave of a different kind was being set in motion on the other side of the world. It went thrashing just beneath the choppy surface of  Gulf waters that lie between the coasts of China and Vietnam. The Gulf of Ton-kin.

       A phosphorescent wake—the eerie, night-time straight-line underwater path  of a launched torpedo—went  suddenly slashing beneath the stormy surface of the Gulf of Ton-kin, sixty miles off the coast of  Vietnam. The torpedo had a target:  a destroyer ship of the U.S. Navy.

       Under cover of the dark, stormy night, the torpedo’s path was nigh-impossible to see, almost as difficult to detect as the P-4 North Vietnamese patrol boat from which it had been launched.

       In the air above the USS Turner Joy naval destroyer,  a plane-launched flare erupted,  illuminating  for a few moments the rain-stilted night sky. In the desperate brilliance of one flare flash, a boatsman’s mate caught plain sight of the attacking boat; he noticed, in the fleeting brightness, an odd detail—its long bow.

        Meanwhile, all hell was breaking loose, with the two U.S. Navy destroyers firing ordnance wildly into the stalking mysteries of the Tonkin Gulf.    Two  members of the gun crew sighted the offending boat in the strange light of their own exploding 3-inch shells; one squinting seaman managed to hold the object in view for what seemed like almost two minutes.

       Two signalmen, peering through dark Tonkin night-soup, strove to pinpoint the patrol boat’s searchlight, as it swept through the dark seas several thousand yards off the starboard bow;  Director 31 operator could identify a mast, with a small cross piece, off the destroyer’s port quarter, as it was illuminated in the glare of an exploding shell that the Turner Joy had fired.

      Ahead of the USS Turner Joy, on the flagship Maddox, two Marine  machine-gunners were posted on the ship’s signal bridge; after sighting  what appeared to be the cockpit light of a small-craft, they watched through the fierce weather. Having no orders to fire, they visually tracked the unidentified vessel—friend or foe they didn’t know—as it churned up along port side of their ship; later the miniscule light was seen coming back down on starboard.

       Up on the flagship Maddox bridge,  Operations Officer Commander Buehler was not surprised at  the spotty hodgepodge of indecipherable bogey signals and sightings from various quarters of the two ships; for his ship’s radar contact had earlier indicated something approaching at high speed, which had suddenly turned left when it was 6000 yards from and abeam of the USS Maddox. He knew from the swerve that whatever that was—some vessel the radar contact had indicated—had fired an underwater  torpedo. Approximately three minute later, a topside crewman on the Turner Joy had spotted the thin, phosphorescent wake of the torpedo as it missed both ships and  then disappeared in the dark Tonkin waters that chopped beneath them.

       Later,  black smoke could be discerned,  rising in a column through the black night, and the mysterious P-4 bogey aggressors were seen no more. Where did they go? Davy Jones locker.

King of Soul

A New Bretton Woods?

August 1, 2016

We were in Rome about a year and a half ago, as part of a traveling celebration of our 35th wedding anniversary.

One evening as we were lollygagging through the busy rain-slicked streets and sidewalks, we passed in front of a very special building. It was the Rome headquarters of the European Union, or “EU”.

I wanted to take a picture of the building’s entry, because that is what tourists do–take pictures of important places. Seeking a broader view, I crossed the street. While positioning myself and the phone to snap a pic, the guard across the street noticed my activity. He started waving at me frantically, indicating that what I was doing was not permitted.

Excuse me. I was taking a picture of a public building.

In America, we take pictures of .gov buildings, because we have, you know, a government of the people, by the people and for the people, which means, among other things that the people can take pictures of their headquarterses (as Golem might say.)

Is this not the way you do it in Europe? No pictures of the RomeEU headquarters?

Nevertheless, here is my smuggled pic:

EURomeHdq

If you squint at my little jpeg here, you may discern the guard’s upraised right alarm, a gesture of command intended to communicate a stop order on my touristic activity. It vaguely resembles another raised-arm signal that was in use in Europe 75 years ago, during the regime of Mussolini and that German guy who considered the Italian dictator to be his own puppet.

Or maybe I’m being too cynical about this incident. Maybe the guard was saluting me in some way, acknowledging my importance as an American tourist in the city of Rome.

