Wednesday, March 21, 2012

For whose coming does she await?

This gold and garnet Christian cross was found with the remains of a young Anglo-Saxon woman who was buried atop her bed about 1,300 years ago in what is now Cambridgeshire in England. A pectoral cross of such quality could only have been owned by a member of an aristocratic or even royal family, according to information released by Cambridge University archaeologists. In some crosses contemporary to this piece, the gems came from as far as India, and the gold from melted down coins from Constantinople. The photograph was provided by Cambridge University. My first thought when learning of this girl-woman was of George Gordon, Lord Byron's poem, "She Walks in Beauty." But, this one lies in beauty. So, who next does that bring to mind? Possibly, this ....

"Your Highness," said he, "more than fifty years ago I heard my father say that in this castle lies a princess, the most beautiful that has ever been seen. It is her doom to sleep there for a hundred years, and then to be awakened by a king's son, for whose coming she waits."

An excerpt from:
"The Sleeping Beauty in the Wood"
by Charles Perrault

Never is a very long time

Never have I worn a cross around my neck.

I have worn a bullet -- a .44 magnum cartridge, to be precise. It had symbolic meaning.

I have worn a St. Christopher's medal. It was given to me by a woman.

 I have worn Thor's Hammer. My ancestry is primarily Norwegian, and the Old Norse have fascinated me in many ways -- as warriors, as explorers and, obviously, for their religion.

For about a decade now, I have worn an 1876 United States ten-cent piece -- a dime. This is because I often have wished that I could have been present and accounted for that year and have lived through that vibrant era.

But, I never have worn a cross.

The reason I am writing about this is because of an article I read a few days ago concerning the discovery of the remains of a young woman who has been wearing one for the past thirteen hundred years.

Those of you who read me here and know me a bit might recall that archaeology is one of my "interests." I have written that if I could be a college boy again, I might study to become an archaeologist, that I have participated in two "digs" as an amateur volunteer (Michigan and Wyoming) and that I have had a couple of articles related to archaeological finds published in the quarterly journals of state associations.

Moving right along, I recently read this news report:

The dead are often described as sleeping, but archaeologists in Cambridgeshire have uncovered a bed on which the body of a young Anglo-Saxon woman has lain for more than 1,300 years, a regal gold and garnet cross on her breast.

Three more graves, of two younger women and an older person whose sex has not yet been identified, were found nearby.

Forensic work on the first woman's bones suggests she was about sixteen, with no obvious explanation for her early death. Although she was almost certainly a Christian, buried with the beautiful cross stitched into place on her gown, she was buried according to ancient pagan tradition with some treasured possessions including an iron knife and a chatelaine, a chain hanging from her belt, and some glass beads which were probably originally in a purse that has rotted away.

The field where she lay, now being developed for housing at the edge of the village of Trumpington on the outskirts of Cambridge, hid a previously unknown Anglo-Saxon settlement. It may have been a wealthy monastic settlement -- more of it probably lies under the neighboring farm and farmyard -- although there are no records of any church earlier than the 12th century village church which overlooks the site.

Pectoral crosses from the dawn of Christianity in England, and bed burials -- where the body was laid on a real bed, now traced only by its iron supports, centuries after the timber rotted -- are both extremely rare.

Well, there you have it. It is not unusual to uncover graves from past millennia which contain weapons, treasure, food, tools and all manner of material to assist the deceased find the Netherworld or to establish themself once there.

Frankly, I long have had plans to be buried with at least one handgun, a few hundred rounds of ammunition, my Marine Corps k-bar (combat knife) and a bottle or two (or three) of brandy. (Why take a chance ??) On the other hand, I never have thought about going into a grave with any manner of jewelry or ornament. No Thor's Hammer, no 1876 dime, no rings, no bracelets, no necklaces and, most certainly, no crosses of jewels or any precious metal would accompany me.

Do you understand the difference? If not, it is not important.

Still, it is sweet that this young woman would be buried according to the ancient customs and traditions of her tribe, but with a bit of golden treasure in the form of the symbol of the relatively new Christian religion then spreading throughout the Western world. Thinking of her, just maybe, I would allow a cross to accompany me.

Do you understand why? If not, it is not important.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Thoughts about good & evil on March 16, 2012

A month ago today, Pieter Bruegel the Elder or, possibly, one of his students, put in an appearance on this page via a painting featuring the flight of Icarus. He -- Bruegel, that is, not Icarus -- returns today with a piece entitled "Dulle Griet" or "Mad Meg." She is a character from Flemish folklore. Bruegel depicts her here leading an army of women to pillage Hell. Mad Meg does not appear to be a particularly attractive woman, but she seems to me to be the type of woman I would like to meet -- one who dares to look Lucifer in the eye. This painting was completed in 1562, and today "resides" in Antwerp, should you care to view it personally.

We all shine on

Have you ever known a man who ripped an infant in half? Literally, I mean. I have known such a man.

Have you ever known a woman who hired a man to kill her husband? I have. More than one.

Have you ever known a woman who left her baby in a house and then set the house on fire? I have known two of them.

Have you ever known a man who had a literal gunfight at a waterhole with two other men about which of them owned the water rights? Yes, I have. The wild, wild West still exists for some.

How many murderers, rapists, arsonists, bank robbers, hired killers and death row inmates, including a serial killer, have you ever sat down with, drank coffee with, shared a cigarette with, shook hands with, maybe stood face-to-face with and talked down when they were in an absolute rage, chatted about girlfriends with, childhood, dreams, hopes, what made them do their crime, religion, gotten to know pretty well, had come to work for you five days a week and, even, grown to like in many respects and, sort of, considered to be friends?

