H2O Man's Journal
Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 07:49 PM
Number of posts: 49,058
Number of posts: 49,058
I went to the high school this morning, to take care of some "school board business." When I left, I stopped at a "Quick Way" convenience store, to buy a copy of spiral notebooks .... I still do a lot of outlines and rough drafts by hand. Then, after I got home, I went out for a walk, to try to do a mental outline of a presentation that I have to do on Tuesday morning.
By chance (or not), I found two nice arrowheads .... one Levanna and one Madison .... a chipped fishing net-weight, two decorated pottery sherds, and a sinew stone. It's only the third sinew stone that I've ever found; the first one was stolen from me by a former co-worker in human services, who took about a half-dozen artifacts from me. Had he just asked, I'd have gladly given him some other artifacts, though I'd have kept that first sinew stone -- not only are they rare, but I had found it in a cave behind my parents' home, and so it had a special value for me.
Life is strange, sometimes.
On Memorial Day, a 9-year old boy from our school died as a result of a freak accident. It happened at a local parade, where he and his Little League baseball team were participating. A lot of students were there, including my two daughters. Both of them knew the boy.
One of the reasons that I ran for a seat on the board last year was because now that I'm retired, I have time to invest in something worthwhile. Our school is outstanding: the students get a great education, because we have a strong, caring faculty. It's a tough time for all public schools -- since the republican machine identified teachers' unions as Public Enemy #1. Cuts in state funding hurt all schools, and the rural districts in upstate New York like our's are really up against it.
But this is something very different than tax dollars and Albany bureaucrats. Because my specialty at the mental health clinic was "community crisis response," I immediately volunteered to serve in any and every way to provide support to the school. There has been a good response from the county mental health clinic, and professionals from surrounding communities. And they have been busy. Their work is really cut out for them.
Still, both faculty and administration need an outlet, and I've been glad to serve in that way. The little boy's funeral is tomorrow, and after the weekend, I expect that the shock will wear off, and people will begin to have even more need for support. On Tuesday, among the things planned, will be an assembly featuring speakers from a variety of backgrounds. I'm pleased that I was included in this.
What I plan to talk about is something that I've learned as a result of experiencing too many tragic events in my life, rather than anything I ever read in a text book at college. Without going into too much detail, I can sum it up this way: nothing good happens because of a tragic event, but a heck of a lot of good can happen despite the event. Indeed, that is a big part of the positive of human potential. Such tragic events can bring about the best in people ..... and we often find that in such times, ordinary folks can do extraordinary things.
And that, of course, is what is best in any society -- when people reach out and support one another, not because they have to, but because human beings really are good. And that's something that we should not take for granted.
When I spoke with our new superintendent today, I noted that he had come at a rough time. Not just the usual budget stuff, either. On the first day of the school, we had a flood that washed out the "dead end" road leading to the primary school, a heck of a start to the year. And there has been other strange events. Now this. He reminded me of a conversation we had a while back; a few community members had complained about his style of doing business, in part I believe because he is from a city, and not used to the much slower pace of "country culture." I had told these folks that, considering the crap we are having thrown at us from Albany, I think he might be the exact person we need right now. He told me that he keeps thinking of what I said, and in this difficult time, trying his best to live up to that.
As a parent, community member, and member of the school board, I'm doing my best, too. It's a tough time, and nothing less will do.
Posted by H2O Man | Thu May 31, 2012, 04:46 PM (25 replies)
"Sitting on a pebble by the river playing guitar
Wond'ring if we're really ever gonna get that far
Do you know there's something wrong?
We'll stick together 'cause we're strong"
-- Julian Lennon, Velotte
In the hill-country of upstate New York, it's not uncommon to find open springs of water gurgling out from under a boulder. I have three of these currently flowing into my pond, as well as a few underground springs feeding it. On a warm, muggy day, my dogs Kelly and Rocky will play pond-side for a brief period, and then go cool off by laying in those springs. Rocky is our new puppy .... half German Shepherd and half Siberian Huskie. Since he looked like a raccoon when we got him, the Lennon-McCartney song "Rocky Raccooon" provided the source of his name.
