Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Dealer In Hope

As I survey the landscape of the first six months of 2020 - and what a first six months it has been! - what strikes me most of the entire situation - not just locally, or as a state or province level, or nationally, or even globally - is a complete and total lack of hope.

Quite a lot is being peddled today:  anger, rage, shame, despair, guilt, fear, hate, covetousness.  If you look at that list, you might think it favorably compares with the Seven Deadly Sins - which it does, to a point.  Voices are raised, fists are raised about what has not been done, what needs to be done, how all are failing all.

Amidst all of the above, there is simply no-one offering hope.

Groups are not offering it.  They only offer their view of the world and how others need to conform to  it or attempt to impose their moral standing upon others.

Government is not offering it.  It offers only more laws or more arguments as two sides engage in a battle of brinkmanship to seize the reins of power, titans engaged in a struggle while the rock on which the fight crumbles.

Interestingly enough, no religion is offering it either.  You would think of all groups, this would be their time to shine.  But they seem to fall into two camps:  those that have essentially become indistinguishable from the culture around them and thus only offer the view of the culture and those who may actually want to offer hope but seem very ineffectual in doing it. 

Napoleon Bonaparte is credited with the above quote - something which, frankly, surprised me as I do not typically think of him as someone who would say such a thing - but to be fair, he appeared after the Terror of The French Revolution and the Directory.  To his soldiers and the French nation, he offered hope:  Hope of a restored France (and then, of course, a French Empire, a bit less hopeful for everyone that was conquered by him). 

Where are our leaders of hope today?  To what realm have the fled?  Or is not that that they have fled, is it instead that that have reserved their message of hope for themselves and those directly around them and abandoned the larger world to its rage and wrath and violence and shame and guilt?

Or is it simply that hope is much like a butterfly that scorns the fires of wrath and violence and the hurricanes of shame and guilt and will only appear in the quiet spring of peace and quiet?  If so, I fear we will find such times will be long in coming.

Monday, June 29, 2020

High Summer

It is not quite High Summer here at The Ranch.

The pastures (really just cleared forest with local grasses but that is what we call them) are only slowly going brown, unlike the flatlands below, which have undergone their transition into the almost dead white brown of summer which will not return to another color until November.  There may be another two weeks or more before things go completely brown up here, which is late for the season.    My father's biggest hope is they do go brown and there is not another round of mowing around the house to knock the grass down, which will take the better part of  a day.

The pine and oak tress here clad the hills with their eternal brown trunks and green leaves and needles for a pleasant contrast to the slowly withering grasses.  I have become enough of a concerned citizen that I am paying attention to see if there are additional die offs due to bark beetles or fungus; so far, we seem okay this year.

The biggest difference between here and almost everywhere else I am is the wind.  Nothing but the silence of the wind as it roars through the trees. The sound is drowned out currently as my uncle works his way down the fence line and now back up with his orange riding mower, the sound dying off into the distance to a dull roars as a jet flies overhead and takes over until it, too, dies away into the wind.

The birds here fill the space between the wind, chirping away of food and territory and the sorts of things that birds sing about when it is almost July and the world is full of drying grass seeds and fat insects.

In one large clearing off of the red dirt road that heads off away from the house towards the main road (it is the official road on the deed, but we use the other road, the one that has been there for sixty years or more) a swarm of dragonflies hovers in the air - more than I can remember of late, although to honest I cannot think that I have paid attention to them all that much.  To the human eye, they appear to be dancing; to the dragonfly, fierce hunters that they are, they are looking for the next meal to dart into range.  Odd how we can have completely different views of the same event.

Sitting here in the wind swept bird filled silence with windows open in the blessedly humidity free air, the world - I hesitate to call it the "real world" because in point of fact this is the real world - falls away and becomes what it should really be.  Gone are the side by side housing and the wind that blows but not through the trees (because there are not enough trees for the wind to blow through, only our allocated 3.5) and the overwhelming sound of cars and heat radiating from the blacktop and rooftops.  Yes, the heat can be here as well, but it absorbs into the ground and air instead of hurling it back at you as an insult and challenge to the concrete and asphalt jungle that we mistakenly call "civilization".

Where I live now, High Summer is a thing to be endured.  Here, it is a celebration of the natural cycle of things.  Which of them, I wonder, is the truly "civilized" option?

Saturday, June 27, 2020

A Visit Home

So as you read this, I am on my way Home.

This is somewhat of a plan on short notice but also a logical step following my final day in my previous position:  a hard break between myself and my former reporting structure to reinforce the fact that I am no longer involved.  It is also a break which I need following four months of unanticipated stress and a long rearguard action of managing in place, waiting for a replacement to come.

What am I going to do?  I am flying back home to The Ranch to spend the better part of a week with my parents in Heaven on Earth.  I will get out to see a couple of my dear friends (oddly enough, almost all my dear friend are the ones I made in high school) and stop by my in-laws on the way back. 

I am bringing my computer along to write of course, and a stack of books for the reading and a bokuto for Iaijutsu training.  What I am not bringing is anything related to work or anything that might make me available to work or to consider work. 

I am sure we will take some drives.  I will read.  I will write.  I will think.  I will visit with old friends.  And I will ponder what the new chapter of my life means, and how I can turn this to my advantage to begin to move the needle in directions that I want to go.

The world will go on.  And for one blessed week, I will not have to.

Friday, June 26, 2020

A Sort Of Hammerfall: The Final Blow

My Continuing (and now final) Job Transition Saga:

A Sort of Hammerfall

A Sort of Hammerfall I

A Sort of Hammerfall II

A Sort of Hammerfall III

A Sort of Hammerfall IV

A Sort of Hammerfall V

A Sort of Hammerfall VI

A Sort of Hammerfall VII

A Sort of Hammerfall:  The End Is Nigh

So today is the official day:  after 18.6 years I move from Quality into a new career path in the same industry (that of Project Management, in case you were wondering).

This has been a good career field.  It has done a lot for my family:  it enabled us to buy a house (twice, actually); it enabled us to withstand a rather unfortunate career change on my part (The Firm); it enabled us to send Na Clann to good schools through High School and now has supported most of Nighean Gheal's college and the first year of Nighean Bhean's college; it paid for trips to Europe and Iceland and throughout the U.S.; it enabled me to go train (three times) in Japan for Iaijutsu even as it allowed me to buy all of the equipment to support what has become (outside of writing and learning to be self sufficient in small ways) the greatest study of my life (and, by the way, fulfilled a 10 year old boy's dream of going to Japan and being enamored of Japanese culture).

