“I realize in the end that I am probably powerless to affect the outcome of even the least thing that happens, but nevertheless, and in spite of myself, as if in an act of blind faith, I want to assume full responsibility . . .” ~ Paul Auster from Disappearances – Selected Poems

Blacksburg, VA, by zachstern (FCC)

                   

“All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsions, habit, reason, passion, desire.” ~ Aristotle

Late Saturday afternoon. Overcast, low 50’s.

Second day on antibiotics. My chest still feels as if it’s in a vise, though. The cough is more painful today than anytime in the last week. Go figure. Still, I thought that I would try to bang out a post. We’ll see how far this goes.

Winter in Blacksburg, VA, by bwhistler (FCC)

By the way, do you like the new header? It’s from a photograph that I took last February when Brett and I were wandering around Forest Lawn Cemetery. Let me know.

I’ve had to restart the computer twice so far today. Perhaps computers are like people in that as they get older, they are more affected by the weather: cold and damp, hard to move . . . Perhaps I am anthropomorphizing again. Probably the latter.

I woke up to migraines today and yesterday, or it might be more accurate to say that the migraines awakened me. I don’t know if the Botox is already wearing off or if the bronchitis cough is the cause. I’m really hoping that I have at least another month on the Botox. It would really suck if the shots only lasted for less than six weeks.

I had planned to decorate the house this weekend, but that’s going to have to wait. Maybe sometime this week, but Corey has to work the next five days in a row, so I’m not sure if decorating will happen. More of the wait and see mode. He also has his biology final this Thursday, so it will be a very busy week for him.

ODU finals start next week and then break. Eamonn already had his final in medical terminology. I’m so glad that he finished at least one of the classes; of course, both would have been nice, but I’ll take what I can get at this point.

“Out of my wounds they have made stars:
Each is an eye that looks on you” ~ James K. Baxter, from Howrah Bridge

I’ve been thinking about stars. I’ve had a lot of sky pictures show up on my tumblr dash recently, some really beautiful shots of galaxies, nebulas, night skies. I want to live somewhere that in which I can look up and see a myriad of stars and galaxies, unpolluted by lights from the city and the suburbs. I want to be able to drink in the heavens, the boundless beauty of light and color.

Grand Canyon Night Sky by kern.justin (FCC)

I remember when I was in graduate school in Blacksburg, we lived in an apartment on a hill, and the night view seemed to stretch on forever. I remember the sound of the train horn echoing in the middle of the night. Sounds from sirens were few and far between. Life was so completely effortless then: school, studies, friends. Open spaces and cold mountain air. We lived on $7500 a year, and that was probably the best year in my marriage to my ex.

After that, life intervened. Obligations to people and things mounted. Possessions grew. Simplicity faded away and never returned. When we are in the midst of happiness, we never realize it. Few of us are in touch with ourselves enough to know that this moment here, this experience, is perfection, that this slice of life will never be replicated, can never again come close to the periphery of our existence.

Retrospect alone offers us truth and perspective. The now slips away, eludes us—we are such transient creatures, appreciating more that which we have already lived.

“We can speak without voice to the trees and the clouds and the waves of the sea. Without words they respond through the rustling of leaves and the moving of clouds and the murmuring of the sea.” ~ Paul Tillich

Duck Pond at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA (WC)

A few memories of that time:

  • Eating homemade Brunswick stew by an open fire with other graduate students from the department
  • Crying as I walked through a snowfall after learning that John Lennon had been killed
  • Making a bottle of wine last longer than possible
  • Driving my car into a vast countryside, completely undeveloped, almost getting lost

Don’t misunderstand. I do not long for the relationship with my ex, but I do long for that simplicity. I long for the hunger I had back then, a constant hunger for new things, new tastes, new smells, new people.

I approached life so differently then. It’s not the youth that I long for, but perhaps the openness of youth. Not to be so jaded. Not to be so cynical. Not to be completely inured to life’s foibles.

I don’t know. I seem to be rambling. I cannot quite grasp the words to describe what it is that I am thinking. Sorry. I’m not sure if I can finish this post. I had thought that I knew what I wanted to say, but . . .

