Posts Tagged ‘Living’

A Drama of Self: The Tipping Point

dilemma

PHOTO CREDIT: MS WORD CLIP ART

©2016 By Bob Litton. All Rights Reserved.

I’m curious: Do you see yourself as a character — in particular, the protagonist — in a screenplay? Ever reflect on the plotline, its beginning and all scenes since then, trying to figure out the other characters’ parts and the probable denouement? Or am I the only one so deeply solipsistic as to be constantly gazing on the internal screen? No, that can’t be the case, else the word “solipsistic” would never have been coined; they don’t make up adjectives applicable to only one person. Still, I find it difficult to imagine other people’s dramas, whether they be adventurous epics, tragedies or comedies, except as they tangentially affect my drama.

Many of us bloggers, I believe, use our blogs as candid diaries — electronic volumes open to the cosmic universe instead of little books hidden away in secret drawers. We can use them as depositories of our thoughts and feelings (mostly feelings), pretending that they are locked up in our computers, at first only peripherally aware that they are actually scattered across the planet and beyond. But then another part of us wonders how invisible and generally non-responsive readers perceive our outpourings. Mostly, all we can glimpse are their national flags. We are, then, self-analyzing split personalities.

So, desiring to be more honest than I have been during most of my life, I intend to relate the story of how I believe my solipsism became the major theme of an imaginary biopic; if one cannot repress a congenital tendency, then perhaps he at least can relieve the pressure by allowing it full expression, like steam from a teapot.

Going back to childhood meditations and actions, though I truly believe the habit really began that long ago, is beyond my capacity; the images are too fractured and vague. A clearer scene is more available in my nineteenth year, while I was in the air force and stationed on Okinawa, largest of the Ryukyu Islands. That was when I began to read very serious books for the first time; when, under the influence of the late British philosopher Bertrand Russell, I developed a longing to resolve all paradoxes; when I began to question my beliefs and especially every action’s motive. As a psychiatrist two years later put it, “You look at both sides of the coin and the edge too.”

An anecdote that quite well illustrates my message here concerns a book discussion group that one of the chaplains on the base initiated. As I recall, there were about a dozen of us airmen and civilians sitting in a circle at the first meeting, when the chaplain reviewed some nonfiction book and invited the rest of us to offer our comments. Then the chaplain explained that his performance was essentially a pattern he wanted us to follow when reviewing our own reading choices in future meetings. I, the eager fool, volunteered to present a review at the next meeting, a week later.

I had already been reading two books alternately: Arthur Koestler’s Reflections on Hanging, a critique of capital punishment; and some book whose title I cannot recall, a collection of historical narratives about various heinous crimes committed in England. While reading them I became aware of the dichotomy in my reactions to the books’ subjects: when reading Koestler my feelings reacted against capital punishment; when reading the other book my revulsion could be so strong in some cases that I believed no type of punishment could be harsh enough for the perpetrators: they were all hanged. That experience got me to musing over how much I was susceptible to weirdly and quickly varying attitudes, how my values could shift radically in just a short time, from the setting of one book down and the opening of another. Was my value system really that fragile and unstable? I wondered if this phenomenon was true of others, so I decided to try an experiment.

I do not recall the details of my mode of presentation, only that I alternated between summarizing various parts of each book and interpolating quotes here and there. I didn’t realize how long it was. I guess the chaplain felt the room was getting stuffy, for while I was reading he got up, went to a window and raised it. Shortly afterwards, one man, only a few years older than I was, interrupted me by asking, “Are we going to get a chance to discuss this? It sounds like a bunch of morbidity to me.” Another fellow murmured something about people who “should have gone to college”. I don’t remember how I responded or even that I did; I felt deflated and defeated; my lack of response was way too predictive of future encounters; I probably just said, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” The whole episode might have turned out better if I had begun the presentation with an explanation that I was conducting a psychological experiment; but, on the other hand, to have done so would probably have compromised the validity of the result.

