Posts Tagged ‘order’

The Castle Paradox

March 20, 2018

Once upon a time, and oh, so far, far away from these here United States, many of our ancestors lived and worked in the Old Country.

It was a feudal society over there. The royal houses would feud among themselves while their servants labored to bring home the bacon.

Back then, the countries had not even assembled themselves into nations yet. The lands of the Old Country were divided into kingdoms and fiefdoms. Vast estates were owned and ruled by kings and queens, princes and princesses, dukes and duchesses. In the domain of each royal arrangement, lords and ladies would call the shots, while their loyal serfs and vassals would toil every day, out in the hinterlands amongst the hedgerows and fields where they produced a bounty of crops and goods. In this manner, everybody—the royals and the peasants— were fed and housed, and even in some cases fat ’n happy.

Or so the story has been told. . . once upon a time, in a land far, far away.

By ’n by, the times they were a-changin’ and all things became different from what they had been before.

Fresh breezes of liberty swept through the hearts and minds of men and women. Notions of liberty and equality arose among the people. These zeitgeist winds of change compelled many a former  vassal to cast off the ancient bonds of indentured servitude. Many a craftsman forsook the security of the royal house, to move into town and set up shop. Striking out on their own, many a blacksmith, many a weaver, butcher, baker and candlestickmaker established paths of industrious productivity of their own, apart and independent from the Old Order.

And a New Order arose in the Old Country.

Long about this time, folks heard about a new place called America, and . . . well, you know the story. All this  American stuff that you see around us now rose up in about two or three hundred years, whereas the heavily stratified infrastructure of the Old World had taken two or three thousand years to develop.

By ’n by, here in America, we got fed up with King George and his taxing shenanigans. We threw his red-coated soldiers out, sent ‘em packing back to Britain with their tail between their legs.

Our American revolution was no small accomplishment. A lot of our people, having caught a whiff of that Enlightened wind, got inspired toward liberty big time, and so we took up our muskets and fought our way to independence. Many a minute man and backwoods farmer died while defeating them redcoats at Bunker Hill and Yorktown and Valley Forge.

But really it was a walk in the park compared to the bloody French Revolution, which came a few years later in the Old Country. Those madcap peasants chopped the king’s head off and the queen’s head and a lot of other royal heads, heads of privilege, heads of power, even a bunch of innocent heads, because the rabble crowds, so caught up in their egalitarian frenzy went plum crazy once the blood started to flow in the streets and sewers of Paris. Those furious French shocked their way into the 19th-century, whereas we merely fought our way into it.

You see, those French revolutionaries were dealing with ancient bands of power that went way back in time; there was huge institutional baggage that they felt they had to throw out with all those bloody royal heads.

Whereas, we here in America only had to send the king and his army packin’ back to England. Once we had gotten rid of them, we only had a vast, undeveloped virgin contintent to deal with.

We had four thousand miles of opportunity stretched westward before us, whereas the proletarians of Europe had thousands of years of old habits and old baggage to try to reconstruct in order to usher in a New Order. Those former vassals found themselves with a lot of unpleasant work to do before they could see their way clear to this new thing called democracy and/or republic. (Actually the liberating notions were  very old, but that’s another story, a Greek and Roman one.)

Well, by ’n by, the times were a changin’ . . . but sometimes things have to take a few steps backward before the forward motion cranks up again.

Whereas, in the Olden days Once upon a time, all the peasants were gathered around a castle, now it seems we’ve found, in our modern liberty,  ourselves a new castle to gather around. . .

CastleD

Now that every man is a king, every woman a queen of her own destiny, now that every son is a prince and every daughter a princess, the New Order has morphed into a revised version of the Old Order. What goes around comes around. Take your place on the great Mandela. Millions of us from all over the world congregate at a New Castle every year, yearning for something special, hoping to find something magical, wishing upon a star . . .

What is it we’re really wishing for?

King of Soul

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Order minus Chaos = Passion

October 31, 2012

As I was listening to WDAV today, an airy figment of Telemann music  traveled through the radio and struck  my ears. As it happened, the music plucked upon my very soul and, there I was, unexpectedly in the middle of the day,  transported for a few minutes, back into the 18th century.

Not literally, of course, but in my mind. My thoughts escaped this present  world of  work and woe, and took refuge in an age long gone, a era of reason and order, long before the rude disruptions of  world wars, global warmings and worldwide economic warnings.

Although there has always been an element of disarray and chaos in human activity, our hindsight view of the 1700s  encompasses a world where composers like Telemann or Bach or Handel or Antonio Vivaldi could be seated at a musical instrument and, through intense toil and otherworldly inspiration, impose cryptic inked symbols onto a paper manuscript and thereby draw some amazingly expressive order out of the vast cosmos, by constructing a great work of music.

My all-time favorite is Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Here’s the winter movement of it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uC-USAB530A&feature=related

Now, a few hours beyond that midday moment, the workday is over; the radio-induced flight of fancy has passed, and I sit at home sharing with you that time-travel moment–a sudden glimpse into 18th-century passion.

And I hope to remind us all that, out there in the midst of human noise and haste and confusion, someone somewhere has expressed passionate order by drawing it out of troublesome chaos. That happened three hundred years ago, and somewhere on earth, even now, some person or persons are deriving creative sense from the hopeless nonsense of our present world.

It’s a little bit like touching that moment when  Logos  spoke electromagnetic light into existence from the dark void.

 

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress

This here’s for the Rule of Law!

