Follow Your Bliss

Joseph Campbell was being interviewed by Bill Moyers on the PBS “Power of Myth“ series when I first heard his phrase “follow your bliss”. In his viewpoint this undertaking must happen if a man were to experience fulfillment in his lifetime.

Joseph Campbell was a very wise man, but just what does it mean to follow one’s bliss? Well, in my opinion it means merely to be balanced enough to know your gift and be willing enough to work towards bringing it to fruition.

An artist creating a work.

A business man creating a new business.

A teacher creating wonder and hope in young minds.

A philanthropist in the creative stage of giving.

On an on it goes, different for each individual yet having the same affect on all of them by bringing purpose into their lives. Did you catch the major theme through all this dream following?

Creativity. Being a creative human being is what it’s all about. After all what are we if not creators? Followers.

Now, following is not bad nor necessarily wrong. Without leadership we would be living extremely chaotic lives on this planet, and in all reality would probably have gone extinct some time ago. But there is a balance that must be maintained while following or else you may just deny your gift and ultimately lose yourself in another’s cause.

What’s your dream? (it is normally tied into your gift) Everybody who has not been beaten down or brainwashed by the society he lives in has one. What do you need to do in order to fulfill it?

I would say also that in order to follow your dream you must be realistic in your goals. Otherwise a man will spend his valuable youth chasing after someone else’s dream, be he/she a scholar, a movie star, a musician or a magician, it doesn’t matter.

He will merely be living as a copy cat who will never be as good as what he copies. Why? It’s not his. He is just fantasizing it is. Has anybody ever made Mozart’s music as good as Mozart himself? No, of course not. He may be good enough to copy and be almost equal to Mozart, but never will he surpass him. It’s impossible.

My gift is not in the music field and I know it, yet I still enjoy playing an instrument. Nor am I a painter, yet I enjoy painting a picture. We can do a lot of really cool stuff without activating our gift. Those who excel, the gifted ones who seemingly are heads above the rest of us, these guys are the ones I’m talking about.

I know my gift and when it’s working I am in another place. A place where nothing can touch me, nor harm me, spiritually speaking anyways. When I am in my gift, I am at one with the earth. That’s the best I can explain it. I’m sure Joseph could do better.

I fundamentally believe that each person born into this world has a gift of some sort programmed into his DNA and his goal, in order to be happy, is to find that gift and use it to the betterment of himself as well as his fellows.

The problem I see, at least in this country, is that in order to create anything of value you first must follow a learning curve of dedication, commitment, discipline and practice. All the things that seem to be out of vogue in this “hurry up I want it now!” society we live in.

As a practical matter we need to have a place of quiet solitude where we can meditate upon these questions and resolve them in our own minds before we even begin. Then we need to move forward to practice them.

Thich Nhat Hanh (a Vietnamese Buddhist monk) is a great example of a man following his bliss.

In the midst of the Vietnam War while the Americans were bombing the hell out of his country, he and his organization were busily rebuilding bombed villages, setting up schools and medical clinics, and helping through non violent means all he could to alleviate the plight of the citizens of his country.

For doing that he was ultimately forced out of his country and banned from ever returning. Nothing stopped him however and he remains practicing peace to this day in Plum Village somewhere in France.

Hopefully as/if things get worse for you in this country nothing will stop you either because what takes place on the outside is nothing to be compared to the power within once you find and follow your bliss. . . . Go for it! You’ll be glad that you did.

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The Tribe

Eleven o’clock on a summer morning and the place was seemingly deserted, no dogs, nothing. Where’s everybody at? Where’s the kids I thought as I slowly drove past one house after another in the upscale housing development.

I gazed upon one perfectly manicured lawn after another, each bisected by ribbons of clean concrete drives and sidewalks. There probably wasn’t a dandelion in the whole damn allotment.

The carefully designed scene, instead of evoking envy, made me feel a little sad, especially for the chubby kids huddled around their TV’s and computers breathing stale, conditioned air. Kids who’ve never heard of kick the can, or knew the pleasure of playing hide and seek outside after dark. Kids who’ve never danced in the warm summer rain or gotten into a good fist fight. To me, this atmosphere was cold, sterile, and alien.

Day after day, aside from the occasional guy who still mowed his own lawn, or his wife coming and going in her new S.U.V., I rarely saw anyone. The only noise in the neighborhood was the sound of construction around the new over-priced home we were building.

I thought about my own childhood days growing up in the housing project and realized how lucky I’d been. There, in the summer, small dandelion-cluttered yards would be full of bare foot kids playing games in the grass. On the blacktop sidewalks they’d be riding bikes, or skipping ropes while their mothers huddled together on the front porch stoops gabbing amongst themselves.

I remembered the laughter, crying, barking dogs, smells of food cooking, back yards full of clothes hanging on lines while drying in the hot sun. We were a tribe of poor, noisy, blue collar common folk, but we were alive, and we had fun.

No music blared from boom boxes, no guns, gangs, or drugs. That would all come later, after corporate greed, TV, and welfare had taken their toll on the working class and stripped us of our pride.

***

I’ve created a stereotype here to prove the point that as we’ve sought to better ourselves by improving our social position we have also lost the need for each other. We have perverted our natural herding instinct by choosing to live in close proximity to, yet totally separate from, our neighbors. We’ve broken away from the tribe and have decided to go it alone.

These modern developments are a shining example of our separation. We surround ourselves with every modern convenience we can afford, close the doors to our large, self contained homes and spend our days locked within our mini-castles.

Instead of a moat and drawbridge, we have a security system. Instead of Knights in shining armor to protect us, we have a uniformed police force waiting close by to apprehend any neighbor foolish enough to break the thin red line. Have we created a modern version of Camelot and are regressing back to the Middle Ages?

I don’t know, maybe I’m just getting old, but I sure do miss my friends and those lovely, sunny bright medicinal flowers that have become a curse, as have their neighbors, to so many.

My Place Tavern (1970)

When I left Ohio I had my old army duffel bag full of clothes, a few bucks I had borrowed from my friends, and a beat up Ford convertible. Everything else I owned down to the small box of pictures, ribbons, medals, awards etc. I left with my ex-wife who promised to keep them in the attic for when I returned. (Ha! They probably hit the trash can the minute I left.)

A week or so later, with the eight cylinder auto sparking on only seven, I backfired my way across the high desert and into the city of Portland, Oregon. My old friend Tom Yoho who lived in Portland was going to meet me in a SW bar by the state college called My Place Tavern.

It was an easy drive across the river. Soon I found the tavern sandwiched between two larger buildings sitting under a derelict sign bearing it’s name. I parked the banging beater (that I soon thereafter sold for $35.00) and entered through the heavy oak door into an environment much the same as every other neighborhood tavern I had been in.

The typical long bar with simple stools ran down the right side wall, booths ran down the left, a couple pool tables sat in the middle. The smell of smoke and beer permeated everything. The only difference I could recognize was that behind the bar a backdrop of hard liquor bottles was missing. They didn’t serve whiskey in Portland bars at the time.

It was close to noon and the place was almost empty. I called Tom from the public phone in the corner, ordered one of those hot Stewart sandwiches from the friendly bar maid, sat in a booth, and waited for Tom to show up.

It had been a couple years since I’d last seen him, but when he showed up I was shocked. My old tough guy, hell raising buddy had gone Hippie. He burst into the bars quietness all gregarious and charismatic as ever. BUT . . . He’s dressed like the damn Pied Piper. I thought.

“Sid! (everybody from the projects still called me Sid) Wow, man . . . FAR OUT! . . . Wow, Far OUT! . . . Wow . . . Cool . . . Man, this is so . . . Wow, Far out, Cool . . . “ He gave me a big hug (something you never do in the hood)

What the hell happened to this guy? I thought.

His midwestern no nonsense language had completely been replaced by this hippiesque sing song doper lingo that made absolutely no sense to me and he was dressed like a freakin freak. I was taken aback by old Tom for a while, but I soon learned to understand him and in time I even learned to speak and dress the part quite well myself.

We hung out in the tavern the rest of the day, drinking beers and playing pool, all on my dime of course. Some things never change, I thought, as I began to remember why he had left town in the first place. But he was still my all time best buddy. He was the good looking guy who always corralled the girls for the rest of us ugly dopes, so he got lots of slack.

Soon the place began to fill up. Everybody who came in the door knew Tom. He, of course, introduced them to me. We shot some pool, smoked a joint and thus began my two year love affair with My Place Tavern. I give her all the credit for not allowing me to blow my brains out in a particularly depressing time of my life.

I’d say there were at least forty gals and guys who formed the nucleus of this close nit community. We ate together and sometimes slept together. (remember SEX/DRUGS/ROCK and ROLL?) Mostly though, I knew I could walk in the place any time day or night, meet up with some friends and have a good bullshit session, cause there were plenty of things to talk about and plenty of trouble to go around in those days, even for the freedom conscience hippies.

I remember with much nostalgia the long philosophical conversations and arguments about Nixon and government, the war in Vietnam, religion, drugs, sex . . . every subject you can conceivably think of someone was able to talk about and give you their opinion on it.

We had fun also of course, sometimes loud and boisterous, sometimes stoned and subdued. Sometimes I would take the corner booth with a sweety I had just met for a little extra curricular lovey dovie.

We dropped acid and watched the walls breathe while warning about the dangers of shooting smack and crystal meth . . . Speed Kills! was never far from my lips. We nursed runaways and military deserters as well as sucker the guys with money and jobs out of their cash. We were a tribe.

There were people who came into My Place that I had never seen on the outside, didn’t know much at all about them, but inside, while we partook of the magical atmosphere of the Tavern, we were friends.

One day the owners sold the place. The new owners were more interested in making money than having us weirdos hanging all day in their joint taking up space so they began to clean it up. No more dope, no more after hours parties, you wanna hang here you have to spend became the order of the day.

Little by little the old crowd disappeared till one day after I got busted and tired of hiding from my parole officer I decided to hang up my hippie clothes and go back to the doldrums and responsibility of my Ohio life.

