Thursday, February 28, 2019

Logan's Run

So last week, thanks Netflix's amazing random carnival of additions, I got to re-watch Logan's run for the first time in 35 years.

Seeing future movies from the past is always fun because it is interesting to see what the directors and designers thought the future would be like.  In this case, apparently the future involved lots of colored rayon fabric, mall-like structures (apparently escalator technology is also a going thing in the 23rd Century), small cars that run in tubes, and the inevitable "pleasure shop" (because, as always, in the future sex is a thing that we have to have available all the time - sort of like now, actually).  Both main characters, Michael York and Jessica Agutter, have continued to act throughout the years but the only person that "broke" out into true stardom was a minor character actor, Farah Fawcett (Peter Ustinov is also in the movie but he came with his own stardom).

The story - based on the book Logan's Run - is a post war society in which all people are given "life clocks" and die at age 30 (age 21 in the book).  The main character, Logan 5, is a "Sandman", a lawman who chases down "Runners" (those who do not agree to self-terminate).  The movie is Logan's "run" along with a member of a loosely defined "Resistance", Jessica 5.  

I will not spoil the plot for you beyond that - it is not amazing, but is enjoyable - but I was more struck by the idea of watching something 40 plus years after it was made.

Remember the year - 1976 - one year before the Star Wars debut that changed how and what we expected from Science Fiction.  The costumes and models and weapons and sets and computer scenes - everything - are more reminiscent of the 1960's Science Fiction than what came out the following year.  In that way, Logan's Run was fortunate - had they come out the next year, the movie would have been lost to time rather than have something of a small residual following of sympathetic oldsters with nostalgia on their minds.

In a way it is a great and visual reminder of how sometimes a single moment or thing - the Apple IIe, the iPhone, the InterWeb, a kiss - can completely change everything that comes after it.  Expectations are not just changed:  they are expanded, blown out, never to return to their former confines.

Which, of course, is I will continue to watch such things as Logan's Run:  a reminder of simpler and happier times, never to return.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Second Garden Plot

 So one of the issues I have with my garden location currently is that - due to its proximity to the house - it is truly a "Summer Garden".  It only gets 4-5 hours of sunlight in the Winter.  I have a section along the fence that I can use for a Winter garden - gets a great deal of sun, but with Poppy the Mighty growing anything there is a risk.  So it was time to do something about it:

The space measures about 14' long and a 4' wide.  4' metal green fence posts fill the need:

Chicken wire was $20.00 for 25' and I only needed 18' or so.  I cut both sides to the center so I can get in on either side.

I have been putting my used rabbit litter and rabbit droppings there for about two years.  I had two more containers to added to the mix:

The finished product raked out:

The finished product:

The good news is that since the fencing has gone up, Poppy has not tried to run through it.

It is a little cold still to plant, but I am thinking I will put 50% of it grain this coming weekend and see what happens.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Japan 2019: Asakusa Temple

As you may remember from last year, we had about 2 hours in Tokyo to visit and shop and the one place we went was Asakusa Temple, a very old (and famous) temple in the greater Tokyo Area.  This year we had a bit more time to look around:

My personal favorite:  something dedicated to pigeons

Monday, February 25, 2019

Japan 2019: Shinto Shrine

One of the things you find in Japan, even in Urban areas, is Shinto Shrines, where the kami (the deity, or the physical manifestation of the deity) dwells.  In some cases this was landmark - a stone, a pool, a stream.  In time the city grew up around it - but the Shrine is still there.  In my various travels in urban Japan this is not unsurprising - you will be walking through the middle of something and suddenly a shrine will be present.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

God's Aid

God to enfold me,
God to surround me,
God in my speaking,
God in my thinking,
God in my sleeping,
God in my waking,
God in my watching,
God in my hoping,
God in my life,
God in my lips,
God in my soul,
God in my heart,
God in my suffering,
God in my slumber,
God in mine ever-living soul,
God in mine eternity.

Carmina Gadelica (Alexander Carmichael) from Celtic Devotions (Calvin Miller)

Saturday, February 23, 2019

A Few Words From...John Lewis-Stempel

"In harrowing half an acre Willow and I walk five miles.  No one except kings and clergy was fat in the time of the horse.  A man ploughing one single acre could expect to walk as much as ten miles.

