Saturday, October 30, 2010

October, seen from a farewell walk

When Sunday arrives, I will awaken in the Lake House, get up, look out the window to make certain the sky is still there, turn on television to learn if the rest of the world has vanished overnight, make coffee because it is my habit, turn on the computer to connect with the near and the distant and .... and .... and .... When Sunday departs, I will be gone from the Lake House, to a destination yet to be determined. White Bear laughs at me. He has lived in six places so far this year. I have lived in only five. White Bear says we who are free of everything actually are the ones who rule the world. He is right, of course, but it does not make leaving a place you enjoy any easier.

October is the cruelest month

I feel very sad tonight. Tonight and tomorrow night will be my last nights in the Lake House. Within a few days after moving here, I said I had fallen in love with this house. This is true. The only thing that did not make it a perfect house was its location. That is not the fault of the house, but it also is true. Even in dollars and cents that is true. Being on this side of the road, away from the lake side, means it is worth $250,000 less than it would be if it were across the road and right on the lakeshore. Everything has a value, rightly or wrongly.

Yes, in this case the difference between $650,000 and $400,000. Anyone care to make a bid?

This house does have life. I mean an actual life within itself, of its own. Of that, I am certain. There are many noises; some from the house still settling (it is only four years old); some from animation absorbed from those who have lived here or have visited here; some from the manitou of the house itself.

It actually has locked me out twice, well, three times, but the first was my fault. In the last two instances, unlocked doors became locked during the thirty or forty minutes I was outside walking in a meadow just up the hill behind the house. It wanted me to stay inside, and not to leave it even for a few minutes just beyond its doors. Or, maybe, it was angry at me for leaving it and was telling me not to come back. Who knows?

This evening, I went for a walk in the dark. It was the first time I have done that down the road which runs in front of the house during the two months that I have lived here. I have gone for a walk at night many, many times in the meadow just up the hill behind the house. I have stood there at times for a seemingly infinite moment, watching the stars, watching the moon -- listening for the sounds of the night and the creatures of the night, ready to growl back. It has been a good experience to do this.

Then, I returned to the Lake House and turned on every light I could find. It was the first time I have done that. Then, I returned to the road in front of the house with my camera and took a few photographs. Here, you see one. The upper room on the left, incidentally, is where I have had my computers and write these things to you. The upper room on the right has been the bedroom in which I have slept for the past two months.

On Sunday these things will end, and for one more time I will leave one place and move along to the next place. It seems like an endless walk, a road never traveled by anyone before me, with a destination I could not imagine no matter how hard I tried -- could not fathom even if I sold my soul for a mere hint, a simple clue. The end will be there waiting for me, probably laughing at me, hopefully welcoming me.

So, goodbye, October. Goodbye, Lake House. You see now? You believe me now? I told you October is the cruelest month.

The Deserted House
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Life and Thought have gone away
Side by side,
Leaving door and windows wide.
Careless tenants they!

All within is dark as night:
In the windows is no light;
And no murmur at the door,
So frequent on its hinge before.

Close the door; the shutters close;
Or through the windows we shall see
The nakedness and vacancy
Of the dark deserted house.

Come away: no more of mirth
Is here or merry-making sound.
The house was builded of the earth,
And shall fall again to ground.

Come away: for Life and Thought
Here no longer dwell;
But in a city glorious -
A great and distant city - have bought
A mansion incorruptible.
Would they could have stayed with us!

No song .... maybe, later .... maybe, not .... but ....

Well, yes, I have found a song now, one from long ago that I think is beautiful and in which the lyrics are sort of appropriate to my own words in this post. I might add that whoever put together this video, I think, is cool and neat and shows significant, potential imaginative talent.

Now, if you would be kind enough to excuse me while I move from drifting in thought to rocking in real time. It is a night for a going-away party here, for a wake, for a last memory .... and, in the meanwhile, just close your own eyes and slip within the sound of the song .... it is a leap toward magic, you know ....

Monday, October 25, 2010

October, seen from behind an ancient oak

Just at the moment you begin to think you are alone, you look over your shoulder and there is the full moon, peering at you through the nearly bare branches of a huge, old oak tree, watching every movement you make. Wherever you hide, the full moon will search you out and find you.

