Thursday, March 31, 2011

The month of birthdays concludes

Being a rough and tough bear -- as well as a wild and crazy guy -- has its benefits in regard to not much caring what the temperature outdoors might be if the day is otherwise pleasant. So, among those benefits is being able to do what many gentlemen of the leisure class might do when the weather cooperates and the day is sunny -- work on his tan. In this case, White Bear found thirty-seven degrees Fahrenheit (three degrees Celsius) to be ideal. And, since he was wearing "my" new ring on a chain around his neck, it seemed like the perfect time to take a photograph of it to satisfy a couple of requests to see it. As I have noted in the past, White Bear has a habit of taking over anything and everything I might acquire.

Who, actually, is writing the story?


I' th' last night's storm I such a fellow saw,
Which made me think a man a worm. My son
Came then into my mind, and yet my mind
Was then scarce friends with him. I have heard more since.

As flies to wanton boys are we to th' gods,
They kill us for their sport.

William Shakespeare: King Lear Act 4, scene 1, 32–37

Destiny: 1 -- Something to which a person or thing is destined; fortune. 2 -- A predetermined course of events often held to be a resistless power or agency. Synonym: Fate.

Fate: 1 -- The principle or determining cause or will by which things in general are supposed to come to be as they are or events to happen as they do; destiny. 2 -- whatever is destined or decreed. 3 -- Final outcome. 4 -- The three goddesses of classical mythology who determine the course of human life. Synonym: Destiny, lot, portion, doom.

These are definitions of "destiny" and "fate" as found in one of the Webster's dictionaries I carry with me. It elaborates a bit by continuing that the word "destiny" often is associated with good results, while "fate" frequently is identified with not so good results.

Now, here are a couple of points that I have occasionally made in the past: One is to the effect that I believe communication is the most difficult task in the world. Part of this is because we do not all carry dictionaries around with us. Mostly, this is because we tend to accept the meanings of words as they have affected us in terms of our individual backgrounds, educations and experiences. This means discussions about words whose meanings actually imply complex concepts, which "destiny" and "fate" are, mean different things to different people.

Next, I have written here that while I believe fate intervenes in our lives intermittently, I do not believe that a particular destiny is inevitable to my life (or to anyone else's life). Put most simply, I do not believe that predestination is a fact of existence, but that chance meetings and random events might greatly influence or even completely change the course of our lives. Lately, however, I have begun to question my position in these matters -- particularly in relation to "destiny."

I no longer am as certain about my concepts of "destiny" and "fate" in an ultimate, predestined sense as I have been in the past. We meet a stranger, for example, and our lives might be changed forever. We experience an accident, for instance, and we have no choice but to leave the path we have been traveling upon and to take another. These were my beliefs in the past, and still are today. Such events are little more than common sense and largely involve matters of "fate."

Increasingly, I am beginning to wonder if we really do have any choices regarding the paths we travel. We think we do. We believe (most of us) in free choice. But, possibly the notion of free choice is a delusion.

I suppose part of this blends in with the concepts of déjà vue and reincarnation, and even with dream interpretation and reaction, but I cannot help but wonder if each of us is nothing more than a character in a script or a play or a novel whose entire life has been plotted out for us by an unknown author.

I am not considering this at all in a religious context or from any point on the compass of logic. I guess that means it is an intuitive feeling recently arisen within me.

Are we writing our own stories, or has someone already written them for us? I am not so sure as I once was, and am beginning to think a specific destiny awaits each of us no matter which pathways in life we choose to follow.

Some random thoughts

March comes to an end for another year today, and the month of birthdays for me concludes. There are five birthdays being observed among my family members and friends today, which seems like a good number. I am not even going to try to count them up for the entire month.

This particular post contains thoughts and feelings and observations and reflections, which is typical for me. I think that now, with the conclusion of "birthday month," I will stop posting things such as these, for a while, at least, and I will not post unless I actually have some "factual news" I wish to pass along.

It is possible I will resume writing here; it is possible I will start a new blog; it is possible I will fade away entirely over the course of a few months. For the present, I intend on following those blogs I currently follow, and to write comments when the mood strikes me.

The month of birthdays concludes .... and, so do I .... for now .... see you around, here and there, wherever ....

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The dancers are all gone

It might not be May Day, but Peter Brueghel the Younger's painting, "St. George's Kermis with the Dance Around the May Pole," seems to fit the occasion of T.S. Eliot's poem today, "East Coker," and the continuation of birthday celebrations during March. The party is almost over, but the sights and the sounds of approaching Spring brighten the days of our lives. Although the temperature was only forty-one degrees Fahrenheit (five degrees Celsius), I took my shirt off, washed my Suburban and sat outside in the sun while I read a newspaper yesterday afternoon -- no need to beware the Ides of March this year, Caesar. The suntan of 2011 is officially under way.