The high-tone jingle of the harness, the clinking of the harrow when it hits a stone, the working-oneness of man and beast, the breath of horse in the coldening afternoon air, the proud lift of hoof out of soil, the distant cawing of the rooks - these are things English and lost.

I am happy harrowing, an emotional state which may, according to scientists at the University of  Bristol, be enhanced by the soil itself.  A specific soil bacterium, Mycobacterium vaccue, activates a set of serotonin-releasing neurons in the dorsal raphe nucleus of the brain, the same one targeted by Prozac.  You can get an effective dose of Mycobacterium vaccue by walking in the wild or gardening.

Or walking over a ploughed field."

- The Running Hare

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Decline And Fall Of The American Church

Sitting in service on Sunday, it occurred to me that there are really only four kinds of churches in America:

1)  The Liberal Church:  This is a church which has abandoned all sense of historic Orthodox Christianity except for the saying that "Christ is Love". 

2)  The Traditional Church:  Include Mainline denominations which have not fallen into category 1 here, but also the Catholic and Orthodox tradition, which have strong historical or cultural components.

3)  The Modern Church:  This is the church which may be traditional in some sense of the word, but is actively seeking out the modern individual (say age groups from 20 to 40).  In all likelihood, they come across as more "hip".

4)  The Conservative Church: I would include non-denominationals which have orthodox understandings, such as John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, or Steven Lawson.

Of these churches, the first category - The Liberal Church - is just about useless as a means of transmission of classic Orthodox Christianity.  The Traditional Church can still do this, but is often saddled with the problem of not connecting with the next generation required to sustain it. 

My big concern is category 3 - The Modern Church.  In some ways it has the greatest potential in that they have mastered the art of connecting with the 20-40 year olds in a way that gets them involved.  My concern - one which I do not have full clarification on - is how they are doing in terms of transmitting classic Orthodox Christianity.

I can only use the sermons I currently hear as an example.

What I do hear is a minimum on the nature of sin and the need for repentance.  What I do hear is a sense that we need forgiveness (but never clearly what we need to be forgiven from).  What I do hear is a great deal of current social mores about how our society has failed certain groups and that while we as a church are about holiness and justice, we talk a lot more about justice than holiness.  What I do hear is a great many words that the current social culture would find itself very comfortable with but very little discussion that the current social culture is challenged by.

Now, there is a lot of good thoughts in the sermons, and a great deal about the love of God and His purpose.  And one of the greatest things that is being communicated is apologetics for an age where "just believing" is not enough.  But what concerns me is what has always concerned me about any church which seeks to become socially relevant:  at some point the church has to choose either relevance with the mainstream (in which case more often than not it becomes The Liberal Church) or keeps with the traditional orthodox faith, in which I suspect it would rapidly find itself to be in The Conservative Church with a rapidly diminishing population base.

The great days of challenge (at least for Christians in the US) are still ahead of us - social trends, frankly, are not in our favor and most (if not all) historic and orthodox Christian beliefs are either laterally or directly opposed to how culture (and in many ways, government) are trending.  In situations like these (study the effects of Communism on churches after the initial societal conversion), Liberal and Modern churches are almost always wiped out (because who wants to die or be impacted adversely for a belief that is not a core belief?).  Mainline churches perhaps survive due to historical context.  The Conservative churches are always battered, destroyed - and then go underground and flourish.

My concern is that the Modern Church - the church currently most growth oriented and most reaching - has tied itself to the wrong platform.  My concern is that it is making people feel good and relevant about themselves and God without teaching them about all the expectations of God - not just justice, but personal holiness and right and wrong as defined by the Bible.

Those things are costly.  Simply believing what culture and society already teach you to believe is not costly at all.

"Wide is the gate and easy is the path to destruction" - yet we only ever want to describe that in terms of the unbelieving or the mis-believing.  Scarcely do we ever actually measure ourselves against that standard.