The tavern may have remained, but because of the doofus who bought it, all the life and blood had been sucked out of it and it just wasn’t any fun anymore. I really doubt it lasted long though cause you really can’t make a silk purse out of a pigs ear . . . and well, the place was always just a dive to begin with.

A Bunch Of Baboons

I remember watching an experiment involving a family of baboons once on television. The researchers observed and filmed the group of peaceful primates while they spent their days grooming one another and playing in their small clearing. The baboons had plenty of food growing around them and seemed quite content in their environment.

One morning the researchers put five oranges in a clearing within the baboon’s territory. They soon came out of hiding and began to sniff the strange round objects. One baboon began rolling and playing with them. It wasn’t long until the entire family was squabbling and fighting each other over the oranges. A terrible battle ensued, until the researcher chased them away and took back the oranges.

Once the researcher and oranges were gone, the baboons returned to their peaceful ways. It even seemed like they were apologizing to one another for fighting over the fragrant round objects.

***

Men identify with, and judge themselves by three criteria: Power, Position, and Possession. As long as the oranges are fragrant and lovely to look upon, we will struggle amongst ourselves to possess them.

Hopefully, one day the brightness of the sun will turn the fruit to rot. Hopefully, one day we’ll get a whiff of its true nature and realize, once and for all, that Greed is NOT good.

But not this day, so we fight, as we always have, for the right . . . to possess.

The Joy Of Playing Music

I first fell in love with music back in 69 or so when I was living in Portland trying to be a hippie. The affair started one day while I was getting stoned in some girls apartment and I heard an angels voice on the stereo. It was Joan Baez. At that moment I fell in love with her and as a result of her voice I fell in love with music also.

Up until then music was a good backdrop for whatever inanities I found myself doing, but I never really got into it much cause (maybe) in the 50’s projects you got your ass kicked for even thinking of being a musician. Well, I’m much older now, it’s winter and I’m starting to think about playing music again. This is something I’ve done off and on for the last forty years or so ever since I fell in love with Joan.

I have a music area in my library where the two (electric/acoustic) guitars live . . . and the cello . . . and the piano . . . alongside, let’s see, my rebuilt mandolin, two hand made American Indian flutes, a hammered dulcimer, a regular dulcimer, two sets of African bongo drums, a (no shit) digereedoo, a tin whistle, various little things like a kazoo, a jaw harp (the real harp I made I gave away . . . as well as my old fiddle)

Anyways you get the picture, I have lots of instruments on which to play music plus piles of books, sheet music etc. to compliment them. If you were to walk into my library and look around you’d swear I was a damn virtuoso, or a one man band.

Well, I’m a one man band house building machine, but as a musician I suck. I have little natural talent, a voice like a fog horn and I hate to practice. “Forget about Mary Had a Little Lamb. I’ll start out with the Jimi Hendrix version of the Star Spangled banner thank you.”

So, forty years later, I still grab and beat up my guitar the same old way running everybody out of the house with the same old worn out bad-to-begin-with melody following an equally bad out-of-sync base line. Then one day, not long ago . . . I fell in love once again.

It all started at the flea market where I used to peddle my access wood. I walked over to the table of a guy who was setting up late. He was not a regular, had just cleaned out his garage and was gonna sell the stuff he didn’t want. Leaning up against his pickup was an old guitar case. Knowing by the looks of it that it wasn’t one of those Chinese cheapies I asked, “Can I see the guitar”?

“Sure” said he.

He lay the case on the table and opened it up to reveal a lovely little folk guitar that had been made by Fender sometime in the early sixties. He was the original owner. After a bit of small talk I bargained him down to about 100.00 U.S. The remainder of the day I pedaled wood while anticipating the time I could take off to lick and tickle my new love in the privacy of our own home.

Last year I listened to a guy on Utube named Pierre Bensusan teaching and playing his guitar in an alternate tuning called DADGAD. Wow! I grabbed the old folk guitar messed around a bit trying to re tune it till I finally got out my tuner (cause I’m tone deaf) and did it right.

One brush over the strings and I was hooked. It was like playing a dulcimer, kinda mountainy and mysterious. The first (base string) played open can be a drone to a treble melody. . . and it’s all easy as hell, an absolute necessity for me cause I get bored real quick. Later you can improvise to your hearts content using chords, melody lines etc. . . . anything you can do in EADGBE you can do in DADGAD if you play alone like I do.

If you have a guitar and your intercourse is getting boring, give her a different tone and she may just perk up and play you a lively Irish jig . . . or go all soft and mysterious like a deep forest rain. . . all dank, wet, and dripping.

If your heart is strong give DADGAD a try.

Acceptance

We were discussing the problems concerning gays and the marriage thing going on in California the other day on a web forum I hang out in. I noticed first off how everybody in the discussion seemed to be trying to prove their tolerance when it came to the issue, but I personally kinda feared the aftermath of watering down a fundamental institution like marriage by opening the doors to same sex marriage. Maybe cause I’m a builder, but messing with foundations, unless there is a need, bothers me.

Now this is not just me, nor just the religious right (of which I have no doings beings I’m a Zen Taoist) but it seems there are quite a few citizens in this country who, although they have no problem with the gay issue in general, bulk at the thought of opening the marriage gate to them. How come? Well, I can only say this ideal of the perfect marriage between a man and a women has been with us for a very long time and in general people just fear change.

Now, everybody who has been married for any length of time knows the reality of marriage is not so hot, but men keep their grip, and live their somewhat miserable lives on this planet, by holding onto ideals, hope, and faith. . . . not reality.

Living in reality causes too much psychic trauma. So we, in order to preserve our sanity, choose rather to cherish ideals and fantasies and hopes concerning our own peace and happiness as well as the worlds. We patiently, or not so patiently, await the election of the next presidential promise, or the return of Jesus, or perfection, or the rapture . . . whatever.

So changing the ideal of the perfect male/female marriage is a really big deal for a lot of people. For me, it’s not quite such a big deal cause I’m a realist who spends more time creating reasons for not offing myself than worrying about gay people getting to join up in the same box the rest of us are in.

I just say to the gays, “Come on in! The waters fine . . . for a while.” You guys want to give up your freedom? You want to take on the burden of a wife/husband who although you may love dearly, also just about daily aggravates the hell out of you? Welcome to the straight world. You’ll soon enough be kicking each other in your sorry asses for ever wanting to belong in this fantastic fantasytical institution.

If my wife and I lived together (now admittedly children are a deal breaker and IMO the only real reason for marriage in the first place) we would get along far better than we do now. An open relationship causes one not to feel so trapped and the other not so bored. Instinctively, without the lawful bonds, you realize you must treat your other in a proper manner cause as you don’t own them, they might just up and leave after you’ve spent the day drinking beer on the front porch with your buddies. You may even be more inclined to take your love out once in a while for dinner and a movie instead of sitting at home every night snoring and farting in the Lazy Boy.

So, in essence, it seems ‘ownership papers’ disguised as lawful marriage papers are a huge damper on the free and wild relationship the two of you had when you were courting. Does it have to be this way? Of course not, but the divorce rate tells us it pretty much is.

Remember the sex? The long hours at the coffee shop enthralled with what the other was saying? How lovingly you looked into their eyes and considered yourself the luckiest person on the planet to have met such a wonderful mate?

Well, keep your memory and get ready cause once you guys get your marriage wish that’s all going to change. Not over night of course, perhaps not for twenty years, but one day you will wake up and see the ideal of marriage had nothing to do with an institution to begin with. You were friends when you first met and if you are smart you will learn to be friends again after all the ideals have evaporated into a huge cloud of bullshit.

My wife is my best friend. The closest person to me on this planet. That’s how I look at her. She’s not mine. We are just two children of the earth who have decided to hangout together for this go around. She is precious to me beyond all doubt, but the marriage thing? I don’t know man I really think it was a hindrance more than a help.

Sometimes all the complaints and demands make me crazy. I just wanna say, “AHHH! I’m going down to the VFW and play some pool,” and walk out the door. But I know in my heart this will create a huge stumbling block between me and the dinner table when I get back drunk and hungry.

The bottom line in all this is that in my opinion acceptance is a personal issue and the gays are looking for it in the wrong place. You must first accept yourself before you will ever truly accept or be accepted by anybody or society outside of yourself.

Paper work won’t cause it to happen. “They” (society) won’t do it for you. No one else will. You gotta do it yourself by searching within yourself and making the proper choices that will begin the creating processes towards your own freedom and acceptance. You gotta learn to love yourself. Then you won’t feel the need to be accepted by a bigoted society such as this one is in the first place.

And I personally bottom line feel this is where a lot of this gay stuff is actually going . . . the desire to be integrated and accepted as a full fledged member . . . of what? I’m not sure.

Respect is the secret to solving practically every social fray in this country. And respect is seemingly the most difficult thing to get. To all my gay friends (yes I have a couple lesbian friends) I give a hearty welcome to the marriage game, but also a warning to not believe the advertisements cause in the world of reality it ain’t the end to all your lonely problems, it may just be the beginning.

Racism

Since earlier I was talking about fear I was wondering why it is that people are racist to begin with? What are they afraid of?

Obama is black. That’s enough right there to gender a negative emotion in a zillion people. The most of whom would deny having anything at all to do with being racist in the first place. As a matter of fact many of these same people are the politically correct ones who openly preach against racism.

Obama is black. Is he? Is anybody black? He has a white mother from America and a black father from Africa. That makes him a mixed breed African American.

In the real world we are all mixed breed by now anyways, even you pure, lilly white, blue blood Anglo’s have some off-white blood in you. (maybe even Negro blood . . . YIKES!) We’re all a bunch of mutts. Just like the three dogs in my outside pen.

I believe racism began in the caves when men found themselves on a wild, chaotic and violent planet somewhere near the bottom of the food chain and got scared. With nothing more than a large capacity brain and a half assed muscle system to keep them alive, men figured the best way to survive was by herding up much like the other herbivores did and to spend their lives in the caves hiding from the monsters lurking on the plain.

