Wednesday, June 30, 2021

2021 June Garden Update

 Inspired by Leigh over at Five Acres And A Dream (someone who actually knows what they are doing), I thought I might present the current "2021 State Of The Garden" report.  A large difference, you may recall, is that this year I am experimenting with the use of Ollahs, clay pots stoppered and placed into the ground to increase water availability to plants and decrease surface watering (See herehere, and here).

As a note, things will appear surface watered in these pictures.  This is due to the fact that at some point, we would like to be gone for a few days this Summer and I am looking to supplement my daily attentions.


The mint is doing well:


John in Philly was right:  The lime trees did come back!

Dill and Chicory:

Garbanzo Beans.  I am most proud of these as they are 99.5% watered solely by ollas:

Tomatoes.  I actually have tomatoes this year:

The potatoes and sweet potatoes love the ollas!

As do the Black-Eyed Peas and beans!

My daikons loved them as well, but so did the snails.  By the time I figured this out and trapped them (the tops of the ollas, which are actually the pot bases, make excellent containers to pour a little beer into so they are lured in and drown), I had a lone survivor:

The corn is doing as well as it has done, which is to say not well at  all (but this is better than other years).  I may need to try a new variety.  Also, note the empty areas.  Like with most gardens, not everything takes.

Onions, garlic, and sweet potatoes:

The basil plant, still largely fully leafed (Ed, I am going prompt Na Clann into trying homemade pesto and see where we get).

A few overall comments:

1)  Ollas work!  It is quite clear to me based on the pictures that plants around the ollas grow.  

2)  Anything to prevent water evaporation is a priority.  Fortunately I have hay remains weekly from the rabbits, but I could stand to build it up more.

3)  Sealing the ollas completely makes a huge difference. On average I think I can go three days of full sun between refills, but this also depends on how well sealed the olla is.  Some are dry much sooner.  The stoppers I bought work well - assuming the hole at the bottom of the pot is not too misaligned.  Leigh and Dan mentioned using concrete as a sealer.  I need to investigate a better solution (at the end of the growing season - this works for now).

4)  I am not quite to the point that I can 100% rely on them.  Part of this is due to item 3) above in that there is not a constant rate of depletion for all ollas; the other is as this was a late addition, some of my plants (onions and garlic) were not in positions to be fully supported by them.  Also, my tomato could benefit from a larger/more strategically placed olla.  

5)  One of the great and unexpected things from this experiment is how much more time I spend in the garden.  The average time to "service" to ollas is about 10 minutes.  During that time, I have to water each olla.  As a result, I am more quickly able to identify issues (and weed!).  I think the garden has overall benefitted from this greater level of attention.

Overall I am very pleased with the experiment (the book I got the idea from, also recommended by Leigh, is reviewed here).  I am already working on ways to incorporate it into other areas for next years' plantings.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

On Being Wholesome

 The Art of Manliness had a Sunday Thought piece entitle "Permission to Be Wholesome, Granted".  It is a short read (maybe five minutes) and worth your time.

The gist of the article is that people these days almost need permission from some to pursue a wholesome life, rather than a life which tracks the current Zeitgeist as one of "disaffection, indifference...a little edginess...not naive...cultivating this kind of world-weary insouciance", to pursue a life which may be punctuated by actually liking your family, not participating in things like the bulk of the world does, to enjoy simple activities, to actually be grateful.

Initially when I read the article, I thought "Well, that seems a little odd".  But then I started thinking about it more.  And, gosh darn it, the McKays are right.

Do not look to our society or even most of our institutions to support this sort of contented lifestyle or thinking.  Our modern society largely seems to built on being discontent with any number of things, starting with our appearance and our things and ending with the world and the way it is.  Sure, there is a movement to push towards greater simplicity and contentment, but there too often seems to be an edge on this, an underlying sort of smugness that pursues a thing not for its positive values, but in opposition to the current practices and thought.  It is one thing to say "I am simplifying my life because I can spend less money on unimportant and unnecessary things and more on the things I truly want"; it is another thing to say "I am simplifying my life because people are awful and only the selfish waste resources".

And in terms of our entertainment (of which, to be fair, I am blissfully ignorant of current trends), I cannot think of a role model that is publicly celebrated that lives in such a wholesome manner.  Are they out there?  Certainly.  Does our (or Western) culture celebrate them?  Not really.

So if you are one of those folks looking for some kind of sign from the Universe or official blessing to live that way - to conscious pursue things like innocent entertainment and time with the people you love above the social friends of Media, to actually have conversations and entertainment that can be profanity free and uplifting - if, my friend, you need that sign, consider it given.  

Life a life you can look back on without embarrassment.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Anniversary Of The Little Bighorn

 I was reminded that Friday (25 June) was the anniversary of the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

The battle site is one of the historical sites that I have managed to visit. It is not precisely easy to get to:  get to Bozeman, Montana, and drive 5 hours east and then South.  If you go in summer, it is hot and dry.  Thankfully, the battlefield is far away from any nearby towns (it is a national cemetery, actually) and so in a great many respects remains  similar to what the land was like 145 years ago.

The battle was a host of characters that have gone down in history:  Sitting Bull, Chief of the Lakota; Crazy Horse, Battle Leader; Gall, a foster brother of Sitting Bull and Battle Leader; and the now-belongs-to-the-ages, George Custer.

The battle has come to resonate in my mind, not just because of what occurred, but because of what it represents:  the last great victory of the Native Americans against the invading Americans.  Of all the things I am least proud of in American history, how we treated the Indians is one of them.  There could have been a wonderful synergy of civilizations.  Instead we got war, destruction, and in a great many ways, the virtual extermination of a people.  However, it also serves as an instructive event.

The ultimate message of the so-name "Indian Wars" is that an entity, the US Government, wanted a people that lived differently and had different beliefs and did not want to live according to the accepted government way to conform or be exterminated.   To accomplish that, they were willing to starve, brutalize, and kill an entire population.

I remember this every day now, as I read of the current government willing to effectively demonize and dehumanize its opponents.  To pretend a government is not about anything but compliance is to pretend that gravity does not function or the sun will not rise.  And I find it noteworthy that those who decry such barbarity against Native Americans of the past so willingly speak that it needs to happen for their fellow citizens now.

Perhaps - and only perhaps - we who now exist have learned better.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

The Form Of God

 "The form of God is ineffable and indescribable, and cannot be seen with the eyes of flesh.  He is in his glory unattainable, in greatness incomprehensible, in loftiness inconceivable, in strength incomparable, in wisdom inaccessible, in love inimitable, in beneficence inexpressible.