Look for the American church as we have known it to disappear.  Also, look for God to do some of His greatest work ever through those who truly base their lives on His word and understand the whole counsel of God - that His holiness is just as important as His justice and that without a forgiveness of sins, not just a general feeling being forgiven from our bad habits and bad practices, true conversion is not possible.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Running Hare: The Secret Life of Farmland

I do not write about or recommend books very often (although frankly, with the amount of reading I do, I probably should do so more often).  That said, I commend to your attention The Running Hare:  The Secret Life of Farmland by John Lewis-Stempel.

The book, in short, is the record of an experiment by Mr. Lewis-Stempel - a farmer and writer - to restore a 4 acre section of farmland in Herefordshire, England to wildflowers.  For a single year.  Then he has to return it to sod. The book becomes an experiment in measuring his field of wheat raised in a traditional way (versus "The Chemical Brothers" who farm next to his field) to attract birds and, ultimately, hares back to the field.

Mr. Lewis-Stempel is the kind of nature and agricultural writer I enjoy, the poetic and slightly aggravated sort in the vein of Gene Logsdon and Joel Salatin whom I love (but less so of Masanobu Fukuoka and David Masumoto and Wendell Berry) who are good writers and lyrical and yet are angry about the state of agriculture and how industry and government have encouraged bad practices as only someone who loves the land can be.

The book follows the course of a year, from January to December and chronicles the ploughing, harrowing, planting, growing, and sheaving of the wheat.  It also chronicles the return of wild birds and the hares (and foxes) to the fields.  It is also a delightful wander through history:  Lewis-Stempel is as prone to go to rabbit trails as I, and so we take trips down the ancient ploughboys' songs (the entire words to John Barleycorn are present), English countryside church carvings, names of wild birds (and their precipitous decline in England), names of hares (never good - hares were not popular in Old England), and endangered and distinct English flora (that many would call weeds).

The book is a pleasure as well because Lewis-Stempel is a good writer:  descriptive, engaging, with a slight sarcastic edge which applies equally to others and himself:

"What jobs require the social skills of a Simeon Stylites, he who sat on a pillar for thirty years?  Alone?

Oh, I know.  Farming.

Oh, I know.  Writing.  Consequently, you are reading this book."

But the book is often wistful.  And sad.  Ultimately it is a lament for a type of agriculture and the natural world which it created which is rapidly disappearing (the statistics on the drop in bird and flora populations tied to farming is shocking.  And frightening.).  And Lewis-Stempel ultimately acknowledges this.  Sadly, there is no sense from him as there is from Logsdon and Salatin that this is a trend that can be reversed or is being reversed as others reject the modern lifestyle and agricultural way of things and go "back to the land".  In that sense the book is not a uplifting song as much as a dirge.

But I think it could be.  If people got into their mind the true impact of losing traditional farming and agriculture - not just the rich history and social involvement and soil loss but the impact to the wildlife and plants that have become symbiotic with it - it might be a way to draw others into the fight that would otherwise not be engaged.

Regardless of the greater impacts, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.  If for no other reason that ultimately, there is a bit of hope at the end.  The hares return.  And they stay. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

On Plastics

Besides being an exceptionally clean country (Really.  The streets and landscape are amazing), Japan separates items into recyclables and "combustibles".  Which got me to thinking about recycling and waste in general.

Right now in my own house, we are living through the banning of plastic straws because they hurt sea turtles.  Fair enough; things find themselves to the sea when they should not.  But then I saw an article about two sperm whales being found dead filled with car parts and plastics.

Which then got me to thinking:  why do we not just ban plastics altogether?

I mean, if these things are as horrible as we are led to believe, why go halfway?  Why not just completely ban them altogether?  We admit that they are a danger:  hard to deal with, get away from us, potential adding undesirable elements to our food.  If these things are really that dangerous, why do we not simply get rid of them altogether?

I know, I know.  They are useful and so much is used by them and let us not throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Bur really, is that not the problem to start out with?  We pretend that things are not as bad as they are because we find them "useful", so we try to make compromises?

Mind you, completely eliminating plastics will be a tad inconvenient.  No more plastic water bottles available at gas stations for long trips.  No more car parts (back to faux leather and metal?).  No more 1001 things that make our lives more easier and more productive (including, maybe, this computer?  What is its casing made out of?).  And all those that manufacture such things?  Out of jobs for sure, not entirely clear on what they will do for income.  Maybe make more aluminum cans?

