Monday, November 28, 2011

Gracing life

Fully visible from our back windows, gracing our domestic life, Camellias.
 
 
(colored pencil)
 
(cutout)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Motomynd: Is there a case for religion? Unfortunately yes

[Without prior discussion and before I heard from Ken Marks on the subject, Motomynd submitted the first draft of his own answer whether there's a case for religion.]
Moristotle, in a comment on your article "A Declaration of Animal Rights," you quoted Genesis 1:26 and reported that the King James Bible’s translation and a number of parallel translations all expressed the sense that mankind was to have dominion over the rest of creation. I wonder whether the Hebrew word rada, which is apparently at the core of the original "dominion" concept, was mistranslated by all of them.
In the traditionally accepted translation—and conveniently the most useful to humankind–rada does mean to have dominion or power over all. In modern research there is apparently considerable question as to whether rada was supposed to imply power over or at the heart of.
    Not being a trained translator of Hebrew, I can't argue it one way or the other, but I know which translation feels like it makes the most sense. Those with power, adults for example, are supposed to look after those without power, children for example. That much is generally accepted: rampant child abuse, international trafficking of children for sex and alleged pedophilia cover-ups in the Catholic Church and at Penn State non-withstanding. And it has long been the way of many cultures to believe that since they have power they should look after victims in other countries who don’t have power: France helping a fledgling North American democracy win its freedom from England, for example. That way of thinking begat the United Nations, after all, and inspires the United States to spend as much on military might as the rest of the world combined.

So are we to believe that humanity has this duty to look after those who can’t help themselves, yet be supposed to brutally utilize animals, who are the most innocent and absolutely least able to help themselves? And are we to believe this because someone, somewhere, sometime, was allegedly inspired by some mythical being to have a thought, and that thought was at some future time allegedly to be perfectly translated to stone or paper or a slab of wood, then to be retranslated perfectly every time a village was destroyed or a culture was lost for a few hundred years?
    What if the person chiseling in the rock was left handed? What if the person doing the translating was dyslexic? Maybe dog really is our co-pilot, instead of just a family pet or a menu item in too many restaurants around the world.
    Some people love to accept long-held dogma on faith, but if you actually stop and think about it, how does it feel?

When we try to bring factual, accurate translation to ancient religious texts,  are we arguing a point as inconsequential as why don't light sabers cut each other in half in Star Wars battle scenes since they slice and dice everything else? What point is there in conducting a factual investigation of a possible mistranslation of some nearly prehistoric word that may be based in fantasy with as much scientific and historic proof as the tales of King Arthur or the legend of Bigfoot?
    If the world suffers a disaster and the only remnants of our time that survive are a VHS player and a Beta version of Star Wars…or Cinderella…think of the mistranslation that could create. Eons from now people could be choosing between the worship of Darth and Luke, or between fairy tale princess and wicked witch. It could be the horrors of "The Inquisition" all over again. Or Disneyworld in August. Either way it will be really bad news.

Take accurate records out of the equation and the facts can quickly get murky. Even with reams of newspaper and magazine print and thousands of hours of broadcast footage clearly stating that no one in Iraq had anything to do with 9/11, ten years later something like 30% of Americans still believe Saddam Hussein was involved in it. Can you even begin to imagine how twisted that tale could be after several thousand years if no one ever wrote it down?
    So, to answer the question you posed at the end of the cited comment: Is there a case for religion? Even for a street-level practical thinker such as myself, yes, there is a strong case for religion. Religion must exist so that people of power can shape it to their benefit and use it to help justify and achieve their goals, and so that people of little or no power can use it to rationalize their own way of living rather than making the effort to live better. Without religion how do people stomach the daily mini-atrocities they commit? Can you imagine the chaos if people actually had to take an honest look in the mirror and hold themselves accountable instead of being able to pass the buck on to some mysterious something?

