Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The Way And The World

Outside of Miyamoto Musashi, Takuan Soho (1573 - 1645 A.D.) remains in my mind the most approachable of the Japanese writers on martial arts.  This is a remarkable statement as Soho was himself a Zen monk and not a martial artist, yet his best known works - The Annals of the Sword Taia, The Mysterious Record of Unmovable Wisdom, The Clear Sound of Jewels - make up the work known as The Unfettered Mind.  Some writers that I have read from the Sengoku period and later are confusing and cloud their discussion of the practice of martial arts in phrases and techniques I cannot understand; Soho's works are clear and applicable (Yamaoka Tesshu, a former samurai and writer in the Meiji era, also falls into this second category).

How often, then, do I choose to follow The World rather that The Way?

The Way (Dao or Tao in Chinese, Do in Japanese 道)can mean many things.  In Japanese culture many things have a "Way": The Way of Tea, The Way of Flower Arranging, The Way of the Sword).  And of course in Western culture, "The Way" was the original referral to Christians.  In all cases it suggests that there is a particular path to follow in the quest of reaching to the essence of the activity.

The perfect and flawless Iai technique is the one where the draw, the cut, and the sheathing happens in  one extended motion.  To reach that point, one must move beyond just the mechanical practice of understanding how to apply the technique and reach in to find the spirit of it.  Once the spirit of anything is understood, one can apply it in any situation.

And yet, how often I find myself pulled from my own ways to the ways of the world.

The way of the world is broad.  It demands little from us:  no sacrifice, no thought, just a sort of bland acceptance of what is presented to us.  In return, it grants a sort of blissful well being which is often just a fingernail's length deep: look to the way of the world in times of crisis or challenge and you will often find nothing but parroted phrases and wishful thinking that does not sustain us.

The Way demands more of us; in fact it demands all, although we do not always realize it at the time we set out on it.  At some point in my journey in Iai, I made the conscious decision that I would dedicate myself to it instead of it and other martial art practices.  A man can only master a few things, perhaps only one in his lifetime.

We must choose.

I write to those who - at least so far as I perceive of you through your comments here and other places - have already committed to a Way, in whatever form or fashion you practice it.  I can only hope that I can achieve your levels of commitment.

For all of us, if we would follow The Way, we must turn our back on the world.

Monday, January 30, 2023

January Ranch Walkabout - A View From Above

 (All - My apologies: I am on the road for work returning Wednesday, so my responses to your comments will be delayed as I will only have access to my work computer.)

During my last visit at The Ranch as part of an investigation for a roof leak, I climbed up on the roof to look for any definitive loose shingles.  As part of that activity, I took a video from the top of the house.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Embarking On The Virtuous Life


"All those who wish to embark on the toils of the virtuous life should train themselves to the task gradually, and keep on until perfection is achieved.  Do not be confused by the many different paths our forefathers exemplified, and do not try to copy all of them exactly, for this would upset your way of life.  No, you must choose a way of life that suits your lesser abilities.  Travel your road and you will find life there, for your Lord is merciful and he will find you acceptable not only because of your achievements, but because of your heart's intentions, just as he received the poor widow's gift (Mark 12:43)."

- Evagrios Pontike, from Standing in God's Holy Fire:  The Byzantine Tradition, John Anthony McGuckin

Saturday, January 28, 2023

2023 Garden: Planning

 I am trying to get an early start on my garden planning this year.

One of my goals for this year was "Learn more about permacultures and gardening" and do it.  Part of this just stems from the fact that my gardens here have been marginal at best, which is likely due to a combination factors:  poorly chosen plantings (what grew in Old Home will not grow in New Home), erratic water management, some distressingly hot Summers, and dumb luck (always bad).  Part of this also stems from the fact that overall, our suburban home landscape is set up just like everyone else's around here with grass (that never quite gets enough water for the Summer except in an exceptionally wet one) and no sprinkler system (which makes aforementioned watering a chore, as well as expensive).

I have been reading, of course (my solution to everything). A book that I recommend and fully intend to review (makes careful note to do so) is Gabe Brown's Dirt To Soil, which talks a great deal (almost exclusively) about soil restoration as path to topsoil rebuilding, soil improvement, and water retention.  These are all things that my garden - and my yard - would benefit from.

So the "Plan the Garden" project has turned into "plan the garden and improve the entire yard" project.

In terms of the garden, I think it wise to pull the total amount of area I was planting.  Readers from last year may recall The Red Neck Raised Bed, the pile of decaying wood pellets from my rabbits that I attempted to grow sweet potatoes in (and failed badly).   This would not only focus my efforts a bit more, but especially allow me to get my watering more under control

Another note is that the lime trees got hit by the cold snap we had (yet again) and shed their leaves (yet again).  They are going to come out this year for sure; I got one good crop of limes but never another (and I had no idea why they are marketed in my part of the country).  If I can find a mandarin tree that would be even better as they have a lower cold tolerance (but no luck to date) - but even then, I am not planting it in the same place.

What that will leave me with is one section that is 20' x 2'8" and a smaller section (now with the aforementioned lime trees to be removed of 16' x 3'.  That is a total square footage of 61' - which should be enough for me to do some good if I just focus on that area (to more or less the exclusion of all else).

The rest of the yard?  I am really given consideration to treating it effectively as "pasture".  Long time readers may recall I attempted to seed with clover some years back (which did not really take hold).  Brown's book has given me more to think about in this regard - to be fair, the soil hereabouts has largely all been "lawn" for almost 30 years and a monoculture anywhere will strip out certain nutrients.

To be frank, the other thing I am looking for is ease of management.  Assuming the world does not fall apart between now and the end of Autumn (would that this be true), I will likely be away for a bit.  I would like to have something that, with a bit of automated watering, can still be managed even though I am not here.

So I am re-reading my gardening books and my permaculture works and looking at the Baker Creek Seed Catalog and really trying to make hard decisions on what will grow and what we will likely eat.

Gardening:  A practice where hope truly can spring eternal, even in the face of repeated failures

Friday, January 27, 2023

Burbling Stream

 Burbling stream sings
of a Spring that is coming 
in the Winter's depths.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

The Collapse LXXXIX: A Haircut

23 April 20XX+1

My Dear Lucilius:

For the first time in a very long time, I got a haircut.