Perhaps as they multiplied and branched out into the vastness of the world they morphed a bit due to the climate differences they chose to live in and the food they chose to eat. Regardless, in time the features of men changed as they acclimatized to their new environment and the separate races were born.

Maybe this whole racist thing got started with religion. Perhaps one group created a mythology that placed them in the center of the earth at the right hand of God, or perhaps even became the Gods themselves. While another tribe did something different, yet having the same results.

Regardless it all started a shit storm of separation and dominion in massive proportions once the game began. This thinking would automatically place each individual tribe above their look alike, though considered savage, neighbors. Maybe it was just the inevitable yin to the herding instinct’s yang . . . or a heavenly test. I don’t know, but it truly sucks, regardless.

Eventually even tribes of the same race began bickering and warring with their neighbors as they tried to get each others stuff . . . and down it went through the eons of time.

Anyway, bringing it to today. It seems at first glance the white Anglo Saxon has pretty much won the race game cause we are, at the moment, the guys on top. Our psyche has been so ingrained with this “elitist” idea that most of us believe the world would be a far better place if we could just dominate humanity and bring all the other cultures into our homogenized form of Capitalistic/Democracy. The way that has served us so well should, in our opinion, spread across the Earth and deliver the less fortunate other races. The religion ideals that have made us Gods chosen must, of course, follow in order to completely deliver the heathen from his own barbaric customs. If only “they “ would follow us and quit resisting the tug of evolution.

We will tolerate them, we will even pretend to love them, but to listen to them and accept them into the club in which we belong? No way. We are their leaders and their teachers. We white Anglo’s are ushering, through the use of science and technology, into the earth a perfect civilization of peace and prosperity. We would magnanimously like to bring them along that’s all, cause well, someones got to make our shoes and stuff.

Obama’s black. What the hell happened? A black president does not fit into the equation. Are we about to be over run by the very slaves who once drew our bath water for us? Holy shit! I’m afraid, are we about to boiled in a pot and eaten by these black savages?

I grew up in a white lower class neighborhood. Don’t remember ever being around black kids until I started to play sports. Basically, us white kids didn’t understand or like the blacks. They played sports too good and they fought too hard.

Then I went into a totally segregated military and had to sleep amongst these guys and train with them. Once overseas half my platoon seemed to be black. I found in spite of all my negative teaching and thought that these guys were a lot of fun to hang out and raise hell with.

I am not a racist any longer because of these experiences. And I have found I have far more in common with a lot of these “different” people than I have or will ever have with those of my own race. Whites are so uptight they make me nervous much of the time. Get together with white guys and all they talk about is inane shit I ain’t in the least bit interested in.

Portfolios and bank accounts and posturing your fat ass around me just puts me to sleep. I want some good old time liquor drinking, jaw jacking and music playing that I used to get from the blacks.

I hope Obama brings a bit of soul to the White House. I even hope they even rename the place. This country needs to lose a whole lot of it’s whiteness IMO. That’s where the fear mongers like Rush Limbaugh come from to begin with.

Personally I would rather spend all my time amongst ALL the races, maybe have dinner one night with a black athlete . . . and a Vietnamese artist . . . and an Arab poet. (leave the religious shit out though cause I’m way sick of that stuff). Wouldn’t that be a lively evening? Wouldn’t that open a whole plethora of really interesting stuff to talk about?

I’m liking a black man in the White House . . . and I ain’t even pretending to like a lot of my white brothers. Did you ever wonder why the whites stole the blacks and made slaves out of them in the first place if they were so damn shiftless and lazy? Hmmmmm. Maybe the industrialist has something to do with that after all.

Those white Wall Street/Politico war mongers, now there’s a race of folks I truly DON’T trust.

Am I My Brothers Keeper?

The other day I heard that a 93 year old veteran froze to death in his house in Cleveland after his utilities were cut off.

WHAT?!

Then, after ringing their hands a bit, the majority of the guys I talked to about it exonerated the utility company for any problems they may have caused the old guy. I mean, after all they are running a business. They need to make a profit. Right? Why hold them responsible? The laws on their side you know.

I mean what the hell, we can’t expect these companies to know all their clients can we? How did they know who lived there? It’s simple, he got a warning and when he failed to comply he got shut down. That’s just business. Good business by damn, by the way.

Well, I’m just dopey enough to ask a really stupid question.

Why couldn’t a company who has this sort of power over you at least be thoughtful enough to come pay you a visit and make sure you are not sick, or old and suffering from dementia, before they arbitrarily shut you down and kill you?

Ok, maybe by law they are not responsible. How about the law of decency? And the law of morality? So what if it’s not cost affective and they have to pay a costumer service guy to do the job?

This a perfect example why this country is broken and a perfect example as to why Obama is going to run dead on into a brick wall when it comes to fixing it. It is also a perfect example as to why you guys out there better quit with the arguing about politics and start thinking about and planning for your personal survival. You don’t want to find yourselves in that old man’s shoes do you?

The bottom line tells me there is no plan or thought in existence that will change this thing until the people and society themselves change by rethinking that old question plaguing humanity from the very beginning . . .

Am I my brothers keeper?

Now, don’t get scared, I’m not going religious on you just cause this phrasing happens to be in the bible. I’m sure it’s in all the others bibles also, perhaps in a different wording, but it’s there. Because this is a basic elementary 101 religious thought. One, by the way, that has been shoved into a corner and covered with a thick coating of more important stuff like dogma and self righteousness.

Am I my brothers keeper?

Now the U.S. has always, at least since the industrial revolution, been business oriented. Profit has always meant more than anything to the stock market and big business. But at the same time I remember in my youth a kinder, gentler nation.

Example . . . I got a job in 70 or so with the East Ohio Gas Company as a meter reader. I walked door to door and read the gas meters of a couple hundred people every day. Many of the meters were in basements, so I either had a key on a large ring stuck to my waist or they left the door open.

I was to enter, read the meter, take a quick look-see in each house as to the smell of gas etc. If I smelled gas around the water heater say, I called service and within the hour a repair guy was on his way. If the owner thought he smelled gas in the middle of the night and called, the repair guy was on the way for a, get this . . . courtesy call (meaning no charge) and a complete gas line check.

If an old person was sick, or alone, or had dementia and he failed to pay his bill, I guarantee his gas would remain on till it got warm or until arrangements could be made for him or others to pay it. The situation concerning this guy would have been checked out by customer service before even thinking about shutting him down.

Now on the other hand, if there were no problems at the home and the guy was just shirking his responsibility to pay for his gas, he may get shut down after a couple warnings, but these episodes were few and far between.

The company may have lost a few bucks for the extra service, but in the long run it was probably good for them as they had a stellar reputation. Working for a utility company was considered a boss job, even if you were only a meter reader.

Course in those days the factories were still in town and jobs paying good wages were plentiful.
Ok, that was a different world and a different time, granted. . . . BUT. . . If this same mind set were in affect these days I wonder if we would be in the mess we are in.

Companies would have stayed in-country if they had given less consideration to profit and more thought to their work force. Mom and Pop would still be owning the local grocery. There would still be a bakery and a shoe repair shop and a local thriving economy like in the fifties.

Industry could have taken the middle class along with it instead of dumping the vast majority over a cliff while they partook in a feeding frenzy of greed, portfolios, and bank accounts.

These same knuckle draggers who have taken over Wall Street and big business have even conned us into glorifying their brand of Capitalism as free market initiative.

Now these same arrogant bastards run in circles shamelessly begging for bail outs because their greed has run this huge well oiled, business machine into the ground. No bail! Go directly to jail and I hope, into Bubba Love Butts loving arms.

Bernie Madoff gets to live in his pent house after he gets caught in a billion dollar Ponzi scheme when he should be water boarded just for fun and thrown into a bamboo cage with a cobra for a cell mate. Why is he not at least in prison?

The guys who are buying private jets? And the dope with the million dollar office remodel? . . .What’s up with that? Even John Gotti had more class and was more honest than these bums.

Reality check: Nothing is going to change in this country regardless of how good the newest initiative package sounds and no matter which side of the isle is promoting it until both sides get real, sit down and think a bit about doing what’s right for the people . . . period.

Bush had no clue as to what was needed . . . Obama does, but he is going to be proved incapable of changing things until at least a vast majority of the movers and shakers, and us, the citizens of this country, can answer in the positive the question that lays before us all . . .

Am I my brothers keeper?

Old Age and Choices

In his book, Lightening Bolt, Hyemeyohsts Storm wrote, “In our youth the river of life flows towards us; in our old age the river flows from us.”

As I pondered upon this passage I began to understand the reason why so many of our elders have been pushed aside. Why, instead of given a place of honor in a family member’s home, they’re shipped off to a nursing facility where they spend their few remaining years in solitude and self-pity.

The river of life that flows from them is stagnant, polluted by many years of spiritual neglect and self-indulgence. Instead of being a vast storehouse of wisdom they have nothing to share except bitterness. No wonder the fear of old age is so prevalent in our society.

I then began to see in my mind’s eye two women. Both were old, wrinkled, and bent from their many years, yet very different.

***

Lillian was sitting in a chair with her head in her hands staring at the floor in despair. As I approached, she raised her eyes to meet mine. Her pupils were black as Pennsylvania coal, seemingly void of all life. Her toothless mouth opened . . . and closed again. Without saying a word it returned to a thin, crooked gash separating the point where her nose almost touched her chin. She slowly lowered her matted head to her hands and returned to her pre-occupation with the floor.

A shiver rushed through my body. I wondered what tragedy had entered her life to cause a woman who was once young, vibrant, and so beautiful her image had adorned the cover of Cosmopolitan Magazine, to turn this ugly. What had life done to Lillian? Or in another sense, what had Lillian done with her life?