Now, a year and a half later, this morning, seated comfortably in my own humble domicile, back in the USSA . . . I was pondering the idea of government–whether it is truly “of. . .by the people”, or is it something else? Is it, as many citizens insist during these times of tumultuous societal change, actually an institution through which the “1%” (or as they said back in the old days, the “rich and powerful”) project their oligarchical manipulations upon the rest of us?

I was thinking about this after reading online an article about how the worldwide financial system that has evolved.

  http://seekingalpha.com/article/3993559-back-square-one-financial-system-needs-reset?ifp=0

In this Seeking Alpha blogpost, Valentin Schmid, as “Epoch Times” examines our international monetary system. His analysis appears to be generated from  a well-informed position in the world of money, assets and power.

Mr. Schmid raises the question of whether  the current (worldwide) debt load can ever be repaid, because there isn’t enough “real money” to go around.

This got my attention, because I have been thinking for a while that there isn’t enough “real money” to go around.

Haha, as if I knew about such things. I don’t know much about money; if I did, I would have more of it.

Anyway, Mr. Schmid’s question is answered by his guest interviewee, Paul Brodsky, in this way:

   . . . “I would argue central banks lost the ability to control the credit cycle. Some relatively minor event could trigger a series of events that creates the need for a sit-down among global monetary policy makers who finally have to acknowledge publicly that their policies are no longer able to control the system, the global economy, which is based on ever increasing demand through ever increasing credit.

And what might occur is a natural drop in output. So you’ll see GDP growth begin to fall. Real GDP growth across the world maybe even be going into contraction and that would spell doom for these balance sheets. And this is not something I’m predicting or trying to time at all, but the natural outcome of that would be a sit-down like a Bretton Woods where arrangements are reconsidered.”

   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bretton_Woods_Conference

So what is coming is, perhaps, this:

To compensate for a stalling of global productivity, the movers/shakers of the world may  construct a new,  top-down rearrangement of the world financial system. The purpose of this revision will be to fix the problem of not enough money to go around. Such an extensive reconstruction as this would be has not been done since the Bretton Woods agreement that was promulgated by delegates from 44 Allied nations in 1944.

In a 21st-century world inhabited by billions of inhabitants, our  accessibility to natural resources has heretofore been determined by how many holes we could drill in the ground to extract natural resources; and how many acres of crops we could plant to produce food; how many factories we could build, and so on. . . building an economy to work toward  spreading the bounty around.

In the future, however, we will be moving to a “knowledge” economy. Wealth creation will not be about how much you can dig in a day’s time, nor how much you can plant, nor what you can cobble together in your back yard or over on Main Street.

Wealth generation in the future will be determined by what you know, so start learning now.

The first three essential  things to know are these:

Reading, Writing, Arithmetic.

Well gollee, maybe it won’t be such a brave new world after all.

However this thing plays out, if enough of us can master these three skills, .gov of the people, by the people and for the people will not perish from the earth, we hope.

Glass half-Full

The Troubled Waters

July 26, 2016

TroubledRiver

Paul Simon presents a grim solemnity as he croons his old tune, Bridge Over Troubled Waters, for the convened Democrats yesterday in Philadelphia. In  sharing with them this classic, well-loved anthem that he wrote, Paul imparts a  sense of profound desperation. But the weary, hopeless person whose dire circumstance is so poetically described in the song receives, in the end,  a deliverance. Hope shines through when a caring friend intervenes.

Paul’s tender message of friendship is well-received by the Democrats. They take the inspiration to heart by joining in, and swaying to the music’s gentle rhythm.

   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v12fPV6QmeU

While viewing this scene on YouTube yesterday, I noticed Paul’s grave countenance, and I was a little surprised by the obvious aging that has reshaped his face.  Many years ago, I was greatly moved–as many of my boomer generation were– by his poetic, prophetic songs. Here is one from back in the day, for which he is perhaps most well-known:

  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDIjj7CQYZw

 That was Paul Simon then, in 1965; but this is now, 2016. The world seems to be a very different place.

Yesterday in Philadelphia, the assembled Democrats responded empathetically to Paul’s solemn presentation of Bridge over Troubled Waters.      

But We Americans are a diverse collection of people. Those communitarian Democrats represent a certain segment of our population. There is, however, another strain of us Americana whose emphasis is not so much on community and everybody getting together to solve society’s problem.  I’m talking about the rugged individualists.

