Monday, August 31, 2020
On Not Buying A Book
I did not go out and buy a book.
It is a pretty innocuous item that happens around here rather frequently: I like to buy books. I like to read books too, but my instinct - not just when I am bored, but when I am frustrated as well - is to go and buy a book. I come to figure out that this is some sort of coping mechanism - a much lighter degree of shopping as a recreational activity.
I sat there and thought about it. I certainly have the cash and as I shop at used book stores. And there are certainly books I can find to read (Usually. Thanks to The Plague, that is a bit hard to come by these days - not enough people selling books due to closed stores and limited hours). And it is an easy drive.
But I kept coming back to the question "Why"?
Why was it this need - this seemingly burning, intense need - was there? Was it a real need? Or was it a want? And if a want, why did it need to be exercised.
I thought. And I thought. And I ended up staying home, reading a book or two I already had. Saved the fuel. Saved the money. Still was entertained.
It is a minor - very minor - victory on the road to learning to come terms with exercising every little whim and desire that comes up. From such small mustard seeds, trees grow.
Now I have to fight the urge to reward myself with a book...
Sunday, August 30, 2020
The Truth of the Word Of God
It will always be true that the wisest course for the disciple is always to abide solely by the Word of God in all simplicity."
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Saturday, August 29, 2020
To Know If The Water Is Hot or Cold...
I love this quote of Yamaoka Tesshu. It perfectly sums up what is truly required to succeed, really in any field.
Mind you, I am not as good a practitioner of this as I should be. I am often inherently lazy. I do not like to practice - or even when I do, it so often feels like I am going through the motions rather than actually drilling (I long ago surrendered the idea that the improvement happens per se in practice. Practice makes the breakthroughs possible but it is just as much about embedding technique and facts in your muscles and mind for later use).
But that too, I suppose, is part of following the course.
Friday, August 28, 2020
A Plea For Dissolution: A Bit Of An Apology
If I may use an analogy, it feels the same as The Plague of 2020: a two week emergency that has extended to almost six months without any kind of an exit plan being provided. We have progressed from "two weeks to flatten the curve" to "stay away and indoors and wait for the vaccine" to "we may not have a vaccine that works so just keep doing what you are doing." Apparently forever.
(Note: It is a real thing. Trust me. From the literature, it is still too early to understand some of the long term implications of it. When my Chief Medical Officer at my job - a smart human being with a great deal of experience - is not worried anymore, then I will not be worried anymore.)
Now apply this across the board: Politics. The Economy. Religion. Just general social interactions, be they in person or in the InterWeb.
Even my natural ebullience is starting to fade.
The thing that pulls me down is I do not see how we come back after this.
It is not even a discussion of things as a "New Normal" but having any sort of "Normal at all.
I will use The Plague of 2020 as an example. Assuming a successful vaccine is never developed, or even if one is, the world will never be the same. Too much economic and social damage has occurred - even if we are told it is now "okay" to sit next to strangers on flights or be near them in shopping venues, will we feel comfortable in doing so? (Note: Not me. Transmissible diseases are a great deal more than The Plague and strangely, we have become rather reckless about such things.)
Lots of impacts come from this: How we interact as a group (will physical touch become so rare between humans that it is something literally only shared between family members?), how we interact as a business (social niceties such as handshakes and in-person meetings for the sake of seeing each other are also rapidly going the way of the dinosaur), even how we entertain ourselves.
I suspect that never again will "dinner and a movie" be a viable option for much of anything unless it occurs in the home.
Again, apply this across every spectrum. Politics where all we have is screaming at each other - or more and more, acting out. A economy which is divided into the few "essential industries" and the many "non-essential", which is really a word for "can be shut down without notice at any time
"because". Religion where not only is meeting together forbidden (it is already happening here) but Scripture is put aside for whatever the pastor feels is the "real" need of society.