***

I watched as the ninety-three year old women walked cautiously down the path towards the TV cameras. It seemed as if a bad hip or something caused her slow gait, but she was smiling as the camera zoomed in upon her leathery face.

The first thing I noticed were her eyes. They were deep and vibrant, within them I saw intelligence, and kindness. This woman, who probably had not been much to look at in her youth, radiated in her old age an inner beauty far beyond the physical. As I examined her wrinkled skin I noticed how all the lines seemed to turn up at their ends. When she smiled I understood why.

I immediately felt drawn to her. Here was a person I would truly enjoy spending time with, one from whom I could glean much wisdom, and plenty of good conversation.

Although I don’t remember her name I’ll call her Joyce, because that’s my wife’s name and I pray that when she gets older, my wife will resemble this woman.

Both women had been born into wealthy families. Each had received the best education and benefits their social position had to offer. Each had made choices throughout their lives . . . and each in their old age were composites of those choices.

As the carefully contrived façade of youthful personality had slipped away, each women revealed to the world their true nature. The choices they had made were etched upon them, easier to read than a Dick and Jane primer for children.

* * *

Lillian had chosen a life of frivolous indulgence. As an only child her parents doted upon her every whim and she quickly became entrenched in the center of her own selfish universe.

While in college, men were awed by her physical beauty and stumbled over each other to get next to her. She was the life of every party. Attention, alcohol, and sex were her main sources of enjoyment. She lived to dance.

After college she married and had two children. Five years later she tired of marriage, divorced her husband, and deserted the kids.

Free once again to do her own thing, the lovely socialite slowly devolved through the years to giving quickies in the parking lot to anybody willing to pay the price of another drink.

Her mind, kidneys, and liver slowly burned out from fighting the ravages of alcohol. Now, her life nearly over, she sat in the nursing home waiting fearfully to take her last dance with the devil.

* * *

Joyce had chosen a life of service. As the cameras rolled, she explained that after graduating from college with a teaching degree, she sought a way to share her wealth and knowledge with underprivileged girls.

Because of her love for nature she purchased the summer camp sitting along a beautiful lake in coastal Maine where she now stood. Here, she took the girls in and taught them to walk a different path, a better one, void of the temptations of inner city life.

She taught them to be in control of their lives. That it didn’t matter where they were born or how much money they had, their lives were in their own hands and they had no one to blame if it went sour except themselves. They created their futures . . . by the individual choices they were making in the present.

She also lent money to any of the girls who wished to go to college. This she would require after graduation to be paid back in full so that it would be available for the next girl. She told the TV camera that in all the years she had been holding the camps and loaning money, only twice had the tuition not been paid back.

She was now retiring and passing the reigns of her camp to her daughter. She would remain in an advisory position, but she wanted to take some time to write a book. Even in her advanced age, she was looking forward to the future.

Here was a woman who, when the time came, would peacefully exit this world without fear or remorse. One who would leave behind nothing but the love and admiration of the grateful many she’d helped during the years she’d walked among them.

It’s all about choices, think of that next time you find yourself behind the eight ball. The next time you’re looking for someone to blame for your circumstances. If you are honest with yourself, you’ll be able to trace your way back to the foolish decision that put you there.

Language

So . . . I finished building a guitar I started fifteen years ago and I absolutely love it!

It’s so old it’s already “almost vintage” (Picture coming) Thing is the instrument plays beautifully. Walnut back and sides with a cedar top. Mahogany neck set just right to accommodate the light strings in DADGAD tuning so I can learn some Celtic tunes.

I also cleaned out my tool shed, moved a bunch of the stuff to the basement and created me a really small 8×12 guitar building shop (this way I must keep it tidy unlike my previous cabinet shop) plus a larger outside area for the few noisy power tools I still possess.

I am going to build one at a time ‘parlor style’ finger picking guitars and, I don’t know, I’m thinking of giving them away to some of the needy kids around here and maybe sell one once in a while after I get really good at it.

I Thought of having an internet write-in contest where a kid could send me a letter about his desires to play and lack of funds etc. then I would pick the one I thought was the best and send him/her a free, very playable guitar. We’ll see. What do you think?

Anyhow I was thinking while I was working in my new building spot about the beauty of all this silence I find myself in. It is so quiet around here in the holler that I can hear the deer barking in the evening and turkeys gobbling on the hillsides early in the morning.

Christ, we live in a paradise . . . even if I did just the other day have to bury one of my dogs. Somehow it all fits, the yin and the yang of life.

The one thing I don’t miss though is people and their constant chatter. Noise bothers me. And human beings are the nosiest animals on this planet bar none. Driving around in motorized monsters, running machinery, loud music, canned laughter, (that make believe stuff people do) talking just to hear themselves, (while having nothing much to say when they think they do) makes me crazy.

Sometimes I just sit and listen to them thinking, everybody, including myself, is so full of shit they ought to just shut up and listen to the birds singing. At least the birds have a sweet refrain.

Maybe I’m just getting old, but man, it sure feels good to run a sharp hand plane down a cedar top and hear the whoosh as it picks up a small amount of wood and curls it into a fragrant ball.

The one noise I do allow into my inner sanctum though is what I consider to be the perfect language . . . music. This language is far more easy for me to understand than the myriad shades of gray involved in that double speak and innuendo that we humans come up with.

I love a certain kind of music in my quiet time though, mostly instrumental, mostly finger picking guitar, some cello. I have an mp3 player full of the stuff. I go to sleep at night listening to good old Irish/Scottish music or some of that New Age stuff. Beautiful.

But as a product of the sixties I also have my Steppinwolf and Creedance Clearwater and (who can forget) Janis Joplin, but that’s for when I feel the need to make some noise . . . cause well, sometimes all this quiet can get overpowering and a little bit of pot smoking and hell raising places a nice minor chord into the melody of this really peaceful existence my wife and I have created for ourselves.

The kids are trying hard to pervert and distort music these days with all the rap and badly played guitars accompanying screamers who should still be in practice mode, but if your quiet for a minute you can still hear Sinatra doing it My Way or Nat King Cole soothing through some Stardust.

The purity of this language may have been ghettoized, but it’s still there in the Memories of our minds waiting . . . like the old cello in the closet for some nimble fingers to stroke it back to life.

It’s nice to be old.


Legend of the Ice worm

Alaskan legend has it that once the Snowbird heads South the Ice Worm rouses from his summer sleep deep within the permafrost to begin his relentless attack upon the mortals left behind.

Jimmy the Indian liked to keep the Ice Worm legend alive, especially for us guys who’d just wandered into the North Country and hadn’t met up with him yet. Jimmy would explain how the worm crawled around till finding an open spot on a man’s flesh. Then he’d attach himself like a leech and suck the heat from it, leaving in his wake a trail of gray dead skin. To Jimmy the Ice Worm was an enemy demanding much respect.

But for the moment I wasn’t concerned with respecting legends. I just knew my feet were numb and my double gloved hands burned with pain after spending too many hours wrapped around the frozen, steel casing of a nail gun. I was damn cold as I waited impatiently for the foreman to give up trying to thaw the compressor and let us go home.

When he finally gave the word I quickly packed my tools and left the construction site. It was three o’clock in the afternoon and already I needed the trucks headlights to guide me as I pulled onto the snow covered, gravel road and headed south.

A couple miles away amidst scrubby pines and frozen tundra sat the log lodge I’d passed that morning on my way up from Anchorage. The long drive being too much for the old pickup I planned on rooming there for the couple of weeks it would take to frame the house we’d just started.

I approached the lodge and pulled into a small parking area. Light emanating from her windows cast a golden hue across the purple-blue snow, a welcome far more enticing than the half lit neon sign hanging by the road.

I parked beside a couple of pickups and plugged the trucks radiator heater into an electric outlet attached to a modern day hitching post lining the front of the wrap around porch. The thermometer hanging beside the steps read -8°.

Grabbing my duffel bag, I locked the trucks door, crunched up the frozen steps and pulled open the heavy log door. As I entered the cozy foyer a young girl behind the desk lifted her eyes from the book she was reading and gave me a large smile. “Hi.” She said. “Can I help you?”

“Hi, yeah, I’d like to rent a room for a couple of weeks, please.”

“Ok, got a real nice one just down the hall, first door to your left. 350.00 a week. Want it?”

I nodded my head and signed on the dotted line. She handed me the key, I bid her a good evening and walked the short distance to my room.

After checking it out I stashed my gear and found my way back through the foyer and entered the large, rustic lounge in hopes of getting something to eat. There was an old pool table in the center, a bunch of tables spread about and a long bar following the right wall constructed of log slabs. Except for the three guys sitting at the bar drinking beer the place was empty. I chose a small table close to the large, crackling fireplace, sat down facing the door and began to unwind.

Soon, a scruffy old man with a long white beard and a balding head shuffled over with a glass of water. His cheekbones bore a grayish-white cast to them, but it was the large, watery, dead spot covering his nose that attracted the most attention.

“What’ll you have, sonny?” the rugged-looking old timer asked.

“Give me a hamburger, French fries, and a cup of coffee, please. And put a double shot of Jack Daniels in the coffee if you would.”

“Sure nuff,” the old timer said and ambled off. He returned minutes later with the spiked coffee.

It was very good and it was hot. The alcohol spread through my belly immediately and by the time the food came I had taken on a lovely mellow feeling.

“Here you go sonny.” The old guy sat the large plate before me. “Anything else?”

The burger looked good. The French fries were the largest I’d ever seen. Some of those babies were at least 8 inches long. I picked one up to study it.

“Grow em in the Matanuska Valley,” he said, “Biggest potatoes in the world, or so they say. Some of em get big as a football, and I ain’t bullshittin either.”

“That’s what I heard,” I said. “But, I’ve never seen one before.” I took a big bite out of the fry I was holding. “Mmmm, tasty.”

“Where you headed?” he asked.

“I’ll be staying right here for a while. Maybe a couple weeks or so.”

The old timer pulled up a chair and sat down across the table from me. “Where you from?” he asked.