I (literally) did everything I could have done in the field.  I reached the exalted level of Vice President, which is really the terminal position in the career field (yes, you can be Senior Vice President or Executive Vice President, but that is really just degrees of difference).  And once you are there, there is no real place for you to go except to a similar position.  You cannot go "back", because people either assume you are incompetent (therefore, why would I hire you?) or just trying to find a job "until" the next executive position becomes available.

But it comes at a cost, as well.  Long days, sometimes long nights.  Constantly worrying about if you are meeting the regulations.  As a manager, people issues (I have had more people issues in the last year than I have had in the previous sixteen as a manager).  Having to answer to even more senior management who does not care why things are not done or how hard they are to accomplish, just that they are not done  And oh so many projects that were "critical" at the time but now matter not at all.

So I am ready for the change as well.

I will take my week off - free of work e-mails and concerns about what is or what is not getting done and what will be lurking for me in my in-box when I get back - and come back ready and refreshed, not just to restart the work but to restart a new career, hopefully one that is engaging and transferable and less stressful and allows me to start to prepare for the next phase of life.

It was a long time getting here and not always the best, but today is a good day.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

On The Sorting Of E-mail

One of the more fascinating outcomes of my now near- imminent change in job roles is the fact that my e-mail has dropped to a trickle.

E-mail in the work environment is a funny thing.  I remember back when I first started in the industry in the mid-90's and got my first work e-mail account (on Lotus Notes, if your memory goes back that far).  It was so exciting to get those rare e-mails:  I was in!  I was in the loop!  I was cool!

And then, 20+ years of the paperless office...

By my most recent count prior to the arrival of my replacement, I was receiving 100 to 150 e-mails a day:  some that I needed to act on, a great many that people felt like I needed to be in the know (that is the great issue with e-mail:  just by adding one to a list people feel that they have informed you of the event whereas for those that receive it, it becomes just one more of many), a number of notifications (because everything electronic now notifies you of every time a change is made), and then those that were just advertisements and recruiters trying to get lucky by reaching out directly to you (as if somehow, as a manager with an HR structure in place, I could have just magically broken out of the system and called them to make a hire).  It was, frankly, rather stupid.

By contrast, I am perhaps receiving 20 to 30 e-mails a day now, perhaps 5 of which I need to act on.

As part of my transition, I am going through and filing the e-mails to that I can have the information readily available in case my replacement or former coworkers ask for it.  It is a bit of a task:   I had 68,845 e-mails in my inbox that were not categorized and I am barely to 25% of those being appropriately filed (It is a bit of a project that will now run well over my transfer). It has also been an interesting task because, much like layers in an archaeological dig, there is a rhythm and flow to the e-mails:  you can see the projects start to appear, then become of major importance and activity, and then slowly die down until they disappear - or working backwards from more recent e-mails, you follow the chain back to the original item or e-mail that started everything. 

I have never had this kind of record of my work life to review before.

The surprising thing to me has been how much I remember about them - not that I specifically remember them, but as I am reading through the e-mails how I felt about them and the situation at the time comes back to me with a surprising sense of emotion.  It is not that I had forgotten about them - which surprises me, I thought I had - as much as they were just buried beneath new layers of items needing attention.  Everything was still there, just ready to be stirred up.

I have no idea how many e-mails my new career will entail - probably more than I want or need, frankly - but I am not going to make the same mistake twice, of course:  everything gets at least assigned as soon as it comes in, and everything gets filed at that end of the day.

And, of course, no more signing up for newsletters or advertisements.  Recruiters, you have to find your inroad elsewhere.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The Death And Divorce of Nations And States

When do nations and states and empires die?

They do not necessarily die when they are attacked - Great Britain survived the Blitz.  They do not necessarily die when they are conquered - much of Western and Eastern Europe survived two world wars and the Cold War.  They do not necessarily die when they are split into smaller components - the Byzantine Empire was separated and came back together (much smaller the second time, to be sure) and the Russia of Old split and reformed into the Soviet Union and split and reformed (again) int the Commonwealth of Independent States (more or less in the same configuration as before).

They die when the idea of them dies and there is no longer a sense of "them".  That the old country is simply not worth living for (or dying for) anymore.  That no-one is a member of the British Empire or Byzantine Empire or Russian Empire but rather Welsh or Greek or Lithuanian.

The belief, of course, is that when this happens they will be replaced by something "better" - a rather nebulous term that assumes that the only thing that makes a nation or a state function is a belief in the worth of its existence and the nature of its existence.  Economy, social life, entertainment, religion - all of these are assumed to just continue on in the spirit of "one big happy family".

The reality, of course, is quite different.

When something as fundamental as a nation or a state is ended, there are really only two kinds of people:  those that rejoice in its end and those that mourn it.  Those that rejoice perhaps often feel that those who mourn will just accept it and come around to see all of the benefits and glory of the new world.  What they do not grasp is that a fundamental relationship, that of citizen to citizen, has been broken.

 If the state or nation is undermined, thereby dying, the relationship between citizens also (by default) dies:  there is neither a legal nor enduring relationship, only a proximate relationship (in this case, both parties still happen to live in the same geographic location as before).  Think of it precisely as a divorce:  two parties, once sharing everything - relationship, possessions, social life, money - are now separated by law and while they (temporarily) may live in the same house, their legal relationship as husband and wife have now ended..  They have nothing holding them together but those lesser items - possessions, social life, money.

Think of the "best" divorce you have known.  And think of the "worst" one you have known.  A great deal of that depends on the maturity of the individuals involved of course, and how bitter the divorce was.  For those that were bad, how often - if ever - does the former spouse want to associate with, speak of, or even speak of their former husband or wife?  Pretty much not at all.

When the belief that the marriage will not go farther, when the conviction sets in that there is nothing for it but separation, at that moment the concept of the marriage dies.  You cannot undermine significant parts of the relationship - by overspending, by infidelity, by constantly running down your spouse - and then expect them to joyfully still want to remain in the marriage.  In fact, in most cases they want to do nothing but get as far away from the former husband or wife as possible.

It is when the individual - or individuals - determine that they are better off by themselves or with more like minded individuals that the nation or the state dies.  And it is that moment that those that were actively pushing for its destruction are suddenly shocked to see that individual citizens are truly walking way - not just with their beliefs but with their money, their talents, their energy.  At that moment, those that are the destroyers will cry out "Where are you going?  Why are you not committed to building the glorious new structure for a bright future?  Are you so selfishly motivated as to not care about your fellow citizens?"

The response will be "Talk to my lawyer".

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

TB Joins The Tech World

So this weekend I paid for a VPN.

