Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Main Thing Is To Keep The Main Thing The Main Thing

This last Sunday, my pastor used as part of his message the phrase (who knows where it originated "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing". 

Most of us of a certain age chuckle, of course, as this is the sort of thing that coaches, business leaders, and teachers have been saying for years on end.  It is a simple truth, one so foundational that we probably all take it for granted, of course.

But oddly enough, let us take a moment to consider such a statement being made at a church:  "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing".

What is the main thing the church is supposed to be doing?  Going into the world and preaching the gospel of Christ and making disciples.  Pretty straightforward.  And what is the gospel of Christ?  That everyone has fallen short of the glory of God through our sin but that Christ died to forgive our sin and that believing in Him, we may have eternal life.

Seems pretty straightforward, right?  "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing".

But what is the main thing for so many churches?  The gospel - plus.  The gospel plus political activism, the gospel plus social activism, the gospel plus this or that wrong that must be righted.

Any time something becomes "The Gospel with..." it is not the gospel.  Or at least the gospel alone. It is tying something to the gospel such that one cannot be discussed (in the context of those propagating it) without the other.  In other words, the main thing is not keeping the main thing the main thing, but rather the sort of main thing with a series of very important provisos and riders.

No wonder it feels like for so many churches that they are failing.  They failed to keep the main thing the main thing.  And without that driving factor, you will neither succeed in business nor win championships - nor actually do the will of God.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Loss of Reality

We are losing the ability to view and discuss things realistically.

The natural world, of course, runs on realism.  We refer that sort of realism as natural laws, or gravity, or the water cycle.  A spark hits dry grass, a wildfire is created.  If a rock is dropped, it falls.  Predators hunt and eat prey.  And there are fifty thousands ways for us to die when we mistake reality for the way I want things to be  e.g. I cannot fly or breathe underwater no matter how hard I try.

But when it comes to everything else - social interactions, society, finances, political interactions - reality has been driven from the room.

There are any number of ways to define it - political correctness, social consciousness, just plain shutting people down - but the end result is that conversations and dialogues are being forced into narrow, pre-planned channels where debate and discussion are neither welcomed nor tolerated.

Take forest management - a thing close to my heart as it is a constant threat where my parents live.  Well managed forests and land - like The Ranch my father has managed for 20 years and that was managed by him and my great uncle for years before that - has some risk of fire (always, of course) but not as high a risk because underbrush has been removed, dead trees thinned out, and the the forest is healthy.  But some, any sort of intervention in the forest - a single tree cut, a single underbrush removed - is evil because man destroying the environment (mind you, the forest fire does not just destroy the environment, it completely devastates it.).  Also, mind you, the Maidu that were there before anyone also set forest fires to clear parts of the forest for planting.  Typically such wisdom would be honored, but in this case it is carefully ignored.

Take what I have just related to any aspect or issue facing us today and, more than likely, you can walk out a similar scenario in your own mind.

Where does this all end up? Two places, really.  The first is internal to those societies, where it (eventually) stifles any sort of free thought or free speech or action.  Want to see what a society that does not tolerate dissent looks like?  Look to the history of the Soviet Union or Communist Eastern Europe, or to the now of Communist China.  Eventually the society becomes stagnant because no-one is willing to risk being shouted down (or worse).

The other place it ends up is for those societies that do see things realistically and act accordingly.  For them, they do as we do with the law of gravity or hydrology cycle: they take the confines of the rules and work within them to advance their goals and objectives.

Which, unfortunately, usually involves rolling over everyone else that refused to see things realistically.

We can deny gravity exists.  But ultimately we cannot escape it.

Monday, July 29, 2019

10 Years Of Iai

Approximately 10 years ago this week (or as near as I can figure), I walked into my first Iaijustu training.  I had only two semesters of martial arts under my belt some 20 years earlier and a single semester of European fencing.

I cannot honestly remember how I found my way to that website now - I had moved about a month earlier and was looking for something to get involved in.  I reached out to my-now Sensei and watched a class.  I enrolled the next week.