Oh, well .... on with the tale
Part 2 of 2

Not too many literature majors in the crowd, I dare say. It borders somewhere between pathetic and humorous to me. Oh, well. On with the tale ....

I once spent three days and two nights in a tree. I was tied there so I could sleep and not worry about falling.

It was for a reason, but it was not because I was trying to emulate Odin, who spent nine days in a tree as the price for wisdom. At the time of my event, I knew who Odin was, but I had not studied the religion of the Old Norse and was unaware of his travail.

I twice have swum a distance of about twelve miles. The first time was in the darkness of night and in a river I had never been in before that very time. This instance was similar to the occasion spent in a tree. It was for a specific purpose, that is to say; for a specific reason. Throughout much of it, I was not aware of where I was or what I was doing. It was like being asleep and in a dream, and complete, conscious awareness was not present until it was over and done with and the sun had risen.

The second time took place a few years later and was attempted to learn if I actually could do it, which, if accomplished, would mean I actually had done it before, which would mean that it was not a dream and it had been reality. It was a search for actuality -- not sort of, but the real, real thing. In a sense, it was like reading a book or seeing a film twice to discover what you did not notice the first time, but, in this case, actually living the book or the film.

(Off the record for a moment. This second time was with a friend, down the middle of a lake that I knew very well and during daylight. At a point about six miles from where we began was a resort. We stopped there and bought a six-pack of beer. We each drank two cans on the beach, and our third can while we swam back to our point of departure. I laugh to think about it now.)

Last year, I spent part of the day in a dentist's chair in Warsaw, Poland. This, "actually," was not strange, only unusual on the occasion of a birthday.

Yes, these events all took place on my birthdays. I wonder what other people do on their birthdays, if some of them have birthdays more memorable than others, and how other people mark the days of their lives.

Sometimes, I think I have a good thing going. Sometimes, I think I should have been a monk. This time, I think I deserve giving myself a new Rolex watch and, otherwise, will allow the day this year to pass without additional notation or further reflection.

Some final thoughts & random lines (for now) from T.S. Eliot:
"East Coker"
No. 2 of "Four Quartets"

In my beginning is my end. Now the light falls
Across the open field, leaving the deep lane
Shuttered with branches, dark in the afternoon ....

The houses are all gone under the sea.
The dancers are all gone under the hill ....

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Whisper of running streams, and winter lightning.
The wild thyme unseen and the wild strawberry,
The laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
Not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
Of death and birth ....

You say I am repeating
Something I have said before. I shall say it again.
Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.
And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not ....

So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years—
Twenty years largely wasted, the years of l'entre deux guerres
Trying to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get the better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer disposed to say it. And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate—but there is no competition—
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.
Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter ....

In my end is my beginning.

I think, someday, in another world or another dimension or another life or, possibly, even in a dream within a dream, I will find and I will interview Mr. T.S. Eliot, and I (the chameleon reporter; remember him from past posts?) will induce the gentleman to explain himself and his words, and I will tear loose his apprehensions and gain access to understand his thoughts and his feelings to the bottom of his soul .... or, whatever ....

And, in the meanwhile, I sort of feel sorry for anyone who is not bewitched by his words .... so, listen to them in his own voice and see what you think.

Friday, March 11, 2011

In my end is my beginning

T.S. Eliot -- poet, playwright, teacher / 1888 -- 1965
Robert Frost -- poet, journalist, farmer / 1874 -- 1963

What is life, other than repetition?
Part 1 of 2

There are things in our lives that seem to have happened before. These events are called "déjà vue," and they are common and well known.

There are things and events in our lives that are similar, but different. Like the sense of meeting someone and feeling like he or she is an old friend, like encountering someone known somewhere, but where or when? Like running into someone we are completely comfortable with and at home with and relaxed with and who we have known absolutely forever.

There are rings or watches that we buy which feel like they have been on our fingers or on our wrists forever, that we look at and have seen there forever -- but, that we know are only recently acquired in our lives and cannot have been from our current lives, from our contemporary pasts.

What about places? Have you ever been somewhere new to you -- in a building or in a piece of woodlands -- and known where to walk because the rooms or the grounds, strangely, were familiar?

I have felt this with a place, with a person with a piece of jewelry and -- probably unfamiliar to most -- with a particular handgun in my grasp.

