Archive for the ‘life and death’ Category

Getting old

October 10, 2019

Are you booting up a brave new world

or slogging in a new slave world?

You who would be brave or slave—

snickery snob or clueless knave?

Catching the new wave

or just trying to behave?

You filling your Capitalist bag,

or flying the Socialist flag?

Working for wages, or plotting for profits?

You dumbing down, or heeding the prophets?

Will you work as selective

or labor in a collective?

With more .gov or less?

destined for worst or best.

You protesting in public space,

or praying in private grace?

All things being equal,

are you satisfied or freakful?

Living as privileged  elite

or just dancing to the rabble beat?

Striving for the common or the proprietary?

will you eat fattening or dietary?

Or maybe you be in shadowland like me

wishing for what was instead of what will be.

Winds of change blow hot and cold;

Will you stay young, or like me, grow old?

Winds of change blow foul and fair;

Are you ready to turn to dust or air?

Winds of change are hard to read;

Can you face them without a creed?

Day of death casts us in the hole;

Will you fall to dust, or rise in soul?

Hollowc

Smoke

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From Andalusia to Zagreb

August 24, 2019

Breeze blew ‘cross Byzantium

   ages ago,

passing passion along from ancient souls

   o’er peninsulas and shoals.

From Alexandria to Andalusia

   it blew the Medi stirring of our arcane East

   by westward winds past the European feast.

So it drifted between Aranjuez and Zagreb

   in periodic flow and ebb

   with rhythmic ebb and flow

   through passionnata on stringéd bow . . .

   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g91kQyy4G7E.

   . . . at providential and the muse’ behest,

   and set in sculpting stone: eternal rest;

   portraying Piéta Jesu through Michelangelo,

  Pieta

   as still the women come and go

   ‘cross Eliot’s wasteland scenario.

From Ave Maria in Madrid

   this opus we/they did;

   even SaintSaens’ secular Swan

   summons that age-old bond:

   reflecting melancholic tension

   in existential apprehension

   again and again and again;

   the passion passes

   through striving laborious hands

   in colored or melodic strands.

On moonlit nights;

   sonata strains reflect the light

   from hand to frantic hand

   and back again.

Did history require

   two world wars

   and a string of smaller frays

   to say

   our living legacy dies daily?

Yet does our living tragedy thrive daily,

   in this human soul of frailty.

Why even a saintless ’60’s Superstar

   drove our anguished digression,

   our zeitgeist obsession,

   as passion passed through

   rejected hands again

   as passion passed through

   conflicted lives again

   as passion passes through

   immigrant pathos again

   and again and again

   to reveal those nail-scarred hands again

Again.

   Must be something to it;

   we should not eschew it:

Those despiséd and rejected ones of men–

   again and again and again:

   the passing man of sorrow,

   yesterday, today, tomorrow—

   the woman acquainted with grief,

   through death that steals in like a thief

   the stranger and the strange,

Again and again and again.

Must be something to it;

   we should not eschew it.

Glass half-Full

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

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

Corals and Us

May 21, 2019

Corals build:  secreting  calcium carbonate aragonite structural coenosteum through living coenosarc tissue situated between corallite cups, to form coral reef.

Shore

In this way, the coral grows and grows, and grows . . .

(Thank you Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coral 

We build too: We stack stones arrange rocks mix mud mix mortar concoct concrete lay block lay brick blah blah blah

ShoreBuild

We walk out from our built structures. Corals do not; they remain in their little aragonite colony that they have built.

Corals stay while we stroll.

From a distance, them corals don’t look like anything alive. They just look like rocks.

But they are colonies of living critters,

Coral

and they help other living critters to stay alive.

Including us. Corals break up the wave action so we can build our stuff on the beach. Even more than that, they can, over long periods of time, build whole islands for us to dwell upon and enjoy.

When the ocean recedes from corals, they dry up and die. It is only then when we can walk around on them and live on their vast skeleton structure islands.

So we understand that when corals die, they leave that coral colony structure as their legacy—their gift to us and to the rest of the world.

And they don’t even know it.

When we die, we also leave a legacy.

The coral ought to be part of our legacy. We ought to leave the coral for our kids. Don’t step on it; don’t poison it. Let it grow.

Think of that sign you may see while riding on the highway. Referring to the workman who build and improve our roads, it says:

Let ‘em work. Let ‘em live.

Because even though the corals don’t look like it, the corals are alive and working all the time, building habitat for their fellow ocean inhabitants— the fishes and all them other water creatures— and building reefs to protect our islands, and building a fascinating shore world for us to gaze up while strolling on the beach.

Them corals . . . you gotta love ‘em. They just keep quietly doing their thing. Not like us who get all hot ’n bothered about stuff.

Glass half-Full

The Fierce Circle of Power

March 5, 2019

Power in the modern State/Nation/Union runs around in a big circle.