Just the moon and me .... and, you ....

It seems to me that the magic of the moon -- the full moon, in particular -- is that it connects you with others.

You can look at a full moon, and realize that someone you know on the other side of the world has seen the same moon just a few hours earlier (or will see it, just a few hours later). You can be talking on the telephone to a person a few thousand miles away across America, and both be looking at the same full moon as you speak.

It is the same moon your earliest ancestor saw (and, perhaps, knelt before); the same moon which shone down upon the builders of the Egyptian pyramids; the same moon Homer watched rise as he wrote "The Odyssey;" the same moon your grandchildren's grandchildren will play beneath on a summer evening far into the future -- into a time when you can see it no more.

And, this October, the full moon found me once again, although I had fled from everything and from almost everyone as I always do when autumn makes its appearance.

Meditation 17
Devotions upon Emergent Occasions
by John Donne

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Does each man's death diminish me?

My first encounter with the words of John Donne came from reading the words of Ernest Hemingway. He used "for whom the bell tolls" as his title for a novel about the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s. He was there for a while. Hemingway, I mean, not Donne. All right, I am playing around trying to be funny again.

This was in high school. I did not actually begin to read Donne until a few years later, in college. The words of Donne's "Meditation" unquestionably are among the most beautiful and touching ever written. Incidentally, he led quite a life.

The questions to me always have been, are the concepts found in Donne's "Meditation" relevant? Are they true? Why should I accept them?

Without going into a detailed, back-and-forth discussion about these points, I will simply say that while the words are beautiful and touching, I believe them to be wishful thinking for a Utopian society that, in all probability, can never exist, today or tomorrow.

I think this because I do believe there are genuinely good and indisputably evil individuals born into this world. Most of "us" fall somewhere between good and evil, but some very few are at the furthest extents of the good/evil spectrum.

Therefore, I ask the question, does the death of an evil man diminish me?

To which, I say no.

What say you?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

October, seen from a hilltop meadow

This may or may not be the World Tree, "Yggdrasil," from which in Old Norse mythology Odin hung for nine days and nine nights as the price demanded of him to gain wisdom to be all-powerful in the nine worlds. I rather doubt it, but there seemed to be something mystical about this lone tree as it watched the October sun set in the distance. Perhaps, the tree wished to follow the sun. Perhaps, since I no longer have roots, perhaps, I will.

T.S. and I have a difference of opinion

In a segment entitled, "The Burial of the Dead," poet T.S. Eliot opens his indisputably most famous work, "The Waste Land," with these lines:

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

That, friends, Romans and countrymen, unlike the drivel put out the past decade or two or three, by blank verse, free verse, open verse and/or no verse poets is an example of real, actual, genuine poetry.

But, just for the sake of argument, I vote for October or January as the cruelest month. (We shall leave any arguments regarding actual poetry for another time.) Both these months have foreshadowed sledge-hammer hard blows to my psyche. Each year, I hold my breath waiting for each October to pass. Some years, they are (thankfully) uneventful. Some years, they slam me in their opening moments. Other years, they ambush me at the last possible second.

So, you ask me, how can a month (October for now; we will wait on January) with such beautiful colors and such stunning sunsets be cruel?

To which, I respond: Why, or how, so often is that which is beautiful also cruel?

Oh, hell. Who cares? Time to lighten up.

Well, once upon a time they were boys

A few days ago, I posted the Thin Lizzy version of the song, "Whiskey in the Jar." I am not certain many, if any, actually listened to the song here and, if they did, realized that the men on stage were only some of the surviving members of this Irish hard rock band. Absent from the group was Phil Lynott, one of the founding members and the lead vocalist, who between liquor and drugs finished himself off at age thirty six.

I hate to shatter the image you must have of me. I mean the image of a mild-mannered, ivory-tower, conservative, old-school, polite, somewhat pedantic gentleman. But, I think that at this point in time, I must be in the mood for a wild night with a wild woman in a wild bar.