It not only is mine now, it has been mine in the past -- not necessarily in ownership -- but, in the sense of affection or love or simple knowledge. Everything in and about life is transitory. Whether we accept that notion or not, it is as true as the air we breathe.

Some religions express the thought that beginning and end are the same. It might be a simple matter of definition. Maybe, there is no such thing as beginning and end, and time has always been -- sort of an atheistic "first cause" argument. Whatever ....

In a world of repetitive motions & thoughts

I am not an ardent fan of poetry, particularly that which passes for poetry since the early years of the Twentieth Century. In other words, T.S. Eliot barely passes the test in a chronological sense, but otherwise, he is among my favorites. Despite my admiration, his words have appeared in my posts only once or twice, as I recall.

The poetry of Robert Frost, who sits atop Mount Olympus, in my mind, and whose life and work span a portion of two absolutely amazing centuries during a period which claims possession of the "golden years" of America, has been mentioned a number of times on my pages.

Today, I want to take "a string" from Frost and a "loose end" from Eliot and tie them together.

First, Robert Frost. I have posted this poem before:

"The Road Not Taken"

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Now, some random lines from a work by T.S. Eliot:

"Burnt Norton"
(The first of "Four Quartets")

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden.

My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know ....

Time past and time future
Allow but a little consciousness.
To be conscious is not to be in time
But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,
The moment in the draughty church at smokefall
Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time time is conquered ....

Men and bits of paper, whirled by the cold wind
That blows before and after time,
Wind in and out of unwholesome lungs
Time before and time after ....

Words move, music moves
Only in time; but that which is only living
Can only die. Words, after speech, reach
Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern,
Can words or music reach
The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.
Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,
Not that only, but the co-existence,
Or say that the end precedes the beginning,
And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.
And all is always now ....

Tie the knot between these pieces, if you have the inclination to do so -- and, if you have a restless, searching soul.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Time on my wrists, mirrors & tears

Now, you have the opportunity to see my birthday present to myself, modeled on the left arm by none other than the world-renowned White Bear. My gift to me is a Rolex Submariner. The name and the style seemed appropriate for some reason. White Bear might well wear it most of the time. We selected one with a blue dial and bezel. Blue is our color .... like the sky and the sea and our dreams and the shade of all our tomorrows. Incidentally, for his birthday, White Bear selected a watch specifically meant for deep-water diving and is wearing it on his right arm. He is ambidextrous, you know.

Look in the mirror, and what do you see?

In a comment on one of my posts a few days ago, Anita wrote this: "Many people steal and want to destroy those old things .... don't know really why .... it must be the enemy within themselves that wants to destroy beautiful things." She was referring to old, sea-going boats in Bergen, Norway, where she lives.

It is not unusual to encounter people who are self-destructive, usually in the form of alcohol or drug abuse. It is not unusual to encounter people who choose to find ways to abuse other people, physically or emotionally, or who actually engage in vandalism to satiate their inner demons.

In this day and age, it is not unusual to encounter people who have some sort of almost inbred sense of entitlement. It might be entitlement for a free education, to live in a house they cannot afford, for free medical care, to be liked and accepted no matter how rude and ill-mannered they might be to others.

My own sense of being is that I have no use for people in any of these categories.

Shifting gears now for a moment, when I returned from Poland last Spring, within about two weeks I had purchased a Chevrolet Suburban. I had sold my previous one back in July 2008, and I missed driving it. During the interim, I had been primarily driving my Audi.

Before actually getting the new Suburban, I had driven a Lincoln Navigator for a day and toyed with the idea of buying it. For those who are unaware, in this neck of the woods a Navigator is considered a luxury vehicle, while a Suburban is more of a working man's vehicle.

When the Navigator salesman gave me the proverbial sales pitch, "What's it gonna take to get you into this baby?” my reply was this: "Sorry, but it is not me. Not interested. Sorry."

With that, I kept on shopping for a Suburban, and I found one a week or so later. Most simply explained, I could not (still cannot) visualize myself driving a Lincoln Navigator. Self-identity is everything; pretentiousness is weakness, and I felt that, for me, driving a Navigator would be pretentious.

Next, I recently bought a Rolex watch. This came about for three reasons. First, I had one when I was in the Marine Corps. It was part of the "image" for those in the particular unit to which I was attached. It was stolen, and I never replaced it. (Someday, I might explain that in more detail, but I am certain few would appreciate or understand the event, so why bother.)

After that, some years later and considerably much more recently, a young lady asked me if the watch I was wearing was a Rolex. I said, no, and almost felt a bit ashamed and embarrassed because it was not. Anyway, the thought of buying another has been lurking in my mind almost daily since then.