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network (Truly, I have to look these things up):

"extends a private network across a public network and enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices were directly connected to the private network. Applications running across a VPN may therefore benefit from the functionality, security, and management of the private network. Encryption is a common, although not an inherent, part of a VPN connection.

VPN technology was developed to provide access to corporate applications and resources to remote or mobile users, and to branch offices. For security, the private network connection may be established using an encrypted layered tunneling protocol, and users may be required to pass various authentication methods to gain access to the VPN. In other applications, Internet users may secure their connections with a VPN to circumvent geo-restrictions and censorship or to connect to proxy servers to protect personal identity and location to stay anonymous on the Internet. Some websites, however, block access to known VPN technology to prevent the circumvention of their geo-restrictions, and many VPN providers have been developing strategies to get around these blockades." (Thanks, Wikipedia)

As I understand it, this essentially means instead of me floating around in traffic and calling from my home phone number, this helps me to essentially "call in" from an entirely different location - I can talk and interact normally, but to the larger InterWeb it appears I am actually calling in from Canada or Vietnam or Germany or wherever.

In the past I have been a great user of the "free" version of such things: so for example, I have use the free VPN function of my InterWeb browser (neither of the major players, whom I despise because they track me), free antivirus, free tracker blockers (Ghostery, which I do highly recommend), and a free optimization tool (Glarysoft, which I again recommend). Most of these have a paid alternative as well, but I have always opted out as I thought I was "safe enough".

However, given the ongoing and current state of affairs, I no longer consider that to be the case.

The software I got was from Nordic VPN and was attractive for two reasons: The first was that it came highly rated from a reliable InterWeb resource I have used in the past to assess such things, and the second was that they were running a sale (two years for the price of one - hard to argue with that).  A third selling point - once I got it - was the fact that it was incredibly easy for me, a complete novice, to set up: within 10 minutes I was safely behind the wall.

Here is an idea of what it looks like:

There I am, a happy little green dot in the middle of the US (Kansas or Nebraska, I think).

But there is a third, and slightly more concerning reason I did it: they are not based in the United States.

In reading up on them, they are surprisingly unwilling to reveal a lot about themselves. Here is their statement:

"As of 2020-06-21 we state the following:

- We have NOT received any National Security letters;
- We have NOT received any gag orders;
- We have NOT received any warrants from any government organization.

We are 100% committed to our zero-logs policy – we never log the activities of our users to ensure their ultimate privacy and security."

You may think me a bit paranoid for going to this length of action to protect myself, but to frank with you the future I see hurtling down the tracks is filled with fear and paranoia and surveillance and the writ of tyranny we see in the beginnings of "The Cancel Culture" At that time, whatever government is in power will want to know such things as where you go on the InterWeb, and whom you interact with, and what you speak of (Think I am wrong? Check into what China has already undertaken and see the future). It was for this reason I also moved the e-mail associated with the website to a server in Iceland (unseen.is, in case you are wondering).

I do not pretend to understand almost any of this. What I do understand is that an age of censorship and tyranny is rising and I need to do what I can to protect myself and be a voice of reason as long as I can. Even if that means a few more coins out of my pocket.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Cleaning Up

I had a short run through my old items on The Book of Face.

This was really prompted by a comment from Glen, something that I originally just let sit at the back of my mind but slowly worked its way to the front:  what was on there, and more importantly, what was there that could possibly become something that was an "item of interest" for some later on?  Of course, once that thought is there, there is nothing for it but to go back and look at everything.

So I quickly scanned my pictures.  Pretty much as I had thought and remembered, there is really nothing even remotely controversial there:  pictures of family, pictures of trips, pictures of my throwing and doing Iai, memes trying to inspire others.  Nothing in the least bit controversial.

Next, I looked at the other things.  I did have "notes", things that (back in the day) I had posted which were sort of "all about me" lists.  Interesting and - again - nothing particularly controversial, but I am now I am starting to view anything connected with my name as something which is potentially at risk.  So down those came.  

Going forward, of course, even less is going to show up there.  Pictures of family for birthdays and celebratory days, perhaps.  Perhaps pictures if I travel again (mostly to share with family).   But really nothing more than that any more.  

In The New Normal, exposing any information - not just opinions any more, but even likes and dislikes - leave one potentially exposed.  Better to become even more grey, even less publicly visible.  

At the rate that we are going, there will be very little that anyone is willing to discuss about themselves with people that are not extremely well vetted and well known.  Given the potential for having your life ruined for a misinterpretation, who would want to?

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Nehemiah 1: 5-11

“Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer Your servant is praying before You day and night for Your servants, the people of Israel.

I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against You. We have acted very wickedly toward You. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws You gave your servant Moses.

Remember the instruction You gave Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to Me and obey My commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for My Name.’ They are Your servants and Your people, whom You redeemed by Your great strength and Your mighty hand.

Lord, let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of this Your servant and to the prayer of Your servants who delight in revering your name. Give Your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.”

Saturday, June 20, 2020

A Few Words From...William J.H.Boetcker

You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot help little men by tearing down big men.
You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
You cannot establish sound security on borrowed money.
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn.
You cannot build character and courage by destroying men's initiative and independence.
And you cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they can and should do for themselves.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

A Sort of Hammerfall: The End Is Nigh

My Continuing Job Transition Saga:

A Sort of Hammerfall

A Sort of Hammerfall I

A Sort of Hammerfall II

A Sort of Hammerfall III

A Sort of Hammerfall IV

A Sort of Hammerfall V

A Sort of Hammerfall VI

A Sort of Hammerfall VII

So the saga seems almost to a close.  I have spoken with my new manager and with my replacements.  As of the end of this month, I will no longer be employed in the specialty of my career field. the one I have been employed in for the last 18.6 years.

In a way, it is a relief:  it will be almost four months to the day when I was informed that I would be replaced and the intervening period has really just been a place holding and rearguard exercise until the new person showed up.  Not surprisingly, they are ready to take over and be off in their new position.  Not surprisingly, I am also ready to be off and onto the next chapter of my life.

Strangely enough, I find myself a bit depressed about the whole thing.

Since my replacement's arrival, my involvement in my area of work has been declining:  Less e-mails, less meetings, less questions asked of me.  This is all understandable of course:  there is a new regime and people need to look in that direction.  But when you have been in the rising tide and fray for years and suddenly everything drops off, there is a gap.that is present, a gap of time and attention.  Suddenly, you find yourself in the eddy of the river, not in the current, slowly circling against the current.

So I will continue my transition out this week and into next week, shedding meetings and organizing e-mails in case I have to remember something from the past.  And waiting, patiently waiting, for the new world to arrive.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Social-Less Media: An Update

I thought as a public service I might update those of you who do not use Social Media in general on the current state of it - or least my interpretations thereof.