“Anchorage . . . Ohio originally.”

“Ohio? Ain’t that where they grow all the corn?”

“We grow corn, but you’re probably thinking of Iowa.”

“Iowa? Yep, suppose so. Been a long time since I’ve seen the lower forty-eight, and then only as far as Dakota . . . born there you know. Ran away from home as soon as I could reach the doorknob.” The old guy laughed. “Hitched a ride up here and ain’t been back since.”

“You own this place?”

“No . . . just helping out my buddy Tom. I live down the road apiece and help out once in a while when things get busy, or Tom wants to fly off to Anchorage for supplies.” He held out his hand, “names Gus.”

I took the gnarled hand and was a bit surprised by its strength. “Mike.”

“So Mike, What brings you to Alaska?”

“Oh, I don’t know, just needed to get away for awhile and thought this would be as good a place as any. I drove up the highway in August.”

“Been a resident for over fifty years now,” Gus said with pride in his voice. “Came up in thirty-four when Alaska was still a territory. You think that Al-Can’s a mess now, you should’ a seen it then, took me three weeks just to get through the Yukon.”

Gus took on a contemplative mood. “Statehood screwed everything up though in my way of thinking. And them damn . . . You got a trade? Not much work around here if you ain’t got a trade.”

“I’m a carpenter. We’re building a house down the road a couple of miles.”

“Oh . . . well hell, boy, you can get a job anywhere. They’re building houses all over the place for them damn Texans. Since they started the pipeline, them damn Texans are everywhere.”

I soon realized that to Gus a “damn Texan” was anybody associated with the pipeline being built to transfer oil from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. And Gus made no bones about hating the pipeline.

I finished my meal and drank a few beers with him while he rambled on about the good old days. His open friendliness, a welcome contrast to conservative Ohio, pleased me. Gus was a real pleasure to be around. I listened to him well into the night, until my eyes would no longer stay open. The alcohol-heat mixture had really gotten to me. “I have to go to bed Gus, I’m beat,” I finally said.

“You go right along sonny, I’ll have a hearty breakfast waiting for you in the morning”.

“Sounds good,” I said standing up. “Nite Gus. ”

I returned to my room, unpacked my duffel bag and took a short, hot, shower. After drying I crawled naked between the clean smelling sheets of the double bed and pulled up the thick down comforter that lay neatly folded at its foot. As I settled in and waited for sleep I thought about old Gus and the story he’d shared earlier.

“What happened to your nose?” I blurted out when Gus alluded to the frozen spot while in the midst of the evening’s conversation.

“Well, sonny, it was like this . . . you want the whole story?” I nodded. “Wait till I get us another beer, cause this’ll take some tellin.”

Gus went behind the bar of the empty lounge and returned with two Mooseheads, sitting one in front of me. After sitting down across the table and taking a pull from his bottle, he twirled the end of his bushy mustache while collecting his thoughts, and began.

“It was back in the old days, somewhere around 1940. I was a young buck about twenty-years old sitting in a Fairbanks bar one day when this old timer starts telling me about a claim he owned at the headwaters of a creek called the Wolverine, down towards Palmer.

He said he couldn’t make the trek anymore because of his age and he wanted to sell out. After assuring me there was still plenty of color left in her, because he was a lazy sort and only panned the creek, he asked if I was interested in buying him out. I said that I’d buy the claim from him and put his mind at ease, if he let me make payments on it. So, we finagled around a bit, and by the time we had two more beers, we’d struck an agreement.

I walked out of that bar with my head held a little higher that day, as I was now a man of substance, owning a gold claim and all. I had visions of grandeur in my brain as I went about thinking how I was going to spend the fortune waiting for me on the Wolverine.

After I scraped up a down payment, and everything became good and legal, I bought some gear and hitched a ride up the Lazy Mountain in my buddies old Model T Ford. I got out at the small bridge that crossed over the creek, packed up all the supplies I could carry, hid the rest, and started walking.

Following the Wolverine very far proved impossible because of the thick bush and narrow bottleneck formed by the two mountains as they bottomed out. So, instead of fighting it, I followed an old moose trail half-ways up the Red before it veered off and hugged the ridgeline.

After going around the bottleneck, the trail dropped onto the floor of the lushest valley I ever saw. The Valley of the Pine Trees, as I later called it. Blueberry bushes were everywhere, and the meadow flowers were blooming. Game trails were deeply carved into the soft muskeg and the large old pines were giving off a fragrance them Seattle ladies would love to own.

That valley was one lovely site, but it had its danger. As I hustled through the dark forest I could hear a bear lumbering ahead of me, grunting as he moved away from this stinky, two-legged. Later, I stumbled onto a large pile of crap still steaming in the coolness. I whistled and made plenty of noise after that, because I didn’t want a surprise meeting with the owner of that whopping big pile of shit anytime soon.

The claim sat at the far end of the valley, at the fork in the river, just like the old-timer had said. The creek itself was running off the glacier that covered the upper parts of the range. It was cold, and so full of silt you could hardly see the bottom in just a foot of water. That’s the way it is with glacier water, looks like watered down milk.

It took me a few days to fix up the old shack for living. It seemed a million shrews had turned her into their own private hotel and weren’t about to give it up without a fight. The little varmints would come out at night and run all over me while I was trying to sleep. Many times I’d open my eyes in the dim light to see a pair of beady little eyeballs staring back at me. Once I got the stove cleaned out and unplugged the flue so I could get a fire going, they must of figured they’d have to share their hotel with me because they started leaving me alone, sorta.

Then that old bear started hanging around the shack looking to steal my grub, so I had to hang it high in a tree before I got a proper cache built. One morning I woke and opened the door to go out, and there he sat. A grizzly as big as I’d ever seen, sitting on the ground under my stash trying to figure out how he could get to it.

It was a good thing I’d hung it high cause that old boy must have cleared thirteen feet when he stood on his hind legs. I quietly closed the door and waited till he left. He was too pretty to shoot, and I was too young to die.

I found a bag of rusty nails and a few tools in the cupboard and decided to fix up the broken down sluice-box behind the cabin. After I re-nailed her as best as I could, I set her up by the creek and the Wolverine Mining Company was officially in business.

I didn’t have any callers coming by to welcome me and lay their blessing on my new endeavor though, seeing as I was the only human in the whole valley. I was all alone, just me and the moose and the bears.

There was a small lake close by loaded with trout, and plenty of ptarmigan for food, even a fresh water spring. Everything a man needed to survive lay within reach. A pretty woman to keep me company and I’d of thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

That old miner, I soon found out, had stretched the truth a bit concerning the abundance of gold I’d find on his claim. It’d been worked over real good by the time I got to it and the nuggets were long gone. But if a guy was determined, he could still get himself enough dust to make the hard work worthwhile. There was gold in the Wolverine; it just took a lot of digging to get to it.

I worked that old sluice box all summer, turning up just enough color to keep me interested. I figured that when I had enough dust to get me through the winter, I’d pack it up and hike out till the next spring.

It was around about mid-October when I started hitting pay dirt and I didn’t want to leave until I cleaned out the gravel bank I was working on. Sixteen hours a day I shoveled into that contraption of a box, but I found a lot of dust, even some good sized nuggets were beginning to show up.

I had the fever. It just sneaked up on me one night and the next day I didn’t want to take the time to eat, sleep, or do anything else. The hell with the coming winter, I was driven to work that box, purely driven.

One night ice began forming over the lake, and a week later, I watched the snow as it dropped on the summit and slowly work its way into the valley. With one eye on the coming freeze, and the other on the gravel pile, I worked even harder, until the creek itself froze over and the snow got so deep I couldn’t work the box anymore.

One morning, I finally just gave in and decided to hightail it out of there. I cached everything I couldn’t carry, loaded my pack with the gold and enough grub to keep me till I got back to the road, and headed down the frozen creek.

I could tell by how fast my beard froze around my mouth and how loud the snow crunched as I walked that the temperature hung well below zero that morning. The snow was knee-deep in some areas, but if I didn’t break through the crust, I knew I could make fairly good time cause the going was level. The sun appeared for a while and there was no wind to speak of, but it weren’t much help against the bitter cold.

I snaked my way along that creek for the better part of two miles. Then, from under the snow, I heard a funny pinging sound. Before I could move another step, there was a loud crack and the ice gave way under me. I went through, up to my hips in the freezing water. I tried to jump out, but slipped on the rocks and fell back into the creek, this time over my head. The water was flowing real fast and I almost got drawn under the ice before I got back to my feet and made my way to shore. As it was, I lost my pack and everything in it, including the dust.

I was in dire straits. My dungarees were frozen and my feet were already losing contact with my brain. I figured I was going to freeze for sure, and for a moment decided to just give up and forget about living. Then I remembered the flint fire starter kit I kept sewn in my coat lining for emergencies, and this was surely one of those. I was moving pretty slow by then, but I tore the lining loose and found it. As the freezing was sneaking up on me, I managed to find a dead pine tree close by that was still standing, and got enough dry tinder to start a fire.

I packed the snow down as best I could with my frozen feet, and put all my energy and skills at fire making to good use. It took a while, but I got one started, or else I wouldn’t be telling the tale today. I just kept loading on the dead wood until I had a roaring bon-fire going. I got naked and completely dried my clothes before moving on.

I hustled myself out of there OK after that, but I knew I’d had a close call, as close as I was ever going to get. I was frozen some, and I’d lost my poke, but I lived to tell the tale.

After that experience, I put the claim up for sale and never went back cause my feet wouldn’t let me. I got around in town alright, but the bush was too much for the feet. I lost two toes on one, and one on the other. My nose and cheeks got froze, and my fingers still pain me in the slightest cold, but other than that I’m just fine.”

Gus stopped talking for a minute, smiled at me and said, “Well, that’s the story of my frozen nose, sonny. If I hadn’t sewn some emergency stuff in my jacket I’d have gone stiff sitting alongside the Wolverine and been a good meal for the wolves.”