With only the sun serving as a clock, day time at the pond is very different than "time" when one is at work, inside a building, or in a town or city. At first, as the dogs rest, my mind is crowded with nonsense about too many appointments and financial stress. Pretty soon, I'm watching the fish and birds, looking at various flowers in bloom, and envying that these animals and plants do not share my worries. They are here, now. And always at here, now.
Some of those appointments are fun. Watching my older daughter running in the finals of the sectionals in track. She doesn't win, and isn't happy with her time. Within minutes, she is both very happy and very sad: making it this far is rewarding for a person who has invested years of effort; but it's the end of her high school sports career. I watch as a number of coaches from other teams talk to her. Last year, she won a special award as those other coaches recognized her as being eager to work with anyone and everyone on improving in track.
Our coach assisted her in getting a position as an assistant coach on the track team of the college she's attending. He's loaned her every book and film on track that exists, it seems. She was running in another race today, as there are plenty of 5K races throughout the region. I suspect that while she's running so many miles in preparation for races, in her mind time expands, similarly to the way it does for me at the pond.
But otherwise, time has been pretty crammed and cramped lately. One afternoon this week, I picked her up at school, and we went to a ceremony where she was tied for a first-place state-wide scholarship. Then we went to a school event, where she was "officially" named valedictorian. She's maintained a 100 average throughout high school. I'm excited to watch this flower bloom. I think her future looks good. Still, I'm a little sad sometimes, because the time I've had with the girl I've called "Sugar Plum Fairy" since she was wee-little has gone by way too fast. And now she is a young lady who, one of my good friends assures me, ain't going to be living in this neck of the woods.
An independent media reporter called me this week, to ask if it would be okay to tape my daughter's speech at graduation. She met my daughter at the anti-hydrofracking meeting at the Pace University Environmental Law Clinic last month. My daughter has always made a strong impression on people, such as John Nichols and Elizabeth de la Vega ("we've just seen our next US Senator from New York," when at 14, my daughter gave an impromptu speech on non-violence), so I'm not surprised by the media request. But that is entirely up to my daughter, not me.
We should all be learning from our interactions with others. The most important thing that I've learned in 18 years with my daughter is the power of true gentleness. It allows logical and rational thought to flow properly. I've been thinking about that in the context of my participation here on this forum.
Some of the time, it can be difficult to be polite on even relatively petty discussions and debates here; for example, on "LBN," there's a Manson Family thread containing numerous inaccurate and false claims -- but is there really any reason to be short with an uninformed person, when simply directing them towards accurate sources of information is at least as easy?
And there are more important discussions and debates on "GD," about the 2012 elections. In particular, I've seen hostile responses to people either asking a question, or expressing their opinion. There is a wide range of perceptions, for example, on President Barack Obama: some people are quite satisfied with him, and others quite unsatisfied ..... and everything in between.(I do not care about, nor focus upon, those who "visit" DU for the wrong reasons. They are of no significance, and generally are removed from the ranks.)
I campaigned for Senator Barack Obama in 2008. I'm not particularly satisfied with his performance in office, but can understand and appreciate that others are. Some of the points that both sides make seem valid and valuable to me. In my own case, I'm going to be focusing my efforts on two areas other than the presidential contest: one election for a seat in the House of Representatives, and a few local elections. And also of interest to me is the sad reality that a segment of the population nation-wide will be engaged in campaign disruption and attempts to deny specific groups the right to vote.
It seems to me that the vast majority of DUers would agree that these issues are things we should be united in opposing. Indeed, that should be something everyone who respects our Constitution agree upon. And it is no coincidence that most of the jackals that seek to disrupt and keep others from voting happen to be republicans, doing the work of the 1%.
By the time Election Day rolls around, my daughter -- who will be voting for the first time -- will be hundreds of miles away at college. She likes President Obama, and thinks that he is doing better than I think he is. I think it's funny that although she has been a long-time volunteer at the county Democratic Party headquarters, she is registered "independent." We see things differently, which is good, but I know that it is essential for the Democratic Party to have allies like her.