Statiera’s mother, hereby renamed Pompeia Paulina (I hear you chuckle from afar, Lucilius; the fact that she is named after Seneca’s wife is as unoriginal for me as it is doubtless amusing to you) mentioned in passing at our lunch this Sunday that it appeared that it had been “some time” since I had been the recipient of a hair trim.

She was right, of course: to be honest I cannot remember the last time I had one. I have always been a negligent at best about getting such things, oscillating between a buzz cut and letting it grow for months on end without doing a thing. I suppose I never had a “look”, but tended towards whatever was easiest (and cheapest). Under the current circumstances, it has mostly been just getting it out of the way in the morning.

But you know the saying: if a woman that has made you a meal comments on anything about your personal appearance, it might be time to give it some consideration (to be fair, I do not think that is a saying, but I suspect it has common knowledge for thousands of years).

But where, precisely, does one get a haircut in a world limited to foot traffic and without a cash economy?

The solution came, as most of these things seem to now, through young Xerxes, who knew of someone in town that was at one time a hair stylist. And so, I found myself out in a lawn chair in the cool Spring weather in a weave lawn chair with a towel over me, waiting for a haircut.

I cannot describe to you the complete sense of sheer surrealism I felt at that moment Lucilius: a year ago this would have been done in a shop with a chair, a mirror, and someone cutting my hair with a license on the wall and an electric razor in one hand. A year later I was in the blue afternoon sky with a light breeze with the proverbial older woman hairdresser armed with a pair of scissors and a comb, asking me what I wanted.

I opted for longer, not so much because I suddenly picture myself as suddenly having re-entered the Middle Ages (although it could be argued that we have) as much as it would be less difficult to manage longer term, if for no other reason I could go longer without an additional visit. And so we sat beneath the April sky, she trimming and I rotating my head forward and back as we made the sorts of conversation one makes with any sort of personal service where one is effectively trapped in place.

She and her husband were retired, having moved here just two years ago from farther south. They drove through here on their way to the larger National Park nearby and feel in love with the place; the next year the moved here. Her husband was a plumber in his former life and, as it turns out, still did a turn or two of work even now.

Handy to know, that.

She teared up a bit when she talked about her family: a son and a daughter, both married, both somewhere south of here and not heard from since everything fell apart. She felt as if they were still alive, but had absolutely nothing to base that on other than a dream she had.

I sympathized and told her of my own situation and my own daughters whom I had heard from in at least that long. Odd that the pain is still fresh even though nothing has changed.

Young Xerxes and Statiera strolled by at one point to observe – and kindly brought Pompeia Paulina with them to “observe the results”. Everyone, it seems, thought this was a delightful turn of events – except me of course, but my opinion seemed to be the least relevant.

At the end of the haircut, when the towel was removed and the hair flicked out into the wind to blow away, we got to the question of payment. How does one pay in a world where money has no meaning. I offered her a jar of honey, which she happily accepted. Whether or not I overpaid will remain to be seen the next time I come for a trim.

It feels good to have a haircut; I feel almost human again. Odd how such a small activity can recall to one the simple pleasures of civilization.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

A Last Physical Therapy Appointment

(My apologies - my Old English posts have been running on Wednesdays but I find myself a bit behind in research.  Rather than publish something I am not happy with, I am substituting a different post.  To return next week!)

Yesterday I had my last physical therapy appointment.

The fact that this was supposed to be my last appointment was discussed two weeks ago with my PT doctor.  This is something that he had mentioned at my last appointment prior to my going to The Ranch; a combination of me gaining back full functionality after 3 months of PT and the fact that my allocated amount of visits is almost at an end.

When I arrived, I did not have my regular doctor but another one I have seen - no big deal, I had seen them switching patients when one of them was out.  He introduced himself and we went started going through the exercise regime.

Physical Therapy, if you have done it for a while, becomes a semi-individual activity:  the exercise is suggested and quickly covered, then you are left on your own to do the exercise. If new, they will observe and correct, then leave you to it.

And so we rolled through this week's exercises: most the same, one or two new, for about an hour or so as the appointments tend to run.  At the end, the PT assistant looked at my chart, ran her eyes down the list, and said "Okay, you are finished today".

And that was it.

I am not sure what I expected.  Some kind of transition process, commentary, things to be aware of.  Instead it was up to the front for my copay and then off without any mention of scheduling another appointment or checking in if anything occurred.

I am probably reading too much into this - this is a business of course, and they do this all the time - but I honestly felt sad as I left.  Not sad because I was leaving, but sad because, well, I just felt like an after thought.

I had no complaints of my time there - everyone was nice and engaging and frankly, the end result was achieved - my shoulder is back to full mobility and lack of pain (if not completely strengthened yet).

So perhaps there is something else going on here.

I have the tendency - correct or not - to pour meaning into all kinds of relationships that simply is not there.  This is a tendency from youth, where I would see relationships and imagine connections that were real in my mind but were not present anywhere else (when as a teenager and young adult you have the tendency to fall in love five times a week, this happens).  Most went away without any sort of impact but occasionally there would be that moment where the other party looked genuinely confused when you suddenly made a big deal about a moment or a parting which was for them just a two minute event.

I, of course, was crushed.

So likely that is what this is yet again:   a view of the world that I had formed anything other than the briefest of business relationships with a group of individuals who regularly process a fair number of people every week.  They likely meant no more by it than they would for any other patient; in spite of my own imagined good nature, I suspect I make no more impression than other.

But even as I admit this, I cannot help but acknowledge the sense of sadness as I drove away.  I can intellectually understand all of this; the parts of me from long ago still treat such a thing as a dismissal, even if  I have evidence to the contrary.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

January 2023 Walkabout

 We have had a spot of rain or two in January, but at least there was some sun last week for a walkabout.

Lower Meadow:

Lower Meadow again.  The seasonal pond is already full and there was a fair amount of water running to it:

The stream along the base of the pastures was full:

Looking up towards the Middle Meadow:

This is the spring in the Middle Meadow.  It has gone dry for years.  I have blown up the pipe for the pond - it has been a long time since I saw that kind of flow:

Upper Meadow:

Back down the Middle Meadow:

More of the Upper Meadow and winding around it:

This the base of the Upper Meadow. The calves were slipping out here so The Cowboy put a cattle panel in place to keep them out.  As it turns out, it also kept them out of the culvert, keep the culvert clear, and is forcing water to stand a lot longer than it would have otherwise to soak in.

The garden area.  Too wet to work in now.

Completing the circuit, back towards the house.