Just as the soul of a man is not seen, since it is invisible to men, but we know of its existence through the movement of the body, so God cannot be seen by human eyes, but he is seen and known through his providence and his works."

- Theophilius of Antioch, The Orthodox Way, Kallistos Ware

Friday, June 25, 2021

A Small But Telling Sign

I would commend to your attention Claire Wolfe's Post "I'm suffering an attack of optimism" as a kind of up to date one-stop-shop of the state of the nation at this moment.  She says it far better than I, but notes that fact cracks and crevices are starting to appear in the bulwark of our society. 

In other words, notes Claire, spring buds of a sort of revolution may be starting to appear.

It is not the revolution that one thinks of, in terms of guns blazing and the toppling of power structures. It is the revolution of people beginning to simply say, "Enough".  Enough to the failed construct of a system where the people in power think and act very differently than the people that go about living their lives.  Enough to movements that denigrate all that society is and replace it with constructs that simply replace one group or class with another.  Enough to governments that proclaim "fiscal responsibility" and "transitory inflation" while spending money faster than a drunk sailor and having no idea what actual things cost actual Americans.

From the article:  "This is people who have moved onto the next stage: Understanding that a country’s Great Institutions have become simply … irrelevant."

This has happened before, of course.  People have denoted such things.  The difference may be that, this time, people are actually doing something about it.

If you think they are not, you are not reading in the right places.  Individuals are rejecting the constructs of jobs that devour their lives by finding other ways to make a living; rejecting the power of corporatism in their lives by growing their own food, making their own entertainment, and learning to do things themselves or do without.  If Christian (I cannot speak to other religions), they are rejecting churches that have left the path of Scripture and have replaced with the path of man (there is a real reason that all mainline denominations are shrinking and it not just "I got bored").  They are beginning to push back at the local and state level against things that they find oppressive and that they disagree with.

Horror of horrors, they are thinking for themselves.

"The smallest (secessions) are being committed, every day in increasing numbers, by potentially millions of individuals — commentators, professors, office workers, blue-collar job holders, entrepreneurs, writers, doctors, congregation members, students, you name it — who wake up, look around, and say, “Whoa, this is getting too weird; I’m out of here.” They may not know whether we’re living in a joke masquerading as a wannabe totalitarianism or a wannabe totalitarianism masquerading as a joke. They may not even be able to identify or articulate precisely what’s wrong. But they know it’s nuts and they want to go sane."

It is a small thing.  But like everything else, all great things start small.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

The Collapse LXIX: Patriotism

18 February 20XX +1

My Dear Lucilius:

As Young Xerxes was about for his weekly visit (that young man has become indispensable for conversation along with everything else), he randomly asked me a question about what it was like to be a citizen in “The Old Days”.

“The Old Days”. I chuckled out loud. When did we our days become old, Lucilius?

But his question made me ponder a moment or two. What was it like to be a citizen “in The Old Days”, before we had torn each other apart by every conceivable classification that existed and splintered into a thousand sub-groups with only a geography and economy to loosely bind us?

I do not know if you remember – I certainly do – the Bicentennial of our country. It was a time when one was young enough to be enthusiastic about everything without bearing the burden of the nature of policies and practices. Flags celebrating the country were everywhere – the country was ablaze (figuratively speaking) in Red, White and Blue. There was a genuine swelling, noticeable through the land of what it meant to be “A Citizen”.

Or, to a lesser extent, the events following the crashing of The Two Towers, before we had devolved into arguments and counter arguments and finger pointing and an intrusive state that, once it had acted to “secure our safety”, never let go. There was a sense – sorrowful, but a sense – that we were still, at least in this moment, all the same and the attack against some was an attack against all.

How do I convey that to those who have grown up only knowing and hearing of every wrong a country has committed instead of every success it has achieved, of every weakness it demonstrates rather than every strength it possesses, of how all the past was wrong and only the future – properly crafted, of course, in Utopian fashion – is correct?

I cannot, of course. Nor would I if I could.

That State – the State we grew up in – is dead. Was dead some time ago actually and had become some kind of living dead political geographic horror, maintained in a sort of hideous existence by a parasitic fungal growth called “Society” which animated the corpse long after the soul and mind were gone. The Flag that once flew over every government building and from many people’s homes became a winding sheet of Stars and Stripes that slowly settled over everything, muffling the features and hiding the decay.

That was our world, of course. And the sad remnants of it are rapidly disappearing into the back mirror on the road trip of history, to be remembered fondly by some and with bitterness by others – but always receding.

But it is not Xerxes’ world, and those who are alive now.

They have an opportunity, Lucilius, an opportunity no matter what the future is coming to look like (and who can really tell at this point?), to remake something better and more glorious out of the ashes and rubble that is left behind. Out of the decay of endings are new beginnings made to the brave and focused.

So I looked at him, this young man with his drive and passion and his curiousity, and simply smiled. “It was a different time” I reply. “I do not think my words would really capture what it was like.”

You may argue, Lucilius, that this is a convenient half truth. Perhaps so. And while there are pieces and parts of that State that you and I knew that would be valuable to express for him and his generation to bring forward, that can wait for its transmission. His mind – and the minds of all of his generation – are looking into a future they cannot define at this time. I – no, we - need to help him, and them, to get there.

We, the Old Guard, can remember for them at the appropriate time.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Where The Church Forked

 Yesterday's post (thank you for all the comments, all very informative and thought provoking) caused me to have a rather long walk and thought session during lunch (as we had rain the night before, it made for a day one could actually walk at lunch).  The subject was simply "When did the Church get off track into governing and structure?"

Yes, I have an odd mind and things like this get stuck there.

It matters, of course, because 1) there is a lot of arguing about it; and 2)  in point of fact, "The Church of The Apostles" is something that virtually every reforming group, division, and movement has been trying to get back to since The Desert Fathers and Benedict of Nursia decided they needed to do something differently than what the Church (a uniform church, at that time) was doing.

To be clear, this is a rather embarrassingly high level thought construct. Entire careers have been made over this and entire churches have split over it.  Mine is, by default, a very brief thought exercise.

I think it will come as a surprise to no-one that the first great change in the Church came with acceptance of Christianity by Constantine The Great in 312 AD.  The church prior to this point was at best a movement that existed in the semi-shadows, at worst was coming out of the persecutions of Diocletian.  Suddenly, Christianity was the religion of the Emperor - and, like any social movement of the day, instantly grasped as being a means to moving up in society.  Christianity moved from being something that one specifically chose to be at the risk of one's life to a form of social advancement.  Did everyone convert for that reason?  Surely not; not having the tinge of potential apostacy and death likely encouraged many who were on the fence to join.  But there was a group (there always is, of course) that saw this as just one more method to move up the ladder.