I’ll try again tomorrow. I know the poem is long, but it seemed appropriate.

More later. Peace.

Music by J. S. Bach, “Cello Suite No. 1, i, Prelude, performed by Mischa Maisky

                   

Finding the Space in the Heart

I first saw it in the sixties,
driving a Volkswagen camper
with a fierce gay poet and a
lovely but dangerous girl with a husky voice,
we came down from Canada
on the dry east side of the ranges. Grand Coulee, Blue
Mountains, lava flow caves,
the Alvord desert—pronghorn ranges—
and the glittering obsidian-paved
dirt track toward Vya,
seldom-seen roads late September and
thick frost at dawn; then
follow a canyon and suddenly open to
          silvery flats that curved over the edge
          O, ah! The
          awareness of emptiness
          brings forth a heart of compassion!
We followed the rim of the playa
to a bar where the roads end
and over a pass into Pyramid Lake
from the Smoke Creek side,
by the ranches of wizards
who follow the tipi path.
The next day we reached San Francisco
in a time when it seemed
the world might head a new way.
And again, in the seventies, back from
Montana, I recklessly pulled off the highway
took a dirt track onto the flats,
got stuck—scared the kids—slept the night,
and the next day sucked free and went on.
Fifteen years passed. In the eighties
With my lover I went where the roads end.
Walked the hills for a day,
looked out where it all drops away,
discovered a path
of carved stone inscriptions tucked into the sagebrush
          “Stomp out greed”
          “The best things in life are not things”
words placed by an old desert sage.
Faint shorelines seen high on these slopes,
long gone Lake Lahontan,
cutthroat trout spirit in silt—
Columbian Mammoth bones
four hundred feet up on the wave-etched
          beach ledge; curly-horned
                    desert sheep outlines pecked into the rock,
and turned the truck onto the playa
heading for know-not,
bone-gray dust boiling and billowing,
mile after mile, trackless and featureless,
let the car coast to a halt
on the crazed cracked
flat hard face where
winter snow spirals, and
summer sun bakes like a kiln.
Off nowhere, to be or not be,
          all equal, far reaches, no bounds.
          Sound swallowed away
          no waters, no mountains, no
          bush no grass and
                    because no grass
          no shade but your shadow.
          No flatness because no not-flatness.
          No loss, no gain. So—
          nothing in the way!
          —the ground is the sky
          the sky is the ground,
          no place between, just
 
          wind-whip breeze,
          tent-mouth leeward,
          time being here.
          We meet heart to heart,
          leg hard-twined to leg,
                    with a kiss that goes to the bone.
          Dawn sun comes straight in the eye. The tooth
          of a far peak called King Lear.
 
Now in the nineties desert night
          —my lover’s my wife—
old friends, old trucks, drawn around;
great arcs of kids on bikes out there in darkness
          no lights—just planet Venus glinting
by the calyx crescent moon,
and tasting grasshoppers roasted in a pan.
 
          They all somehow swarm down here—
          sons and daughters in the circle
          eating grasshoppers grimacing,
 
singing sūtras for the insects in the wilderness,
 
—the wideness, the
foolish loving spaces
 
full of heart.
 
          Walking on walking,
                    under foot   earth turns
 
          Streams and mountains never stay the same.
 
 
 
 
                              The space goes on.
                              But the wet black brush
                              tip drawn to a point,
                                       lifts away.

“The belief that one’s own view of reality is the only reality is the most dangerous of all delusions.” ~ Paul Watzwalick

  

                The Fuhrer Quartett: German Card Game Featuring 32 Despots . . .                 Updated Version of Go Fish

 

Harris Poll (March 2010) found that
67 percent of Republicans polled believe that Obama is a socialist
45 percent believe Obama was not born in the United States
38 percent say that Obama is “doing many of the things that Hitler did”
24 percent believe that Obama is the antichrist, a biblical figure who foretells the end of the world.