Monday, January 23, 2023

The Work Underground

 As with most places of employment that I have worked at, I have ended up with two individuals whom surpass the role of coworker and have become friends.

The mechanics of this likely remain the same in the modern era, although much more delicate than they used to be.

In one case it is a someone who used to report to me (I hired them originally) who was my "therapist" in my senior management role, the one who I could go to when I was frustrated or upset or just "out of sorts" and knew both that everything was confidential and that the advice I was getting was good.  The second is a more recent addition, a coworker in my area who, as we worked together, found out we had more in common as people than just we both worked in the same department.

I say "more delicate".  There is almost a dance that happens now, a slow unveiling of the personality, as one continues down this path.  One will have a brief burst of personality in a small, trivial way - what is the reaction?  Is it responded to?  Is it positive?  Is it ignored?  Or one is the recipient of such a contact - the same sorts of questions arise:  Should I respond?  Have I mis-interpreted the comment?  Layer by layer these contacts continue until inevitably there is a conversation - always between the two parties - where something truly personal is revealed.  

And suddenly, you find out you have lots of things to talk about.

It strikes me as odd that these sorts of relationships now in the workplace are what I feel as if the French Resistance must have been like in World War II:  heads down and not attracting attention to yourself, briefly seeing your comrades in the daylight without acknowledging them, and clandestine meetings where real matters are discussed.  There is thought given to what is said on private and non-private communication lines.  

At some point, of course, all of this end:  I will leave, or my likely my friends will leave.  The interesting thing to me (if such a thing can be interesting) is that when they leave, there likely will not be anyone to take their place - much like in the Resistance when people disappeared, they did not come back.  Which makes me equally happy and sad, of course:  happy for my friends, selfishly sad for myself.

When I had started work all those years ago, it seemed like almost everyone I worked with was a work friend.  Now, entering what seems like it could be end of the process, I find it quite reversed: the friends are few and far between, the silence defeaning.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

The Firm And Waiting For The Deal

 One of the hardest periods of my adult employed life was September to December 2005.  The period was the immediate period post failure of the entity known as The Firm, a real estate business I and my friend Himself had founded.

The Firm had been in business for around 17 months, starting in April of the previous year when I had cast aside my former employment in the Biopharmaceutical industry on what then amounted to a dream and a prayer, neither of which was terribly well thought out at the time.  My reasons were, at the time, rational - a 120 mile a day round trip to work, exhaustion, and a friend who was obviously successful - but as with many (most) businesses, reasons to do something are not reasons things succeed.

And so, on August 2nd 2005, the company was dissolved.

I had to scramble after that, as I had a family, an increased mortgage payment from when I started at the Firm, a month's worth of health care, and almost no savings. Fortunately 2005 was not later in my life and a job was procured within a month of my firing of myself.  In what was perhaps some of the best evidence I had of God's sense of humor, I went back to work at slightly less salary and a lower title, doing the same job.  Literally in 1.5 years, I was back where I had started or even a little behind.

But there still were "The Deals".

The Deals were those remaining ongoing projects that we had when we had dissolved the company.  Himself had kept them as he was going to continue on in real estate.  The agreement was that anything resulting from those deals would be split between the three of us that had been at the company, since we had all worked to get them to that point.  

And so, outside of the trying to reconcile myself to going back to something I thought I had left forever, I continued to follow up on The Deals.

We  could have used the money, of course.  Draining one's savings and then starting over is nerve wracking (and I do not recommend it at all).  And so I kept checking in with the energy of a chipmunk wrangling an acorn. 

Once upon a time Himself and I had spoken literally every day.  We had, at one time, a deep relationship that had spanned 12 years prior to starting The Firm - our wives were best friends, and thus so were we.  All of that had been reduced to this, periodic phone calls checking in, couched in the language that we had used to use  - "How are you doing?  How are things going now?" but always with background of "And how are the deals going?"

It was not my best moment by a long shot.

In December, the one deal that had survived closed.  True to his word, Himself brought the check by to the house, dropping it off with The Ravishing Mrs. TB while I was away at work.  The money, as I recall, was used to pay a periodic recurring bill immediately.

The following January we spoke again.

 I can remember scene well:  it was overcast and I was crossing the bridge over the river before driving through the fields on the way to work.  This was a drive I had made for 5 months now and had become familiar; I would often talk on the phone to pass the time.

We caught up  that last time on the phone.  The Deals were no longer part of the conversation of course, other than a thanks for dropping the check off.  We chatted a bit about how our lives were going; he was, as he had always been, confident about the future and what was to come.  We said our goodbyes and hung up. I remember this because I can recall to this day the precise geographic place where he told me that "things were going fine".

And that, as it turned out, was the last time we ever spoke to each other.

I can go over any number of ways I failed in this last part of the relationship, but the single biggest thing that comes to mind was simply my interest only in the fact of the money.  Yes, the need was there and yes, the need was great - but there was a level of trust which for many years before I had simply given that I now suddenly withdrew when the money was involved.  I had no evidence he would not keep his word, yet acted as if he would not.  His situation was no better than mine in terms of finances, yet I acted as if I was the only one that was suffering and had needs.

The silence that followed those years that ended, 4 years later, in me sitting in a coffee shop for a meeting that never happened (another story, of course), should not have surprised me at the time.  I had laid the groundwork for that moment carefully, emphasizing the only aspect of the relationship that was temporal and would pass and ignoring the larger realities of what had been a deep friend and the realities of his own need as well.  

The bitterness I felt at that moment was really a brew of my own making.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

A Cornucopia Of Books

 As usual, between gifts and books I purchased with gifts (including the Great Book Hunt), I started out the year with reading list already in hand.  

Mollison (Permaculture 2) and Brown (Dirt To Soil) come recommended to me from Friend of this blog Leigh Tate:

Nighean Gheal bought me these for Christmas.  She is interested in fashion and clothing, so I have received several books from her over the years on Japanese fashion.  The book of Japanese plays fills in a gap in my knowlege:

Osprey Publishing does some of the best work I am aware of in terms of military history and armor/arms; their books are great references.  The two budo books (Classical Budo, Classical Bujutsu) are by Donn Draper, considered an early pioneer in martial arts writing post World War II.  The last book, As I Crossed A Bridge of Dreams was unknown to me, but is a diary by a 11th Century woman in Heian Japan along the lines of Sei Shonagon's Pillow Book or in the time and style of Murasaki's The Tale Of Genji.  The fact that even though it is was both used and somewhat older it was still at full price suggest something rare and fun.

