Archive for November, 2019

Wisdom?

November 25, 2019

Perhaps my 68 years of dealing with this life’s challenges has enabled me to render a helpful opinion on an important question: what is wisdom?

Wisdom is knowing what to keep and what to throw away.

Wisdom is throwing away whatever is not useful, but disposing it in such a way that you do not make a mess for someone else to clean up.

. . . unless they are being rewarded for cleaning it up.

Wisdom is knowing what to accept, what to reject.

. . . and knowing when to wait until you’ve decided which of those two categories is appropriate in any given situation.

. . . and knowing that sometimes we don’t have time to decide . . .

good luck with that!

Wisdom is using what you have acquired to improve your own life and the life of those with whom you are in community.

Wisdom is listening;

it is also discerning, when the appropriate time comes, to suspend listening and speak.

Wisdom comes in noticing that the world is not a perfect place—there is something wrong with it.

So wisdom then requires discerning the good from evil.

. . . while understanding that there is a purpose for the presence of both in this life.

Wisdom calls us to identify what it wrong, and resist it.

And even to defeat evil when that is necessary.

Wisdom may be conceding that different persons, different people groups, have different definitions for what is good or evil.

And so therefore, in some cases, the grace to forgive wrongness may be more appropriate than judging evil with punishment,

Sometimes even defining what is really good  should be re-evaluated.

Wisdom is realizing that the complexity of this world is largely—though not totally—unexplainable, and there may be—there just may be— a God who operates at a level that is beyond our power to comprehend or measure.

. . . a God Who, at the very least, set it all in motion, as the ancient purveyors of wisdom have insisted.

There will always be someone who knows more than you do. Get used to it.

Wisdom is finding people to love.

Wisdom requires responsibility for those we love.

‘. . . and sometimes accepting responsibility for those we are unable to properly love.

Lighten

Without love we are lost forever.

Love requires sacrifice.

Wisdom means being thankful when someone has made sacrifice for you, because you have not done all this on your own.

You were getting help even when you didn’t know it.

PS. It’s not all about you.

Glass half-Full

From the Brave New World

November 23, 2019

I’m glad I got to hear that before I die.

That’s what I told Pat, my wife, immediately as we stood up to join a standing ovation for the Charlotte Symphony last night.

Pat makes all the arrangements, you see, for our concerts and outings and travels and every other adventure we’ve had in the last forty years.

So I thanked her for making it possible for me to hear Antonín Dvořák’s New World Symphony, in live performance, before I pass into eternity.

And I must say that the Charlotte Symphony’s treatment of it, under the guest conducting hand of Ilyich Rivas,  was masterful—very tender and very strong.

     http://www.charlottesymphony.org/

The oboe adagio in the slow second movement fully met my expectations, after having listened intently to the piece probably thirty or forty times as offered by the New York Philharmonic on youtube.

And those trombones in the final cadence did not fail to summon a tear from my eyes, as their vibrantly forthright sounding forth renewed my confidence in human excellence.

During the intermission I read in the program notes about Dvořák’s composition of that symphony—his No. 9—and its premiere performance in New York, in 1893.

DvNewWorld

The Czech composer had been recruited to our (American) National Conservatory of Music in 1892. His mission was to import a little of that Old World excellence to our New World.

And goshdarn! did he do it!

His New World Symphony ranks right up there as some of the greatest symphonic music ever to be composed on this side of the Atlantic. It’s right up there with Copland’s Appalachian Spring, Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

If you ever have an opportunity to stand in Prague’s Old Town Square and behold Ladislav Šaloun’s statue of Jan Hus, you may catch a  glimpse of the passion that must have driven Dvořák’s resolve to compose such an orchestral masterpiece.

I’m glad I lived to see it.

Since the music was composed in New York City, I will provide here this link to the New York Philharmonic performance of it:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HClX2s8A9IE   

In other news of my yesterday. . .