October, as I have mentioned, traditionally is a harsh month for me and I am holding my breath and hiding in the shadows as it passes by me this year. I need to cut loose. So, with a night at Dino's bar and grill foremost in my mind, here again is Thin Lizzy, here again minus Lynott, this time performing what is considered the band's only "major hit" song -- "The Boys are Back in Town."

Some lines
from the Thin Lizzy song

"The Boys are Back in Town"

Spread the word around
Guess who's back in town

You spread the word around

Friday night they'll be dressed to kill
Down at Dino's bar and grill
The drink will flow and blood will spill
And if the boys want to fight, you'd better let them

The boys are back in town
The boys are back in town

Saturday, October 16, 2010

October, seen from a bedroom window

Such was the view on the morning of October 15, 2010, at Lake Washington, Minnesota, as seen from my bedroom window. Although the photograph was taken in the morning -- just this morning of my today, only about ten hours ago real time -- it already is October 16 in much of Europe, which is where my computer still thinks it is located. (Foolish device made by man; note the time stamp for the post.) October 15 or October 16, it makes little difference which -- or does it? Time is illusory and is as much imaginary as it is actual. October 16. The middle of the month. When the second half of this month has passed, this view will no longer exist in my world. It may even be like the falling tree in the forest that no one hears. In any case, it certainly will be that for me, and part of my past -- except for a shadow or two.

by Robert Frost

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
one from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes' sake, if the were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost --
For the grapes' sake along the all.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Halt! Who goes there?

While I was looking through photographs taken of shadow figures a few days ago, I encountered one -- this one -- I had not noticed previously. What is happening is unmistakable, though. The camera caught the image of Fram the First emerging from the mists of time -- from the netherworld itself, yeah -- into the present, into the here and now. He has a habit of doing that -- in both directions; appearing without announcement or warning; disappearing without a "by your leave" or even a wink and a nod. His independence is notorious; he is kin to Scaramouche, born with a smile on his lips and a sense that the world is mad; and his manners are sometimes shaky. Anyway, he was here for a few days, and he was captured by camera.

The chorus
from the Thin Lizzy version
of the 17th Century Irish ballad
"Whiskey in the Jar"

Now some men like the fishin' and some men like the fowlin',
and some men like ta hear, the cannon ball a roarin'.
Me? I like sleepin' especially in my Molly's chamber.
But here I am in prison, here I am with ball and chain, yeah.

Musha ring dum a do dum a da.
Wack for my daddy-o,
Wack for my daddy-o,
There's whiskey in the jar-o.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Metamorphosis -- it begins or it ends today

Something to think about -- or not

A discussion evolved this afternoon around my modus operandi.

In a sentence, I was told that I like to tell people what to do -- or, put another way, that I have a controlling type of personality.

I suppose, to some extent, I do. Who among us does not?

Since I have been a supervisor of others, beginning with high school athletics, continuing on into (sort of) adulthood in the Marine Corps at age eighteen and having been part of my work experience throughout my life, I also am pretty much used to telling others what to do, and, I suppose, I might come off that way in ordinary conversations.

Essentially, though, I have opinions, ideas, concepts, beliefs, and whatnot (whatnot = mostly feelings), and I am not hesitant or afraid to express them to anyone at anytime. Now, I suppose some people will interpret me presenting my opinion as me telling them what to do. I would hope most people can distinguish the difference between me telling them what I think and me telling them what to do. I would hope .... but, yes, perhaps; perhaps not, they are able.

I do speak (and write) forcefully at times, and no one would ever mistake me for some soft-spoken, liberal politician using a contrived, powder-puff voice trying to sound like he is telling a bedtime story while, in actuality, he is explaining that he is about to double every one's taxes so he can raise his own salary.

In short, although I say what I think in a clear, firm, steady voice and not in a mellow tone, how you interpret me is something I believe that I have little, if any, control over. I would hope people judge me by actions and use their native intelligence to distinguish fact from fantasy.

In any case, beginning with this post and probably becoming the norm for most of them down the road, I will block comments. I have done it before when I simply want to make a statement and not begin a discussion, so, I will do it again. I do not want to abandon my page altogether. I do enjoy the contact with other people who come here but, as I frequently have said here, the sea of blogs should not be a substitute for actually living a real life.