The second - and this was not the Church's fault initially - was the 5th and early 6th Century, when the Church government started to function as an actual political government.  The Western Empire was dying and then died of course, and over time the only group that maintained a sort of structure and ability to get things done was the Church.  Bishops began to act as political figures because they had to.  It was only later that they took for granted that they were meant to.

The third was the sparring for predominance amongst the Patriarchs of Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, and Constantinople (It is kind of an interesting history if you are into such things).  What this did - eventually - was to break the sense of ecumenism that had been present, more or less, in the previous centuries, and started the division of Christianity into East and West.  Once one disagreed with the other side, it was easy enough to see them as wrong and slightly (but only slightly) better than the heretics, leading to the Schism of 1054 A.D.  This one action eventually cost the Byzantine Empire its existence and Western Europe its buffer from invasion and irretrievably split the Church into an Eastern and Western part in both practice, philosophy, and thought that has held true for the next 1,000 years.

So in the space of 1000 years we have made Christianity the dominant theme of how to get ahead in the world, a seat of political power, and then split it apart due to largely political machinations.  How, you wonder, could things get better?

Marin Luther, of course.  The Reformation.  1517.  The Western church split yet again, mostly a split (in retrospect) that could have been avoided if things had been handled differently.  What that created in turn was the sense that anyone could split off from the Church of their day if they decided they were not being "true to the Faith as handed down by the Apostles", which of course everyone wants.

Could things have gone differently?  Possibly.  What if Constantine had not legalized Christianity?  It would not have had the same pull and power and the Church might have remained more focused on the teachings of Christ and the Bible. What if they had refused to exercise political power and instead of arguing for pre-eminence, had continued to operate as the first Non-governmental agency (NGO) and ecumenically?  Perhaps they would have been turned from the need for worldly power; perhaps all the councils of the church would have been truly Ecumenical.  And with establishing the ability to disagree and reform the Church from the inside, Martin Luther would have been a reformer with a small "r", and history would not have 450 years of Internecine war between Christians.

That is a great deal of speculation, of course.  And it leaves out a lot of "what ifs", such as what would have been the chosen form of worship (would we have temples to Zeus, Woden, and Thor today in abundance?) and what would have happened to those millions through the ages that did believe but, under this possibility, might have never heard the Gospel.  There are the imponderables, of course (although it is fun to think about them).

It strikes me, of course, that almost all Christians would tell you they are trying to get back to Christ's church.  The Protestant and Non-denominationals would say we merely need to model ourselves on the New Testament; the Catholic and Orthodox churches would say that they have an unbroken tradition back to the early Church if we would only look at them and their history.  

I do not know that I have an answer, per se.  It does strike me, though, that the Church continues to disperse its impact instead of increasing it.  That, I suspect, is not what Christ had in mind at all.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

On A Communion Spat

Among the more amusing things that I have seen over the weekend, the current tussle between the Blue Party and the Catholic Church has been both entertaining - and telling.

To those that do not necessarily follow tales of religious woe, the Catholic Conference of bishops has created a document which suggests that public officials who are Catholic be denied the rite of communion if they support particular policies (in this case, abortion). Their intent is that this policy would impact all public officials, up to and including the current Incumbent.  In response, a number of Blue Congress folk - about 60 - have written a letter of protest back  to the bishop's conference.

To be clear, I have no particular dog in this fight.  I am not Catholic and neither do I vote Blue.  But I am a Christian, and so the point and counterpoint are very interesting.

If you are a Catholic - as I  understand it, please correct me if knowledgeable - communion is a very important thing indeed and to be denied communion is one of the most unfortunate and undesirable positions to be in as it is the means of salvation for Catholics.  So, for those of us not Catholic, this is much more than a simple "No participation for you today".   It is literally a matter of spiritual life and death.

The Catholic side is pretty straight forward:  We are against abortion. It is in pretty much all of our documents.  You, serving incumbent public officials, support the policy and are also a practicing Catholics.  If you present yourself as Catholic, you should not hold this policy and the one mechanism we have as the Church to correct you in this matter is the denial of Communion (in the Catholic Understanding).

The Blue side is as clear.  In their letter, they denote they are doing many of the things that the Catholic church calls upon them to do to support life.  Because of that and because of the serious nature of communion, the Church should realize that overall the Incumbent is doing God's will and as such, they should not make this a political matter.

(A side note to this is a letter by a Congress folk from California, who (as a Catholic) also notes that he believes both and as such, should have the freedom of conscience to do so.  He also notes that the Catholic church is bleeding people; could it be due to policies like this?)

The point of today's meditation is not abortion per se and not politics and not the Catholic Church.    So as a courtesy to all, let us focus on the main issue.

The main issue is man's desire to form religion to fit themselves.

The Catholic Church is no stranger to disagreements with the political authorities.  Ask Henry the II of England how that worked out for him, or Henry the VIII or Henry the IV (Holy Roman Emperor, who stood out in the snow).

I have Catholic friends - Uisdean Ruadh is the greatest of them, but I have met a number throughout my life and through this blog (Juvat at Chant du Depart and Ed at Riverbend Journal come to mind).  Theirs is a long and holy tradition.  They are reasonable human beings (unlike the Catholic Ogres of myth one often hears of these days).  And with that tradition, comes acceptance of certain positions.

But in our bold new age, we the individual now dictate to the Church what is its policy.

The odd thing is, these individuals have a choice:  simply no longer belong to an organization that does not reflect your beliefs.  Happens all the time - good heavens, it is one of the reasons that The Reformation (and Counter Reformation) happened in the first place.  The last time I checked Ye Olde Calendar (hold on, checking again....) it was the 21st Century.  There is no requirement to be a member of a particular church, or really of any religious institution at all - we no longer keep rolls of membership that are reported to the government.  And certainly given today's..."eclectic" mix of Christianity, one can sure find a version to suit one's taste and beliefs. (Or, if you want to stay with an almost Catholic tradition, go with the Anglicans.  They are pretty close.)

But that is just it.  The individual should not have to do this.  The institution should bend.

This is unique in our society, of course.  In virtually every other venue, in every other way, the individual is being is being asked to bend to the collective (keep focused, we are not running down discussion rabbit holes).  It is only here, in what can only be considered one of the deepest and most personal of things, religious beliefs and morality, that the institution is being forced to bend to the will of the individual.

Does the Catholic Church have issues?  Sure.  Like every other institution, they have issues.  Theirs are just more public now.  But let us not pretend that other organizations do not, be they religious or political.

