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Saturday, February 7, 2015

A Response to Steve Roth's "Hamlet: the Undiscovered Country"

I had thought I'd been away longer than this.  Just barely remembered how to log in.  I'm like that.  Indeed, I've been quiescent.  But I have my passions, and the following is a peek at one of them.  I'm currently immersed to bathyspheric depths in Hamlet, looking for the best commentaries etc, and, why, just today finished Steve Roth's Hamlet: the Undiscovered Country. (I really don't care for the ebook format.  What shall we do when there are no more books?) Being me (and I still am), I was overwhelmed with an irresistible compulsion to respond, so as I read through it I jotted down (can one jot when one types? - typped down) some various, um, responses.  I agree that it's a tad obscure for anyone who hasn't read the book, or play, but I refuse to be bound by your petty demands for conformity. (An easy way to get the full text into your brain is Kenneth Branagh's movie Hamlet.)  Anyways, this seemed like something I might as well refresh my little Blog  with, here.  So, the letter I just whizzed off to the author.  La!


**********

Greetings Steve –

 Taking you up on your H:UC ebook invitation to correspond. I had meant something brief regarding only your thesis that Hamlet is aged 16, but, well, look what happened. I just kept going, and decided to note some sundry responses, reading generously but critically – what more can we hope for? I state some of the following in a declarative rather than subjunctive mood, because it’s tiresome to write, and read, a lot of “it would appear,” “it might seem,” “one should think,” “may we suppose” ... it’s tiresome already. Also, I note issues as I go, so this is unconscionably disorganized. Oh well. At least I prof red for topys.

 I expect your opinion is intractable, as is mine, but to begin, this: If Hamlet is sixteen or so, Horatio is also, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and maybe Laertes; you assert that Fortinbras is. So it’s all teens, then? Elsinore 90210? Seems literally incredible. Teenagers, yea, eleventh graders ... high school juniors. Not reliable. Judgment questionable. Foremost on a teen’s mind is not the law’s delay or the insolence of office, but whether that pimple on his nose will be gone in time for the hop, mash, mosh or whatever the kids are grooving to nowadays. Over the decades I have dealt with very many 16 year old boys; never once met one who was a man. Kings do not habitually (or safely) use schoolboys as emissaries, agents and envoys (John Q Adams, and Alexander, and other teen prodigies notwithstanding). There is much more to say, but words words words. (If Romeo was a teen it may support your argument, but Bandello, the apparent source, has him as 20 or 21.)

 You cite Young Fortinbras, his unimproved mettle, his delicate tenderness, the (disputed) time of his father’s death, as corroborative proof of Hamlet’s most extreme youth. It’s not young Hal [Henry V] (age 16 in 1Henry IV) or Essex [sometime favorite of Eliz I] or Edward IV, it’s accomplished Hotspur [in Henry IV] who would be Fortinbras to Hamlet’s Hal. Is that clear? Hamlet is to Hal as Fortinbras is to Hotspur. (Hotspur in actually was some 20 years older than Hal.) Re F’s “unimproved mettle”, it’s not about youth, it’s the ‘heat’ and ‘fullness’ of war – get it? the mettle is hot? ( Ho ho, good one, Shakespeare! ... that young Fortinbras, always spoiling for a scrap, just like his father! Scrap mettle! Very unimproved of him.) “Delicate and tender” can refer to extreme youth only if Hamlet is willing to use the same term of himself, his mettle being “dull and muddy” but as young. Seems more likely that Hamlet is being ironic. Fortinbras, Strong-Arm, warlike, willful, is not tender and delicate, as Hamlet is not dull and muddy.

 Re Caesar and Alexander, it is not their youth that would be foremost in the minds of the Elizabethans, but their world-conquests and their untimely deaths. Essex was “young”, and recently executed at the play’s opening, but aged 35, a year younger than Shakespeare (for some reason you refer to a teen Essex in your first appendix). Youth is relative. To me, 35 is young and 16 is incunabular. Elizabeth was 30 years older than her young paramour.