I was able to find the Loeb Classical Library's 3 volume set of Seneca's Moral Essays sold together for 2/3's of what the new books would have cost - all with their dust jackets, all covered in dust jacket covers, in perfect condition:

History:  Victor Davis Hanson (War of the Ancient Greeks) is always a treat no matter what he writes.  The Lives of the Stoics is in theory a high level review of stoicism, something I picked up an interest in last year.  Paul Rahe's book  Classical Sparta is the only one of the series of his four volume work "The Grand Strategy of Classical Sparta" that I have not been able to find used in either stores or on-line; I finally had to by it new.  And of course, what is a library with a history of the Ostrogoths?:

Traditions Of Christian Spirituality is a series starting in the 1990's which originally covered various traditions in the Catholic church (I have the books on the Cistercians and the Carmelites).  They are a wonderful introduction to the various sub-units and include both history and a sampling of the literature of that sub-group.  Apparently they had branched out into other Christian traditions; I bought one on Celtic Christianity (Journey On The Edges) and the Orthodox church (Standing In God's Holy Fire):

Thus, I entered the New Year with eighteen books to read which, along with the four I had purchased in December, started the year with twenty two - about a quarter of what I usually read in a year.

Bonus Round 1:  Perhaps to the surprise of no-one, I have a book allowance for myself.  This came in January.  I have been eyeing it for month (some readers may recall I have often quoted parts of Olivier's book The Roots of Christian Mysticism):

Bonus Round 2:  In November 2022, I also supported the Permies Kickstarter to support a video of permaculture based on the work of Masanobu Fukuoka (One Straw Revolution).  As a thank you for that support, I received the following electronic bundles:

- 3D Plans for a Pebble Style Rocket Mass Heater
- EZ Cob Rocket Stove
- A chapter from Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist
Thermophilic Compost for Garden or Home
-  Wheaton's Video Series on Gaia's Garden
- Building a Better World
- Huglekultur: The Ultimate Raised Bed Gardening
- Together Resilient
- Learning to Spin with a Drop Spindle
- A Year In An Off Grid Kitchen
- Guide to Qualitative Assessment of Soil Microbiology with the Microscope

Bonus Round 3:  As part of my Christmas present to myself, I also bought the Permies 2022 Bundle:

- 5 Acres & A Dream The Sequel, chapter 6: "Food Self-Sufficiency: Feeding Ourselves"
- Hotbed Plans + Self Heating Winter Greenhouse
- Understanding Roots
 -From Home to Small Town Homestead
- 3 issues of Tiny House Magazine (Issue 115, Issue 118, Issue 119)
-The Hugelkultur chapter of Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist from Michael Judd
- Clean With Cleaners You Can Eat
- Joel Salatin's Successional Success - Fields of Farmers
 -Planting for Bees video
 -High Performance Gardening
  -Companion Planting Guide
- The High Art and Subtle Science of Scrounging
- Cook with What You Have
- Neal Kinsey's Hands-On Agronomy Video Workshop from Acres USA
- A Guide to Buy it Once Cookware
- Together Resilient
- Harvesting Rainwater for your Homestead in 9 Days or Less
- The Weekend Homesteader: Winter
- 6 Ways to Keep Chickens
- 19 Skiddable Structures
- Permaculture Playing Cards
- Tour of Wheaton Labs, the Movie
- Paul Wheaton's Permaculture Thorns Presentation
- Round Wood Timber Framing: the Berm Shed Movie
- Care and Feeding of Rocket Mass Heaters
 - Hugelkultur microdoc
- Introduction to Welding in 47 Minutes movie
Welding a Grate to go on Top of a Portable j-tube
- 21 podcast review of Sepp Holzer's Permaculture from Paul Wheaton
- Permaculture Thorns – A Book About Trying to Build Permaculture Community

I would love to say that I am not planning to buy anything else this year, but I likely would be lying...

Friday, January 20, 2023

A 40th Friendiversary Celebrated

As longer time readers of this blog may recall, last year I, along with my friends The Actor and Uisdean Ruadh, celebrated our 40th year as friends.  This sort of thing seems to happen less and less, at least in my own life - I cannot think of anyone else that would come close to that amount of time these days - so we had fully intended to make plans to celebrate.

Then, of course, life happened.  Uisdean Ruadh and his mother both got expelled from their homes and then relocated.  Not too long after that, TB the Elder passed.  Then Summer ended and we all got trapped back into the web of the common work week.

Until this past Monday when a combination of factors - me being at The Ranch and all of us having a day off - presented itself.  And so, we celebrated.

"Celebrated" is a pretty elaborate term for what we actually did.  

We all met at the high school we graduated from to walk around and take pictures.  The school still looks somewhat the same in form, although they have added buildings where parking and basketball courts used to be and entire buildings have been pulled down and rebuilt.  We could still reel off the names of teachers we had and where they taught.  We took our picture in front of the theater which was really the center of our existence during high school as well as the music building (or at least where the music building is now).

The day was overcast but not terribly rainy and because of the holiday, we had the campus largely to ourselves, which both made for good pictures and good memories.  We crossed the paths and streets we had undoubtedly run or walked hundreds of times in years gone by - for me at least, this was the first time in almost forty years I had done more than just drive by the campus.

After our visit and photo shoot, we adjourned to a local lunch place where we ate lunch, divided up a box of forty cookies (our celebratory portion), and talked.  The talk was perhaps a little more about high school but was much more about the now:  how children were doing, our health, options about what we were thinking about doing after "work"  - the sorts of things friends discuss when they are together.  By common unspoken consent, we largely avoided current events and the real world (we always try to), as it can create issues where there need be done.

We parted after lunch - the Actor to continue his work of chain-sawing downed trees, Uisdean Ruadh and I back to The Ranch where visited for another two hours and watched the rain fall.

It was a good day.  And almost the perfect way to celebrate forty years of being together.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

The Collapse LXXXVIII: The Sabbath

20 April 20XX +1

My Dear Lucilius:

Another Sunday has come and gone. Yes, I went to church yet again (once again, the pews were full). Yes, I may or may not have had another brunch with Young Xerxes and Statiera and her mother (whom, apparently, I rather had come up with her own name, it appears). After that, the day was spent with what would have been formerly called “puttering”, but now probably goes more by the moniker “surviving” – tasks at hand in the greenhouse and in The Cabin proper to get ready for what I am hopeful will finally turn over into a useful Spring.