Either one as a Christian believes in God as He has presented Himself or one should not believe in Him at all (paraphrasing C.S. Lewis).  Starchy sweet versions of Christianity with no consequences, no remission of sin, no repentance, and no forgiveness are simply not the Christianity of The Bible as passed down from the Apostles (a correct saying whether one is Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, or Non-denominational).  It becomes...well, it becomes what passes for a great deal of Christianity today:  spiritualism in a bland sort of loving Deity that pretty much always results in a happy ending, who has no expectations of us except "Be nice" and exists for us to self-actualize.

As I have said, I am not a Catholic and so do not have a full perspective of my Catholic friends.  But I do have a perspective of Christian, and I simply have to ask the counter-question:  If the Catholic Church is losing members (as, in fact, most U.S. denominations are), is that due to the fact that Church (all of them) are terribly wrong in such matters or because, as the Church has come to reflect society, there is no longer any difference between society and the Church?  

"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavour, how shall it be seasoned?  It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men." - Matthew 5:13

(Post Script:  The argument has been raised that the Bishops did not make the same requirement of other serving Presidents.  In all fairness, there have been no other Catholic presidents than JFK.  The Bishops have made other statements, but as those presidents were not Catholic, there was no other actions to be taken).

(Post-Post Script:  A favour: the point of the post is not to rail on incumbents or parties or Catholics.  Stay in the guardrails, please).


Monday, June 21, 2021

A Different Sort Of Father's Day

 This past Father's Day was the first time in living memory that I have not spoken to TB The Elder.

To be somewhat fair, I suppose that I could have called:  the home where he is has a phone, and I can certainly call at any time.  But he is hard to understand now at the best of times; I fear calling him without having the reference of a face and body in place would create more confusion than any benefit the conversation would bring (also to be fair, we will see him in two weeks, so that will probably be better anyway).

It is a odd thing, this almost limbo that we find ourselves in with the condition of our parents: they are still with us so we do not mourn them in the way that we would mourn the dead, yet I cannot speak to them in the way that one typically speaks to living.  It is a twilight, where we seem and speak to each other darkly, through a sort of evening fall that has the highlights of stars and a crescent moon, but not of specific details of the landscape.

It has been a continuation of the last seven months, more or least:  the phone calls that became less and less of conversations and more and more of my updates, then the loss of calling my parents every week (Tuesday nights for the last 6 years at least), and now finally the point where there are no calls at all.  A logical extension, but logic often has a cold, hard edge to it that the reality of human experience cannot bear.

I am fortunate:  I have a father to whom Happy Father's Day could be a sincere wish, not something that just a phrase mouthed.  I have written of him and his examples over the years here; to effectively the very end of his independent life he did his best to hold up his responsibilities to everyone, especially my mother in the throes of Alzheimer's disease.  To the extent that I have demonstrated any good fatherhood skills or examples, I owe them to him.

I would like to believe, I suppose, that somehow my father still knows this somewhere in the back of his mind, even if he cannot communicate it effectively or respond in a way that would make sense.  And perhaps he still does:  when we see him, he still recognizes us and responds with some level of joy, even if the actual items he is trying to relate never make sense the way he intends.

Were I a wiser man, I might have somehow figured out a way to plan for this sort of thing more appropriately.  Sadly, I fall into the trap that is the birthright of all humanity:  we never truly think the future will come, until it does.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

A Marvellous Wonder

 "A marvellous wonder has this day come to pass:
Nature is made new, and God becomes man.
That which he was, he has remained.
And that which he was not, he has taken on himself
While suffering neither confusion nor division.

How shall I tell of this great mystery?
He who is without flesh became incarnate;
 The Word puts on a body;
The Invisible is seen;
 He whom no hand can touch is handled;
And he who has no beginning begins to be.
The Son of God becomes the Son of man;
Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and for ever."

-From Orthodox Vespers on Christmas Day, The Orthodox Way, Callistos Ware

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Song of Durin

Growing up immersed in Fantasy books and role playing, I was always far more enamored of elves than I was of dwarves.  I do not know that it was anything personal per say - Tolkien's Elves are not our later Western models of small, wispy creatures that dwell in forests, but strong, powerful warriors, craftsmen and sages - and, handily, immortal.  Even in early Dungeons and Dragons editions, Elves were some of the most powerful and magical beings.

Dwarves, by extension, were not.  They were, to be fair, good at craftsmanship in metal and fighters, but that was about it.  They were not inherently magical.  They were mortal, although their lives ran to 200+ years.  They seemed to pale in comparison to elves.  Back in the day, I almost never played a dwarf.  They were "boring".

But over the years as I have grown, I have come to appreciate the qualities that are supposed to belong to dwarves:  Loyalty.  Stubbornness.  Courage.  Dedication to a particular idea or craft, perhaps for one's life.  A long and burning sense of justice.  And, if needed, savage bravery.  Qualities that I have found I need in life.

It is not that I love the elves the less.  I just now love dwarves the more.

The song below is taken from Tolkien's work (again).  The run time is 5 minutes or so.  Another largely vocal number, it is delightful.  The fact that it seems to involve a number of voices from different parts of the United Kingdom (you can hear it in the accents) makes it all the better.

Friday, June 18, 2021

The Passing Of The Elves

As I was on a walk this week, the thought suddenly occurred to me that I wondered if the very short excerpt from The Lord Of The Rings movie where the Elves are seen leaving Middle Earth with accompanying music was actually part of a longer song.

A little search and I found what I wanted (Thanks, InterWeb!).  The words are based on songs (untranslated but done after the fact) in Tolkien's books.

The first version is a version with the lyrics, which I enjoyed although I found it a little visually distracting.  The second version is just the song itself.  Run time is about 3 minutes - a given, of course, I do not own the copyrights and presented for entertainment value only and so forth.

In the movie, Sam says to Frodo "I don't know why, but it makes me sad."

It makes me sad too, Sam, because seeing the beautiful and lovely pass from the world is always a terrible thing.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Collapse LXVIII: Of Love And Valentines

14 February 20XX +1

My Dear Lucilius:

Valentine’s Day again.

As you can imagine, I have not really celebrated Valentine’s Day in several (read “many”) years. For the last few of course, there has really been no-one to celebrate them for or with. Prior to that, even when my wife was still alive, Valentine’s Day was a low key event. Gone were the days of extravagant gifts and flowery cards; we had moved to a simple understated card and perhaps a dinner out. At some point one’s house is full and one is older: what can one give a wife that she cannot buy for herself?

One of the great questions – you yourself quizzed me on it more than once - was why, after my wife’s passing, I never really showed interest in establishing another relationship. I do not know that I was capable of answering such a question then, but I have had plenty of opportunity to ponder the issue.