Earlier in the day I had finished reading Andrew Marantz’s excellent book analysis of contemporary alt-right online misadventures:

    https://www.amazon.com/Antisocial-Extremists-Techno-Utopians-Hijacking-Conversation-ebook/dp/B07NTXSP69

And I will offer as a closing thought, a quote from Andrew’s account of what he uncovered in the world of ultra right-wing fanaticism. Toward the end of his research project, Marantz arrived at an eye-opening discovery about the so-called media “gatekeepers” in our mad world of media, formerly on the airwaves ~~~ now online.

Because we do indeed live in a “New World”. . . a world that is continuously renewing itself, sometimes in good ways, sometimes in bad ways.

In the quote below, Andrew Marantz is referring to the “gatekeepers” of our former (20th-century) times. They are primarily the major broadcast networks and news publications that came to dominate our public culture in the postwar 20th-century; but they have in this 21st-century been overtaken by the new superpowers of online media.

You know what I’m talkin’ about.  Their initials are FaceGooAmazTwittetc. One particular CEO of that cartel, the honorable Mr. Z, was recently put on the Congressional hotplate for public inspection.

As Andrew Marantz, the New Yorker writer, neared the end of his alt-right research opus, Antisocial,

  https://www.amazon.com/Antisocial-Extremists-Techno-Utopians-Hijacking-Conversation-ebook/dp/B07NTXSP69

He exposes a raw nerve in this,  our brave new cyberworld, a world in which the outmoded moguls of 20th-century media have been eclipsed by the new titans of 21st-century webdom.

Like it or not, these denizens of the updated corporate Deep must rise to the public surface to accept some responsibility for oversight in the polarizing electronic net that we’ve cornered ourselves into.

Here’s part of what Mr. Marantz has to say about it:

And yet this is the world we live in. For too long, the gatekeepers who ran the most powerful information-spreading systems in human history were able to pretend that they weren’t gatekeepers at all. Information wants to be free; besides, people who take offense should blame the author, not the messenger; anyway, the ultimate responsibility lies with each consumer. Now, instead of imagining that we occupy a postgatekeeper utopia, it might make more sense—in the short term, at least—to demand better, more thoughtful gatekeepers.

It’s a brave new world out there, boobie. Somebody’s gotta be brave, if not them, then who?

Us? But, but, as Pogo once said, long ago in the old media world: we have seen the enemy . . . and he is us!

King of Soul

The Four Horses

November 20, 2019

This morning I heard Meghna Chakrabarti interviewing Sylvia Poggioli about the flood in Venice, Italy.

Hearing the WBUR On Point hostess ask NPR’s Italian correspondent about that watery excess, my imagination flowed back to my visit to Venice in 2003.

On that day, sixteen years ago, I stood in a long tourist line to visit the Basilica of San Marco.

On that day, flood waters from the Adriatic Sea were lapping up the stepped entryway into the nave of the cathedral.

My daughter Kim, studying in Italy at that time, snapped some photographs. I assembled three of them here:

SanMarco3

It is plain to see that, yes, there is an ongoing, and worsening problem of flooding in the ancient city of Venice.

Moreover, the evidence is mounting that, yes Virginia, there is in fact a worldwide problem of more frequent coastal flooding, and it is reasonably related to climate change.

My position about climate change is that we should collectively educate ourselves about the impact of human activity on our planetary ecosystem. But human rights—rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness— should not be violated for the sake of imposing restrictive laws to reduce and control carbon emissions.

However all of our overflowing angst about climate change gets spread around, I would like to hone in on a certain detail in the frontal edifice of San Marco church building.

Look closely at this picture of the front of San Marco. You will notice, above the middle arch, four horse statues. 

When I noticed them up there in 2003, I was fascinated with those horses.