With the exception of very few things (this blog, for example) it is one of the longest activities I have ever kept up with.

What started me, of course, was fulfilling a life-long interest of learning to use a Japanese sword as it was meant to be used (or rather a bokuto, a wooden training sword -we do not use actual live blades) with the fullness of drawing and sheathing (unlike European fencing, which while involving great dexterity always felt slightly contrived to me).  But that is only a beginning, and if that is all one looks for, one will leave within a year or two.

What Iai has taught me in the intervening years is a great deal more.

It has taught me about dedication, about practicing something consistently day in and day out, sometimes with no sense of actually moving forward.  It has taught me that swordmanship is really just timing and distance - and that everything else in life is also just timing and distance.  It has made me study more, instilling in me the lifelong learning I have always enjoyed:  kata, kanji, even the powers of observation and thinking on my feet.  It has also enabled me to go to Japan two times so far, something I did twice once long ago but now view as an annual goal.

Iai changed my life.

Iai is not done with me yet, nor I with it.  I still have much to learn and much to perfect - after all, there is never mastery, only improvement.  But comforts me greatly to know that I can invest 10 years into an activity and that it ends up making a meaningful difference in my life.

Here is to 10 more.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

A Few Words From...Hank Williams Jr.

The preacher man says it's the end of time
And the Mississippi River she's a-goin' dry
The interest is up and the Stock Market's down
And you only get mugged if you go downtown

I live back in the woods, you see
My woman and the kids, and the dogs, and me
I got a shotgun, a rifle, and a 4-wheel drive
And a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive

I can plow a field all day long
I can catch catfish from dusk 'til dawn
We make our own whiskey and our own smoke, too
Ain't too many things these old boys can't do
We grow good old tomatoes and homemade wine
And a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive

Because you can't starve us out
And you can't make us run
'Cause we're them old boys raised on shotgun
And we say "grace" and we say "Ma'am"
And if you ain't into that we don't give a damn

We came from the West Virginia coal mines
And the Rocky Mountains and the western skies
And we can skin a buck; we can run a trotline
And a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive

I had a good friend in New York City
He never called me by my name, just hillbilly
My grandpa taught me how to live off the land
And his taught him to be a businessman
He used to send me pictures of the Broadway nights
And I'd send him some homemade wine

But he was killed by a man with a switchblade knife
For 43 dollars my friend lost his life
I'd love to spit some beech nut in that dude's eyes
And shoot him with my old .45
'Cause a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive

'Cause you can't starve us out and you can't make us run
'Cause we're them old boys raised on shotgun
And we say "grace" and we say "Ma'am"
And if you ain't into that we don't give a damn

We're from North California and South Alabama
And little towns all around this land
And we can skin a buck; we can run a trotline
And a country boy can survive
Country folks can survive
Country boy can survive
Country folks can survive

Thursday, July 25, 2019

The Collapse Letter XXV: Failing Commerce

17 August 20XX

My Dear Lucilius:

Our traffic has dwindled to almost nothing in the two weeks or so since my last shopping trip – in the past week, I have maybe seen six cars drive along the road that passes in front of my house.

Our little town, that had virtually no business in it, has almost none now. The RV park/bar is still open, but with no fuel and dwindling alcohol supplies there is little enough left to attract folk. Most of the RVs have left by now in search of fuel in towns farther away and I suspect the few remaining will follow – I have been counting them as I make my daily stroll around town to get out and stretch my legs. The campground I did my laundry at is still open as well, although even his supplies are dwindling as well.

Our post office/gas station has essentially become the post office and nothing else – the RVs leaving took the last of the fuel and it is unknown when, or even if, a replacement delivery will be made. The town gathers once a week now for mail delivery every Wednesday to parcel out the packages and letters that have been stored up (interestingly, junk mail still seems to make its way through. Good for kindling if nothing else).

By the end of the month, if not sooner, I suspect commerce will have completely died out here if nothing else changes.