About the same time–mid 1960’s–that Paul Simon was so profoundly poeticizing our youthful alienation, there was– on the golden horizon of seasoned celebrity– another very popular singer. He was a smooth crooner whose older, mellowing generational zeitgeist had arisen from a very different historical time and circumstance.

Here’s a clip of Frank Sinatra, the original crooner a la 1940’s, as he belts out the song that became a theme for many, many Americans of his generation. It is a tune that expresses the determination and perseverance of his generation–the same generation that ran the Nazis and the Fascists back into their holes over there in old Europe.

  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnXIPV6Jh4Y

Ole Blue Eyes Frank made it big during his given time. Back in his day it was all about celebrating the good times that settled in after the War, getting all dressed up, having a few drinks, and laughing.

A couple of decades later, the sensitive poet Simon, like Dylan and others, came along, touching the troubled nerve of a booming generation that couldn’t seem to find its place in that old way of viewing the world.

So, seeing yesterday, ole Paul as he lead the communitarians in wailing that tender tune–this had an meaningful impact on me. Finding myself now in a never-never land between two obese political parties, I am alienated, wandering, looking for the party, but unable to find one that celebrates what I know to be true.

Stranger in a strange country, I wonder as I wander. . . out under the darkening sky.

But every now and then I encounter something or someone that partly expresses what I dimly discern in this land of  troubled waters– a stubborn, though fragile, life that is draped in mystery, yet with occasional glimpses of our sure mortality, and a hopeful longing  for immortality.

  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UuXb4She_sU

Glass half-Full

Conscience and Constitution

July 25, 2016

My fellow Republicans, excuse me please.

I see nothing wrong with addressing a national convention with the message that Ted Cruz presented last week.  The Senator’s exhortation to let conscience be our guide is totally appropriate. And his emphasis on the Constitution is supportive of our steadfast heritage as free Americans whose human rights are assured by that amazing covenant.

Archives

The covenantal power of our 235-year-old Constitution goes far, far beyond the power of any one man to guarantee our liberty.

So let the conventioneers leap frantically on their bandwagon of TrumpPower.

Let them boo Ted to their heart’s content. I don’t care; obviously, Ted doesn’t care either. He did what he had to do.

Those rude conventioneers were deriding a man who is brave, and smart enough to stand on principle instead of bending to politics, a man who has petitioned the United States Supreme Court nine times. He is no spring chicken when it comes to Constitutional rights.

So, for him to admonish his own party and the nation to retain Constitutional perspective instead of playing fast and loose with politics– this is no offense to Republicans, nor to any of us as Americans.

If I could add a contemporary person to the annals of President Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage, it would be Cruz.

Trust Ted.

And I’m not talking about “Ted in 2020”. I’m talking about what he said the other night.

Which is to say. . .

Preserve the true guarantor of our liberties, the Constitution of the United States, and

Follow your conscience.

Heritage:Harvest

As for me and my vote–I’ll decide that when it is time to make a decision, in November.

And if you think I’m a RINO instead of an elephant, that’s no big deal to me. Maybe I’d rather have “more of the same” than take a chance on a high-roller who thinks he can trump every hand that dares to contend with him.

Because this ain’t Atlantic City; this is America.

We’ve got from now until election to decide between Hillary and Donald; we will examine their characters and their motives as they contend for the highest office in our land.

I don’t like either one of them. Nevertheless, may the better leader win.

But here’s my admonition to you: no matter who the next President is, watch your wallet, and your constitutional rights.

Smoke

Maybe Leaning

July 18, 2016

To the left, leaning

to the right, tending

to the left, dreaming

to the right, pretending

LeanLean

Look around, look around

what do you see

watch this city, see that town

things not the same as used to be.

Leaning, leaning, out of balance

in the city, throughout the town

as electrons in atomic valance

sooner or later they shall go down

Ride on wheels

make some deals

move and move

but what does it prove

How can we know

what will happen next;

seems it’s all just for show.

we gotta go, to and fro.

Perhaps keep it going;

maybe keep it steady,

whether knowing, or not knowing–

just be ready.

EiffelLean

Whatever comes

standing strong or falling lame,

acting smart, feeling dumb,

change will always be our game.

Like it or not,

just the way it is

hold what you got

sometimes hit, sometimes miss.

