Archive for the ‘America’ Category

Felix’s Fortress Forté

August 4, 2019

While tuned into radio WDAV a day or two ago . . .

listening to Felix Mendelssohn’s 5th Symphony,

we suddenly discerned a developing  melodic surprise:

gentle strains of a classic religious tune, A Mighty Fortress is Our God . . .  drifting into the 3rd movement of the music.

Twenty-three minutes into this performance,

Orchestra

those first melodic snippets of Luther’s famous hymn—I heard, venturing in discreetly, during the slow Andante phase of Mendelssohn’s 1832 orchestral composition.  By the end of the piece, however, the understated entrance of that well-known melody had morphed into being the very core of the symphony’s dynamic, forceful conclusion.

This gentle arrival of a familiar melody that incrementally develops into a forcefully conclusive forté—this is a composer’s technique found in several classical music masterpieces. . . most notably Beethoven’s (last) 9th Symphony, and a favorite American piece of mine, Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring.

In the case of Ludwig van Beethoven’s use of  a developing melodic theme that overpowers all other musical elements, Ludwig used his own emphatic original tune to fortify a potent message of popular 18th-century zeitgeistuniversal brotherhood. The words that Beethoven chose to accompany his theme had been composed by Friedrich Schiller, a primary 18th-century poet of the Romantic period in our western history.

In the similar case of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, the composer employs a traditional religious melody—the “Shaker” theme, Simple Gifts, as a musical fulcrum for propelling the idea of mere simplicity into a commendable lifestyle.

The emphasis on simplicity is a powerful motivating factor in American history. The Puritans. for instance, who landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620, were fleeing an oppressive European religious straightjacket culture; they wanted to simplify their worship of God and to enable the practice of glorifying our Creator in community life.

Like Felix Mendelssohn, a great composer whose family heritage was Jewish,  20th-century composer Aaron Copland chose to utilize a well-established Christian melody as the basis for  fortifying a powerful musical masterpiece.

In other trends of this earthly life . . . in the realm of, let’s say, political compositions—as compared to musical ones—recently I read a book that represents a similar dynamic of compositional accomplishment. David Horowitz’s timely book, Dark Agenda brings to light a contemporary American Christian culture that is under attack from secularizing—yeah, even aggressively anti-religious—zealots.

Perhaps we simple-minded Christians of this era–as well as those more complex Reformed believers whose reforms originated with Martin Luther five centuries ago–will find fortifying encouragement and strong inspiration in these classically-inclined masterpieces:

~~ Felix Mendelsson’s 5th Symphony

~~ Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring,

     oh, and btw. . . honorable mention . . .

~~ Ludwig van Beethoven’s 9th Symphony

King of Soul

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Bridge across Time

July 9, 2019

Setting old stones with new methods lays a solid foundation for future pathways of our life together.

Here’s a Blue Ridge Parkway bridge, near my home, built when I was a kid long ago, in the 1960’s.

BRPHollowa

It’s a well-built public-works project.

Incredible strength was laid into the bridge’s inner structure when concrete was poured around a steel rebar framework. Unseen in the finished structure, the silent steel still contributes to ongoing structural integrity and function. Internal strength assured the bridge’s longevity, allowing the structure to bear up under the heavy demands of continuous motored traffic for many and many a year.

This solid piece of work has been sustaining motored traffic for most of my 68 years.

Use of reinforcing steel roads, tied together with wire like cages, then buried forever with gravel aggregate in solid ‘crete mud, is a relatively new architectural practice in construction history. The internal rebar method was devised by constructors over time, to assure deep integrity and resilience in vast concrete structures.

Such built-in reinforcement has enabled folks to progressively build bigger buildings, longer roads and bridges, as civilization marches on.

BluRiOvPas

This strong, continuous, time-tested concrete underbelly enables motorists to drive without stopping, on a road that crosses o’er a  road that passes beneath it. In this photo, you can see the structure’s rock-hard underbelly, which bears the surface imprints of wooden planks that were used in forming the main arch  when the concrete was cast, back in the mid-1960’s.

Certainly our attention is drawn to the large veneer stones on the outside face of the construction. These chiseled rocks, having been skillfully cut with calculated angles, lend a classic appearance to the roadway, which would have otherwise been a dull utilitarian construct.

Thus did the bridge become something far more than an elevated roadway; it stands as an artistic statement of architectural continuity, in agreement with its older, 1930’s-era bridge “ancestors.”

The stone masons who erected similar Blue Ridge bridges back in the earlier days were ancestors–whether by profession or by blood– of the rock masons who set these stones three decades later.

Such chisel-sculpted work  becomes a masonary tip-of-the-trowel to time-honored traditions of stone masons who lived and worked on this same 469-mile parkway back in the day, and then eventually crossed that great celestial bridge to eternity.

Having stood the tests of time and traffic, this good work stands as a long-lasting homage to both structural integrity and graceful design.

About six miles up the road from the bridge pictured above, there’s an S-curved structure that I tied steel on, back in the early 1980’s– the Linn Cove Viaduct on Grandfather Mountain. It’s a very special construct, being the final missing-link in the middle of a 469-mile, 50-year Blue Ridge Parkway project. But this one was special–not for the classic stonework–but for the cutting-edge technology of building the thing from the top down, instead of the bottom up!

