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The Memory of George Floyd, Spacex Launch and Endings

There is a lot of public unrest associated with the death of  George Floyd. This link here should show some video connected  to the protests and demonstrations  related to the incident. The death of Floyd is disturbing. I am not sure of much about him except that he was a security guard, he was the father of a young woman, is mourned by his girlfriend and family, played sports in high school and his death was caused by incidents related to an arrest recorded on video. Like thousands of other Americans to die recently he died  fighting for breath more or less. What is all to familiar is the tension between a large portion of the African American community and the police. But if one looks at the protests one can see in the videos and photographs distributed around the world there are many people other than African Americans involved in these events sparked by his death in the midst of the other national crises gripping us. President Trump spoke with the Floyd family. The police officers involved were fired and the detective Chauvin who knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes has been charged with third degree murder.  That does not seem to have been enough to prevent the unrest gripping many areas.  Buildings and cars have been burnt, traffic has been stopped and shots have been fired. The conflict is not new it is simply a resurgence of movements and energies we have seen before.

I started this post on a day when I was hoping to watch some of the events related to the Spacex first private launch of astronauts to the International Space Station which is also the first transit of astronauts to space from a launch on American soil in more than a decade. I saw part of the interview and also saw part of the commentary provided by Lauren Lyons online. She is among other things a  Black woman. Here is a quote from her personal website: “I graduated from Princeton University with a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and a minor in bioengineering, and got my master’s in Business and Government Policy from the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government. I have worked as a medical device R&D engineer, a writer, a Mars robotics engineer at NASA, a dating startup company founder, and a leadership instructor at Harvard. I’m currently an engineer at SpaceX where I work on certification of the Dragon 2 spacecraft that will take NASA Crew to the International Space Station, and moonlight as the co-host of our live launch webcasts. In my spare time I write (true) stories, give talks about the power of STEM education, and do my little part to help make the world more empathetic, joyful, and just.”

She works in a company owned and run in large part by Elon Musk — a white South African immigrant who has stated that he left South Africa largely to escape spending a life defined by racial politics. Yet his launch of this first privately owned rocket comes at a time largely defined by race for many. There are no easy answers to how to deal with the strains, conflicts and manifestations of violence and division in our society.

Today was a difficult day, worrying about what was for me  a large theft of money from my bank account through an online app. Worrying about losing access to another online account. I also cut some grass and did other important things in terms of making my life work — but not enough.

Today I also heard that Julianne Hough and Brooks Laich are separating. I did not see legal separation in the handful of articles but that was the clear intent of the writers of several articles. Like Musk, he was born in the British Commonwealth and has succeeded very well in America.  Their marriage does not appear to have been the best or worst relationship to be featured in Hollywood new over the years.

For me, my recent troubles have added to the sense that once again my  own aspirations for the summer may be ending with a new kind of falling short. Although I still hope to struggle through as I have been and even to have my money returned or protected since it was only a pending transaction when I noticed it.   Monday will tell me a good bit about how bleak or not so bleak my situation is and yet I am aware that the African Americans who feel desperate and left out and the police who feel besieged on the streets of this country are not making up their problems. So many who are suffering now are not sure what the future will hold but they are sure that they are seeing the end of a particular business, job, strategy in their finances or hope of making life connections interrupted by the Pandemic. George Floyd, gasping and pleading for breath is a visible member of the many who have lost their hold on breath,  He is a symbol of the impossibility of getting help when it seems like help should be available. He is a black man dead in the streets of America and memorialized in conflict.

So many of us have some hopes for the future. Many of us feel that certain sinking feeling of those hopes that have kept diminishing. I look at space and Julianne Hough and race relations  with an interest that comes from years of following and reading about all three. Today, the space industry had some kind of triumph. Perhaps Julianne’s   life will be as good or better but the separation is not a happy chapter surely. The racial situations in the country may improve but they do not seem great to me right now.

Then in the midst of all this is the ending of a brief streak of life not being quite as hard and uncertain. I had a small amount of respite before the theft. Today I leave things undone that I should do and go home to nurse my troubled feet and take a shower to wash off my honest sweat.  But I am reminded of my situation as one of the many nearly desperate Americans of various types, tending to see each aspect of our national situation through the lens of an urgency and pain that they cannot easily set aside to hope and dream of great enterprises and fairy tale romances.

 

 

Myth on a Big News Day: Oedipus and the Sphinx Revisted

If this blog and this post do not slip into oblivion, some may find it hard to forgive that I have chosen to blog about a Greek myth on this particular day — May 27, 2020. There is plenty to discuss, Not least of which is the Pandemic that has a thousand worthy stories demanding attention each day. For that reason alone it seems odd to blog about a Greek myth.  But there are other reasons not to write about a myth today…

Today many Americans are dealing with the video of George Floyd passing out as he lay under the knee of an impassive police officer and was calling out the at he could not breathe. Supposedly, he survived the incident long enough to reach the hospital.  Four of five of the cops beside the police car labeled “Minneapolis” in the video are said to have been fired. Another video shows a white woman yelling that she will call the police and complain about being threatened by a black man — which she does.  The avid birdwatcher filmed the incident and she has lost her job. He seems relieved that nothing horrible happened to him.  The truth is that most of my work last year was in a predominantly African American school and I definitely believe that Black lives matter , We have issues we must deal with much better than we do in America,

It is also the day when Spacex is to launch the first astronauts into space from American soil in over a decade. The weather may stop them but that is big new in this space friendly blog. But I am blogging about something else in the limited time and with the limited data available to me.

Most people alive to read this post know of Oedipus in terms of the Oedipal complex of psychology. He is the cursed hero who lost touch with his roots and on his return to Thebes ended up killing his father and marrying his mother only finding out about it much later. He represents an undue attachment and sexual connection with one’s mother and a rejection of one’s father which is repressed and denied but comes to the fore and explains one’s life. That is not the Oedipal connection on which this post will focus. Oedipus is centrally featured in his myth for solving a riddle. This is the riddle, “What is that which in the morning goeth upon four feet; upon two feet in the afternoon; and in the Evening upon three?” The riddle is about feet. Feet are rarely discussed in connection with Oedipus but that is what this post is about.  Oedipus in ancient Greek is generally understood to mean Swollen Foot. Thus the man named Swollen Foot saves his hometown by answering a riddle about feet.  That does not seem to allow for the idea that feet are not worth examining in the story . This has been touched upon in this blog here.