This is all a bit tongue in cheek of course, but my underlying thought is rather serious:  we say things are bad but we (the global "we", probably not most of my readers)  try to somehow thread the needle by finding a small thing to do (straws) while avoiding the larger issue (plastics in general), which is far more pervasive.

Not getting a plastic straw is inconvenient.  Not having a IV bag when you need surgery is a bit more concerning.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Back From Training 2019

I am safely returned from 2019 Iai Training!

Overall it went very well.  Other than an initial hiccup (our flight from where we live to the international leg was canceled, which was disconcerting - but we got re-routed through a second airport and got there fine) our travels were incredibly easy (Google Maps has come a long way, letting you know which train and which stop to get off on.  Pretty amazing).

Training itself was the same as last year - challenging but certainly with a purpose (although I did not always see it).  It was good to see our Headmaster again as well as the international students from across six continents.  I saw some old friends and made some new ones.  We trained for 4.3 days, then had an afternoon in Tokyo, getting to hit a sword store and some souvenir shops.

So, sticking to the "Rule of Five", what were the thoughts or outcomes from this trip?

1)  I came home with a great sense of serenity. I cannot fully tell you why it is there or where it came from.  Or even really what it means - other than perhaps, for the first time in a while, I have a great deal of clarity, at least about continuing and deepening my iaijutsu training and work.  It is a path that I am meant to be on.  The shugyo musha (Warrior's Pilgrimage) is the path for me.

2)  I was deeply struck by the lack of obesity that one sees in Japan.  It is the exception, not the rule.  What I found for myself was I was quite alright just eating three meals with no snacks - if I was able to do this while I was training, I should be able to do this while I live my normal life.

3)  Completely dis-engaging from the media and current events is a great blessing.  At one point a fellow iaidoka tried to engage me in a conversation about current events.  I made the comment that I found that I could completely cut that off while I was training.  He responded that he tried, but he could not.  I do not regret my decision to disengage.

4)  My focus continues to narrow, and I am okay with that.  I probably have about 30% to 40% shedding of things left until I reach a place where I am truly living with what I need and focusing on what is truly valuable to me.

5)  I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to turn off the need to update myself on work while I was gone.  The thought never crossed my mind once.

It was a good trip.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

A Blessing Prayer

Be the eye of God dwelling with you,
The foot of Christ in guidance with you,
The shower of the Spirit pouring on you,
Richly and generously.
God's peace to you,
Jesus' peace to you,
Spirit's peace to you
And to your children,
Oh to you and your children,
Each day and night
Of your portion in the world.

The compassing of the King of life be yours,
The compassing of loving Christ be yours,
The compassing of Holy Spirit be yours 
Unto the crown of life eternal
  Unto the crown of life eternal.

The guarding of the God of life be on you,
The guarding of loving Christ be on you,
The guarding of Holy Spirit be on you
Every night of your lives,       
To aid and enfold you
Each day and night of your lives.

- Carmina Gadelica (Alexander Carmichael) from Celtic Devotions (Calvin Miller)

Saturday, February 16, 2019

A Few Words from...Theopompus, King of Sparta

(Note;  Theopompus was a late 8th Century/Early 7th Century King of the Eurypontid line)

-  To the person who asked him what was the safest way for a king to maintain his rule, Theopompus said: "By permitting his friends to be properly frank, while so far as he is able not overlooking injuries to his subjects."

- To the stranger who was claiming that among his own citizens he was called a friend of Sparta, Theopompus said:  "It would be better for you to be called a friend of your fellow citizens than a friend of Sparta."

- When the ambassador from Elis stated that the citizens had dispatched him for the specific reason that he alone emulated the Spartan way of life, Theopompus said:  "And which of the two ways of life is better Elean - yours, or that of your fellow citizens?"  When he declared that his was, Theopompus said:  "How then could this city of yours keep itself safe when among a numerous population there is only one brave man?"

- When someone was saying that Sparta was preserved by her kings' talent for command, Theopompus said:  "No, rather by her citizens' readiness to obey."

- When the Pylians voted him quite exceptional honors, Theopompus wrote back:  "While time will magnify moderate ons, it obliterates excessive ones."

