Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fewest words: Looking for an honest soul

You have heard of Diogenes, I presume. Just to refresh your memory, he was a Greek philosopher and a founder of the "Cynic" school of thought. Among his beliefs was the notion that virtue is best revealed through action as opposed to theory. He was critical of those elements and people within his society he thought to be corrupt. He begged for food and slept in a tub in the marketplace of Athens. (A bit extreme, do you not think? A love seat for a bed is difficult enough.) He carried a lamp in daytime, explaining that he was searching for one honest man. (Actually, I am doing that, too. But, looking for one honest woman is more my style.) If you wish to know more, do a bit of research on your own time and tell me what you think. This painting reveals Jean-Leon Gerome's vision of Diogenes in his tub surrounded by some of the more honest residents of Athens around 361 BCE. To complete the record, Gerome was a 19th Century French painter and sculptor, who completed this work in 1860. I think this painting is marvelous, and I say that not only as a cynic, but also as a skeptic and a misanthrope. (Or whatever; English majors like flowery language.) I almost forgot. I think we are finished with comments for January 2012. Time is up. Clock has expired. Game is over. Take care.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Fewer words: Looking from the balcony

This might be big water, but it definitely is not the former love of my life -- Lake Superior. No ice, no snow, too gentle. I am curious to discover if anyone recognizes this view of this water, this beach, this building, this balcony -- so, I will leave comments open for a day or two, but might not respond with more than a general "yes" or "no" answer to anyone who might care to venture an opinion about the location. It has all the earmarks of a tourist site (Does it not?), but looks to be rather barren at the time the photograph was taken. The photo actually was shot about two months ago, toward the end of November. And, no, it is not Kashmir. (Teasing.) By the way, the only reason I have a photo and the songs today is to use them as an excuse to mark the date of my once-upon-a-time enlistment with the U.S. Marine Corps. January 24 is branded into my psyche. Semper Fidelis, until the end of time. So, then, the anniversary has been duly noted for still another year.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Few words: Looking out the window

It is not unusual for me to mention that the view from the windows of the place in which I dwell is very important to me. Here, in this house, in a general sense, the view is mundane and boring. People who live in suburbia generally are mundane and boring, and their homes and small lawns and inane activities reflect it. But, that is another story. One element of the view from the windows of this particular location is a predictable stream of aircraft, such as this one, departing from the north and heading south and east. Depending upon cloud cover, these departures usually are visible from the living room windows as I sit before my computers and television. At night, lying on my love seat bed and looking through a window, I often will watch the lights of aircraft arriving on their approach from the south. These sights stir the imagination, if not the spirit, and provide a measure of equilibrium. I wonder about the destination of this aircraft. Perhaps, it is bound for Kashmir.

Who makes tomorrow?

It had not been my intention to write more than the words which accompanied my photograph of the aircraft in flight, but after having looked at a number of photographs of the street demonstrations which have been going on in Romania the past several days and earlier in places like the United States and Greece and Britain, I decided to add a few thoughts.

I feel badly about what is happening in Romania and many other countries. I think most people do not understand that what is happening in the world today is the result of leadership decisions made not today, but yesterday .... last year .... a decade ago.

War is a constant element of mankind, and not all fighting is with rifles in fields. Much of it takes place in corporation board rooms, union halls and government offices. Even in republics such as America, fate is determined in elections by people who usually cast their ballots for the prettiest face, or for the promises of the easiest life and the greatest rewards.

I have said before and, undoubtedly, I will say again, more often than not those who rise to power in political parties generally are the most selfish among us and have the greatest thirst for personal power and wealth. They often are the worst and the morally weakest of us -- not the best. It is foolish for men and women to put blind trust in governments and politicians, yet most do just that time after time.

As for young Americans, most of those truly dedicated to freedom and equality are or have been fighting in the actual death zones of Iraq and Afghanistan. Although why any of them do this in the current climate which exists in America is beyond me. The weakest and the laziest and the most foolish of young Americans, I think, are blind followers in what they see as a Utopian socialism movement. In actuality, these "occupy" movements are nothing more than organized attempts to bring down the old and to bring in a new hierarchy of greedy, selfish, wanna-be power brokers.

This is why I am like the Ancient Norseman, who when asked in what he believed, replied, "The strength of my own right arm." The only tomorrow with a measure of certainty is the one which you make for yourself, not one which some stranger promises to make for you. Why so many people fail to understand this absolute and fundamental principle of life is a mystery to me.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Just words

The paintings of Viktor Vasnetsov continue to captivate me. Here is another of his works, this one, completed in 1880, is entitled, "Riding a Flying Carpet." There is a Russian story in which Baba Yaga can supply Ivan Tsarevich, also known as Ivan the Fool, with a flying carpet and other magical gifts like a ball that rolls in front of the hero showing him the way or a towel that can turn into bridge. These gifts help Ivan to find his way "beyond thrice-nine lands, in the thrice-ten kingdom." This particular painting is designed to illustrate Ivan returning home after capturing the Firebird, which he keeps in a cage. Ivan is riding the flying carpet in the early morning mist. I would be happy just to have the magical ball which would "show me the way."