The answer Oedipus gives is not included in the earliest versions of the myth, But generally it is believed to be:Oedipus answered: “Man: as an infant, he crawls on all fours; as an adult, he walks on two legs and; in old age, he uses a walking stick” The man with the swollen foot has had much reason to ponder how people get around and he can answer the riddle. Remember that the Greeks kept their calendar by Olympiads. For a long time it was a series of sacred games that marked the passage of years and these were most notably foot races although other events were included. So if Oedipus was a cripple with a swollen foot it made him highly unusual before anything else in simply becoming a famous Greek hero in that he struggled with his feet. Franklin Delano Roosevelt led America to a transformative victory in World War II from a wheelchair and huge stiff braces that only stiffened his useless legs, the peg leg is seen as a symbol of the pirate, Tamurlane one of the greatest warriors of central Asian history   is thought to derive his better known English name from a confusion   about his more accurate English name “Timur the Lame”. Kaiser Wilhelm seemed to inspire a lot of fitness conscious German soldier in the First World War and indirectly in the Second while using his shriveled arm in various innovative ways as he reviewed his troops. It is way back at the earliest part of our record of leaders that we have Oedipus the swollen-footed King to be solving the foot riddle of the Sphinx, What does this mean and why does it matter?

Let us examine the sphinx a bit.  The sphinx is an important mythological creature of the ancient world  which has only the briefest mention in  the Harry Potter books and none at all in The Chronicles of Narnia or The Lord of the Rings. Because of these omissions it has not been restored to the understanding of  many in the way other mythical  creatures have been by these popular series. Soit does not have much more currency than Oedipus itself. In educated common language to be sphinx-like is to be expressionless. We are going to try to examine other aspects of the sphinx as a symbol.

 

An ancient Greek story may well be an odd thing to write about on Memorial Day.  I usually find plenty of Memorial Day themed things to write about on this holiday.  It may be posted later and even finished later but it was begun and planned out on Memorial Day, The perspective seems to change and the Sphix which is winged, as not all sphinxes are, seems bigger before Oedipus arrives. the creature is smaller than the largest African  male lions when it actually meets  Oedipus.   

In the 1880s Gustave Moreau did a series of paintings which may be counted among the greatest of their type. He painted Oedipus, the Wayfarer, Oedipus and the Sphinx and The Sphinx Undone. He may have painted others as well. But these depict the key elements of the mythical encounter of Oedipus and the Sphinx.  Oedi[us solves a riddle and by doing so he slays a Sphinx, saves a city and becomes a king — all in pretty short order.  It is not the norm in Greek mythology for having the right answer in an of itself to be a central heroic deed in a a mythical adventure.

The sphinx is an important mythological creature of the ancient world. It is depicted in a monumental way in one of the most important continuous sites of human civilization since the ancient world.  In Giza of the Great Pyramid and the Great City of the Dead there stand in  ancient and worn condition The Great Sphinx of Giza. This massive object is commonly referred to as the Sphinx of Giza or just the Sphinx. The monumental object was originally carved from the bedrock, today even the restoration we see is old. The restored original shape of the Sphinx has been effected with layers of blocks. Two hundred and forty feet long from paw to tail, sixty-six feet high from the base to the top of the head and  over sixty feet wide at its rear haunches it is piece of some great significance in linking us tothe  ancient Egyptians of the Old Kingdom during the reign of the pharaoh who ruled from 2558–2532 BC.

This Great Sphinx which is nearing 4,600 years of age is a limestone statue of a reclining sphinx, with the body of a lion and the head of a human. It faces directly from West to East, it stands on the Giza Plateau on the west bank of the Nile in Giza, Egypt. It may have born the face of the reigning Pharaoh — known as Kafre in our language. This creature looks in a way at Asia with Africa and Europe  behind it although not in any absolute since is any of this geographical description true.

Sphinx is indeed reported to have had many Riddles, but this offered to Oedipus was the chief, “What is that which in the morning goeth upon four feet; upon two feet in the afternoon; and in the Evening upon three?”

The painting of Moreau which depicts Oedipus meeting the Sphinx at the crossroads on his journey between Thebes and Delphi shows a Sphinx not so great in size as even a large lion much less the collossal image of Egypt.. Oedipus must answer the Sphinx’s riddle correctly in order to pass. Failure means his own death and that of the besieged Thebans. The riddle was: “What walks on four feet in the morning, two in the afternoon and three at night?”. Oedipus answered: “Man: as an infant, he crawls on all fours; as an adult, he walks on two legs and; in old age, he uses a walking stick”. Oedipus was the first to answer the riddle correctly and, having heard Oedipus’ answer, the Sphinx  is not at all the imperturbable creature we have come to associate with the name of Sphinx in this instance. The creature is fatally shocked and  killed herself by throwing herself into the sea . She has wings to fly through the air and four paws to go upon the land. She has the mouth and brain to enter into the world of humans but nothing to survive the sea.  Oedipus in slaying her secures the freedom of the Thebans, the  rights of kingship in the kingdom of that city, and a wife Jocasta, who was later revealed to be his mother. There are some tales in which he was the legitimate king of Thebes all along. In Moreau’s painting The Sphinx Undone. Oedipus’s feet feature prominently but neither is swollen. There are those who see the answer to the riddle in terms of sacred Geometry. But none who dispute that the riddle is about feet.

My life story appears in this blog in bits and pieces and in segments titled as autobiographical. But one part of my life story is my struggle with my feet. This struggle has shaped much of my view of the world, my fellow humans and every phase of my life’s adventure. The years I spent working on leg press machines were to try to find a sport activity in which I could achieve something close to great excellence and I think I did although there is no official record. But the press also helped me overcome the tendency of my left foot to curl onto a dysfunctional fist. My love of the water and beaches was due in part because both in their own way offered some comfort to my feet. I have suffered from the lack of access to those three remedies in recent years. 