The fine thing about such small level tasks is that it allows the mind to work while the body is performing useful tasks. With nothing but time (and small tasks) on my mind, I found myself how I was spending my time on this Sunday, specifically on the concept of a Sabbath.

One of the great discussion we had once was on the Sabbath. I wonder if you recall it now: it was early Summer when the heat had still not arrived. We had both had our cider – perhaps a little more than we should have! - and were discussing our understanding of Sunday worship. You were ardently arguing your side and your practice, I was ardently arguing mine. What we came to an agreement on was that 1) Worship should always be part of the Sabbath; and 2) Rest should be some part of the Sabbath. We quibbled on what else fell into the “do/not do” category: I tried to abstain from electronics which you thought was no different from listening to the radio while driving to or from worship, you abstained from significant outside efforts, which I viewed as the opportunity to “get things done”.

I recalled that discussion as I went about my tasks in the cool wind (oh, but Spring is coming Lucilius. I know it), looking back towards the small town I have called home now for some years with the drifting smoke and sounds of children playing outside and dogs barking and the muffled sounds of work. What, I wondered, is the place of the Sabbath in this new world we find ourselves in?

One can argue that we face a similar situation as the Israelites (anciently) or sub-populations like the Mennonites (more recently) in that we are rapidly finding ourselves in an agricultural/survival environment. If no-one paid attention to St. Paul’s admonition “He who does not work, let him not eat” before, I doubt there are any disbelievers now. The amount of effort to do the things needed for survival is now a never ending, 7 day a week sort of job where daylight means the opportunity to get more done or in place.

What place, then, has the Sabbath?

For three weeks running now I have attended church (something I have not done regularly in years) and attended a meal with others. By the time we were done it was perhaps 1 PM. At this time of year, I easily still have 6-7 hours of useful daylight left. What part of that should be used as the other days of the week, and what other part in rest and refreshment?

I suspect it is a sliding scale of course: some times there is much to be done (and that can be done), sometimes there is little. But what occurs to me is that every Sabbath, it is valuable to take at least some time – 30 minutes, an hour – and simply “rest”. Rest, of course, to me is reading or writing; to you it was sitting and listening to your beloved radio programs. It is probably different for everyone. But I think the kernel of the practice, even in these times, is to set aside some period where we are to turn away – however briefly – from the vicissitudes of the world and seek some quiet and inner enjoyment.

We were such a busy society before, always spending every minute of the day doing things. Our relaxation often became just another task we had to accomplish. I wonder, Lucilius, how our view of that has changed now.

Your Obedient Servant,


Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Old English: A Historical Background - From Rome To Abandonment

(Author's note:  History is a wide ranging discipline which in some senses can be fluid as we learn new things and in some cases is solid as we choose to interpret events and findings in light of our own day, not the day in which it happened.  Individuals spend their whole lives studying these things.  My very concise overview is meant as nothing more than that:  an overview to give background.  All errors and omissions remain my own.) 

The province of Britain circa 5th Century A.D. had a problem.

Britain, as you may recall from your breezy view of it through Western Civilization history, was originally "visited" by Julius Caesar (before his tragic accident at the Forum) in 55 B.C. and a Roman sphere of influence created.  This was followed up by the outright invasion of Britain by the Emperor Claudius in 44 A.D.  There were some awkward moments - Boudicca's Rebellion in 70 A.D. created a bit of a stir, and well as grumpy  tribes beyond the periphery, causing the Emperors Hadrian and Septimus Severus to "build (and then rebuild) that wall" which we know as Hadrian's Wall- but the what was the Celtic culture became what has been referred to as the Romano-Celtic British:  archaeologists have found houses, farms and towns that would be not be out of place in any other corner of the Empire.

Times change, though.  Britain was never quite the heartland of the Empire the way Gaul or Egypt was.  Everything - troops, supplies, etc. - had to travel at some point via ship to cross the Channel.  And it was not just supplies that came by seas.  Starting in the late 3rd Century, Saxon pirates (emulated later by their Norse cousins) began raiding the Eastern (soon to be called "Saxon") Shore.  From the West, the Gaels from Ireland raided as well - the word for the inhabitants of that island, Scoti, would eventually come to form the name of a certain state to the North).  And to the North, the Picts (perhaps Celtic, perhaps not - the jury is still out) were a constant threat. In 367 all three peoples attacked Britain - which were all pushed back, but it was starting to become apparent that the Rome could not longer support Britain as it had in the past.

What accelerated the issue was the fact that generals began to get minded of becoming emperors.  And emperor's needed armies in those days to "convince" the other generals or rulers who thought they were going to do the same thing.  And so, at least two generals - Magnus Maximus in 383 A.D. and Constantine III in 407 A.D. - stripped the troops from the province and set off for Gaul and (in theory) Rome.  With the disappearance of the legions in 407 A.D., they were never to return again.

Not that the Roman Empire did not have a lot going on elsewhere at this time.  In 376 A.D. the Goths had crossed the Danube in Winter and began to "make themselves at home".  And it was not just Magnus Maximus and Constantine III that were vying for promotions - other generals with other "good ideas that needed a trial" were also seeking to gain the The German invasion of the Alans, the Vandals, and the Suebi began in 410 A.D., resulting in what would ultimately be called "The Sack of Rome".

And so, in the years 410 -411 A.D. (at least, so the common legend goes), the inhabitants of Britain sent a request to the then reigning emperor Honorius for relief.  The Emperor, hold up in a castle while the the countryside was being overrun by the Germans, wrote back to the Romano-British civitates (cities) that they now needed to look to their own defense.

Works consulted:

Blair, Peter Hunter:  Roman Britain and Early England 55 B.C. - A.D. 871.  WW Norton and Company:  London, 1991.

Nicolle, David:  Arthur And The Anglo-Saxon Wars.  Osprey Publishing:  Hong Kong, 1984

MacDowall, Simon:  Germanic Warrior 236-568 AD.  Osprey Publishing:  Hong Kong, 1996

Wikipedia:  End of Roman Rule In Britain, Honorius, Constantine III

Monday, January 16, 2023

On Discussions

 Last week, Friend of this blog Old AF Sarge at Chant du Depart  posted what essentially was an "Open Mic" post on a particular subject (war, in this case).  The link is here if you are curious (again, not something we discuss generally), and the point of this post is not the subject of that post, but rather the content of the commentators.