- Plutarch On Sparta (Translated by Richard J.A. Talbert)

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Things That Excite And Purpose

Initially when I saw this it had all the power of any other InterWeb memo.  Nice thought, supposed to make you feel good about yourself.  

But then I started to think again.

My interest reading lead to my interest in writing.  My interest in reading specific periods of history led me not only learning more but picking up historical pieces like crafts and language.  My interest in Japaense led to Iaijutsu.   My interest in gardening led to bees and mead and a host of reading on all things agricultural.  

I cannot clearly say that any of this things have led me to my purpose, as that seems to be very hidden from me still.  But it is an interesting thought to consider that following the things that excite me has led me to something every time.  

And may, just maybe, that purpose is right around the next interest.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

On Old Science Fiction

At the end of January I completed an Andre Norton book, a sequel to a previous book that I had read and enjoyed.  I had looked for the sequel for at least a year before finally breaking down and ordering it on-line.  Of course, I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was with a sense of regret that I put it up on the shelf.

As I put it up on the shelf I started looking at the other Science Fiction and Fantasy works that I have collected.  I was taken with the fact that the most "modern" work I had was from 1988.  And that on the whole, I have not more than a dozen authors on my shelf.

Which, of course, got me to thinking.

Most of these authors are ones that I read in my teenage years and fired my imagination:  Andre Norton, Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Christopher, J.R.R. Tolkein, even early C.J. Cherryh.  There are a few outliers there as well:  Elizabeth Boyer, Jerry Pournelle, Sterling Lanier, Robert Heinlein, H. Beam Piper - and a couple of single outliers:  David Drake, Gorden R. Dickson, L. Sprague De Camp, Patricia Wrede.  But really, that is about that I kept.

I am not quite sure what happened. 

For some authors, they seem to have taken a sharp turn towards "realism" (as found in rather harsh language and sexuality) which is simply something I do not need in my books, let alone my actual life.  For others - even some of my most favorites - in their later years they started "co-writing" with other authors.  That is their choice of course - and I am sure a great honor for the co-writer - but I have not found those works to be significantly better than those of the original author.  And for a third set, it became less about writing science fiction and fantasy and more about addressing current social trends through their works. 

As for new works - new books are expensive and time is precious.  The chances I am going to gamble on an author, especially a new one I do not know, with  my time and money is increasingly unlikely.  There are plenty of old favorites to choose from.

The one thing that you might note from my list is that almost every one of those authors is dead.  So the chances that new works are coming from them is pretty slim.  Which ultimately means that my purchasing of science fiction and fantasy will continue to dwindle as I run down the books from these authors that I am interested in.

Which is rather okay.  I am finding more and more that works from the past - my past anyway- give me more pleasure than anything that I can currently find if for no other reason I find happy memories there, of a time when the horizon really was the limit and life appeared a great deal more sunny and uncomplicated than it is now.

Monday, February 11, 2019

On Relationships

The repercussions of the reality of the modern workplace and its implications for relationships has continued to pool in my brain since I wrote that entry almost two weeks ago.  Combined with the practice of cleaning up my InterWeb life and my outward facing information and appearance, it has brought to question the very nature of relationships themselves in the modern world.

Simply put, most people want relationships to be like automatic transmissions:  they want them to work when needed, they do not want to understand how the work, and they certainly do not want to do the work of fixing or maintaining them.  They just need to work when desired.

I have not come to this conclusion lightly:  it is born out of a higher level of attention I have paid to my interactions on every front since I began to ponder the subject.  At the core, most of our modern relationships have become similar to what I view my career function as:  keeping the transmission working and in order and (most importantly) not discussing the transmission.  No-one cares how things are accomplished, only that they are.

We have become the ultimate transactional society:  there is an exchange between two individuals in which one is offering the other something, to which one agrees or disagrees to purchase.  If purchased, there is merely an exchange of a medium perceived as value.  To most extent, the personal interaction is gone.  Everything has become a transaction.

Mind you, this makes things a great deal easier in some ways.  I no longer have to think about the nature of my interactions.  We have become a service oriented society and so I offer a different kind of service, be it a "like" or a thoughtful comment or just doing a thing.  In its highest form, I am anticipating what the other person in the relationship will ask for before they ask for it:  the transmission has other gears which also work before you need use them.  "See a need, fill a need" from the movie Robots has become the mantra which seems to regulate most of the relationships I am now a part of.  And most of all, keep personal opinions, thoughts, or struggles to a minimum if discussed at all.  We are rather busy with our own ongoing agendas.