The InterWeb suggests that the towns north and south of us still have supplies and are in business, but I suspect that everyone is holding out because of the risk of having no additional fuel – a round trip is not less than 50 miles to the nearest town of size and the need has to be balanced against the risk of wasting the fuel. I have been constructing a list of things that I think I will need to secure on one last trip; I keep trying to decide when I have reached the maximum amount of benefit of the trip versus the risk that things will start becoming depleted.

The quiet is amazing.

Without the traffic, the surrounding hills and even the town are almost dead quiet. One can hear the occasional shouts of children or the barking of dogs, or even the sound of cattle farther out. But really nothing else – human voices are kept low or inside and if people are playing music or the news, I surely cannot hear it.

I have lived through the time that men touched the stars; it seems that I will now live through the time that men scarcely hear or know their neighbors.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Changing Diet And Lifestyle

My fellow curmudgeon Glen Filthie has reported that his doctor has stated that he is overweight, pre-diabetic, and possibly pre-cancerous.  

Welcome to your 50's.

I have to admit that I have been having my own struggles with being post-50.  My knee is giving me some problems, which seem tied to my thigh muscle.  Actually, both of my knees are grumping at me now for some reason.  And there is this lovely twinge in my back that has never been there before.

And yes, I feel overweight and certainly have diabetes in my family.  Thanks for the reminder, friend Glen (Do try the bebimbop.  You will love it).

It is a good reminder that I need to start changing things and how I do them.

My knees, I truly believe, are in large part due to an increase in my weight - I have put on about 10 lbs and some amount of it is muscle, but some is fat is well, or at least I have not lost the side handles that are attached.  No idea on the back, but who knows?  Maybe related as well.

So like Glen, I am going to have to change my diet and my lifestyle.

No clear ideas yet, just a sense that I need to do it.  After all, with care and management I still have probably 30 good years left in me (or like my great grandmother, another 47).  Time to get busy.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Trying To Disappear

I have to confess to you that the longer this year has gone on, the more and more I have been overcome by a desire and need to simply disappear from visibility.

It is not as if I have some amazing reason like my security has been compromised or I have been called out by someone  or wrongfully accused or anything like that. It is just that it feels more and more like the world is pushing into my business.

Between my cell phone, my e-mail at work, and various and sundry cameras spread all over, my presence is pretty much known.  Even now, Blogger can tell you precisely when I logged on to type this and when I uploaded it.  My every financial decision which is not cash based is known and even those which could be cashed based but for which the payment is in a computer system is known. 

My house, thankfully, is relatively free of this oppressive observation - except, of course, for all the cell phones herein, the streaming services which know what is being watched, and the utilities which records how much electricity is being expended to keep our summer heated house cool. 

In other words, even my retreat is effectively being watched.

I am working on small and minor ways to disappear, of course - every social media account I do not open, every cash purchase I make - all of these are very small acts of resistance against a seemingly all-encompassing foe.  But it is not really enough.

Freedom - true freedom, defined as freedom of privacy, the freedom to do something and have no-one know what was done, has almost disappeared in the world as we know it.  We are left with the few small crumbs we can eke out, the wattle barriers we throw up in hopes that the Roman juggernaut will enmesh its spears in them and so be unable to attack. 

I have added this to my list of goals over the next four years - I may not get there, but at least I can work to find ways to put space between me and the observation system.  Any thin layer of padding I can add, any mist I can conjur up, anything that pulls one stake out of my hide, is worth doing.

Free men and women value their privacy.  It is only those that value complete control that think they need to know everything about everyone.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Parts Are Parts

This weekend, I finally sorted out my parts tool box.

Anyone that has ever owned a home has one of these.  It is a collection of the various pieces and parts that either are needed to do a specific task or come with something as an assembly item or you have to buy a quantity of to get the part that you want.

Digging through it was a walk through history. Here were the slides I needed to extract my radio in 1996 and "upgrade" to CD that I never needed again along with the wire connectors in the handy 500 pack.  Here also was The Tomb of The IKEA Parts, the ones that are extra but you never really are sure you should get rid of just in case you need them.  Nails in the gross and wood screws of various sizes from various projects, from 1/4" nails to roofing nails and many different lengths of screws for the times you "thought" you had the right length but did not.  Light bulbs and fuses for cars long sold.  The radiator tightener you bought as a stop gap for the car you ended up having the radiator replaced on.  Locks with keys and locks with no keys and a combination lock from your wife's high school days that no-one remembers the combination of.