This, in theory, was the sort of post where things can go horribly wrong:  a potentially contentious subject, a "Go discuss" imperative, and (from what I could see) minimal editorial intervention.  A total of 50 comments and responses.  

Not one angry or contentious response.

Part of me - that vaguely sarcastic, ironic part of me that sometimes feels like the funny things that are funny in my head should be said out loud, which never works out well for me - thought about posting something along the lines of "What is this?  Reasoned, rational debate among peers without anger or name calling? Heresy!  What sort of site are you running, Sir?"  (The better part of me restrained myself, of course).  But for not posting it, it was true.  Here, in essence, was actual discussion happening around a subject that can stir strong emotions (and language).

How, by the grace of God, did this happen?

We are in increasingly short supply of such things, in the electronic world and in the real world (Thankfully not at this site, of course.  Every one here is exemplary).  The ability to simply say "Here is a subject we may need to talk about" and have people actually talk about it from their point of views without everyone making ad hominem attacks or stating "You are a ______ (fill in the blank)" with no support is what, from all I can tell, passing for "debate" these days.

The whole thing is rather sad.

I am not the sort of person that reacts to this kind of environment well at all.  Long ago, a college professor told me that I did not really debate, I simply put facts out there and assumed everyone saw things the way I did based on the evidence (to be fair, he was correct).  And I certain cannot deal with the escalation in volume and body language when someone tries by verbal force to make the point they cannot make with logic.

If I had to picture us now, I almost see us as people that are rent by wounds not physical but verbal and instead of working to bind them up, continue to go on rending because at this point, there is nothing else we know how to do. 

There is another side of course, the side represented by the fine discussion at Sarge's site, the part where people can be rent by wounds but people are respectful of rending others and in some cases are actively working to bind up those rents.  They are not nearly as noticeable because (frankly) quiet is not as nearly as powerful as loud in the public arena.  

The unfortunate reality of rent wounds is, of course, that one will actively bleed out at some point while those that have been quietly binding up those wounds will continue on, working quietly and quite often in silence and the background.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Lectio Divina: Meditatio and Comtempatio

 Last week in my general post on Lectio Devina (Divine Reading), Leigh of Five Acres And A Dream had asked the following question:

"I would be interested in understanding the difference between meditation (meditatio) and contemplation (contemplatio)."

The following is my understanding of these concepts. Any and all errors remain my own.  Of note, I have found the book Praying the Word:  An Introduction to Lectio Divina by Enzo Bianchi to be extremely helpful in this matter.

Meditatio:  Meditation.  From Bianchi's work:

"Reflect on the text with your understanding, enlightened by God's own light.  As you proceed, you may want to make use of some aids....Chew the word over in your heart and apply the message to yourself, to your life situation....Focus on Christ.  Reflect on Christ who dwells within you and not just on yourself alone.  It is he who will transform you".

Contemplatio: Contemplation.  Again, from Bianchi:

"You are now in partnership with the Lord.  Try to see everything through his eyes:  yourself, other people, life events, history, every creature, and the whole world.  Contemplation is seeing everything and everyone through God's eyes...

Simplified, meditation is when I reflect on the Word and seek to understand it; contemplation is when I apply the Word to my life as God would have me see it.

Perhaps an example is in order.

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21)

Meditatio:  I read and re-read this passage several times.  I have found if I read it out loud, it forces me to slow down and actually listen to the words.  I consult any concordances or Bible aids (I have both in mine, a New King James version) for commentary on the passage.  In this case, of interest is the word "treasures" - thesauros  in the Greek - which means not only treasure, but store, treasure box, storeroom.

Contemplatio:  I think about the passage and see what sticks out to me, what calls out in my mind.  For example, in this passage Christ is talking about "treasures", which seems to indicate (based on what can happen to it - thieves, rust, moths) as physical treasure - which is usually how it is translated.  But as I think about it, treasure is (to me, anyway) not just found in physical things.  It is found in other things as well:  Friendship.  Education.  Physical Health.  Family Relationships.  These are all "treasures" as well - how do I lay them up in Heaven as well?  (I do not have a firm answer to this yet).

In short:  Meditation is where I think over the verse itself in multiple different forms and fashions. Contemplation is where I take the verse and work to apply it to my own life, trying to understand it as God would have me apply it to my life.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Capella Romana: Prokeimenon

 One of the apps on my phone that I have come to enjoy is Ancient Faith Radio, specifically the music portion.  They play various portions of the Orthodox service (in English and Greek). On the whole, I find it much more expressive and engaging than what seems to pass for worship music in most modern churches.

During my listening, I was introduced to the group Capella Romana, a "professional vocal ensemble that performs early and contemporary sacred music in the Christian traditions of East and West".  The music in question was Orthodox Greek Chant, which strikes me as similar to Western Gregorian chant but with a more soaring harmonies.

They have given performances in which their voices were electronically adjusted to give a sense of what the sound would have been like if it had been sung in the Hagia Sophia, the Church of Holy Wisdom built by the Eastern Emperor Justinian (and not used as such since the conquest of Constantinople in 1453).  Below is a portion of that concert (run time 5:40).  The particular song is the Prokeimenon (typically sung before a Scripture reading).

Friday, January 13, 2023

Ranking Goals: A CARVER Approach

In a comment on my entry on my 2023 goals, friend of the blog and PEZ master John Wilder asked the question "Which (goals) are the most important"?

It is a fair question, as my list is fairly long.  For once, I actually have an answer.

Some years ago I was introduced to the idea of a CARVER in Richard Machowicz's book Unleash The Warrior Within (2002 edition).  Machowicz was a Navy SEAL and adapts the mindset and tools to average lives like my own (as a note, I have read more than one book authored by a Navy SEAL; I still find Machowicz's book very approachable).  CARVER is an acronym (comments taken from Machowicz's book):

Criticality:  How vital to this is the overall mission?  If I hit this target, is going to contribute to achieving ultimate victory?

Accessibility:  How easily can I get to this target?  How easy is it for me to hit this target?

Recognizability:  How easy for me is it to find this target?  How easy or difficult is it for me to recognize the things I need to do in order to knock down this target down?

Vulnerability:  What is the degree of force needed to destroy the target?  Can it be easily finished within a certain time frame?  What is the extent of the resources to knock down this target down?

Effect on the Overall Mission:   To what degree will the destruction of this target affect my enemy?  How much closer will this get us to ending the war?

Return on Effort (Recuperability):  Can the enemy recover from the destruction of this target?  If so, how long will it take?  What is the return on the initial investment of resources, and when will I see it?