You yourself always avoided the question for years, if you will recall, with the same sort of distant “looking away” in your eyes. “Life was not stable” was your answer for years, perhaps even years beyond when life had become stable for you (if you had been able to see it as I was). I never really pressed you on it (perhaps I should have) until you found out you were ready to discuss it – and then as if by magic, Augusta appeared.

And now, I find myself on the other side of that equation.

My answer, if I were there now and we were sitting in the town square, eating frozen yogurt (as we were wont to do on Friday evenings), would simply be that I could not bear the strain and risk of a relationship.

I had a fairly good marriage, and one that – like most of them, I suspect – worked reasonably well over the years with inevitable bumps and occasional disagreements. But for the most part it was the form of married bliss which the successfully married maintain although they never seem to be able to enunciate what it is or how they have done it.

The last year of our marriage with the cancer was, simply put, awful. You know. You were there via electronic communications for all of it. And after it was all said and done, the bills sorted out and the house cleaned and the monument raised, there was simply no energy nor interest in doing anything else.

I did try once or twice – I do not think I ever spoke to you of this before. They were all effectively prescreened by acquaintances here, by those in our then church or my wife’s friends that thought that I needed something to “fill the gap”. Well meaning, of course. And arguably, I was precisely in a place where I would have been a “desirable package” (as I was told): late-50’s, financial secure, children now gone, and single.

You laugh, as I did. The thought of me being “marketable” strains credulity, does it not?

And yet Lucilius, what I found when I went out on the carefully arranged forays, was that I was less of a potential interest and more of a potential resource.

I had, as they say, “great potential” as a dating partner – because of all of the things listed above. But, it seems, precisely because of these items, I got the sense that there was neither interest nor attraction except in how I would help others in their lives. Not in my own.

Be it right or wrong, it was an risk I was not willing to take.

I know Lucilius, I know – Love is inherently a risk. But given where I was in my life, something that represented a risk not just to my emotions but (literally) to what we had spent a lifetime building was more than I could logically put on the line. And so I withdrew after those initial forays into what has become (essentially) a monkish sort of lifestyle.

Do not grieve for me. These last years, although in that sense lonely, have been good. While perhaps not having the personal closeness of an individual, I have also not been subjected to the vagaries of an emotional hurricane. My patterns of life have become comfortable for me, even if perhaps a bit isolated.

Does that mean the tale is fully written? It is hard, given the current circumstances, to believe anything but – yet I am mindful of your own experience when, in the midst of everything that completely seemed as if nothing could have occurred, something occurred.

Life – and perhaps love in this case - as they say, always finds a way.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

When The Personal Goes Dead At Work

 I was somewhat surprised this week by the realization - along with the fact that overall there are less work friendships and my computer is a lot less friendly to use - that on the whole coworkers are simply much less willing to talk about themselves at all, or even make small talk.

I suppose I noticed it about two weeks ago or so, when in the course of a "waiting for someone to show up to the conference call", we were making small talk about the weather.  There was a sort of silence in terms of the discussion when the third person joined, as we chatted and and tried involved them, to little avail.  We continued the conversation for a minute or so, but the conversation had clearly run its course.  We moved on.

Even within my smaller department, I find people are less willing to speak about themselves outside of the job or have small conversations.  I have tried a couple of times over the last week and the response is more a sort of awkward comment, then silence.  Trying to carry to conversation forward does nothing.  It is directly to the question or task at hand.

It is odd to me - of the people I work most closely with most of the time, I know virtually nothing about them or their lives.  I possibly know about their marital status.  I may have heard them mention if they have children, or even less possibly, their ages.  But in terms of their interests - something not at all remotely charged like personal beliefs or practices - I know virtually nothing.  This group of people on whom I depend and depend on me to accomplish goals are all cyphers, disembodied voices and signatures on e-mails.

I would guess one could chalk it up to a number of factors, all outside of everyone's control:  The enforced separation of The Plague.  The very real fact that thanks to that IT policy, we are all now effectively monitored via our internal work chats and quiet likely on our conference calls.  And a work environment which, simply put, does not really reward any sort of transparency lest someone find something to hold against one.

Conceptually I can understand it.  But it saddens me.

Yes, I know:  me, sad.  The person that abjures such things in practice, who makes a point of being as gray and bland as possible at work.  How could I possibly be sad about this?

Mostly (I think) I am sad because at one time, I knew better.  I knew involvement of coworkers at work - not necessarily friends, but awareness of individuals and their lives, common touchpoints that could be spoken of when waiting or just checking in.  The closest thing that seems to exist in that realm now are somewhat forced company on-line events to remotely foster engagement in a group online environment, which seems neither engaging nor personal to me but only a sort of soft compliance to an "engaged" workforce which is felt to be needed in theory but not enabled in practice.

I have one remaining person whom I would term a "friend", someone - the last of my existing direct hires - that I can have actual conversations with, about work and other matters.  The comment was made that they felt I was the same for them in terms of the last person standing with whom they could freely converse.  We both sighed  and virtually nodded.  When and if one of us leaves, I cannot truly imagine the other one will be far behind.

In the end, it may not be surprising that automation takes over.  We are already effectively creating such relationships in our current work practices.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

On A Computerized Warning

Over the last month or so, we have been going through a series of IT related trainings and updates at work.

This is not a surprise really, given the fact that there have been a number of rather high level hijackings of computer systems in recent months.  It is always a bit of an inconvenience of course: one has to do another round of training or perhaps create another password (conforming to the policy, of course).  But manageable and somewhat expected.

This most recent update, however, had something that was a little more depressing.

Starting a bit ago, every time I before I am able to get to my screen but after my log in, we get a long legal statement. It is a paragraph, a rather sizeable one, saying that you acknowledge the computer belongs to the company, that everything done on or through the computer belongs to the company,  and that they have access to anything that you do on the computer at any time.

Every day on startup.

On a practical level, of course, it does not impact me.  I had long ago learned that work computers are really on for work and even though "occasional personal use" is still authorized, I dropped that off as well so that - literally - it only ever go to work related sites.  If they were to actually search my drive (I just assume they do), other than some cute pictures of my pets they will not find anything on there that belongs to me.  

The part that bothers me, I suppose, is the change in tone.  All of these things - the fact the computer is not mine, that everything that I do on it is monitored, etc. - these are things that I (and I would think, anyone that has worked in the private sector over the last 10 years) would acknowledge.  What has changed is that before this was included in the employee handbook (or similar documents); it was implicitly understood.  Now, it is explicit.

How does it make me feel?  Honestly, a bit like an untrusted criminal.  The sense that every day you need to be reminded that things are not yours and you are potentially being watched is the sort of things one expects from horrible governments that view their citizens like potential security risks.  Not the sort of thing that trusted workers are supposed to feel.