Parts and pieces; pieces and parts.

I sorted through them, trying my best to take a stern "Are you really going to use that?  Really?"  approach - at which I only gave mediocre performance as I know only too well how six months from now I will need that one screw length and I do not want to risk throwing it away in the event I do need it and then have to buy a gross (to be clear, I have very many of those indeed.  No danger of running out).  I ended up throwing away a few things and re-organizing the rest.

The tool box, at least, now closes.

As with my parts box, so my life.  Too many bits and pieces held on to in the event I might someday "need" them for some undefined purpose.  I reorganize and reorganize but, like my parts, eventually I just have to start getting rid of something.

After all, my life, like my tool box, should have the lid be able to completely close.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

A Few Words From...John Calvin

“For until men recognize that they owe everything to God, that they are nourished by His fatherly care, that He is the Author of their every good, that they should seek nothing beyond Him – they will never yield Him willing service. Nay, unless they establish their complete happiness in Him, they will never give themselves truly and sincerely to Him.”


Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Collapse XXIV: Books

14 August 20XX

My Dear Lucilius:

The strangest thought hit me this afternoon: I may never buy another book again.

Do not misunderstand. It is not that I will never read another book again: my rather large library (and some of my wife's) made its way here with me and now happily lines the walls of my home. In a real sense, I do not have a library but live in one.

But if things are trending as they seem to be, I may never buy another one. Because who will make and sell them? And even if they were made and sold, where would I buy them?

I remember the transition over my life, from ordering books from book sales to small local bookstores to larger chains to national chain and then online and finally used bookstores. And now the circle may be completing.

But I am at least fortunate in that I collect books. We are but a hair's breath away from losing almost all art and culture of the last 3000 years.

Extreme, you say? Think, my friend: we have spent the last 30 plus years putting everything into the digital realm. Books? For many, they now live only on small consoles or their computers which must have power. Movies? I have a few in physical form that I can see from where I write you, but for the most part these too are now all electronic or “streamed”. They need a player as well. Music? My previous comments holds true there as well: many have some CDs or maybe their predecessors, but for most their music is totally found on the InterWeb.

But the last 30 years is troubling in another way too: we have been making our culture completely electronically and on-line. We have been making it to be interacted with and viewed online. What happens when there is not more online?

I write “we” - in point of fact, I have made nothing on-line for entertainment. And rather happily, I can entertain myself (as I know you can as well). So for those such as ourselves, the inability to access anything simply means one less thing to take away from the time we have to do so many other things.

But for millions – billions, if you count the rest of the world – their ability to entertain themselves, to learn, to express themselves is tied up in a media which may very well disappear in the blink of an eye. What will there be of their entertainment and creative impulses then? How will they amuse themselves then? Suddenly discover modes and methods of entertainment effectively banished from their worlds for years, or maybe forever?

It saddens me, Lucilius, that with our great technological achievements and all we have done, that the works of the civilizations of the Greeks and Romans, Egyptians and Aztecs, will outstrip us yet.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Flying and Driving

I have to admit to you that the thought of flying to go anywhere becomes less and less attractive.

For international travel (and thus, my trips to Japan as long as I can manage them), there is no substitute, of course.  But for domestic travel (which I care to do less and less anyway), I have to admit that I am almost of the opinion that I would rather drive.

Sure, some of it is the airport experience:  anymore they are crowded, expensive, and awkward to get into.  If you are lucky, you can have someone drop you off; if you are less lucky, you are left to your own devices to park far away, thus ensuring you will add another 30 minutes to your time to get home.

To be fair, driving takes more time.  It is, on the whole, probably more expensive (as one has to stay overnight along the way).  More time, more money - something many of us do not have a great deal of.

But going along with the idea of "Being Where You Are", driving seems to me to be the more complete experience.