Friendships, love affairs, business dealings and offices held have been compromised by seeming sudden attacks of pain, swelling and twisting in my feet. The list alone of real consequences has enough volume to fill many a blog post without comment or evaluation.  

But my foot condition has also been a teacher as have the painful times spent in braces, stretching, ice baths and more. Right now at this very moment my feet shape my responses to various challenges. I see each technology, policy and law through the lens of someone struggling to stay on my feet and keep walking. Now that I am much nearer the end than the start of my life long race I know clearly that I  have perspective of that kind . Honestly it does seem to me that I have sometimes solved the riddles of man’s condition when others could not because of the perspective of this lifelong struggle. But I am not likely to reap Oedipus’ great rewards nor suffer his strange curse. But I do think that in these trying times, although I may suffer great disgrace in months and years to come I have the balance of effort to reward in my favor when others see the opposite in my record. Here I simply remind all of my readers that we each must find  the answers to our great challenges not only in our strengths but in the uneven costs we have paid for such strength as we have. From the suffering unique to each of us and not only from our success in fitting in (which is valuable and costly according to my personal education by pain) we can learn the means to meet challenges which the common experience of all men will not answer. From our own private agonies we can upend and destroy the invincible power by casting it into the place where it is crippled and not equipped. We can do this because we know so well the cost of inadequacy and the monstrous forces we oppose do not have such experience. I am on my way to the future without great confidence but I am sure enough of the choices that I have made. I am sure enough of the choices I will make. I am not sure of empathy or understanding, I am not sure of getting what I would call a fir hearing, nor of of a final good result. But I am sure I have worked out in the crucible of my private affliction a sense of right that is not inferior to whatever standard I may be forced to account for or to in what remains of my time hobbling along life’s race.  

Memorial Day Musings

This is being written in the wee hours of Memorial Day itself. The Monday holiday where Americans honor those who have died in the armed services for this country is underway. Last evening I watched part of the PBS concert for the National Memorial Day celebration when I could as it aired twice in quick succession. This Memorial Day is a bit different than most with fewer big barbecues and crowded sales. But neither have been much part of my own Memorial Day on an average day.

I have blogged about memorial day at this site here, here and here. I actually have quite a few other posts besides the three linked to the word here in the last sentence. The holiday means a lot to me. This Memorial Day we are also facing the  Pandemic and in the United States of America we face the deaths of about a hundred thousand Americans form this disease so far by the time of this writing.

I have another post in me, if I can get to it, about my own activities this weekend and about my own relationship with the military. But this post is a short and simple one to offer a prayer for the souls and bereaved families of all those who died in the service of the USA. To honor the memories of  all those Americans killed in wars is another purpose. Lastly to honor courage, discipline and sacrifice for love of country. Perhaps I  will get out my later post and perhaps not. But it is a comfort to me at least to post this. I am in some pain and it is goof to get these words out there.

Some Lessons from the Pandemic

I am not going to be very specific in relating the Covid-19 story about myself and my current situation in life. But I am eager to try to explain that everything matters a lot, I am fighting to keep and even improve my health when that is not so easy to do, I am struggling to remain solvent. I am struggling to be responsible for the responsibilities that I still have. I am struggling to improve my condition and keep some small gains as a participant in the economy. I repeat the word struggling advisedly, it is a struggle. In that struggle I rely on some patterns of behavior that have allowed me to survive up to now. I do this even knowing that I have not been a rousing success. I try to figure what changes I can make, I make a few but not that many.

In this balance of competing demands and concerns I often hit a new bump or two that puts the whole balance in jeopardy.  I am writing this post on a day when there are some new threats and challenges in trying to stay in the pattern of life I am trying to keep going. I am aware that there are negative consequences as well as positive ones to every choice I make. last evening I got a call from a robot that brought up very complicated issues from a certain point of view that could be consequential for me. I knew I could not talk to the robot about this so I contacted the AI source at the website level. I realized that his was a site with limited forms of communication as well. But I found one way to at least express the most simple aspect of what was going on. Now I will have to deal with another robot soon or another different website and answer very simplistic questions in a way that is somehow true to my understanding of what happened with the first robot and website. I know that there are often all sorts of legal civil consequences and even criminal penalties associated potentially associated  with an answer on many of these websites even though giving a correct answer may appear to be empirically impossible. But I will do the best I can and live as best I can with the consequences. The Covid-19 crisis is involved in how all this plays out but it does not determine all the factors. Much of it was hard to deal with and part of my life before and in an odd way the pandemic has just cranked up the potential consequences for bad and good.

Going to bed shortly after the online incident described above, I woke and made coffee and had breakfast as I watched the news. I also checked on the progress I have been making with the familiar home based therapy on my chronically ill feet which had reached a crippling state but one in which I have worked before because I avoid jobs that a partly crippled person cannot do.  The swelling malformation and pain were enough diminished that I mowed two lawns which I had prepped two days ago and which I hope to trim over memorial day weekend. Then I ran a few errands and while doing a little laundry I wrote this post. I think I have worked a lot although some people have worked a lot more. But I have also had these kinds of hybrid days. I took a smoke break (cigars outside are my thing) and did a bizarre little urgent repair which reflected the  tools, supplies and conditions on site. It was urgent but not a technique I could recommend to anyone.

As people try to find a new normal we can all see that there will be a lot of good done if we can drive fewer miles. There may be costs and gasoline and even car sales may suffer but keeping the planet alive is also pretty important. If people are at home they will find that they are more responsive to conditions on site at the moment and far less subject to the norms of a public place. This will conflict with the kinds of online structures that make this way of life possible. The result will be that the people living in this new way will experience a different perspective about all of this mix of life and work than if they all commuted to a job where in many cases they then spent a good bit of time driving around to other work venues.

I think that there are opportunities for things to get better, There are also many ways in which things can get worse. But as I try to navigate through this day and through this period of time I try to be guardedly optimistic for myself and for the country I live in and for the world. People will be changed by all of this. It will be difficult to tell what the long terms results will be. Perhaps we will have gotten some experience dealing with uncertainty and finding the best way to optimize current conditions. That is where people are finding themselves now in some cases. That is the  situation in which I find myself.