I will manage it, as will we all, I suppose - this is the new way of the world.  What it does make me feel is just that much more disconnected from my job other than purely as a salary and benefits earning exchange.  I will endeavor to continue to do a good job - but, as with everything else, I will also endeavor to continue to separate the work and the personal arenas of my life.

After all, apparently, such separation is not only good business, but also good personal life management.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Book Review: Essentialism

 My Weight Training Coach, The Berserker, is a man whom I both enjoy and fear.  He is a deep thinker and thoughtful man.  He is dedicated to the practice of training and strength (over the period of about five years, he increased his mass - mostly muscle - from around 200 lbs. to somewhere around 315 lbs.) and passes that intensity to his workouts.  I fear him because, well, he takes suffering in the form of workouts to a new level.  But I can assure you, his suffering (even to me) has brought results.

So when he recommends a book for me to read, I read it.

I first read this book in 2017, and have re-read it at least once a year since then.

McKeown's basic premise is this "....the basic value proposition of Essentialism:  only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter."  Later he states "...the Essentialist deliberately distinguishes the vital few from the trivial many, eliminates the non-essentials, and then removes obstacles so the essential things have smooth, clear passage.  In other words, Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making the execution of those things almost effortless."

The image McKeown uses is that of cleaning a closet.  First one assesses what is in the closet, then one organizes and cleans out the closet, and then one maintains the closet by making sure it does not return to its original state.

To start, suggest McKeown,  is to Explore your options.  The Essentialist, says McKeown, experiments with things more than others because they are trying to find what their highest and best contribution is.  They look at things, play with things, examine things.  They sleep (Protect the Asset).  And then they make a determination on what their most important contribution is.

Next, says McKeown, is Eliminate.  Having identified the highest contribution they can make, they go about clearing their decks to allow them to spend their time at things they have identified.  This removal of items should not be thought of simply in terms of things or interests; it extends to commitments and people and ideas and ways of thinking.  The Essentialist is ruthless in this, the way doctor is ruthless in dealing with any infected flesh:  all that is not necessary must be removed.

Finally is Execute.  In this, says, McKeown, the Essentialist finds ways to make execution on these identified contributions effortless.  They add buffer to their lives to concentrate, they work to remove obstacles, they find ways to increase small wins so they can engage themselves, they find ways to establish flow and focus on their activities.

All of this, says McKeown, is leading to a point:  the Essentialist becomes what they are doing, or in the words of Benjamin Franklin, "What you seem to be, be really." By focusing on the areas that one can have the greatest contribution and control of one's actions, one brings one's inner and outer being into alignment.  We become that which we are focusing on and making a priority.

This book has been immensely helpful to me.  I have read it, as I have mentioned, at least once a year for the last four years.  Every years I gain a little more from it.  Every year I try to narrow my focus and remove items which are no longer relevant (which is, actually, surprisingly difficult).  Every year I try to continue to find what my greatest contribution will be.

And perhaps ultimately, that is what I like about this book.  It does not try to dictate what one's highest contribution is; it acknowledges that it can and will be different for everyone.  What is important is that one finds that contribution beneath detritus of a world that will happily load us with trivialities and unimportant issues - "Majoring in the minors", as Stephen Covey said.

If you need a focusing tool or just a refresher course in how to actually work on finding your greatest contribution in life, this is an excellent place to start.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Thoughts On Repentance

 "'The beginning of salvation is to condemn one's self' (Evagirus).  Repentance marks the starting point of our journey.  The Greek term metanoia, as we have noted (p.17), signifies primarily a 'change of mind'.  Correctly understood, repentance is not negative, but positive.  It means, not self-piety or remorse, but conversion, the re-centering of our whole life upon the Trinity.  It is to look, not backward with regret, but forward with hope - not downwards at our own shortcomings, but upwards at God's love.  It is to see, not what we have failed to be, but what by divine grace we can now become; and it is to act upon what we see.  To repent it to open our lives to to the light.  In this sense, repentance is not just a single act, an initial step, but a continuing state, an attitude of heart and will that needs to be ceaselessly renewed up to the end of life.  In the words of St. Isaias of Sketis, 'God requires us to go on repenting until our last breath.'  'This life has given you for repentance' says St. Isaac the Syrian.  "Do not waste it on other things.'"

- The Orthodox Way, Kallistos Ware

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Thoughts on "A Freedomnista Symbiosis For Our Future"

 Claire Wolfe over at Living Freedom has published an interesting and thought provoking essay entitled A Freedomnista Symbiosis For Our Future (Part I) that is worth a read (if you are so inclined, go ahead and click over.  I can wait).

If you are not so inclined, in short her argument is that although things are about as they have ever been or possibly even getting worse (have you actually looked at inflation lately?), there is a bit of good news:

"But there’s one ray of light shining through their centrally planned catastrophe: More of us finally understand that we must act individually and in small groups to avert or mitigate disaster and to preserve what we must through a potentially bleak future. Even better, we understand that we can do that. We have the tools, the knowledge, the spirit, and the determination. We can’t fix global or national politics. We can’t confront and beat back oligarchy. But we can take charge of our own lives, families, and communities.

Prepping and homeschooling are no longer fringe activities. People are saving everything from heirloom seeds to classical literature. Self-sufficiency has become a thing. From alternative construction models to home generators and sawmills to beekeeping and home brewing and fermenting, millions are adapting to the political threats and the cultural dilapidation by taking their lives and their families’ lives into their own hands. Post-lockdown, millions are saying NO to the job culture and yes to self-determined forms of work. After being badly burned by “experts” they’re beginning to say YES to their own life experiences and no to received institutional wisdom. Young men are giving up corrupted universities for lucrative, hands-on trades.

This runs across the entire political spectrum, but it’s certainly a roaring trend among freedomistas.

And here’s one thing I’ve noticed. These days, when freedomistas talk about retreating or gulching or focusing exclusively on our local communities (or if you’re a Christian, considering Rod Dreher’s monastic Benedict Option) our activist friends probably don’t react with sneers."

The thing is, I think she is right.

Do not look for this in the major media outlets or amongst our "betters" (otherwise known as the experts).  They will tell you, of course, that we are all embracing the "Future".  If nothing else, I think a great many people have learned that saying too much to those who you do not know well is asking for trouble.

But over the last year,  I believe - and I believe because I see what is being purchased and where we are short on things and even what those in my larger circle talk about - that people are at least taking notice that a complete reliance on society as it is currently construed is not necessarily a wise move.

If you were in some parts of the country last year, you saw your area turn into an war zone as burned out as the old Yugoslavian republic. If you lived in other areas, you saw crime increase as public protection fell away and the local government unable to stop it.  If you lived in yet other areas, you saw your power and water fall away for a week or more, sometimes in some of the most affluent and "forward thinking" cities of the country.