When I have driven through a region, I have seen it - perhaps even only once, but I have a picture in my head.  I can still see the places that we drove when I was growing up when we went on vacation; I can see clearly the places I drove to in Iceland.

For airplanes, we see very little.  We hop from airport to airport and then (mostly) from metropolis to metropolis, with no sense at all of any of the land in between except for what we saw from the plane window.  Like our entertainment, like our food, like almost everything now, we have come associate anything that does not immediate meet the need or get us to the point as something which is wasteful in nature.

To some extent (until they ban it), I am sure that I will always have to take planes to get places.  But I sure as heck am going to try out driving more where I can.  It may not be faster, but it will sure be more enjoyable.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

39 Again

So The Ravishing Mrs. TB turned 39 this weekend (for the 12th time).

She is off with Na Clann on another adventure (alas, after my last absence from work I am very reluctant to take some more time off so soon) - it is what she wanted as part of her birthday and (frankly) missing hordes of people in the hot Florida sun is something that I can happily do without.

It strikes me as odd, if I think about it.  We passed our 26th wedding anniversary this year.  I have known her for 27 years.  At this point, that is longer than all but my family and a handful of friends.  i do not suppose you ever know how certain relationships will work out, unless you try them. 

We are reaching that point in our marriage where our responsibilities are slightly dropping off:  the oldest will be off soon for her 3rd year college, the middle for her 1st, and the youngest to start high school.  It is not quite the empty nest syndrome, but it certainly a predecessor to it for both of us. In a (mere) four years, we will pretty much be on our own.

I am not sure how ready we are for that.

But for now, we do not have to be.  All we have to do is celebrate 39 (again).

Monday, July 15, 2019

The Movie Tangerines

If you have Netflix, I might recommend a movie to you:

It is called Tangerines, a 2013 Estonian-Georgian film.  Set in 1992-1993 Abkhazia War, it focuses on a carpenter, Ivo, and his farmer friend, Margus, Estonians who have stayed behind after most of their friends and family have fled back to Estonia.  Margus has stayed in hopes of harvesting his tangerine crop, and Ivo is building the crates to hold them.

During the movie, two more characters are introduced:  Ahmed, a Chechen mercenary who is wounded and helped by Ivo, and Nika, a Georgian who is wounded in the same incident and rescued by Ivo.  Both men are cared for in separate rooms in the same home and both hold a passionate hatred for each other.

The movie becomes an interaction between the crops (Will they get harvested? Will Margus and Ivo be able to leave) and the hostility of Ahmed and Nika.

I cannot tell more without revealing the movie; that said, I would strongly recommend you see it if you have the chance.  It asks questions about culture and land and war and reconciliation, but to my mind asks the most poignant and real of all:  what do you do as an "outsider" that has lived somewhere for multiple generations to the point that this place feels like home and then war breaks out - how does one abandon a life one has known literally their whole life?

Sunday, July 14, 2019


May the three springs praise you,
Two higher than the wind and one above the earth,
May darkness and life praise you,
May the cedar and sweet fruit-trees praise you...

May the birds and the bees praise you,
May the stubble and grass praise you,
Aaron and Moses praised you,
May male and female praise you,
May the seven days and stars praise you,
May the lower and upper air praise you,
May the books and letters praise you.

- 10th-11th Century Middle Welsh Prayer, Celtic Devotions, Calvin Miller

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Collapse XXIII: High Dudgeon Summer

10 August 20XX

My Dear Lucilius:

We are in the high dudgeon days of summer now: heat punctuated by thunderstorms. My garden is grateful for the rain of course, but it does make it a bit dicey to go out and do anything during a given day.

Not that I let this halt my activities, of course. I have re-organized everything to the point that I have nothing to re-organize. I have pulled everything off of its shelf and dusted it. When I have had a clear afternoon, I have examined the bee hives and thoroughly weeded the garden.

The items that I ordered on the InterWeb – at least some of the first batch – have started to arrive. They, too, are being carefully filed away. I think perhaps two more week cycles of mail and there will be nothing else coming.

And still, I have time left over.