As you may recall, back in May I decided I was going to take a hiatus from Social Media.  It had become rather toxic and instead of bringing a sense of joy into my life, brought nothing but aggravation and sorrow.  I followed through with this plan, only rejoining The Book of Face on a daily basis to track the travels of The Ravishing Mrs. TB and Na Clann  as they took a week off.

As I checked in for exotic pictures of lands states far removed from where I was, I found that I still had people that opined or were combative.  The Book of Face has this interesting feature called "unfollow", wherein one can simply not see an individual's post with fully cutting all ties.  I started to use this function frequently.  My "feed" became less combative.  In theory, my stress level declined.

But I also found that many people that were neither combative nor opined frequently had also stopped using The Book of Face.  They, too, were turned away by the constant war of words that they saw and simply stopped interactions.

Instaphoto,  I thought, would be better - how bad would pictures and memes be?  I was wrong.  I dissolved my account entirely, and then dissolved my Linked Out account as well on the basis that given the current environment, removing all opportunities to inadvertently fail was better than whatever potential benefit just hanging my shingle in Cyberspace might bring.

But The Book of Face remained.  I checked the pictures every day.  The comments dwindled to pictures of cats and rabbits and postings on old role playing games or occasional pictures of people leading their lives instead of warring with words.  It had become a wasteland of sorts, driving through an electronic desert with the occasional advertising sign, slightly faded from the weather and sun as a boredom breaker.

As a result, after this weekend I returned to the occasional viewer status.  Yes, I will continue to post for things like Father's Day and Mother's Day and birthdays because I love my family. If I go somewhere, I may post pictures of that as well (here too, of course).  But the daily checking of The Book of Face has now become a thing of the past.

Bad news for The Book of Face.  If enough people decide they no longer find value there, the platform loses its value as a connecting of peoples and interests and reverts only to a sort of personal news site which, while perhaps interesting to family and friends, is hardly the sort of revenue generating giant you need with a free content base.

In the end, Social Media may end up crushing itself or creating a giant echo chamber which is of no interest to no one.  Which, if one looks back upon the history of it, may serve as the highest form of irony:  That which was meant to connect people drove them apart.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The End Of History

If you are of a certain age, you may recall a book named The End of History and The Last Man by Francis Fukuyama (Author's note:  I have not read the book, but have heard it discussed).  The point, said Fukuyama, is that the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 represented "not just..the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such:  That is, the end-point of mankind's ideological evolution and universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government."

The title is the striking part , is it not? This concept that there was "an end" and that the debate was over, that history now was really an ascendancy of progress in an arc that has been predicted since the Renaissance (but, sadly, never reached).

In reality, there have been many "ends" to history.  The Tokugawa Shogunate "ended" in the Meiji Restoration of 1868;  however, many samurai that had cheered the Emperor's rise found nothing for themselves in this new world and a new end of history - The Satsuma Rebellion of 1876-1877 - ended history for them in another way.  For the Byzantine Empire, history ended twice:  the first in 1204 with the invasion of the Fourth Crusade, and then the second in 1453 when the city fell to the Ottoman Empire - which in turn had it's own history end in 1922.  The Austrian Empire "ended" in 1868 after an almost 600 year run, only to replaced by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which lasted a scant 50 years after that.  The Aztec Empire lasted from 1428 to 1521 and had the misfortune to be overtaken by the Spanish Empire on the upswing, which effectively did not end until 1976.

History ends, and has always done so.

You may recall in the past that we have discussed the difference between a nation and a state, that a nation is a body of people with three things:  a shared language, a shared culture, and a shared national origin story (for example, the Finns with the Kalevala, Iceland with its shared Book of Settlements and Sagas, the Hungarians with the Great Conquest under Arpad); while a state is a body of territory which has land and authority within that land.  You can have nation-states, Finland or Iceland being extreme examples, or you can have states with many nations, such as Switzerland or the former Czechoslovakia or the former Yugoslavia, or you can have nations without states, such as the Kurds of Iraq/Iran/Syria/Turkey or the Basques of Spain and France.

But what happens when these states or nation states no longer have the shared items that would hold them together, territory or authority or shared language/culture/origin stories?

You have the end of history.

An end of history in our own day - a rather shocking one - was the Yugoslav dissolution of 1991-2001. This represented the most violent outbreak of civil war in the West since the end of WW II (not counting the Soviet occupations of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, which were pale things at best compared to this).  This had all the complications of nations (people groups) and states within a state (in this case, historically existent areas which had been associated with those people groups).  By the time everything was over, 140,000 people had been killed, several genocidal killings had been committed, and neighbors which had existed sided by side for hundreds of years seethed across borders.

It is a useful instruction because Yugoslavia was a "created" country out of parts of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire (A Martian No-Prize if you knew the original name of the Kingdom of the Southern Slavs!) without a shared culture, a shared language, or a shared origin story except belonging to Austria-Hungary and then being set free.  This lasted, of course, until a representative of one of those constituent groups (Slobodan Milosovic, a Serb) tried to tilt the country towards more of a nation (a greater Serbia) than a greater state (Yugoslavia).  At that point, all bets were off.

(Note: If you want to read about living through such a thing as the Siege of Sarajevo and what a civil war society in the West looks like, I highly recommend Selco Begovic's posts.  He used to have his own site but now writes at The Organic Prepper.    You might not always agree with him, but he certainly merits your pondering).

So where is this all going, you might ask?

The End of History - at least, perhaps, our End of History - may be upon is.  The bonds of shared language, shared culture, and shared origin story throughout the West have gradually washed away and are in the midst of crumbling. This should not surprise us: this always happens to great empires be they physical or cultural where there are no more boundaries to expand into and no more great untapped markets and the initial reason for its existence seems to have disappeared.  Where energy is not directed outward, it becomes directed inwards.  Where energy gets directed inward, it finds every nook and cranny where differences appears and can be exploited by the unscrupulous some of all sides and all beliefs.

Does such an End of History have to be violent?  Not always, says history:  the Czech and Slovak republics peaceful separated in 1992 without incident , and Scotland partially devolved from the United Kingdom with much less fanfare than when it was forcibly added in 1707.  And the former Soviet Union "dissolved" - perhaps not as well as it could have but certainly without the civil war that brought it into existence.  Sometimes real, thinking people realize that the End of History is upon them, that the shared bonds no longer really exist or matter, and it is simply time to call it a day and turn the page.

Endings of all things happen, whether by choice or circumstance.  It is how we handle those endings that determines whether we will meet them with grace and success or with something far less desirable.

