Saturday, September 22, 2018

"Que Sera Sera"

This oil painting entitled, "Dances with Wolves," was done by David Reeves-Payne, who currently lives and paints in North Devon, England. I like it, both for itself and for the concepts it symbolizes. As for the music, what you see and what you hear depends entirely upon who you are .... really are .... really are ....
Whatever will be, will be, will be ....
The future is not ours, to see ....
I always have considered myself to be a generalist -- which is to say, I never have wanted to be or thought of myself as a specialist at anything. I have a "smattering" of knowledge in many areas, but a great deal of knowledge at nothing. Sort of like the old cliché: "Jack of all trades, master of none." That is one point.
Incidentally, the "Jack of all trades" idiom evidently originated in a 1592 booklet in which the writer, Robert Greene, referred to none other than William Shakespeare in that manner. Shakespeare was a struggling actor in the process of becoming a struggling playwright. It is said to be the first known written mention of the bard.
Back on track: Another point is that the older I grow, the more I realize the vastness of my ignorance about the world in which I live and the absolute impossibility to know the future or even to anticipate it in a logical manner. Random chance and mentally unbalanced people play too great a role in the scenarios of life and living.
Drifting a bit now: A Seventeenth Century Jesuit priest named Athanasius Kircher is claimed by some as the last man (or, should I say, the last individual) to know everything in the spheres magic, arcana and dogma. Kircher had the intellectual capacity and the organizing genius to prospect a route through knowledge and its accumulation, to its expression and distribution.
There are, of course, others in competition for the title of "the last" to know everything. Thomas Young, a British polymath and physician, who was walking the Earth for a few decades before and after 1800 also is said to be "the last" who knew everything.
My vote for the distinction of "the last" to know everything probably would go to Aristotle -- the "Old Greek" philosopher and scientist; the student of Plato; the teacher of Alexander the Great; the writer on a myriad of subjects. Think about it for a while.
By the way, when I write "the last to know everything," I am not considering he/she/it to be someone with a computer-like mind and insatiable memory banks which can record everything ad infinitum. I am thinking of it as an individual not only with vast knowledge, but as someone like Kircher who has the ability to know where to look for data and, once found, how to understand it and to explain it.
Once again, back on track: I always have said that should time travel suddenly be available, my curiosity would utilize it to go back in time to witness past events so I would know with absolute certainty what happened at a given moment at a given location.
Now, however, I am beginning to believe I have been wrong in that regard and my thoughts are shifting forward to the future. I am becoming increasingly frustrated knowing the future will come and go and I will not be here to witness it beyond a certain point in time.
Learning the past is an imprecise study; learning the future is an impossible study.




Sunday, September 16, 2018

Our "Seven Ages," according to Shakespeare

Here lies the history of humankind .... well, sort of, anyway. This oil on canvas is entitled, "Seven Ages of Man," and was painted by William Mulready in 1837/1838. Mulready was an Irish genre painter who lived in London. He created the piece using a description of the ages of man by William Shakespeare in his play, "As You Like It," written in 1599 and first published in 1623. Read on, if you wish to learn those ages.
In my never-ending quest to confuse both myself and the world, here is some music I enjoy: A medley of the "best damn female guitarists the world has to offer." My only question is where were girls like this when I was a teenager? "House of the Rising Sun," played on pan flutes .... and a metal guitar version of the theme from, "The Last of the Mohicans."
Each of us is a player on the stage of life
I have written here a few times that one of my favorite books and one of my favorite book titles is, "Not Forever on Earth."
The book is about civilizations of the past which rose and thrived and fell in Mexico. It is a study of the great prehistoric cultures and the early civilizations found there: The Olmec, the Toltec, the Aztec and the Maya. Shirley Gorenstein, an archaeologist / an university professor / a writer, was the author. Reading this book initially stemmed from my interest in archaeology.
The reason I like the book and, specifically, like its title, is because it is a reminder that we are transitory. Everything about life is transitory. Our earth / our solar system / our universe .... each is and all are transitory .... absolutely everything.
We are born, we mature (in a theoretical manner of speaking). Most of us never know when the switch will flick and when or how it will be lights out for us so, why do we waste our time making ourselves and others unhappy? Why do we waste our time killing each other figuratively and literally?
All of us are guilty of doing "evil," at least in a figurative sense. I suppose it is a "good gene / bad gene" sort of thing. Genetic inheritance can create saints and monsters. Fortunately, most of us drift somewhere between, acting out our lives almost in a daze.
William Shakespeare said it best, perhaps, when he wrote in Act II Scene VII of the play, "As You Like It:"
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances ....
Through the voice of Jaques, Shakespeare went on to write a lengthy monologue:
And one man in his time plays many parts,
 His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
 Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
 Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
 And shining morning face, creeping like snail
 Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
 Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
 Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
 Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
 Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
 Seeking the bubble reputation
 Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
 In fair round belly with good capon lined,
 With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
 Full of wise saws and modern instances;
 And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
 Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
 With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
 His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
 For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
 Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
 And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
 That ends this strange eventful history,
 Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
 Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
That sort of says it all .... does it not?




