Mar 15, 2010

In "The Woods, Books and Truant officers" an essay included in the American Authors Series volume entitled Norman Maclean, edited by Ron McFarland and Hugh Nichols, Maclean says of A River Runs Through It and Other Stories:

"I meant these stories to be a record of how certain things were done just before the world of most of history ended---most of history being a world of hand and horse and hand tools and horse tools.  I meant to record not only how we did certain things well in that world now almost beyond recall, but how it felt to do those things well that are now slipping from our hands and memory.

Not nearly enough has been written, or perhaps not even thought, about this loss, about the fact that in the past 75 years or so that humankind has lost touch, pun very much intended, with the world, with that wherein our very Being has come about.  We are now "once removed" from our world, touching the world "virtually," and touching virtually nothing of the world.

Jan 1, 2010

In the interest of simplicity I have posted the link to "Zen Habits" instead of a long list of my goals and resolutions for 2010.  Unless you plan to write them down and remind me next January 1st, I doubt you really care about mine.  Hopefully, you care about yours and Leo is a good place to start if you want to simplify and succeed.

Dec 7, 2008

More thoughts on Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye

The Role of the Clean / Dirty Binary Opposition in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye

In The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison utilizes the binary opposition of clean / dirty, as defined by and reified by white society and accepted and internalized by the black community, to support the oppression of blacks by whites in early twentieth century America. This binary supports and reinforces the Beauty / Ugliness binary that is a significant source of power for the white, clean, beautiful privileged in the novel. The concept of cleanliness in the novel is marked as positive and as the term is used in the novel it often carries connotations of “whiteness.” Dirtiness and nastiness provide a mask or negative mark for the undesirable black people who, while they are no less clean (or on occasion cleaner) than white people, must be maintained in their role as less than their white counterparts. Morrison’s use of the ideas conceptualized in these binary oppositions enables her to utilize a set of concepts inscribed in a binary opposition that is already clearly established in twentieth century America as a power to oppress. She tells her story through a young girl in Lorain, Ohio who lives with her loving, whole, and connected family.

The primary narrator of the novel, Claudia MacTeer, struggles with the privileged elevation of cleanliness over dirt. Her characterization of cleanliness as irritable and unimaginative make it clear very early in the novel that clean and dirty are words charged with value both for Claudia and for the white society that places such a high value on cleanliness. The difference in the value she places on cleanliness and what she perceives as the privileged standards imposed by whites is evidenced in the negative experience of bathing associated with the Christmas she endures instead of the Christmas of her dreams.

Instead I tasted and smelled the acridness of tin plates and cups designed for tea parties that bored me. Instead I looked with loathing on new dresses that required a hateful bath in a galvanized zinc tub before wearing. Slipping around on the zinc, no time to play or soak, for the water chilled too fast, no time to enjoy one's nakedness, only time to make curtains of soapy water careen down between the legs. Then the scratchy towels and the dreadful and humiliating absence of dirt. The irritable, unimaginative cleanliness. Gone the ink marks from legs and face, all my creations and accumulations of the day gone, and replaced by goose pimples. Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye. New York: Plume, 1994, p. 22.

Claudia’s experience of cleanliness is one of separation from the extended family and of a foreign cleanliness cloaked in discomfort. It is in the absence of dirt that Claudia’s naked blackness, an innate and inescapable fact, is characterized as dreadful and humiliating. She immediately shifts from very intense personal feelings to a statement almost philosophical in tone that speaks to the importance of cleanliness in the novel. Her blackness unmasked is irritable in its cleanliness, not irritating, but irritable. It is irritable because she realizes that she will never be clean enough. That no number of hateful baths will make her more acceptable to a society that has determined her dirty and she cannot wash away the stain of blackness from her frangible self as she does the stains of ink she has inscribed upon herself. Her blackness, unmasked is made uncomfortable, and the moment of her coming of age as a black woman is foreshadowed. The word moment in this statement is multifaceted because in addition to its marking of a single small increment of time, it carries the meaning of a tendency or measure of a tendency to create motion. Claudia is moving toward submission to the privileged view of cleanliness as desirable and necessary to fit in. When Claudia speaks of cleanliness as unimaginative one might ask whose cleanliness is she talking about, and is it cleanliness at all, or is it rather some other quality or characteristic that she has chosen to attach to the word. Cleanliness is unimaginative in its representation of mindless conformity to values that have little to do with life in the poor black community. There is a sense of resignation in Claudia’s bathing. While she is clearly not invested in the system that reveres cleanliness, it is evident that she is resigned to the process of becoming clean. Her relationship to cleanliness is in flux and is a factor in the process of her socialization.

In her work that explores the grief that pervades the black experience in America, The Melancholy of Race, Anne Anlin Cheng examines the inability of African Americans in American society to fully participate in the “white ideal.” Cheng finds in Claudia MacTeer’s late found “delight in cleanliness” an ambivalence born of the damage done to black identity by the imposition of standards that even when accepted can never be met.

‘I learned much later to worship her, [Shirley Temple] just as I learned to delight in cleanliness, knowing, as I learned, that the change was adjustment without improvement.’ Is the concluding claim a statement about the self’s continued inability to assume fully that white ideal, a reminder of the “fraudulence” that in fact conditions this adulation, an acknowledgement of the self-harming that such “preference” engenders, or even a larger allusion to the idea of African American social progress itself.
--- The Melancholy of Race. Anne Anlin Cheng: Oxford University Press. New York. 2000.

Cheng has identified Toni Morrison’s technique of developing characters who live their lives in the world as drawn by the privileged white society that define the words, draw the lines and allocate the work while acknowledging all through the novel that the picture is clear only for those who view it from the position of privilege. Cheng has captured an excellent example of Morrison’s technique for providing hints to the reader that the view from the dark side of the binary is warped and ugly. Claudia learns that her change, her coming to accept the standard of beauty cannot be reconciled with the reality of her life and that adopting that standard may impede her survival in a society openly hostile to her since she can never fully accept something that so blatantly defines her as ugly.
The sentences that precede the line that Cheng quotes give insight into the painful path that Claudia had to follow to come to the fraudulent love for Shirley Temple and what she represents.

When I learned how repulsive this disinterested violence [that she harbored first toward white dolls and then toward little white girls] was, that it was repulsive because it was disinterested, my shame floundered about for refuge. The best hiding place was love. Thus the conversion from pristine sadism to fabricated hatred, to fraudulent love. Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye. New York: Plume, 1994, p. 22.

For Claudia, the worship of Shirley Temple, the inculcation of the oppressive value system that equated her blackness with dirtiness exists concurrent with the learned delight in cleanliness. What saves Claudia from Pecola’s fate, death of beauty by the imposition of ugliness, is her awareness that this change, this conforming to a value system is not improvement but an adjustment in order to survive.

Pecola Breedlove has a very different relationship with cleanliness. For Pecola, the world of clean comfort is separate and unattainable. She understands that the clean world, that environment where blond and blue-eyed Shirley Temple and Mary Jane live, is no place for a dirty little black girl. Pecola’s world is a voiceless world of invisibility. She lives unnoticed and unnoticeable and her world is a world of cracked sidewalks and weeds. Her world is so cold and isolated that even her anger flares and dies in a moment for in anger there is being, and Pecola cannot sustain it. She retreats instead into simple pleasure, orgasmic in its intensity, as she literally consumes the beauty she seeks and takes it into her body in the cheap candy with Mary Jane’s eyes.