BRPLinConst2

Here’s solid evidence that in this life it’s a good idea to do things right. Build it to last, whatever it is you’re working on in your time here.  Our children’s children will notice the quality and be inspired to do great works in their own time.

Search for Blue

The Parkway Cometh

June 22, 2019

In 1937, the following scene probably happened somewhere near where we live in the Blue Ridge, North Carolina:

“What does it say?”

Jake handed the letter to his father. “There’s a lot of gobble-dy-gook there, Pa, but it says the land stopped bein’ ours when they posted it down at the courthouse.”

“Posted what?”

“The map of all the land they need to take.”

Jeremiah turned around slightly. Casting an eye on his nearby rocker, he carefully took aim and seated himself. Looking up again at his boy, “Well they ain’t paid us for it yit.”

“That needs to be decided yet, Pa.” Jake shook his head slowly. “It’s lookin’ like this is gonna drag on fer awhile.”

“We told that inspector fella we’d take forty.”

“It ain’t that simple, Pa. Them lawyers down in Raleigh gonna pay us whatever they say it’s worth.”

“Damn, son! What is this? Damn communists!”

Jake set the letter down on the side-cabinet. He had managed to glance through it and get the gist. “Shit, pa, it ain’t that bad. They’re just tryin’ to build that road real nice and scenic so’s people’ll come drivin’ up here and spend their money.”

“Well I guess that’s all well ‘n good, son. But I ain’t been down to the courthouse to see what they posted. Don’t seem right that we ain’t got payment, and we don’t even know how much we’re gonna git!”

“It’ll all work out, Pa. At least they’re only takin’ one side of our land. Watsons and Purlears got their places split up. And from what I’ve heard from Miller up in Ashe, them that got their land split up won’t be able to even drive from one side t’other. So be thankful for what you got. Ain’t  that what the Book says?” Jake looked his father in the eye. “Be thankful we’ll still be able to drive the tractor from one side all the way across the field to the other side.”

“Yeah, what’s left of it,” Jeremiah mumbled as he commenced to rocking. He looked out the window, through the porch at the front yard. “Hell, I don’t know what this world’s coming to.

Jake was reading another letter, silently. His attention riveted there, he said nothing, just nodded his head, looking down at the script on a letter from his aunt Polly in Foscoe.

“New Deal, I guess,” his father continued while Jake folded Polly’s letter and picked up another piece of mail.

“Yeah, Pa, I reckon it’s the New Deal. Did Sally say what time they’d be back?

“’bout four, I think she said.”

Pa had been pondering. “Son, did you know they posted that map at the courthouse?

Jake sighed. “Yeah, Pa, I knew about it. I went and looked at it on Friday when I was in town. Roby Watson told me about it while I was in Goodnight’s pickin’ up feed.”

“I guess you didn’t wanna tell me, huh?”

“Nah, pa, I just forgot about it.” Jake sat down in his easy chair. Now he was reading something else.

“You forgot about it.”

“Yeah, Pa.” Jake nodded his head slowly, preoccupied with his bank statement.

Jeremiah was rocking steadily now, as if he were relaxed and maybe resigning himself to whatever it was that was about to happen that would change the shape of the 67 acres he had inherited from his father back in 1910. “Seems a little strange to me, boy, you could forget about something as important as losing a quarter of our land.” No judgement in his voice. Just sayin’. Pa had calmed down from his earlier rant.

“I mean,” Jake looked up at his father again, smiling slightly. “I mean, I didn’t forget about it; I just forgot to tell you about it.”

“Uh huh.”

Jake’s expression morphed slowly  from concentration in his letter-reading, to a mild amusement. “Shootfire, Pa, there’s somethin’ else I forgot to tell you.

“Oh yeah?” His father allowed a mild chuckle. Mr. Roosevelt gonna bring us a hog or two as a consolation prize?

“Actually, it is kinda like that . . . maybe a peace offering. Uncle Skip told Roby he’d give me a job running one of them road graders.”

“On the new road?” Jeremiah’s voice acquired an even more amused tone.

“Yep.”

Jake’s father laughed. “Well, ain’t that a cat’s whisker! I seen it all now. The Parkway giveth and the Parkway taketh away,” he declared, playing upon some ancient proverb. Now he set the rocker into a steady pace. “And when’s that gonna start?”

“Coupla weeks, or something like that,” Jake replied. “They gotta finish that little bit of blasting over there near the highway. Then, Skip says, they’ll pretty much be ready to grade from Deep Gap all the way to Aho.”

“Well, I guess that’s good news for Uncle Sam, but it’ll blast the hell out of our peace and quiet around here with all that machinery and whatnot takin’ over this country.”

“Not takin’ over, Pa, just makin’ it easy for folks to come up here and spend money, after they lay the asphalt to it.”

“I reckon it will be easier for them rich folks down the mountain to come up here and ride around in their Cadillacs, like over in Blowin’ Rock.”