Perhaps this is merely the Five Stages of Grief - Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance - with myself somehow having slipped into item four, Depression, without realizing I went through the first three. And I do not know I would even define it as depression, but rather a long sadness as a world seems to completely dissolve, leaving an unknown country which appears to be nothing but anger, violence, isolation, and the horror of man's inhumanity to man.
At one time I questioned the reason that Monks and Anchorites isolated themselves from the world when they could be doing so much good. I am coming to understand it was done as much for their own sanity as it was moving away from a world that sought only to tear them from The Way.
Thursday, August 27, 2020
A Plea For Dissolution
The events of the summer - and year to date for that matter - indicate that, simply, we are no longer one people. We have two very different views of politics, the world, and (in fact) civilization itself.
In point of fact, we are already at the point of two (or more) nations. Yes, I know, one nation and all that, but in point of fact we face a situation where a segment of the population wants nothing but violence and a very different country and on the other hand, a group of people that - it seems - are being drawn to the point of deciding that if no one else will act on their behalf, they will.
We have been atomized to the point where the two sides really have not a single thing in common. Nor, it seems, is there any interest any more in finding commonalities. For one side, a desire to just live their lives. On the other, a desire to enforce by violence a new social order.
And are there any remaining commonalities? I am not sure, nor am seeing any on the horizon that would change that opinion. One side calling the other "enemies of the state" and "the side of darkness" is hardly likely to evoke any sense of wanting to let bygones be bygones.
To be clear - this is not meant to be a discussion of race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality, or social background. These are no longer where the lines appear. This is a line between people that see violence as progress to the point of gaining power, then violence as a means of enforcing that power and the population as a taxable base to create a Utopian society and those that simply want to live their lives with as little interference from the government as possible. So let us at least have clarity on that. It is a disagreement about philosophy and direction instead of any of those other things.
(Usual comment here about how we do not discussion politics et al here. As usual, we discuss concepts and theories.)
Civil wars have started for less.
We no longer share a national consciousness. We have ceded the ability to have meaningful discussions about policy and beliefs. We have carefully discarded, one by one, the ties that bound us together. And every organization that has the potential to bring us together has either been consciously eviscerated or unconsciously surrendered its power to do so.
I write this with a heavy heart. I grew up in a nation-state that had unifying characteristics and a sense of "us". I deplore the use of violence to accomplish an ends - but I equally deplore the idea that one side should sit, endlessly a target of the other with those that should know better doing and saying nothing.
I know - divorces are never easy. At the best of times, they are unpleasant - legalities, who gets what, which set of friends do you want to keep versus who do I want to keep. At worst, they are bitter fights full of words of hate.
But a divorce can far exceed the years and years of bitter fighting, unhappiness, and social destruction that can also occur as a result.
Please. Can we just agree that we no longer want to be together and separate on okay terms instead of continuing to pretend that somehow things will work out when in point of fact we know they will not?
Wednesday, August 26, 2020
Tuesday, August 25, 2020
Pride And Deadlifts
Overall I have been very happy with working out with weights. It appeals to my lack of enjoyment in team sports as it can be done on an individual basis and, if one finds the right gym (or has a home gym) one can work out when it is convenient - for me, in the evenings. It is a relatively short activity span of 30-40 minutes which has made a positive impact in my life.
I do not suffer from a drive to become "strong". I am realistic in that in my mid-50's I need these body to last another 30+ years, especially things like my knees and back. Thus, while I strive to improve, I do not attempt to do things exceedingly out of my class - my biggest deadlift single ever was 315 lbs (142 kg) and I sincerely doubt I will ever exceed that.
That said, being "stronger" has numerous benefits. Plenty of studies show retaining lean muscle mass does all kinds of good things for aging. It also helps with my Iaijutsu as well as just in life (being able to lift things is a handy skill to have).
It is all good - except when I allow my ego to get in the way. And thus, the story.