 Horatio was there on the ice to see Old Hamlet frown when he smote the Polacks, which bespeaks combat experience; how long ago were those Polacks smitten? (That Horatio knows the armor, need not mean much -- perhaps it was on public display.) Likewise, Ophelia states that the mind of Hamlet, courtier, soldier, scholar -- having such an eye and ear and sword -- is overthrown. Soldier: not a metaphor, since Hamlet is a scholar, and at if not in the Privy Council, so a courtier. When list-building for character traits, items should harmonize.

 Re the authority of Quarto 1 [a pirated printing of 1603, which has the Gravedigger/Clown give dates that make Hamlet aged 16] -- the fact that it reproduces the text of many passages in Q2 [authorized, 1604] and F1 [collected works, 1623], in many places word for word, and punctuation -- it seems likely to me that it was compiled via a combination of memory, perhaps note-taking, and certainly some number of actors’ scripts – who were given their own lines only and perhaps entrance cues. So when there are significant differences, it would be, say, an actor (mis)remembering other actors’ lines. I mean, really? -- “To be or not to be, aye, that’s the point...” There it goes. This hypothetical collator probably wasn’t running the numbers, doing the math to figure how old his out-of-his-butt numbers would make Hamlet. Far less authority than you would give it, that version. I suppose I could parse those lines, 3 7 12 sexten sixteen 23 30 [various year numbers that contradict in the different texts] in a variety of not entirely depraved ways. Better to let Hamlet’s conduct etc suggest his age. Not a wispy teen.

 Hamlet is clearly called youthful and young. The age range will be debatable. But when Ophelia cites his “blown youth ” – blown means mature, full-blown, like a fully blossomed flower. This is not age 16, or 17. The maturity of a young man is well out of the teens. Indeed, we would not expect a mid-teen to have a beard to be contemptuously plucked. A figure of speech? He has a pate and a face and a nose and a throat ... but no beard? I suggest the actor, Burbage [lead actor at the Globe, who first played Hamlet] say, had a real or glued-on beard for the part, as he would have worn black. Suit the word to the action.

 A point that seems not to have been noted is in the usage of the terms student, scholar and school. Horatio is Hamlet’s fellow “student”, the only appearance of that word. Horatio is a scholar thrice and Hamlet once. Rosecrans & Guildenstern are called “schoolfellows”, and Hamlet’s intent is to go back to school, at Wittenberg. The point is, what need be they schoolboys? Why not teachers? All references to being a student and schoolfellow lay in the past; Hamlet is NOT a student, at Elsinore; current is “scholar”, which at best reads ambiguously, since staff and students are scholars, and teachers “go back to school”. “Truant” can be, and is, a joke. R&G were sent for, and came to Elsinore, but whence they came is not told – we may, but need not, presume it was from Wittenberg. Thus, R&G have graduated and are available agents; Horatio is an instructor; Hamlet wishes to go back to Wittenberg doing whatever it is he does ... study, or teach, or act in the company of the Players of that City. You outright beg the question on your p.35 (“he’s a student”).

 The Gravedigger/Clown is undeniably a sexton, regardless of variant spellings of 16 or sexton. Gravedigger is a very meaning of the word sexton. So there’s that. Parsimony and Occam’s Razor. When in doubt, settle on what is sure.

 Re the three (or seven – Q1) years of which Hamlet has taken note: an idiom of 7 years denoting, uh, the unspecified passage of a while? – the 3 years since K James I took the throne? – or the passage of the Poor Laws? ... in any case, Hamlet has spent some considerable time taking notice of political and social changes. Not something a boy would do from the perspicacious coign of his pubescent 13, or his ‘tween 9, years. Adolescent means NOT an adult, but becoming one. You would apply the three/seven years to Hamlet’s contemplation of WS’s specific life-details. I refer you to the exegetical precept, and diktat: no scripture is of private interpretation.