BlueRdgView

Yep. Coulda happened. . . maybe, maybe not. Long time ago . . . but we haven’t  yet totally obliterated our consciousness of the past with our contemporary obsession in social media and and political side-show antics. Not yet.

Blue 

Search for Blue

June 5, 2019

The Traveler’s main burden is a restless soul. He has carried it dutifully for a long time.

Traveler’s roots were deep, but not necessarily set into a specific place on this earth. Having  traversed many a mile of land and sea, this sojourner had been driven westward, in search of some destination that could not yet be clearly identified. So it might be said his roots stretched deep into life itself, rather than a place.

   At least for now.

   From a continental origin he had sailed o’er channel, into stillness and storm, outside of the norm, through  unknown , and out the other side of somewhere . . .  arriving for a season upon an ancient isle. But finding very little solace there, traveler had redirected  weary legs to ascend yet another gangplank, so that he might be transported to that great land he had heard tales of, beyond the blue.

   The seaport where he disembarked was, as it happened, a frontier for foreigners not unlike himself. They had uncovered motivations to—for whatever reason—not remain where they had begun. And so, having hung their hopes upon such vague restlessness, they undertook yet another phase of the great journey to somewhere yet to be determined.

    By ‘n by, the traveler eventually found himself ascending a long piedmont hill, and so it seemed when he had reached the top of it, the extended journey was now delivering him to a wide westward-looking vista.

    Pausing to catch breath, Travis trained his eyes on a string of  faraway ridges. Obviously high, yet . . . it seemed . . . gently-sloping. . . forested they were, and having no cragginess that he could see from here. That string of mountains  stretched like great slumbering beached whales across the entirety  of his new horizon. From  north  to south . . . blue, and blue to blue on blue, and more . . . blue.

He had never seen such a thing.

BlueRidg

So  this must be the  beginning of Search for Blue . . .

Death by War

May 26, 2019

I wrote a story about an American traveling through Europe in the spring/summer of 1937. In the novel, Smoke, which I published in 2015, young businessman Philip Morrow accepts an unusual errand, which takes him through London, halfway around the far side of France, then to Paris, and ultimately to arrive at a place called Flanders Field in Belgium.

At his specific Memorial battleground destination, Philip sees for the first time the final resting place of his father, a soldier of the American Expeditionary Force, who had died there in 1918 during the last week of World War I.  Philip had been eight years old in 1917 when he hugged his pa for the last time, then  beheld  his mother while she tearfully embraced her  husband, a mountaineer marksman named Clint.

In chapter 27 of Smoke, Philip arrives at the Memorial cemetery accompanied by a newfound friend, Mel, an old Frenchman who expresses his appreciation for Clint’s courageous sacrifice–given in his last full measure of devotion– for freedom, to defeat tyranny.

Clint’s total offering in 1918 was not the first, nor the last, to be put forth by millions of other soldiers since that time. In Washington DC, I snapped this photo of a newer Memorial–that one constructed for us to remember the dead of Vietnam.

VNMem (1)

We Americans do appreciate the families left behind.  Their sorrow and sacrifice is painfully precious; it  runs deep–deep as the blood that pumped through soldiering bodies alive with determination–blood that still streams through the beating hearts and minds of  us Americans and Allies.

Here’s my offering, from chapter 27 of Smoke:

       “How could this place have been a battlefield for a world war?”

‘The old Frenchman cast his eyes on the passing landscape, and seemed to join Philip in this musing. He answered slowly, “War is a terrible thing, an ugly thing. I did not fight in the war; I had already served my military duty, long before the Archduke was assassinated in Sarajevo and the whole damn world flew apart, like shrapnel. But I had many friends who fought here, and back there, where we just came from in my France, back there at the Somme, the Marne, Amiens. Our soldiers drove the Germans back across their fortified lines, the Hindenberg line they called it. By summer of 1918 the Germans were in full retreat, although it took them a hell of a long time, and rivers of spilt blood, to admit it. And so it all ended here. Those trenches, over there in France, that had been held and occupied for two hellish years by both armies, those muddy hellholes were finally left behind, vacated, and afterward . . . filled up again with the soil of France and Flanders and Belgium, and green grass was planted where warfare had formerly blasted its way out of the dark human soul and the dark humus of lowland dirt and now we see that grass, trimmed, manicured and growing so tidily around those rows of white crosses out there, most of them with some soldier’s name carved on them, many just unknown, anonymous, and how could this have happened? You might as well ask how could. . . a grain of sand get stuck in an oyster? And how could that oyster, in retaliation against that rough, alien irritant, then generate a pearl—such a beautiful thing, lustrous and white—coming forth in response to a small, alien presence that had taken up unwelcomed residence inside the creature’s own domain? The answer, my friend, is floating in the sea, blowing in the wind, growing green and strong from soil that once ran red with men’s blood.” ‘

“Now they were arriving at the battlefield. Jacques parked the car, leaned against the front fender, lit a cigarette. Mel and Philip walked through a stone arch, along a narrow, paved road lined with flowering linden trees, spring green with their large spadish leaves, sprinkled with small white blossoms. The sun was getting low behind them. Shadows of these trees had overtaken the narrow lane, turning it cooler than the surrounding fields, acres and acres neatly arranged with white crosses and gravestones, and continuous green, perfect grass between all. Having reached the end of the linden lane, the stepped slowly, reverently, along straight pathways, passing hundreds of silent graves on either side. The setting sun was still warm here, after their cool approach from beneath the trees.