When no succeeding review was announced, I went to the chaplain and asked him what was up. He replied that he had discontinued the book review sessions because too few people were participating.

During all my life since then I have from time to time pondered how we can act decisively in murky situations and dilemmas when our ideas and feelings react against each other. Just what is the “tipping point”, as it has come to be nominated?

Finis

For more commentary on this topic, see my Dec. 15, 2013, post “To Be Or…Catastrophe!”

Thanks

Thank you for visiting my blog, which I am dropping for art and health’s sake. I will leave it in cyberspace for anyone who might want to browse through the 43 months of archives.

Goodbye.

BL

Meaningfulness

© 2016 By Bob Litton. All Rights Reserved.

Peter: Jesus, you are my Ground of Being!
Paul: Lord, you are my Ultimate Concern!
Jesus: Whaaattt?

This past Friday, my friend Chris and I met in my humble lodging for our regular bi-weekly, two-hour conversation and coffee-sipping. Over the past two months, we have been viewing DVD lectures by the late philosophy professor Robert Solomon, a specialist on Friedrich Nietzsche (N.). Solomon’s wife, Professor Kathleen Higgins, also a Nietzsche scholar, participates in the series. The lectures are about N. — his life, personality, and philosophy — of course; but interspersed among all of them are some comments on previous philosophers who had positively influenced Nietzsche, such as Arthur Schopenhauer (S.), and those who had negatively affected him, such as Socrates. This essay is partly my own take on S.’s and N.’s views concerning the meaning of life. The later part is my own view of purpose and meaningfulness — what the philosophers call teleology.

I have read very little of S. the pessimist, for I don’t need to read anything that will make me more depressed than I already am. Besides, everyone who is literate in Western philosophy, even in the most minor degree, has read or heard that S. considered life as essentially “suffering and death”, and that, given the choice of whether to live or die, the better option would be to die, but that an even better option would be not to have been born.

What I did not know, however, and one of the bits of interesting notions in Schopenhauer’s weltanschauung, is that S. eschewed Immanuel Kant’s view that one could justify life and find meaning through rationalism, and progress through rationalism to the Christian faith, according to Prof. Solomon. A more visceral response, particularly through an aesthetic appreciation of music, was more effective, S. believed. The benefit of music S. attributed to its abstractness as contrasted with the representational character of pre-20th century visual arts. Listening to, and contemplating, music, he held, would lift the suffering human out of his or her pointless individuality into a consciousness of a larger Reality, or “life as a whole”. But, as I mentioned in one of my early poems, that lift can last only as long as the music lasts.

I have read a few of Friedrich Nietzsche’s works but, unfortunately, not the one which is most pertinent on this topic, The Birth of Tragedy. So, I will have to rely again on Prof. Solomon’s — and Prof. Higgins’ — interpretations. They say that, while N. agreed with most of what S. had to say about life being almost totally a matter of suffering and death, he differed with S. on finding it pointless. Where S. postulated that humans proceed from desire or hunger to satisfaction and back to desire/hunger, always longing for complete satisfaction or contentment (picture a “couch potato”) and never finding it; N. believed that absolute and permanent contentment is not really any human’s desire at all. Rather, N. theorized, meaning is to be found in the passions, i.e. dedication to a person, to a project, or to an art can give meaning to life. Here, again, arises the question of how long that passion can last.

One of the best though tardiest lessons I ever learned was that regular settings and reviews of goals are very important. I recall reading, while a senior at the university, an article that related how frequently college seniors commit suicide. Of course, several reasons can cause young people to kill themselves; the later teens and early twenties are emotionally tumultuous years; but what struck me about this article was that it was specifically about college seniors who were soon to graduate. Either the article stated or I inferred (can’t recall which) that the most likely cause for many of those deaths was that the students had not set any goals beyond college; campus life was all that had mattered to them, and they could not see anything meaningful beyond it.