Circle

As in a big atom-smasher, where charged-up sub-atomic particles race to oblivion, or to wherever it is that electrons and protons and quarks and neutrinos and cheerios go when they manifest at the speed of light transforming between energy and matter . . . between things falling apart and things hanging together. . .

Power in the modern State cycles around, and is transformed, into greater and greater levels of constructivity. And, unfortunately, destructivity.

On one side of the Circle is Left, and on the other is Right.

The two sides meet at top and bottom.  At these two polarities—top and bottom—Left and Right merge together in a region  where Left and Right are indistinguishable, for instance . . .

A Government in which Democrat and Republican allow neutrally pragmatic institutions for the sake of productivity and increase.

A State in which Socialist and Capitalist tolerate similar policies that do not violate  their diverging identities.

A Regime where  Left and Right achieve tolerance, mimicking each other in their tactics.

Now looking back, a lifetime ago . . .

At the top, leaders and their agents at the peak of diplomacy met with the other side to do business, but unknowingly made arrangements that passively allow harm to all the citizens of the world who would soon get caught in the crossfire.

And a few years later. . .

An Agreement in which Communist and Fascist coexisted, militarily, for about two years, by means of a sham treaty . . .

A Treaty in which, 80 years ago, a Communist and a Nazi tyranny attacked and plundered the Polish nation that lay between them.

Then, years after that initial double-sided invasion . . .

Allied  armies later penetrated the morass of Power, bringing to light of day the deplorable bottom where Nazi concentration camps were found,  and later, Communist gulags. These hellhole prisons were established by both sides, for purposes of controlling both their peoples by means of the same criminally cruel imprisonments and executions.

Because Left and Right made no difference in their tortuous abuses of mankind.

At that low point, persecution, torture, imprisonment, pain and death are the same whether they’re inflicted by a damn Communist or a damn Nazi.

More generally, however. . .

These days, at the Top

of our hypothetical circle we catch sight of moderate players who manage to do their moderating thing  in spite of the treacherous slippery slope curvature of the two sides.

And at the Bottom—in the pit of both sides’ dubious or even despicable practices, the tactical crimes common to both extremities are occasionally uncovered, identifiable as the same  atrocities.

Because Left and Right make no difference, at their extremities, in their manipulations and abuses of mankind.

At what is perhaps our present High point, everybody seems to be chugging along in a globalized quasi-peace.

But at some future a Low point, persecution, torture, imprisonment, pain and death will be the same whether they’re inflicted by a Socialist or a Fascist, a Democrat or a Republican,  by a whacko shootist or a jihadist terrorist.

At some other low point of history, armies representing Truth and Justice—if there is such a thing in this circle— will be required again, to blast their way into the cycle of hellish human history, and liberate those prisoners who are caught in the crossfire.

Even now, the widening gyre,  the next circle, gathers speed to ramp up to dizzying velocity, delivering at some dismal low point of human depravity a new deposit of deplorable arrests and atrocities, accumulating in the pit where innocent souls get caught in the crossfire, deprived of justice and mercy.

Beware. On the last go-round, the pit could be bottomless.

Get ready to meet your maker. If you don’t acknowledge the Maker . . .well,  good luck with that. May the bird of paradise fly up your nose until it all hits the fan.

King of Soul

Baby Boomers’ Labor Lament

February 5, 2019

Here’s a little ditty of a rhyme to be sung to the tune of . . .

Oh Home on the Range,

a song from back in the days of Davy Crockett, Howdy Doody, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans . . .

Oh give me a loan

so I can buy a home

where our kids and their friends can play,

where seldom is heard

a contentious word

and the mortgage is paid before my dying day.

Oh give me a job

so I won’t have to rob

from  Pete to pay Paul,

and so I’ll pay no interest on the cards;

and never shall we fall

on  bad times at all,

And I won’t have to work too damn hard.

BuildingUp

Oh give me job security

by the time I reach maturity

so our competence is not made obsolete,

and the skills we were taught

don’t get replaced by a bot;

and my dignity doesn’t just lapse in defeat.

Oh give me a timely upgrade

so my life’s work doesn’t fade

on the trash heap of obsolescence.

Oh please let me try

to outsmart the AI,

so my time’s not spent out in the dread convalescence.

King of Soul

Dr. King remembered

January 21, 2019

I was a white boy growing up in the deep south.

In my life, 1951 . . .  a vivid memory stands out: the remembrance of this brave man:

MLKing

. . . his life, his work, his service to mankind, his leadership in the perilous project of fulfilling our Creator’s call to

. . . bring good news to the afflicted, . . . to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to prisoners . . . (Isaiah 61:1)

In my lifetime, I can think of no other American who demonstrated greater courage than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He persisted tirelessly in the sacred call to blaze a trail of opportunity for oppressed people. He persevered in the face of certain death, as he fully understood the vengeful opposition of other men–white and black–who  ultimately took him down.