In 1971, Ian Anderson, of the music group Jethro Tull, summed it up nicely in these three paragraphs of album notes preceding the lyrics to the song "Aqualung":
In the beginning Man created God; and in the image of Man created he him.
And Man gave unto God a multitude of names, that he might be Lord of all the earth when it was suited to Man.
And on the seven millionth day Man rested and did lean heavily on his God and saw that it was good.
    Do these paragraphs have the backing of any great religious thinker? No. Were they intended for any reason other than figuratively poking a stick in the eye of establishment thinking? Probably not. Did Ian Anderson himself even take them seriously? Maybe not. Do they have at least have more chance of being documented accurately than what some person or some mythical being allegedly said, or allegedly inspired some person to think thousands of years ago? Absolutely.

With a different roll of the dice our feature holiday meal might be the only fresh grasshopper we have found the past two days. Some believe that with another roll of the dice we could be the turkey on the table rather than the person sitting at the table with gleaming carving knife in hand. Yes, there is a case for religion, but less dogma and much more strong, logical and independent thought offers far greater hope for the future of humanity, animals and the world.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thankful that's over

Turkeys before slaughtering
Whew, it's over. Thanksgiving done for another year and no need to thank anyone for anything for another 365 days (there'll be a February 29 before the next Thanksgiving Day).
    And turkeys can rest easy until perhaps late summer, when the factory turkey farmers start sending them off to be "processed" and frozen for November.

Did you give thanks yesterday that you aren't a turkey? And none of your friends? Unless, of course, you happen to have befriended a turkey. They may not be as intelligent as a dog, but they aren't so dumb you couldn't befriend one, give it a name, love it.
    I'm told there's an Irish proverb, “A turkey never voted for an early Christmas.” And never for an early Thanksgiving, you can be sure.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Ken Marks: The case for religion

[My long-time friend Ken Marks suggested in a comment on "A Declaration of Animal Rights" that "there is indeed a case for religion, and understanding it should precede an effort to make a case against. I'll try to state the case for it if you'll create a new blog entry for that purpose. I think the topic is too significant to be buried as the 20th comment under this entry." Anyone who can write this well and significantly can find a receptive editorial staff here any time.]
Opium den
The case for religion isn't a pitch for making religion a part of our lives; it's an explanation of why religion is an inevitable part of our lives. In other words, religion must exist, at least for the foreseeable future.
    Hobbes famously said that life in mankind's early millennia was "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." He might have added "painful, "terrifying," and several other ugly qualifiers. By his own century, the conditions of life hadn't improved much. Even today in much of the world, to be alive is to wrestle with various forms of suffering. To make matters worse, we know that pain, aging, and death lie in our path. We are conscious of the fragility of our lives and the inevitability of death. It should be no surprise then that we cry out, at least on an unconscious level, for some kind of relief. Our cry is answered by mythology and the fog of faith. Reason is suspended, hope replaces realism, thought gives way to recited answers, and we are calmed. No wonder Karl Marx called religion "the opium of the people."
    If there were some magic way to withhold religion as the existential drug of choice, should we? Well, should surgeons operate without anesthesia? Should people in the throes of hideous pain be asked to just muddle through? I don't think we'd choose to be so cruel. So, will religion keep us in its grip forever? Not necessarily. But two things will have to happen. First, much more progress will have to be made in reducing suffering. As the pain of living subsides, the joy of living will keep religious impulses at bay. Second, we will need to find more thoughtful ways endure and sublimate the suffering we cannot escape.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Declaration of misstep

Captive Bolt Pistol
Yesterday, when I published "New Declaration of Independence," I cast it as a revision of our Declaration of Independence. Doing that was to stumble out of the chute, like a slaughterhouse animal whose skull had only been grazed by the captive bolt.
    I've republished the article with a new title and a preamble explaining something of what seems to have gone wrong.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Declaration of Animal Rights