I work out, as indicated, in the evenings (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) except when I get "lazy" on Fridays and then I go in on Saturdays. Friday is Deadlift Day, where one pulls the barbell from the floor, back straight, to a standing position. I have struggled for many years with my form and the only way I know to manage it is to change my position so that I do not directly face the mirror in front of the lifting area but that I can see myself from the side. It looks dorky and no-one else ever does it, but it does make my form better as I have instant feedback.
As I said, sometimes I go in on Saturdays. And Saturdays are when the weight coaches at my gym are there. There is no interference of course - they are training their clients and I am doing my own thing - but always in the back of my head I think that they are watching me, judging me (you know, professional ethic and all that and "What is that idiot think he is doing?"). Nothing is every said, but it is as if I feel their eyes on me.
So on Saturday, I deadlift. For one moment at the beginning, I think "I need to change my position so I can see myself in the mirror" - then think to myself "that will look stupid" and carry on with the lift. You guessed it - my back was not correctly flattened, and my muscles had some things to say to me.
The physical pain is there, of course - I have managed through this before, and am at least smart enough to not compound the problem. Rest, hot showers, stretching - I will be fine. The real injury that I am trying to understand is the pride that drove me to this in the first place.
I never interact with these people - heck, if I did not go in on Saturdays I would never see them. So why does seeing them suddenly cause me to have to feel that I have to look more "professional" or skilled? Am I really that vain? Or is it that, somewhere deep inside, the part of me that always craved the notice of those I thought experts or "cool" never really went away?
Well, it has to, of course. I am certainly old enough now that the likelihood that one of these individuals is going to suddenly see me as "the unrealized talent" is far past.
And, of course, my back will think the better of me.
Monday, August 24, 2020
On The Curtain Call Of Parenting
I find myself in this position with Nighean Gheal, our oldest, a senior in college. We have been remarkably blessed this year in that most of her college is paid for not by us - so much so, we need only supply a little money for rent and board. But perhaps as a result, the bonds that bound us in that circumstance have become very thin indeed.
She has always been the independent one, and her two years abroad have increased that tendency undoubtedly because she had to become so. It has certain other impacts which also manifest themselves: an almost complete dedication to the privacy of her personal life (which apparently she will not even discuss with The Ravishing Mrs. TB), and what seems to be a slowly continuous distancing in other aspects of her life.
The likelihood that she was ever going to be back after college was slim at best as she is a lover of urban environments in a way I cannot possibly comprehend (she sees life and activity and variety, I only see scads of people far too lose to and a natural world completely destroyed) - but certainly not the urban environment we live in currently. Perhaps given all that the economy is doing now that is a little more likely than before, though I suspect that it will not be by any more choice than before.
All of this is sort of in abeyance of course as we continue to work through college, but after that I suspect it is off she goes without a glance back.
The apotheosis will have become complete. The adult will have arrived. Fade to black, pull curtains.
Is this normal, I wonder? The time to consider success or failure is past; I have no more than some kind of general benevolent presence influence at best. Any thoughts or wishes to have done more or differently have passed as they must, given the nature of time: always forward, never back.
If all of this is true - and I believe that it is - then why do I still feel as if I somehow have somehow not completed the task? Or is this the regret all parents have when ultimately the children leave, feeling that something more could have been done, or done differently?
But like the bowman, the arrow has been launched and its zenith passed. It will land far beyond where my eyes can see.
Sunday, August 23, 2020
God's Judgement And The American Church
You did not miss the call. I did not either - because it has not come.
I am of an age that I can remember a time when such a thing would happen and while not perhaps being universally adopted, would have been at least universally acknowledged. We have long passed that point amongst the general population and now, it seems, amongst the Church.
That is not to say that such pleas are not occurring within the Church on a case by case basis. I know too much of parts of the Church to believe that to be true. But in large part, they have simply abandoned their posts.