Posted by H2O Man | Sat May 26, 2012, 01:13 PM (17 replies)
"Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer,..."
-- 1 John 3:15
I watched the sentencing of Dharun Ravi today, in the Rutger's spycam case. Ravi was sentenced by Judge Glenn Berman for his role in spying on his college roommate, Tyler Clementi. Shortly after a couple of incidents of spying in September of 2010, Clementi would jump to his death off the George Wasington bridge.
The horror of this, and so many similar cases, should give reason for our society to re-examine it's hatred for those who differ from what is definied as "normal" in terms of sexuality. Sad to say, those infected with such hatred will respond much like Ravi, who refuses to see any connection between his criminal acts and Clemtenti's suicide. The self-righteous often attempt to pretend they inhabit some moral high ground, and repeat the tired "hate the 'sin,' not the 'sinner' " bullshit -- with all of the insight of a parrot.
Homosexuality is found in nature: hence, it is not "un-natural." The percentages in nature do not matter -- it is a natural, thus legitimate human experience. Hatred, on the other hand, is not found in nature: it is a man-made disease, that is un-naturally transmitted from one person to another. It is illegitimate. Yet, once unleased on a population, it demands a greater existence, much like a virus. And those who benefit from hatred -- who do so in a perverse way, I should add -- and those ignorant fools who become consumed by hatred, always look for some statistical minority to focus that hatred upon.
Lately, we've heard many of the hate-infected population say, "The bible clearly defines marriage as being between one man and one woman." Hence, we know those people are either purposely lying, or have never read the bible. Nor, if they have read it, do the grasp the meaning of the above quote, which falls among what are known as the harsh teachings of the book. These are aimed directly and exclusively at the self-righteous -- in this case, those fools who label nature as "sin," and who hatefully drive good and decent human beings to suicide.
A society that accepts the hateful making their brothers' and sisters' lives painful in this manner also owns the sin.
Posted by H2O Man | Mon May 21, 2012, 01:55 PM (4 replies)
At Albany, N.Y. (ESPN2/ESPN3): Karim Mayfield vs. Raymond Serrano, 10 rounds, junior welterweights; Nick Brinson vs. Jason Escalera, 8 rounds, middleweights; David Telesco vs. Vincent Miranda, 8 rounds, cruiserweights; Kenny Abril vs. Bryan Abraham, 6 rounds, welterweights; Kevin Rooney Jr. vs. Anthony Jones, 4 rounds, middleweights; Tony Brinson vs. Lekan Byfield, 4 rounds, super middleweights.
My son Darren bought a couple tickets for ringside seats, and drove up from Long Island to pick up the Old Man. We're going to be heading out to Albany soon.
If you get a chance, watch the fights. I'll have a lot more on the card this weekend.
D got these as a birthday present -- he and I both had birthdays. Dang: no matter how old I am, I still get excited by being able to get out to the fights!
Posted by H2O Man | Fri May 18, 2012, 09:57 AM (1 replies)
When Manny Pacquiao's statement, in which he expressed his opposition to President Barack Obama's stance on marriage equality, is but another example of how boxing transcends sports, and serves as a measure of socio-political dynamics. Let's take a closer look at this situation.
In fact, Pacquiao is himself a member of the House of Representatives in the Philippines. His status as an elite athlete provided him with the platform he needed to win that office. He has won "titles" in eight divisions -- from Junior Flyweight to Junior Middleweight -- including four lineal ("real") world's titles. His most consistent theme in his government service has been helping to poor.
It is no secret that Pacquiao, after he retires from boxing, wants to run for the presidency of the Philippines. Recent controversial "tax issues" suggest that the powers-that-be in his country are not in favor of his accomplishing this. But his statement opposing President Obama's stance on marriage equality is a controversy of his own making.
