Archive for April, 2015

Be aware of Greeks bearing debts

April 25, 2015

Greece is, you see, the opposite of California, and I’ll tell you why.

The first thing is: Greece is very old. California is, on the other hand, very new.

The “West”–that is to say, California and all the rest of us New World types– actually started in Greece about three thousand years ago. Greece was the “West” because it was westward from what was, in ancient times, the Old Country, the region we now call the Middle East, or Levant, or Holy Land, depending on your point of view.

Long ago, after Alexander and his military legacy turned the Persians back at the battle of Marathon, long about 490 b.c.e., the people of the Greek city-states began joining together to form an historical entity that we now call Ancient Greece.

And since that time, the whole thing of Greek culture moved westward and northward over a couple of millennia  of time. The great thrust of Western thought, anchored in a mental discipline called philosophy and a political idea called Democracy,  inspired empires and nations from those ancient days until the present day.

We still dream about governing ourselves in this thing call a democracy, but it has never quite manifested in a way authentic to the original concept.

Probably never will, but it’s a nice thought.

A  couple hundred years after the Greek Golden Age, the Romans came along with their Republic and their empire. Much of their marvelously innovative empire-building was rooted in Greek thought and mathematics (Euclid and Pythagoras). A lot of what the Romans did was direct imitation of Greek stuff. A good example of this is their omnipresent use of Columns for holding buildings up.

You’ve heard of Doric columns, Ionic columns?

That’s Greek stuff. Except that–guess what!–the Doric and Ionic names originated across the Aegean sea from Greece, in a region called Asia (Minor), which is now Turkey. Go figure!

A couple hundred years after the Greek Golden Age, along came the Romans. What they ended up doing was much grander and more elaborate than what the Greeks did. They took Greek columns and turned them into a universal architectural art-form. Those two earlier Column designs–the Doric and the Ionian– were not fancy enough to suit the Roman sense of grandiosity. So the Romans decorated the capitals (tops) of their columns with new, leafy frou-frou carvings and castings  which came to be called Corinthian.

The Corinthian name, however, was not Roman, but Greek. Corinth was an important city in Greece.  So once again, go figure.

Figuring is important to the whole advance of Western civilization. Everywhere Greeks and their European progeny went, they were figuring stuff out.

Thus did Western Civilization expand over millenia of time. Along came the Germans, French, Spanish, British, all of them making ever grander plans,  striving to construct their own versions of civilization.

When the Greco-Roman enterprise got to the big Sea at the end of Europe–aka the End of the Earth–its expansion was delayed for a few hundred years. But then along came Cristoforo Columbo and Presto!, Western civilization took a grand leap across the Atlantic Ocean.

Now we Americans know about Boston, New Yawk, Philly, etc etc etc;  and we are intimately familiar with Paul Revere and Grampa George Washington. Why we even know about Charleston and Savannah and all that unreconstructed goings-on down south, but what’s important here is California!

Why?

Because Americans are adventurers. Our forefathers and foremothers hit the ground running after we got off the boat in Baltimore or Ellis Island or wherever it was.

Before you knew it, we were all the way over on the far other edge of the continent, in California, baby!

Or bust! That’s what the Okies said.

And that was, if you think about it, the very end of the Greek frontier. From Athens to Anaheim, westward ho all along the way. That’s all she wrote.

The westward expansion of Greek culture ended at California. It couldn’t go any farther. Why, even when they o’erleaped the wide Pacific, what did they find?

China!

It doesn’t get any older than that–China. No Westward expansion there, although the Brits made a few dents, and of course there was Marx and all that People’s trial and bloody error.

Now We Americans have a saying: as California goes, so goes the nation.

That means that, from the 1849 Gold Rush on, the great exploratory thrust of American ingenuity and creativity originates in place called California.

The land of fruits and nuts.

And broccoli, lettuce, grapes, wine, silicon, integrated circuit chips, beach boys, beach girls, computers, iPhones, movies and pop culture, etc etc etc.

So once all the migrant Europeans got themselves planted on the East Coast back in the 1800s, they built so many cities, and built them so quickly, that before you know it they got overcrowded and pulled up stakes to head West.

Go West, young man, wrote Horace Greeley, about a hundred and fifty years ago.

And very quickly. We developed America from raw earth,  from Schenectady to San Francisco in less than a hundred years, blazing a yankee trail all along the way.

