Archive for the ‘good work’ Category

The Tower of Signals

August 17, 2019

Thousands of years ago, we built a legendary tower, the shadow of which has seemed to darken our human history even unto today.

According to a certain well-known historical source, the Bible . . . the tower of Babel was erected in some location east of the Euphrates River. The region therein has been known since that ancient time by various names:  Chaldea, Shinar, Babylon, and a few other identities, such as the current one, Iraq.

So an ancient tale about the tower of Babel, especially its fall, has been passed down to us through the ages.   The biblical account says that The Tower of Babel’s undoing happened because the people were unable to communicate. So they were not able to get the thing built.

In our modern reflection upon that archaic project, I think what Will Rogers or Mark Twain or Yogi Berra, or some such sage  said, applies:

“What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

It’s an old story, but true.

Nevertheless, I’m here to tell ya that in spite of ourselves we people of the earth have managed to erect some pretty impressive towers here and there throughout the ages.

For instance, notice this  classic religious tower in San Francisco, which happens to be a double.

Spires2Chrch

This structure represents that spirit of religion that dominated our Western culture for a couple of thousand years.

Here’s a Spanish project representing a more contemporary creative impulse toward the divine.

Sagrada

Very impressive. But the era of God-inspired basilica-building has been overtaken by more humanistic projects. Since the so-called Enlightenment in the 18th-century, people have aspired to ideals even loftier than mere religion. This modern emphasis has wrought even higher and higher feats of skyscraping.

BuildSkysc

The long epoch of God-inspired tower-building has been overtaken by a New Age of Man.

CityPhild

And yet, our rising human spirit has morphed itself beyond mere commercial, citified projections. Check out an Olympic objet d’art that the Barcelonans fashioned for the 1992 Olympics:

BarcOlymp

This fluidic rising structure embodies a humanic zeitgeist; it aspires to inspire ascension to world peace—a peace wrought through zealous sports competition instead of bloody wars fought with destructive weapons on muddy battlefields.

Pretty damned impresseve, huh?!

Higher and higher we strive; higher and higher we arrive.

Now in 21st-century AI, We find ourselves in the upper regions of human accomplishment.

Physical upbuilding has now taken a back seat to the loftiness of our ideals.

So we’ve built a stupendous net of ideas, an electronic network that ceaselessly transmits gigabytes of presciently important data around the world. It is a web as ethereal as the sun itself . . . as surreal as a Dali . . .  as real as a Warhol.

And towards this end, we’ve built towers of a different—a new and different—kind:

The Tower

Towers such as this one–structures of ascending human perfectibility– are slavishly repeating signals all day and all night for the benefit of all mankind!

For the benefit of Mr. Kite, ever and ever onward to greater heights!

We hold these spires to be self-evident—that our updated tower-driven secretions will project a worldwide web of human achievement to rise higher than  the Tower of Babel ever did!

Good luck with that.

Glass Chimera

Advertisements

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

what the Original artist did

July 28, 2019

While universe was expanding in all directions, Creator chose one lump and began working with it, rearranging its underneath mass so that water could rise to the surface. The hydrogen/oxygen element would move in a purposeful way instead of just sloshing around.

Creator spun that world into motion so that the sunlight which struck its surface would brighten half of world for a day while allowing the other half to return to darkness during the same interval.

Thus did this division between the lightened side of world and the darkened side establish a cycle which would become known to us as day and night.

Then Creator used the interaction of sunlight and water to introduce an earthly cycle by which water could morph between two different states: liquid and vapor. The liquid would generally flow on, and within, the surface, while the vapor would rise to celestial functions.

This was a heavenly arrangement, although it was happening on crude earth—pretty cool, definitely an improvement over the old lump. Let us just call it day and night. Makes sense to me. You?

Creator was inspired, and so, kept going with it, stirring the flowing waters, gathering them together and thus separating the water from a new thing that was emerging—dry land.

Formless

Thus did we have earth and seas. Once again. . . pretty cool, and btw, cooling; by this stage, progressive processes had definitely been set into motion to produce something worthy of a good narrative.

RockStory

But Creator didn’t stop there. Next thing you know, from out of this developing earth—this interplay between light and dark, active and passive, wet and dry—here comes a new kind of stuff having the coding wherewithal to sprout new stuff never before seen or heard of. Long story short—plant life that could and would regenerate itself on a regular purpose so that Creator could go on to bigger and better things. Awesome!