Monday, June 15, 2020

On Focused Book Procurement

As part of my work around actively monitoring and using my spending as a tool, I have accelerated my book buying plan for the remainder of the year as well as begun to clearly define what I intend to acquire going forward.

First things First:  It turns out that the Uber Large Major Book Seller is not the only location to purchase books.  I reference you to this article 15 Best Online Bookstores for Cheap New And Used Books for a list (not noted, but one I use frequently because they have both online and brick and mortar stores is Half Price Books).  One great thing about all of these is that if you sign up, you get coupons (I just made and order where I got three books for the price of two of them and free shipping).  You might have to switch between sellers as you search because they all seems to specialize somewhat but the chase is part of the fun, at least for me.  The Uber Large Major Book Seller has now become my shopping list respository, nothing more.

As to the second part of the plan...

I have always been a voracious reader over many subjects:  History  (Japanese, Asian, Ottoman Empire, Roman, Greek, Celtic, Early and Medieval Europe, English, militaria as put forward in Osprey Publishing), Agriculture, Literature (mostly pre-20th Century), Theology, Classic Science Fiction and Fantasy, and some specialized subjects (weight training, bladed weapon training) that fall into no other category.  But now, I as look to future, I realize I have in some cases I have maxed out  the amount I am going to get from certain categories of works (for example, I have ~ 20 books that deal in whole or in part with Sparta and the Spartan regime and the pre-Alexandrian Age of Greece.  It is likely more books will not teach me more).  For others - agricultural books, for example - I should be able to run a farm of any type (almost any livestock, market gardening, field crops, specialty crops) based purely on what I have so.  So I need to focus my purchasing and reading.

My focus is now turning largely to The Classics.

By The Classics, I refer to the greats of the Ancient World:  the Greek Philosophers, the Latin Writers, the Early Church Fathers.  Thoughts and writings that we are rapidly losing our contact with because the history is "old" and not relevant to today's world (it is, really; people just do not see it that way).

The Loeb Classical Library was the brain child of James Loeb (1867-1933), a German American Banker and Philanthropist.  There are a total of 544 volumes.  The books are recognizable as they are true "pocket book sized" as well as the fact they have both the original Greek (Green) or Latin (Red) on one side and the English translation on the other (perfect for budding language practitioners in dead languages or just to have the original texts to work with).

I have many of the works covered in translated Penguin editions, (which, I might add, are great for introductions to these works - get the older translations) but am at the point of my life that the original language makes a difference to me as well.

Understand that I should not ever anticipate or plan to acquire all volumes:  There is little burning need in me to acquire the Greek and Latin Playwrights and there are some minor philosophers I have no interest in.  That said, there are worlds within worlds that remain to be discovered (instead of reading people quoting the works, it is better to go back to the works themselves).

I will be honest:  I write better and think better when I read more.  I write better and think better when I read challenging and thought provoking works, not distillation of what people think those works say.  I am enough of a mature adult that I can actively think for myself, not be talked down to or lectured.

Yes, I will always keep my eye out for a good or unusual buy:  there are still Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors of yore whose works I enjoy and do not have, occasional history or agricultural works that pique my interest, and my study of Japanese History and Swordsmanship will continue until I die.  But the my focus is shifting now.

Troubled times called for deep, well research and well reasoned responses.  We have lost this ability in our current age.  To the extent that I can, I will become better at it.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Daniel 9: 1-19

In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.

I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:

“Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.

“Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.

“Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.

“Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.

“Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”

Friday, June 12, 2020

On Economics

It strikes me that I should be more knowledgeable about Economics.

Economics has always been a troublesome subject for me.  Originally, troublesome meant "boring".  Economics was money, correct?  I earned it, I spent it, and I (hopefully) had a little left over for other things.

I took economics as part of my pre-graduate school work (interestingly, not before that, either in high school or as an undergraduate).  I found it somewhat interesting at that point, although to be honest the only things I can quickly recall are the concepts of elastic and inelastic goods and the general sense that the economy had become incredibly inter-related to the point that if it fails at one point, the impact is extensive.

Then, of course, I started earning, and had to figure out the mix of budgeting and spending and home loans and debt and investing and planning for retirement.  I have probably been much more haphazard about this than I should have been, although (finally) I feel that we are on a path that leads us to where we need to be.

All of that said, the real reason that I should be more knowledgeable about Economics is that fact that Economics, more than any other thing, has the ability to make or break societies.

Currently we - the whole world really - are living through one of the greatest economic setbacks of the last 30 years caused by The Shut Down of The Plague of 2020.  I have seen numbers - incredible numbers - about the number people in the United States that are out of work, either temporarily or permanently.  That in itself is alarming.

But then I walk it back.  If they are out of work, their companies are either reduced in output or also out of business.  That means less goods available (hard to believe in our current society of abundance), less people able to buy those goods, and less tax money into government coffers.

Yes, there has been a little good news about that lately, but companies are still closing down.  Jobs are still being lost.  And it is questionable how things like tourism will respond in a world where travel will be more expensive, countries probably more discerning of how people enter, and some form of social distancing or other spreading control that makes tourist activities difficult (who wants to eat a fancy dinner in Italy through a face mask?).

In other words, the bleeding continues.

Add to this localized destruction of businesses and the resulting insurance claims.  At what point to businesses decide the risk of remaining in high-risk locations outweighs the risks of relocating, or even shutting down (ignore the fact that high tax burden locales add to this indecision)?  And what if insurance companies raise their premiums to the point that businesses can or will not be able to afford their prices?  This has happened in home insurance in high risk areas such as forest fires.

Economies thrive when the environment is reliable, controlled, and stable.  They do not do well when any of these items are not in place.  And we are seeing an environment where none of these are completely true.

The other reality is that the economy relies on people buying into it, that they believe that they will be rewarded for their labor, that goods have the value they are purchased for, and that there is worth against the amount of taxes they are being charged.  Again, if any of these three are not present - labor not rewarded, goods not having value for priced, services not the equivalent of the taxes - it creates an issue.  My fear is that we are starting to ask these questions as well.

My concern is that any recent improvement we are seeing is just the first flush of people getting out and away from being locked away for months - but that none of the fundamental issues of businesses gone or people unemployed for the long term or instability that leads to businesses not be willing to open or reopen will be resolved.

And without a stable economy, of course, there are two kinds of people:  those that produce and protect the fruit of their production, and those that demand of it or try to take it away without the effort of producing it.

As I said, I should have studied Economics more.  Even more than Political Science (which I did study), I think it will become the dominant issue of the next few years.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Shedding The Online

As part of my continued effort to simplify my life (and my pocketbook), I have been looking for ways to shed my spending on-line.