We are increasingly under the judgement of God. There is no other way to say it. The list of reasons is rather lengthy and in some cases, exceeds the material that we would discuss here. But in every sense, we appear to be under the increasing judgement of God.
What do I mean by the judgement of God? Two types, really (there are much smarter people - like Reverend Paul - that can explain this far better than I can). The first is what one might call the "Old Testament Wrath of God Judgements" - you know, the ones from the Old Testament where bad things happen: plagues of gnats and frogs and mice or just flat out sicknesses, darkness, destructive weather that destroys crops and livestock, drouth, conquering armies, servitude, even death. The "Thou Art Smitten Hip And Thigh" set of judgements.
The second type - arguably far more subtle - is the removal of God's presence and sheltering hand. In this case, God does not "do" anything except absent Himself from our lives and our circumstances - He just lets Nature "take its course" as it were. This can physical - the hurricane that hits the coast, the lightning strikes that cause the fires - or mental and spiritual - the people in our lives that just walk away from Him and in a different direction, the increasing decay in a society.
What has the Church done when confronted with these circumstances? Almost nothing. Lamented some very social and political causes (beyond the scope of what we talk about here). Prayed for certain aspects of the community - for example, those displaced by the economic shutdown - while ignoring those that have been displaced by the ongoing civil unrest. They have pretended that somehow one aspect of culture needs to be focused on while completely ignoring the overall coarsening and debasing of the other 95% of culture.
And somehow, confusing to me, they feel more confident than ever that they are doing the right thing and boldly expanding the Kingdom.
I cannot answer if they are expanding the Kingdom or not; that answer is far beyond me. What I can conclusively suggest that given the nature of the world around us, evidence suggests that they are only fooling themselves in their supposed relevance to the world and its goings on.
If the Church cannot see God's judgement upon the world, I fear that the Church itself has become as lost as the world it proposes to lead to the knowledge of God.
Saturday, August 22, 2020
A Few Words From....Sakai Yusai
- Sakai Yusai, Daigyoman Ajari (Saintly Master of Higher Practice), Monastery of Mt. Hiei, Kyoto, Japan
Friday, August 21, 2020
A Few Words From..Ol' Remus
(Hat Tip: Survival Blog)
(And we do dearly miss him and his wisdom. Rest well, friend.)
Thursday, August 20, 2020
The Collapse LII: Seasons
Wednesday, August 19, 2020
Book Review: Gardening With Less Water
The second half of the book - Taking It To The Next Level - covers more extreme measures: Rainwater Harvesting, landscaping to maximize use of the environment to preserve water, and some potential layouts of gardens and farms to maximize water usage. It is all equally as clear, although probably beyond the scope of anything I could or would do at this time. He also has some interesting comments on older civilizations (The Nabateans at Petra and the Anasazi at Mesa Verde) who built thrived in the midst of limited water by ingenious usage of harvesting and targeted watering (I wish the author had spent more time on these. Ah well, a subject worthy of further research).
Frankly, I enjoyed the book. It is clear, well written, and the initial steps he recommends are things I could go out and do tomorrow with minimal cost. I intend to at least try the concept of clay pots in next year's spring and summer garden. He also (very correctly) calls out the rather foolish policy of Utah and Colorado that bans rainwater harvesting.
Of course, like any author, there are things I disagree with as well. He only sees solutions in terms of government action: cities or states offering rebates to perform things like changing to xeriscaping, promoting rainwater harvesting, etc. (that money has to come from somewhere and it is not the government that makes it). He also extends this to globally enacted solutions, something which (to my mind) seldom produces the results that are intended.
But those points are minor in comparison to the knowledge offered in the book - practical knowledge from a man who has done this and experimented with the concepts for years. It is between $10 and $14 online and well worth the price for practical solutions to improve one's gardening and reduces one's water usage and cost of water.