Sunday. Yesterday, when I published the draft below of the opening for a statement of the rights of animals, I stupidly cast it as a revision of the historical document, our Declaration of Independence. I did so thinking wrongly that I would be imitating the way my New Ten Commandments attempted to bring the Mosaic original up-to-date and replace it with a more enlightened set of ethical principles. I thought I'd be imitating the way a rewrite of "Twas the Night before Christmas" would dissolve the saccharine fantasy of Clement Clarke Moore's original lyrics and reveal some of the sordid underbelly of real Christmas as it is "observed" by most Americans.
    Neither imitation applies. Yesterday's opening should have been presented simply as inspired by the Declaration's opening assumption of the rights of man. Then go on from there.
    I still think, though, that a useful parallel might be developed with the 1776 document's declaration of independence—even if, in the case of animal rights, independence is a more complex concept than political independence from England. For in the case of animal rights, from what would independence be declared? And for whom or what?
    It's not simply a question of animals' independence from something (cruel treatment at our hands, for one essential thing), but also of our independence—from a variety of things: our meat-eating tradition, the market power of the meat industry, perhaps even our inner demons (in contrast to the "better angels of our nature")? A serious obstacle to achieving our "independence" from those (and other) things is that most of them would require a giving-up of something most of us now value—even value so highly as to consider necessity.

I've given the article a new, more accurate title. Its original title is shown below. Despite its being misleading, I'm glad I made a start, however halting and tentative my first step.
 

New Declaration of Independence

A couple of years ago, I wrote an alternative version of the Ten Commandments1. And the other day, I suggested that, on behalf of animal rights, the poem "Twas the Night before Christmas" needed updating to show that all was not peace upon Earth at that time of the year:
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the slaughterhouse....
    My impulse to revise the creeds by which we ought to live has been extending for days to our Declaration of Independence, which declared in writing the "unalienable rights of man."

Other animals, too, I do believe, have rights. And if "the rights of man" existed before they were championed by Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson and codified in the Declaration of Independence, then so, too, perhaps, did those more fundamental rights of animals. Or, if the rights of man didn't really always exist, but came to exist only by the essential act of a people's pretending that they did and proclaiming them in writing, then a similar pretense and proclamation could be made on behalf and for the sake of animals who cannot speak for themselves.
    It is from that understanding and in that spirit that I propose a New Declaration of Independence. It might open like this:
When, in the course of animal events, it becomes necessary for the animals with a voice to speak for those that have none, and to assume among the powers of the earth the station to which their place in cultural evolution calls them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to speak for the unspeaking.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all animals are created equal with respect to certain unalienable rights, that among these are life....
The recognition of human rights took time, and so will the recognition of animal rights. Conscience calls upon me to begin speaking for the unspeaking, now rather than later.
_______________
  1. My statement of the New Ten Commandments needs further revision, mainly to reduce their number so as to avoid redundancy. That was the motivation for the late George Carlin's radical reduction of their number to two.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Blessed relief

On Monday, even though it was only a few minutes to Blowing Rock, I just had to stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway to pee. After scrambling back up from the ditch where I'd relieved myself behind an oak tree, I took this photograph, the view across the road as pacific as I now felt.
 
 
I told my wife on the drive over to the mountains that I wanted to learn why Blowing Rock was called that. We wondered whether the main feature of the "blowing rock" might be some musical sound it made. I wondered whether maybe there was a long hole in the rock through which the wind rushed and gained speed according to Bernoulli's Principle or something....
    Of course, nowadays you don't have to go to a place to learn that sort of information. You just need to google it:
How the Blowing Rock Got Its Name...
    The Blowing Rock is an immense cliff 4,000 feet above sea level, overhanging Johns River Gorge 3,000 feet below. The phenomenon is so called because the rocky walls of the gorge form a flume through which the northwest wind sweeps with such force that it returns light objects cast over the void.
    The current of air flowing upward from The Rock prompted the Ripley's "Believe-It-Or-Not" cartoon about "the only place in the world where snow falls upside down." Visible from "The Rock" down the gorge to the southwest are Hawksbill Mountain and Table Rock. To the west are Grandfather Mountain (the highest peak in the Blue Ridge chain) and Mount Mitchell (the highest peak east of the Mississippi).[Found at http://www.theblowingrock.com/name.html]
    Note that this is not the answer to the literal question I asked: How did the town of Blowing Rock get its name? But I guess that part is obvious. Anyway, I had to google for the information about the rock, for I didn't learn it in the town.
    Hmm, I wonder how many people who visit the town also visit the rock? Maybe I'll google it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Folded with care