It is indeed an interesting contrast between S. and N. that while the first sought respite, the latter sought strife (not strife against other people but a continual struggle within the self to make one’s self better). N.’s view is very much in keeping with that of the ancient Athenians. Consider the following passage from Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War, in which a Corinthian ambassador, while urging the Spartans to aid them in their conflict with Athens, criticizes them for their lackadaisical attitude:

“The Athenians are revolutionary, and their designs are characterized by swiftness alike in conception and execution; you have a genius for keeping what you have got, accompanied by a total want of invention, and when forced to act you never go far enough. They are adventurous beyond their power, and daring beyond their judgment, and in danger they are sanguine; your way is to attempt less than your power justifies, to mistrust even what your judgment sanctions, and to think that there will be no end to your dangers….So they toil on in trouble and danger all the days of their life, with little opportunity for enjoying, ever engaged in getting: their only idea of a holiday is to do what the occasion demands, and to them laborious occupation is less of a misfortune than inaction and rest. In a word, one might truly say that they were born into the world to take no rest themselves and to give none to others.”[1]

As for myself, I believe that the most contented people are also the most active people. To that extent I certainly agree with N. But I also believe that there is a Reality — a spiritual Reality that surrounds us and yet is much too much beyond our capacity to understand. Each of us must search and discover it on his/her own without over-reaching.

A recent NOVA episode on PBS hosted by astrophysicist Brian Greene reveals how the latest frontier of cosmology has forced scientists into theories they are sometime embarrassed to present. One of them is that our universe is actually two dimensional with an edge to it that is comparable to a holograph. Also, they say that space is nowhere empty, not outer space nor molecular space, but that in every part of it “things” are constantly moving, from particles to planets; and that space is not like a vapor but more like a piece of pliable material that can bend and be stretched. Even more nonintuitive: There is no past, present or future; there is only NOW.

I do not mean to imply that all of this new scientific theory-developing is an argument for a higher being: most of the scientists, I think, would deny that absolutely. All I am saying is that, as S. and N. should have, we should refrain from placing absolute designs on “the real world/universe” until a good deal more evidence is in, probably beyond my own remaining lifespan.

In the meantime, we can each discover our own Higher Power (I read that there must be 7.4 billion of them about now), purposes and life-meanings. Let’s just don’t try to impose them on others.

Bob Litton, March 1967, reading An American Tragedy in Wesley-PCF office

Bob Litton at Southern Methodist University in 1967.

[1] Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War, trans. Richard Crawley, ed. Sir Richard Livingstone, (Oxford University Press:1943), Book I, ¶70.

Finis

NOTE TO READERS: For some reason I don’t know, WordPress.com (WP) does not allow non-WP bloggers to register “Likes” on my or other WP bloggers’ posts. However, anyone can enter a comment in the “Comment” box and it will be published, after I have “moderated” it. I am inviting non-WP bloggers to comment, even if it just to say “Like” or “Don’t Like”. And, although I prefer positive comments, disagreeing or critical remarks are fine, too, especially if they might help me improve my writing; but no snarking, please: that’s rude!
— BL

A Little Light-hearted Humor…with a Bit of Bite

© 1983, 2011, 2015 By Bob Litton

NOTE TO READERS: Hi, folks! I have a confession to make: I haven’t got anything fresh to write about, not anything anyway that anyone but the fellows down at Harry’s Tinaja bar would relate to. So, until some truly insightful inspiration pops into my brain, I thought I would continue with what I have been doing the past two posts: delve into my remaining stack of old newspaper columns and feature articles.

If you are one of those readers who can see nothing valuable in recycled material and want to desert me, I can well understand where you are coming from. I will not resent that at all. Well, actually I probably won’t even be aware of it, unless you write a “Dear John” email informing me of the dump.

For the rest of you dear, faithful readers, I will write a brief preface here of what you can expect in the near future, unless that pesky muse suddenly inundates me with ideas. I have a stack of ten to fifteen articles from my newspapering days to share with the Cyberworld. I say “ten to fifteen” by design because I possibly might cull a few out as being either too dated or as not quite clearing the high bar of interest or humor. A few are funny and a few are serious, one even “deadly” serious. A couple of others are just plain weird. So, stick around and enjoy!!!

 ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗

An exposé of female manners…!

C.J. FAWCETT tells me he never had more fun than working in a supermarket.  “I learned so much about people just watching them shop for food,” he said. “I wonder if there’s any correlation between the way a woman pushes a grocery cart and the way she drives a car.”

I smiled at him.  “My impression has been that women act the rudest in supermarkets and laundromats,” I said. “That was the main reason I bought a washer and dryer and I eat more often in restaurants than at home.”

Our little conversation got me to reminiscing about experiences in washaterias and grocery stores.  I used to try to get to the washateria at the time it opened on Sunday morning.  That would usually give me about 30 minutes with maybe only one or two other people showing up.  I could get all my laundry—not much really—into two or three washers close together.

If for some reason I didn’t make it early enough, a sense of doom drifted like a cloud over my head.  I knew I was probably in for a rough go of it.  Sure enough, entering the place I could see that all of the carts had been appropriated and that, instead of clothes in them, there would be giant-sized boxes of soap or maybe a baby.  Also, rather than being parked in front of the washers where the ladies’ clothes were, they would be parked as reservation signs in front of the dryers.

Thank goodness I don’t have to cope with that anymore!

However, I still have to contend with female aggression at the supermarket.  Sometimes, though, their rudeness at the grocery store is at least humorous.  As C.J. said, most of it has to do with the way they push their carts, or rather abandon them temporarily in the middle of one aisle while they go into another aisle to pick up something they forgot.

The routine that really tickles me happens in front of the vegetable bins.  I’ll be behind some lady who is strolling along taking a leisurely gander at the produce, apparently not certain what she wants.  I, who had already decided before arriving at the store that I needed a couple of tomatoes, will start to reach for a nice, full, firm, red tomato; the lady, her neck craned around, suddenly decides the tomatoes weren’t so bad-looking after all and she grabs up the one I was reaching for.

And then there are those young mothers who couldn’t find anyone to look after their two-year-olds while they go to the store.  Actually, this is not so much a situation involving rudeness as it is one involving danger—not to the kid but to the merchandise.  For some reason I cannot fathom, the mothers don’t anticipate that when they park their cart, with the child sitting in it, in front of a tiered stack of syrup jars something catastrophic could happen.

Well, guess I’ve made enough enemies for one day.  Better let it be at that.  I will mention, however, that practically everybody I’ve mentioned this lack of females’ manners to has agreed with me….Of course, they’ve all been men.

 ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗ ∗

The mayor a teetotaling hooker…?

MAYOR Richard Hoyer says he’s been receiving a lot of good-natured razzing because he’s helping the women latch-hook a bunch of tapestries for the community center.

“One thing I’ve found out,” he told me, “is that drinking and hooking don’t go together.  I’ve had to forgo my nightly nip.”

The mayor’s tapestry project depicts the Monahans water tower—one of the achievements during his tenure of which he is most proud.  His only problem with it is that the sketch for the tapestry contains flowers.  “There aren’t flowers out there,” he said. “The kids ate ’em all.”

— The Monahans News, September 29, 1983

 

Two Meditative Poems

©1995 By Bob Litton

THE COST OF LIVING

Beware the dog!  Fierce white beast with golden collar!
Each evening it roams from one tree-crowned corner
To a yellow hydrant on another.

Convince yourself: This is really a shortcut,
To follow a road you had never seen,
One that winds with no true compass, northerly
Among high, leaf-haunched mansions
Where you must knock at the back door.
Gaze at a stack of firewood–absurd yet neat–
At the garage with one car missing.

Or turn from the sight, self-righteous revolutionary!
Look at the sky, whose economy you reckoned socialist,
With an equal distribution of colors among the clouds–
But near the western horizon
A bastard-blue outflanks the red.