Each pale yellow wrapper has a picture on it. A picture of little Mary Jane, for whom the candy is named. Smiling white face. Blond hair in gentle disarray, blue eyes looking at her out of a world of clean comfort. The eyes are petulant, mischievous. To Pecola they are simply pretty. She eats the candy, and its sweetness is good. To eat the candy is somehow to eat the eyes, eat Mary Jane. Love Mary Jane. Be Mary Jane. Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye. New York: Plume, 1994, p. 50.

Perhaps Pecola, of all Morrison’s characters in The Bluest Eye has been the most perfectly inseminated with the clean /dirty binary and its implications for her life. She can clearly see that the world of “Mary Jane” like the world of “Dick and Jane” has nothing to do with her, that it is foreign and separate. She is already fully aware that she inhabits an/other world than the world of clean comfort that is home to all the blond, blue-eyed Jane girls. Pecola lives in a world where she is born ugly, invisible to whites in her community, abandoned by her mother, despised by her schoolmates and stripped of her very existence as a unique human being by her father.
Pecola’s mother, Pauline Breedlove, has virtually abandoned Pecola to the dirty world of ugly reality and spends most of her time and almost all her energy in the clean comfort of the kitchen in the home of the white Fisher family. She relegates her family to the margins of her life and they are not even deserving of conscious consideration.

More and more she neglected her house, her children, her man— they were like the afterthoughts one has just before sleep, the early-morning and late-evening edges of her day, the dark edges that made the daily life with the Fishers lighter, more delicate, more lovely. Here she could arrange things, clean things, line things up in neat rows. Here her foot flopped around on deep pile carpets, and there was no uneven sound. Here she found beauty, order, cleanliness, and praise…. Pauline kept this order, this beauty, for herself, a private world, and never introduced it into her storefront, or to her children. Them she bent toward respectability, and in so doing taught them fear: fear of being clumsy, fear of being like their father, fear of not being loved by God, fear of madness like Cholly's mother's. Into her son she beat a loud desire to run away, and into her daughter she beat a fear of growing up, fear of other people, fear of life…. All the meaningfulness of her life was in her work. Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye. New York: Plume, 1994, p. 127.

Pauline Breedlove made good her escape from the dark margins of society in her work. She found fulfillment and she found access to the privileged existence from which she was barred in her own home. In the Fisher’s home she was powerful, exercising authority over her dominion of the kitchen, she became Polly, the ideal servant, revered, respected, and valued. But, it is in the Fisher’s kitchen that Polly backhands Pecola, knocking her down, and it is there she then soothes the tears of the “little pink-and-yellow” daughter of the house. When she is in her kitchen in the Fisher’s house, she is as intolerant and hateful toward the ugly black Pecola as if she were white.

Soon she stopped trying to keep her own house. The things she could afford to buy did not last, had no beauty or style, and were absorbed by the dingy storefront. More and more she neglected her house, her children, her man— they were like the afterthoughts one has just before sleep, the early-morning and late-evening edges of her day, the dark edges that made the daily life with the Fishers lighter, more delicate, more lovely. Here she could arrange things, clean things, line things up in neat rows. Here her foot flopped around on deep pile carpets, and there was no uneven sound. Here she found beauty, order, cleanliness, and praise. Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye. New York: Plume, 1994, p. 127.

Pauline accepted the values imposed by the oppressor. She accepted the ugliness and dirtiness of her family and attached herself to the white family in whose home she worked and truly lived. She put her life on hold each evening to go and perfunctorily discharge her familial duties.
Soaphead Church completes the task of alienation and destabilization of Pecola that her mother had begun. A perverted man, once a man of the cloth, of mixed parentage and heritage, Church used his education to attach himself to the black community and prey upon their superstitions as well as their children. His abuse of Pecola was perpetuated not only upon her defenseless body, but also upon her mind. It was his promise of blue-eyes as her reward for her part in the death of a tired old dog whose unclean presence offended Church that eventually drove Pecola to madness and complete dissociation.

And since he was too diffident to confront homosexuality, and since little boys were insulting, scary, and stubborn, he further limited his interests to little girls. They were usually manageable and frequently seductive. His sexuality was anything but lewd; his patronage of little girls smacked of innocence and was associated in his mind with cleanliness. He was what one might call a very clean old man. Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye. New York: Plume, 1994, p.166- 167.

Soaphead Church is the agent of Pecola’s slip into madness. In his “cleanliness,” in his being partially white and devoid of adult sexuality,
Church delivers his impact on the community and fulfills his role of oppressive marking of black children as valueless. Church in his cleanliness plants no seeds but sows only destruction and devastation.
Pecola believed. And in this belief she finally saw the world through blue eyes and she created the perfect friend and ally, her alter ego who though prone to ask too many difficult questions, proved a reliable and constant companion.

How could somebody make you do something like that?
Oh, yeah? How easy?
They just make you, that’s all.
I guess you’re right. And Cholly could make anybody do anything.
He could not.
He made you, didn’t he?
Shut up!
I was only teasing.
Shut Up!
O.K. O.K.
He just tried, see? He didn’t do anything. You hear me?
I’m shutting up.
You’d better. I don’t like that kind of talk.
I said I’m shutting up.
You always talk so dirty. Who told you about that, anyway?
I forget.
No. You did.
I did not.
You did. You said he tried to do it to you when you were sleeping on the couch.
Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye. New York: Plume, 1994, p. 198-199.

Pecola was a victim of her ugliness, of her blackness, of her poverty, and of her dirtiness. The agents of her destruction were a fragmented family with a heritage of ugliness and abandonment and a sick “clean” old man who used her as a means to his own ends without regard for the costs to Pecola. Claudia MacTeer saw all of this and she learned from it.
In the second introduction to the novel, the narrator offers up a clue about blackness and dirt. In Claudia’s early value system blackness and dirt are a rich soil where dreams could hope to grow
We had dropped our seeds in our own little plot of black dirt just as Pecola's father had dropped his seeds in his own plot of black dirt. Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye. New York: Plume, 1994, p. 5-6.

For Pecola and her family, blackness and dirt are never seen as potential and in fact prove to be a media wherein ugliness, madness, and death grow and emerge.

And Pecola is somewhere in that little brown house she and her mother moved to on the edge of town, where you can see her even now, once in a while. The birdlike gestures are worn away to a mere picking and plucking her way between the tire rims and the sunflowers, between Coke bottles and milkweed, among all the waste and beauty of the world— which is what she herself was. All of our waste which we dumped on her and which she absorbed. And all of our beauty, which was hers first and which she gave to us. All of us— all who knew her— felt so wholesome after we cleaned ourselves on her. We were so beautiful when we stood astride her ugliness. Her simplicity decorated us, her guilt sanctified us, her pain made us glow with health, her awkwardness made us think we had a sense of humor. Her inarticulateness made us believe we were eloquent. Her poverty kept us generous. Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye, P. 205

Throughout The Bluest Eye cleanliness, associated with white privilege surrounds the lives of the young black narrator Claudia and her friends, family and community. In addition, dirtiness and oppression proves to be their inescapable lot in life. For Pecola, the inability to find her place leads to madness and degradation. Claudia manages to develop an understanding of the system that maintains the order of the clean / dirty, white / black and beauty / ugliness binaries and yet retain her own selfhood.