Inside our hotel room in Blowing Rock yesterday, the folded towel in the bathroom immediately arrested my eye.
 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Immodest tribute to a modest man

A photo by Steve published
on Moristotle's forerunning blog
(May 2006)
I'd learned more about my nephew Steve Glossin over the past dozen years than I ever picked up in our "youths." Working with him on several writing projects had us in touch by email often several times a day for several years.
    Extraordinarily talented, Steve is one of the most unassuming, modest people I know. When he approached me, in 1999, I think, with fifty pages of manuscript to look at (if I would; Steve would never presume), I didn't know what to expect. I'd never known Steve to write anything (that I can now remember trying to remember).
    Well, the story he had started writing, just for fun, commanded my attention with its sure voice and authority. It was set in Iraq and involved U.N. weapons inspections and a messianic imam. I recognized it for the real thing and encouraged Steve to continue. The story became his first novel, Prophecy of the Medallion.
    Another book followed in quick succession. Steve knocked out The Grail of Malta while I was editing Prophecy. It wasn't that I'm a slow editor, it was that he's a very fast writer. Set mainly on Malta, it had significant scenes in Germany and Jerusalem as well, and heavily involved the Roman Catholic Church, on whose "watch list" his two main characters are listed.
    And Death Mask quickly followed that, incorporating some characters from Prophecy, traveling them half-way around the world to cross swords with as sharply drawn an assassin as I've come across in fiction.
    Death Mask may be my favorite. While I was editing it, Steve set to work on a sequel, to be titled Far Stone. For a while, it looked to me as though Steve had found characters and their profession on which to base a series of novels; his two main characters were sort of salvage experts, to borrow a phrase from John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee.

I want you to know the contents of an about the author paragraph we fashioned for submission to prospective publishers:
Before settling down in Bavaria to write, retired U.S. Army Logistics Warrant Officer Steve Glossin served in Vietnam and Germany. A world traveler, Glossin is also a veteran speaker who has engaged many audiences, both military and civilian.
    All of Steve's books have been inspired by and set in places he has visited. Few travelers make so good use of their visits to foreign lands.
    So far, Far Stone has not been finished. Steve and I had worked hard to try to find a publisher for his books, but with no success in the New York publishing world or in any other publishing world I sent submissions to. He finally got fed up reading published thrillers inferior to his own—which no publishing house was snapping up—and stopped writing.
    But electronic publishing was getting big, and it became a why-not no-brainer to try. All three of his finished novels have come out on Kindle and Nook, but Steve has withdrawn them for further work.
    I hope he'll pick up Far Stone again. I'd love to read it.

Steve's fictional output also includes ten or so short stories—quite accomplished, too. One or two of them I thought I'd published on Moristotle, but if I did I can't find them. Perhaps Steve published them on one of his blogs.
    You can find some of Moristotle's posts that mention Steve here.

Steve's main writing now seems to be for his blog, Visitors, where he follows the exploits of the various scamps who grace his back yard in Germany.
    It was with Steve that I started blogging. I'm not sure why we did it—probably out of curiosity—but we experimented for a couple of months, both posting to a blog I set up on Blogspot, which had been suggested to me by an IT friend at work. After we got the hang of it, Steve started his own blog, and our joint blog became...Moristotle. In fact, a few of its first posts (from 2006) were written by Steve. As you'll see if you check them out, he was already an accomplished photographer (see his copious work on Visitors). But photography is another of the many things he does without crowing about them.

Out of the blue, Steve's story about motorcycling in the 1960's has just been published on Motomynd, which I featured on Thursday. What I find distinctive about it is the video that accompanies it, translated from an old 8 mm movie. I know it's an important video, for Motomynd told me: "Between Steve's effort and the bank ad video, I feel the fledgling moto site has two signature videos that do a better job telling people what Motomynd is about than all my words in between." Signature video, dig that. (And check out the bank ad video Motomynd mentions.)