Stand for a while and mumble modern incantations
As you ponder a little girl’s chalk marks on the warm walk.
Consider the curious treachery done to someone’s self-image,
Which surely was not so primitive, so grotesque.
But your romantic heart falters this evening:
You can’t conjure or decipher
The illegible syllables below.
Step over the artist’s work that taunts your analysis.
Convince yourself: There was nothing
real there.

You may find a little park if you have good eyes
And a red-stone bridge
From whence you can watch the creek blacken.
You can smell flirtatious flowers in heavy gardens;
Laugh at the proud grasses with their purest greens;
Sigh when you glimpse the love-making of a pair of   trees,
Tall, with feathery arms;
Make sweet compositions with the limes and lemons
That softly support the sky.
You can philosophize about spiraling branches…
Or you can watch out for dogs.

 

BLUE PHOENIX

“Doleful the cries of a dying bird;
Good the last words of a dying man.”
—Philosopher Shang,
Confucian Analects, II:8

                        * * * * * *

 I was a stranger to beaches then.
That was the first wet sand between my toes.
It was cool. And nearby was the din
of rollers burying reluctant shadows.

I was too eager for evening’s drape,
too young to know, one dream is eternal;
resting on a driftwood’s swollen shape,
I watched the sun die till my eyes grew dull.

It might have been a dream then, or fancy,
that blue speck, like a moth about a light,
seeking refuge from the virescent sea,
circling in great, uneven arcs of fright.

The speck dropped now with the rising tide,
and diminished height revealed a greater size
a huge bird with wings an arm-span wide,
turquoise, stately, ancient but still not wise.

His golden beak was silent and tight,
his talons locked in despairing frenzy

for the globe of fire was out of sight
and the bird flew over a dead-blood sea.

And like the sun the fowl was forced down
to just above the ocean’s bursting spray.
He struggled mightily round by round
to avoid the ague of this judgment day.

Long hours he fought, till the dew glistened
on the blades of beach grass. The moon beguiled
him into synthetic life and christened
with cosmic mystery a wondering child.

Never had I seen more painful life,
so that I asked, “Is it fear of Dying or of Death
makes you continue this fruitless strife?”
No answer came from him nor any breath.

He plummeted into the round waves,
and with the vertigo was gone the bird,
to rest this first time away from naves
in the clouds and ethereal sounds unheard.

I had forgotten that bird till now,
when dim memories flood a fevered eye,
not as a being who had learned how
to live, but as someone afraid to die.

Finis

 

Selected Journal Notes

By Bob Litton

Summer 1990

People who want too much to communicate — intense people, I suppose — are ironically the most alienated.  Perhaps that is because the majority of people are more satisfied with the briefest, most superficial, and even untrue talk

◙   ◙   ◙

The curse of the Human Being is his/her ability to anticipate pain and a tomorrow.  I wonder if any experiments have been done to determine lower animals’ sense of futurity.  After all, birds build nests; and a dog, from past experience, knows you intend to throw a stick or a Frisbee for him to catch.  But, anticipating probable immediate events is not the same as expecting another tomorrow, another sunrise.

◙   ◙   ◙

In previous decades it was common enough for scholars to relate of someone that he or she “flourished” between such and such years.  I like that word; it is sympathetic of flowers and it doesn’t have the terminal connotation of “lived”.

 ◙   ◙   ◙

We have several terms for an habitually angry woman: virago, harridan, shrew, and vixen; but we have not even one term, that I know of, that specifies an habitually angry man.

◙   ◙   ◙

We do not try to hear the worms; we never see our backs.

◙   ◙   ◙

I feel something approaching comfort when I stand before a sign which says “You Are Here.”

◙   ◙   ◙

I did not want to grow up to become a businessman; I couldn’t stomach the image of myself in suit coat, tie and jowls.

◙   ◙   ◙

I’ve  kept this old body company a hell of a long time.  Following, when considered in increments of time, appears like torture.  Fortunately for us perhaps, we cannot remember increments of time.  Or maybe those whom we call crazy became so because they had that ability.  Have I led my body or has my body led me this half-century?