None of Boxing's greatest fighters have had a socio-political influence on their own. Boxing, as heavyweight champion Charles "Sonny" Liston said in the early 1960s, is like a cowboy movie: there's got to be a good guy and a bad guy. That's what people pay to see -- the good guy beat the bad guy. That, of course, doesn't always happen.
When Jack Johnson, the first recognized black heavyweight champion, defended his title against former champion Jim Jeffries (who had retired undefeated), white America had identified Johnson as the bad guy. But he easily knocked Jeffries out.
When the great Joe Louis defended his title against Max Schmeling, it was viewed as America versus the Nazi Germany. Louis won by first round knockout, after fracturing Schmeling's spine with a vicious blow.
And when Muhammad Ali came out of the forced retirement (for refusing to be drafted) to challenge Joe Frazier, it was much more than two undefeated heavyweight champions meeting for the first time. Ali represented the anti-war, pro-civil rights population, and Frazier -- not by choice -- represented blue collar, white Nixon supporters. Frazier won a 15-round decision.
The man standing opposite of Manny Pacquiao is undefeated champion Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Outside of the boxing community, Manny has been viewed as a "Golden Boy" -- clean-cut, polite, and even charming in his attempts to become a recording artist. Floyd has largely been viewed as the "bad guy" -- indeed, he is scheduled to begin a three-month jail term for domestic violence in June.
When Senator Barack Obama was running for president, he wanted to appear publicly with Floyd Mayweather. However, his advisors rejected the idea, because of Floyd's public image. Manny Pacquiao would visit President Obama at the White House, in a move that got a lot of media attention. More recently, President Obama got together with Floyd, without media coverage.
The boxing community views the pair very differently than does the American general public. We are aware that Floyd comes from a family in which two of the most important people in his life -- his father and Uncle Roger -- have histories of domestic violence. (Also, when Floyd was about five years old, his father held him in front of himself, for protection from the gun that an associate in crime was pointing at him.) Floyd has had problems in this area, too. Domestic violence is something that the boxing community strongly disapproves of, and wants Floyd to be held accountable for. We also know that people who commit domestic violence can change.
We view Pacquiao differently than does the general public, too. There is a controversy about drug-testing that derailed the first scheduled PacMan vs Money Mayweather bout. In January of 2010, ESPN's Teddy Atlas reported live, on the Friday Night Fights, about two e-mails that the a Pacquiao representative sent to the Mayweather camp: the first asked how large a fine they would demand when Manny failed the tests; the second asked if they would agree to keep it secret "for the good of boxing."
Steroids and related performance-enhancing drugs are a growing problem in boxing, as they are in other sports. But there is an important distinction. It's not just that Manny had a suspicious "growth streak," in which his endurance increased as dramtically as the size of his head. Or that he came out of nowhere to break Henry Armstrong's hard-earned record. A baseball player may break the home-run record by cheating; but in boxing, one risks serious injury (or death) when the opponent cheats.
Pacquiao's position against marriage equality may cement his popularity among the hate crowd. But Floyd's response to the controversy may suprise others, and perhaps gain him wider support:
"I stand behind President Obama and support gay marriage. I'm an American citizen, and I believe people should live their life the way they want." -- Floyd Mayweather; May 16, 2012
Posted by H2O Man | Thu May 17, 2012, 11:04 AM (19 replies)
“Exiled in the Land of the Free: Democracy, Indian Nations, and the U.S. Constitution”
-- Oren Lyons & John Mohawk; Clear Light; 1992.
The head of the Sidney, NY Democratic Party contacted me earlier this week. She said that their notorious Town Supervisor, Bob McCarthy -- the man who put the town into the international spotlight two years ago, when he attempted to illegally force the removal of Islamic graves -- had been acting like a petty tyrant. I suggested that it wasn’t an act: Sidney’s town clown fits that description. She asked if I could attend the board meeting, and assist in putting Bob in check.