Nov 3, 2008

I recently read The Bluest Eye. What follows is a response to the novel that I submitted for a class assignment:

The Metaphysical dance of sexualization, racialization and socialization in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye

The coming of age of Claudia MacTeer and Pecola Breedlove is inclusive of a coming of sexuality, of racial identity and of social positioning. These maturations are accomplished incrementally, simultaneously, and rhythmically, in supportive/destructive conjunction with one another, as each girl is shaped by family, community, and society. Early in The Bluest Eye the adult Claudia recalls that:

The big, the special, the loving gift was always a big, blue-eyed Baby Doll…. I had only one desire: to dismember it. To see of what it was made, to discover the dearness, to find the beauty, the desirability that had escaped me, but apparently only me…. “Here," they said, "this is beautiful, and if you are on this day 'worthy' you may have it…." But I could examine it to see what it was that all the world said was lovable. Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye pp. 19-21

In just a couple of pages, Morrison’s narrator successfully describes the processes that are already underway, calling into question Claudia’s place in a society that places no value on her, that closes off any path to value. Claudia is being acculturated to her place, of being not-beautiful, of being not-desirable, of being not-worthy, and hence, of being not-loveable as a black female. Since this formula “escaped [her], but only [her]” in her immaturity, she is set upon the path prepared for her by family, community, and society that will lead her to understand, if not fully accept, her place. The clarity and intensity of the memories from that time testify to the power of the lesson and how indelibly it was written into her psyche. In her telling of the story, complex and circular, Claudia demonstrates that she successfully resisted the sexualization, stereotypical racialization and socialization, forces.
For Pecola, the lessons of meaninglessness and valuelessness were begun at birth, when her mother saw her and thought, “But I knowed she was ugly. Head full of pretty hair, but Lord she was ugly.” Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye, p. 126. The processes of her coming –of age as a sexual object, of her coming –to racial awareness, of coming – to a growing awareness that she does not and cannot have the attributes that society values, is brought to fullness in her awareness of, and lack of, blue eyes, the eyes of the whites, wherein lies the distaste for her blackness.

The gray head of Mr. Yacobowski looms up over the counter. He urges his eyes out of his thoughts to encounter her. Blue eyes. Blear-dropped. Slowly, like Indian summer moving imperceptibly toward fall, he looks toward her. Somewhere between retina and object, between vision and view, his eyes draw back, hesitate, and hover. At some fixed point in time and space he senses that he need not waste the effort of a glance. He does not see her, because for him there is nothing to see. How can a fifty-two-year-old white immigrant storekeeper with the taste of potatoes and beer in his mouth, his mind honed on the doe-eyed Virgin Mary, his sensibilities blunted by a permanent awareness of loss, see a little black girl? Nothing in his life even suggested that the feat was possible, not to say desirable or necessary.
"She looks up at him and sees the vacuum where curiosity ought to lodge. And something more. The total absence of human recognition— the glazed separateness. She does not know what keeps his glance suspended. Perhaps because he is grown, or a man, and she a little girl. But she has seen interest, disgust, even anger in grown male eyes. Yet this vacuum is not new to her. It has an edge; somewhere in the bottom lid is the distaste. She has seen it lurking in the eyes of all white people. So. The distaste must be for her, her blackness. All things in her are flux and anticipation. But her blackness is static and dread. And it is the blackness that accounts for, that creates, the vacuum edged with distaste in white eyes. Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye, pp. 48-49.

On the cusp of girlhood and womanhood, Pecola can sense the conflict in men, the sense of her sexuality diminished by her blackness that creates a distance simultaneous with an interest. In her inculcated ugliness, this awareness only deepens the confusion and frustration at the mysterious forces shaping her life. In these vacuous glances she is made intimately aware of her ugliness. In the coupled sentences, “All things in her are flux and anticipation. But her blackness is static and dread.” Pecola’s adolescent “growing” and “coming” that are a part of who she is, and that contain the potential for what she can become, are confronted, and stunted, by society’s application of race with all its limitations and exclusions based solely upon her blackness.
In the end, it is the adult Claudia [Morrison?] who tells us that the fault, or blame, for the failure of “the land” to bear fruit, for the sterility of the edges, those margins where the disenfranchised and dispossessed are banished to pick through garbage, lies with “the land”.

And now when I see her searching the garbage— for what? The thing we assassinated? I talk about how I did not plant the seeds too deeply, how it was the fault of the earth, the land, of our town. I even think now that the land of the entire country was hostile to marigolds that year. This soil is bad for certain kinds of flowers. Certain seeds it will not nurture, certain fruit it will not bear, and when the land kills of its own volition, we acquiesce and say the victim had no right to live. We are wrong, of course, but it doesn't matter. It's too late. At least on the edge of my town, among the garbage and the sunflowers of my town, it's much, much, much too late. Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye p. 206.

“The thing we assassinated?” was hope, the anticipation contained in “coming” of age, accomplished by not only the narrators of The Bluest Eye and the reader implied in that we, but “the soil…bad for certain kinds of flowers” representative of the societal soil of America, where blackness is the basis for exclusion from nurturing.
For these girls, Claudia and Pecola, and for the women they were to become, the lessons taught in this land, of racial differentiation, of the objectification of women, and of social stratification, were lessons of a gender deemed subordinate, of a color (race) ugly and devoid of value, and of a place, of a position on the margins of “white” society.

The social lesson of racial minoritization reinforces itself through the imaginative loss of a never-possible perfection, whose loss the little girl must come to identify as a rejection of herself. The Melancholy of Race by Anne Anlin Cheng; Oxford University Press, 2000. P. 17.

In her reading of Pecola’s rejection of herself and of her “self,” Cheng makes a strong case for the explication of “The Melancholy of Race” in the works of black writers, including Morrison:
This is racial melancholia for the raced subject: the internalization of discipline and rejection "and the installation of a scripted context of perception... a nexus of intertwining affects and libidinal dynamics" a web of self-affirmation, self-denigration, projection, desire, identification, and hostility.Morrison’s characters are invested with a discipline of beauty ever unattainable and with a rejection of self that affects their every thought and action. They are tragic in a sense, but the flaw that they see in themselves is a flaw imposed upon them and incorporated into them by a society divided and stratified by artificial and destructive constructs of race and beauty.

Oct 24, 2008

As I have watched the stock market continue its free fall over recent weeks, much has been thought about money, work, and how it is that we live. That we are in an ongoing relationship with excess and irresponsibility is beyond question. That we would exit that relationship graciously was too much too expect. That it would end, inevitable. The essay that follows is by a "gentleman farmer," someone who rather than ponder this, has expounded upon it, sought the source and found it in self. He has embarked upon a reflective life of self and inter- dependence, and done so thoughtfully. That the subject of this essay might at first appear unrelated to my ramblings, is yours to consider. I believe it to be to the point.