Friday, September 7, 2018

"Have You Ever Seen the Rain"

Here walking is John McCain being escorted by an unknown U.S. Navy officer. The year is 1973. Judging by the faces of the others in the photograph, McCain still is somewhere in North Vietnam and is on his way to home and to freedom after five and one-half years as a prisoner of war. McCain died on August 25. He was accorded the laurels of a hero of his nation and given the distinction of lying in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. I have written a few thoughts about John McCain. Also included is a Vietnam-era song, "Have You Ever Seen the Rain," by Creedence Clearwater Revival. The same photograph which appears with this post is shown beginning around point 156 in the video.
Hero? For sure. Good guy? Maybe ....
These words are coming a bit late because I had mixed feelings about John Sidney McCain III. He died on August 25, 2018, four days short of his 82nd birthday. I almost did not write them at all, but finally am because McCain had a reputation for saying what he felt and what he thought. If you do not understand that sentence, find some McCain debates with George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama and you will see what I mean and what I remember. I like to think I am that way, too, say what I think, I mean, so I am writing this now ....
McCain was third generation United States Navy. His father and his grandfather both were admirals. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1958. He became a naval aviator and flew ground-attack aircraft from aircraft carriers. He asked for duty in Vietnam and was assigned as a bomber pilot on an aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Tonkin. He was shot down while on a bombing mission during Operation Rolling Thunder over Hanoi in October 1967. It was his 23rd mission over North Vietnam. He was badly beaten by an angry mob when he was pulled, half-drowned from a lake.
McCain was a prisoner of war during the next five and one-half years in the notorious Hoa Loa Prison, where he was regularly mistreated and tortured in ways which left him permanently damaged. In 1982, McCain was elected to the United States House of Representatives, where he served two terms. He entered the U.S. Senate in 1987 and easily won reelection five times, the final time in 2016.
When McCain returned to America in 1973 to a fanfare of publicity and a handshake from then-President Richard Nixon, he discovered his wife since 1965, Carol, had been disfigured in a car crash three years earlier. Her car had skidded on icy roads into a telegraph pole on Christmas Eve, 1969. Her pelvis and one arm were shattered by the impact and she suffered massive internal injuries.
When Carol was discharged from the hospital after six months of life-saving surgery, the prognosis was bleak. In order to save her legs, surgeons had been forced to cut away huge sections of shattered bone, taking with it her tall, willowy figure. She was confined to a wheelchair and was forced to use a catheter.
Through sheer hard work, Carol learned to walk again. But when McCain came home from Vietnam, she had gained a lot of weight and bore little resemblance to her old self. She still walks awkwardly, with a pronounced limp. Her body is held together by screws and metal plates and, at age 80, her face is worn by wrinkles that speak of decades of silent suffering.
McCain divorced Carol in 1980 and married Cindy, 18 years his junior and the heir to an Arizona brewing fortune, one month later. Carol now lives at Virginia Beach, a seaside resort 200 miles south of Washington, D.C.
That is the non-heroic and self-centered side of McCain, who has been lauded and praised as a Vietnam War hero, a dedicated public servant, a devoted husband, father and friend.
Carol has said she remains on good terms with her ex-husband, who agreed as part of their divorce settlement to pay her medical costs for life. "I have no bitterness," she said in one interview. "My accident is well recorded. I had 23 operations, I am five inches shorter than I used to be and I was in hospital for six months. It was just awful, but it wasn't the reason for my divorce. My marriage ended because John McCain didn't want to be 40, he wanted to be 25. You know that happens .... it just does."
She is right, I think. John McCain was human -- "Human, All Too Human," as the 19th century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche titled one of his books. Stuff happens and we all have things in our past which we could keep there if possible and, maybe, even change, if it were possible.
This bothers me about McCain, not fatally, but it played a role in why the 2008 presidential election was another in which I could not bring myself to vote for either candidate. I have written many negative things about Obama in the past and will not do so again now, but I did vow to leave the country if he were elected president in 2008. Obama did win. I did leave, in 2009, but I returned a few months later. Such is one of my own weaknesses.
What bothered me to the degree of turning into a fatal flaw in my opinion of McCain was what I interpreted to be his attitude of "never seeing a war he did not like." I will not try to explain that further at this point in time. It is possible I have been misinterpreting his "hawkish" stance regarding military interventionism by the United States. But, I do not think so.
For a number of years, despite his own experiences as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, my view of McCain is that I have been observing a "war lover," which is not the sort of man I would want to see as president. If that opinion offends anyone, so be it.