◙   ◙   ◙

Young mother and her two-year-old daughter are eating in a cafeteria.  Daughter in a high chair, with food on tray in front of her, reaches for portion of roll her mother is about to bite into.  “No!” her mother says, “You have your own food there.”  The little girl begins to squeal.  The mother puts a palm to the girl’s cheek as though pondering whether to slap or to squeeze the girl’s mouth shut.  “Mommy has to eat, too,” the woman says.  The girl continues to fuss.

◙   ◙   ◙

I have talked and talked to women — perhaps overly much about serious subjects — but always with the purpose in mind that I might eventually understand one of them and then loving her would be much more comfortable for me; I could be ardent in my love-making.  But, invariably I angered them or gave up the task shortly after beginning it.  I don’t really know why.  In some cases, I believe, it was because they developed a kind of chameleon appearance for me, at times attracting me, and at other times repelling me, physically.  But, that doesn’t explain all instances.  Perhaps I couldn’t clearly conceive what I was trying to accomplish.

◙   ◙   ◙

Why do we want a god?

(1)    To explain the duality of Good and Evil

(2)    To offer an abiding place after death.

(3)    To alter the future in our behalf.

(4)    To console us in our grief and to reassure us during our anxiety attacks.

(5)    To explain the existence of intelligence.

(6)    To serve us as an image on which to pattern ourselves: the created creating the creator.

◙   ◙   ◙

When tragic events occur, is it because God wants them to happen; accepts and thus abets their happening; cannot prevent their happening (either because the events are too many or too powerful); does not know they are happening; or is actually preventing them from having worse effects?

◙   ◙   ◙

The Alcoholics Anonymous’ “Serenity Prayer” asks for the ability to accept what we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  Our group always talks about acceptance, but never about courage and wisdom, at least not in the context of the Prayer.  To be called “wise” makes most people blush; to be called “commonsensical” is more easily swallowed.  And if one is characterized as “courageous”, he has reason to fear that he might have to substantiate it someday.

O that the “Serenity Prayer” used the term “discernment” rather than “wisdom” and “equanimity” rather than “serenity”!  Also, that it said “change the things that should be changed” rather than “change the things we can”.

◙   ◙   ◙

Don’t feel guilty when happiness strikes.

◙   ◙   ◙

9/29/90 – We never question the necessity for sleep; we only quibble over how much sleep is appropriate.  The fact that we sleep roughly a third of our life away does not carry over in our consciousness as a comment on the worth or urgency of waking activities.

◙   ◙   ◙

10/17/90 – We human beings are very slow-witted creatures, really.  We have to smell our eyebrows singeing before we will recognize that our house is on fire.

◙   ◙   ◙

 12/04/90 – With God’s will clearly before us we have no freedom; without it at least “at hand” we have no meaning.

 ◙   ◙   ◙

12/31/90 – I feel that I have so exhausted my friends that they must have an after-image of me when I leave them.

◙   ◙   ◙

1/15/91 – Spiritual Over-ride: A friend of mine recently gave up chewing tobacco. That reminded me of my only experience of the stuff.  My mouth burnt for a long while after I spat the tobacco out, which was shortly after taking it in.

Our bodies tell us when we’re doing something wrong, but we can over-ride their warnings with enough practice.

 ◙   ◙   ◙

2/05/91 – The Next Right Thing:  Usually, when we (in AA) talk about doing the “next right thing” we are talking about long-term goals, or steps that are anticipatory of long-term goals.  And we want to know that what we want to do is also what God wants for us.  The problem with knowing God’s will is that, were we to know it definitively, we would not be acting out of faith, but out of dictation — off a blueprint, so to speak.  We would no longer be free.

Our prime option is to act out of instinct, to trust our instinct grounded in honesty, especially honesty to ourselves.  For short-term issues, this is easier to do than for long-term ones; because the latter require, usually, more steps, more sustained effort.