Has Steve ever crowed about anything? Well, maybe one. He might have been crowing (it was many years ago) when he told me that he was a member of MENSA. I was impressed then, and I'm still impressed now.

"Do you know who this is?"

Have you ever answered the phone and been asked, "Do you know who this is?"
    Sometimes you know very well who it is, and it's fun to be asked. Perhaps an old friend, a former lover, a brother or sister or cousin you haven't heard from in years.
    Other times, you don't recognize the voice, and you have to let them tell you they are. That's okay, too, depending on who it is.
    But sometimes it's pretty clear that not only don't you know who it is, they don't either.

The elderly-sounding woman who called a couple of weeks ago didn't seem to know who she was—or who I was; she seemed to have called a wrong number.
    It has continued to haunt me until today that I could not help her. Or maybe it has haunted me more that I didn't try to help her. Maybe I could have asked her questions to help her get her bearings. Maybe I could have....

Saturday, November 12, 2011

No gata do it, no haeftu

Traditional Irish
Turnip Halloween Lantern
While fiddling around with an interesting if trivial idea for today's post—the question how the verb to have to (or have got to) came to be used to mean to be made or required to: Wikipedia's article on modal verbs suggests that have to and have got to developed in Hawaiian Creole English, in which "modality is typically indicated by the use of invariant pre-verbal auxiliaries...gata 'have got to,' haeftu 'have to,' baeta 'had better,' sapostu 'am/is/are supposed to'"—

While I was fiddling around with that, I realized that I hadn't paid enough (or any) critical attention to the reasons my friend gave who gently suggested it was because I had become a grumpy old man that I had dumped on Halloween. He had written to me:
This Halloween, I was reflecting on the fact that it's nice that our most celebrated Holidays (Halloween, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day) all revolve around giving gifts and appreciating the company of others. Rather than abstain, I think it better to put your own twist on the holiday, because God knows, they've been twisted plenty over the millennia for a million different reasons.
    I think I gave this a bye because it's so hopeful and positive-seeming, and my friend has two young daughters, on whose behalf he and his wife have to make difficult parental choices.
    But do these holidays really revolve around sweetness and light? I've already examined Halloween a bit, as well, actually, as Christmas and Thanksgiving. They don't come off well. Christmas and Thanksgiving, in particular, promote an orgy of animal slaughter.
    On Thanksgiving, people go about giving thanks—some of it, admittedly, to the animals they're about to eat, but more of it to their Heavenly Father for "providing" it. Thank you, God, for putting me atop the Great Food Chain of Being. Second only to him.
    During Christmas, people pray for peace on Earth (but not in the abattoirs) and love one another, while participating in the culture of violence toward other animals. Clement Clark Moore's poem needs updating:
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the slaughterhouse....
    And do you need reminding that the man whose birthday is associated with Christmas was put on Earth by a "loving" God, according to the pagan myth that came to ennoble it1, in order to be cruelly tortured and executed? But we get to celebrate that on another holiday.

I think that these second thoughts on grumpiness were sparked by a recent interchange with Motomynd. We were talking about the grand-opening video shown on the Crystal Bridges website for its collection of American art. Among the images the video features are two eighteen-wheelers (like the rigs my Bentonville brother-in-law used to drive for WalMart); one sports a photograph of cooked cow on its side, and the other heralds the logo of one of the world's biggest factory animal farms.
    Motomynd commented:
Did you notice how the camera lens lingered noticeably on each of the logos on the trucks? It struck me as odd to be watching a video I assumed was in some way going to celebrate the grand opening of a wonderful new art museum, but in reality turned out to be mainly a commercial for WalMart and some of its favored vendors. Given the nature of the video, one has to wonder what is in store for visitors to the museum.
    The values embodied in the video clip seem to me to contradict art's essential role in challenging tradition, however useful the WalMart money may have been for the acquisition of Alice Walton's collection and the construction of a museum to show it to a public all too reluctant to be challenged.