I have spent more of it lately perusing the InterWeb – not so much for more things to order, as I have reached my current limit in the event that this is only a test drive for the real emergency and I have to continue to exist in the modern economy, as to review what people are saying out there in the great big world.

In short, people are uncertain and afraid.

The government is not helping this, of course. Their press releases are as vague and reassuring as you would expect any government's to be: they are “closely monitoring” the situation and urge people to remain calm. To the contrary, people are not: rumors of shortages and bank holidays are almost minute by minute occurrences in the chat rooms and mail lists of the InterWeb where the government does not seem to reach.

I do find it somewhat eerie that a great deal of what I can see of international news reflects the experience here: were I in France or Russia or Australia, I see much of the same fear and government response/non-response. People are afraid. They hear rumors of famine and peril and the inability to feed themselves and the governments of the world do little – if anything – to resolve that fear. As if they simply wish it to go away by ignoring it.

Not surprisingly, the “Survivalist/Economic Ruin” groups on line are oscillating between a “This is it!” mentality and patting themselves on the back for having seen this coming. I am not sure of whether or not “this” is it; what is saddening and (frankly) deeply disturbing is to see the number of people taking what I can only interpret as glee in the current mental anguish and potential actual anguish of their fellow citizens.

It is one thing to be prepared for any eventuality. It is another to take pleasure in the actual suffering of others. As Nieztche said, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it in the process that one does not become a monster.”

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Changing My Workspace

I have changed up my major workspace.

For years, I have been trying to do everything in two locations.  One is my desk, located in my bedroom - before our move it was located in our master bedroom closet and was the office that I have never managed to have.  The other, at least for the last six years, has been the large overstuffed purple chair in the living room.

It makes sense, correct?  In one location (the chair) I did all my early morning work; in the other (my desk) I did my writing and other items.  But the problem has presented itself that I have not been making the progress in anything that I was hoping for. 

So, I changed where I am working.

The Ravishing Mrs. TB has a craft table in the living room which (at this point) is intermittently used, but has an amazing desk lamp.  So I have relocated there.

It means changes, of course.  My items, be they for reading or writing, are now stored out there.  Anything that I was doing at my desk, I have to "truck" (I use the word loosely) out in the living room to use.

But it seems to be working.  Why?

1)  Simply put, a change of scenery.  I am not used to being out there, so I am not immediately lapsing back into my old habits.

2)  No computer.  This is the biggest change - by leaving the computer behind and only having what I need, I am forcing myself to stay on task.  The results, even after a few days, have been remarkable.

3)  The change in location and lack of distractions has meant I am more able to focus on what I am doing.  For me, I really can have no distractions to the task that I am trying to accomplish - the less, the better.  Thus, I can focus fully on what I am doing because I have nothing else to focus on.

I will see where I sit in a month.  But so far, I am quite happy with the results.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

On Special Occasions

The older I get, the more this is true.

Our society does not work that way, however.  Special occasions are, well "special".  Totally disconnected from our day to day existence.  Once upon a time "Sunday best" used to be a phrase - partially, of course, because in an agricultural society "Sunday Best" does not translate to Monday through Saturday, but also partially because work was not a special occasion.

Interestingly, ancient warrior cultures, such as the Samurai and Native Americans, had it more right.

For the samurai, it was important to look your best at each and every moment, because you never really knew that you would have the next moment - and were you to pass away, it was considered a courtesy to you slayer to be as well dressed up as possible.

"A warrior preparing himself for battle presents his most splendid appearance.  That is, he gets himself ready to die.  The idea of full dress in preparation for a battle does not come from a belief that it will add to the fighting ability.  The preparation is for death, in case that should the result of the conflict.  Every Indian wants to look his best when he goes to meet the Great Spirit." - Wooden Leg, Cheyenne

In reality, there are no special occasions.  There is only life and death, and I have a pretty good sense that (from a purely physical view) there is no special occasion celebrated by a corpse.  Act and live accordingly

Monday, July 08, 2019

Find A Tribe?

This has been making the InterWeb Rounds.