I do not think that this is how relationships always worked (although perhaps, like so many other things, at one time they did work differently and the times have just changed on me) but that - with a very few notable exceptions - is how things work now.  Most if not all of my interactions are very much on the surface level - a brief laugh, perhaps a discussion about what happened last weekend or what is happening next - but that is the extent of it.

I am commanded by my Scriptures to be of service, so perhaps none of this should come as any shock to me:  while there is perhaps not a great deal of relationship building in serving others, there is at least the sense of fulfilling God's commands.  For the rest, I have determined to let go of any expectation that such relationships as I may have had in the past, if not overblown by the fading and blurring, will come again.  The world, it seems, needs less relationships and more transmissions that run appropriately.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

A Prayer for Safe Going

The crown of the King is around thy head,
The diadem of the Son is around thy brow,
The might of the Spirit is in thy breast,
Thou shalt go forth and come homeward safe.

- Carmina Gadelica (Alexander Carmichael) from Celtic Devotions (Calvin Miller)

Saturday, February 09, 2019

A Few Words From...Charles Evans Hughes

We still proclaim the old ideals of liberty but we cannot voice them without anxiety in our hearts. The question is no longer one of establishing democratic institutions but of preserving them. … The arch enemies of society are those who know better but by indirection, misstatement, understatement, and slander, seek to accomplish their concealed purposes or to gain profit of some sort by misleading the public. The antidote for these poisons must be found in the sincere and courageous efforts of those who would preserve their cherished freedom by a wise and responsible use of it. Freedom of expression gives the essential democratic opportunity, but self-restraint is the essential civic discipline.”


Friday, February 08, 2019

Different Views Of Archaelogy

If you are an amateur historian of any period of history, you are quite familiar with how a historians background and beliefs influence how they view it:

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Gone Training 2019

Friends, as you read this entry I am probably somewhere over the Pacific right now, on my way to Japan to train.

I had not originally planned to go training this year as due to the nature of the trainings, every other year makes a bit more sense (as you may recall, I was off training last year).  But in October, my Sensei found a flight which stayed on the same airline and left from our homes and was almost $400 less than last year.  Destiny, apparently, was calling.

I will be gone for less time this week, only about a week, but am still looking forward to a very challenging training.  I am hopeful that I will come back with better technique - or at least, what better technique should look like.

In the interim, I have left my usual collection of ponderings and ramblings for your consumption.  My apologies if the responses are delayed.

Have a fantastic week and I will see you on the other side!

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Last Conference

Last week I most likely had the last parent teacher conference of my life.

Like most of the passings in life, it happened almost with note:  sitting there with Nighean Dhonn's home room teacher as she walked through the questions and answers she had prepared.  Sometime, between the question and the response, came the realization that this was the last one.

I have going to conferences since 2003 (yes, in this modern age even pre-schools have conferences).  That I can recall, I made them all (the only one's I would have missed is if I were absent from the location traveling).  Mostly twice a year for each child, so at some point we hit six a year.

And now, suddenly, that is all gone.

It is a rather poignant portent of the fact that things are changing on a scale faster than I suppose I can appreciate: Nighean Gheal is in her second year of college in Hong Kong and off to Italy next year (and this is quite likely the last summer she might be home), Nighean Bhean is finishing high school and will be off to college next year, and Nighean Dhonn is finishing middle school and off to high school next year, and somewhere else four years after that.

The world begins rushing by us faster and faster, while slowly we are turned to stone.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

A Sword Of Memory

I only have one thing left from The Firm.

The biggest thing, the house that I used my Real Estate expertise to bu, - the fancy one with the file floors and high ceilings and marble counters and carefully planned back yard - is gone, lost in the real estate collapse of 2009 and the ensuing difficulties that caused us to relocate.  The real estate books are all given away, banished from my library as soon as I realized that real estate was not something I could do effectively.  The work computer is long dead, its battery failed as is the office chair, the relatively nice one that I kept until it would no longer stay at a sitting level, leaving only an IKEA stool in its wake.  And the license - the thing that made it all possible - expired ten years ago, dying a quiet and unlamented death in the dead of night in a database.