"Thoughts in the Presence of Fear"
by Wendell Berry

I. The time will soon come when we will not be able to remember the horrors of
September 11 without remembering also the unquestioning technological and
economic optimism that ended on that day.
II. This optimism rested on the
proposition that we were living in a "new world order" and a "new economy" that
would "grow" on and on, bringing a prosperity of which every new increment would
be "unprecedented".
III. The dominant politicians, corporate officers, and
investors who believed this proposition did not acknowledge that the prosperity
was limited to a tiny percent of the world's people, and to an ever smaller
number of people even in the United States; that it was founded upon the
oppressive labor of poor people all over the world; and that its ecological
costs increasingly threatened all life, including the lives of the supposedly
IV. The "developed" nations had given to the "free market" the
status of a god, and were sacrificing to it their farmers, farmlands, and
communities, their forests, wetlands, and prairies, their ecosystems and
watersheds. They had accepted universal pollution and global warming as normal
costs of doing business.
V. There was, as a consequence, a growing worldwide
effort on behalf of economic decentralization, economic justice, and ecological
responsibility. We must recognize that the events of September 11 make this
effort more necessary than ever. We citizens of the industrial countries must
continue the labor of self-criticism and self-correction. We must recognize our
VI. The paramount doctrine of the economic and technological
euphoria of recent decades has been that everything depends on innovation. It
was understood as desirable, and even necessary, that we should go on and on
from one technological innovation to the next, which would cause the economy to
"grow" and make everything better and better. This of course implied at every
point a hatred of the past, of all things inherited and free. All things
superseded in our progress of innovations, whatever their value might have been,
were discounted as of no value at all.
VII. We did not anticipate anything
like what has now happened. We did not foresee that all our sequence of
innovations might be at once overridden by a greater one: the invention of a new
kind of war that would turn our previous innovations against us, discovering and
exploiting the debits and the dangers that we had ignored. We never considered
the possibility that we might be trapped in the webwork of communication and
transport that was supposed to make us free.
VIII. Nor did we foresee that
the weaponry and the war science that we marketed and taught to the world would
become available, not just to recognized national governments, which possess so
uncannily the power to legitimate large-scale violence, but also to "rogue
nations", dissident or fanatical groups and individuals - whose violence, though
never worse than that of nations, is judged by the nations to be
IX. We had accepted uncritically the belief that technology is
only good; that it cannot serve evil as well as good; that it cannot serve our
enemies as well as ourselves; that it cannot be used to destroy what is good,
including our homelands and our lives.

X. We had accepted too the
corollary belief that an economy (either as a money economy or as a life-support
system) that is global in extent, technologically complex, and centralized is
invulnerable to terrorism, sabotage, or war, and that it is protectable by
"national defense"
XI. We now have a clear, inescapable choice that we must
make. We can continue to promote a global economic system of unlimited "free
trade" among corporations, held together by long and highly vulnerable lines of
communication and supply, but now recognizing that such a system will have to be
protected by a hugely expensive police force that will be worldwide, whether
maintained by one nation or several or all, and that such a police force will be
effective precisely to the extent that it oversways the freedom and privacy of
the citizens of every nation.
XII. Or we can promote a decentralized world
economy which would have the aim of assuring to every nation and region a local
self-sufficiency in life-supporting goods. This would not eliminate
international trade, but it would tend toward a trade in surpluses after local
needs had been met.
XIII. One of the gravest dangers to us now, second only
to further terrorist attacks against our people, is that we will attempt to go
on as before with the corporate program of global "free trade", whatever the
cost in freedom and civil rights, without self-questioning or self-criticism or
public debate.
XIV. This is why the substitution of rhetoric for thought,
always a temptation in a national crisis, must be resisted by officials and
citizens alike. It is hard for ordinary citizens to know what is actually
happening in Washington in a time of such great trouble; for all we know,
serious and difficult thought may be taking place there. But the talk that we
are hearing from politicians, bureaucrats, and commentators has so far tended to
reduce the complex problems now facing us to issues of unity, security,
normality, and retaliation.
XV. National self-righteousness, like personal
self-righteousness, is a mistake. It is misleading. It is a sign of weakness.
Any war that we may make now against terrorism will come as a new installment in
a history of war in which we have fully participated. We are not innocent of
making war against civilian populations. The modern doctrine of such warfare was
set forth and enacted by General William Tecumseh Sherman, who held that a
civilian population could be declared guilty and rightly subjected to military
punishment. We have never repudiated that doctrine.
XVI. It is a mistake also
- as events since September 11 have shown - to suppose that a government can
promote and participate in a global economy and at the same time act exclusively
in its own interest by abrogating its international treaties and standing apart
from international cooperation on moral issues.
XVII. And surely, in our
country, under our Constitution, it is a fundamental error to suppose that any
crisis or emergency can justify any form of political oppression. Since
September 11, far too many public voices have presumed to "speak for us" in
saying that Americans will gladly accept a reduction of freedom in exchange for
greater "security". Some would, maybe. But some others would accept a reduction
in security (and in global trade) far more willingly than they would accept any
abridgement of our Constitutional rights.
XVIII. In a time such as this, when
we have been seriously and most cruelly hurt by those who hate us, and when we
must consider ourselves to be gravely threatened by those same people, it is
hard to speak of the ways of peace and to remember that Christ enjoined us to
love our enemies, but this is no less necessary for being difficult.
Even now we dare not forget that since the attack of Pearl Harbor - to which the
present attack has been often and not usefully compared - we humans have
suffered an almost uninterrupted sequence of wars, none of which has brought
peace or made us more peaceable.
XX. The aim and result of war necessarily is
not peace but victory, and any victory won by violence necessarily justifies the
violence that won it and leads to further violence. If we are serious about
innovation, must we not conclude that we need something new to replace our
perpetual "war to end war?"
XXI. What leads to peace is not violence but
peaceableness, which is not passivity, but an alert, informed, practiced, and
active state of being. We should recognize that while we have extravagantly
subsidized the means of war, we have almost totally neglected the ways of
peaceableness. We have, for example, several national military academies, but
not one peace academy. We have ignored the teachings and the examples of Christ,
Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and other peaceable leaders. And here we have an
inescapable duty to notice also that war is profitable, whereas the means of
peaceableness, being cheap or free, make no money.
XXII. The key to
peaceableness is continuous practice. It is wrong to suppose that we can exploit
and impoverish the poorer countries, while arming them and instructing them in
the newest means of war, and then reasonably expect them to be
XXIII. We must not again allow public emotion or the public media
to caricature our enemies. If our enemies are now to be some nations of Islam,
then we should undertake to know those enemies. Our schools should begin to
teach the histories, cultures, arts, and language of the Islamic nations. And
our leaders should have the humility and the wisdom to ask the reasons some of
those people have for hating us.
XXIV. Starting with the economies of food
and farming, we should promote at home, and encourage abroad, the ideal of local
self-sufficiency. We should recognize that this is the surest, the safest, and
the cheapest way for the world to live. We should not countenance the loss or
destruction of any local capacity to produce necessary goods
XXV. We should
reconsider and renew and extend our efforts to protect the natural foundations
of the human economy: soil, water, and air. We should protect every intact
ecosystem and watershed that we have left, and begin restoration of those that
have been damaged.
XXVI. The complexity of our present trouble suggests as
never before that we need to change our present concept of education. Education
is not properly an industry, and its proper use is not to serve industries,
either by job-training or by industry-subsidized research. It's proper use is to
enable citizens to live lives that are economically, politically, socially, and
culturally responsible. This cannot be done by gathering or "accessing" what we
now call "information" - which is to say facts without context and therefore
without priority. A proper education enables young people to put their lives in
order, which means knowing what things are more important than other things; it
means putting first things first.
XXVII. The first thing we must begin to
teach our children (and learn ourselves) is that we cannot spend and consume
endlessly. We have got to learn to save and conserve. We do need a "new
economy", but one that is founded on thrift and care, on saving and conserving,
not on excess and waste. An economy based on waste is inherently and hopelessly
violent, and war is its inevitable by-product. We need a peaceable economy.

Lest one be hopeful that the current hiccup in the economy might signal a change toward reasonableness in the world, consider the following:

Cells of resistance will be formed everywhere against technology’s unchecked power. They will keep reflection alive inconspicuously and will prepare the reversal, for which ‘one’ will clamor when the general desolation becomes unbearable. From all corners of the world, I now hear voices calling for such a reflection and for ways to find it -voices that are renouncing the easily attainable effect of technology’s power.

From a letter by Martin Heidegger to Medard Boss, December 29, 1967.

I suspect Wendell Berry is one of the voices Heidegger speaks of, whether he actually heard that voice.

Oct 21, 2008

Okay, this is not high-minded or edifying, it's just funny. Bet ya' a nickel you laugh!

Oct 17, 2008

If you ever wonder what it is that old man reads, and why, then perhaps the following will give a glimpse into the machinations behind the mania..........

Heidegger, Gadamer, Palmer, Language and A River

For Martin Heidegger, for Hans-Georg Gadamer, and for Richard Palmer as well, language is the very foundation of existence. “It is through language that something like world can arise for us” (Palmer p.228). Language speaking---spoken by man--- namingly calls Things into being, and those Things Thingingly gesture and bear the world. In the intimate, penetrated, unseparated between, the dif-ference “disclosingly appropriates things into bearing a world” and “it disclosingly appropriates world into granting things” (Heidegger p.1130). The “separateness and towardness of world and thing” unified in the dif-ference, emerge in the readiness-to-hand, concern, and solicitude for Things and Others, through language. The concise language of poetry in particular constitutes the bidding that calls the Things that grant the world into being. Rather than poetry being considered as a higher more formal language, Heidegger proposes that when we encounter the everyday language of common speech we find it is a decomposed and dead residue of the speech that is possible, the true speech of poetry. Poetry speaks metaphorically, figuratively and freshly; and brings worlds into being in that speaking. In Georg Trakl’s poem, “A Winter Evening” that ostensibly depicts a winter evening and describes a snowfall and vesper bells, Heidegger finds figuratively and metaphorically commanded into being for him, a clear and concise worlding of his theory of the “between.” This personal meaning that he understood comes into being as a result of his hermeneutical experience upon reading the poem. The language event that Heidegger experiences is a result of the collision of his past, his philosophy and experiences with the presence of the text of Trakl’s poem, in consideration of the future being he becomes as a result of that experience. The historicality of the language event is not the result of some static formal dismemberment of the poem, but rather of a dialectical conversation between Heidegger the critical reader and the text of the poem itself. The message that Trakl may or may not have wished to convey when he wrote the poem is of no import. Once in the world Trakl’s poem is what it becomes in the experiencing. It is the nature of language to convey meaning, but that meaning only becomes in the understanding.
The ontological function of language and of understanding discloses the being of things. “The hermeneutical experience is a language event…it is the truth that happens, emerges from concealment and yet eludes every effort to reduce it to concepts and objectivity” (Palmer p. 243).
Pastor John Maclean, the patriarchal father and minister of Norman Maclean’s A River Runs through It speaks of the power of the word, specifically the power of the literary word to illuminate truth when he tells his son Norman, “After you finish your true stories sometime, why don’t you make up a story and the people to go with it?
“Only then will you understand what happened and why.
“It is those we live with and love and should know that elude us” (Maclean p. 104)
Maclean knows that understanding is achieved, and truth is disclosed, when one places oneself in the middle of the actions in the world; one finds, in the between, the insights that lead to understanding, and the illuminations of an artful work with the power to pierce the veil of reality.
If you ever wonder, just what is it that old man reads, and why, then the following may be of some help............

Thoughts on Michel Foucault's The Order of Things and Norman Maclean's A River Runs through It. and

In The Order of things, Michel Foucault asked, “…What if empirical knowledge, at a given time and in a given culture, did possess a well-defined regularity…if the practice of old beliefs obeyed, at a given moment, the laws of a certain code of knowledge? If, in short, the history of non-formal knowledge had itself a system?” (P. ix-x). In his study of the “sciences” of language and its grammars, of economics or wealth, and of natural science or biology, Foucault saw “the emergence between these different figures, of a network of analogies that transcended the traditional proximities” (p. x). He also saw “an epistemological space specific to a particular period.” It is his identification of “a positive unconscious of knowledge: a level that eludes the consciousness of the scientist and yet is part of scientific discourse, instead of disputing its validity and seeking to diminish its scientific nature,” that provides the impetus for his study (p. xi). He showed that “the naturalists, economists, and grammarians employed the same rules to define the objects proper to their own study, to form their concepts, to build their theories” (p. xi). These rules of formation, which were never formulated in their own right, but are to be found only in widely differing theories, concepts, and objects of study, Foucault called, somewhat arbitrarily perhaps, archaeological (p. xi). This archaeology found its beginning in a passage from Borges that shone a light on the importance of the episteme, the way of knowing, to the practice of sciences. Encountering Borges’ quotes from a Chinese encyclopedia caused Foucault “to apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of the fable, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that” (p. xv). He saw that, “The fundamental codes of a culture— those governing its language, its schemas of perception, its exchanges, its techniques, its values, the hierarchy of its practices— establish for every man, from the very first, the empirical orders with which he will be dealing and within which he will be at home” (p. xx).
In his readings Foucault uncovered two clefts in the scheses, in the epistemes, of thought in Western culture between the Renaissance and the Classical age in the mid seventeenth century, and between the Classical age and the modern age at the beginning of the nineteenth century. “The order on the basis of which we think today does not have the same mode of being as that of the Classical thinkers” (p. xxii). He discovered in terms of the “general space of knowledge,” of its “configurations” and of “the mode of being of the things that appear in it…the series of mutations necessary and sufficient to circumscribe the threshold of a new positivity” (p. xxiii).
This positivity, unconscious but powerful nonetheless, apprehends the transition from a theory of representation, full of the potentiality of language as a medium, into an age of reflexive tabulation, where language, transparent and redundant, consists of nothing “more than what is said” (p. 43). “The totality of the learning and skills that enable one to make the signs speak and to discover their meaning, [is] hermeneutics; …the totality of the learning and skills that enable one to distinguish the location of the signs, to define what constitutes them as signs, and to know how and by what law they are linked [is] semiotics: the sixteenth century superimposed hermeneutics and semiology in the form of similitude” (p.29). “The value of language lay in the fact that it was a sign of things” (p. 33). “In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the peculiar existence and ancient solidarity of language as a thing inscribed in the fabric of the world were dissolved in the functioning of representation; all language had value only as discourse. The art of language was a way of ‘making a sign’ — of simultaneously signifying something and arranging signs around that thing” (p. 43)
No thinker of that Classical age could have thought nor written as Norman Maclean does, “The voices of the subterranean river in the shadows were different from the voices of the sunlit river ahead. In the shadows against the cliff the river was deep and engaged in profundities, circling back on itself now and then to say things over to be sure it had understood itself. But the river ahead came out into the sunny world like a chatterbox, doing its best to be friendly. It bowed to one shore and then to the other so nothing would feel neglected” (ARRtI p. 95). These words, stratified with meaning, fit neither table nor matrix, and mean so many things that in the Age of Reason they would mean nothing. Classical language contains no deep pools of profundity and rivers do not speak. Words, binary and weightlessly transparent, connect sign and signified and between, there is nothing.
We have some people who are standing up for us right now. If you don't agree with the war in Iraq or Afghanistan that's okay, you'll have an opportunity to do something about that in the coming days. But, this video is about people who are already at risk, for us. Not anyone special really, just Americans who are putting their lives on the line every day, because our country said we need you to go and do this. They went, and some came home and some didn't, of those still there some will come home and some won't. As for me, I thank them, I am proud of them and they are in my prayers. Take a minute and watch this.

Oct 7, 2008

On occasion I run across something I deem worthy of sharing. This is one of those things. I am not Catholic; I don't necessarily agree with everything that is included, BUT, I admire the way this is presented. No excuses, no apologies, just a short video saying that these are the things we believe in, and regardless of whether you agree or not, regardless of whether you plan to vote in a way that supports these things, go, vote, vote YOUR conscience.

Aug 30, 2008

I am a student in addition to working full time for a highway construction company. I am finishing a B. A. in English that I started working on in the Fall of 1966. Okay, maybe this will be a record for the longest anyone ever spent earning a bachelor's degree. Regardless, the endeavor is a cultural awakening process. This semester I am enrolled in a "multicultural" literature class entitled The Politics of Beauty. Based on the syllabus, the class will include ventures into reading, feminist works as well as works by authors of various ethnic and religious backgrounds. Since web searches are the new way of finding what is going on out there in the world, I did a few searches: beauty/politics, politics of beauty, and others, but the search on beauty/power reaped interesting finds. The quote that follows is a couple of paragraphs from the home page of a Southern California Plastic Surgeon. The warrants and beliefs evidenced in the assumptions that underlie the text are a chilling glimpse into how "some" Americans, both men and women have come to view beauty and its consequences in our society today.

There is an ancestral need for beauty in mankind. Signs for this quest go back to prehistoric times: tattoos, rings through the ears and nose, the wrapping of Oriental women's feet, and many other tribal and cultural customs were for the purpose of enhancing beauty. More contemporary and sophisticated methods are more obvious - hair dying, cosmetic, and make-up techniques, and also the use of physical adornments, such as jewelry, earrings, clothing styles and hair styles in thousands of forms. All of these are for the single purpose of improving the appearance and creating beauty.

"Why?", we say. Improved self-image through improved appearance has proven to people over the centuries to be a means of better realizing ourselves as human beings, a means to influence other individuals and to communicate better in our lives, a means to gain power, if you will, and to obtain things. This urgent need threads its way through history as a mechanism for man to increase his level of acceptance. A more attractive and beautiful individual always appears to have a better chance to ascent in the social scale, to improve in his or her own fields of endeavor, and, perhaps most desirable, to reach new emotional and sentimental heights. Every man and woman searches for absolute truth through many pathways. However, beauty is almost always found in any of these as a constant, and, therefore, as an important intrastructure for the personal growth of the individual

The pseudo-psychological and pseudo-anthropological 'evidence,' in justification of self butchery to conform to current definitions of beauty, are most disturbing because they appear to be so deeply believed. The chasm that exists between the reality of the physical appearance of the majority of Americans and the media prescribed images that are the domain of so few creates a disturbance that haunts the souls of many and wreaks havoc with the lives of young and old alike. There are no doubt many good reasons for increased exercise and improved diet. But aging is inevitable, and beauty is so much more than outward appearances.

Aug 28, 2008

Reflections on last evenings coverage of the DNC.... They emasculated Hillary. (Obviously that statement provides the basis for additional discussion, but for the moment try to focus on the fact that "the party" completely 're-contexted' Ms. Clinton.) She was relegated to the back pews, to a seat between her daughter and her 'husband,' re-contexted from leader to follower.) I swear even think I saw her hesitate to stand to accept the applause she received when acknowledged from the podium. Despite how one might feel about Hillary Clinton's politics, it appears that she was 'asked' (directed?) to behave very differently from the candidate that we have seen for the past couple of years. Hillary Clinton has been coming on strong, and seemed to aqctually be as strong as her marketed image in recent weeks. Last night she was Mrs. Clinton. Frankly I was disappointed. The Democratic Party hobbled one of its strongest members. I believe the move will be regreted.

Aug 25, 2008

One entry found.

Main Entry: judg·ment
Variant(s): or judge·ment \ˈjəj-mənt\
Function: noun
Date: 13th century
1 a: a formal utterance of an authoritative opinion b: an opinion so pronounced
2 a: a formal decision given by a court b (1): an obligation (as a debt) created by the decree of a court (2): a certificate evidencing such a decree
3 capitalized : the final judging of humankind by God b: a divine sentence or decision; specifically : a calamity held to be sent by God
4 a: the process of forming an opinion or evaluation by discerning and comparing b: an opinion or estimate so formed
5 a: the capacity for judging : discernment b: the exercise of this capacity
6: a proposition stating something believed or asserted

Merriam-Webster has some fairly straight forward definitions for judgement. However, I found the fourth listing significant. Having discernment and comparing show up as a couplet was, well, clarifying. I have a somewhat positive feeling about discernement. Discernment is a reasonable, careful, mindful consideration followed by a decision. Not so positive a feel for comparing. Comparing is looking at or considering two things, or ideas, or ways of being and assigning positive and negative values. That doesn't sound too awful, until you apply it to another human being. Another wayfarer on this journey through life fighting unique battles and finding unique solutions. I think I will work a little harder to assume all "judgements" about others will fall under definition three, an area outside of my authority

I attended a memorial service last Saturday. It was held in a beautiful church and was one of the most touching and teaching services I have ever attended. A convicting (or condemning) experience. You see, it was held in a "gay" church. There weren't any signs out front that announced that fact. There were no rainbow flags or other signs that I undoubtedly don't get. Inside I encountered genuinely nice people who came to express love and grief and all those other things that us "normal" people feel. What I found was a community of believers who live and love and find a way to survive. I am glad I was there.

Jul 18, 2008

I've always wanted to play a musical instrument....
I spent a substantial portion of my youth building things with saws and hammers and such..........

I have an idea.........

Go there.
Wonder why a philosopher must earn a living drawing comic strips.

Jul 16, 2008

The educational effort is derailed, at least until the Fall semester begins. I dropped the second semester Spanish course. No reason other than just plain tired. I have a dozen books I want to read and have not been able to do much reading for pleasure while in school. If I can finish three a week I'll be caught up by the time school starts.

Mar 26, 2007

Sometimes the appropriate response to reality is to go insane. - Philip K. Dick
Miles from the river.

Paranoia isn't paranoia if they are really out to get you.

It's not "clinical" depression if it's simply a reasonable response to reality, now is it?

Not enough time.
Not enough money.
Cry enough tears and your nose will be runny.

Deemed unworthy and unnecessary the grey haired old man of 58 plotted his own demise.

If I'm so smart, how come I ain't rich?

Sep 18, 2003

Hmmmmm. Been a while. Much new. A Walk to Emmaus on August 14. I think I can see clearly now. The why is really much simpler to understand when you get the me quietened down, abolish the tyranny of self and acknowledge the community of humanity and the link we have to God. It's all about him, and he's ready to share, just let go of 'self' and let the love decide.

RFW continues to live a rollercoaster life. Sinking to the depths with medicines designed to kill the cancer and hopefully not the man. Poisons accumulating and killing off the fun, the joy, the awareness and leaving a helpless befuddled old man. He struggles back every time they give him a breather from the meds or when he is filtered clean of the ammonia. But the good times last days and the lows stretch into weeks and months.