I have one of those decorative calendars that comes with a frame in which, month-to-month, you switch to a new placard. The placard for this month features the image of a turkey. I display November with the same spiritual sorrow I feel when I eat "meat" because I'm served it by a host whom I choose not to offend or conflict with.
_______________
  1. Another related myth is cited in a letter Thomas Paine wrote to President Thomas Jefferson on Christmas Day 1802: "I congratulate you on the birthday of the New Sun, now called Christmas-Day, and I make you a present of a thought on Louisiana.2"
    Thomas Paine's Rights of Man: A Biography, by Christopher Hitchens, 2006, p. 138
  2. Paine had in the preceding paragraph suggested that Jefferson, to help France out of her financial straits, purchase the Louisiana Territory, which Spain had just ceded to France. Jefferson did so the following year, for four or ten cents an acre, depending on the source.

Friday, November 11, 2011

11/11/11: The same, palindromic day all over the world

Yes!—at least, it's the same-notated day in North America (month/day/year), Europe (day/month/year), and China (year/month/day). (For a more precise accounting, by country, see Wikipedia.)
    I prefer the Chinese convention for file and folder naming, so much better for sorting reliably by date:
[20]10-01-08
[20]10-11-11
[20]10-12-14
[20]11-01-15
[20]11-03-07
[20]11-08-14
[20]11-11-03
[20]11-11-11
    In North America, the files would sort this way:
01-08-[20]10
01-15-[20]11
03-07-[20]11
08-14-[20]11
11-03-[20]11
11-11-[20]10
11-11-[20]11
12-14-[20]10
    And in Europe, this way:
03-11-[20]11
07-03-[20]11
08-01-[20]10
11-11-[20]10
11-11-[20]11
14-08-[20]11
14-12-[20]10
15-01-[20]11
    Our Chinese predecessors understood sorting.

I'm reminded by this superfluge of 11's that Youie's number, when I was manically besotted with magic and deity, that Summer of '89, was 11. Wouldn't today have been the day to go Youie-manic?
    No, today is as good a day as any not to fall down that rabbit hole. Retain your rationality, young and old.
November 11, 2011,
11 November 2011,
2011 November 11—
they're all the same day on the planet to which we all belong.

By the way [my wife just reminded me], today is the grand opening of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, located in my Arkansas sister's hometown of Bentonville. WalMart heiress Alice Walton's name is barely mentioned on the museum's website, but she's behind it all, as described in the June 27 New Yorker article, "Alice's Wonderland." 11/11/11! Go, Alice!
_______________
Further reflections on Crystal Bridges

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Calling all bikers & philosophers

Moristotle's sometime guest contributor Motomynd has launched his own website. I gather, from the runaway popularity of Motomynd's two articles here, that his new website will quickly become even more wildly popular than Moristotle (if you'll indulge me in a little irony this morning).
    Motomynd.com is said to be "for people who know enough about motorcycles to understand they will never know it all. If you are a beginner we can help you get started safely. If you are an experienced rider we can help you stretch your limits."
    I think that motomynd.com is more generally for people who examine their lives and ask the Socratic questions, the Paul Gauguin questions: Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? Particularly the last two questions—the first one might not be practical enough for Motomynd. He's a man of the road yet to be traveled.
    And, who knows?, maybe the true philosophers are the ones who ask the big questions while they're tearing down the road with the wind in their eyes and the bugs in their teeth. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, you know?
    Go ride with Motomynd, but come back from time to time to do some armchair philosophy with Moristotle.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Don't look grumpy

But, then, how does grumpy look?
Click to enlarge so you can read
some of the book titles
    Anyway, I did this self-portrait yesterday, with our new, digiscoping-ready Nikon Coolpix P100 camera. All we need now, to hook it up to the field scope, is a wide eyepiece, something I failed to order with the camera and the adapter.