Shedding my spending in real life is (really) not all that difficult.  I spend on the rabbits of course (who would not spend on them?), and for groceries (as the stand-in "go to the store guy"), but other than that it is living expenses (mortgage, fuel, utilities, clothing). It is the online purchases that make my life interesting:  seeds, books, cheese making supplies, Iai related items, the occasional odd thing from an on-line auction house.

Facing me, though, is the fact that companies over the last few years have become active in what they choose to support (this did not just start yesterday, or even last year).  I do not fault them for this; this is the way that a free market, capitalistic system is supposed to work.  You as a company can choose to have opinions; I as a consumer can choose if I support you or not.

(No, do not bother discussing which companies or which issues.  That is not something we do here.  The concept remains the same, no matter which companies or what the issues.)

This has left me with a dilemma:  where do I spend my money?

Some companies simply do not comment on anything, no matter what.  I appreciate them for this (honestly, in my view, that is not the purpose of a business is to sell product.  Period.  Compete based on quality and price, not on anything else).  But others do not.  So I have had to get creative.

This has promoted two things.  The first is a continuing sense of frugality.  I spend less because there are less places to spend it.  Convenient, no? 
The other is that it has encouraged me to more actively look for other suppliers of the same goods.  In some cases there are none - although to be frank with you, that is a great deal less true than what I had anticipated.  Turns out there are more suppliers of things I am interested in and need than what I thought.  Yes, it means that I might pay a slightly higher price (perhaps some day we can discuss that and if that is really the best thing).  It also means on the whole I am supporting smaller organizations and spreading my funds more equitably (which in The Age of The Plague is supposed to be a good thing).

The third (bonus) thing that it has supplied me with is a sense of action.

In today's world, sometimes the individual can feel powerless.  Governments, businesses, large groups - all can conspire to drain the individual of the feeling that they can make a change, that they can impact the system.  

Yes, my spending is minimal.  And it, in and of itself, will not make a difference in the bottom line of most companies.  But it does make a difference to the small ones that I support.  

And lest you think that it does not make a difference to the larger organizations, watch with almost a sheer sense of horror of the number of businesses that have collapsed since the start of The Plague.  Yes, not all of these were due to spending - but many, many were either over-leveraged in order to maintain the customer base or collapsed when their customer base could or would not come.

Never, never underestimate the power that your spending makes as a statement.  Were we to recapture the spirit of the buyer, not as needing to be right but as powerful, and business in a position to serve, not to dictate, we would see a very different economic world. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

No Fate But What We Make?

For those of you with children of a certain age, or those of you with an interest in Scottish culture,  you will remember the movie "Brave"(2012).  It is the story of a Scottish princess, Merida, who does not want to be a Scottish Princess (nor undergo the upcoming betrothal ceremony) and so bargains for a spell to change her fate.  The spell (like most) is not what it seems; it changes her fate by changing her mother into a bear and so Merida has two days to unwork the spell before it becomes permanent. It all works out for the best, of course, as these things usually do in a Pixar film.

One of the phrases that figures largely into the film - one that Merida repeats to herself often and throws out as a challenge it "There is no fate but what we make".  The idea is that we, ourselves, are the independent masters and mistresses of our lives.  This is not a new philosophy:  those of a certain age will remember sitting through"Invictus" by William Henry Henley in English literature class:

"It matters not how strait the gate,
how charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul."

(Ignore for a moment that truly, none of us are the master of our fate because ultimately, most of us die at a time and place not of our choosing.  It is a pleasant sort of fiction, but a fiction none the less.)

Turn this thinking on its head to the mad rush of society today.

We - you, I, the individual - are neither able to "make our own fate" or act as "the master of our fate, the captain of our soul".  You can, I suppose, if you fall into a set series of channels or "permitted" areas.  Beyond those, we are very much not encouraged or supported to make our own fate.

Take, for example, the student of a trade school.  They are - perhaps more so than ever - able to make whatever fate they wish because they have skills which, if applied, can take them up the line to a fine career or launch them into becoming a business owner of their own, all without the potential for crippling debt such as crushes so many college students today.  But is the path treasured?  Is it brought up as a viable option?  Sadly, no.  The making of their fates, the piloting of their souls, is quietly ignored.

Or take the individual that wishes to enter the agricultural field, or classical Western studies, or philosophy not as a way to deconstruct the currents of modern society but rather as a means of comparing and contrasting modern society with the ancient concepts of what makes a good society and good polity (the original "political science", if you will).  These individuals, too, will be told that they should not (or cannot) make their own fates.  They will, again, only be supported and embraced if they fall into the channels pre-determined by society as best.

As best for whom?  As best for others, as determined by others.  The ideal of individualism, of self determination, of being independent, of being truly free to determine your fate and the course of your life is replaced by society's determination of what your best should and can be.

You can see the results, of course.  There is no more novel and new entertainment because we have abandoned risk and freedom for acceptability and conformity.  Our art is divorced from anything that resembles reality because reality is too common.  Our philosophy has become grounded in nothing except the current world because that is the only world that matters.  Our theology has become nothing but vain repetitions of the culture around us dressed up with religious trappings.    Our thoughts are nothing but - more and more - what we are told to think.

There will be - at least here, there will be - a renaissance of this sort of independent thought and risk taking and making your own fate.  But you will not see it in your local media outlet or on your local social media because, much like placing pearls before swine, there is neither reason to nor value in doing so.  It will happen between the cracks, under the surface, between those of like minds.

A great resistance and renaissance - a peaceful one, likely without a shot fired - is coming.  But those trapped in their definitions of making the fates of others like their own fates, the thinking of others like their thinking, the efforts of others like their efforts - will miss it.

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Moral Stature At The Mercy of Others

"This, he (Hank Rearden) thought, was the final abortion of the creed of collective interdependence, the creed of non-identity, non-property, non-fact:  the belief that the moral stature of one is at the mercy of the action of another." Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand

I have thinking a great deal over the last week and a half about the question of shared morality

This thought process started even earlier than that, after the Lockdown of 2020 was initiated.  At that time, the message trumpeted far and wide was that we were all responsible for each other, that my actions by staying home, covering up, potentially staying away from all public and private activities, were the correct and right ones.  My appetite for risk and my actions were putting others in the line of fire and I - if I did not change my behavior - would become the subject of societal wrath and shunning due to my moral failings to care for others.  My desire to go out was "selfish"; my staying in was "moral".