Out of habit, I arrived in Sidney early, allowing me access to a front-row seat. Soon, a local (retired) businessman, who serves as the head of the town’s planning board, sat beside me. I had attended high school with his daughters, and had been friends with their mother; all of them despised the old man. He and I have never been on anything less than hostile terms, and last fall, he and McCarthy had traveled to other community meetings, in part to heckle me when I gave presentations against hydrofracking.
The head of a regional energy corporation (who was also in school with me) had instructed both of these gentlemen to be “respectful” to me, probably because he was aware of my ability to use such clowns for props in front of the media. Thus, he greeted me with, “Hey, Pat. Haven’t seen you in a while.” This is the essence of a “company man” -- although he detests me, he submits to his superior’s instruction to be friendly towards me. Yet, this did not stop him from trying to secretly read my notes during the meeting. I, of course, made sure to let him see everything I wrote ….as much of it was for his consumption.
A friend who works for the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation sat on my other side. His knowledge of environmental law makes him a thorn in McCarthy’s side, and as soon as he sat down, McCarthy called the Village Police. McCarthy insisted that the responding officer remove my friend from the meeting. When asked for what cause, McCarthy could only say, “Because I don’t want him here.” The officer refused to take any action beyond reminding McCarthy that it was an open meeting.
During the meeting, McCarthy continued to display his utter contempt for open government. First, he was verbally abusive to a town councilwoman, who questioned his “authority” to force board members to tell him how they planned to vote on certain issues, days before the meeting. Second, when the Town Clerk reminded him that Governor Cuomo had recently signed an “open government” law that he was violating, McCarthy insisted he didn’t have to obey “expensive” laws.
I could, of course, go on and on in giving examples of how this tea party republican, with his single-celled brain, governs. But I think that you get the picture. And as much of a buffoon as Bob McCarthy may be, he is unfortunately symptomatic of what is wrong in government on a state and national level -- much as his sniveling friend from the planning board is of business.
But what does this, you may be asking, have to do with the book I referenced at the top of this essay? Quite a bit, actually.
My intention here is not to debate the role that Native Americans -- in particular, the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy -- played in influencing the Founding Fathers of the United States. From previous experience on this very forum, I know that the majority of folks here are aware of that influence. It would be hard, perhaps impossible, to look at Franklin’s Albany Plan of Union, where the federal government was to be known as the Grand Council, and not see any connection. Or the Articles of Confederation. Or the Constitution. However, should anyone have sincere doubts, please read chapter six of this book, Donald Grinde’s “Iroquois Political Theory and the Roots of American Democracy,” and we can go from there.
The European experience had been something that should sound familiar to everyone here. Briefly, before there were nation-states, most of Europe was subjected to the system known as feudalism. The peasants were engaged in agriculture, and ruled by an imperial force within a castle. When the king needed soldiers to rob, steal, and kill for him, he “drafted” the young men of the peasant families into his service. While the king did have advisors and aides, he had the final word in ruling over everyone’s life. And this included his “taxing” the poor for his service.
As agricultural methods improved, and provided surplus goods, the Europeans began to engage in two things that would stratify their society: industry and a greatly increased amount of trade. Hence, a new powerful group arose: the merchants. As the “corporate” interests banded together, they became powerful enough to reach an almost-equal footing with the king. Added to this was the political power of the Pope in Rome. The balance was that merchantilism replaced feudalism, thus establishing nation-states; and with that, men who searched distant parts of the globe for gold, glory, and God.
We’ll skip over how Spain brought Christian civilization to Central America, even though it no doubt would appeal to Bob McCarthy’s sense of self-righteousness. Fast forward to England’s Thirteen Colonies, including its ruling class of merchants, who were caught up in a conflict: being under British rule had some comfortable advantages for them, but there were too many pesky taxes.
Certainly, those “Founding Fathers” were fully human, which included having faults and weaknesses. But they believed in the Power of Ideas. And many of them -- including those who met at Albany to plan their new nation, and those at the later Constitutional Convention -- were very familiar with Native American thinking in terms of freedom and democracy. And those less familiar had the opportunity to listen to the representatives of the Iroquois Grand Council of Chiefs, who attended both of these (and many other related) meetings.