One takes each of these categories and ranks them from low/hard to achieve or recognize (1) to high/easy to achieve or recognize (5).  A simple total at the end of the matrix and voila!  One has a ranking system.

It is obviously not designed for war in this case, and a couple of caveats have to be applied. The first is that one has to be ruthlessly honest about the assessment of each goal and each item.  The second is that one has to accept a certain amount of "fluidity" in the assessment; these are at best your own assessments that may change.

This is a sample of what my template looks like.

I have to confess I very much like this tool.  To the extent that you are ruthlessly honest, the tool makes it very easy to assess things side by side as the numbers are the numbers.  One can be surprised by what actually rises to the "top" as most important based on the criteria (like most things, this usually takes me 3-4 rounds).

In my case, this exercise gave me the following top five goals:
1)  Weekly Date Night/Activity with The Ravishing Mrs. TB
2)   Practice Lectio Divina and prayer for 30 minutes a day
3)  Increase Maximum Weight on Bench Press, (Safety Bar) Squat, and Deadlift
4)  Aerobic training for Hike in August to include at least a 5K run
5)  Industry certification

The first four did not surprise me.  The last one did, as it beat things like Iaijutsu, Writing, and many other activities.  Why?  I think because of the combination of it being a discrete task and the fact that indirectly, it helps other things. And, of course, once it is finished I can move on to something else.

If you are looking for a way to organize your goals, I highly recommend it.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

The Collapse LXXXVII: Book Club

 (Editor's note:  Long time readers may recall that from 2018 to 2021 I had written a fiction series called The Collapse, chronicling the experiences of an older man - Seneca - as the society around him started to dissolve in the not too distant future.  The serial was written as a series of letters between the author, Seneca, and his friend, Lucilius (mirroring the design of Seneca's Letters From A Stoic).  I made over 80 entries (located here)  before stopping for no particularly good reason.  With a new year comes many new things, including the reminder that - if for no other reason than the practice - I should pick up the story again.

As a short reminder, Seneca is now about a year following his initial sense of something going wrong (A Visitor) and about 9 months following the unraveling of the economy (No More Shopping).  He is a retired widower living in the North of the United States (based on the climate).  Beyond Lucilius his friend, other characters included Xerxes, a young man that has made himself a friend and helper, his girlfriend Statiera, and Statiera's mother.  The story picks up just following Easter, where Seneca is keeping a promise to have a discussion with Statiera's mother about a Russian literary work.)

18 April 20XX +1

My Dear Lucilius:

It appears in fact that the Post Office was not just an illusion to my eye; young Xerxes informs me that in fact someone has taken up the space as to use as a central hub to the town for communications and as a meeting place.

It makes a certain sort of sense, of course: even with people like diligent Xerxes checking in on myself and others, there is not a common place for meetings (except for the store front we have used from time to time and is not really set up for anything other than group meetings) and the idea that we are “inviting people in” is still a bit too early in everyone’s mind, I suspect. Better to have a sort of neutral ground where nothing is revealed and people do not feel potentially threatened or exposed to others.

Who knows. It may be one of those fine young people with another wonderful idea to make something out of the wreck we seem to have constructed for ourselves.

Were you here, I suspect you take a sort of almost perverse pleasure in asking me about how things are progressing with Stateira’s mother. Turnabout is fair play, I suppose; after all, I bothered you all those years about your own dating life (to no avail, I might note; it appears civilization truly had to collapse in order to get you out)! I believe what I supposed to write here is “swimmingly”, as post-Easter we had our first “book club”. You might remember that she also had an interest in Dostoevsky, which happily coincided with one of the last large book purchases I made. We met to discuss his work Notes From Underground.

Frankly, I wish we had started with something else.

Notes From Underground is a psychological study by Dostoevsky of the bleaker side of human nature (I think – I really have no firm idea). The narrator – he is never named – is reflecting on his life as a minor bureaucrat in the service of the Tsar in 1840’s Russia. He is a mendacious individual: mean-spirited, angry, trying to delve into his character yet undercutting his own ruminations. The first half of the book is ruminations on his life and the nature of things; the second half – “On The Wetness of Snow” – relates an incident that had happened to him 20 years ago at a dinner, which – rather awkwardly given the circumstances of the meeting – involved him going to a brothel.

I can barely imagine discussing this with anyone, let alone with an attractive woman in her 40’s whom I have met a handful of times previous. And yes, I can hear you laughing from here.

She, apparently had read the book previously and as it turns out, was looking forward as much to my reaction and attempts to discuss the book as she was to the actual discussion. Apparently I filled both dance cards: my comments were rated as “insightful” and my attempted discussion on the nature of why a man might want to go to a brothel was rated as “humorous, and perhaps “slightly honest”.

We have agreed that our next session will be something from Tolstoy’s short stories, which are less...”controversial”… and perhaps more in line with a male/female discussion.

I hope. I am reviewing my Tolstoy short stories now to find one that I am sure meets the criteria.

Even now, Lucilius, life continues to surprise me. Which I count as a good thing.

Your Obedient Servant,


Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Old English: What Is It and Why Study It?

One of the goals I listed from The Big List of 2023 goals is " Study Old English.  Be able to translate a text by December 2023".  That may seem like a fairly obscure goal - okay, it is a fairly obscure goal -  with no noticeable impact on modern living or really on my life, except as an exercise in trivial knowledge of dead languages.

So what is Old English and why study it?

Old English is (perhaps not surprisingly) to forerunner to Modern English via Middle English and Early Modern English.  The dates of such a thing are fairly fluid:  one scholar dates it from 450 A.D. (The initial arrival of the Angles, Saxons, and the Jutes en masse to Britain) to 1150 A.D.  It is derived from what are now called the North German dialects of German (the fancier word is Ingvaeonic), a postulated language encompassing Old English, Old Frisian, and Old Saxon. It was originally called englisc  or "pertaining to the Angles", which came to cover what turned into a multitude of dialects in Britain (Mercian, West Saxon, Northumbrian, and Kentish).  West Saxon won the initial linguistics battle by the time of Alfred The Great (848 A.D. - 899 A.D), although in a twist of fate it was Mercian, not West Saxon, that was passed on to Middle English (and thus to our time).