What About Winning?

I have not yet watched the documentary The Last Dance about Michael Jordan and the great farewell season of the Bulls as coached by Phil Jackson.  It seems like I will get a chance to watch a good bit of it but not all. I like winners and winning pretty well. But I am not a person who can say I like it in an uncomplicated way.

 

When Donald Trump was running for President he said that if he could be elected he would make his listeners or supporters or the United States  tired of winning.  As I type this on my laptop wearing two braces and with a walking cane in my car in case I need it I am reminded that I was never a great athlete. The kind of winning most genuinely admired by the greatest portion of my countrymen and many other people was never mine. I played a lot of sports and I did some winning and some losing but there was nobody keeping long term track of the percentages. I have done a little coaching as well and because it was so little I do know my record and it was extraordinarily good. But it was too small of a sample to mean a lot. I actually have had some very high percentages of wins in some online games where I took on players from around the world.  But that too probably does not mean all that much. I don’t much feel like a winner on an average day in my life.

The truth is that there are a lot of differences in how winning is perceived and some seem to have an ethnic root and a tie to national  history. There is a proliferation of very good works by Americans on military strategy and a willingness to learn from the whole world but I am not sure there is a master work on strategy that towers over the rest. American heroes from Jackson, to John Paul Jones, to Patton and MacArthur really seem pretty heterogenous and none of them particularly resemble George Washington — at least so ir seems to me. Sun Tzu’s   Art of War however does find resonance in Mao’s Little Red Book or The Sayings of Chairman Mao. Principals of not surrendering, engaging across a variety of means of waging war, not seeking glory, keeping losses low when possible and being able to bear horrific losses — these all seem sort of Chinese. Carl Von Clausewitz’s work On War seems deeply connected to the part of Adolph Hitler’s military ideas in that smaller portion of Mein Kampf . Discipline, preparation, aggression and a focus on decisive battles also seems pretty German to me. For me the greatest book on British strategy is The Strategy of Indirect Approach (1941, reprinted in 1942 under the title: The Way to Win Wars)  by B. H. Liddel Hart. That book seems to me to hold a certain grasp of the British genius of war. I could go on with  the French, Jews, Greeks, Spaniards and the Japanese connection to The Book of Five Rings. But I will not do that it is not my purpose. I simply want to say that in my own life I have developed a view of winning and a strategy of winning that suits me and my past, resources and strengths even by that standard I have not won that much.  I do think that I have come to accept that some of my biggest weaknesses have caused me to seek out something close to a minimum survival on the one hand and  to work towards rather high yield and extremely difficult objectives on the other hand. As I pas through this present time of change, uncertainty and trouble I have a part of me that is devoted to win-win thinking and avoiding zero-sum games. There is another part of me that values competition, struggle and keeping score. The last part realizes that in the bigger picture even those of us playing to win will not all be playing the same game in the fave of such a large and complex crisis as that of the current era.

COVID-19 and the Carousel of Crises

This has been a unique time for me in a life that has had lot of changes. Those are changes that make each part of my life different from every other. But in a short time this crisis has had many parts. I have been in a continuous process of redefining what this crisis will be for me

There was the early part of the crisis when I got my insurance license back and then my annuity certification.   It seemed like I had a pretty good plan for not just survival but even making the most of the crisis and moving well into the future on the other side. I have since begun to fray a bit.  It is probably because my life had pretty much reached a place of  relative dead end before the crisis.

 

I then tried to publish a book and revive this blog.  I had some setbacks on both counts. There has been a good bit of additional trouble since then.

 

I live in a region where the flood of 2016,  the BP -Macondo Oil Leak,  Hurricanes Rita and Katrina coming in the same year and the Oil Crash of the early 80s are the way many of us organize our informal spoken memoirs. In the midst of that big national crises like the current pandemic and the attacks of 9/11 are further structures for organizing the marking of time. Today, I am feeling less than optimum and I hope that it has nothing to do with the early days of ambiguous malaise that some describe as the onset of Covid-19 infections. Probably that is not it but I had a feeling that this year of my life had dark clouds attached to it and this year is coming to an end. My birthday is June 15. So as with Ceasar and the Ides of March, I  take a wait and see attitude. The hardest thing about possibly dying for me is what I still had left to do — but I do not pretend that there was a great chance that I would do it.  The struggle is more my heritage than the great indisputable victory. I see in Dudley Leblanc an example of lifelong struggle against the odds. He knew more victories than I but his life saw a very large share of defeats as well. I find some glory in the causes that he fought for and although I feel that the record has not been fair to him it has at least included him and I think much more than whatever I may have done will be remembered  when my life’s struggle is ended.

It was the perception of many that his involvement with free enterprise opportunities for African Americans in the life insurance business was the single obstacle that made it impossible for him to be elected Governor. One of Dudley Leblanc’s principal businesses was the Thibodeaux Benevolent Association which I think was a fraternal life insurance company although I have not seen the By-laws. He was really engaged for longer with this enterprise than with HADACOL, the medicine show company for which he is more often remembered. The clientell of TBA was more Cajun than  a randome distribution of people would predict but it had members all over the country from various white ethnic groups and perhaps some others neither white nor African American.  But he also served on the board of the of the People’s Benevolent Association. This fraternal engaged in promoting the welfare of Negroes as they were called was a completely unacceptable involvement for a man of political aspirations in his day. So his involvement in the well run, orderly and prosperous Negro life insurance enterprise which was neither a voter registration organization, nor communist nor incendiary became the greatest political crisis of his life when it was discovered. That was a crisis manufactured by those in power. I will not list them here but my view is that my own life has been shaped badly by manufactured crises as well.

I do not feel as attached to life as I once did. But I hope to get through this crisis and fight another day. That will be my reward. More struggle. Then one day I will not be able to struggle anymore. Then I will dismount from the Carousel of Crises. Perhaps God will have mercy on my soul when that day comes.

 

 

Looking at some changes ahead.