Glass half-Full

The American Deal

July 13, 2016

Way back in time, hundred year ago, we was movin’ out across the broad prairie of mid-America, slappin’ them horse teams so’ they would pull them wagon out across the grasslands and the badlands, and then blastin’ our way ‘cross the Rockies and Sierras all the way to Pacific and the promised land of California.

GoGate35

And it was a helluva time gettin’ through all that but we managed to do it, with more than a few tragedies and atrocities along the way, but what can you say, history is full of ’em: travesties.

Troubles, wherever men go– travesties, trials and tribulations. That’s just the way it is in this world. If there’s a way around it, we haven’t found it yet.

  But there has been progress too, if you wanna call it that. Mankind on the upswing, everybody get’n more of whatever there is to get in this life, collectin’ more stuff, more goods, services, and sure ’nuff more money.

Movin’ along toward the greatest flea market in history, is kinda what we were doing.

Taming the land, transforming the planet into our own usages, improving, or so we thought, on God’s original versions.

After that great westward expansion transference/transgression, had been goin’ on for a good while, and a bad while now that you mention it, we Americans found ourselves high up on a bluff overlooking history itself. At Just about that time, them Europeans had a heap of trouble that they’d been brewin’ over there and they dragged us into it on account of we had become by that time quite vigorous, grasping the reins of manifest destiny and ridin’ along, as so it seemed, on the cusp of history, seein’ as how we had been raised up on our daddy’s Britannic colonizing, mercantiling knee.

Then long about 1914, them Europeans dragged us into their big fatally entreched mess over there and we went and fought the first Big War, fought them high and mighty Germans that first time and when we got done with it and got back over here the world was a different place.

I mean the world was a different place, no doubt about it.

For one thing, everybody in the civilized world was so glad to have a little peace in 1920, we just went hog wild.

Everybody got out there a-workin’, roarin’ ’20s zeitgeist, scrapin’ crops out o’ the ground, building great machines, skyscrapers. Edison had electrified us; Bell had sounded the bells of modern communication; Ford had tinkered us into a vast new world of mass production with a horseless carriage in every garage and a chicken in every pot and and we were skippin’ right along like a cricket in the embers.

NewkDev

‘Til ’29, when the big crash came along.

  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39RKRelTMWk

Some folks said that Mr. Hoover, great man that he was, was nevertheless clueless, and so the nation turned to Mr. Roosevelt for new answers. FDR, young cousin of Teddy Roosevelt who had been the father, so to speak, of American progressivism– cousin Franklin D., Governor of New York, took the bull by the horns and somehow managed to breed it into a donkey.

So from Teddy’s bullmoose progressivism there arose, through 1930’s-style unemployed populist cluelessness, Americanized Democratic Socialism;  with a little help from FDR’s genteel patriarchal largesse, the New Deal saved Capitalism, or so it is said among the theoreticians and the ivory tower legions who followed, and are still following, in Roosevelt’s wake.

Well, by ‘n by, between Lyndon Johnson’s grand Texas-size vision for a Great Society, Clinton’s good-ole-boy nod to residual crony capitalism, and then the 21st-century-metamorphosing, rose-colored proletarian worldview as seen through Obama’s rainbow glasses, and now the upswell of Bernie’s refurbished wealth redistribution wizardry– we’ve turned this corner into a rising tide of  flat-out Democratic Socialism.

It will be, quite likely, soon inundating the tidal basin inside the beltway as in 2017 we slog  into the mucky backwaters of full-blown Americanized Socialism, dammed up on the other side of the slough by that other guy whose oversimplified version of the nation and the world seems to want to land us in a brave new world of American National Socialism.

And who knows which way this thing will go; only time and the slowly softening sedentary, dependent American electorate can tell.

Looking back on it all, today, my 65th birthday, having lived through Nov22’63, April4’68, 9/11, yesterday’s disruptions wherever they may be, and everything in between, I find myself identifying with all the old folks whose weary outmoded facial expressions bespoke disdain,  while I traipsed errantly along life’s way. Here’s to all them ole folks who I thought were a little out of it, one brick shy of a load, peculiar, decrepit and clueless. Now, I can relate.

How I wish America could be back at real work again, like we were back in the day.