Since last Spring, probably beginning in May, too often this page has been a place for me to hide out from reality while I regroup. Well, I am ready to run again in the actual world and a form of metamorphosis either is beginning or is ending. I am not certain which, but there definitely is a change in the works for me.

So, I will keep this page, periodically post on it, but reduce comments after the fact from myself and by others, at least for a while, and see what happens and where it might lead.

Now, if you think I was talking about two different things here, you are one-half right, but there is a link, I assure you. Or, if you are confused about what I just wrote, welcome to the club. I am not really confused, but the bottom line is that I do not appreciate being played for a fool, and, rightly or wrongly, I feel like I have been, and I am angry as hell. I might be up in a tree about this for a long time. I might even be ready for a cabin atop a hill, in the woods, by a lake.

Well, if nothing else, now you have gotten to see me angry ....

No photograph today, so triple songs

Here are some performances by David Bowie.

The first, back at the top of the page, is "Absolute Beginners." I have posted it before, and do so again today because it is an absolutely beautiful and absolutely perfect song, and demonstrates why Bowie deserves every measure of musical acclaim he receives from aficionados of rock. He wrote the piece, which was first recorded in 1985 and was the sound track for a film. This video is from a BBC concert performed in 1987.

The second, down at the bottom of the page, is "Time." In addition to being a neat song, it demonstrates why Bowie is a master entertainer and a superb showman. The song was written in 1972 in New Orleans while Bowie was on his "Ziggy Stardust Tour." This particular version was recorded in Montreal in 1987 while Bowie was on his "Glass Spider Tour." If I had a time machine, this is one of about three or four concerts I would travel back to witness. It truly was a spectacular event, readily evident even when simply watching a recorded version.

There is a second song here, "Blue Jean," taped during the same show, if you are up for more of Bowie. This song, once again, was written by Bowie, in 1984, and inspired by the music of Eddie Cochran, an early rock great originally from Minnesota who died young (21 or 22, I think; I cannot recall right off). And, by the way, our old bud, Peter Frampton, is the blonde-headed "kid" among the guitar players on stage in this one.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hanging, perching, ending & revealing

Sodom and Gomorrah had pillars of salt left in their wake. Lake Washington has my shadow trapped within a pillar of rock more-or-less within its wake. Unless something sort of unique or unusual happens in the next few days (weeks ??), this will be my last photograph for a while. It seems appropriate. A shadow, I mean, more than faceless as I have been on the sea of blogs, and, now, only a silhouette left by the sun upon a stone pillar on the porch of the Lake House. Even on days without the sun and in times long after I have departed this place, I like to think my shadow will remain here until the stone pillar has crumbled into dust. We all become part of every place we have been and of every person we have met.

Odin & Christ & hanging around

The poem from which a pair of stanzas were posted yesterday is from Old Norse mythology (or Old Norse religion, if you prefer), with these particular lines describing how Odin, the chief god of the stone-age Germanic culture (Odin = Wodan or Wotan) -- which spread into what today is Scandinavia and from which these stories evolved -- hung from a tree for nine days.

In this lore, unlike Jesus Christ, who was hung from a cross to ensure the possibility of salvation and life everlasting for mankind, Odin hung from the tree as the price required to gain wisdom. Both these two men/gods, apparently, were there by personal choice. Personal choice = free will (or not).

An interesting comparison of cultural thought and values, it seems to me.

Thinking about a place to perch

The title of yesterday's post, you might recall, was "Just hanging out here & there." As I have mentioned in the past, this Lake House is my fifth place of residence during the nine months of 2010 which have so far come and gone, and next month there will be still another one. I could extend my stay here, in this Lake House, but that is unlikely. I have no reason to do so.

During the next week or two, I have a few decisions to make. For that reason, I will not be here as often as I have the last few months. This does not mean I will disappear, but that I want to detach myself a bit and return to the real world to concentrate on the immediate future.

I still have this crazy idea that I would like to "hole up" for a year with a companion and spend most of my time writing and talking and reading and watching the clouds fly by overhead. But, sometimes things do not turn out to be as uncomplicated as you expect them to happen. A bit of stability in my life would be nice to experience again for at least a few months. I think I could use a place to perch a while.

Some stories never have an ending

A number of years ago, a rather well-known Midwestern novelist had me send the first draft of a novel I had written to his New York agent. "Tell her I said to put it on my tab," he told me.

I sent the manuscript. When it returned, the agent had written that while my writing was quite good, the story lacked an adequate ending and needed work in that regard before she would consider trying to find a publisher for it.

"Every story must have a beginning, a middle and an end," she wrote to me. "Your story has no ending."

"Neither will the story of my life," I wrote her back.

But, I also thanked her, continued to correspond with the Midwestern novelist until his mind left him and put my own story into a box. It has never left the box, so I guess it never will have an ending, either.

I probably should not, but I will anyway

I probably should not mention this, but, I will. I received an email from my ex-second wife (or, should that be second ex-wife) today. She wrote and asked me (facetiously, jokingly, laughingly) why I had not told her a film had been made about my life.

She went on to explain that a new movie -- "RED" -- was being released next week. RED = retired extremely dangerous. Ah, yes, those were the days, my friend, we thought they would never end .... whoops. There I go trying to sing again.

It might surprise you to know my ex-second-wife or second-ex-wife, whichever you prefer, and I get along very well. Actually, we did everything well together except live well together inside the same house. Now that we are no longer married, I actually like her and she likes me. But, love is a very, very, very separate question.

I guess that means I am pretty good at being an "ex." Life is strange. So, then, please "ex"-cuse me while I comtemplate hanging from a tree as I try to write an ending to my story and look for a place to perch with someone other than my ex-ex.

Whatever, no more games, anyone, everyone. Shadows do not last forever unless captured in stone pillars. Say goodbye or get serious ....

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Just hanging out here & there

Point 1: When people ask me what I do, my reply frequently is this: "Hang out." It is interesting, sometimes even fascinating, to see the expression that follows my answer, and occasionally someone will come back with a clever or a sly response.

Point 2: Occasionally, I play around with photographs of shadows. Sometimes, the result is not exactly what was expected, and is not realized until it is possible to actually view the finished photo. This photo is one such sort of a surprise.

Point 3: As brief, dull and obtuse as this piece is, it, too, is Part 1 of 2, the next to follow in a day or two or three ....

stanzas 138 & 139
from the "Poetic Edda"

I know that I hanged on a windy tree
nine long nights
wounded with a spear, dedicated to Odin,
myself to myself,
on that tree of which no man knows
from where its roots run.

No bread did they give me nor a drink from a horn
downward I peered;
I took up the runes, screaming I took them,
then I fell back from there.

Send me an angel

Three reasons I like Gdansk, Poland:

It is by the sea.

The spark which ignited the explosion that brought an end to the Soviet Union originated here.

Its residents have excellent taste in music.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

In the end, belief is a right arm

Well, whether it is a bland photograph or not, here is another view of "across the road and into the trees," to paraphrase Stonewall Jackson and Ernest Hemingway. The house in which I currently am residing is at the approximate center of the photo, but hidden by the trees. The only reason I am posting this photo is because I want to have one here this evening to sort of accompany the written words and the music, but I am to lazy to go out and capture a good one. Another day -- maybe. As a side note, it seems a bit strange to realize I have passed the half-way mark for my stay at this Lake House. Time conquers all.

In what do I believe, you ask?
Part 2 of 2

It often enters my line of religious thought that a very small, well-intentioned lie told to me as a young boy by an ordained Lutheran minister set the course for my concept of clergy, religion and god for my entire life up to this exact moment in time.

That is one point. Another point is this: While I consider myself an agnostic today -- a person who thinks it impossible to know with exact knowledge that a god exists, or who cannot demonstrate with proof positive that a god does not exist -- I am a believer in believers.

This is the actual answer to your question, Kaya.

Although, I am a skeptic and would debate the validity of any particular religious belief at the drop of a hat, I envy and, in a sense, admire those who do have legitimate religious faith. To the devotee of a religion, I would say this: You have belief and have faith; I do not. I respect your point of view, but pray for yourself, not for me; ask salvation for yourself, but not for me; convert the heathens, if you wish, but stand back and away from me. Respect my right to lack belief just as I respect your right to have it.

A religious person would not find me disrespecting his faith or trying to keep him from practicing it. Quite to the contrary. I would defend the right of anyone to believe anything he wishes to believe in a religious context, and I would defend anyone who was the target of abuse or interference or disruption in the pursuit of an individual's right to practice his religion.

I mentioned previously that I have little respect for clergy, Christian or otherwise, as a group. In a religious framework, perhaps the only group of people I hold in greater disdain are those who mock or attempt to discredit people who are genuine Christians or authentic believers in a god -- no matter what the faith.

My advice to disbelievers would be to avoid mocking someone who does believe in a god in my presence. Mocking Christians in America has become a popular pastime among some self-anointed, "enlightened" characters. To me, these types of beings give a new meaning to the word idiot.

Religion sometimes causes individuals or entire nations to go crazy. Witness the Spanish Inquisition, for instance. Look at the Nazi response to the Jewish faith or the persecutions in Croatia and Bosnia in the 1990s or the Muslim intolerance of Western life today.

At other times, religion is the social fabric of a nation, as it was in America for generations until the rise of unbridled political liberalism during the 1960s.

A long time ago, I arrived at the conclusion that the last war on Earth will be a religious war, initially engaged in by fanatics of a few faiths and then exploding out of control. My viewpoint has since modified to the extent that I think it will be economic/political elements manipulating religious elements into constant warfare until control is lost. The Christian Bible calls it Armageddon. I call it what the Old Norse called it. Ragnarok.

I am beginning to drift off subject, so I will end with this: Intellectually and rationally, I can neither prove nor disprove the existence of a god. Neither can anyone else, at least, anyone of whom I am aware. Religion and god are a matter of faith, not intellect, so believe what you will but do not try to foist it onto me or to ridicule me because I have a different view point toward religion than do you.

Rather than try for a summation or roll this over into three parts, I think I will close with some stand-alone comments, so my last sentences will be these:

No matter if there is a god or not, it makes no difference to me. I believe how people treat each other is the fundamental and the important element of living, not who or what they worship. If having religion as a guide helps some people treat others better than they would without it, fine.

Along with Will Durant, I should also mention Joseph Campbell as someone whose books were particularly influential upon me reaching the religious/philosophical state of mind that I have. Campbell was many things, a student of mythology, a historian and a teacher of literature, among them. I read his four-volume set, "The Masks of God," when I was in my early twenties, and those books left a sharp imprint on my pattern of thought then, and it remains there still today.

One thing Campbell and Durant had in common, incidentally, is that they both married women who had been their students and had long, successful marriages. Campbell and his wife shared a two-room apartment for most of their married lives. Imagine that; imagine their ability to share themselves and blend, each with the other.

The romantic side of me, the poetic side, would like to believe in a god, but I am just a bit too much of a pragmatist to let it be that easy.

In terms of a religious concept that I follow, the closest word that I would use to describe myself would be a pantheist. At times, like many of America's founding fathers, I lean toward Deism, but probably never could fall off the cliff in that regard, either.

In terms of actuality, Fram is a Pagan who practices the same habits explained by one among the Old Norsemen a thousand years or so ago when a priest attempted to convert him to Christianity and failed: I believe in no gods, but I will worship them if it suits me. No god, no king, no lord is my master, and I kneel before no man. In what do I believe, you ask? I believe in the strength of my own right arm.

Friday, October 1, 2010

When I think of "god," I think of Grace

Yes, I know. The photograph is rather bland, but so am I, so nothing else matters, to borrow lyrics from a song. If you prefer, turn the page, to borrow from still another song. All right. I surrender. This bland photo is an example of what, in Minnesota, is called a slough. In other places, it might be called a marsh. This is about one-half its full size, and it is pretty much across the road from me. The land is soggy, and the water, where it is, ranges from a few inches to a few feet deep, and it is the home to thousands of birds and hundreds of land creatures. It is a favored place of waterfowl hunters, but, it might have quicksand here and there. In the distance, the leaves are beginning to turn. Push the photo up to its full size for a better look.