What is clearly a unique time has allowed me to spend some time on this blog. The results in April showed some readers coming back and a few new views as well. But in May things have been less promising. However I am planning to find the time and resources to do a little housekeeping and hopefully improve the site over the next month. After that I may not have much to give beyond trying to post regularly. But perhaps for those who wish to find it the blog will again add value to their regular reading as it once seemed to do on a purely statistical basis.

The Last Hurrah!

Monday, May 11 is my parents 57th wedding anniversary. Sunday, May 10th was Mothers Day. All my brothers and sister except one (and many but not all their kids ) did one of those drive by parades for Mom. It was a glorious moment grief and obstructed by social distancing. We had a police escort.  I had an Exclamation printed at print shop because that was my part of the caravan spelling out Happy Mothers Day! I have no pictures of the event except the ones in my mind which will soon fade. But it fills in with many other memories of our American family. Like any family the record has dark clouds and dangerous valleys as well as the moments of glory.

Family life is part of the main sequence and the principal photography. It is part of the warp and woof. It is part of the entree and principal table setting. But I have lived my life with a view as to how it would end even from my early youth, There has always been a sense of making the final shot, having the story end the right way and other such metaphors for the yet metaphorical final curtain. I was never sure how that would be but I think I had a few hundred possibilities that were somehow acceptable and thousands or more other possibilities that were not acceptable but that I knew were not necessarily avoidable just because  I did not like them. The story was  not entirely mine to write and I oft used the saying, the  source of which I have forgotten, which says “Things generally end badly or they would not end.” In the larger context of Heaven and Hell,  heroic last stands the sayings that have been given meaning for centuries of loyal subjects who made them trues like “The king is dead Long Live the King!” and other cries of succession — we all know that many things just fall apart and collapse. I am in a phase of wrapping up what is left of my life not building toward another phase of it. To a very remarkable degree I am just past the milestones where I might have stayed to settle or taken the turns to some other destination.

This post is called the Last Hurrah! It is not about death exactly but about the end of my life in a larger sense, This is one of the posts that sort of highlights my roles or nature as a critical and malcontent patriot in America. I have written a good bit in that vein and some regular readers would notice it but my blog was shuttered to long for any of you to be regular readers. I am happy to have this blog but the interruption has changed the graph quite a bit of what might have been. My attention is turning inward these days and I am not as interested in the future of my country as I once was but I do still care and not only enough to vote and opine and join students in class in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

A bit of evidence that I have a little gung ho left in me is that I support the USO.   What follows is not the kind of thank you email I have posted here from other charities but it did come shortly after  I made one of the small donations I try to make a few times a year at best. Pictures were provided in most of the segments.

Frank,

As the COVID-19 crisis continues into another month, I want to highlight the importance of entertainment in fulfilling the USO’s mission. To some, USO activities and celebrity performances may seem like “extras,” or “nice-to-haves.” In reality, their impact on morale is immense. They offer much-needed distractions from the stresses of difficult missions and make service members and their families feel remembered and valued.

Social distancing, widespread quarantines and base restrictions have made boredom-busting and morale-boosting activities more important than ever — and much more challenging to pull off. I hope these stories of your USO in action will illustrate the power of your gift to us.

You can’t hide these smiling eyes.

At this impromptu party, the food and music didn’t matter nearly as much as the gesture. Recently, 109 Marines deployed from Camp Foster, Japan, to Guam at 1:30 a.m. The USO Foster team set up five tables in the parking lot, blasted some lively music and served our Marines with smiling eyes — due to the face masks covering their actual smiles. Members of our USO team were the only ones there to see them off.

These stars love the stars and stripes.

When superstars make time for you, you feel like a VIP. Award-winning actors, musicians, comedians and other entertainers – both long-time USO supporters and new friends – have helped us launch a virtual USO tour. We’re livestreaming performances and Q&As directly to bases and to service member phones. Check out some of our headliners.

The delight is in the details.

The USO Erbil team in Iraq assembled three different goody bags to distribute on base: a Card Shark Kit with a list of card games, a Spa Kit and a 550-Cord (parachute cord crafting) Kit. Before the COVID-19 base restrictions, our volunteer Amanda had taught a popular 550-cord craft class in person. For the kits, she made careful, step-by-step directions with pictures to guide service members through making a bracelet. (pictures were included here).

By Air or by Hair:

To close this week’s update, I want to share one story about a single veteran, and another about a group of leaders in our Pentagon who also understand how much morale matters.

In 1944, this WWII paratrooper (pictured in the email)  cut his hair into a mohawk to intimidate the Germans. Now, he’s sporting the statement haircut again to raise spirits during the pandemic.1
Have you been keeping an eye on the sky? The Blue Angels and Thunderbirds have been conducting “Operation America Strong,” flying over U.S. cities in a rousing salute to first responders, essential workers and military service members battling COVID-19.2
Any contribution or donation right now will make a big impact on the lives of service members near and far.

SUPPORT OUR TROOPS »
Sincerely,

 

I still do care about America and still wish at some level things had worked out to allow me to do more. This post is about the possible end of an era in our country and the world but it is also about the sense in which I live my own life. Little Richard just died but apparently not of Covid-19. He was yet another sign of a page turning in popular culture along with the Covid deaths. Roy Horn was getting to old to do his act and had never returned as a performer after being bitten by one tiger after so many had fallen under his talent based magic. It seems oddly horrifying tome that he has been replaced in American culture by the Netflix series the Tiger King — although I have not seen the show.  It is less notable today but there was a time when a good number of people who knew me and actually got along with me might have said that I had a hero complex. I think that — as such people would have meant it very long ago — is fair comment. The world goes on but we must live with who we are in the ever changing and yet remarkably consistent world. Among other things I have read an article or two that his may mark the end of the stock market as we know it. The forty million dollar guaranteed minimum prizes of the Powerball and Mega Millions have ended. Supposedly thousands of small businesses have ended. These are just America centered facts. That does not do justice to all the many lives that have been lost in this country and around the world. For me this has been a time of trying to keep things together. It has been an attempt to end as little as possible but there have been many things that did end. Another important one ended Friday. Sunday May 10 was Mother’s Day and the day after that is my parents wedding anniversary. The same Sundaywasalso my nephews First Communion.  He and another of my nephews were about to make their First Communions together when the pandemic closed the churches and upended those plans.    I am sorry to say I was eager enough to go to that first ceremony but was not able to attend the private ceremony in a tiny chapel for the first one and will not attend the more open outdoor mass for the second one that will be held tomorrow. Maybe it is for the best. I am not a regular churchgoer anymore. Nor do I see that changing. I have been praying a bit more these days but not as much as I used to. I have still kept reading the short book (208 pages more or less) Failing Forward that I mentioned in my last post. It is helping me process some tough times but is not making it all clear nor am I applying it in a way that would fairly test its principles. But i find life to be about letting go of more and more things every year both old and new,