In other words, if you relied on the society that is proclaimed as good, just, and the future, you could have been badly impacted by it.  

It is in small ways, that people would not notice if they were not paying attention:  doing more things around the house, learning new skills, trying one's hand at a garden or even a single tomato plant, choosing a second career or even a non-traditional (by educational standards) first one.  And for what is the third rail in Baja Canada (maybe Alta Canada as well), people taking an interest  - a purchasing and training interest - in self defense.

And they are congregating - again, in small ways and groups.  You will not see this in the social media - most people have learned how that works by now.  A short comment, a shared e-mail - that may be all.  But that is enough.

(As a note, the Dreher article she references, although older (2015) is of interest if you are Christian.  Sort of a call back to the equivalent of the monasteries of the Dark and Middle Ages, which we have discussed here before).

It is not a large leap in progress. But it is something. And in this day and age, any progress in such things is good progress

Friday, June 11, 2021

Friendships Of Convenience

A comment Ed had yesterday about the nature of how working from home had an impact on the concept and practice of work friendships got me to thinking about the nature of work friendship in general.

It is odd. The concept, when I first entered the workforce, was probably similar to a lot of people in my age bracket: formed by television or schooling, the concept was that you would form friends at work with whom you would end up being friends with for years.  This was what entertainment and literature stated the workforce was like.

Over time, however, I found it was different.

To be fair, it was probably in transition even as I was getting my first post-college career job.  The world of the long term, single employer was dying, replaced by the short term, multiple company career person.  Practically, to be more willing to move from job to job often made one more promotable.  

One would have liked to believe that even though people moved about, contact would be maintained.  That was how it was, right?  That is how friendship worked.  You spent hours and hours and hours with people - years sometimes - so even though you were no longer working together, the relationship would hold together, right?  And as technology continued to bloom and grow it became even more convenient to keep in touch with each other - was that not correct?

To both points, it turns out I was in the wrong.

The progression was the same. I have seen it many times now.  Initially you speak with the person fairly regularly, catching up with how things are going at their new job and at the old one, and how their families are doing, etc.  Then within three months, the contact dwindles as you both get busy and have less in common.  Within a year, 90% of the contact is cut off.  You may reach out if you read something significant happening at their job, or they at yours.  But it is only once in a while.

I checked my phone today.  Of 74 numbers I had saved, almost 40%, or 28 numbers, were employees I had worked with, sometimes 40+ hours a week.  A handful of those are people still at the company.  Of the rest, I bet I have not heard from most of them within 6 months or more - if I do not reach out to them, they will not call.

What this taught me, over a long period where I started out believing otherwise, is that work friendships are largely friendships of convenience.  You are friends because at some level you are spending so much time together.  Remove that enforced contact, and suddenly there is little enough to hold you together.

The current job has finally put all of that to rest for me, clarifying something I have been slowly learning over the last few years:  Work is for work.  Friendships are for friendships.  The firmest friendships will never built on something as fleeting as a job.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

The Collapse LXVII: Active Silence

 08 February 20XX +1

My Dear Lucilius:

After giving some thought to my last entry, for the last week I have practiced complete and total silence.

I perceive what you are thinking: You live alone, in a society which is currently without power, in the depths of Winter where you not likely to see people. How large of a challenge is this?

To be fair, you raise reasonable points. All is as you say. But that is also unconscious silence, the silence of just existing now in the world as it now. What I was seeking was active silence, the silence of choice, the silence of practice.

It does not greatly differ from the list above – except with the addition that one has to actively make the decision not to speak out loud at all. Easy enough for some, you might say. Not if you are like me and in the habit of talking to yourself out loud. Often.

And so, I have spent the last seven days actively trying to not say anything.

I did leave a note for young Xerxes on the window for the next time he stopped by, letting him know what was going on and why I would not be answering the door. Other than that, the risk of having anyone visit was very low.

It is easy to practice active silence for an hour, or two, or even five. It becomes more difficult when practiced over days. We unconsciously tend to try and fill the silence with ourselves if we cannot fill it with anything else.

It is odd, as you continue in silence, how much sound you notice – and how loud that sound becomes. The rabbits drinking from their bottles sound like a hail storm. The pop of the fire becomes like a gunshot. I would swear to you I even hear the slow hiss of the water in the coffee pot I keep on the wood stove to humidify the air.

Doing any activity in silence and trying to maintain the silence as much as possible is definitely a change, especially if one has created an atmosphere where noise is in the background. You remember it – the “headphone/ear-pod” culture, where anything which one did not want to get bored doing, one put on headphones or put in ear-pods. Somehow it made the activity less “boring” as one walked away to the oldies or lifted weights to throbbing head thrashing music. But what was the purpose? Take our mind off what we were doing? Make something more palatable? Or engage our mind while somehow we were engaging our body to do something different? It seems rather ridiculous now – if I have chosen to do something, why do I not focus on it body and mind, instead of letting my body wander off one direction and my mind the other?

That is not quite a choice anymore, of course – I have the potential of music from my electronic devices, which of course do not run themselves without power. At best they are a resource which will not even last my lifetime

But as I persevered in my silence, I found it to be a useful exercise.

By not speaking, one has a great deal more ability to follow the thoughts in one’s head. I was much more readily able to track my pack-trains of thought and could come to instantly recognize when they had suddenly taken a turn somewhere other than where I thought they were going. And going about one’s daily tasks of living in silence seems to give them an elegance all their own – in fact, the longer the exercise progressed, the more I worked to carefully see how much of the noise I created just by doing the daily activities of living I could reduce: in preparing meals, in cleaning up, in my exercises and practices, even in the simple act of being – how truly silent could I be.

The experiment is complete and I am back to more of normal existence - the rabbits, despite any self-changes I may have wrought, simply prefer to have someone speak to occasionally and there is value, given the circumstances, in communicating with people such as my young friend that stops by once a week. But it has left me with a lingering practice of being more silent whenever I have the opportunity and means.

It is odd, Lucilius, how much more wisdom we could attain if we were to speak less and be silent more.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

On Patience

 Some of the hardest parts of life have always been the waiting.

I resented this once upon a time:  I was impatient, ready to move on to the next thing or achieve the next success. Sort of like a video game:  You earn the points, you get to level up.

It took me a very long time - and perhaps I am still learning - that life seldom works that way.  In that sense, I have become a believer of the philosophy that success is possible and achievable, just not necessarily on our timeline.  Or to put it another way, when the disciple is ready, the teacher will appear.

I offer an example.