“At length, they came to the row that Philip had been looking for, the one he had read about in the army guidebook, where his father’s grave was nested precisely and perpetually in its own place in eternity “. . .

King of Soul

The Mystery of Mastery

May 12, 2019

Are you angry? Why? , , , and why is your attitude down?

If you do well, won’t your attitude be lifted?  But if you don’t do well, despair is crouching at your door.

But you must master it.

Choose discouragement, or improvement. Which will it be?

You have freedom to choose, you know.

Learn how to use that freedom. Master it.

Life brings good things to us, but life also throws some bad stuff at us along the way.

When life is a walk in the park . . . well, that’s great. Enjoy it. Make the best of it. From that favorable circumstance, move forward by taking measures to strengthen the stability that comes from that advantage.

But when the bad stuff again plops itself down in your garden path, what then? What you gonna do about it?

Don’t let it get you down. Although failure is lurking in your path, overcome it. Defeat defeat. Take mastery over discouragement.

Understand and accept that Life is going to drum up a certain amount of setbacks. Trouble comes with the territory in this life.

But you must master it.

Choose to master life; it will take awhile, maybe a whole lifetime.

We do have this choice, you know.

The ability to choose our own attitude, and thus set our own course—this is what we call freedom.

Freedom—you must master it.

We are free to choose where we go from here.

You are free to choose which way you will turn when that inevitable obstacle suddenly blocks your road to wherever it is you are going.

When the big one hits and throws you into a tailspin, will you wallow in your own discouragement?  Or will you master it?

Life itself was created for you, with this choice built into it.

But there is a good purpose for that challenge.

Having that choice is called freedom. Make use of the freedom. Master it.

Sometimes freedom is a pain in the ass, but Life would be a drag without it.

While you’re out there discovering life, you will surely run into some counter-productive influences . . . for instance, the idea of determinism.

Determinism is when some person or group wants to convince you that the obstacles in your path will surely defeat you, because the System is stacked against you.

The current strategy of the Determinism crowd says, for instance, Capitalism is against you . . . it cannot work for you.

But hey! . . . not if you master it. Take hold of any good opportunity to move forward.

Capitalism is what you—or perhaps your great great grandparents— entered into when they stepped off the boat, into America. Capitalism, with all its perils and pitfalls, is part of the territory here.

Master it.

America

You  can put capitalism to work for you, instead of against you.

The Determinism idea says that capitalism is nothing more than all those rich people and corporation manipulators who are perpetually stacking the deck against you.

But hey, that’s only a part of what capitalism is. Along with those unfavorable elements, capitalism includes also your freedom to choose something different, if what you presently are doing is not working for you and yours.

You must master it. That’s your end of the deal.

In America, you would do well to master capitalism. Make it work for you. Work?

Work—yes, that’s important. Capitalism doesn’t properly function without it: work.

Can’t find work?

Make your own work. Find something to do. Find something that needs to be done and do it. Present your bill to whomever is benefitted by your work. Even if you’re collecting unemployment or disability benefits or whatever, find something helpful to do. You’ll find yourself feeling better.

While the System is, yes Virginia, in some ways stacked against you, do not accept the negative assessment that there is no way around the obstacles.

Obstacles are standing outside your door. You must master them.

Obstructions are just around the bend. Master them.

If you don’t master them, who will?

Big Brother? The Fairy Queen?

Capitalism includes  your freedom to adjust your own attitude, and strategy, to get around, over or under whatever the System throws at you.

Master it. Learn when to work with it and, when to work against it.

It is true that working with the System is not always the best thing to do.

So this is also true: sometimes you will indeed have to work against the System, running against the wind, swimming against the tide.

That does not mean you allow the mob to convince you that the system is hopeless and the only way around it is to stir up trouble and destroy the System. There has, in the history of the world, always been them Powers that Be working against them that need to carve a new way out of the wilderness.

Knowing at any given time whether to work with the system or against it—this is called Wisdom.

You must master it. You must learn to use wisdom; cultivate it.

Wisdom is key to mastery in this life, but it doesn’t come easy.

Wisdom only comes through encountering both adversity and success.

So understand that adversity is part of the program for your obtaining mastery.

When you are at the crossroads of adversity and success, don’t cultivate discouragement; don’t malinger in bad attitude.

And don’t be hoodooed by  that Determinism that’s out there and wants to incite the rabble to riot. Don’t go there.

Determinism is when some person or group convinces you that the obstacles in your path will surely defeat you, because the System is stacked against you.

Determinism says the outcome of your life has already been determined by an exploitive Capitalist System.

Determinism wants to convince you that you cannot muster the power to master your own destiny.

Determinism says, for instance,  you’re not making enough money to make a living, and you never will.