SanMarcoHrs

Five years later, as I was writing a novel later entitled Glass Chimera, I included those horses—actually, miniature glass reproductions of them— in part of the story I was cloning together at that time

In chapter 13 of Glass Chimera, we find this scene:

Sunday afternoon, Mick Basker slept until 1:30, then got out of bed, made some coffee, and sat down at his computer to take a look at the chip that he had retrieved from the glass horse’s gonads four nights ago.  He   reached down to open the bottom drawer of his desk.  Then  he noticed a scrap of printed paper, about the size of a small  index card, on the floor nearby. Recognizing it as a slip that  he had found within the figurines’ crate, Mick picked it up to get a closer look. This is what was printed on the little paper:

Congratulazioni! Lei ha comprato uno degli articoli di vetro più belli nel mondo. Quest’edizione a bassa tiratura della “Quadriga Marciana”  ha soffiato degli artigiani specializzati della Società del Vetro Leoni di Venezia, Italia. Gli articoli di vetro sono i riproduzioni squisite delle sculture di bronzo che fa la guardia di sopra del vestibolo occidentale della Basilica di San Marco in Venezia. I cavalli originali sono giungi a Venezia con il ricco bottino di guerra dai Veneziani dopo la conquista di Constantinopoli al termine della IV Crociata nel 1204 A.D. Dopo cinque secoli, nel 1797, Napoleone li fa trasferire a Parigi, ma i cavalli erano ritornati alla Basilica di San Marco nel 1815.

But Mick knew no Italiano, so he set the little paper aside, and   reached down again to the bottom drawer, from which he produced a yellow pharmaceutical container, a pill box.  Inside it was a was a patch of plastic foam  which  concealed a little green circuit board  about the size of thumb.   Carefully, he inserted his chip, looking like a little black crab with metallic legs, into the device, then pushed the assemblage into a USB port on the computer. He typed and moused his way to the chip’s data, and when he found it this is what he saw: 

OAT,  GHN-1:17q22-q24,  DTNBP-1:6p22.3,  IGF-2:3q28.

But he didn’t know what it was.

If you ramble around this world, you will notice that life on our planet is full of mysteries. You just never know when another strange happening might come flooding into your mind, your mailbox, or your city square, or even your own sacred space.

But no matter what strange occurrence crosses your path or your mind, try to make the best of it.

Glass Chimera

Carbon and Silicon

November 17, 2019

Someone said that carbon gives life,

while silicon gives sand.

But now there’s buzz about carbon causing strife,

while silicon wields a magic hand.

The someone was referring to element six on the periodic table,

CarbonSilicon

because carbon provides for life a grab-bar that’s organic,

Lifemicro

while silicon fourteen, just below it, is merely able

to direct our circuits like a transistorized mechanic.

Digiboard

Now we should notice, or so I’m told . . .

carbon seems to be forsaking its own self-styled mission;

it has grown quite uppity and bold—

SmokIndust

whereas silicon swirls predictably in wave-like submission.

Sand3

Maybe we should put our silicon bots to work

to affix restraints on the unsheathed carbon beast,

so the little busybody, carbon number six—that jerk!

can’t grab control and crash our worldwide feast.

Glass half-Full

Search for Blue

November 6, 2019

When we first came to Boone, the town in North Carolina where Pat and I raised our three young’uns, I had a job that lasted  a few years,  tieing steel rebar in the Linn Cove Viaduct.

It was a bridge that happened to be the final section–the Missing Link–of a 469-mile National Park road, the Blue Ridge Parkway. Why this missing link, which was located pretty much in the middle of the whole road project, took so long to get built is a long story.

That story will form part of the narrative of a new novel, which I have recently begun researching and writing. The working title is Search for Blue.

Back in the 1950’s, ’60’s and 70’s, a gaggle of disagreements had confounded any beginning of constructing that Missing Link. When they finally got the issues settled between owners of Grandfather Mountain and the National Park Service, construction of the final Blue Ridge Parkway section was begun in 1979.

And I helped. While the missing link was being built, it looked something like this:

BRPLinConst2

Recently, I, being now in what used to be called old age (but only 68!), I began to wonder what the cessation of work might have been like for a workman who had labored on that Parkway project “back in the day.”

This book will tell the tale that I uncover. Here’s an excerpt from chapter 1 of “Search for Blue.”

But in October of ’29 the whole damn thing just stalled out, real sudden like,   stone-cold dead in its tracks.