We’ve pushed through vastly extracted frontiers that yielded to massive infrastructure networks punctuated with skyscraping towers of steel and concrete. Now we’re lapsing into solid-state, navel-gazing nano-fantasies, living vicariously through celebrities in our pharma cubicles.

Maybe there’s a new frontier in there somewhere but I’m having a hard time seeing it.

But hey! let me conclude this rant with a hat-tip to the man–he happens to be a Canadian–who best eulogized the essence of that once-and-future great North American work zeitgeist, which seems to be disappearing into the dustbowl of history, because it looks like  there’s nowhere left to go.

  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjoU1Qkeizs

Well, maybe there is somewhere.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38bHXC8drHc

Glass half-Full

The Two Trees

July 3, 2016

It’s no accident that the first human story in the Bible is about a man, a woman, and two trees. One tree is referred to as the tree of life and the other is called the knowledge of good and evil.

Here’s a pic, so you’ll a have visual to help you visualize the scene. Images are, as you know, so important these days on the internet, because it is generally thought that text is boring and doesn’t really get the point across like images and icons do. So here’s a pic of two trees; you can get an idea of what the man and woman might have been dealing with:

TwoTrees

You’ll notice that this image is a little faded, but that’s okay. The photo itself is over 5000 years old, so I was quite lucky to obtain it for this presentation.

As you go through life you will come across many different people, places, things. Sometimes you know what to think about them; other times you don’t quite know what to think. So knowledge itself can be a sketchy thing, especially when it comes to knowing the difference between something that is good and something that is not good. Occasionally you may come across something that is so “not good” that it can be classified as “evil.”

Death that results from a car accident, for instance, is a bad thing, but not necessarily evil. On the other hand, if some jerk runs you down deliberately on the street and kills you, that would be evil–both the act itself and the person who did it.

If someone gives you an apple and you bite into it and it tastes good, then you know that it is good, so to speak. This is knowledge that comes from tasteful experience.

If someone gives you a mushroom, will you just bite into it like you would bite into an apple? I hope not, because some mushrooms are poisonous, while others are not. To be able to identify a poisonous one from a nutritional one would require knowledge. If a friend of yours grows a portobello mushroom and gives it to you for your dining pleasure, that is is good. The mushroom is good in your salad or some other prepared dish. You could even say the person is good because of their generosity to provide this tasty proteinous food for you.

If, on the other hand, a person knowingly gives you a poisonous mushroom, this is evil. The mushroom itself is not evil, because it has no evil intent; rather the person who knowingly gave it to you is evil. So to know the difference between good mushrooms and bad ones is knowledge; not only that– it is useful knowledge.

Now, understand this: there is a difference between knowing something and believing something.

If you wake up at 5 a.m. and it’s still dark outside, you still know that the sun will rise and and day will come. This is not a matter of faith; what you believe about the sun coming up has nothing to do with whether the sun actually does come up. The sun rises to a new day, every day, whether we believe it or not. We know this.

If, on the other hand, you believe that the day will be a good day– that is a matter of faith. Because your believing that it will be a good will probably make a difference in whether you do have a good day or not. Furthermore, it you believe that there is a God who is good and can make any day good even if bad people are trying to screw it up for you, then that is a matter of faith.

And more furthermore, if you believe that a good God can give you good instruction about how to discern between good and evil, that is also a matter of faith. And you can believe it if you want to, no matter what anybody says. And if someone comes along and tells you there is no evidence to support the existence of God or the tree of Life or any other good thing that you believe, you tell them to go jump in the lake.

Because knowledge can only take you so far in life, in liberty, and in the pursuit of happiness, while a little faith fan take you a lot farther. In the days ahead, we should remember this. All the humble people of the world whose well-being is founded in faith should retain, no matter what happens, their right to believe.

And the people who think they need to make everybody conform to some proven facts and the big data–they don’t know what they’re talking about. To hell with them.

In this picture, see if you can guess which one is the tree of life and which one is the tree of knowledge.

TwoTrees

I’ll give you a hint. Both of them are growing on a planet that has survived very long ages of warming and epochs of cooling. As you ponder and choose among the trees of life and the many branches of knowledge, try to cultivate a warm heart with a little faith, while still keeping your cool and being wisely analytical. And it will go well with you.

Also, watch out for snakes.