Saturday, September 1, 2018

"Take me out to the ball game"

Two of the "early greats" in baseball were Tyrus Raymond Cobb and Joseph Jefferson Jackson. They are shown here in 1913 while Ty Cobb was playing for the Detroit Tigers and "Shoeless Joe" was playing for the Cleveland Indians. Cobb was noted for being a "slugger," both on and off the field, and Shoeless Joe for his performance on the field and for being banned from professional baseball for life as one among the Chicago White Sox players who conspired to "fix" the 1919 World Series in the infamous "Black Sox Scandal." This post is not so much about either man as it is about a contemporary film and the love and the lore of baseball. Other elements of this post, I think, are very apparent and applicable to the nature of "humankind." Incidentally, Shoeless Joe got his nickname after playing a game in stocking feet in South Carolina before arriving in the "big leagues."
A few thoughts about baseball & us
I never have been a real fan of Kevin Costner as an actor, but I have been a real admirer of his creative talents. Among my favorite films is, "Field of Dreams." Although I never have been a real fan of baseball, either, there is enough about the game and its history and its traditions to give me a sense of nostalgia about it.
Like most boys growing up in "small town America," I played organized baseball even through my senior year in high school. I suppose one reason I never was a real fan of the game is because I was never particularly good at it. I was "adequate" at fielding, but being a "switch hitter" gave me an edge at the plate. My step-father was a local legend as a pitcher and had made it as far as the minor leagues in professional baseball.
Back to Costner and the fields where dreams are sometimes made and sometimes lost. There was a line of dialogue in that film which really made a deep impression on me. It was uttered by Ray Kinsella portrayed by Costner while he is talking with Shoeless Joe Jackson played by Ray Liotta:
Ray Kinsella: "I did it all. I listened to the voices, I did what they told me, and not once did I ask what's in it for me."
Shoeless Joe Jackson: "What are you saying, Ray?"
Ray Kinsella: "I'm saying, what's in it for me?"
Shoeless Joe Jackson: "Is that why you did this? For you?"
"What's in it for me" almost certainly is the question thought, if not actually asked, thousands of times during the course of a lifetime by every human entity who ever has walked the Earth. It illustrates the self-serving nature of humankind. The only difference between it and hunger is that hunger is both a physical and a mental phenomenon, while inasmuch as I can tell, self-serving greed is an element only of the mind. Of course, I could be wrong about that ....
The words sometimes are insinuated and often demonstrated, but seldom actually said in a medium where they are there for the world to witness. I suppose that is another reason I admire Costner, not only for his creativity, but for his audacity.
Those words and that concept perhaps are the primary reason the notion of "on earth peace, good will toward men" seems to advance so very slowly.
If you have not seen this film and do not know the story of it, I will tell you this much: It is about the love of a son for his father and the lengths he goes to as a means to ease a guilty conscience for never having expressed his love to the father, who is long dead. If any part of you is a romantic or has a guilty conscience, I am certain it will touch you deeply .... and, in any case, it is a fine motion picture with a great story and excellent acting -- nothing to lose ....

Something special ....