And when we hit up against that great Pacific rim, the grand tide of our exuberance struck a sea wall and then it swayled back the other way: Disney in Paris, McDonald’s in Athens, Kennedy in Berlin!

But now–and my mind misgives some consequence yet hanging in the stars–our grand millenia-old Restatement of Greco-Roman expansionism strikes, back at its ancient nascence, an Athenian rampart.

So I see the next phase of history this way: As Greece goes, so goes the West. And this is what it looks like, according to a pic I recently snapped in Athens:

EarthBraceAgor2

Which is to say, a propped up portal. Where can we go from here?

Glass Chimera

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Bird at my Window

April 19, 2015

Here’s a little bird by my window.

How he landed here I do not know.

I can’t understand why he paused from winging,

then a-lighted here upon my contemplative feeling

while I sip darjeeling.

Now as I don’t know why a caged bird would sing,

so do I not comprehend why some free bird should fling

himself against this glass invisible thing.

Bird at my Window

Now as I watch him here, while I am sitting,

and I do ponder on his fretful flitting,

I know not what fate my future life might bring

can’t foresee what stones some enemy might sling

nor anticipate what news some fateful bell will ring.

I don’t know what pesky thing

might attach itself  to me to cling

to bet against my errant dealing,

or abscond my precious, hard-earned bling.

For all I know, someday Life may send me reeling;

I might even bang my head upon the ceiling,

like my bird friend at this window reeling.

But after a while, being a human being,

I’d certainly seek some healing,

Surely I would pray, even kneeling,

to shed my stubborn sins and fears, like onion peeling.

Unto merciful God I’ll someday be appealing;

T’is then I’ll beat my head upon some heavenly window,

when to eternity’s grand dwelling I will go.

Like this wacky bird with such stubborn sass,

I’ll knock my head on heaven’s glass.

Let me in.

Let me in!

Bird at my Window

Glass half-Full

Prayer for all Nations

April 11, 2015

I hope you will believe in God, if you don’t already. When the Son of God walked upon the earth, he visited the temple of his people, in Jerusalem. Jesus said many things at the temple. One thing he said was:

My house shall be a house of prayer for all people.

Toward that end, I included this scene/portrait in my 2007 novel, Glass half-Full. From chapter 4:

Beneath a cold, clear, azure sky the city of Jerusalem lay stretched upon the mountains and valleys like a fuzzy glove upon God’s hand. People from all over the world had gathered here to unearth evidence of God at work among the people of the earth. Some sought a temple that no longer exists. Some sought a mosque where a prophet entered heaven. Some trod upon the cobblestones of ancient, holy real estate, pleading for reconciliation, seeking atonement for the human condition.

A man wandered beyond the dome, past the blocked-up eastern gate; curving around northward, he noticed a large open area beside the mosque. Was this where the former temple had stood? What a beautiful mosque.

Could not the owners of this hill sell the adjoining, vacant acre or two to those pilgrims who, standing daily at the wall below, were wailing for their wonderful temple? Why not make a deal? Such a deal. Cousin to Cousin. Temple and Mosque, Mosque and Temple…Mosque Shsmosque, Temple Shmemple. Such a deal. Everybody happy. You pray your way; I pray mine.

A man traveled outside the wall, beyond the ramparts of human religion-building, pushing the envelope of mortally human strife… through the Kidron Valley below, to the vanity-laden valley of struggle, along the groves of Gethsemane; he trod among the graves of the prophets; he ambled along the graftings of the profits. He wept. Mankind, like a flock of fluttering chickens in a barnyard, clucking, headless…why can’t we get it together?

A man walked up the other side of the valley, through Arab neighborhoods, to a Jewish cemetery. Oh wailing trail of human history, why allowest thou such holocaust? Turning around, he looked back across the valley, to the mountain where he just had been, with tears:

Sons of Adam, argue all you want about real estate on your holy hill. “I’ll be over here on the other side,” thought he.

But the walk was over now. It was time to go to work. John Demos, reporter for XYZ, was scheduled to do a live broadcast three hours from now. The American Secretary of State and her entourage were in the ancient city to prevail upon, once again, the ancient brothers and sisters to settle their ancient differences. And John would be covering the event for XYZ.

***

Half a world away, John’s face could be seen on the TV in the Jesse James Gang Grill.