 Sadly, any info, chronological or otherwise, that we glean from a know-it-all and logically fallacious Clown is not secure. It is (I don’t want to say absurd, or ridiculous) unrealistic to think Hamlet is 3 years out of puberty. It is bothersome that he be 30. Both irritants come from the clown, an unreliable witness. Argal, shall we dismiss this troublesome pest and go with the many statements that Hamlet is young? Well, no, you would have the data as meaningfully obtrusive, indismissible.

[The Clown as been sexton since the day Old Hamlet overcome Old Fortinbras.  When was that?  Answers the Clown, "Cannot you tell that? Every fool can tell that.  It was the very day that young Hamlet was born..."  Well.  We're told right there: every FOOL will tell you this.  What will someone say who gets his facts straight?  Something else.  And one wonders what church would put a BOY in charge as sexton; there were no adults available?  Did the clown have an assistant then, as he does now?  Was it another boy?  Suggest that he's been employed for 30 years, man and boy, and after he became a man he become sexton.  Denmark is not run by kids.  All chronological data re Hamlet's age come from the Clown.  Hamlet is not 30, and he's not 16.]

Re Yorick and his stench, we take the context to be ‘rotted away’, not ‘just starting’ to rot; somehow we just know that a body doesn’t last 8 wholesome years in the ground, and only then start to rot. If the time be nine years, then the rotting is done, and whether it be 12 or 23 years after his death, the smell will be gone by nine, let alone the 12/23. So Hamlet is making a joke, or Shakespeare is adding verisimilitude for the audience. Nothing to do with 30 years or the Clown’s facility or lack-thereof with numbers.

 Re sexten/16, if you can believe it I’ve put a short but dull discussion in an actual appendix to this letter... call it a PS. But, a reality check: if the wayward memorialist of Q1 had happened to have the Clown say he was a “Foremen” rather than a “Sexten”, would that make Hamlet Foureteene rather than Sixeteene?

 Via punctuation you can make the sexton say he’s been at it 16 years, and he’s 30 years old. Via idiosyncratic and highly elliptical punctuation (not at all natural to the text, despite contrary assertions), which amounts to a dialect and a soliloquy. Why not then a dialect of pronunciations? First and second clown, after all. Comical rustic bumpkin and so on. Look at how they pronounce words! What a scream! I’m just saying.

 Given that his six known signatures have five spellings, none of which are “Shakespeare”, that WS should write or permit to be written sexton as sexten etc. is no wild surmise. Kind of seems like what he’d do, in fact. Sixteen certainly can be spelled sexten: 

http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/m/mec/med-idx?type=id&id=MED46870&egs=all&egdisplay=open

 A shaky sort of backward reasoning allows us to suppose, then, that sexten might be spelled sixteen. Shakespeare wasn’t an antiquarian or a philologist. But he hyperloved wordplay, and didn’t mind being obscure. What might we expect of a man who writes with a feather.

 Re John Shakespeare’s “spiritual testament”, as it is called, I quote Peter Ackroyd’s ‘Shakespeare: the Biography’, p. 25: “It has been shown to be a standard Roman Catholic production, distributed by Edmund Campion, who journeyed to Warwickshire in 1581 and stayed just a few miles from Stratford-upon-Avon. ... It was printed or transcribed, with blanks left for the specific details of the testator. ... In this Catholic testament there is reference to the danger that ‘I may be possibly cut off in the blossome of my sins.’” The boilerplate document was not unique to William’s father, so need have no special resonance with the son. Shakespeare was simply aware of Campion’s document.  [Roth on his p.47 says "blossom(s) of my sin(s) is not a commonplace; my searches reveal no similar usages in any Elizabethan literature."]