As I neared the point of sliding away into dreamland, I remembered Jimmy the Indian from Anchorage and his story about the Ice Worm. I thought of old Gus who had the strength and smarts to beat the worm at his game and felt a rush of deep respect for the tough old guy. I also decided to buy a fire starter kit and sew it inside the lining of my parka. A guy couldn’t be too cautious in Ice Worm country.

End

Simplicity

I dream a lot. Often my dreams are filled with fighting and violence, but last night I had a series of very pleasant love dreams. I awoke with a deep thought (another thing I often do) and have learned to keep a journal by my sleeping place so I can write down the purity of it before it dissolves into the murky thought of the day and disappears.

My thought was a word . . . Simplicity . . . and how, like Lowell’s Sir Launsal, who was caught up in a life time quest, we also have been caught up in a quest.
Ours being the search for fulfillment through the acquisition of “stuff” . . . as propagated by the Capitalist’s continued advertisement of our needs.

Sir Launsal, the heroic young knight on a mission exited the confines of the kings castle atop his mighty steed and thundered over the drawbridge. Once across he encountered a beggar sitting by the way. Having no time for a mere beggar, the proud knight scornfully flipped a coin into the dust at the poor man’s feet and continued his God ordained mission in pursuit of the Holy Grail.

Americans too, occasionally flip a coin in the bell ringers box as they enter a store, but they’re minds, like Sir Launsal’s, are far away anticipating a prize as they make a mad dash down the stacked isles of consumerism. They are well fed, at the top of their game, and have little time to put much thought into anyone or anything else save themselves and their search for the latest gimmick.

Sir Launsal thought finding the Holy Grail would fulfill him. American’s feel that owning the latest “thing” will fulfill them. Both felt the poor and the beggarly should be able and willing to fend for themselves.

And that is the question I awoke with this morning, “What the hell are we looking for? Where in the hell are we going”? Compared to most of us Sir Launsal’s quest even made more sense.

We have to work. We have to make. We have to buy. We have to be somebody. We have to build our portfolio. . . We have to . . . We have to . . . have a new flat screen TV so we can watch the constant stream of advertisements telling us what we “need” in order to be happy. Do we need most of the shit we buy anyways? Really?
Aren’t we are just doing what we have been trained to do? . . . Aren’t we merely world class elite soldiers in the Capitalistic army corps?

Sir Launsal returned to the castle a broken down, disgruntled old man after many years of searching for the elusive holy grail. He never found it. His mighty steed being long dead, he now had nothing save a walking stick to help him on his way as he stumbled along the dusty trail towards the bridge leading across the moat and back to the castle door where he was sure to be welcomed as a failure.

Sitting by the wayside, in the very same place he’d been many years earlier was the beggar he encountered as he embarked upon his mission. The beggar had seemingly not aged. Sir Launsal, being confused stopped and stared at the man. The beggar’s eyes shown bright and clear from beneath the cowl covering his head. Emanating from their darkness was a power he found mesmerizing. This power drew him to to take a seat beside the beggar and listen to him as he spoke of the interconnectedness and simplicity of all things the knight had considered deep and mysterious.

It then became clear to Sir Launsal. He suddenly realized in the clarity of his awakening moment, the truth. He realized that for much of his life he had led himself on a wild goose chase in search of the Holy Grail. He realized the reality of his fulfillment was sitting along the way all the time in the guise of this beggar. This beggar contained the mystery. This beggar was the mysterious holy grail.

He also realized he had only to walk beyond the gates of his own home to have found his self fulfillment. That it took a return to his roots to find it. His long search and hard travels had produced little more than further questions. The truth had been there alongside, and within him all along.

As the Buddha answered one day when asked, “What must I do to find fulfillment?” by a man who had suffered hardship by walking long and far to find him.
“Feed the people.”

“But” . . . .

“Feed the people.”

“That’s to simple, anyone can do that! I need to DO something!”

“Feed the people.”

The American Dream

I was recently asked in a forum of construction workers a question by a conservative guy who occasionally posts there after I made a derogatory remark concerning this country.

“Why do you hate America?”

I took the question to heart, thought about it, and following is my answer.

I was born at a time when every morning before class the entire assembly placed their right hand over their heart and recited the “Pledge of Allegiance.”
I was raised on John Wayne movies and heroism.

When I was old enough, I joined the military because I thought standing in the gap for this country was the highest of honors. I wanted to be the best because I believed I was a part of the best.

Living the experience eventually put a huge hole in the bubble that my elders had carefully blown up for me as I began to get a glimpse of reality.

Now in my old age there is little left of the kid who once stood proudly before the Stars and Stripes reciting: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one nation under God indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

What happened?

America, after conquering the American continent (and her aboriginal peoples) grew in leaps and bounds during the Industrial Revolution. She emerged from the ashes of WW2 victorious, head and shoulders above everybody.

No one can dispute that we had saved Europe from the German fascist nor Asia from the Emperor of Japan. No one can dispute the fact that we had created the greatest war machine and economy the world had ever seen.

We were at the helm of seemingly everything. We led in the sciences. We led in the arts. In industry. In giving. The world looked upon us in awe and a large majority of her went to bed at night dreaming of one day becoming a part of the melting pot.
We were at the cusp of greatness, our potential was unfathomable. If ever in the human experience there was a country who could change the flow of world history it was us. Our constitution promised it. Our religion promised it. Our military might promised it . . . What happened?

Like the allegory of the Prodigal Son in the Christian bible we squandered our inheritance on self-righteous greed becoming just another Empire with a beginning, a middle, and a soon to be ending, not much different than the Greeks and Romans before us. Me, Myself, and I became the law of the land as we slowly drown in our own waste.

Today every where I look I see decay. Oh, there are those who still strive for greatness and are willing to sacrifice to get it, but the flow of history is going against them. Most will die with the dream lying dormant in their hearts.
I hear the bravado. I hear the hero talk and the call to patriotic sacrifice. But giving your life for your country these days has a decidedly hollow ring to it.

Since the glory days of WW2 when have our children sacrificed their lives for a worthy cause? Korea? Vietnam? Iraq? Afghanistan? What good has any of these deaths accomplished? Who has benefited from them? Simple. Follow the money and see who’s getting rich.

I guess to answer the initial question, “Why do I hate America?” I gotta say, “ Well, I once loved her. I felt married to her. I laid my life on the line for her. I lived with her and partook of her many blessings. Then one day, when I least expected it, she decided to go out and fuck my best friend. My bubble burst and I found out she had been nothing but a whore all along. Whores can change their way, but never if they continue to justify their occupation.

So do I hate the dream? No. Do I hate what we’ve done to it? Yes. I am perhaps an embittered old man, I suppose…….but we had such an opportunity . .. we actually could have lived up to the PR.

We weren’t just contenders, we were the champs……..damn it!

Into the Night

Well, it’s going on May and the weather is beginning to change. The flowers are blooming and soon the dandelions will be covering my yard. (for me to eat, not kill) Everything smells so good and fresh here in holler paradise you would never know there was a storm brewing on the other side of the hill and across the river.

That’s where the town is and where the depression is much more noticeable. Since I began this blog the only change that has taken place in town is a change for the worse.

Our new president is trying hard, but I believe he is just digging the hole deeper. Until we get the jobs back and available for our men and women it’s all just smoke and mirrors anyways. Who cares about Wall Street when all around you Main Street is shutting it’s doors and leaving empty store fronts behind?

Who cares how much profit the banks have made when you still have to sell your first born son in order to get a loan?

The government has given these institutions tons of cash, BUT . . . until jobs are available nothing changes in small town USA, period.

As the spiral continues I am beginning to see that some of my ideas concerning safe guarding my property are not going to work. I don’t see my few neighbors all that interested in helping each other like I’d hoped. I’m beginning to believe that when it gets really rough it is probably going to be more like this little story I’m about to tell you.

It was sometime in the middle of a particularly black night on the island of Iromote during jungle school. I had stepped into a hole in the ground wearing a newly issued pair of jungle boots and twisted my ankle to the point of being unable to walk on it. I began to lag behind the column and finally went to my knees in pain.

Down the column rushed the squad leader. He bent down real close and whispered sweetly into my ear. “You had better shut the fuck up soldier! See that trail we’re on? You either keep up with me or follow it back to camp . . . you’re on your own!” He left and the column quickly disappeared into the night leaving me alone to fend for myself in that strange environment.

My rifle became a crutch as I began hobbling my way the five or ten miles back to our camp. Surprise! I thought you always helped out your comrades. John Wayne did. This butt head sergeant must have not gotten the message, he didn’t even ask me how I felt. He only wanted to shut me up. Nobody loves me! I’m alone and scared in the big, bad, world! Now what?

First thing, you must absorb the pain. It hurts worse when you fight it.

Second, realize fully that you are on your own. You may get some help along the way, but don’t expect it.

Third, think, think, THINK!

Move forward. Don’t waste your time crybabying about your circumstance.

Use your survival skills. Listen intently to the night and be quiet. As you become accustomed to your new environment you will receive your vision and ultimately even learn to enjoy the experience.

It’s Every Man For Himself

In every great battle there is a moment when opposing armies realize that they have either won or lost the conflict they find themselves in. The victor makes one last charge while the loser, realizing his command structure has broken down in disarray, heads for the hills.

So the call is going out to my four readers here and now . . . “IT”S EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF!!” Find a way out of the compound, escape to the jungle and utilize the survival skills you have been taught . . . you’re on your own. Good luck.

As I sat before my TV last night watching the incentive debate going on between the republicans and the democrats I asked myself. Where’s the change? Where’s the earnest non-partisan effort of both parties to come together and get this thing done?

Now Obama will get his bill passed, but his own party has pretty much scuttled it’s affect in my opinion. I now know without a doubt (even though I hate to admit it to myself) the battle for change is over. It’s been bored to death by partisan business-as-usual and has gone AWOL.