Someday, the last laugh will be on me

When is too late too late?

When does Neverland become Nevermore?

I ordered a print of Viktor Vasnetsov's, "A Knight at the Crossroads," which appeared in my December 31 post. When it arrives, it will be on the wall nearby so I can look up at it and drift off into it.

I suppose it is true of many skilled painters, but Viktor (there is a pun there) captures perfectly the exhaustion in both the man and his mount -- the slumped shoulders and the bowed heads, the weapon barely grasped and pointed downward from the slight weight of the iron point. My affection for this painting grows whenever I look at it. It is an expression which every man, who is honest with himself, realizes and accepts. Life continues, but he does not -- at least not too much further. What direction is most likely the last he will take in his life? Which road?

Without even seeing this man's face, I know which way he will travel. He will take the fork to the right. Better to lose his head, his life, than to lose what is his and what is close to him. He and his horse will pass on to another land, another place, or they will become bones along the side of the roadway like those lying immediately before him. They will live together or die together.

Life and death have been a theme in my life lately, although not my own. January is another of my months of many memories. So many; so close. It competes with October in that regard. So, a few: Happy birthday, mother; happy birthday, Little Light's mother; happy Marine Corps anniversary, Fram; RIP, Rory; RIP R. Henry.

My own life remains what it seems always to have been: A cry for freedom. Probably, it is more accurate to say freedom and searching. Where is the blue lagoon? Where is the endless forest of Mythago Wood? Where is the place across the river and into the trees? Where is the path up and out of Dante Alighieri's descent into hell? Where is Tralfamadore? Where is the lake in which dwells Viviane? Where is the thrice-ten kingdom of Ivan the Fool? Where is where?

Life is nothing if not fascinating. (It has been a while since I used that word.) So, ask me where this post is going. I will answer: Nowhere. Or, should I respond with a name? Noman, as Odysseus answered the Cyclops who asked his name, or should I say Aethon, as he lied to Penelope when he appeared before her as a beggar after twenty years' absence. Odysseus reached continuous and seemingly endless forks on his road, but, at the end, he took the correct turn and returned to where he began. (As long as one does not read Nikos Kazantzakis, who sends him wandering again.) Whatever .... this, I do not wish for me. Returning to my origins, I mean. I wish to go to places where I have never been and never will be again.

To live is to close one's eyes and to jump.

Life is only a road. How wide or how narrow it is depends upon each of us individually. At times, it is bordered by fields or cities; at other times, by vast seas or bottomless chasms. It leads to everywhere and to nowhere, but, sooner or later, it will become a road with no more forks upon which to make a decision about which is best to follow. It will lead only to an inevitable, hollow end.

Or, to borrow the words of Ernest Hemingway that I occasionally like to use: "Life is a cheat, and don't forget it."

It really is fun, though, is it not?

To tease life and to taunt death?

Because even to win is no more than a temporary victory.

So, in a sentence, laugh at life and curse at death, because no matter how lucky you are, sooner or later the road will disappear from beneath you.

And, I will continue to write stuff like this -- mere words, simple words, only words, just words -- until the last laugh is on me.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

May 2012 be mellow & calm & serene

These two post cards were mailed one century ago, on December 27, 1911, as greetings to signify the approaching New Year: 1912. It seems like only yesterday.

A wish for serenity

Perhaps your memory is better than mine, but I have a difficult time remembering what I was doing on some of the New Year's Eves and the New Year's Days in my more distant past. For instance, I barely can recall this night and this day in 1911--1912. That is the year I received these cards, the one on the left from my brother and the one on my right from my sister.

What, you do not believe me? You do not think that I actually received these cards a century ago? Or, possibly, you do not think that I have a brother and a sister? Well, that is your prerogative, but time is real and it drifts and it wanders and sometimes it forms an eddy. All one needs to do is to unleash his perception of today (reality) and he can travel to anywhere and to anyplace that has ever existed at any time.

Of course, it is more enjoyable to have company on these journeys, so close your eyes, play the Deep Purple song and catch hold of the guitar or the organ notes as they float by .... resisting the urge to begin dancing to them except in your mind .... drawing them ever so far inside of you until you feel them flowing with your blood.

If you allow yourself to be truly free from your today, you quickly will find yourself looking outward from within and gliding with me into a moment of serenity -- which, I hope, will be yours to catch hold of throughout the coming year whenever the world seems threatening or overwhelming. I do not like to travel alone, and would be much happier if you would walk alongside of me.

Something special ....