It is true, yes,  that  making more money could improve your situation.

But that’s not the whole enchilada.

Master the money thing: when you get some, make it work for you; don’t fritter it away. Put your money to work. Don’t let the Determinism crowd convince you that it’s all about money. Life is not all about money.

Life is all about what you do with life.

Determinism also  says you cannot improve yourself through discipline and study, and work.

Determinism says the only way you can outwit the system is to yield to the trending decadence and anarchy that perpetually wants to destabilize you and everybody else.

But don’t let it take control of you. Take control of it.

Master it.

Master life, and you will do well.

Don’t raise cain. Instead, make yourself able.

Learn to make some sacrifices.

And thank God.

Glass half-Full

Our Responsibility for Creation

May 11, 2019

Back in the 1960’s, when the Greening urge seemed to dawn upon us domesticated industrialized people . . . after the influence of Rachel Carson and others who followed in her path of conscientious awareness . . . we found a useful word to name the bad, destructive stuff we dump into our environment.

The word was: Pollution.

In the last decade or two, when the contemporary Green movement adopted the “global warming” and “climate change” phrases, they did not realize they were doing their cause a disservice. Those two terms—what has now been settled into as “climate change,” are too ambiguous to be of any real use.

Why? Because in the billions of years this planet has been evolving, the climate has always been changing; furthermore, those changes have, all along, included periods of warming. Now that we have determined—accurately, in my view—that much of that “warming” or “change” is our fault, we need to start fixing the problem, not fight about it. The fighting will only throw up more carbon.

But we ought  not, in that campaign, negate the human rights of people to make judicious use of what we have found in this planet.

For Greens and others who advocate for clean or redemptive policy to ceaselessly nag the rest of us about climate change is self-defeating. The chosen terminology confuses the real issues. Joe Sixpack and Jane Doe don’t understand what you mean by “climate change.”

The term is counterproductive. Citizens are missing the point because of your ambiguous terminology.

The real point is that we are polluting this, our planetary home. And we collectively must find a way to minimize that pollution as much as possible, if not altogether eliminate it: pollution—whatever is bad shit that adversely affects or damages our holy Earth. Some pollution is carbon, and some is even more seriously destructive than mere carbon.

Carbon is, after all, the essential component of life itself. You can’t go organic without it.

See what you think about this idea . . .

Let’s just divert all the carbon into one place and then form it into bicycles so we can pedal around the planet without spewing destructive gases everywhere we go. Is that a good idea? Yes? OK, you go first and maybe I’ll follow along if I can summon up the energy in my 67-year-old legs to pedal from here to wherever I have to go from now on  in life.

Furthermore, how are we going to get all the carbon diverted to a pre-assigned appropriately contained space?

Good luck with that.

AirSilt

As far as getting started or building up some momentum in this planetary cleanup project is concerned, let’s just cut to the chase in our strategy. Tell everybody:

Give a hoot; don’t pollute!

Widespread awareness among mankind is the key to making reparative change on this front; education is the means to achieve it. All ye extreme climate change advocates need to focus on educating us the public instead of threatening all mankind with your proposed centrally-planned regimes of soviet  oppressive control.

I am supportive of your zeal for our threatened planet, and I want to help. But my entrance into the fray is colored by a worldview that, among your peer group, seems alien to the cause of planetary cleanup.

But we Christians are not really against you. We are against politics that wants to abscond our human rights for the sake of improvement that may actually never be workable.

Meanwhile, back at the green, hopefully carbon-neutral homestead . . .

I just read an essay that says concisely almost everything I have been trying to say about environmental issues for the last ten years.

   https://www.amazon.com/Sex-Economy-Freedom-Community-Essays/dp/0679756515.   

Thirty or so years ago, a compatriot of ours, Wendell Berry, wrote and spoke:

~ “the culpability of Christianity in the destruction of the natural world,  and the uselessness of Christianity in any effort to correct that destruction are now established cliches of the conservation movement. This is a problem. . .”

~ “Christian organizations, to this day, remain largely indifferent to the rape and plunder of the world and its traditional cultures.”

~ “Our predicament now, I believe, requires us to learn to read and understand the Bible in the light of the present fact of Creation.”

~ “. . . careful and judicious study. . . (and) making very precise distinctions between biblical instruction and allegedly respectable Christian behavior.

~ “. . . our native religion should survive (and should be allowed to survive -editor) and renew itself so that it may become as largely instructive as we need it to be. On such a survival and renewal of the Christian religion may depend the survival of the Creation that is its subject.”

~ “We will discover that God found the world, as He made it, to be good, that He made it for his pleasure, and that he continues to love it and to find it worthy, despite its reduction and corruption by us.”

~ “We will discover that for these reasons our destruction of nature is not just bad stewardship, or stupid economics, or a betrayal of our family responsibility; it is the most horrid blasphemy.”

~ “We have the right to use the gifts of nature but not to ruin or waste them. We have the right to use what we need but no more, which is why the Bible forbids usury and great accumulations of property.”

In support of this last statement, we note In the book of Leviticus:

“The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine (the Lord’s); for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me.