June 24, 2012

Whether or not they actually could, the people of the British empire sought to civilize the world. One could say, perhaps, that on a good day those loyal subjects of the realm were sauntering forth to bring to unruly distant lands the rule of law, the benefits of a well-constructed language, and good manners, not to mention cricket.

Or one could say that, on a bad day, those John Bull limeys were exploiting the indigenous peoples, robbing them of their ancient heritages, playing contractual tricks to abscond their homelands, and getting rich in the process.

And one would be correct on both counts. Such is the dual nature of civilized man: he is a scoundrel, even as he strives, or pretends to, follow his so-called better angels.

Ditto for us Americans, their bratty little brothers in this saga of colonializing world history. But hey, it is what it is, and that’s all that it is, so be that as it may, today or someday.

Nevertheless, one beneficial concept that the world has, IMHO, derived from the hegemonizing Brits, is the rule of law. Like the Romans before them, far-flung British representatives of the Crown have, in recent centuries, carried to the four corners of their known world the idea that justice should prevail, and men should be accountable, in a duly-appointed court of law, for their actions.

Therefore anarchy and mayhem are not permitted.

In British literature, a residual benefit of this principle is demonstrated by Robert Louis Stevenson in his classic story, Treasure Island.  I’ll not tell thee the tale, as thou must read it for thyself, or find a video of it somewhere online haha, as if there were such a thing.

Nevertheless, I’ll take thee in thy imagination, as author Stevenson did, down to a little island in some distant sea wherein lies a hidden treasure that was left behind during a dispute between some gentlemen of fortune, some of them honest, some of them not, but which is which, I’ll tell thee what–on second thought–suffice it say, some men were killed, and some got caught.

Years later, as the story is told, having obtained a map that could lead to the buried booty, a band of reputable fortune-seeking men have returned to the island to uncover the misplaced gold, which is a considerable weight of what’s called pieces of eight. And if’n you don’t know what that is, matey, go look it up on your wikipedia slate.

By and by, I’m a-comin’ to my point, lads n’ lassies, about the civilizing effects of the British empire. And this is how it happened:

There was, to state it plainly, a mutiny among the men. I don’t know how else to say it except that certain dirty/rotten scoundrels were led by their wolf-in-sheep’s clothing leader, Long John Silver, into the perfidy of lawless rebellion against the good Captain and the owners of the ship who were with him. And there was among the loyals the good lad, Jim Hawkins, cabin boy, who lived to tell the tale, whose account enables me to write it to thee.

Pirates is what they were, pure and simple–Long John Silver and his mutineers.

During the course of the dispute, an actual battle broke out between the two sides. The Captain and his loyal men had managed to occupy an old stockade. The contemptible buccaneers were planning to overpower them with muskets and swords and the ship’s cannon offshore, which they had occupied.

Immediately upon taking the stockade, the Captain had made it his first order of business to raise the Union Jack–the British flag– on a log-pole above the fort, although it might seem there could be more productive ways he could have spent his energy and precious time at that perilous moment.

Very soon the scumbag pirates began firing cannonballs at the stockade. This turn of events is told near the end of chapter 18 in the book. A ship’s owner speaks to Captain Smollett:

“Captain,” said the squire, “the house is quite invisible from the ship. It must be the flag they are coming at. Would it not be wiser to take it in?”

“Strike my colors!” cried the captain. “No, sir, not I”; and as soon as he had said the words, I think (the ship’s doctor is writing this. -ed.) we all agreed with him. For it was not only a piece of stout, seamanly, good feeling; it was good policy besides and showed our enemies that we despised their cannonade.

The good Captain, in so doing, was proclaiming to the scoundrels, and to the very world: This here ground we have taken is now for God and King! This here’s for law and order! We’ll not tolerate mayhem and rebellion! That’s our stand and we are stickin’ to it.

Now this particularly resolute act of the Captain had good effect, even beyond the mere declaration of it. Young Jim Hawkins, who had been separated from the ship’s loyal men, was out in the island somewhere, among the scrubby shrubs and sandy spits, trying to get to the stockade to rejoin his mates. And he had found, long story short, a wild island man who was not actually wild– though he appeared to be so with the scruffy beard and raggish coverings. This character, name of Ben Gunn,  had been marooned on the island by the former buccaneers, the ones who had left the treasure somewhere in the vicinity.

So, meanwhile, back at the outback part of the island where Hawkins and Gunn are dodging cannonballs and musket shots, old Ben says to young Jim, at the beginning of chapter 19:

As soon as Ben Gunn saw the colors he came to a halt, stopped me by the arm, and sat down.

“Now,” said he, “there’s your friends, sure enough.”

“Far more likely, it’s the mutineers,” I answered.

“That!” he cried. “Why, in a place like this, where nobody puts in but gen’lmen of fortune, Silver would fly the Jolly Roger, you don’t make no doubt of that. No, that’s your friends.”

Which is to say, the ringleader of the mutineers would not be flying the Union Jack. He would not be claiming ground for God and King. He would not be declaring by such actions: This here’s for the rule of law. Come ye to this flag and you shall find order, and justice, not mayhem and rebellion!Ben Gunn knew this, and he assured the cabin-boy that the Union Jack was reliable, and so. . .

It could come about that the ship’s doctor would later write:

“And I ran to the door in time to see Jim Hawkins, safe and sound, come climbing over the stockade.”

Thus had this incident made known, in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, the sanctuarial power of Brittania. God save the King, and the Queen, too!

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress