Monthly Archives: January 2011

Mein Kampf

How is that for a provocative title for an essay?

In German it means My Struggle and being a descendant of German immigrants who came to the “New World” in the late 17th Century and having a life long fascination with one Adolph Hitler …  I took the liberty of borrowing it.  What is that old joke about Germans?  They can do absolutely anything provided (one) someone orders them to do it and (two) it involves hurting people.  But I digress.

So, what is Mein Kampf… what exactly is my struggle?  To put it as simply as possible, I took Socrates advice to “know thyself” seriously from an early age.  Obviously I was a member of a class of organisms called homo sapiens, but, I confess, that was of little help.  Since no two homo sapiens appeared to be even close to alike I was presented with a fork in the road of my journey from the start.  One road lead into the landscape of all our differences.  The other lead to the land of how we are all alike.  Being young, self absorbed and firmly convinced of my own importance to the proper functioning of the Universe I took the road best suited to an adolescent.  I concentrated on our differences with a minor in “why I was better”.  I drew Hitler mustaches in my schoolbooks when the teachers weren’t looking.

In the decades that passed, in what seems today like the blink of an eye, I plodded onward amassing degree after degree, reading book after book and mastering, to the best of my ability, as many fields of knowledge as possible.  I studied science and philosophy and literature and art… all to understand the “differences” and contrasts and “kinds” of homo sapiens I shared the planet with.  I succeeded, if I think back to where I started, beyond my wildest dreams.

Name a culture, name a religion… in all likelihood I can tell you more about it than you ever wanted to know.  My primary occupation was learning and the acquisition of knowledge in the hope that it would lead to wisdom.  In the fervent hope that I would, one day, understand myself.

The years passed.  I can honestly say that I never even noticed, at first, when the path I initially picked first twisted back to join the other.  When all the differences I had learned so well dissolved into meaningless facts… or, if you will, stuffed a comfortable cushion for me to rest upon in my old age.  Both are equally true I find.

Now, I would like to leave the reader right there.  But how fair would that be?  If you have invested any time in reading this you have the right to hear how Mein Kampf… My struggle, came out in the end.  So, I will tell you.

I learned that all the old sayings are true.

I learned that, in the end, you can count your real friends on one hand and have fingers left over.

I learned that the only people who can crush your heart are the ones you tell where you keep it.

I learned that the cruelest trick the universe ever played on matter is giving it life… temporarily.

Then, I learned that it was also the greatest gift.

I learned that perhaps the most profound thought ever put to music was done so by Bob Dylan when he sang,  “When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose”. It was only after I fully understood that… could I dance.  Only then did nonsense make sense.  Only then could I come home to the knowledge that the only important word in the label [HUMAN BEING]…  is “being”.

I came across this quote the other day.  It hit me like a lightning bolt.  For what it’s worth, I give it to you…

“The consolation of imaginary things is not imaginary consolation.”

(put that in your pipe and smoke it for a while)…  then, get back to dancing!

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The BIG question…

In the winter time when I am cold and the whole world seems locked down I tend to get more pensive.  The days are shorter, I don’t much go outside and as a consequence I have a lot more time on my hands.  My studio is too cold to work in and the ground, my beloved garden, is doing its very best to hide any hints of what is to come in spring.  Life is asleep in my garden.  It is silent and still and offering no messages of encouragement to me.  I looked today and listened very hard.  Nothing.

When the days are short and dark the mammal part of me takes control.  It’s a proven fact that my eyelids weigh between two and three times as much in January as they do in July.  Beds and sofas become not only softer, but, actually develop a magnetic attraction for my dorsal surfaces that is largely absent during the warmer months.  I long to hibernate like a bear or go dormant like a tree, or, at the very least, have the ability to honker down in the autumn mud, secrete a thick mucus coat like a frog and wile away the winter months with dreams of catching fat moths with my tongue.

But I’m not a bear or a tree… or even a frog.  Yes, I’m a mammal, but, I’m the most wretched kind of mammal.  I’m the mammal that ran so fast in the evolutionary race that it forgot it’s instincts in the process, or, misplaced its instruction manual somewhere along the course.  For what ever reason, I have gone past the edges of the map and got lost.  It is at the dark and coldest times of the year that I feel that queazy “I’m lost” feeling the most.  It’s the dormant times that condemn our brains to reflection and our bodies to sleep.

Every other living thing on this planet is utterly unconcerned with why it is here.  Squirrels squirrel, turtles turtle and tuna tuna without a thought of yesterday or a care for tomorrow.  They have no need of answers because they have no questions and surely this must be the secret to happiness if, in fact, there is one.

Only humans question.  Only humans have been cursed with that questioning “thing”.  Only man must learn….

…… What is the purpose of people?

 

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Looking for Courage

All right, maybe I off to a bad start here and courage isn’t exactly the right word for what it is I am looking for.

It’s a particularly cold and wickedly windy morning here at the foot of the eastern shoulder of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.  The rhododendron leaves are rolled up tighter than Cuban cigars.  The sun is bright and that, as they are fond of saying here in Southern Baptist Land, is a blessing.  But the wind seems like a curse to me, so I’m right back to zero.

I went to bed last night thinking about a young Congresswoman, shot through the brain by a 22 year old who doesn’t trust the government.  Six others are dead including a Federal Judge and a beautiful little girl.  Yesterday morning was all about the tree of liberty needing to be watered periodically with blood.  Today, it seems the patriots were only speaking metaphorically.

After a particularly uncomfortable night of being pinned to the mattress by a cat who insisted upon sleeping between my legs I checked out some of my favorite blogs.   Robert Redus…..noise from the high desert…and… More Art than you can Stomach is one I enjoy.  I don’t know Robert, but, he is an artist and I have always felt very comfortable among artists.  I trust artists somehow in a way I can’t bring myself to trust people who aren’t artists.  For one thing, an artist will never look at something you have done and ask… “What’s that supposed to mean”.  Artists seem to have grasped, or know innately that reality is an “in here” rather than an “out there” kind of a thing.

Another thing I like about Robert’s Blog is he always has nice quotes to go along with his musing.  Yesterday he wrote a nice piece about “Signs”.  He began it with a quote from Victor Frankl:  ..“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves” … I would add… and what we see, believe and think.  He ended his piece with a quote from Georg Trakl:  ..“Black frost.  The ground is hard, the air tastes bitter.  Your stars cluster in evil signs.” That one I will leave alone for it seems strangely appropriate today.

I just heard on the news that the beautiful little girl killed yesterday was born on 9/11.  If that is not an example of America’s signs clustering evil I don’t know what is.

William Shakespeare wrote:  “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”…

But what is this creature we call human?  I wrote a little comment at the end of Robert’s piece about “Signs” this morning.  Somehow, at least in my mind, there is a connection… so, I will close with it here.

…[Is it not intensely interesting that human beings have an insatiable appetite to believe the unbelievable? Illusion and self deception lift us like wings above all the other earthbound experiments of life “in” matter. Only humans do things, “Naturally”, that do not make sense.

Did evolution save us from an early prototype of intelligence by giving us the ability to be suggestible and hypnotizable? Today, is that ability part of what Carl Sagan called “excess evolutionary baggage”? Equipment we must carry around despite it’s counterproductive effects on us in modern times.

Is that the rub? To be the most intelligent MUST we simultaneously be also the most stupid?]…

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1/1/11 (is that lucky or not?)

I read an article in the New York TIMES this morning and it really got me thinking about us humans.  Here is the first paragraph or so.

…BANGKOK — Don’t be fooled by the skyscrapers, the roads clogged with the latest luxury cars or the high-tech gadgetry in pockets and purses. This country of 65 million people has embraced modernity, yes, but many Thais will tell you that ghosts and spirits still wander the streets and inhabit buildings. Important business decisions often require consultations with a fortune teller. Cabinet ministers and military officers are sometimes so concerned with numerology and advice from their shamans that politics in Thailand could be called the black art of the possible….

…West and East, many people enjoy a good ghost story or a peek at their horoscope now and again. What sets apart Thailand and other countries in Asia is the prevalence of fortune telling and other supernatural-related activities at the highest levels of government (Nancy Reagan’s astrologer notwithstanding)…

So, it got me thinking how much of a “real” difference there is in the “paranormal” thinking and (acting on that thinking)  among the various scattered tribes of suggestible apes we call Homo Sapiens.

On this day, 1/1/11, I would like to invite everyone to examine their own lives carefully.  Take Socrates seriously today and make a concerted effort to “Know Thyself” when it comes to YOUR OWN “paranormal” beliefs and activities.  Regardless of how rational you consider yourself or how scientific you consider your approach to what you think of as reality… do it.  Make a list if it helps, but, one way or another come to understand a little better, on this auspicious numerical date, just how much (or how little) paranormal beliefs influence your life.

Do you buy lottery tickets with lucky numbers, have a rabbits foot or lucky tie or socks?  When you drop a salt shaker do you throw some over your shoulder… do you knock on wood?  Do you walk under ladders, not speak ill of the dead?  Think about these things today and, if you like, share them with the rest of us here in the Garage.

Perhaps, on 1/1/11, YOU can add one to the long list strange beliefs and unnatural happenings that are all to common in and around Mrs. Neutrons Garage.  Don’t be afraid.  We won’t tell anyone.

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