Jungle1

Through the veggies and their seeds, it was obvious that things were getting better on earth, through the continuing interplay of this very predictable, dependable alternating cycle between light and dark, day and night, active and passive, living and dying.

All in all, not bad for a day’s work, as we say out here in flyover country.

But, hey, that was just the beginning. . .

SSetBrite

Glass half-Full

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

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

Life~Trouble~Tragedy~Music!

April 13, 2019

In chapter 18 of King of Soul, we encounter one exploration of how music arises from human life.

In the year 1969, Professor Victor Komienko explains to his Music Appreciation class how a certain kind of music may arise:

“The University is the Defender of  high standards in all of the arts; music is no exception. In the slings and arrows of outrageous  intrusion, the best standards of the ages are maintained at the Conservatory, or as we have here, the University. This is a college where the fundamentals of performance are passed on to the next generation of musicians, and where time-tested principles of effective composition are taught. At the same time, the Conservatory—or  University—retains and extends those foundations, so that appropriately innovative works can be brought forth.” Dr. Komienko looked up to the top row of the auditorium; he surveyed his class purposefully from the top row down. The baton in his hand tapped out a quick little rhythm on the podium.

“Do you have any questions so far?”

Teddy, halfway up the center aisle, raised his hand.

“Mr. Scher, of course you would have a question.”

“How do you feel about electrified instruments?”

“You are asking about electric guitars?”

“Yes, sir.”

“As you know, electric guitars have a high profile in contemporary popular music. As for their use in the classical legacy, we have not yet seen it. I will say, however, there is an indirect influence insofar as some of the big jazz bands of the 1930’s, such as Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway.  The electric guitar, used primarily as a rhythm instrument, has become a standard part of their jazz arrangements.

“George Gershwin has included in some of his compositions rhythms and melodic figures that originate with the Negro music, which has been brought over, as we know, from Africa. Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue is the most notable example of this influence. The sound of the electric guitar itself, as an instrument, has not yet been heard to any extent that I know of.

“Traditionally, the guitar, unamplified as an acoustic instrument, has found an honorable place in the classical repertoire, most notably in the works of Spanish composers such as Segovia, and  Rodrigo.”

Teddy Scher raised his hand again.

“Yes?” Dr. Komienko responded, with a slightly disconcerted tone.

“Have you heard that the London Symphony has performed with the Moody Blues?”

“I have heard that they have done that. I have not heard any of the recordings. Thank you, Mr. Scher, for bringing that to my attention. We must, however, move forward with our syllabus now. Today, we will listen to a selection from the Italian Baroque period, Vivaldi’s Summer movement of the Four Seasons.

“The composer wrote notes to communicate to the orchestra the character of the music. In this case, Vivaldi had written a poem, which included the image of a shepherd boy being frightened by the fury of a thunderstorm. Vivaldi evokes, in the music, the fearsome effect of that storm. Additionally, he wrote at the top of this score—the piece you are about to hear—this musical instruction: Tempo Impetuoso. What does that tell you? Let’s listen to it, and perhaps  we will comprehend just what the composer was indicating by the use of that descriptor, Impetuoso. I do believe, Mr. Scher, that you will agree with me after hearing it, that, in some ways, Antonio Vivaldi was a forerunner of the rock music genre, which is driven, in its 20-th century heart, by that”—the professor raised his hands, indicating quotation marks with his fingers—’electric guitar you mention.’

“Of course, there were no electric guitars in Vivaldi’s day. However, in this case—the piece you are about to hear—I believe that same impetuous spirit of a present-day  lead guitarist was resident in a virtuoso  solo violinist of that day, whoever he might have been at the time.

“The violin concerto—commonly  called  Le Quattro Stagioni, or the Four Seasons—was originally named by Vivaldi, in 1725, as Il Cimento dell’ Armonia e dell’ Invenzione , or translated, The Contest of Harmony and Invention. Perhaps, as you listen to this selection from it, you can surmise why the composer considered this work to represent a contest—or a sort of dual—between conventional notions of what music should be, as opposed to what music is as it is created and performed by the impetuous innovator—in this case, the soloist. Such  is the perennial contest, from age to age, between art that is generally acknowledged as appropriate and new art that is thought to be too disruptive.

“Now listen, and hear if you can, , the composer’s prescient gleaning of what music might become two and a half centuries later.  Arnold, please roll the tape. . .”

You will find one demonstration of this phenomenon here:

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

 

King of Soul