Kaya asks; I answer
Part 1 of 2

Kaya says: "The question is why in one of your comments on my blog you mentioned God as she, he, it and with a not capital letter?"

Fram responds: Because when I think of god, I think of Grace Slick. Check out the reason I say this, if you are curious. I am not going to tell you, although it is common knowledge -- if you are curious. Whether you do or not, listen to her music, since the opportunity is now, a few paragraphs down the page. You will like her, I am certain. She was the first and, many of us think, the greatest woman of rock. Maybe, the most beautiful. No, for sure, the most beautiful -- and, an unforgetable voice.

All right. To business now. Kaya asked about my belief, or lack thereof, in god. Here is the start of an answer. Believe it or not when you finish this first part, I really am trying to keep it brief.

Age ten, give or take a few months on either side of it, probably was the first "pivotal period" in my life: My first firearms and hunting, a boat for exploration and swimming expeditions, and first doubts about the existence of a god.

There was no father in my life at that point, so the religious element fell to questions for my mother. They really must have come as a shock to her. This first assault on religion, at least on the Christian faith, came when I caught a minister of the Lutheran church I attended in a lie. How could a man who was the earthly representative of perfection -- of god -- tell a lie?

My mother explained that the minister was not god per se, simply his representative. She said all men are flawed and commit various sins. That, she said, was the reason men prayed and asked for forgiveness of their sins, the principle for communion, the purpose of atonement -- and, the very reason Jesus Christ died on the cross.

My doubts did not subside, but continued to grow. My boyish belief was that a man who was the representative of god would choose to die before he would tell a lie.

In the Lutheran church of that time, confirmation classes took place for boys and girls during the years they were in seventh and eighth grade -- around ages thirteen and fourteen. My doubts flourished even more for a variety of reasons during these classes, none of which I will mention in this post. And, yes, the classes were conducted by the same minister who I knew to be a liar.

At some point in my second year of confirmation classes, I approached my mother and said I wished to leave the church. The end result of this discussion, which lasted for a few days off and on, was that I agreed to complete the confirmation process, but, once completed, she would not object to my abandonment of the church.

I am certain she never thought I would go through with it. But, I did. I was a confirmed agnostic rather than a confirmed Lutheran. Other than weddings and funerals and a high school baccalaureate ceremony, I have not attended any manner of church service since I was age fourteen. As of right now, I have no intention of doing so ever. In fact, I have said I plan to be absent from my own funeral.

While I was a teenager and into my twenties, as many do, I read extensively regarding religion (all of them) and philosophy. During my college years, I sought out clergy to debate the issue of god's existence one on one. Most ran for cover while I was still warming up. They usually could explain what they believed and why they believed, but generally faded like a vampire before a cross when confronted with John Stuart Mill's "first cause" commentary or mere mention of Bertrand Russell's essay, "Why I Am Not a Christian." In short, they had faith; I had none. It was as simple as that. The abstract centers upon faith; nothing more, nothing less.

And, I also discovered, that while most clergy were experts on the Bible and their own particular denomination, they had little knowledge of religions other than their own and had not devoted much time studying the writings and thoughts of disbelievers. They were like salesmen trying to sell a Ford, but had no specific knowledge for claiming it was better than a Chevrolet or a Cadillac or a Lincoln or …. In a sentence, they lacked knowledge of their "enemies." Either that, or they were taught to retreat and find a "softer sell" to whom to peddle their wares. The end result of this is that I have met few members of the clergy I hold in respect.

I was a student and a lover of history, so when I encountered Will Durant and his, "The Story of Philosophy," and read his personal narratives about his wandering in the desert of mankind's thirst for answers while searching for an intellectual rationale for belief in a god, I gave up my own search. I accepted Durant's conclusions and settled back with a comfortable acceptance that most, of not all, these questions can be answered through the study of history.

This has been the beginning of the story about Fram the Pagan. In a second post, to follow sooner or later, will be the present. Blessed be the curious, and thank you, Kaya, for inadvertently sending me running back to Grace's music. You might also have opened more than memory for me tonight -- maybe, a time tunnel within my subconscious.

(To be continued .... with a bit of luck)

Something special ....