It would have taken a herculean effort anyways to change anything in Washington politics and it was probably just to much to ask from the very beginning. I mean how do you make a silk purse out of a pigs ear anyways?

I had a lot of hope for Obama and his administration. His cry for change rang true in my ears. I thought maybe, just maybe he could lead this country out of the morass of in-fighting and bickering and do-nothing-but-pander-to-special-interests legislation used by previous elected officials that has brought this country to its knees. I had hope even though I knew Obama was going to have a tough time of it. Even though I knew he would never do much on his own. Even though . . .

Last night that hope dried up and blew away as I watched one Senator after another acting out of his/ her own ego, more concerned with a few moments in the spot light, more concerned with his/her pet beliefs and projects, more concerned with seemingly everything available than the ONLY thing he/she should be concerned with . . . putting together a viable, hard hitting incentive package that would get us out of this hole we have dug for ourselves.

I saw little of that sort of concern. Lot’s of rhetoric, the American people this, the American people that, but all said in the same vein of trying to prove THEIR point.

The democrats trying to fill the incentive bill with enough pork to make a pig sick.

The republicans crying the same old story of tax breaks for business and the rich.

Pelosi and crew aren’t about to give in to their wild liberal demands.

The republicans aren’t about to give up their kneeling spot beneath the Golden Calf of perverted capitalism.

And the beat goes on as together they chew each on others asses even as they fall “together” over the cliff.

The winds of change have even taken on the foul odor of fear mongering as Obama does much the same as George Bush did before him by trying to rush the 900 billion dollar incentive package through congress.

By the way aren’t these (congress) the same assholes who just approved themselves a raise? You would think that the collective wisdom amongst them would have raised a flag on this one. No?

This all equals another no . . . no hope. It’s all being flushed down the drain of self interest.

I believe Obama was the man for the hour, but the Rush Limbaugh (and others) buzzword of “socialism” (remember McCarthy and his “communism” witch hunt?) will prove impossible for him to deal with and he will spend most of his time defending himself and his administration when only a strong offense will win the day for ‘change’.

Is it the republicans fault? Is it the democrats fault? No. It’s everybody’s fault.

Perhaps it’s merely fate. Perhaps it’s just our time to die like everything eventually does and nothing can change it, but for certain history will not be kind to this generation as the record will show that when the ship of State sprung a leak and began to list her occupants were to busy arguing about how to apply the patch and she sunk from lack of attention.

Personally I’m done with politics (so you no longer need to put up with my rants 🙂 and am getting back in survival mode myself.

I have no more hope for change or for a fix or for anything else coming from Washington save a bunch of hot air, and it’s going to take a whole hell of a lot more than hot air to keep the folks sitting around their stoves this winter warm so I’m closing with (and I hope I’m wrong). . . one more time.

“IT”S EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF!”

Purveyors of Fear

Watching the recent inauguration I was somewhat taken aback by the large crowds and the obviously happy people creating them. There was a distinct air of hope permeating from these millions of people. There was a fire in their belly keeping them warm as they stood in the cold awaiting the change about to take place on a distant podium. A new day was dawning and I believe everybody there realized it. Even Dick Chaney showing up in a wheelchair was a type and shadow of an old way about to be replaced by the winds of change.

Were these people ALL being deceived by this Obama character, this guy gifted with enough rhetorical power to entice the scales off a snake? Or were these people merely moving within the same vibe that lead Obama himself to that podium?

Are these millions of people willing to do what it takes to get this ship of State on course again or are they just looking for a savior to do it for them? Can this huge groundswell of support last when the day dims and their hope is put to the test?…as it surely will.

Who knows for sure, all any of us can do is hope. I am not too optimistic, but with all my being I hope this thing succeeds cause I truly believe this is the last chance we have to get our country back.

There is another crowd though, a crowd filled with people who are cold and fearful of the change this man is promoting. These people wear the compliment to hope, the yin to the yang and are to be expected. To them Obama is the anti-Christ himself.

This crowd feeds off the vibe of fear. Fear of the black man. Fear of the terrorist. Fear of change. Fear of seemingly everything that would vaguely change or reroute this highly touted capitalistic system they have created for themselves.

So, we have two distinct armies growing upon our landscape. The army of hope and the army of fear. Who will win? Don’t have a clue, but for me and my house we will gladly and willingly take up the challenge of hope and stand behind our new president Barrack Obama the half-black senator from Chicago.

I have a friend who is one of Rush Limbaugh’s (who’s a commanding general in the army of fear mongering) most faithful ditto heads. To me this is quite alarming as I consider giving ones rational thought process to fearing anybody or anything is tantamount to defeat by choice.

I find this totally unacceptable and have told my friend so, but as his mind has been clogged by Limbauitis for the last twenty years, he has in essence become a bobble headed minion in Rushes army of nit wits.

So because of his inability to discuss anything beyond the party line I’m going to ask an open question across the internet to my many (4) readers.

What are you conservative right wingers afraid of anyways?

Can you not see that time has risen the oil to the top of our capitalistic system and (the oil) has been siphoned off by the rich and powerful? That because of greed this highly touted system is now out of the reach of the middle class? Can’t you see that the rich patients have taken over the asylum and the playing field has become unbalanced?

It’s not that capitalism is in any way responsible for the collapse of our financial/banking/real estate system. Capitalism is as as good as it gets in a nation of strong, hard working, citizens, but the fine line that keeps it afloat and viable has always by nature been close to the water line.

Now because of the weight of this overwhelming greed the boat is, even with all hands manning the pumps, slowly sinking towards the abyss and the only thing keeping it afloat at this time is hope.

Yet there are those amongst us who are doing their damnedest to see that we fail and the ship sinks . . .why?

Hope sets one free, fear keeps one in bondage. It’s as simple as that.

The status quo is quite comfortable for the rich and the powerful in this country who have captured the whole pie and refuse to share with the rest of us. They don’t go to bed hungry. They don’t get laid off or lose their jobs. They don’t see factories closing all around them. They see these factories merely moving to a different place off shore.

A place where they can forget about all the hindering pollution laws. A place where they can forget about unions and work stoppages and high wages. They merely move to a place where they can make MORE money. This makes sense to them, this is good business and it fits perfectly into their perverted definition of capitalism.

These people use fear like a cattle prod to keep us in line. They promise to protect us from the terrorist. They promise all sorts of shit, but in the end that’s all we get . . . more shit.

These purveyors of fear remind me of the old mob in the Bronx selling protection to all the store owners. They walk in and promise you that for a fee of their choosing your store will be protected and if you comply with their demands you have a safe store, if not it gets blown up . . . simple. Reminds me of the insurance industry and this homeland security crap.

Like I said in my last entry. A rag tag army of terrorists is hardly worth 12 billion dollars a month when all it takes is an alert and well armed citizenry to drive them into the sea.

“We’re fighting them there so we won’t have to fight them here” is such a bullshit explanation I cannot even respond to it. Does anybody think in all reality that this country would have the casualties we have suffered over In Iraq and Afghanistan if we were fighting terrorism here in this country?

The towers went down for one reason, and one reason only. The complacency of those charged with defending us from this sort of thing. Using the laws in place and opening their fucking eyes was more than enough to keep us safe. They were asleep at the wheel.

If we started watching the borders. If we got our eyes off the pavement two steps in front of our feet and began to observe our surroundings instead of stumbling around the malls like sheep in a pen. If we actually began to take responsibility for ourselves, and our towns and our nation, the terrorist wouldn’t stand a chance.

We need change. We need to wake up and realize this is a violent and uncompromising world we live in. We need to shove the purveyor of fear off into the night and we need to press forward into the light of day . . . and change . . . and hope.

I pray Obama can keep the vibe going long enough that the people can catch up because if this thing fails we all fail. If it succeeds we all succeed. . . cause in the real world we are the catalyst that will make it all happen. Obama can only lead the army, he can not ever BE the army.

Old Men Dream Dreams

It seems I do more of it in the winter, but regardless, as I get older I spend a lot of time day dreaming. I usually wake up about 5 am, make coffee and, being retired and having no place to go, sit in my chair in the dark drinking my coffee and dreaming about the past. A rather pleasant time, I might add.

Now I have been to a lot of places and done a lot of things, but the things and places have become mere backdrops, places to hold the faces and memories of the many people I have known and the friends I have made while I did things over the last 66 years that I have lived on this planet.

As I begin to think on a place and time the faces are soon to follow. These faces pop into my mind like a worn out jack-in-the-box. Crank the handle a bit and wallah up pops Joey Sirgo or Gunner Thompson, or Tommy One Nut, or Pissball Pete. . . . . or. (It’s amazing how many of these guys have slang names and how often that’s the only one I can remember.)

Then the fun begins as I sit and reminisce with these guys over all the exciting times we had together . . . and a few of the sad ones. Seems the good and the funny always float to the top first though. I have to dig a bit to get to the bad, so as I hate shoveling I mostly leave that part alone.

To all the girls I’ve loved before. I remember your eyes, the lift of your breasts and the swing of your hips, but little else cause my Band of Brothers meant far more to me than trying to figure you out ever did. You guys have a place in my heart, but the respectable amongst you live in a special ‘other’ room. This room is filled with bar girls, casual one night stands, and short time hookers.

The old boys club door is locked to the finer female. No equality here. You wouldn’t like it anyways in there cause the room stinks with old cigar smoke, cordite and bull shit and the floor is littered with trampled peanut shells, dried blood and dog hair. A place only one of my old friends could love.

I always figured when I got old I would be sitting in the park with the rest of the old goats, like they did when I was a kid. Maybe the old project crowd still do that, I don’t know because I lost contact with them at 15 when I had to move.

Today I live a life of seclusion. I spend my days reading, or goofing on my computer or driving my wife crazy, but rarely if ever do I spend time with friends, cause although spread out over half the world, they are not here.

Once I was in a Portland City jail cell with the walls covered in graffiti. I found an empty spot and wrote my own little tale of woe, “I’ve been alone since birth, I’ll remain alone till death, then I’ll have a friend”. Kind of a downer, but how else would you feel being stuck in a 6×6 cell with a guy coming down off heroin?