He was reporting to the world about the latest official Middle East peace initiatives. Hilda Hightower interrupted her flower-watering chore for a few minutes to watch his report…

DomeRok

Wailing Wall

JerChSepulc

JerGoPeace

Glass half-Full

Grow! Improve Your Skills And Develop Your Talents.

April 11, 2015

Grow! Improve Your Skills And Develop Your Talents..

This is good counsel.

Persian ram, Grecian goat

April 5, 2015

If you wonder where all that Iranian bluster comes from,

take a look at what in Persia, long ago, was done.

Out in the  Zagros mountains about 2500 years ago,

a band of Persians came together to put on quite a show.

They spread out in a way to make the world’s first empire;

from Nile to Indus, from Caspian to Gulf, they did not tire.

A fellow named Cyrus, who was known to be Great,

subjugated peoples far and wide to start this ancient state.

Before anyone named it Iran, or Persia, it was called Achaemenid,

like the name of former President Ahmadinejad, and what he thought they did.

 

After Cyrus the Great had died, and also Cambyses his son,

a Magian usurper tried to abscond their royal Persian run,

but Darius,  distant relative of Cyrus, slew that pretender,

then gave credence to Zarathustra, and whatever Ahuramazda might render.

Darius the Mede, who ruled from Persepolis to Phrygia,

extended Achaeminid lands from the Hindus to Lydia.

But Persian conquest was in Greece contested;

its expansion was halted– at Marathon arrested.

Then young Pheideppides ran 26 miles from Marathon to Athens

to tell Athenians about their defeat of Darius’ Persian I’ryans.

 

This fierce Persian/Greek contention had been foretold in a biblical vision

by the Hebrew prophet, Daniel, with symbolic precision.

He saw a ferocious horned goat attacking a great horned ram

which is what happened, metaphorically, when Alexander conquered anciant Iran.

These days it seems them I’ryans are on the move again,

now declaring Islamic Republic, Shariah, and all things Shia Mohammedan.

Their hegemony looks restrictive, legalistic and  Islamist totalitarian,

with dissidents imprisoned, like Daniel in  lions’ den.

Now ayatollahs want to raise new Islami-I’ryan Persian empire

with Shia militia, Hesbollah, and centrifuged ire.

 

If we be lucky today, the Greeks will again stop them Persians.

But it may not happen; Greece has gone broke with too many dispersions.

So what will the world do when I’ryans insurge to destroy Arab leagues?

Will it be like the last Reich, in Aryan blitzkriegs?

 

Smoke

Life way down deep

April 3, 2015

The life was new.

The life was hidden, withdrawn, but stirring beneath the surface

of man, restless

feeling incomplete, as if he were only half

of something and where pray tell is

the other half.

Oh but the life

the whippersnappin’ life was young and foolish, darting out in

spurts, random, irresponsibly.

Lonely.

The life was at a loss.

Meanwhile,

the wise was keeping vigil, watching protectively, counseling gently

in the stirring of the wind:

Wait. Focus. Control yourself. Learn. Prepare. Use what you’ve got.

Use.

Not abuse.

Love.

Not shove.

Love.

Not thrust.

Trust.

Don’t throw it on the ground;

don’t cast it out when you’re in town.

Find a place that’s safe and sound

and slightly round.

There is a place for you if you will seek, if you will

wait upon her, ‘though mishaps there may be,

‘though dark days you will see.

Destiny, providentially so-to-speak, whispers

in those dark hours of the night,

but also in the clarity of the bright light

and in the very horned beastly midst of your fight

for peace of mind, and fulfillment,

self-actualization, what we use to call

holiness.

Project not yourself into any old hole; cast not your pearl

to front,  nor to rear.

You, my precious life, are too dear

to sputter in the rear.

Oh, wipe away your tear.

Train your sorrow to flow;

direct your milky force to go

into something worthwhile, like . . .

work. I don’t know. Think about it.

Don’t jerk.

Don’t be a jerk,

and please don’t twerk. But rather,

Wait. Watch. Focus. Learn. Prepare. Believe. Use what you’re given.

Be just a little driven

but not obnoxiously so.

Just go

and do the best you can,

and when she comes, your half will become

whole.

Like I said, in not just any hole.

Whole.

For the sake of your soul,

and the soul of them who are to come

when you are done.

 

Glass half-Full