The Iroquois had been guided by a socio-political school of thought that no Europeans had been exposed to before coming into contact with the Native Americans of the northeast. These include the concept that all human beings are equal, and have certain inalienable rights. They included the concept that one should never submit to the whims of a “king” or “merchant.” Listen closely to those who have proven themselves to be Good and Wise. Yet, “think for yourself, and act on the behalf of your people” was a basic truth.
Those Founding Fathers didn’t get everything right. Non-white people, and white women and children were obviously not included in the mix of those with rights in the United States. And while I’m not a person who would take a “be patient -- all good things in their time” position, progress has been made. Not enough: the “controversy” of equal rights in marriage shows that the Bob McCarthy virus still infects too much of our society to call us healthy.
What I will say is this: the message of the Iroquois -- that the white folk should “become Indian” -- did not imply that the Founding Fathers and their families should abandon the colonies and most to Indian communities. No, it meant then -- as it means now -- that they needed to think the thoughts the Indians thought, to behave in the general manner the Indians behaved in, and to refuse to submit to a cruel and criminal “authority” that morally sick individuals and institutions claimed. And that those colonists who banded together, and exercised the Power of the Good Mind, could overcome any stumbling block planed in their way.
Posted by H2O Man | Sat May 12, 2012, 03:02 PM (7 replies)
I'm finding the discussions on DU regarding Willard Romney's bullying as a high school senior very interesting. The majority of the OPs & posts that I've read have accurately identified the absolute character trait that Romney displayed then .... and continues to display today, though in what the 1% identifies as in a "winning" way. A few, including some have appear to experience difficulty caused by the blurring of their youthful behaviors, do not grasp the implications.
In an effort to keep this OP short, I will recommend that anyone and everyone here would do well to get ahold of a copy of Erich Fromm's 1973 book, "The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness." Some of my old buddies here will know that Fromm is the "social-thinker" who has had the greatest influence on the way I view society; a couple may even recall my speaking of this particular book here, in the past.
In my opinion, this book would be of more value for most folks than a current reading of the current mental health definition of anti-social personality disorder. This is in part because the "official" definition was altered to absorb the sociopath/psychopath, due entirely to the billing system of insurance companies. (But that is, of course, another topic for further discussion.) Equally important is that Fromm combines his usual fields of psychology and sociology, with history, genetics, and nature.
Briefly, Fromm writes that human beings can engage in two types of aggression: "benign" (or defensive) or "malignant" (or cruel destructiveness). A good case can be made that the benign aggression is rooted in the genetic "flight or fight" found in most of the animal kingdom. Malignant aggression, however, is a trait that infects only the human species.
An important point that I think too many people miss is the role the malignant agressor plays in society. Certainly, if one reads "true crime" books, say by former FBI profiler John Douglas, we are aware of how a "loner" can destroy the lives of those in his/her path for entertainment. But not all malignant aggressors do not always come individually unwrapped. Some are like former president George W. Bush, a man who delighted in the suffering of others from an early an age as high school senior Willard Romney.
In such cases, this type of person often rises to a leadership position. It usually isn't becoming the President of the United States, or even the head of a corporation. Such character traits can be found in many "gang" leaders, and I'm not restricting "gang" to the Bloods or the Savage Skulls. It is found in "good old boy" groups, and in the James "Whitey" Bulgers in our society. Indeed, in a sick cultural group (including sub-groups), extreme cruelty can be mistaken for "leadership ability."
Thus, the fact that Romney was the leader of cruel attacks is important for two significant reasons: first, as an individual, what internal flaw caused him to be violent and cruel to people his self-image caused him to try to define as "weak"?; and second, how did this play out in the group setting? It is no coincidence that Romney was the group leader, and that everyone in his gang (and who witnessed his cruelty) remembers the incidents that Willard claims to "not remember" -- a most obvious and glaring lie.
I'll end with this: I absolutely believe in human redemption. I think that people can change, even those who have been cruel and violent. But when it is a deeply rooted character flaw, the work required for such a change is visible. I do not see anything about Willard Romney's life or being that suggests he has changed.