But, I am not as much of a standout for being Gung Ho as far being critical and not very content, I hold the two things to both be compelling obligations. I have to try to support what my country is and what keeps it together and equally I have to be true to myself and for me there are so many things going in directions that are burdensome, sad, troubling depressing and just bad.

The documentary series “The Last Dance” on ESPN is something I would like to watch but have not been able to watch yet.  Friday of this week was perhaps the most disappointing day of the Corona Virus Pandemic for me personally. it was a day when the strains of a number of adjustments that I have had to make added up to such a significant cumulative total that I just could not go forward without being significantly affected. The interior storms are always the ones I mind the most. I do really find life in America in general amazingly hostile and depressing on a trend over what is becoming a series of  great number of years and the general trend is that it gets worse in so very many ways every year.  That is why it is strange to feel kindly treated by the society as a whole in this crisis. I feel that I am not being treated by the standard of lying, evil twisted and hate-filled smug authoritarianism that I personally experience as very much the norm in dealing with the major institutions of the Land of the Free.  Friday with some accumulation from the past few days was closer to a reversion to the norm. Life showed me again how horrible and impossible my life here often is and I feel the very certain sense that things will get worse till my life is snuffed out to the satisfaction of the observers. But this last Saturday, I woke grateful for the little respite that I have enjoyed in the midst of all this crisis. Whether that will last or not for another day, week or year it is worth noting while it is reality.  At this moment little in form of institutionalized hate and attempted murder is directed my way. I should enjoy that change of pace. I am grateful to be included in the relief and stimulus plans when so many plans were so carefully devised to exclude me. But I am only hoping and not at all sure that things will be alright for a while when we get through this crisis. I am only taking each little step I can/ Maybe the result of this rest and passive income will be to give a little more force, hope and style to the end — just maybe instead of a whimper I will be restored enough not for a new start   or grand plans  but enough to have a little last hurrah in a few ways instead of just watching the decay  of some things I built and the burning structure of others.

 

 

 

The Bumpy Road: Covid -19 and Earning my AARP Card

Mother’s Day in a pandemic for a single man who just got his AARP membership card is a unique point in life’s journey and perhaps deserves a quick post. Whether it deserves a post or not it is getting one here. But this is not really about Covid-19 or Mother’s Day it is about the struggles of life.

I will turn back to getting my AARP card later in this post. I will be turning 56 in June. It seems like a long time ago that I turned fifty. I was not a superlatively healthy kid. But I lament the loss of my photos by the score of me hunting, fishing canoeing and climbing trees. They provided a useful alternate view of the reality that I was a quiet and bookish kid often afflicted with allergies, childhood asthma and other health problems which were more chronic and debilitating than acute. But I do have more mud and grass on my school pictures than most people did, I had a snakebite, several broken bones and lots of other issues that occasionally reinforced my pattern of social distancing and that were earned out in the real world. Nonetheless, I liked to think, visit with older people and be alone on a way that comes from being picked last in many sports and near last in others.  However, I remember some glory days in quite a few sports and not everyone can honestly say the same. I hit quite few home runs in backyard lots and though they were a tiny percentage of the times I was at bat there is a lot of that failure to hit thing in baseball. A book that I am reading just now, which is at the center of this blog post has a chapter called “Get a New Definition of Failure and Success” . In that chapter the author tells of going to watch a game in which a baseball player got the 5,113th out of his career. He later mentions that this guy was also the great Tony Gwynn who got the 3,000 hit of his career during the same game. The author of the book was at the game but missed the historic hit due to the foibles and vicissitudes of his own life and schedule.  I cannot relate to the kind of success that superstars enjoy but I still find the story compelling.

 The story is illustrative of how failure is part of doing something difficult often enough to achieve great success.  But most of us are not going to be superstars. I am glad at times to have done what I regard to be a lot of good work and a lot of other work while also making some money to meet some obligations. Often enough my work and making money have been in conflict not on the same trajectory. A very different person just mentioned in the book is Vincent Van Gogh who is widely considered one of the greatest artists of all time and sold only one painting in his life. Of course, I cannot help but feel that Van Gogh and the American self help book industry are very much on opposite sides of the spectrum of human experience but more power to the author for including the angst-ridden painter at east briefly in his book.   

I have not read as much during this semi-quarantine as I would have hoped I would read.  But I have picked up some books that I had wanted to read for some time. I recently replaced most of the gaskets in my almost twenty year old car. There were more than a few which were leaking. It was not the last thing that needed to be done but it was the most urgent. I think that despite my relatively new tire and suspensions it may have been a ride over one the occasional rough and bumpy roads which triggered many leaks in these aging gaskets to go at the same time. It is not the same as a perfect vehicle but I am invested in keeping it going a little longer. I think that this crisis is a patch of bumpy road that is doing some damage. I basically do believe that sort of football coach stuff that finds its way into adages and maxims like “when the going gets tough the tough get going”. Biblical adages about the faithful like gold tested in fire, wisdom emerging from the crucible of humiliation, salvation being what happens when the wheat is left over after winds of wrath have blown the chaff away.   Those are the Biblical passages less likely to appear on mugs and bumper stickers that have some meaning for me. This is a time to find the inspiration to carry on and reach the goals that remain,  I also got my AARP card this week, it is almost six years after I reached the age to qualify for this participation as a member in the American Association of Retired Persons, which is what the letter stood for as I remember but which has been  transcended over time.  I am certainly not retired. 