SnakeRoot

Glass Chimera

The Crossroads

June 28, 2016

The legend lives on from the blues men on down of the big choice they call the ole crossroads.

The crossroads, it is told, is where a man’s mortal soul can be sold for a life of good fortune.

Somewhere out there in the delta, in the sweltering heat of Mississippi where the cotton grew high and the ancient blues twangers sang their mournful 12-bar tunes about how hard life is and how much much harder it could be when the love of a woman is tasted but then gets lost somewhere between trouble and tragedy, and the tragedy is turned into song. . . out there where Miss’ippi mud is blacker than New’Awlins coffee, and the blues pangs clangin’ off them ole guitar strings is thicker and stronger than bad whisky. . .

that ole crossroads where they say the devil would hang around waitin’ for the blues man to come walkin’ along, desperate for some kind of simple twist of fate that would set his heartstrings and his sixstrings into a new direction, where he could catch a ride to Memphis or NewYawk and sing them blues into the big microphone and get satisfaction for his pain, get some monetary compensation for sharing his pain with the world, to the tune of . . .Crossroads

  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yd60nI4sa9A

As I was a-growin’ up down there in Miss’ippi, snotty-nosed clueless white kid in the suburbs of Jackson, late 1950’s, my daddy might have driven right over them very crossroads, out there in the piney woods backwoods near where Robert Johnson and Pop Staples had cranked out their doleful blues tunes. My daddy might have clunked over them crossroads in the old Ford station wagon as he was driving the backroads doing forestry work, but if he did I never knew it.

Wasn’t ’til later that I found out about them blues, encountered them blues for myself while tasting for my own young self the sorts of pain that this life can deal out.

Years later, when I was wandering in the college scene in the late ’60s, I got a little turned around and confused and encountered the blues, found myself romanticizing some pain that was in my head and a little too caught up in the mary jane and the avoidance of the pain, but still managed somehow to gain a degree, for what its worth, in political science or English or some useless crossroads thereof.

I say useless, but not really.

It’s good to learn to read and write, and to research etc blahblahblah. Now I’m working on a fourth novel, like a thousand and one other boomer fools.

But As I was sayin’, One thing led to another and then after college I was in Florida for awhile, selling insurance and then advertising with many a night misspent in topless bars and what not, followed by a few nights in Pasco county jail and the night I got out of jail I saw a movie that had been made in the mountains of North Carolina and so I, still running from my troubles, went up there, landed in Asheville, been there ever since, not in Asheville but in the great green state of North Carolina.

 North Carolina Is My Home

After a few more false starts and dead ends I finally found, by the grace of God, salvation and the love of my life, from whose womb birth was given that brought forth our three children and this wonderful life, which is, as it turned out, so richly lived, even without all the money that I coulda shoulda woulda made had I made better choices.

Now after 35 years of building houses and other structures I suddenly found myself turning a corner toward the big 65 when I found myself not yet ready to throw in the towel  and just settle into the social security dole which supposedly I have contributed to all these years and therefore earned, so I went and got myself a job at Lowe’s home center, which is at the crossroads between two great industries of this country–retail and construction–not a bad place to be in America.

Crossroads

Now at this late stage, looking back on it all, it seems I’ve been, like many boomers, and like many so-called millennials will be by the time they get to be my age, underemployed. Hey, I’ve been underemployed all my life, but that has turned out to be no big deal.

It’s been a good ride, thanks be to God.

And the big 65, which I’ll turn here in about three weeks, is really nothing special–no magic number, so I’ll keep paying my dues–which is to say, working– for a few more years because this life is, as the Beatles said on Abbey Road. . . the bread you make is equal to the bread . . . you take.

  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVYjQScC1DY

Or something like that.

And so my advice to all you millennials and gen-Xers out there who are over-educated, underpaid and underemployed is this:

Find a job, any job, and just stay busy working, learning, progressing toward your destiny. Don’t wait for .gov or Bernie or anybody else to bail you out because this world really does not work that way.

Get busy, stay busy, work every day you can, and your destiny will find you by the time you’re my age and you will find that . . .

Life is good. Make the best of it. Don’t wait for a handout and don’t blame anyone else for your troubles.

But you can sing the blues if it helps you to deal with the pain. And you may find yourselves, along the way, at a crossroads or two, but don’t sell your soul.

Glass half-Full


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