“Thus for every piece of your property, you are to provide for the redemption of the land. . .

“ . . . but if he (the poor one who has defaulted) has not found sufficient means to get it back for himself, then what he has sold shall remain in the hands of its purchaser until the year of Jubilee.”

So we understand from the Bible that private property is a part of our heritage. But in a larger sense—a world understood to be co-habited by billions of pooping people— the earth belongs to all of us, and we are all, all of us, collectively responsible for it.

—Even as we are individually responsible for our own souls, and whatsoever property the Lord hath entrusted to each man, woman, family, group, nation, species of us.

Looking even further back in our history, and in the enduring Biblical canon which many of us still subscribe to, we find in the very first chapter, this directive:

“God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Back in the industrial age when we mechanized using steam power to rearrange the entire civilized world, we interpreted that “subdue it” command as: do whatever you need (want) to it to make it work in your favor.

But now, two or three centuries later, we need to interpret that “subdue” differently.

In biblical retrospect, we see It means: make Godly use of the resources we find. It does not mean “destroy it.”

It does not mean use nature for a dump. It does not mean “pollute it.”

It does not mean frack it.

Fracking? What the hell?

I think you fracking oil companies should voluntarily cease the practice of injecting poisonous chemicals and busting up earth’s crust for the sake of pumping out oil. If that means I’ll have to do with less oil and/or gas, then I’ll just have to deal with it.

When God created the world, he pronounced it “good.”

Let’s keep it that way if we can.

King of Soul

From Grand Coulee to Grand Solar

May 8, 2019

Everybody ought to have something meaningful to do. Wouldn’t you agree?

A job, a volunteer project, or at least some personal pursuit, to occupy one’s time in an activity that is beneficial to one’s self, or helpful to others, maybe even improving society.

Whether it’s a job with a private enterprise—a small business,  a corporation, or a .gov agency, a non-profit foundation, or a personal pursuit . . .

Everybody finds benefit in having meaningful activity,

especially if it may make life better for the rest of us.

Recently I caught wind of some public discussion about maybe combining this need for individual productivity with work that benefits our public purpose. Consider the prospects of projects that would improve our infrastructure.

Infrastructure is, you know . . . roads, bridges, electrical grids, communication networks, parks, public spaces and lands . . . systems and places, etc. that we share—

networks and common spaces that tend to fall apart or degenerate if someone doesn’t take responsibility to maintain or take care of them.

As I was pondering this idea, my mind wandered back in time to an era in our national history–the 1930’s– when people working together got a lot of important work done by teaming up to improve what was our infrastructure at that time.

Back in that day there was a fella who went around lending a hand in public works of all kinds, and he wrote songs about his experiences,

Woody Guthrie.

Woody wrote a good ole song about the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River, out west between Washington and Oregon.

It’s an authentic song about a great project. Listen to Woody singing  Grand Coulee Dam, which he recorded in 1941.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vLZOKshJPs.     

And check out this pic of that immense, power-conserving structure, when it was being built, back in 1933: 

CouleeConst

You can find more about the building of the Grand Coulee dam here:

    https://omsi.edu/calendar/science-pub-portland-building-grand-coulee-dam   

As I was a-listening to Woody’s song about the Grand Coulee, the thought occurred to me that we should perhaps take on a similar project, or two, today—construction of a cooperative facility to provide electricity in a manner that is clean and green and maybe even carbon-neutral.

So I added a verse to Woody’s ole song:

In a trillion solar sunbeams of any shining sunny day

flies a steady stream of energy, more watts than man can say.

We oughta build a great collector like the big Grand Coulee dam;

and capture solar megawatts in this great  Grand Solar Land.”

Have a listen and see what you think about it:

    http://www.micahrowland.com/carey/GrandCouleeSolar.mp3

And envision electricity this way:

SolarGrand

King of Soul

From Enlightenment to Onlinenment

May 4, 2019

Peering way back in human history, we find . . . generally, the battles have indeed been won by the strong, and the races are usually won by the swift of our species.

There are exceptions, for sure, but generally you know it’s true. Them who know how to throw their weight around  usually manage somehow to outweigh the rest of us.

The people who manage to work, or fight or compete, to the top of the heap—those folks pretty much stay on top of things until some group or faction that is lower on the pecking order manages to muster enough money, or strength or discontent or firepower or political power to throw the bums out and usher in a new regime of wealth, or weapons, or wherewithal to take charge of things and call the shots.

Throughout history we talk about this and wonder about how to deal with it in ways that are fair and equitable, and maybe even civil.

In the last 300 years of pondering these issues, we’ve moved from the Age of Enlightenment, through the Age of Development, and now we’ve progressed into the Age of Onlinenment.

Three centuries ago, power was all about royalty. The royal houses pretty much ruled the world. They divided it up. Now and then they fought battles, or even wars, to re-draw the boundaries of ownership and authority and hegemony etcetera etcetera.

The printing presses had gotten in gear back in the 1400’s; over time all those mechanically copied manuscripts began to make a difference in everything that happened.  Ideas got spread around through documents and books, and people began to think more, exchange ideas and information more, think differently about themselves and the world they lived in, and . . .