A preacher on the radio one morning said, “God provides food for the birds, but he doesn’t put it in their nests.”

Then there’s the anecdote of the man whose house was situated on a hill.  A flood came into the valley below.  When one of the townspeople called to warn this man that the waters were rising, he replied, “The Lord will take care of me.”  The water level got higher, and a boat with a rescue team came to the man’s house.  “You’d better come with us,” one of them said.  “The Lord will provide” was the man’s response.  Just as the water was washing away the man’s house, a police helicopter appeared overhead.  The pilot signaled for the man to climb into a pontoon attached to one of the copter’s runners, but the man shook his head and yelled out through cupped hands, “The Lord will watch out for me.”

Finally, the man stood alone on the roof of his house with the water swirling at his feet.  He cried, “Lord, Lord, why aren’t you helping me?”

Suddenly a voice like thunder roared down from Heaven, “What do you mean?  I had somebody call you and I sent a rescue team in a boat and another in a helicopter.”

 ◙   ◙   ◙

2/15/91 – Intellect can get you far provided you don’t become prideful of intellect.  It can carry you only to the highest point of Purgatory.

 ◙   ◙   ◙

3/10/91 – Which of us recalls the effort, mental or physical, he expended on his own behalf in being born into the world?  How many of us can plan our own leaving it?  Why then do we insist on controlling our day-to-day experience?

◙   ◙   ◙

3/12/91 – Contact with God:  We naturally desire that this contact be constant.  Yet, how many of us are constantly aware of our own heart beat, although nothing in the world is more constant, more regular?  Moreover, we little realize that we can have too much of God.  If we had the experience of Him in anything like His fullness we would go insane.  In this regard, look at Samuel Rutherford’s letter, dated 1637, to Lady Gaitgirth: “He could not let out His rivers of love upon His own, [for] these rivers would be in hazard of loosening a young plant at the root, and He [knows] this of you.”

◙   ◙   ◙

5/08/91 – Cattle in a meadow, mooing, munching, moving with the shade.  What a mercy!

◙   ◙   ◙

6/13/91 – On this day, a clear, warm day, when I had thirty minutes to wait before entering the Kelly Temps office to pick up my check, I sat on the grass with my book about Euripides, a very pleasant situation.  After reading a brief while, I noticed the sound of what seemed like many hands clapping.  Curious, I looked up and across the vast lawn toward the expressway, where several cottonwoods stood by the highway’s high substructure.  The clapping I was hearing was the sound the trees’ leaves were making, very much like human hands clapping!

Sometime later (can’t recall if it was weeks or months), I was reading in Isaiah, preparing for a Bible study class, when I was startled by coming upon this verse (55:12):

You will go out with joy
and be led forth in peace.
Before you mountains and hills will break into cries of joy,
and all the trees in the countryside will clap their hands.

◙   ◙   ◙

7/03/91 — Getting into “dire straits” is an excellent way to weed your friendship patch.

 ◙   ◙   ◙

9/01/92 – Just completed reading John Wesley’s Journal, which gave me encouragement to return to this, my own.  Much has happened to me and through me since I left off, a fact which has heretofore hampered me from writing.  Another hindering influence is the overwhelming impact of time.  I am so conscious — so exceedingly conscious — of how much time I have wasted in my 52 years that a sort of horrifying burden of guilt blocks me from what little I could be doing now.

We in the city don’t simply kill time; we murder it.  We are surrounded with movement and clocks, and it seems we are constantly matching one against the other.  Our self-esteem, even the very value of our life, is determined by how we fit the clock.  I am a very slow person, and so I am a misfit at work and in the social whirl, for even in the latter quickness of “wit” is a prime factor.

How different out in the Big Bend country! And that is why the land of mesas and cacti is in its way terrifying.  Just imagine how many sunrises and sunsets, how many thunderstorms and sandstorms, those huge rocky cliffs have experienced; and yet they just stand there, dumb and still.  It is awesome and strangely depressing: that sublime prospect.