I do hope that quickly thought verse will prove itself to be true though cause I’m getting closer to D day each time I go to sleep at night and it would be really cool to wake up on the other side and see a large table of my friends gathered around it to greet me. (and my favorite dogs lying under it)

Jesus and God would have to wait for a while then cause first thing I want to do is drink some Maddog wine and hang out with the guys again for a season . . . or two.

What Is the Future of Suburbia?

“The suburbs have three destinies, none of them exclusive: as materials salvage, as slums, and as ruins.”

There are many ways of describing the fiasco of suburbia, but these days I refer to it as the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world.

I say this because American suburbia requires an infinite supply of cheap energy in order to function and we have now entered a permanent global energy crisis that will change the whole equation of daily life. Having poured a half-century of our national wealth into a living arrangement with no future — and linked our very identity with it — we have provoked a powerful psychology of previous investment that will make it difficult for us to let go, change our behavior, and make other arrangements.

Compounding the problem is the fact that we ditched our manufacturing economy for a suburban sprawl building economy (a.k.a. “the housing bubble”), meaning we came to base our economy on building even more stuff with no future. This is a hell of a problem, since it is at once economic, socio-political, and circumstantial.

Here’s what I think will happen: First, we are in great danger of mounting a futile campaign to sustain the unsustainable, that is, of defending suburbia at all costs.
In fact, it is already underway. One symptom of this is that the only subject under discussion about our energy predicament is how can we keep running all our cars by other means. Even the leading environmentalists talk of little else. We don’t get it. The Happy Motoring era is over. No combination of “alt” fuels — solar, wind, nuclear, tar sands, oil-shale, offshore drilling, used French-fry oil — will allow us to keep running the interstate highway system, Wal-Marts, and Walt Disney World.

The automobile will be a diminishing presence in our lives, whether we like it or not. Further proof of our obdurate cluelessness in these matters is the absence of any public discussion about restoring the passenger railroad system — even as the airline industry is also visibly dying. The campaign to sustain suburbia and all its entitlements will result in a tragic squandering of our dwindling resources and capital.

The suburbs have three destinies, none of them exclusive: as materials salvage, as slums, and as ruins. In any case, the suburbs will lose value dramatically, both in terms of usefulness and financial investment. Most of the fabric of suburbia will not be “fixed” or retrofitted, in particular the residential subdivisions. They were built badly in the wrong places. We will have to return to traditional modes of inhabiting the landscape — villages, towns, and cities, composed of walkable neighborhoods and business districts — and the successful ones will have to exist in relation to a productive agricultural hinterland, because petro-agriculture (as represented by the infamous 3000-mile Caesar salad) is also now coming to an end. Fortunately, we have many under-activated small towns and small cities in favorable locations near waterways. This will be increasingly important as transport of goods by water regains importance.

We face an epochal demographic shift, but not the one that is commonly expected: from suburbs to big cities. Rather, we are in for a reversal of the 200-year-long trend of people moving from the farms and small towns to the big cities. People will be moving to the smaller towns and smaller cities because they are more appropriately scaled to the limited energy diet of the future. I believe our big cities will contract substantially — even if they densify back around their old cores and waterfronts. They are products, largely, of the 20th-century cheap energy fiesta and they will be starved in the decades ahead.

One popular current fantasy I hear often is that apartment towers are the “greenest” mode of human habitation. On the contrary, we will discover that the skyscraper is an obsolete building type, and that cities overburdened with them will suffer a huge liability — Manhattan and Chicago being the primary examples. Cities composed mostly of suburban-type fabric — Houston, Atlanta, Orlando, et al — will also depreciate sharply. The process of urban contraction is likely to be complicated by ethnic tensions and social disorder.

As petro-agriculture implodes, we’ll have to raise our food differently, closer to home, and at a finer and smaller scale. This new agricultural landscape will be inhabited differently, since farming will require more human attention. The places that are not able to grow enough food locally are not likely to make it. Phoenix and Las Vegas will be shadows of what they are now, if they exist at all.

These days, an awful lot of people — the production builders, the realtors — are waiting for the “bottom” in the real-estate industry with hopes that the suburban house-building orgy will resume. They are waiting in vain. The project of suburbia is over. We will build no more of it. Now we’re stuck with what’s there. Sometimes whole societies make unfortunate decisions or go down tragic pathways. Suburbia was ours.

James Kunstler, the author of The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the 21st Century,

Beers and Deers

They’re Back! My wife saw a bunch of them in the store today buying up their beer, getting ready for tomorrows opening day deer hunt.

Joy! Nothing like living in a very narrow valley surrounded by high hills in the center of a couple thousand acres of Ohio forest during hunting season. I won’t use the the same old worn out cliche, “It was like a war zone” . . . but it will be.

Already my wife says she heard a round cutting the air as it zipped over her head the other day during the kiddy hunt. This is the pre-season hunt reserved for Bubba’s kids. They get the woods for themselves for a couple days. You know in order to have a little quality time with pa killing and gutting deer.

Now before I take to my bunker and before you begin to think I’m a tree hugger pacifist (well, maybe I am) let me explain my position a bit.

I’m not really against hunting, per say. The county I live in is rather poor and we get hundreds of guys spending thousands of dollars every season for the pleasure of hunting in these hallowed hills. These guys are hunters. They do their thing, pack up their deer kill and go back home to the suburbs to eat and brag on it. These guys get a pass. Nor am I against owning guns. I have a couple of them myself.

Here’s what really pisses me off about the whole thing. Down at the end of the valley where the corn fields start the local yahoos like to sit in their trucks and scan the opposite hillside for deer. Once they see one they get out and try to shoot it. Usually just getting their fat asses out of the truck creates enough racket when the empty beer cans hit the hard pan, that the deer run over the ridge and disappear down the other side, but once in a while Bubba Beer Belly gets lucky.

Don’t know how he gets up to the deer, but the carcass usually ends up not far from where he parked his truck. Last year there were three baby deer carcases in the two foot wide creek that follows the road. Christ, my German Shepard is bigger than those deer were.

They drive up the country road sitting in the back of pickups holding their weapons between their legs looking like they were in Beirut. They scan the hillside behind my cabin looking for a way to get up there. They see me, stop and ask.

Get back asshole! This is my turf!! . . . I think as I saunter down to the road, smile and answer politely that, “No, there is no hunting allowed clean up to the top of the hill.” (Can’t you read the signs you illiterate son-of-a-bitch!) “Yes, I know, but I am sorry. Absolutely no hunting . . . See you guys. Be careful.” (Hope you shoot your damn toes off!)

Now in case you think I am a nut case, off season I usually offer these same guys a beer if they happen to come around. They are just regular Joe’s like I’m used to. Same as the guys I grew up with. But during deer season all bets are off, it’s killing time and the more gunshots I hear the more protectionist and paranoid I become. I don’t hunt four leggeds though, I love the beauty of the deer too much to slaughter him. Now those fat, beer basted, two leggeds? I’m keeping them in my sites for later when times get really tough.

The Struggle of Life

There’s an old favorite Calvin and Hobbes cartoon hanging in my office. It starts with the two of them walking through the woods on a bright, sunny winter day. Calvin, being mesmerized by the beauty of it all, stops and gives a long dissertation questioning why mankind had chosen in the first place to sequester himself in houses and cars while living in such overpowering beauty.

Turning to Hobbes he asks. “ That’s why I want to ask you, as a tiger, a wild animal close to nature, what you think we’re put on earth to do . . . What’s our purpose in life? Why are we here?”

Hobbes thinks for a moment, smiles, raises his arms in the old Italian gesture and replies, “We’re here to devour each other alive.” then he walks away.

Calvin watches Hobbes leave, looks straight ahead at the viewer, looks up at the sky. Then he makes a beeline for his house where he fearfully turns up all his lights and raises the heat in hopes of alleviating the fear instilled by Hobbes choice wording.

I have always loved that cartoon cause it shows so well and so simply the struggle each of us every day must make to stay alive in this very chaotic and cruel environment we find ourselves in.

Regardless of our status, be it wealthy, poor, high brow, low brow, African aborigine or American blue blood, this basic survival instinct is prevalent in all of us. It’s the lub in our very first heart beat, leading us down the pathway of our years until it’s final dub.

The way of survival is not merely what one needs to do in order to make it through a social/economic pinch. It’s also on a far deeper level the evolutionary trail a life form has taken through the ages in order to remain viable.

In our breed it manifests a zillion different ways on a zillion avenues, but the struggle is there in all our lives pushing and prodding us into our various chosen paths.

Some, like the guys who have chosen the power/position/possession path, struggle through hard work and dedication to become our leaders and our heroes.

Some, like the criminal, having also chosen the power, position, possession path seek to circumvent the learning curve of hard work and get right to the wealthy part. These become the worst among us and often find themselves wallowing in a cage somewhere feeling sorry for themselves.

Some, like most of us, muddle along content just to have enough to feed ourselves and our family. These people, whether they live in a small house in a suburb or a thatched hut in a jungle clearing are basically all of the same mind set. They struggle to live within their inherited environment in much the same way.

And yet, the question that lies forever strongly in my mind, is why we, the core foundation of this life form called humanity, allow the wealthy and neer-do-wells of this planet to manipulate us, through religious and political means, into taking up arms against one another when we, if anything, ought to be confronting them. This thought alone literally blows my mind . . . and makes me fear for the continuity of this race.

Personally I have never feared much about a wild animal devouring me like perhaps my predecessors have. I have lived in very close proximity to Krait snakes as well as Grizzly bears and have never lost much sleep over the fact.

What I fear above all else is us being manipulated by a man, or a group of men, into believing our survival is contingent upon the killing of THEIR enemy. And I believe . . . until there is a fundamental change in the evolution of our thought, we will all be forever looking over our shoulders for a way to survive the devourer behind us . . . following.