I am reading John Maxwell’s Failing Forward during this Stay at Home period. I am not sure what the purpose if someone of my age reading a self help book can really be — but I am sure that it helps me brighten my perspective a bit to read such things from time to time. The effort to find my way in life does not get easier. I am aware that it may just end soon and that won’t much matter in the way that many lives matter, But I still try to devote myself to finding a way a forward from time to time. Some of that guidance comes from more abstract sources like science and philosophy. Some comes from spiritual classics and sources that are clearly spiritual and religious. but some comes from the self help sections of American bookstores and libraries. Failing Forward is an important enough book in that it focuses on the necessary process of growing and succeeding through failure. I have read whole shelves full of academic books with footnotes and those in several languages and honestly for me the books like this one will always fall into the category of nearly guilty pleasures like the many paper back spy thrillers and pulp science fiction books I read on life’s road. 

from Pexels by Valentin Antonucci
Compass or not we all must travel less than perfect paths.

This Sunday is Mother’s Day. It is a day to honor and show affection for one’s mother.  I have tried to find a way to do that.  It will be different because of social distancing. The set of pictures below does not contain any pictures  of women with whom I have been romantically involved. There is a bible passage at the start of the big book in early  chapters Genesis that says  “It is not good for man to be alone”.   The story goes on to tell of this being God’s motivation for creating Eve from Adam’s rib. The story has been subject to a feminist critique in recent decades and always had some limits as a paradigm but it has a kind of ring of truth as well. In woman there is something that completes what a man is and does, For men the presence and identity of women is one of the links by which we see the world as complete and hopeful. That may be true to some degree of how some or many women see men but it is not exactly the same.

 

 

 There are a few males included in the pictures above but we see a pattern of human experience in the female form of life. We are able to glimpse, in all these women, some part of what we as men honor on Mother’s Day. It is not so easy to be sure what family and motherhood ought to mean these days. But certainly what I have heard about the popularity of the Netflix series the Tiger King  shows a different focus of American ideas just now. There is a cost to the decline of the traditional family. The value of men and the traditional family has not been without its defenders. That is not what this book is but it seems related in some tenuous way to other such books.

<li class=”wp-block-coblocks-gallery-collage__item item-1″>One of the areas of human potential that has been addressed in the industry of American self-help literature is the area of masculinity. That work is evident over the years in books like Maximized Manhood: A Guide to Family Survival, Fatherhood: A Fresh Start for the Christian Family, Iron John: A book About Men Man and Woman in Christ: An Examination of the Roles of Men and Women in the Light of the Scriptures and the Social Sciences. .each of these books celebrates manhood in reference to a high if arguably disingenuous value of women. I have lost a few segments of earlier versions of this post in the editing process and that is just one of many aspects of the troubles with technology which characterize my life. I think I do alright, but staying current in technological terms is one of the bumps on my life’s road.    Therefore I may never get the links to the above books working properly again. Mothers  of course have a lot of experience with finding good past failure. But there is a difference between men and women because men really cannot expect to become mothers.

So as a man who is not a father and is not likely to become a father, I am aware that motherhood is a great and complex journey on which I am not engaged. I have posted about motherhood and mother’s day tangentially on this blog here, here and here.  In my model constitutions I  discuss  motherhood and womanhood quite a bit. But Mother’s Day is usually devoted more to writing Mother’s Day cards and Facebook posts to my living and actual mother.  This is not really such a post as I would class as a Mother’s Day post.  I am sure that pregnancy and childbirth in this pandemic must be even more extraordinarily challenging than the ordinary series of natural miracles and ordeals which normally define this process.

I never have really known the world as a great male athlete knows the world but there was a time when I at least  felt that I participated in the life of manhood and did not have to sweat the details to feel those feelings that go with being a man. .   But later life has brought some indignities since then. The most recent is that my e-harmony profile gave me a substantially higher score for the feminine side of my personality than for the masculine side. I think that the fact that i watched ice dancing with my ex-wife, have worked in female dominated workplaces, have done much of my own cooking and housekeeping explain a lot of that but of course that is real stuff and I could have ended up doing other things.  I have so many memories of playing rough sports, chopping trees, shooting guns, riding horses, building fences, working on cars, and hiking alone in the wilderness but I somehow do not think that showed up as well in the test, I honestly have had a lot of female friends and spent a lot of time with female  relatives but there have been a lot of of hunting camp and road trip experiences with the guys as well. I think that more than anything. I missed the boat of life which would have recognized the kinds of courtship, family life and eroticism in all its many forms which was suited to me and which was actually eroded by very powerful forces. So I seem to have kind of lost my guy card amid all the powerful forces at play in the world. Women may say different things but I think that few are attracted to men with  a perceived surplus of feminine qualities. My brother gave me a book a few years ago called Twelve Rules for Life by Jordan Petersen.  That author also seeks to figure out the path of masculinity for his largely young male following but he does it in a less direct and exclusive way than the books on manhood I listed above. I liked the book alright. I am not that guy either however.

I do not think that I am really the kid who got beat by all the jocks and warriors and just cannot take life’s hints. I remember going into  martial arts studio once and not being well received partly because one of their best fighters out moved and out paced me but also because I kicked him literally off the sparring mat which that particular studio had. I also remember taking down two highly trained killers drunk behind a bar in a relatively friendly non lethal bar fight. I have not had a legendary sex life but I really like girls. I think society does not doe me a lot of justice in terms of understanding my sexuality. I have my resentments about all of that and it is too late for them to be resolved.

There is so much more I could say about all of this but I will change course and reach my conclusion. Not all of us are going to recover from the crisis well enough to feel like winners. Some of us have suffered losses and adversities that we honestly feel we cannot overcome. Some of us are the walking wounded and will not get over the ways we have been wounded in areas central to our identity. But even if we are not going to be superstars we can make the best of this. We can do our best, look for opportunities and respect ourselves. We can treasure our good moments. We can honor our Mothers and other mothers this Sunday and Americans can join in the national day of prayer today. We can enjoy the safe interactions that we have with loved ones. Life is not just about the good times and goodness is to be found in all times.   