By that time, marauding manufacturing and rabid farming had stirred up a dust bowl in the wide prairies and a cloud of manifest debilitation over our formerly manifested destiny. Monetary manipulation absconded the bold thrust of old-fashioned capital-driven progress; frantic philandering pushed quaint front-porch watch-the-world-go-by domestic tranquility into a ragged soup line.

1920’s roaring jibber-jabber got lost in 1930’s Depression regression.  The country had shifted from financed euphoria to unemployed stuporia, and so in the election of ’32 we rolled Mr. Roosevelt into the White house on a Democrat wheelbase of socializing progressivism;  The new President, former governor of New York, wasted no time in arm-twisting the nation right on over into his New Deal.

As the dust of dystopia settled, some forlorn Americans pined for the good ole days. Ah, they said, those were the days. Wish we’d seen it coming!

It didn’t take them New Dealers too long to figure out that what was needed was to get  people working again, and fast.

Congress, shell-shocked by the deadening thunder of an American business-industrial dynamo self-destructing,  got themselves hellbent on a string of programs to shorten–if not eliminate–the    lengthening unemployment lines. Their legislating fervor reached way, way far–even as far as somewhere over the rainbow–and so they laid hold of the pot of gold!

But when the vessel was recovered, it turned out to be–not a pot of gold, but–a soup pot, and a damn-near empty one at that.  So they set themselves to re-filling it, although not with gold. There wasn’t, by that time, much of the precious yellow stuff around. They had to  begin filling the empty rainbow pot with . . . soup!

Out on the street, maybe while waitin’ in line for the soup, Joe Blow–or maybe it was Jane Doe–came up with a name for the collection of work and improvement programs that Congress was dishing out: “alphabet soup.” Take a gander at this list: FERA, FCA, NIRA, PWA,  FFMC, CWER, AAA, EBA, FDIC, FHA, NRA, NLRB, RA, REA, SEC, SSA, TVA, to name just a few, and we’ll certainly not fail to mention the two work outfits destined to be the most productive in our present scouting-out-the-land, search for Blue expedition: CCC  and WPA, which is the easy way of sayin’ Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration.

Since Mr. Roosevelt had proclaimed we had nothing to fear but fear itself, one of Congress’ first assaults against the dreaded enemy actually took aim at that “fear itself.”

In an inspired idea to nullify the power of the enemy attitude, our  lawmakers scrambled the word “fear.” They appropriated the letters. . . f, e, a, and r, reassigned them to a nobler cause, and came up with  the Federal Emergency Relief Act of 1933, which came to be known as: FERA!

And that was one of the early servings of the alphabet soup; it got  ladled into the bowls and hands of millions of unemployed Americans.

Most of the work was cranked up in the urban districts; city folks were much more dependent on the system than country folk. Out on the farms, people might be broke, and they might be deprived of some of the so-called necessities of modern life, but at least they had some ground out back to scratch a few seeds into the good earth and thereby harvest unto themselves some corn, beans, or potatoes to serve at dinner time. They might even still have a hog or two or a cow or at least a few chickens peckin’ around to have for some future supper time embellishment.

All that said, the farm folks did have their share of the alphabetizing bonanza that Congress was serving: AAA, FCA, FFMC etcetera etcetera. One way or another, everybody got a little help.

Back in that day and time, most men could still wield a shovel or a hoe. Even if they hadn’t done much with such tools as that, they or their kin were probably close enough to the land to at least know something of how to handle an implement.

As it turned out, a lot of them programs that the New Dealers came up with did involve shovels and hoes and rakes and such. By ‘n by, some Republicans who were not so convinced about the efficacy of Mr. Roosevelt’s wheelin’ dealin’ job programs–they hit upon the shovel as a symbol of the gaggle of “do nothing” alphabetized boondoggle make-work crews who spent more time leaning on their shovels than actually wielding them for the betterment of the country.

But that’s just politics. They’ll never get all that mess straightened out.

Probably about three years from now, I’ll have the rest of it done so you can read about how it all came together over fifty years of time.

Meanwhile, find a good book to read, today! You can find one here:

careyrowland.com