The name assigned to him at birth, King, was appropriate, as he went on to conduct the life of a true leader, a born leader, an orator, an organizer who truly fulfilled  the declaration of our nation’s founding principles:

 We find these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,  that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

In my lifetime, I can recall no other person who more deserves annual remembrance during a national holiday. Although he had his faults, his own sins as we all do,  he was a man of whom this world was not worthy.  In this world, he helped God and fellowman to “make a way where there is no way.” He blazed a trail toward that “equal” status mentioned by Mr. Jefferson and the Continental Congress when they composed our Declaration back in 1776.

I looking forward to meeting Dr. King in heaven, or whatever call it. Many years ago, I wrote this song about him and an ancient leader named Moses:

Mountaintop

Dr. King remembered

January 18, 2019

I was a white boy growing up in the deep south.

In my life, 1951 . . .  a vivid memory stands out: the remembrance of this brave man:

MLKing

. . . his life, his work, his service to mankind, his leadership in the perilous project of fulfilling our Creator’s call to

. . . bring good news to the afflicted, . . . to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to prisoners . . . (Isaiah 61:1)

In my lifetime, I can think of no other American who demonstrated greater courage than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He persisted tirelessly in the sacred call to blaze a trail of opportunity for oppressed people. He persevered in the face of certain death, as he fully understood the vengeful opposition of other men–white and black–who  ultimately took him down.

The name assigned to him at birth, King, was appropriate, as he went on to conduct the life of a true leader, a born leader, an orator, an organizer who truly fulfilled  the declaration of our nation’s founding principles:

 We find these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,  that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

In my lifetime, I can recall no other person who more deserves annual remembrance during a national holiday. Although he had his faults, his own sins as we all do,  he was a man of whom this world was not worthy.  In this world, he helped God and fellowman to “make a way where there is no way.” He blazed a trail toward that “equal” status mentioned by Mr. Jefferson and the Continental Congress when they composed our Declaration back in 1776.

I looking forward to meeting Dr. King in heaven, or whatever you call it. Many years ago, I wrote this song about him and an ancient leader named Moses:

Mountaintop

The Meaning of Suffering

January 11, 2019

In this life, suffering is part of the territory.

We must learn to deal with it.

God told Cain that sin was crouching at his door and that he must “master it.”

Cain did not oppose the bitter/resentful part of himself. Rather, he took his bitterness out on someone else—his brother. He killed Abel.

People who allow the bitter badness of this life to defeat their attitude–those people end up taking their frustration out on other people.

A person who has been corrupted by his own bitterness/anger will likely turn to destructive behavior to express his/her frustration.  That person may concoct an evil plan to hurt/ kill some person who has gotten in their way.  Or worse yet, that person may go ballistic, sociopathic, and decide to go on shooting spree before turning the gun on himself.

If we do not cope with suffering, if we do not contend the resulting resentment, it will master us, instead of us mastering it. 

If and when that happens—if the urge to extract vengeance takes control of us—instead of us controlling it—we buckle under the pressure and things get worse.

Such evil also manifests collectively in historical ways. In the 1930’s-40’s, the Nazis took out their bitterness agains other Europeans who had previously defeated them militarily. They also embodied depravity by inflicting their hyped-up vengeance against Jews, because they entertained the lie that Jews were responsible for their social/cultural failures.

The fundamental struggle in this life—both individually and collectively— is to somehow accept that shit happens (we will have a certain amount of suffering) and then contend against own bitterness, and thereby defeat the urge to take out our troubles on others.

This requires a certain acceptance of suffering. No person escapes it entirely.

Understand that suffering is a part of life. Trouble is built in, because (in my view) opposing it builds godly character.

So we must overcome the urge to blame others for our troubles. We need to take responsibility for our own lives—our own failures, as well as our own successes.

But it’s not easy; we need help.

The follower of Christ realizes that we cannot undertake that battle without our Creator’s help.

Like it or not, God has constructed this life in such a way that we must admit our inadequacy and turn to Him for help, so as to overcome the destructive influences of this world instead of turning those destructions on other people.

And he has given us his Son, who contended with evil and suffering to the nth degree—to the very end of his own tortured life—in order to demonstrate that suffering is not meaningless. It’s just part of the territory in this world, especially if we resolve to do any “good.”

Furthermore, the inevitable death that is the result of this troublesome life–that dreaded death lands us–if you can allow yourself to believe it– in a place that is even greater than this present life—resurrection into eternal life.

So accept that this life is difficult, and suffering is part of the territory, and don’t take out your anger on others. Do unto them what you would have them do unto you.

Life ain’t no bowl of cherries. That much is plain to see. It’s no walk in the park.

Deal with it. Master it. Turn it over to the one who endured the absolute worst suffering as a consequence of his living  life totally void of destructive resentment. Otherwise you may hurt yourself badly; and if that is not enough you may hurt someone else. Don’t go down that path.

Rather,  when you find yourself at the crossroads of bitterness and injustice, take up the deepest challenge that this life presents. Accept your suffering  willingly. Endure, persevere while manifesting love and goodwill, and thereby defeat the urge to do wrong to others and to yourself.

King of Soul