Old English as a written language had less of a history than the spoken tongue (which ran 700 years or so).  The first Old English text we have is a hymn written in the late 7th Century called Cædmon's Hymn.  From there, the corpus of English writing grows and proliferates until it begins to decline after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 A.D..  The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, that yearly testament of events in England, continued to be kept until 1154 A.D.  The language of business and ruling had become that of the Norman conquerors; englisc continued to be spoken by the countryfolk and lower classes.

If it seems like there is a lot of history that is inferred here there is; my thought it cover that in a second posting (because history an integral part of understanding any language).  For me it is actually rather interesting; in the late fifth Century there was no guarantee that Anglo-Saxon would be the language of England, beating out the then currently existing Romano-British and their Brittonic (Celtic) and Latin (Romance) languages.  The history of Britain in the 5th and 6th Century is one I wish more people studied.

But other than historical interest, why study it?

While Old English is not the same as the Modern English we currently speak, one in four words (28%) of English vocabulary is drawn from some version of Old English and the basic structure of Old English remains with us to this day.  So, for example, in an entry from 1043 in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, "Her wæs Eadward gehalgod to cinge" we have an almost completely recognizable modern English sentence: 

-"Her":  Here, or in this year
- "wæs": was, past tense of to be
-"Eadweard":  Edward, a proper name
- "gehalgod":  Consecrated; current cognate is "hallowed"
- "to":  to; we would say "as"
- "cinge":  inflected form of "king"

They are not all like that, of course; only 28% means 72% did not transfer into modern English.  But there are some surprising times where reading Old English is no harder than reading any other of English.

Mark Atherton, in his handy volume Complete Old English (included with CDs; a fantastic volume for anyone wishing to start the journey) notes that the Irish Poet Seamus Haney compares English to an archaeology dig, with layers based on periods of history:

Colonialism:      Asian, American, African terms
Enlightenment:  Latin and Greek scientific terms
Renaissance:      Latinate learned words
Middle Ages:     French literary and cultural influences
                           Norman French administration
                           Old Norse everyday words, especially in north and east England
                           Old English - the foundation

Thus, the study of Old English is a sort of archaeological dig, a way to get back to one's linguistic or actual ancestors (both for me) in a way that is more than just reading historical works.  To find Anglo-Saxon is, in some sense, to find a small part of myself.

Finally, it is worth studying because it is so rich.  We have stories (Beowulf), we have fantasies (The Dream of The Rood, The Seafarer), we have poems and riddles and charters and proclamations and histories.  Unlike many of the peoples of the so-called "Dark Ages" that came and disappeared almost without a traces - the Vandals, the Burgundians, the Lombards - the Anglo-Saxons have left us a great deal about themselves, their lives, and how they saw the world.

And frankly, it is fun.  It may be an unusual day when one can blurt out the opening to Beowulf:  

Hƿæt! Ƿē Gār-Dena in ġeār-dagum

Þēod-cyninga, þrym ġefrūnon,

hū ðā æþelingas ellen fremedon.

(What!  We spear-Danes in ancient days inquired about the glory of the nation-kings, how the princes performed bravery.)

but it is a good day.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

On Historian Employment

Over 20 years ago when I had applied to the ministry, the suggestion that was made (when advancement into seminary was clearly not in the cards) was to consider going back to school and working towards a Ph.D. in History or Classical Studies and become a professor.  The interest was clear to the evaluators; what they felt was needed a different track to becoming a teacher.

It was thus with interest that I read the article "The End of (Academic) History" by Sumantra Maitra, a Ph.D. an associate fellow at the Royal Historical Society.  What grabbed my attention the most was a statistic from the article:

" Between 2019 and 2020, 1,799 historians earned their Ph.Ds and only 175 of them are now employed as full-time faculty members (as of 2022)".

Wow.  175 out of 1799. To my not-math brain, that is less than 1 in 10.  The article that this statistic is pulled from, "The Ongoing History Crisis" (link is to the introduction) notes one of the major reasons, which is the the shrinking and in some cases closure of history departments.

It brings to mind a discussion around both choosing careers (discussed today) and the future of history (not to be discussed today, although discussed in both articles).

It seems to me there are two items at work here. The first is rather simple fact that there are only X amount of history positions at universities (which are starting to have their own demographic issues).  Surely these statistics are known - or if not know when being started, then known during the process.

A Ph.D. can take 8-10 years to achieve by the time that one is done with the course of study.  Most Ph.Ds that I have met are very committed to the process; you have to be, to be willing to endure not only the schooling and the writing, but the years spent as a TA or Instructor, the nights and days when your academic peers are out living their lives and you are toiling away.  So getting halfway in and suddenly "calling it quits" because of the potential employment would likely be the most difficult thing in the world, if not impossible.  Add to that, of course, the human belief that things like that happen to other people, not us.

The second, of course, is the system.

Universities - beyond just their rapidly escalating costs - have little to no long term interest in the success of their graduates beyond college, except for the the potential money they can bring in donations and the potential prestige if they make it big (there are exceptions to that rule of course, but both of my universities paid at best lip service to post-educational employment planning).  The important thing is to get the money now, issue the degree, and move students out the door.  How universities continue, in good conscious, to ensure that students are financially crippled beyond school without any responsibility on their part is beyond me.

One has to wonder a bit about the staff that enables this as well.  Surely - to use this example - History professors are well aware of the fact that employment is not there and/or falling rapidly.  I wonder - I have no data, of course - if they are self-policing students as well, suggesting that a 90% unemployment in the field rate is not a great gamble  and had they perhaps thought of an alternative course (and, of course, if the students would listen).  

I can imagine, only too well, the sense of disappointment such individuals would encounter when the exit the academic world and go to look for employment - not just that first semester after graduation, but the year after year grind as applications continue to go in and polite refusals or no responses at all come in, and what one is "willing to do" becomes broader and broader.

Now take this one field, and multiply it across all majors.  To be sure, this does not apply to every major - engineers always seem to be in demand for example, and some hard sciences s well - but truly, how many Ph.Ds in Philosophy, Political Science, Economics, or Art History can be sustained?

In my case, I took a look at my current circumstances at the time - a child newly arrived and the single employed parent at the time - and took a hard pass at the academic route.  Instead, I stuck with the career field I was still relatively new in (3 years) but was not the thing I had wanted to do or close to the thing I wanted to do.  In my case, just showing up and doing a good job led to other opportunities in the biopharmaceutical field - opportunities which allowed me to build a library (and educate myself) as well as in some cases, to travel where the history had been.

It is not that I gave up on history.  I just had to take a different route to study it and in some way, use it in my life.