People got smarter, or at least they thought they were smarter. At any rate, they had more information (more data!) to work with. Many of these smart folks figured out that they could work their way out of indentured servitude or serfdom or whatever royal arrangement had been holding them back.

So they moved off the estate, and into town; there they set up shop, doing business, making goods and services that people needed.

Capitalism was born. . . little people doing business and making it on their own.

Along with capitalism came the age of Enlightenment, a time in history when more and more folks were figuring out that hey! we can do this this thing we don’t need the bluebloods up in the castle to tell us what to do.

Although it took a century or two for these changes to really make a difference on a societal level, eventually the newly emerging middle classes had enough members and resources and smarts and clout to push the old fuddy-duddy royals out of power.

It was a long bloody process. Our American revolution busted out and changed the world forever.

Revolutions (1)

The French did an even bloodier version when they guillotined the Bourbon monarchs. As the proletarian uprisings gathered steam across Europe,  Napolean and Marx and hordes of discontented Europeans got out in the streets to rearrange the economic structure of things into a state more fitting to their demands.

Eventually, the Bolsheviks in Russia managed to run the royal Romanovs outa town. The new revolutionizing proletarians cornered those royals and put  bullets into their fair-haired Romanov heads.

Further down in Europe, the same Revolutionary zeitgeist was burning hot. 20th-century Liberation busted Western civilization out of its old royal antiquities. Along with the supposed modernizing came a bloody mess called the World War I.

Archduke4

When the guns were finally silenced in 1918 and the smoke cleared and the dust settled, the world was a different place.

Most of the royal houses had been run out of their big houses; what was left of them were cornered into ceremonial roles, and a new way of doin’ things became the order of the day.

Our yankee country country here had a lot to do with the way things turned out. After we had sent King George and his reds back to Britain with their tail between their legs, we had a whole, vast, 3000-mile continent just waitin’ to discover what the steam locomotive and the motorized tractor and the combine and the cotton gin and the blast furnace and everything from Pittsburgh to Pacific was all about.

And by the time we got to the Pacific, by crackies, the world was mechanized.

We had wrought it into a whole New World.

However, as things developed here in the 19th-century in the big wide bustin’-out USA, the ancient hierarchical tendencies of the human race had re-asserted themselves the fray, and before you know it—in spite of all the wide open spaces and new opportunities— we were back into a situation where the rich got richer and and the poor got poorer.

As the tycoons and magnates—Carnegie, Rockefeller, Bell, Edison, Morgan—got America all cranked up on oil and gas and electrical power, they formed companies.

By ’n by, them companies grew and prospered, and—long story short—those little startup corps from our late-19th, early 20th-century developments eventually morphed into giant corporate behemoths.

Even so, every now and then throughout the last century, a big economic reset button gets pushed somewhere and the forces of mankind whack the hell out of all our wealth-gathering institutions.

The biggest Depression hit back in ’29 and hung itself around our necks until the big guns showed up to blast us out of the trenches. After the Second Big War, we had a big round of wealth-spreadin’, middle-class widenin’ expansion with more folks than ever before jumpin’ on the middle and upper-class band wagons.

It went on a half-century or so, with ups and downs along the way but most everybody gett’n’ at least a little better off along the way, until ’08 when another whopper hit wall street; it dumb-struck the powers-that-be for a few weeks until they got their act together and yacked their way into a deal in which We the People baled them and ourselves out of what would have been disaster, or so the tale is told.

Anyway, here we were a century+ past those robber barons and big wheels and under-the-table deals, and the corporations are thought to be running the whole shebang.

19th-century: the Royals, kings and queens, monarchs, dukes, earls, counts, etcetera etcetera

20th-century: CEOs, CFOs, Chairmen of the Boards, etcetera etcetera

All along the way, a whole lotta regular folks have jumped onto the Corporate bandwagon and wiggled their way into some of the booty therof. Out here on the coasts and in Flyover country, a whole lot more of us consumers are in a big way dependent on this Corporatized way of doin’ things.

By the late 20th-century—and now going into the 21st—the upper-middle-class’emites who keep the electrons and the debits and the credits and the assets  hummin’ along through that vast Corporate power Web— they are pretty well fat n’ happy, like their blueblooded ancestors.

Their modern morph-up into class and privileged status was Corporate-fueled, not Royal-based like in the earlier versions.

Especially since ’08 when the whole financial world blew apart again and We the People bailed the Bankers and their kissin’-cousin Corporate mavens out.

In this round of history, the Discontents among us not using the printing press so much to drum up all this protest and pushback we see rising . This time it is more about the the Twit and the Web and the Net.

We’ve progressed past Enlightenment, past Development . . .

to Onlinenment.

DigitHeads

And by means of this digitized Onlinenment, folks are gettn’ all hot n’bothered again, and workin’ themselves into a tizzy about those same ole inequality-breeding patriarchal tendencies, which have forever reared their privilege-seeking heads into positions of authority.

We find ourselves once again passing Go. Roll the dice and collect $2 million. And so the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. What else is new?