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10/27/92 – Playing God:  I sat on my front porch step, drinking coffee and watching a beetle as it tried to bring itself upright.  The black creature’s legs flailed impotently in the air.  Once, having moved itself against a dry, brown magnolia leaf, it managed to get halfway on its feet again, but quickly fell back over.  I pondered whether I should intervene and set him upright.  That would be interfering with Nature’s course, I reasoned, but I am part of Nature, too, and perhaps my intervention would be part of “Nature’s course” simply from the fact that I happen to be here witnessing this event.  Then I imagined a god who studied such a problem all day, from dawn until he could no longer see the beetle in the twilight’s deepening shadows.  Perhaps this god would seek to help the beetle, using a twig time after time, to set the creature on its feet; and immediately after each “help” the beetle would collapse right onto its back again.  Finally, at the end of the day, no longer able to see the beetle, the god would surrender his notion in disgust.  Then, suddenly, an insight would strike the god.  “Perhaps,” the god might say to himself, “…perhaps the beetle was not to die because he fell, but rather his falls were due to the fact that he was dying.”

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11/09/92 – Sunday:  Ken Shamblin’s sermon today dealt with the problem of God’s non-intervention.  Does God play favorites?  Rev. Shamblin quoted biologist J.S.B. Haldane as responding to a query as to why one-fourth of the creatures on this planet are species of beetles: “I don’t know,” said Haldane, “I suppose the Good Lord has an inordinate fondness for beetles.”

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2/23/93 — Clear Tuesday, cold but clear and no excuse for not taking my constitutional around Winfrey Point.  As I came around the western bend I noticed a pair of mallards calmly cruising near the shore at my right.  Suddenly, out of some rushes a male mallard came, skimming the water.  As the couple turned away and were taking off in an effort to elude him, the rogue caught the female’s tail feathers in his beak, detaining her so that he could mount her.  The cuckolded “husband” circled on the water and came up to the coital scene, where he pecked at the rapist’s face.  As the two males engaged in a brief wing-flapping altercation, the female took off in the air eastward.  The males likewise became airborne, the injured husband in pursuit of the Lothario.  Initially following the female, they circled off to the right and back toward me…and the rushes.  The assaulter dove into his hideout in the rushes, while the husband winged overhead and went off to find his mate.

Later, I wondered whether he ever found her, how their communications went afterwards, whether the rogue had had time to impregnate the female, and whether the cuckold would accept any of her ducklings as his own.

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6/09/93 — A Parable In The Making:  Walked around Winfrey Point this morning for the first time in a week.  Was rewarded with some fresh observations.  First, there was the long-necked, white water bird — a tern, I suppose — who stood in the shallow water near shore.  The water level, probably actual, was just above the bird’s “ankles”.  However, the wind was making waves, and as each wave came up to the bird, the result was that he seemed to be squatting.

Next, I heard a whole variety of birds chorusing up in a single tree, and nearby — aloof as usual — a mockingbird, perched on a utility line, gave out notes that sounded like nothing so much as the clatter of a telegraph key.  Was that his own song?

A squirrel sat on his haunches in the shade of an old cottonwood.  He watched me with cautious but not unfriendly eyes as I strolled past.

Leaving the jogger/cyclist path, I crossed a natural drainage ditch toward the alley leading to my apartment.  On the farther bank of the ditch I saw a fish head — more truly the upper half of the fish.  He might have been brought there as a water fowl’s repast which was interrupted for some reason.

Then, noticing a tree that looked like a young fruit tree, I thought of a parable about a garden, a very large garden dedicated to a community of urbanites by a wealthy landowner who felt that his city needed some place to which neighbors could resort.  He has fruit trees planted in the garden and in other ways prepares the spot — “tames” it — so that the citizens would want to go there.  Some people dig up the fruit trees and carry them off to their private yards.  Some people pee and throw fast food leftovers in a pond and the stream that feeds it.  Dope dealers transact business there at all hours of the day.  Eventually, the police have to close the garden.

Finis

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