One of the minor things I have aspired to - especially if I move to The Ranch - is to open a dojo.  Partially it is for selfish reasons of course, but also because if I were to move, I would still want and need to train.

I have said nothing about this, even to The Ravishing Mrs. TB.  Or to my Sensei.  I train.  

But over the last few weeks - thankfully, because we have changed dojos and our enrollment is increasing - Sensei has asked me to lead sections of class. My teaching technique is not as good as it should be, and I do need to improve my presentation - but I am doing it.

Suddenly, opening a dojo - and moving to The Ranch and starting all the things that I would want to start there - do not seem  unachievable.  I am getting the experience I need, in a way I did not anticipate.

I need only be patient.

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

The New Normal: An Employment Scenario Update

 Yesterday, in my periodic meeting with my manager, I asked him about a series of departures that our company had been experiencing - was there anything to it?  Some kind of concern about us?  

No, he replied, it was a combination of opportunity and, thanks to the "New Normal", more opportunity for individuals work from home and in some cases a state different from where the company was being located.  It was a recognized problem internally, apparently, to the point where it has become one of the top five questions that candidates ask when they are considering offers behind salary, title, benefits, and work environment.

For companies, of course, the fix in:  over the last 15 months (and counting), employees have demonstrated that they can be effective, efficient, and business can continue to get done.  They have admitted it.  They have succeeded by it. And suddenly, they find themselves hoist on their own petard by it.

To the question "Do we need to be back in the office" a segment of the population - and growing, if what I read online is true - is saying "No, not really.  Prove that you need us there."

It breaks a great many paradigms, of course.  It breaks the paradigm that the company manages best that has every employee at a desk.  It breaks the paradigm that work cannot be efficiently performed outside of an office.  And it emphasizes a trend that was starting twenty years ago:  employees can now be hired nationally or internationally while remaining in their home country or state.  Companies, more than ever, are now competing globally for workers.

It is bad news for some states in Baja Canada as well: suddenly, a worker can support a company in a high tax state while not paying that state's taxes.  States like California and New York are going to continue to bleed revenue (and, of course, fail to realize the reason why).

Yes, I know.  It does not impact everyone, and there is a certain segment of the working population that will always need to be "in the office".  But even then, it has an impact:  employees will want to be paid more to compensate for the fact that they are having to "come in".  (Or, eventually of course, it drives the move to even more automation as employees become harder to find).

As full disclosure (and as most of you know), I have benefitted from this.  I was released from on-site office duty on or about 23 March 2020 and have worked remotely since then. I can count the amount of times I have been into the office since then on the fingers of one hand, and I have not been in at all since last November.  Given a choice, I would not go back in until I turn my computer in to leave (Not that this will happen, of course; there is some amount of limited return being discussed).

The genie is out of the bottle, at least in The West.  People have tasted the freedom of doing work and not being trapped in a controlled environment to do it.  For many who have done so, I doubt they will ever go back.  

Monday, June 07, 2021

Cutting A Stake And Structural Integrity

 This weekend I had to perform a task I have been putting off a while:  removing a tree stake.

The fault is really my own, of course.  When we moved into this house, the previous owners had planted a small tree between us and the Western Neighbors and had staked it with a metal 5' stake (the green ones) to help keep the tree upright.  It worked; the tree flourished and grew.  Until it grew right over the stake and pushed it over into the relatively new fence.

We have lived here 8 years now.  This should not have come as a surprise.

My first thought, of course, was "I will pull it out".  Unfortunately for me, the tree had over grown at least 6 inches of the stake.  No brute strength of mine - or anyone's - was going to remove it.

Doing a quick "Make myself smarter" search (otherwise known as an InterWeb search), I found some had used a car jack (by getting the lip of the jack underneath one of the protrusions on the stake).  It seemed like a reasonable idea and I have a shop jack at home (not one of those minor "comes with your car" jacks), so it was worth a try.  

In principle, it worked very well. In practice, not so much.  The stake was simply more stuck than the jack could move (that, and the protuberances are not that long).  

"Well", I slowly reasoned as put the jack back, "I could try and cut it..."

It turns out they do in fact make saw blades for metal.

Cutting one of these stakes is a daunting task at the face if. I have used the stakes.  You have too.  You know have stiff and unbendable they are.  The idea that somehow I am going to cut my way through seems ridiculous on the face of it.  Except that ruining a fence because I did not pull the stake out seems more ridiculous, so down on my knees I get to start cutting.

The angle is good, so I start cutting.  And cutting.  And cutting.  I can see myself cutting into the stake, so I confidently drop the saw and try pulling.  Nope, still solid.  So I keep cutting.  The saw is now at the level of the upper hillside and every cut drags the upper body of the saw into the dirt (so now I have to clean it as well).

I try again.  Still nothing.

I keep cutting. By this point (it feels like forever, but really it is just maybe 15 minutes), I start the see the saw cutting through the other leg of the stake.  When it breaks through, I stop and pull again.

The upper part of the stake separates from the lower part like model pieces coming out of a plastic sprue.

I temporarily heap up some of the aforementioned disturbed hillside dirt to cover the stake and confidently march back in to dispose of it in the trach.  I look at the end I cut:  it is a clean cut - but I still cannot bend the upper part of the stake.  It is solid.

I am struck in that moment by a truth.

Many things are perceived to be solid, unbendable, unbreakable.  They are.  Even when they start to be cut into or sectioned out, they still maintain their strength - until one hits a tipping point, a structural integrity change which is often invisible to everyone.  The same amount of pressure or force is applied, but suddenly things separate as if they had never been together in the first place.

People who believe that they know limits of such things and how much something can be "stressed" often do not.  It is only when it falls apart in their hands they realize that they have cut or destroyed too deeply or too much.

By then, of course, it is too late to do much of anything.

Sunday, June 06, 2021

An Invocation To The Holy Spirit

Come, true light.
Come, life eternal
Come, hidden mystery.
Come, treasure without name.
Come, reality beyond all words.
Come, person beyond all understanding.
Come, rejoicing without ending.
Come, unfailing expectation of the saved.
Come, raising of the fallen.
Come, resurrection of the dead.
Come, all-powerful, for unceasingly you create, refashion, and change all things by your will alone.
Come, invisible whom none may touch and handle.
Come, for you continue always unmoved, yet of every instant you are wholly in movement; you draw near to us who lie in hell, yet you remain higher than the heavens.
Come, for your name fills our hearts with longing and is ever on our lips; yet who you are and what your nature is, we cannot say or know.
Come, Alone to the alone.
Come, my breath and my life.
Come, the consolation of my humble soul.
Come, my joy, my glory, my endless delight.

- St. Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022), from the book The Orthodox Way by Bishop Kallistos Ware