The one remaining item I have is my sword.

It is really a short sword, almost two feet of blade with a copper guard and a real carved wood handle.  It came in a traditional sheath as well, wood wrapped with leather which was dried over it.  

I found it on line at a Scottish Items store.  I was looking for a true Scottish Dirk, but was taken by the picture of this instead.  It was meant to be a trophy, one of those things that the "winners" do to commemorate exciting events in their careers or lives.  In my case, it commemorated my first real estate sale.  It was meant to be the first of many, the long line of trophies I would have to demonstrate my success to the world.

That never happened, of course.  It is one thing to succeed on a small scale; it is another to continue to succeed when you seem to elude success.  

But the sword remains, a relic of a different time and a different person who saw a very different course in life.  I clean it every month, and every month I am reminded for a little bit of a different time, a time when I thought that my life would have a different course, one that could be much more molded to my will that what I have found it to be.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Pride and Stupidness

"I will buy you out."  The words hung there, as gray as the clouds that were rolling outside.

It was February, 2005.  We were 11 months into the experiment that was called The Firm.  And things were not going well.

It turned out that friendship and a "good feeling" you were going to succeed was no replacement for an actual business plan based on actual facts.  Had we closed a few deals?  We had indeed.  Was it enough to make things financially feasible?  Not at all.  My income had dropped 20% since I had taken the leap, The Ravishing Mrs. TB was 6 months pregnant with child number three, and frankly, the future did not look terribly bright.

And so I had tried to split the difference.  I had found myself an interview in my previous industry and had made an interview appointment - only to find out that day that I had visit with a client and so was late to the interview.  I managed to get neither the job nor the deal.

And so we were sitting there in the office - he facing the wall next to the window, I in mine facing by the door, in our faux wood desks and second hand office chairs at the end of the hall with the walls that were a little too thin, when suddenly the words just came.

"I will buy you out."

No price was mentioned, no value put on what that would actually look like.  And we were sorely between deals.  And so, I pondered.

A buyout could get me two, maybe three months.  Could I find a job in that time?  Certainly not near where we lived; no, it would have to be farther, much farther out.  But I could drop this without further consequence.  I could walk away before disaster struck.

But then, my pride entered in.  If I quit now, I would never succeed if my partner succeeded - and I firmly believed that he would succeed.  I would have been right on the threshold of greatness and have sat down and starved instead of going through the gate.  Instead, I would go back to the thing I had sought to leave in the first place, back to what I perceived was a dead end job that I had spent hours and hours driving to and from.  Unfulfilled and unfulfilling.

My answer was firm. "No"  I replied.  "I am staying.  I am committed."

Of course, the story has been discussed here before in some detail.  In short, the commitment did not matter.  We failed anyway.  I ultimately saw the friendship wither, my finances take a hit that took 15 years to recover from, and the firm conclusion that I did not have what it takes to "be my own boss" take root.  I did, by the grace of God, find a job in the industry I had come from, that required me to drive an hour one way and up to two hours back. 

Occasionally I think of that day when I am starting to question my involvement or commitment to or in a thing, when I have regrets or doubts and am thinking about changing the course.  Almost every time my pride shows up full force:  "Commitment.  Success.  Only losers give up now!"

Younger Me would have turned his face back into the storm.  Older Me thinks about it, tests the wind, sifts through the memories of sleepless nights and almost empty pockets and an impending feeling of doom - and just often turns the other way. 

There is staying with something when difficult times come.  There is also realizing that pride will run you over a cliff without a second thought.

Sunday, February 03, 2019

The Voice of Thunder

O God of the elements,
O God of the mysteries,
O God of the fountain,
O King of Kings!
O King of Kings!

- Carmina Gadelica

Saturday, February 02, 2019

A Few Words From..Daniel Webster

[I]f we and our posterity reject religious instruction and authority, violate the rules of eternal justice, trifle with the injunctions of morality, and recklessly destroy the political constitution which holds us together, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us, that shall bury all our glory in profound obscurity.” - Daniel Webster