Actually, the expression we should be seeing in the self-portrait is relief. I started out the day fasting for an upper endoscopy scheduled for about 9:30. And, though only vaguely aware of it at the time, I was in a shitty mood.
    But as soon as I was come to again from the procedure (which had involved light sedation to render me sleepy and amnesiac), I felt quite chipper—even before I'd had anything to break my fast, even including the two cups of cranberry-grape juice and two packets of graham crackers I was given a little while later. The sunny feeling made me realize that I had been fairly worried about the procedure, with its potential for finding that I, too, along with Christopher Hitchens, might be expected to die fairly soon of esophageal cancer.
    Not anytime soon, at any rate.
    So let's admire our relieved look.
_______________
Dwarf Grumpy
Here's how Walt Disney & Co. thought grumpy looked:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Becoming too contrary?

In Frank Rich's October 27 review of Brian Kellow's new biography (A Life in the Dark) of movie critic Pauline Kael (1919-2001) ("Roaring at the Screen with Pauline Kael"), he refers to Kael's "self-dramatizing contrarianism" and writes that she should have gotten out while the getting was good, before she would "invariably flame out in...self-parody [and] first-person megalomania."
    Self-conscious about my own recent possibly excessive contrariness (see, for example, "What was that about Halloween?"), I have to stop to wonder and consider whether I'm in danger of turning into a grumpy old man, as an old friend observes with a wink and a smile. Clues that this might be so include an occasional pervading sense of unease—not entirely relieved by going back, often several times, to try to reduce a post's rough edges—and the wish that I hadn't posted something or shared it to Facebook before I'd done the sanding.
    Too late, too late.
    For those particular posts, anyway, but hopefully not for myself.

Friday, November 4, 2011

What was that about Halloween?

On October 31, I proposed that participating in trick-or-treating has no sound basis, and that's why "it's silly." Well, what is the basis of Halloween, and how is it unsound?
    The holiday's tap root is pagan (i.e., from pre-Abrahamic religions), in primitive man's harvest festivals and festivals remembering the dead.
    The Abrahamic (monotheistic) religion Christianity adopted elements of the practice for its evening before All Saints' Day. Halloween is short for "All Hallows' Evening." The verb to hallow means to make or set apart as holy, or to respect or honor greatly, to revere. And a hallower is one who hallows.
    Little hallowing happens on Halloween. Anyway, hallowing would better be done continually throughout the year. To relegate reverence to one day out of 365 leads to neglecting the other 365, same as remembering the planet on Earth Day forgets it the rest of the year.

Typical Halloween activities include carving pumpkins and trick-or-treating. I used to participate in them myself, but then I realized that doing so was...silly. And having realized that much, I also realized that to continue to participate would be to disrespect myself. The time had come for some public reflection.

Trick-or-treating, according to Wikipedia, "already existed in Great Britain and Ireland in the form of souling, where children and poor people would sing and say prayers for the dead in return for cakes."
    How much less sound can you get? What could a "prayer for the dead" possibly do, seeing as how there is not a single, corroborable instance of a prayer's ever having been answered?
    Anyway, if that's the original reason for kids going around in costumes to collect candy (cakes), why aren't they dropping down on their knees to merit the treats?
    No, they're not learning anything about reverence; they're just out for some free loot and a bit of fun. To do what everybody does.
    For the loot, let them ask their parents to pick up some candy for them at the supermarket, which their parents might do many times a year, rather than wait for the one night when they're permitted, by unthinking custom, to go out and bother their neighbors (some of whom, admittedly, get into the spirit of the thing and don't mind terribly—everyone gives candy to trick-or-treaters, you know?).
    As for reverence...good luck. America may be "religious," but its daily practice doesn't seem to have much to do with reverence. And Halloween is its once-a-year big betrayal.
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November 6 misgivings; yes, I've been back to the post above quite a few times...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The land will be here

UNC Pembroke
[image from the cutting-room floor]
The land will be here yet awhile, after man and his images have passed.
Quick work is the most fun,
the mind humming in Sudoku speediness.
Alive and well, yet awhile.

All that's [not] needed is rhymeyness.