But this time the disruption is not about throwin’ out King George or King Louie or Czar Nicholas or the Archduke of Serbia.

In this round, its about throwin’ out the Corporate mavens and their kissin’-cousin Politicians, and maybe even the Digitheads along with them, and then replacing them with . . .

um . . . with what?

Y’all Discontents be careful now. We don’t want any more Stalins or Maos, or even Chavez. Let’s talk about this.

Go easy on us who are fellow-travelers in this planetary arrangement. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Don’t wanna throw the can-do out with the carbon.

Glass half-Full

The Knave New World

May 2, 2019

In 2007, Alan Greenspan published a fascinating book that chronicled not only his own life, but the life of the monetary world in which he grew up,  and in which he ultimately played a major role as Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

  https://www.amazon.com/Age-Turbulence-Adventures-New-World/dp/0143114166 

Mr. Greenspan’s keen observation of contemporary monetary history is demonstrated throughout the book. On page 92, Alan had this to report about the legendary Reagan tax cuts of the 1980’s:

“The cornerstone of the Reagan tax cuts was a bill that had been proposed by Congressman Jack Kemp and Senator William Roth. It called for a dramatic three-year, 30 percent rollback of taxes on both businesses and individuals and was designed to jolt the economy out of its slump, which was now entering its second year. I (Greenspan) believed that if spending was restrained as much as Reagan proposed, and as long as the Federal Reserve continued to enforce strict control of the money supply, the plan was credible, though it would be a hard sell. This was the consensus of the rest of the economic board as well.

But (David) Stockman (Reagan’s Budget Director) and Don Regan, the incoming treasury secretary, were having doubts. They were leary of the growing federal deficit, already more than $50 billion a year, and they began quietly telling the President he ought to hold off on tax cuts. Instead, they wanted him to try getting Congress to cut spending first, then see whether the resulting savings would allow for tax reductions.”

Well good luck with that!

And gollee, that was about 39 years ago, and about 20 trillion $$ of federal deficit ago. . .

Ronald Reagan, God bless ‘im, was the last of the Mohicans of old-style let’s-try-to-balance-the-budget school.

Yet we still pay lip-service to that principle.

But–let’s face it– those days are gone forever. They went out with with saddle oxfords and gumball machines and  Archie Bunker and 1-cent lollipops and debits on the left with credits on the right that balanced each other out.

Now Reagan, God rest his soul,  is no longer with us, nor Kemp,  and the world is a totally different place. Ronald Reagan was the last of a balancing breed that has vanished into fiscal history.

The cowboy hero has ridden into the sunset.

David Stockman is, however, still with us, and still living in the past,  still harping, God bless ‘im, on old-hat financial and fiscal responsibility. Good luck with that, Dave!

https://www.deepstatedeclassified.com/dsd20190426/

In his most recent newsletter, David Stockman posted this assessment of our present situation:

“The Main Street economy is failing. But the Wall Street fantasy is thriving. You can lay responsibility for this dangerous disconnect at the doorstep of the Eccles Building.

The Federal Reserve’s extreme monetary central planning regime long ago disabled capital markets and destroyed price discovery.

Bubble Finance has euthanized workers and savers and lobotomized traders and speculators.

And our monetary central planners know it.”

While Mr. Stockman’s assessment may very well be true, it may also be irrelevant.

The world . . . as it always does and always has, has changed.

Tap your ruby slippers together, David.

RubySlippers

and close your eyes and realize: We’re not in Kansas any more. All the rules have changed. Take off your rose-colored glasses.

We’re not wheelin’ and dealin’ in ole Wall Street any more, or Peoria or Pittsburgh or Palm Springs. Now we are in, as Aldous Huxley once said, a Brave New World. . .

A world in which monetary markets and price discovery are no longer the primary determinants in the money game. . . a world that has, yes Virginia, yes Alice and yes Dorothy, been commandeered by a thunderous consumerist horde who have no wish to be bound by these old financial fuddy-duddy obsolete principles, a world that has been fundamentally transformed by Keynesian realpolitic and by the pragmatic keep-bailing-this-boat central bankers of the world with their legions of yassah data-crunching technocrats to maintain the welfare of us all.

And we will never go back.

Because money itself is, and always has been, truth be told, worthless, being nothing more than klinky coins that can get you a wad of chewing gum, or paper bills that can get you a sugar-high from a vending machine, or electrons that can get you a charged-up night on the town, or a day in the sun, a week at Disney if you’re lucky, and a health-insured, social-security certified lifetime in this knave new world.

The “Capitalism” of Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill and Jacob Marley and JP Morgan and even Warren Buffet has . . . gone the way of the buffalo.

Now it’s just benevolent electrons whirling around the world taking care of everybody.

And when you finally see the writing on the wall, Dave, look at those deficits and . . . read ‘em and weep. Nobody cares about deficits any more.

The central bankers of the world will never have to face the music of fiscal responsibility that keeps ringing in your ears.

We’re never going back to the old balancing acts. Where we’re headed is. . . everybody gets a meal-ticket as long as all’s quiet on the Western front and the red sun still rises in the east. Welcome to the knave new world.

Glass half-Full