Tuesday, August 18, 2020
The Plague of 2020: A Travel Update
Monday, August 17, 2020
Working From Afar: An Update
I did not announce to my work that I was going (other than I had clearance from my manager to do so) as I wanted to give it a test run and demonstrate to them that this was a thing that could be done without any interruption in my ability to work or do my job.
How did it go? Great! There was absolutely no interruption of service. I responded to e-mails. I was on teleconference calls. I even took calls on my cell phone (turns out you can do that if you set your phone to WiFi). I will check with my manager to see if he noticed any difference in my performance. If not, I think the point is made.
(Also found out this week a coworker in my new department is leaving, so my value goes up a bit. This is also a helpful development.
It is really not all that inconvenient of a schedule either. I essentially go to bed and get up and the same time as when I do at home to keep my work schedule. It leaves me a little more time after work with sunlight - hopefully over time, this can become time to invest in some kind of project.
So Step One: Done. September Trip is already scheduled.
Here we go.
Sunday, August 16, 2020
Book Review: How Should We Then Live?
Saturday, August 15, 2020
Book Review: Retroculture
It was an interesting concept - as someone that has at least a passing interest in doing things with my hands instead of electronically and the sense that I am "out of time" with the current mores and practices, the idea inherently appealed to me. If only, I thought, there was a book on it.
Turns out there is.
The premise of Lind's book is simple: "Retroculture is the discovery of the past and the good things that it has to offer."
Why? "Conventional wisdom says we have no choice but to drive blindly onward into an undefined but increasingly threatening future. Retroculture says "Hold on a minute." We do have a choice. Through a dialogue with the past, we can shape that future. We can find ways, by looking back, to make the future promising than threatening. We can regain control of our destiny. And in the process, we can reunify the generations instead of pitting one age group against another."
(Before someone goes there with all the bad things that the past had in it such as slavery, Jim Crow Laws, etc., Lind explicitly states - multiple times - that those sorts of things are not the sorts of things that he is talking about. He could not state it more plainly. So just let us not have that conversation, shall we?)
Lind notes that World War II was the last era in the U.S. where all generations had the same interests and tastes (I laughed for a moment when I read this - then I thought about it. I think he is entirely correct, upon reflection.). What happened? We moved from a tradition of service and discipline and self mastery to a world of "the rapacious demands of the self". Lind posits that the youth culture of the 1960's brought self to the fore - and when "self-discovery, self -realization, and self-fulfillment" failed, it was replaced by possessions and image: "The 90s completed the work of the 60s".
Lind's book breaks down Retroculture into several areas: Retro-Homes, Retro-Families, Retro-Clothing, Retro-Entertainment, Retro-Manners, Retro-Travel, Retro-Business, Retro-Service, and Retro-America. In each section, he breaks down what a "Retro" life would look like. For homes, for example, the model of older homes (either original or designed as such) with smaller footprints, larger porches, and to the extent that one would desire, retro-appliances and decorations. The same concept applies across all of the section listed.
The implementation is simple enough: pick an era that interests you. Study it. Then begin to bring that era alive in your own life as much or as little as you like.
I have to admit that I enjoyed the book - partially, as I indicated, because I am wired that way. But I also enjoyed it because it is a hopeful book. It exudes almost a utopian appeal, something which I loved (and miss in so many social works). Lind really and truly believes that Retro-Culture can make the world a better place. Other than analyzing how we got here, he scarcely talks in negative tones about the present. His eye is on the past and how it can make the future better. I also loved that Lind does not push an "all or nothing" approach. He states start where you are, with what you have, and to the level that makes you comfortable.
There are parts that I found less appealing, as with any author: his love of mass transit (true, a huge element of the early and mid 20th century) is not something that would feasibly work, nor is his vision of trains as the preferred mode of travel (again, true once upon a time but not workable now with serious private investment). But I would not say that these predilections detracted from the whole; they made the book more authentic.