One of the answers,
one of the answered whys,

I know
I now understand I am to be there
to help him accept God's mercy.
I am to offer comfort and understanding
and love and friendship
to a man who is fighting death.
I pray
that I can point him in the right direction
say the right words
give him the hug at just the right time
share tears watching the sun set over the Brazos,
and just be still.
I'll be
what God requires I be
for a man, who fears and dreads the crossing over
for there is so much left to do
and so much left to see
and tears to shed and babies to hold
and weddings to attend
and kisses to share and he is so afraid.
I know
it is okay and it is my job and it is my honor
to walk right up to that portal
and when the time is right
and the moment is there
I will
simply be there as he steps across
and I'll place his hand in the hand
of another who loves him
a bride given in love out of love

Reading in The Book. Things I've read a dozen times in my life, now come alive, and speak, directly to me. Reading for his Message to me. Not reading for knowledge, or enlightenment, but in an earnest search for his instructions, to me, on what it is that he requires. I've struggled for years with "God's Will," baffled by the audacity of a mere man ( or woman) to say they were doing God's will. How on earth were they supposed to know? Well, duh! Picked the book up and prefaced some of the books with, "Roy, I had you in mind when I had my prophet write this story down," or "Roy, when I had Paul write this letter, I knew that you would need it to understand how to handle the decision you are facing." Now, I'll admit, it seems a little far fetched. Kind of like that "inerrant Word of God" thing. But, I do believe that when, in your loving relationship with Christ you have been given the Holy Spirit to guide you, then God's Word, to you, for you, about you, and supporting you, is revealed, (and therein lies the inerrancy.)

Speaking of The Book, I bought a "Life Application," Large print study bible for RFW. And lo and behold, he is reading it. That is unfortunately the good news (No pun intended, he started with Genesis.) The bad news is he is Full, Overflowing, with questions. So far, I've been a step or two ahead of him, but it is a struggle. He is turning out to be a good "master" for me, in that I have to read and study to be able to help him. (God does have a sense of humor doesn't he.)

My sweet baby girl is married. I gave her hand in marriage only a few weeks ago. Tough, but they seem to be so much in love that it is bearable.

Oh, well..... time to get on to other things.

Aug 13, 2003 - dumb but fun
A couple of cool days in August. Amazing, welcome, but in the way only a dedicated pessimist can, I feel the blast of heat that will follow, haunting me.

Hummingbird news on the river. I bought a cheap plastic and glass hummingbird feeder a couple of months ago. The cardinals have moved on and I miss watching the birds. So, hung the Hummingbird feeder on the hook just off the porch. We've seen a few hummingbirds, but infrequently and they were less than excited by the feeder. But, over the past couple of weeks there have been a few more. Yesterday morning I noticed the feeder was almost empty, so I took the jar off the feeder and took it inside to mix a new batch of Hummingbird KoolAde. When I finished and went to the trailer door I saw about fifteen (hard to count the little boogers) hovering, and chirping in dismay at the spot where the feeder had hung. I went out and hung the feeder and a frenzy of dive bombing began and they drank so fast bubbles wee rising through the red liquid. When we got back to the river last night only an ounce or two remained. We watched them for a while last night. As many as eight at a time hovering and jockeying for position. Gelaming green backs and the occasional red throat made an awsome show.
Simple pleasures.................

Jul 2, 2003

Welcome to My Yahoo!
The house on Rio Road may come available again. Seems the purchaser is having problems with financing or insurance. The current owner came by RFW's yesterday and said she was probably not going to be able to close the deal and would contact Roy, get a downpayment and just get it done. Hmmmmm. She also asked for help finding a plumber. RFW checked with a couple of people locally and couldn't come up with anybody. I talked to D. Smith and he knew a guy. I called AG and told her. She asked if we would be at the river this weekend and said she wanted to get together and discuss the problems she's having selling the house.

Jun 27, 2003

"If they ever start selling ignorance, I want first drilling rights to your head."

"You don't always get what you want, you don't always get what you want, you don't always get what you want, but if you try, sometimes, you just might find you get what you need."

Jun 24, 2003

A friend of RFWa came in from CA. Wants him to try the Mayo clinic. They did a liver transplant on a friend of his three yesrs ago. Cancer. He's doing fine. They did a "partial" trasplant using tissue from the guy's daughter. She was back up to full liver tissue in 4 weeks. I encouraged RFW to make the call. I reminded him however that because he has cancer of the liver, he will still not be able to get a liver from the organ pool, he'll have to have a donor. I also reminded him that a freind with O+ has already offered to furnish the needed tissue. I recommended that he be sure to remember that when he calls Mayo as I suspect they will not even talk to him unless he can provide his own donor.

Fishook George had a rough couple of days. Apparently he swam the river to play with some people who were wading and playing on the sandbar across from us. He then wandered away and di not find his way home. RFW and DW found him in a neighbor's yard up the road. He was glad to be found and stayed alful close to DW all day Monday. The prodigal dog may have well learned a valuable lesson.

Jun 20, 2003

Well the no-braiiner was a no-dealer. House already sold when I got ready to make an offer.
Good to remember "The Rule"
Everything that happens is supposed to happen, and everything that is supposed to happen, happens.
I think Peggy Lee did the song or was it Doris Day? K sarah sarah, or some such.
So, time to move on. Look for a lot or a couple of acres and buld MY dream house on the banks of the Brazos. No rush, I'll probably not be able to retire until I'm in my eighties.
Saw the Eagles last night in concert at the AA center in Dallas. Incredible show. I thought Joe Walsh stole the show. Henley was his usual personable self. No smiles and sort of perturbed at having to do this performance thing in his own neighborhood I suppose. Walsh made his guitar(s) glow and his voice, well it was the same melodious assault on the ears.
RFW continues to do well, all things considered. Back to Dallas at Baylor Med Center to try an experimental thalidomide treatment next week. Prolong is the program.
Fishhook George continues to terrorize the Rio Road settlement. An adolescent male Labrador Retriever is an amazingly complex and persistent machine designed for mastication of virtually every, any and all inanimate object left within his reach. He eats hats, shoes, porches, fishing poles, boxes, firewood, frisbees, grass, any and all clothing he finds that is within his reach and not currently occupied by a human, but not chew toys or rawhide bones provideed for his amusement.

Jun 12, 2003

For a no-brainer, this one is dragging out.
Looks like I can buy the Dr.'s house for a reasonable price and get the Dr.'s widow to carry the note.
In-Laws still need care, B in Law still lives 15 min. away, The Brazos is still 55 min. away.
We're in town every day, for work.

More rain, in June, in Texas.......

We toured the River House yesterday evening...... Small, very nice, well built, not much closet space, would require a storage building, it's just a matter of deciding what to do.

Oh well...........................................................................................................................

Jun 9, 2003

The house at the river that is for sale has a contract on it, my refuge is sold, unless I step in and beat the offer, time is up, and it is time to decide how we live the rest of our lives.
We have responsibilities to others, family and friends. We have things pulling us to stay here, in town and maintain our availability for those who need from us.
We also have responsibilities to ourselves, to take back our lives and live for a while for ourselves.
It's a no-brainer isn't it?

Jun 6, 2003

Time and the weather. That's whats going on today. Second day of rain, in June, in Texas, that is news.

Jun 3, 2003

Last Saturday Morning: on the way to Love Field to catch a flight South to attend a funeral:

Most of my life I've bemoaned the fact that God has steadfastly refused to reveal himself to me. I postulated that if God really wanted me, and others, to acknowledge and accept his Glory and Might, he'd give us a sign, a real sign, BIG, NEON, flashing in the sky, Christmas Eve every year, or on Good Friday, or Easter morning, proclaiming his omnipotence with a message, in all the languages, something clear and to the point, like, "I'm the Almighty God, creator of the universe and King of Kings. You, and all you have, and all you know, you have and know at my pleasure." But, for over 50 years, no sign, nothing, nada, kaput.

