How terrible are these creatures


Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, 8:10 a.m.

Instead of writing first thing, it is two hours since I woke. I’ve done the morning crossword, lathered up some outrage — Biden bombed the Middle East, meet the new boss same as the old boss what a surprise can you hear my sarcasm — fed the dogs and cat and hedgehog, shut off the TV with its yammering about nothing, and now I sit with the wind chimes singing away, even though the trees show no sign of a breeze — oh wait, if I stop to look, I can see a branch sway here, and a skinny young tree dance back and forth there.

I am relieved that I am still able to get angry at a president who decides to flex his bomb bays — “Look at me, I can kill people good as the next guy.” Why on Earth does anyone think this is a good idea, the constant “I kill your people because you killed my people” barbarism, as if people were belongings and not walking universes full of ideas and dreams and knowledge and experience, and you can and should snuff them out at will? What good does it do except show that you can do evil as terrible as the evil done to you?

How ironic that I wrote today’s blog post about peace and getting together, and I wake up to more war. How terrible are these creatures in charge of this government … rampaging over the landscape as if it were a giant chess board, moving your pieces around, except you get to stay above the fray, you may be face to face with your opponent but the carnage is down there on the board — you and your adversary manipulate the fight, drink tea and eat biscuits.

This is why most days I write about anything but politics, because I have no power to change the essential core of politics, which is to deny human decency and refuse to accept the sanctity of human life. To the politician humans are pawns or perhaps pets, to be sheltered and fed but unable to make their own decisions because we — are — animals to the political mind. And so I write about not-politics: I write about humans who have the power and yes the freedom to live their lives and make their own choices, and if death comes — scratch that, your honor — when death comes, at least we scratched out a little bit of authenticity that spat in the eye of the insane demagogues who believed we were just pawns in their grand game, to be sacrificed in the name of a greater plan.

Sacrificing humans is not a greater plan; it is an ugly misuse of the purpose of a life. Patton’s observation that he was not there to die for his country — he was there to make sure the other fellow died for his country — overlooks the basic fact that killing and dying for a country is still killing and dying, and every religion and other appeal to a higher purpose has a set of commandments that proclaims killing is an evil thing, a sin — as the song says, “Only God has the right to decide who’s to live and die.”

When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?

I can’t change the carnage, but I can refuse to applaud. I can sit here in my comfortable chair, listening to the wind chimes, and declare my independence from a mindset that believes there are times it is appropriate to shred human bodies and extinguish souls.

The War Prayer

116 years or so after he wrote it, Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer” remains powerfully relevant. For everyone who applauds the New Boss’s bombing of the Middle East today:

The War Prayer

by Mark Twain

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles, beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpouring of fervid eloquence which moved every listener. It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety’s sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Continue reading “The War Prayer”

The search goes on

Somewhere out there are the perfect words, a phrase that unlocks wisdom and peace and understanding and love and no more hassle and din and hatred and discord.

Every day we log onto social media or otherwise check into the world to browse around for those special words.

And in a meme or a big quote with a pretty picture, we pause and say, yes, I like that thought, it needed to be said.

But the fight goes on, and peace skitters away in a cloud of dust and invective.

We are not so easily defeated, so we lick our wounds and keep searching for the perfect words to calm the storm. When we can’t find them, we sit down and try to craft them ourselves.

A long time ago now, someone wrote, “Come on people now, smile on your brother — Everybody get together, try to love one another right now.”

That was close — oh, so close — maybe that’s the phrase, those are the words to unlock the love we all desire.

“No, no, it’s misogyny,” someone cries. “Why not smile on your sister?!”


In praise of guilty pleasures

“Guilty pleasures” are usually defined as something not-literature or otherwise not-classy that you enjoy anyway, and it feels a little like playing hooky when you read or watch or listen to it. Where does the guilt come from?

My guilty pleasure was comic books, best of all Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, the early days of Marvel Comics when Stan Lee and friends were just getting started. They were my gateway drugs to Nathaniel Hawthorne and Mark Twain and Emily Dickinson and George Eliot, but I digress: Even if I didn’t later discover the “appropriate” classics, the Marvel stories gave me pleasure, and that fueled an eagerness to read, and that my friends is a good thing.

Read, and the world opens up to you — in fact, worlds, plural, brilliant vast worlds of possibility.

So you love detective stories or space opera or thrillers with their explosions and aliens and things that go bump in the night? So? You’re reading — you’re delighting in the power of these odd heiroglyphs that represent words and tell stories and pass along the wisdom of the ages.

In the film Serenity, a pastor’s dying words are, “I don’t care what you believe, just believe it.” He means to say a belief in a higher power, a higher calling, anything higher — it lifts you.

I don’t care what you read, just read it. And there’s no need to feel guilty about the pleasure it gives you. You’re connecting with another mind through words, and that is something special.

The gift of a try

“I don’t know if I can do this,” you say, but the fact that you voice that thought means you’re willing to try, and that’s the difference.

You didn’t say “I can’t,” and you’re willing to see if you can.

That’s how everything moves forward: by testing your personal limits to find what you can do. More often that not, it’s more than you would have expected.

You can climb that mountain after all, but first you had to say “I don’t know if I can do this” and start, to see how far you could go — how much of “this” was possible, and the next thing you know is that you can do more than you knew.

“Do or do not. There is no ‘try,’” Yoda said. But to try is to start doing, and when you give it a try, you often find you can finish, look back and say, “I did it. I didn’t know if I could, but it was worth a try, and I discovered I could.”

A next time sometime past time

The old man sits, head bent, eyes closed, in his familiar comfortable chair, pen poised above paper bound, blank and waiting.

Suddenly his eyes drift open and his hand begins to scrawl across the page: “I remember this – this is how it was – this is why it is the way it is now – this is what I recall and when and where.”

He scrawls, alive, bringing the past and the memories and the what-is-it to life. And scrawls and scrawls.

And just as suddenly, the words have been written and the images and the thoughts are spent. Hand poised over paper, just in case, his eyes flutter and his head sags forward, and he snoozes, waiting for the next burst of energy and thought and yesterday and tomorrow and dreams of a next time sometime past time.

Here comes a living soul, and another, and another, flying past his house on missions from here to there, thousands a day on millions of missions – and somehow it all comes together.

… This is why I rise before I’m ready: to write on these pages. The words may be nonsense, but it comforts me to extract them from bleary blurs and to ramble across the page – and maybe the nonsense means something after all. If I’d slept another hour, the pages would still be blank, wouldn’t they? And then they would be saying something else entirely.

(From A Bridge at Crossroads)