In the chapter names "Getting Started", Lind motes the following:
"As to the saying "You can't go back", it is a warning, not against trying to recover the good things from the past - which we can do - but against the people who keep telling us we can't go back. Very often, these people have selfish interests in present trends. Some are people whose lifestyles might face disapproval if most Americans return to traditional values. Some have financial interests in rampant consumerism, in selling '"upscale'" goods with "prestige labels". Some work in industries, such as entertainment, that might have trouble adjusting to Retroculture's recovery of good taste. Most of them fear the rejection of "selfism" inherent in Retroculture, because their own lives are very self-centered.
So, when you hear, "You can't go back", watch out. What the person who tells you that is really saying is, "You can go back, and I'm afraid of what might happen to my interests if you do." Be certain you recognize what that person's interests really are - what his hidden agenda is."
Like most such books, I believe the chances of it actually coming to pass are rather small. But as a thought provoking work, both for an analysis of what is wrong with society and how looking to earlier eras might address this, it is well worth your time.
Friday, August 14, 2020
Thursday, August 13, 2020
The Collapse LI: The Outside World
My Dear Lucilius:
Young Xerxes (you will remember him, the young man who had the ATV and the industrious ideas) appeared at my door this very day. It has been quite some time since we had a visitor of any kind, so of course I asked him to step in out of the cold for a while. Even I, from time to time, enjoy conversation.
After settling in and discussing a bit of news about the town - not a great deal you can imagine, as it is Winter: no deaths yet, but potentially a new life which is welcome in this age of hardship - he mentioned that someone in our small burg had a home radio set up and was, at some level, getting some news from the outside world.
As I am sure you are living right now, the news from the outside world is not good.
Most of the communication, Xerxes related, comes from other small operators scattered here and about and the occasional emergency channel. The small operators are scattered away from the urban areas but at least one person continues to operate in the nearest large city.
It is the sort of thing that you are undoubtedly familiar with as well: Starvation. Destruction. Burned out shells of buildings with the population dead or fled. Here, in the heart of Winter, our average temperature is in the mid twenties Fahrenheit so there is little enough movement: people either have enough and hunker down or, sadly, expire. There is no marginal existence here. I remember reading in the histories of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse of the hunkered down existence the Sioux had during the Winters and how a bad year of buffalo meant a meager existence in the Winter.
In discussing this with young Xerxes, it made me think of one of the fundamental weakness the economy - can we call it our previous economy now? - had, that most all localities were completely dependent on everything coming from somewhere else. Everyone came to assume, of course, that the trucks would always run, the ships would always sail, the trains would always arrive, bringing with them their cargoes of food and fuel and essentials. Most places had a few specialties or things that they produced in sufficient quantities to export, but not enough variety to support a civilization.
But everything did stop. And now, it appears, it will be a great while before comes back.
I thanked young Xerxes and told him to stop by again any time - even this old hermit has come to need a little companionship. I sent him off with some dried fruit for himself and some for the family that had a new life coming - we can all use the calories now, I am sure.
It strikes me as a bit odd that in such a short time, our supply lines have collapsed to our locales. On the other hand, I am sure the citizens of the Roman Empire in 477 felt the same way.
Your Obedient Servant, Seneca
Wednesday, August 12, 2020
Tuesday, August 11, 2020
Book Review: Between Shades of Gray
Monday, August 10, 2020
As a preface to this consideration, she laments how the tribes in her own life have been breaking down over the last few months - and how rather surprised and saddened she is by this.
It is certainly a thought that has been on my own mind of late as well.
It is interesting - when we moved here 11 years ago I do not know that I would have said I had a "tribe". I had a few friends, not as a collective whole group but a series of individuals I did things with. Moving to New Home, as I slowly found activities that I became involved in - Iai, Highland Games - I thought I had found my tribe, both in the physical sense with the individuals I saw physically as well as the connections I made online. Life felt good: I had friends, I had support, I had a bulwark to weather the storm.
But that feels that it has slipped away over the last few months.