And, now, finally, the last reason: It is my birthday in a few days. And, although it is not my custom, I thought that I might as well buy a neat present for myself. The time had arrived, in a sentence, when I could visualize myself wearing a Rolex again and not feel pretentious about doing so. The thought of a Rolex has become the reality of a Rolex.

But, I will add, it is a middle-of-the-road Rolex, one I would describe as a "working man's" Rolex. Not much gold. Mostly steel.

So, then, how are these elements tied together?

I am not certain if the world is becoming a meaner place. It is hard to accept that it could be worse than it has been in the past, but it seems selfishness -- which is a root of ordinary meanness, I think -- is spiking at the moment no matter what corner of the world one cares to point out.

To repeat two things about my self-image which I often have told others in the past and have written about here a few times, as well: What you see is what you get. Sometimes, I might sound a bit pretentious, but I do not believe that I am. Self-confident to the point of arrogance? Sure, but not at the expense of others.

What you give is what you receive with me. I often describe myself as a mirror. Show me anger, you will receive it in return. Give me respect, it will come back to you. Lie to me, your words will not be heard and you will be ignored. Offer me friendship, it will be there for you if you wish it be. Walk away from me .... bye, bye.

The question then becomes, who do you see when you look in a mirror? In relation to you, as others see you. In relation to you, as you see yourself. Who are you?

What I am saying is I believe that I honestly know myself pretty well. I wonder how many other people can say the same of themselves.

Music of the Night, et al

As for the music, make of it what you will. Allow your imagination to transport you within it. Stay up late this night, step out into the darkness of the night and see where it takes you. It puts me on my knees, brings tears to my eyes, and makes me wonder which is greater, music or the night? Mankind or Nature? Or, are they one and the same?

I wish you an endlessly curious mind, one much beyond everyday life, and to wonder what comes next .... here and there .... and to care about it ....

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Another birthday & Mary vs. Johnny

This painting of U.S. Marines, some in the ship's rigging firing their muskets and some on the ship's rail preparing board another vessel, hangs in the Marine Corps Museum at Quantico, Virginia. I do not know the artist or even what war it represents, presumably the Revolutionary War or, possibly, the War of 1812, but I like the piece and it seemed appropriate to include as an illustration with my birthday wish for a member of the Corps.

Semper Fidelis, birthday boy

March is an especially active birthday month in my life, for me, personally, and for a number of family members and friends. (Makes you wonder -- me, anyway -- what it is that causes people to be so "busy" in June.)

In any case, following a birthday thought about my grandfather on Sunday, here is a March 1 birthday salute for a U.S. Marine who currently is spending a bit of time at Camp Pendleton in California before moving on to Pensacola, Florida. Happy Birthday, Jeremy, and Semper Fi.

Two variations on love, baby

Some days ago, I wrote a pretty long piece to fill this space today, but I changed my mind about publishing it on the spur of the moment and, at least, for the moment. I probably will run it in a few days, but I began thinking about the two songs I have here, and they distracted me and got me wondering. I have posted them before, both of them, but not together.

The meaning of Mary Chapin Carpenter's music in "Passionate Kisses" is anticipatory and in expectation of love. Actually, the lyrics are almost demanding not only love, but a good life and sweet times.

The words -- the sentiment -- struck me, because the post I pulled from this space tonight mentions how many people today and how often people today walk around with some twisted sense of entitlement. Mary seems to be echoing that in her words.

She wants a "full house and a rock and roll band." She requires "pens that won't run out of ink and cool quiet and time to think."

"Is it too much to ask .... Is it too much to demand .... Shouldn't I have this .... all of this?" Mary asks in her song. Mostly, she wants "passionate kisses."

"Give me what I deserve, 'cause it's my right," Mary concludes.

In a sense, yes, I suppose she should have such things. It is not unreasonable to ask for and to hope for those things mentioned in her lyrics. But, at no cost to herself? With no work? With no effort? Does she expect love to walk through the door and to pick her up and to carry her off to a castle in the clouds?

In contrast, Johnny Cash almost seems to be chastising his companion for falling out of love in his rendition of "One." This is because she apparently is a Mary Chapin Carpenter-type, and she obviously does not understand that love is a two-way street and not a magic carpet ride twenty-four hours a day. Johnny sings:

"One love
One life
When it's one need
In the night
One love
We get to share it
Leaves you baby if you
Don't care for it ...."

Whatever, it was interesting (to me, anyway) to contemplate these varying thoughts about love. This was on my mind, so we can blend rock and country from a couple of neat songs and reflect on love for a while.

Later, baby ....

Something special ....