This has continued to extend into the world, now with people making assumptions - moral assumptions - about my wearing of a mask when I am out and about and my social distancing or lack thereof.  This is required at many business still - and being a respecter of the idea that you get to set the conditions for your business and I get to decide if I want to do business with you, I either adhere to the conditions or choose not to shop there.  But the underlying sense that my wearing of a mask or not wearing of a mask is a moral issue and allows moral decisions to be made about me -without knowing anything else about me - is alarming.

This has been building for years, of course.  If one did not comment about the critical issues of the day, one was uncaring.  We are rapidly moving beyond this phase to where if one does not comment on the critical issues of the day, one is evil.

Enter the quote above from Atlas Shrugged.

As you may recall, Hank Rearden (he of Rearden Steel) has been confronted by his family because it has been revealed to them that, after years of mocking him openly and being derisive of his philosophy and industry yet being completely dependent on him financially, he has terminated the allowances with which he had supported them for years.  His ex-wife, Lillian, in an attempt to disgrace him, shouts out that she had an affair.  At that moment, Hank thinks the line at the beginning of this post.

"The belief that moral stature is at the mercy of the action of another."

Here we find the core of the issue:  that others have not only have the right and duty to judge our actions, but they have the right and duty to judge our morality if we do not meet their expectations of our actions.

To be clear,  this ends very poorly.  At some point individuals like myself are going to be pushed away from people espousing these beliefs because given the choice to put my moral standing at the command of another - another who, for various and sundry reasons, will never see me as anything other than an immoral person unless I 100% agree with everything they say and therefore that I act "correctly" - I will come quickly and irrevocably to the decision that I do not need that person in my life and I am no longer willing to tolerate that behavior:

"They did not know it - and their panic was the last of their struggle to escape the knowledge - that his (Hank's) merciless sense of justice, which had been their only hold on him, which had made him take any punishment and give them the benefit of every doubt, was now turned against them - that same force that had made him tolerant, was now the force that made him ruthless - that the justice that would forgive miles of innocent errors of knowledge, would not forgive a single step taken in conscious evil." - Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

For me, of course, it will be nothing remarkable:  a pulling away, a disconnection, an establishing of relationships with like minded individuals who (to use the negative of the statement) do not put my moral stature at the mercy of their action.  As this happens, of course, I (and those like me) will probably find that we have been greater enabler of things than we had anticipated. Or as Rand has Rearden think:  "But he was through with granting respect to any terms other than his own."

Atlas is starting to shrug.  I wonder what happens when he drops the weight entirely.

Monday, June 08, 2020

A Sort of Hammerfall VII

My Continuing Job Transition Saga:

A Sort of Hammerfall

A Sort of Hammerfall I

A Sort of Hammerfall II

A Sort of Hammerfall III

A Sort of Hammerfall IV

A Sort of Hammerfall V

A Sort of Hammerfall VI

Week 1 has completed with the arrival of my replacement.  I wish that I had a clearer sense of where this is heading next, but I simply do not.

First weeks are always hard of course - numerous meetings and introductions that have to be done, slowly coming up to speed, so I have not given too much concern over the fact I do not have clarity.  I have continued to attend meetings with my successor now, bring him up to speed on issues as needed, and generally trying to steer the ship forward while he is moving in.

That said, it is odd how quickly I feel myself disengaging from all of it.

Meetings that I have gone to are starting to fall off of my calendars.  Slowly - ever so slowly - I am being removed from e-mail conversations and new issues.  I am feeling less and less connected to my department already.

To be fair, I am actively trying to work on this too. They need to look towards the new leadership, not me - so in some cases I am having to make a version of the statement "That is not really my call any more.  You really need to ask...".  I am also actively choosing (where I can) my own end date for attendance at meetings - in some cases simply forcing the issue.

We have another meeting today (Monday), so I anticipate that I will have a greater sense of what will continue to be expected of me over the coming weeks (I am hoping it is weeks).

On a personal side, it feels odd.  I have now existed in this twilight zone of neither truly being in charge (but being responsible) but not having a future here for almost three months.  I find myself paralyzed by the inability to start new things but not being able to move away from old things.  I will also say that sitting in meetings where my replacement is introduced and the response is "That is wonderful" or "How exciting" leaves somewhat of a bad taste in one's mouth.

And I sit, and nod, and patiently wait for the whole thing to be over so I can begin living again.

Sunday, June 07, 2020

A Few Words From...Johnny Cash

"The things that have always been important: to be a good man, to try to live my life the way God would have me, to turn it over to Him that His will might be worked in my life, to do my work without looking back, to give it all I've got, and to take pride in my work as an honest performer."

Friday, June 05, 2020

Forest Fire

abandoned in a world gone mad
and hard and cold and cruel
by ideologies and beliefs.

"Your ideas do not match,
your philosophies are outdated,
your religion is old 
- as, in fact, are you.
Friend, you do not fit into our future
unless you do as we tell you to do,
speak as we tell you to speak,
think as we tell you to think."

Raised fists and fires, censorship and mockery,
and above all a howling din shouting down any that dare disagree
are the Gospel of this new world,
Fear its creed,
Moral rectitude in constantly submitting to the judgement of others
its salvation.

To those - others - of a different time or different thought,
they are only two choices:
Fight this wave of zeitgeist with its fire and rage 
and words of destruction and be destroyed
or simply disappear.

As with a forest fire,
wildlife flees and returns
only after the fire has consumed
all in its path
and burned itself out.

Thursday, June 04, 2020

The Small Business Class of 2020

Somewhere, in January or February of this year, there was a creator -a cook with a recipe, a builder with tools, a programmer with an idea - that decided that this year - 2020 - was the year to make the leap into the great unknown and start a business.

They had done their research.  They had consulted, gathered market research, prepared and revised and edited a business plan.  They had tested the market.  They had budgeted for a drop in income over a period of time.  Their friends and family were behind them.

They were committed.  And so, burning the careers of their former lives, they set off on their journey.

And then The Plague happened.  Originally perhaps, it was just a rumor, a minor concern - until it gathered life and energy and suddenly there were lock downs and layoffs.  Their business, if it needed foot traffic, was cut off.  Their business, if it needed patrons with money, no longer had the income.

That was okay.  They had planned for this - they had reserves.  They adapted and worked and persevered and slowly, over time, the lock downs started to lift.  There was a bright wedge of sunshine.

And then, social unrest.  If they were in a social unrest area, they were back into lock down.  If they were not in a social unrest area, they saw people begin to re-tighten their spending.

This is a drama that is slowly playing out over the country.  And not just for those that chose this year to start their business.  For established businesses as well have met the same situation - and they have the disadvantage of overhead and loans and declining revenues.  The layoffs have already started for them, and as we go, the closures will likely follow.