Posted by H2O Man | Fri May 11, 2012, 11:38 AM (12 replies)
"True civilization lies in the dominance of self, and not in the dominance of other men. Is not humanness a matter of heart and mind, and is it not evident in the form of relationships with man? Is not kindness more powerful than arrogance, and truth more powerful than the sword? I am going to venture that the man who sat on the ground in his tepee, meditating on life and its meaning, accepting the kinship of all the creatures, and acknowledging unity with the universe of things, was infusing into his being the true essence of civilization. And when native man left off this form of development, his humanization was retarded in growth."
-- Luther Standing Bear; Land of the Spotted Eagle; 1933.
Due to numerous morning/ early afternoon appointments, I have been spending more time at my pond in the evening. As I fill the bird-feeders with black oil sunflower seeds, a couple of dozen Koi swim over to the southwest "corner" of the pond. They know that they are about to be fed. And as soon an their evening meal hits the water's surface, hundreds of minnows -- from tiny to large -- create what Horace called "a poem without words" -- with countless small ripples intersecting on the pond's top.
Next, I toss more food into a deeper section of the water, which the trout inhabit. These fish tend to "jump" their meal, and the sight and sounds of their feeding is distinct from either Koi or minnow. Then, I take a seat in my old Adirondack rocker, and marvel at the display of colors on the Koi. Blue, green, red, orange, purple, yellow, and bright gold .... along with patches of black and white.
I believe that because human beings are the only non-essential participant in the web of life on earth, we benefit from recognizing the environment as school. Little children are aware of this, of course, and learn while playing at a pond or a waterfalls. Too often, US culture restricts people's ability to spend either quiet time or play time in a natural setting.
Each evening, my dog Kelly goes with me to the pond. He is a curious fellow: while both of his parents are jet black, he is white, with blue spots. Although he is primarily a boxer, he looks like a dalmatian. Kelly isn't big -- he weighs 75 pounds -- but is powerfully built. I get a kick out of watching him lower himself to the ground, and follow his nose in an odd, muscular crawl. While Kelly is good-natured around people (comically so), I have seen him become aggressive when stray dogs and coyote come onto our property/ Kelly's territory. So it makes me laugh when, in response to the trout jumping, he responds with anxious yips.
Thus, one of the laws of the universe was best noted by the late musician Harry Nilsson: "Everything is the exact opposite of what it really is."
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My son D called me after he finished work yesterday. He's doing construction on Long Island, saving up money in order to go back to school. He was accepted to start at SUNY-Binghamton in the fall.
About a week ago, at a neighborhood cook-out, D was talking to a lady that he described as "old, probably close to (my) age." She said that, with his formal training as a prison guard, he could get hired at the school where she teaches. While the position does pay well, he is stunned by the reality that a public school requires a prison guard with a different title.
Instead, he is interviewing for a job on a farm. He prefers that life-style to either construction or a school guard. "It just seems," he told me, "more like what human beings are supposed to do." A couple of urban co-workers made jokes about "farmers," he said, until he reminded him of who actually provides the best foods that humans consume.
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On Monday morning, I went to see an eye specialist; she immediately referred me to another, who works out of a regional "teaching" hospital. Looking back, I think the folks at the hospital recognized that I was a bit anxious, and so they would patiently explain what the various tests they subjected me to, were for. I told them that while I do not have a scientific mind, I have great admiration of those who do; more, while the information they were providing me with was fascinating, I would much prefer it was someone else's eyes.
Eventually, this specialist asked me if by chance I had ever been assaulted, or in a fight where I took hard blows to my head? Indeed, I had boxed in my youth. Why hadn't I mentioned that? It was decades ago, and not anything I would connect with my current circumstances.