 

i

Covid-19: Anxiety for the Already Anxious

I have a lot of anxiety about this whole situation. I am anxious about whether I go out too much and do not stay at home enough under the stay at home order. I am anxious about all the things that fall behind because I stay at home so much more than I am used to doing. I am anxious about giving less care than I used to to some people I used to care for more. I am anxious when I give the limited care that I do still give to those people it may be too much and may either actually expose them to the virus or allow the wide range of judgmental idiots I have dealt with to irrationally blame me should they contract the virus elsewhere. I am very anxious about my finances — this is not just in a simple context of asking “Do I have enough Money?? I have complex and layered anxiety beyond the mere fact that I may not have enough money to meet my needs. But while I have all of this anxiety I am more concerned about what I do with it than I am concerned about the anxiety itself. I have tried to deal with the anxiety and its causes in a variety of ways as I look back on the days since March 13 and leading up to this day when I wake up to a Covid-19 death toll over seventy thousand in the United States after some long time of increased isolation.

Since the Covid-19 Pandemic began I have reached out on my Facebook account posting links to charities that I have supported, posting notices of feeding programs and pre-K registration from my principal employer. Posting medical and social and new notices I find or which are provided by friends. In addition I post links to this blog and its posts. I think what I d on these posts matters but I do not think that they matter all that much. I have struggled with more resolve and conviction in my life that I will feel at any time in the future — I feel sure of that. . But being involved helps me to move beyond my anxiety. Although I am aware that I am not a person of many resources and not a person with much reason for hope. Yet, I have given multiple donations to Family Missions Company, multiple donations to Second Harvest and Feeding America and single donations tot he Nature Conservancy, The Sewing with Savoie outreach of the Acadian Museum and RIP Medical Debt. I know that it has been real money and I do not have that much but I feel that if there has ever been a time when donations to good causes were needed then this is that time. Doing something also lessens my sense of futility and helplessness.

We each cope in our own ways. I chat often with a relative who was coping by riding his bike and playing instruments. His more sensible touring bike was in the shop and he rode an older fancy racing bike he may be two old for and fell and broke his arm in two places. He now cannot play his guitar either and cannot ride his bike and has to deal with great pain. He will also have to find a new path through his anxiety. I also will very possibly face many setbacks in the path going forward through these times. But the situation is serious enough that it reminds us all that we are entitled to feel that it is a struggle to be where we currently are.

I have seen big changes on some things. Some I had a lot to do with and some very little. I volunteered to give a speech, hosted a dinner and participated in a few of the activities for the Ulster project which brought Catholics and Protestants from Northern Ireland to live with families of the alternate form of Christian faith in America and taught them to socialize with others from that region here. By most accounts things are better in sectarian relations in Northern Ireland than they were then. I feel that the Ulster Project had a small but real influence in creating that change. I had a tiny contribution to the good that the Ulster project did. That is one example that I can discuss freely. There have been other challenges in which I have played a more significant role but of which I can say less.

In recent years my level of effective engagement has generally declined. The question of how my life will play out in the future is very much on my mind. One thing is that different is that though I have posted about the Church recently I am less active as a Catholic and have no interest in committing to any other branch of Christianity as my daily spiritual discipline. Therefore I am wondering also about that aspect of my life. This is also a place where I can give play to anxiety..

One of my friends with whom I have maintained phone and email questions decided with me to take advantage of a day we were both leaving the house anyway. We decided to have a limited interaction in the cemetery where we new there would be fresh air, sunshine and few or no other living people. I realized we had chosen a pretty safe course as got to the large facility and nobody else was viewing the tombs. On other dates ( a few during the year) others would visit their ancestral tombs and of course when there is a burial these days fewer than ten people have been gathering for the graveside service. So it was with a sense of some contentment that I was walking through a cemetery yesterday at a safe social distance from a friend who wanted to put some flowers at his mother’s grave for Mother’s day next Sunday. His father’s marker is there as well although he is not buried there and it does not show his death date. We also visited the tombs of both of my grandmothers resting beside my grandfathers. In addition we visited the tomb of one of my great-grandmothers resting beside my great grandfather and another not resting beside her husband because a difference of religion caused him to be buried across town. I did not take any pictures today and the biggest tomb where my father’s parents and his youngest brother are buried.are not in the library of photos I have access to right now. But some of the tombs pictured here are the same ones I visited.

After visiting the cemetery I picked up a few things at the Dollar General near my home and cleaned and put things away. I took a shower and let a familiar sense of weariness pass over me. This morning I stood beside the bayou and on its banks said to myself that I felt both more of a man and more alive than usual. I end the day feeling back in the groove of less vigor and energy.

We all see the outlines of this pandemic and this quarantine through our own viewpoint. That viewpoint is mostly formed by the phenomena of our experience. Yesterday before going to the cemetery, I slept in a little more than I am normally able to sleep in. I enjoyed a perk of the quarantine in added rest. I woke sore from the past few days of buying a palm plant and moving it along with organic soil and potting mix on Saturday afternoon. Sunday morning and Monday morning I spent first uprooting a blighted and old shrub that was a permanent stunted joining of two plants. — which my mother had been eager to get out of her yard for a while. Then I worked on improving the hole and added the soils, Next I took the palm plant out of its pot set it in the hole and then covered the work with the soil displaced in removing the old plant. Yesterday after the cemetery walk I watered the plant. Prior to the cemetery walk I donated plasma and before that I went over some of my business on line that needed to be taken care of for me to go forward. Today I woke up a little earlier than yesterday. Schedules do not seem to matter much.

But beyond the lens of this crisis my life is not all that great. Like many people my old problems have not all gone away. The new problems are simply layered on top of the older problems. But that does not mean there have not been silver linings. Most of all I have actually had more rest and that very likely is the thing I needed most. I have intimated elsewhere and very likely will again what some of the leading causes of my long term anxiety are. Because I have not been silent it is possible for me to not be specific about my anxieties right now. But I am trying ads many are to get through this but also to get through it in a way that will allow me to survive in the new normal to follow. Of course I have to live to see the new normal first.