You have probably noticed that I have a problem with the misuse of words, the bastardization of language, the misrepresentation of terms. I believe that if I am going to use a word, I should at least have a passing acquaintance with its definition and application, and most certainly, that should be the case with anyone. Therefore, I feel a pressing need to expound on the word tyrant and its companion word tyranny.  

Tyrant is being bandied about willy nilly by many politicians, would-be politicians, and politicos, and I fear that most of those using the word really do not know what it means. Tyrant derives from the Latin tyrannus, meaning “sole ruler.” The term did not have a negative connotation until 5th century Athens, at which time democrats identified tyrants as those with uncontrolled power. “They easily became violent and mean despots, surrounded by sycophants. Democracy, in this philosophy, was the exact opposite: people were free to speak and power was controled and balanced” (Livius).  

“The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy” ~ Charles de Montesquieu
Mao Card in The Fuhrer Quartett

In its most basic sense, a tyrant is a person who seizes power without the means of constitutional or hereditary power. In the classic sense, Plato and Aristotle define a tyrant as  “one who rules without law, looks to his own advantage rather than that of his subjects, and uses extreme and cruel tactics—against his own people as well as others.”  

A tyrant places the interests of an oligarchy over the interests of the general population. To clarify, an oligarchy exists when power resides in a small, elite segment of society that wields control for selfish purposes; the oligarchy may be members who are tied by wealth, bloodlines, religious disposition, or who are members of the military, not to be confused with a democracy, which is rule by smaller groups representing the masses by winning power through public support (elections). The main difference between an oligarchy and a democracy is that power can be challenged in a democracy. Aristotle used the term oligarchy negatively to refer to a debased form of aristocracy in which power was in the hands of a few corrupt individuals.  

Historically, several names instantly come to mind when speaking of Tyrants: Mao, Stalin, Hitler, Lenin, Mussolini, Idi Amin, Pol Pot. The main thread that ties these rulers together is death. I read one article that compared Mao, Stalin and Hitler by the number of people who died under their regimes:

  Deaths Killings Murders
Mao 40 million 10m 10m
Hitler 34 million 34m 15m
Stalin 20 million 20m 20m

  

However, these numbers have factors that affect the totals. For example, under Mao’s rule, almost 30 million people died from famine. Hitler’s totals include those who were casualties of WWII. Statistics on tyrants vary widely. Take Idi Amin, better known as The Butcher of Uganda: The number of people who were killed, tortured, and/or imprisoned by the dictator is listed at anywhere from 100 to 500,000. That’s quite a variance.  

Different sources contend that Pol Pot, leader of the Khmer Rouge, killed anywhere from 1.5 to 2 million Cambodians from 1974 to 1979. Pol Pot’s attempt to form  a Communist peasant farming society resulted in the deaths of 21 to 25 percent of the country’s population from starvation, overwork and executions.  

“It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice.” ~ Henry A. Wallace

Okay, why the history lesson? I think that opening today’s news and reading Boehner’s declaration that a “political rebellion” akin to the American revolution of 1776 is brewing kind of set the tone for my day. I mean, every single day I read yet another quote calling President Obama, Democrats, and progressive Republicans tyrants. Take this gem:  

“If you are one of those pastors who willfully allow yourself to be used as an agent by some hypothetical tyrannical government to enable an illegal government to carry out their tyranny against the American people you will be guilty of treason . . . What Obama, the Democrats, and the willing weak Republicans are doing is the same as many of the things the King of England was doing. They are enemies of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. A final word – Resistance against tyranny is not rebellion. It is righteous!”   

Or this:  

“I’m interested in saving our republic from tyranny, ‘Obamacare’ tyranny, any kind of tyranny.”  

Or this:  

“Obama’s Health Care Reform Bill along with numerous other actions and proposals are no different than the tyranny from the Crown of England against our forefathers. He and his Marxist allies in Congress and the media need to be quickly retired.”  

Marxist allies? Wait. Is he a socialist or a communist? They aren’t the same thing, you know. No wait. You obviously don’t know.  

end of part one . . .

  

Music by Ray Charles, “Drown in My Tears”