The Plague of 2020 has helped nothing, of course. I have not thrown since November of last year and it is quite possible I will not throw again until next year. Iai continues, but due to the Plague we train and then get out as quickly as possible from the Dojo. And online social media connections have become fraught with the danger of the modern era: on the one hand, saying anything is likely to lead to issues; on the other, many people do make comments and suddenly the 10% of things you shared in common becomes buried beneath the 90% that you realize you do not agree on.
Suddenly, those tribes you built have essentially evaporated.
My choices are threefold. The first is simply to continue on as if nothing has happened, that those tribes still exist as they did - difficult, because I know that to not be true. The second option is to let those tribes go and possibly build another one based on actual needs and interests, not the perceived ones - although I question how much more successful this would be than before. The third, of course, is simply accept the isolation and prepare to go it alone.
I am not yet clear on which makes the most sense.
The one thing that I can come out of this with that makes me a bit happy is that I have discovered a tribe of sorts - you, gentle readers, and those that write the blogs that read and follow. We are certainly much more of the same mindset than many others in the past, and although all of you are far away, we still manage to give some form of moral support and practical advice.
So maybe the choice is a bit easier: a form of going it alone in the immediate vicinity but knowing that there is a community, out there, backing me up.
In a world of dissolution and abandonment, maybe this is the best we can do.
Sunday, August 09, 2020
Do Not Wish (And An Apology)
Saturday, August 08, 2020
Reaping And Planting
Friday, August 07, 2020
Suddenly, he started purring.
Thursday, August 06, 2020
The Collapse L: The Coming Of December
01 December 20XX
My Dear Lucilius:
And just like that, December has arrived. Or at least has arrived chronologically, if not quite in my heart.
I find myself torn over this. December holds a great deal of religious importance to me as well as personal nostalgia, yet both aspects have been downplayed in the last several years to the point that I am surprised how I feel about them this year.
Like so many other families, we had bins and bins of Christmas related items. Every post Thanksgiving I would march up on the roof and festoon Christmas lights over the edges of the front of the house; every post Thanksgiving Day when the tree arrived I would wrap it in the lights that were decided upon for that year. My wife and my daughters would follow with the ornaments on the tree and decorations throughout the house.
After my daughters moved out on their own and (even more so) when my wife passed away, all of that ended, of course. My daughters came and took the items that meant something to them; I purged myself of lights that would no longer wrap trees or garnish roofs. I kept two sets of things: the first was a set of homemade plaid ornaments strung on jute twine my wife had made when we were first married and had cats which would attack the Christmas trees; the second were her collection of crèches (Nativity scenes).
Over the years, she had collected any number of them from all over the world. There were simple ones carved of wood and fancy ones elaborately painted. There were ceramic ones and a fired clay one and two that were children’s displays. There were very traditional ones based on the cultures they came from and what one would consider a “classic” one from when we were growing up. There was even a metal one with pieces three feet high.
These, I kept.
Part of it, of course, was simply that the religious aspects of Christmas have been so downplayed in recent years that they were just as likely to be thrown away or destroyed as they were to be used (and some of them were very fragile, of course). The other is that these were the Christmas items my wife treasured and always made sure were prominently displayed as anyone entered our home.
I have put them up every year at Christmas since I moved here, scattering them around the house on the bookshelves and hanging the plaid ornaments from shelf to shelf as well. It was never a full Christmas of course – it is not as if anyone has come here for the Holidays since I moved – but it did bring a little bit of the holiday spirit into my December.
It is odd to me, Lucilius, how the traditions get started and once they are started, how hard they are to let go. There are no stockings to be ransacked early Christmas morning; Christmas cards have in general become things of the past let alone the dwindling contact list of a widower; and the only presents that are under anything are the small snacks I buy for the rabbits and whatever I have purchased for myself.