On the one hand, I find a great deal of truth in it.  If you have not been out in any kind of social milieu in, say, the last ten years, you would be quite surprised to find how to true this is.  At least in my own experience, most place where people gather - be they career, religious, professional, or even just enjoyable - are exactly like this.   People keep to "safe", non-controversial topics (although this are dwindling more and more as we speak) or topics with very limited boundaries:  what you did this weekend, how is your family doing, what about the weather.  In this sense the InterWeb has been a great tool in helping folks to find their "tribe", be it intellectual, social, or even activity based.

On the other hand, this is an alarming trend.

To read the conquest of any territory, especially in the ancient world, is to read the story of how a united people were victorious against "tribes", whether you call them families or clans or petty kingdoms.  The great empires of old - Persia, Rome, Charlemagne, even Great Britain - succeeded because they fought as one while the tribes fought individually - and as individual units, they had their own interests which could be managed, purchased, or exploited.  Sometimes a major leader might bring together several tribes, whether successfully (Arminus at the Teutoberger Wald in 9 A.D, where German tribes destroyed a Roman task force and stopped Roman expansion north of the Rhine) or unsuccessfully (the Jacobite Rebellion, 1688-1746, where the entire Scottish structure was completely undone) - but these ultimately represented only temporary victories at best or, even worse, the leader becoming the Empire which he had overthrown (Alexander the Great, for example).

If I were an enemy, this is precisely what I would want.  Spread dissension, spread discord, spread a weakening of shared ties instead of a strengthening of them, and suddenly your opponent is either ripe for the taking or will dissolve into a series of internal conflicts - maybe civil war if you are lucky - leaving you as the victor having expended no effort at all.

Perhaps I am overthinking this issue a bit, because I definitely find myself in the position of having to be small, be quiet, and be gray.  But surely it is not without noting that no social construct can ultimately survive its own atomization?

Sunday, July 07, 2019

The Crown Of The King

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 from Calvin Miller's Celtic Devotions

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Happy Independence Day 2019!

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

 We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. --Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained, and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the  conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton
Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry
Rhode Island: Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery
Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott
New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris
New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark
Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross
Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean
Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton
North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn
South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton
Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton
Source: The Pennsylvania Packet, July 8, 1776

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Dreams Die

Dreams die.
Wax melting off feathered wings,
collapsing shaft at a mine of riches,
the hand that can no longer act.

Dreams fall.
Plunging into the river of life
bones tumbling,
particles drifting downward.

Buried beneath the weight of life,
do they become fossilized remnants
like the Thunder Lizards of Old,
to inspire and amaze?
Or simply the detritus of being,
leaving nothing but rot
in their wake?

Monday, July 01, 2019

On Expecting Failure

I have discovered that I have a propensity to expect failure.

Mind you, this is not in and of itself a terrible thing.  Being willing to fail means that I have been able to try a wide number of activities.  Because doing anything new is, almost by default, admitting that you are going to fail - perhaps a great deal - before you succeed.

But there is also a down side to the propensity to expect failure - at some point, you begin to expect that everything will fail.  That is not a very helpful attitude when you trying to succeed at something, not very helpful at all.

So this is something I need to work at turning around.  Oddly enough, I think it largely comes down to personal pride and personal responsibility.

Personal Pride?  At some level, one has to start to want to not be known as the person who "fails" all the time.  One should, at least some of the time, want to be known as someone who succeeds at things, both for the personal benefit as as well as the fact that one can get things done.  If one gets things done, one can do other, more complex things.  Thus, I need to take some level of personal pride in being successful.

The other is personal responsibility - that is, that I am invested in what I am doing and the outcome of it.  That at some level, I need to make it happen because I am doing it and there is no-one else to make sure that it will succeed, and that in succeeding it will be good work.  And the work reflects me.

Maybe two other points:

1)  I seldom imagine what success will look like. What it feels like.  What it will be like after I do it.  I need to do that more.

2)  I need to, when appropriate, also get reminders of those successes.  For me, it tends to be redoing my swords at this point.  That is fine - but when I do and I look at the sword (or other item), it reminds me of the effort that went into it.