I have a soft spot in my heart for small business.  I know what it is like to own a business and fail in it, to lose everything you invested and then have to scramble to try to rebuild your life.   And thus - be it due to lock downs that stopped customers or destruction that destroyed the physical property - my heart aches for these small business owners.  They do not often have the deep pockets to rebuild - nor, given the psychic toll losing a business takes on you, will they want to.

My prediction - and it is only a prediction - is that the 2021 and following crop of new business is going to look much different than ever before.  Much less commercial retail based.  Much more local.  Much less debt free.  Much smaller.  Most likely, much more under the radar.

If small businesses decide to try at all.

This my fear:  Lost in all that is going on now is that the underpinnings of a robust economy - or even an economy that can recover - are being knocked down and destroyed one by one.  If - not when - we are finally allowed to come up for air, we are only going to find a world where business are gone and very little has come to replace them. 

And the burning questions of the day will simply become:  Can I work?   Can I eat?

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

A Shrinking Of Boundaries And Freedom

I sometimes wonder if, after reaching a certain age - and I suspect it is different for all people - there comes a point where the larger boundaries of the world start to shrink.  It is measured, I suspect, by the reduction of certain kinds of boundaries and goals in one's life.

In some ways - real ways - it is a recognition that at 50 or 60, one's physical apparatus is not quite the same - yes, there is much that can be done (that many of us do not do) to keep ourselves in the best shape possible for our age, but the reality is that things like knees and backs become more important to be preserved as they are rather than stretched to the point of failure in the pursuit of the marathon we mayhap will never complete or the obstacle course we never quite finished.

No, what I am speaking of is the realization of other boundaries - yes, some physical but some also mental and spiritual - that fall by the wayside or are reduced in scope and content.

The man who started his career believing he was called to be a pastor, then a leader, and now comes to realize that he is simply happy being a member of a church where the Gospel is preached - or even being satisfied with a certain form of anchorite lifestyle where he is alone with God.  The woman who has always wanted to travel all around and comes to realize that a small section of land and wilderness, well known and cared for, is all the adventure that they need.  The finding of five new things to study instead of fifty; the realization that having enough to have a comfortable but not extravagant lifestyle to life a quiet and productive life outweighs all the money in the world.

This is precisely not what the world wants (or, sometimes, the Church I think):  we need to be hyperactively involved in the matters of the day, spending as fast as the money comes in, always looking outward and constantly dis-satisfied, always on the edge of our seat in terror or fear of the next great emergency or society' disfavor.

Why?  Because the System - and by system I mean the way that we conduct our lives, so many manners of social interaction be they political, social, religious, or even familial - depend on it.  Without us constantly spending, constantly stressing, constantly in turmoil and fear, the whole thing eventually falls apart.

I wonder - maybe I am a dreamer in this sense - if at some point not just me, not just hundreds, but thousands or tens of thousands start to actively think and live this way.  What would that society look like, a society where people live within their own means, are not seeking the extremes in everything, and are actual content with a rather simple lifestyle?

To many, it would look like a collapse of Western Capitalistic civilization, which it (on the face of it) might represent.

To everyone who lived that way, it would appear that the insanity had finally ended and life - meaningful life - could begin again.

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Last Summer At Home

This is likely the last summer that, for even part of it, we will have all three of Na Clann at home.

The oldest - Nighean Gheal - (if all goes well) will be graduating next year from college and although she may come home for even a short time after graduation, she has neither the desire nor long term interest to want to stay here (although possibly the need, unless the economy somehow drastically changes).  The middle - Nighean Bhean - will likely be here as she attends college here in town.  The youngest - Nighean Dhonn - is still in high school and thus, will certainly be here.

It is an odd thought to me, as essentially this begins the end of a process that was started almost 22 years ago.

Also, this process accelerates:  within one year one is out and effectively after that, within two years one has also moved on and one will be moving on to the next phase of life, be it college or something else.  Within three years, quite possibly the house will be largely vacated.  That in itself offers up a great many addition challenges.

If that all happens, of course.  Due to A Sort Of Hammerfall my job is (perpetually, I think) in a bit of flux and at possible risk, and the likelihood of finding a second job hereabouts in my industry all but nothing.  And given the economy, who knows?  The Ravishing Mrs. TB's job has been stable up to this point but given that we know so little about the shape of things to come, this may have less stability than I think it does.

The last two months of enforced "staying home" have been nice for The Ravishing Mrs. TB I think, as she gets to have them all in house and around for just a little longer, which is something that I think warms any mother's heart.  I putter about my business and try and stay out of everyone else's way and hope at some point the noise level starts to diminish (it will, of course - and sooner than I care it too).

The whole "Phase of Life" thing seems to be picking up speed.  I do not know quite how comfortable I am with any of it.  But comfort or not, it is barreling down with the speed of an accelerating freight train.

Monday, June 01, 2020

2047 On A Sunday Evening

I am writing this from my porch on Sunday evening at 2047.

The sky is overcast, a cool breeze blowing in from the north and east, not uncommon for this time of year.  The sky was trying drop rain earlier and may do so again within the next hour (or so claim the Weather Gods), which kept down the few fireflies that tried to rise at twilight.

Crickets, those heralds of the summer months in these parts, provide a background chorus to the oak leaves that occasionally shift with the breeze.  They have overtaken the bird calls, which have now died away with the last rays of the sunset.  Away in the east and the west I hear the play of traffic as individuals motor to whatever parts those north/south roads will take one.

In this pocket of calm and quiet I mentally reel over the videos and reports I have seen over the last three days - yes, even in this city where we live.  The relative calm and peace belie that which I know has occurred and is occurring even now.

It has not been my place - nor will it be now - to discuss any of it in the context of politics or current events.  There are other forums for that, other places where the discussion and sometimes verbal wars continue.  I have hoped that in some way, this blog would be some kind of refuge of peace, like the breezes and crickets that sing softly outside of my door.

What I am watching are the death throes of a civilization.

Oh, I consider that this might seem as a potentially overstatement of fact:  we have had such things before, one might say, and things have always calmed down after it.

But never so much - and never so many.

If you have ever observed an animal dying, there is a point at which they thrash as if to try to flee Death for one last moment before they slip away.  This is what we are seeing now, the beginning of a thrashing and wildly gyrating about, anger like fire consuming everything in its path like fire, leaving only smoldering ruins and hardship in its wake.

I sit here and watch the street light as it shines off of the moving oak leaves, giving them a yellow cast they would not otherwise achieve until Winter.  I hear them rustle against each as their peace seems to blow away with the Cold Front coming in.

I wonder, how many of these moments of peace will we have left?