I suppose there is a fair case to be made that this pushes me back towards the original importance of Christmas as the celebrated date of the birth of the Savior, stripped of every sense of commercialism and popular culture. If you think about it, the greatest shopping day of the year – Black Friday – did not happen this year and may likely never again happen in our lifetimes.
The Nativity Scenes, of course, help to keep me grounded in the reality of why we as Christians celebrate Christmas. Each one is an interpretation of that event, still here after the crass commercialism that had become the modern world has collapsed and blown away. The stars that shown over Bethlehem still shine over us today, even if the entire human culture and structure around it have collapsed.
The plaid stars, of course, just hang and any light that they shine is in my heart and memory.
Your Obedient Servant, Seneca
Wednesday, August 05, 2020
Tuesday, August 04, 2020
On Steel and Social Internets
What a strange and wonderful sensation that decision was.
Strange, in that I did not get the usual "Thumbs Up" and supportive commentary that I had in the past when I posted such things. There was no instant feedback loop telling me that I had done something good.
Wonderful, in that I found that I was reclaiming a very small piece of my privacy and independence back.
That small spark - of doing a thing and not essentially advertising it to the world - meant as much as actually completing the works themselves. I had done something and the world did not immediately know about it.
It brings up the actual idea of having a private life, a life which belongs to the individual and is not demonstrated to the world at large (just as it is not tracked, monitored, or surveyed). The doing of things, the making of things, the sharing of experiences which is either kept or shared as one wills, not as a demand or an expectation.
I have blogs I follow that share a great deal about their lives and their activities. I have blogs that share almost nothing beyond what they are writing about. In either case this is okay as the individual is making the choice to share what they wish, not because they are driven to by some neurological need for approval or demand of a larger media, audience, or authority that says "You must".
The idea is not original with me, but I would argue that the true wealth of the "Brave New World" will be the ability to which one is able to have a life which is private, where one can do and go and be without having to navigate the social pressure of "posting everything" nor of the tracking of what one does. Like all other things in the modern world, this is much more difficult than it used to be. But one does not have to make easier by simply acting without thought.
Perhaps not posting pictures of coal, fire, and steel represents no great act of civil disobedience. On the other hand, at least for me, perhaps it does.
Monday, August 03, 2020
A Weekend Of Blacksmithing
Sunday, August 02, 2020
The Great Day Of Failure 2020
Today is August 2nd, or Failure Day - hereafter known as The Great Day of Failure (sounds more majestic, does it not?).
The Great Day of Failure commemorates the day in 2005 when The Firm, the real estate company that I and a friend had founded, was dissolved due to the fact that we were not at all successful financially and needed to do something else.
If you have never failed a business, or had the exquisite pleasure of realizing that your financial decisions have put you and your family at significant risk and that if you are extremely lucky, you can find a position in an industry you swore you would never go back to - well, I will not tell you that you have not lived, but I will say that you have spared yourself a very peculiar type of humiliation.
So once a year, I celebrate not only this failure, but all the failures of the past year - not because of the failures themselves per se, but because in many cases failures in fact represent the willingness to try something different and new and it did not go as well as intended.
This year, of course, we celebrate my failure in my work position which led me to a whole new side of my industry and, from what I can see right now, ultimately a very different way of life. We also have at least one yogurt failure, two cheese failures, a rather lackluster response to my lawn restoration attempts, my (in process but most likely) continued attempt to try to grow corn and most beans when really I should be growing black eyed peas and sweet potatoes, my on-line attempt to do Italian, and (through no fault of our own) our failure to go to Italy due to The Plague of 2020.
For me, this has become a helpful exercise in looking back over the past year, realizing that failures do happen, and rather than letting them collect all through the year and become something I gnaw over in my mind time and again, just let everything come together on one day, look at it, catalog it away, and then move on for the following year.
So Happy Great Day of Failure, friends. May your failures be massive but not harmful, and may the failure in everything new you tried be a badge of honor for you as you enter the next year.
Trust me, there are plenty of new ways to fail.