Well, I have known these people and have had long conversations with many of them. And, I still have no clue. I still do not know why people believe what they believe, do what they do, think what they think. Once, I thought I might write a book about these people and a few others, but the more I learned, the less I understood.

Before I go any further, I suppose I should mention these people were among inmates I saw every day when I worked in a state penitentiary system. One of the women who left her infant child to die in a burning house was my clerk, my "secretary," for several months.
Back to the point: It had been that way before and, probably, will be again. The more I learn, the less I understand; the more I study, the more I question, the deeper I dig -- the less I understand.

Actually, I more-or-less believe that the majority of people around us each and every day either are completely stupid about the society in which they reside or are themselves mentally unbalanced.

(Yes, I might be talking about you.)

(Well, maybe, not you, but the person standing next to you.)

(Well, maybe, none of you. Maybe, me ....)

It seems to me that too much time is devoted in trying to find ways in which people are alike when it should be spent understanding people's differences. We cling to each other while we live, but we all know we are alone from the moment we are born until the moment we die, no matter how many others happen to be next to us during our trek through life. What happens after life is anyone's guess.

There is good and there is evil in all of us, of that there is no doubt. And, there also is no doubt it exists in matters of degree. To study the commonality of mankind might reveal useful information, but it is the disparity of mankind in which the real mysteries of our existence are hidden, and through which study might reveal pragmatic and revolutionary knowledge. Intelligence is measured on a numerical scale; mental abnormalities and psychological aberrations usually are viewed in legal as well as medical terms.

But, how are good and evil measured? If you know, tell me.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

It might be time for a rant

This painting in oil was the work of John Trumbull, who served in the Continental Army under the command of George Washington. It depicts the death of Brigadier General (and physician) Hugh Mercer at the Battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777.  When Mercer's men began to run upon his death, Washington, the commander in chief, shown mounted here, led a charge into the fray to rally the troops. The American victory was one of the major turning points in the struggle for personal freedom and national independence. Can you imagine, in this age of political correctness, when celebrity rules, of presidents whose primary talent seems to be singing, of people whose motto apparently is "me first" .... can you imagine that those who came before us had the courage to risk all they had and might ever have for personal freedom and for the independence of their country. Once, this was America. Sadly, I think, that America no longer exists.

I am about to indulge myself

I occasionally think about what I would like to see on television and what/who I would not like to see there. Here are my thoughts, mostly about what/who I wish would go away for at least a year, if not forever. These "items" are in no particular order, but, those who know me might be able to arrange them in order very quickly:

Regis Philbin, frequent television host and advertising mouthpiece: My god man, give it a break. Must you be on television being complimented on how well you look for your age and/or selling something every hour of the day? Fade away gracefully.

Oprah Winfrey: I never have understood the public attraction toward this woman, other than the way she throws money around. I once said to my second ex-wife that I thought Oprah was pretty much of a cult figure. Perhaps, that is what led to divorce No. 2.

Karl Rove, Fox News consultant: For a so-called Republican "idea man" who has not had a new idea since 1992, he sure gets a lot of air time. Send him back to Texas .... pretty please-ee-ee-ee with sugar on top.

Bill O'Reilly, Fox News commentator: While he often has good ideas, he is No. 2 in terms of public figures full of themselves. No. 1, of course, is Barack Obama. The only thing that keeps O'Reilly away from the No. 1 spot is that he has not started looking in the mirror and singing on television (at least, not to my knowledge).

Barbara Walters, ABC talk show host: She is sort of like a corpse propped up in a chair with her mouth moving. It is time for you to go home and to write your memoirs or a spy novel or your opinion on who murdered Princess Diana. Just stay off television for a while, and take your airhead buddy, Joy Behar, with you.

Chuck Norris, television and film "actor" (using the term very loosely): Your muscles are long gone, your movies never were any good and, and, and .... well, quit wearing sleeveless t-shirts and  trying to sell exercise equipment and, maybe, try fishing for a hobby.

Barack Obama, president of the U.S.: He is terrific at looking into the camera and lying with a straight face. Just go back to Chicago or head for Hollywood, where you obviously long to be and belong. You would win an Oscar for best acting your first year out there. (By the way, my work has included interviewing hundreds and determining who is lying and who is not, and, among those interviews, only once was I ever fooled.)

The producers of reality television shows: Hire some actual writers, some actual actors, some actual directors, and fire the fat, homely, slim, beautiful, inarticulate, uneducated people who are endlessly talking about how they feel and giving their opinions and repossessing cars and building weird guns and trying to sing or to act. Boycott cable television.

The producers of so-called television news programs: Again, enough of the people who spend their off-hours looking in the mirror, who bless us with their idle chatter, who grace us with their opinions. Hire more real reporters and fewer analysts, consultants, opinion mongers and politically-biased air-heads.  Boycott cable television.

I dropped cable television a month ago. (Actually, I only had it for a couple of years. Do you believe that? It really is true.)  I wish more people would do it, too. Demand programming  which is better both for your mental well being and for your money. Why does anyone pay for someone (infomercials) to try to sell them something? Why would anyone with even one-half of a brain actually watch a thirty-minute commercial? Yep, boycott cable.

As a farewell, allow me to say this: The three greatest destructive elements currently in play in America, in my opinion, are cable television, the Congress of the U.S. and the unions. Incidentally, I still hold union membership and once was president of a local chapter; and, I have worked for a congressman and for state grovernment, so I am complaining from the inside in a sense, not from the outside.

Yes, I know .... throw a stone or two at me, but, try your own list and see where you fall down. Nothing is free, including freedom ....

Something special ....