Long story a little shorter: I learned that eyes get damaged in boxing, and that I have too much scar tissue in my eyes to allow my otherwise good vision to reach its potential. She told me that in her practice, she sees two general types of injuries: the ordinary, and the extraordinary. Guess what mine are? She then asked if I would mind being subjected to a couple other series of tests and exams. She said I should feel free to decline, as these would be both uncomfortable and not beneficial for me. I asked what they were for? Extra credit for the interns.
For the next two hours or so, I was shuffled from room to room, allowing numerous people the chance to gaze deeply into my eyes. D said that this demonstrates my obsessive-repulsive need to be at the center of attention. He noted that I had traveled about 100 miles as a result of this attention-seeking behavior.
I figure that if damage was done while boxing, it is a lot easier for me to deal with it. For boxing was the one bright spot in my early life. My wife sees it differently; she focuses on the harm that boxing did long-term. Clearly, one of us views it exactly the opposite of what it actually was.
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On one hand, human beings are savages -- the same as our primitive ancestors. We're just better-dressed, and enjoy the benefits of modern technology. On the other hand, we are Earth flowers, as unique individually as a single dandelion. These were the thoughts that I was thinking as the sun set. Then, as the darkness fell, I thoroughly enjoyed looking up at the stars, while listening to the song of the "peeper" frogs.
Eventually, I came inside, and watched a re-run of "Real Time with Bill Maher." It's a show that I sometimes watch with three of my children, who think Maher is an impressive thinker. I tend to see him more as an above-average comedian, who from time to time nails a social commentary. But tonight, I heard him talking about Willard Romney's nonsense about Barack Obama resenting other people's successes. And then, Maher asked, "Does Mitt really believe he is more successful than Obama?" He noted that Romney was the son of wealth, who has gained in wealth; Obama, on the other hand, was born into a single-parent family on food stamps. Mitt has made a fortune off of other people's suffering; Barack became the first black President of the United States.
Why, I wondered, were comedy shows now a better source of socio-political discussion than most of the "news" media? When did it change so sharply? Might have been around the time that public schools began hiring prison guards. There are many ways in which it is true that a democrat in the White House resembles a republican in that same setting. But make no mistake: that is far more defined by the job, than by comparisons of personal being. No matter how large his bank account may be, George W. Bush is an utter failure in the sense of successfully being a good and mature human being. The internal ethical system of Joe Biden is far superior to the rotten scum of a Dick Cheney. While Biden and Cheney may hold the same job, they are as different as sugar and shit.
Why is it that our culture considers holding the office of a politician, being seated as a supreme court judge, or being a slick businessman who commits "legal" theft each and every day, to be a true sign of "success"? And at the same time, a friend once reminded me, that it is viewed as not only okay, even legitimate -- but actually fashionable -- to be a petty, racist, sexist, egotistical, mean, envious, malicious snake -- so long as you hold political/ economic power?
This is a sick society.
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I asked my wife and daughters if they wanted to go sleep out in our cabin near the pond? Their need to get up early for work and school prevented that from happening. And so, after they went up to bed, Kelly and I went out for a walk around the pond.
It's not a really big pond, by any means. Certainly not a lake. But it shares in that greatness of the water-cycle here on earth; it provides for the fish and frogs and salamanders, and other creatures living in the water, and for the plant and animal life surrounding it. My sons and daughters have built numerous flower beds and put up bird houses and feeders. It is my favorite spot on earth.
It seems curious, indeed, that a portion of our society would view a habitat like this as a natural resource to be used to hydrofrack for gas .... and that making money off of it, despite ruining the site, and poisoning all the life in contact with it, is the true measure of success. Worse, the very minds that are diseased with greed and destruction, are those that this society continues to view as "leaders," and recognizes their "power." But that is the exact opposite of their true being: they do not achieve results by way of self-discipline that brings out their good potential; instead, they are ruled by external and violent forces, which can only result in destruction, disease, and death.
Kelly comes back after a long run around the field and some woods. He cools off for a moment in the pond, and drinks his fill. Then he attempts to jump up on my lap, demanding my attention. I do believe this is his favorite spot, too.
Posted by H2O Man | Wed May 2, 2012, 03:42 PM (22 replies)
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