Last Saturday morning, driving East I realized the signs had been there, all along, but invisible to my closed eyes and heart. I rose before dawn to catch a flight to Houston and for whatever reason, God set the sign in the heavens for me. As I made my way East, the ebony of the night sky eased into sapphire and steel gray clouds appeared as broad strokes splashed upon the bluing canvas of the sky. A few miles further and the horizon glowed lavendar and orange. As the bright orange disc of the sun slowly inched over the edge a raging inferno burst across the east and the steely clouds grew brilliant silver halos. So, on this Sabbath morn the signs were evident, my eyes were open and my heart permitted, and God's power and glory were there, for me to see or not, for me to hear, or not, and I saw and heard.

May 30, 2003

Summer is here. Nineties and bumping a hundred in the afternoons are just another Texas summer flexing its muscles for the hard, hot run to fall. I left the air off in la casa pequeña con ruedas. A couple of hours on the porch reding and playing Scrabble gave it time to come from 97 inside to a tolerable 75. Quiet on the river and no breeze. RFW & DW in for the night before we arrived. A nice quiet night.
This morning we took it easy. Breakfast at Joe's with RFW. He was in rare form and on his way to Dallas to check on TW. Tomorrow he is trading mowers , picking up 4wheelers, and taking care of broken toys in general. I'm off to a funerla in Houston. I made the decision to fly down early tomroow a.m. and fly back as soon as the funeral is over. I have to be in SA Monday morning at 7 and don't want to spend my entire weekend driving.

May 29, 2003

I thought I was racing a mourning dove this morning as we traveled Soda Springs Road between a couple of peanut fields in the Littlefield bend of the Brazos River. We were running 40 mph and the dove paced us for a while on our right and then on our left. It seemed so effortless. A wingbeat or two every second, no evidence of strain, no apparent huffing and puffing. It occurred to me later as I pondered the event, relishing the power and grace of the tiny bird. One "birdpower" running on a few seeds and bugs effortlessly keeping pace with me in my 200 "horsepower" Suburban gulping gasoline at 20 mpg. The Grand Design puts our feeble efforts to shame in terms of efficiency, complexity and beauty. An humbling, but invigorating moment. All we need to do is accept the absolute power, permanence and grace. All the tools we need for a happy, fruitful, successful life were a gift that came with a promise that was confirmed with a sacrifice. I needed that moment this morning. Meditating on that moment can bring an acceptance and can banish worry. It is so obvious now that there is a plan, that the plan is much larger than us, that it is literally beyond our mortal comprehension and that it is incumbent that we accept it. It does not preclude our will, but simply predates it. It is our decision to accept or deny it, but we do not have the power to change it. For me, it is a relief. I know that all I am required to do is discern His will and the rest, well, not to worry.

We learned of the inevitabilities associated with RFW's disease last night. Hope has been relegated to the possibility of being elected to enter a program with a 10% 'success' rate. Success being defined as 'slowing the progress of the disease.' The chore I face is determining His will in this. What is it that he is teaching us, what is it that His plan requires of us? An acceptance of mortality, and a focusing on the promise of immortality? Is this a preparation for accepting our own mortality? I've viewed it at times as a chance for me to redeem myself, to support RFW as I failed to support my father, to experience the departure of a loved one without 45 years of confusion, anger, defeat and failure as my foundation. These thoughts sent me searching for an insight from a couple of summers ago. Oddly enough some few months after writing this I accepted Christ as my Savior. Funny, I told (and still tell) people I wrestled with God for fifty years, until I finally let me win. I don't think it was fear that motivated me as much as exhaustion, just worn down from the growing realization of the infinitesimal control we exert over our lives. I think it was simply an acknowledgment of needing God's support and help and admitting fallibility.

Suddenly, as if in a gust of cold, icy, breath-stealing wind, mortality entered my universe. Oddly, it came not as a threat, but as a fact, a simple, real, undeniable fact. It made me feel an urgency, like a need to urinate, physical, undeniable, elemental and eclipsing any conscious thoughts, or silly concepts of "self" control, or any illusion of any control for that matter. It felt like GOD had tapped me on the shoulder, not angry or spiteful, just a loving reminder, a word to the wise, and a clue for the clueless.

- - Summer 2001 - -

May 28, 2003

RFW & Debbie left for San Antonio at 5:00 a.m. this morning. I met him at Fishhook George's pen at 4:30 to wish them luck and I guess just to let him know someone is praying for him. He seemed resigned to going, but I really sensed desparation rather than hope. TW is doing much better. The treatment induced Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome has diminished and he is carrying on conversations and behaving more like himself. Another prayer target.

May 27, 2003

Back to the Brazos. This river quiets my soul. I am glad to be back, on its bank, en los brazos del Río de Brazos. I like that. I like knowing that the Brazos means the arms and that being here, in this bend in the Brazos River means that I am in the arms of the arms. No safer place, no more secure place, double enfolded. We picked a great weekend to be away from the River. A group of air boaters 80+ I'm told took to this stretch of the river this weekend and wrecked havoc, aurally, and otherwise. Upon arrival at mi casa diminuta al lado del río I saw that EK and friend had arrived and parked their Wanderlodge by fishhook George’s pen. EK's current friend was, well, uh, rough. Apparently deaf, since she shouted constantly, blessed with that Lauren Hutten look, you know, a gap between her teeth, after that we shift to contrast rather than comparison. The quick version would be that her photo appears next to the word "hick" in the dictionary, and no additional info is needed. Max and I, tired from a drive in from Houston played a game of Scrabble and then lights out around 10pm. The Wanderlust, or lodge or whatever, remained however a hive of activity. EK, hick and their four dogs managed to find the only radio station you can get in the Littlefield bend of the Brazos, 95.9, COUNTRY, and well, I told you she was deaf...... LOUD, very LOUD. Add to that that the beer cooler was in an outside compartment, and that she apparently felt that the door needed a SLAM to assure it was properly closed, and that one or more of the dogs needed out every five minutes or so, and that said dog/s required LOUD calling, multiple LOUD calling, to coax them back into the trailer, and add to that her apparent new affection for RFW's dog F. George, and well, it was a while before the Corona twins passed out. Fortunately one regained consciousness long enough to kill the Country tunes. And..... since revenge is a meal best served cold, I waited until this morning to tune my satellite receiver to the "METAL" music channel to return the favor. I turned the TV up all the way as Chainsaw your Mother's Paranoia Metallically or something like that Crashed, banged, and screeched for the forty-five minutes it took us to get ready to leave. Unfortunately, heh, heh, heh, my trailer door developed a sudden latching deficiency and it took numerous slams to get it to latch. Unfortunately, heh, heh, heh, I was very forgetful and had to make several trips back to the trailer to get things I forgot as we loaded. Between slamming the trailer door and the new development in my Suburban that required slamming the doors several times to get them to latch, we departed. RFW called later this morning to apologize for the Wanderlodge invasion. I just chuckled and asked him if they slept okay. Apparently they got up fairly early and left. Heh, heh, heh!

And, thanks to the miracle of Celexa, I never got angry. This was just a reckoning, a balancing up if you will. No enmity, no animosity, no gritting teeth, stomping feet, just cool TCB (takin' care of bizness.)

May 25, 2003

A Houston weekend. A lawyer in the family. Cris graduated from the South Texas School of Law yesterday. I've told a couple of people that we've had murderers,thieves and con-men, but Cris is our first lawyer. Spending time with Cris, Chris, and Cris' family has been really nice. Some time to rest for Maxie and I.