 Typo p. 55: you mean “jibe” not “jive”. And you’re too absolute (for your then-adduced evidence) re the “at most two months” at sea ... “longest possible”. How about two and a half months, rounded down? How about something happening Jan 1, and speaking about it March 31? – two months. Hamlet’s “sudden” return may mean unexpected, rather than quick. The voyage was aborted only in that it didn’t end at England; no necessary reference to duration; so “certainly less than a week” simply misstates the case.

 When has Hamlet ever been in a hurry? A couple of months at sea accounts for his teenage attitude adjustment, as you will. The “checking of his voyage” (a falconry term meaning “turned away from the purpose”) may have been noted in Hamlet's letter, which is notable to Claudius. ‘Most Divine Potentate of the Infinite Nutshell Prison! Harken Thou! I, Hamlet the Dane, herein and -with and -al inform Your Puissant and Beautified Glory that the Sacred Envoy to England is aborted, and I hawklike intend not to complete it! Nay, rather, ‘pon the nonce I am suddenly returned to thy Boreal Littorals after lo these several months, maybe a month and half rounded-up, or perhaps two technically-calendar months but really closer to three, I can’t be sure, I’ve been preoccupied, what with all these ghosts and pirates I’m always dealing with!’ Something like that? 

Just playing now, but R&G “hold their course for England” could be King of England, and course meaning ‘fate’ ... they meet their destiny with that king; they vaguely “go to it” because Hamlet doesn’t yet know the outcome. Yeah, I know. But of your questions, most important, and neglected, is How did the English Ambassador arrive 1 day after Hamlet, to announce the deaths? It is impossible that there not have been a significant delay. It’s not a one-day trip by sea, here to there, and back. (It was a three day horse-ride from London to S on Avon; messenger-time from Wittenberg to Elsinore was 7 days.) It is not impossible to interpret the letter as allowing the passage of an infinitude of time. Perhaps I exaggerate slightly. (Laertes may already have been in Denmark, perhaps gathering an army for a coup plotted by spymaster Polonius; and there are weird sisters involved, and calibans.)

 (For linear clarity you might put your evidence for a sudden return in an appendix, not losing the discussion but more clearly supporting your following 38 days with the pirates.)

 Re Caesar’s 38 days with the pirates, if Shakespeare wanted events to transpire between Twelfth Night and Valentine’s Day, it could be at most 39 days – the pirates could have taken Hamlet on the first rather than the second day, and delivered him anytime short of Feb 14. For S to make it a deliberate echo of Caesar, he would have counted off days on the calendar, as you did, and been just as tickled at the opportunity. It’s the kind of thing a clever person might do, but it’s meaningless; it took 400 years for anyone to notice? Ah, the energy I’ve wasted on that sort of game.

 Re Ophelia’s flowers, well when do flowers come, in Denmark. Mid or late March? Then it may be real flowers. Otherwise, “fantastic”. Paper flowers, dried, herbs, twigs, crayon drawings or just crayons ... what is not the case is the mentally ill, pantomiming object interaction. That’s bad theater. The Nicol Williamson film of Macbeth has mad Lady M pushing a phantom-Macbeth out of the room. No. “Glassy stream” means “still”.

 Re Gertrude’s age: Claudius’ public naming of Hamlet as his heir is an artless complication which must later be retracted, if he’s planning to get a dynasty upon a nubile Gertrude. If, at her age, the heyday of the blood is tame – well, her sexual urge is manifest, so what shall this mean but her menopause? – which fits a Hamlet born to a teen mother, 30 years prior. (I have no problem with an, um, impregnable Gertrude. Is it Dover Wilson who so stresses Hamlet as heir?) The Oedipal issue is deeply unconvincing. Shakespeare would have known it only as incest, which Hamlet is so very incensed against. One might suppose this to be a conversion reaction, but Freud was wrong about almost everything.

 You have it that Denmark controlled “a good chunk of Norway’s territory”. This may be true, and is true historically, but the text doesn’t say so. Old Fortinbras lost some holdings under contention, but why must they have been in Norway proper? – if that’s what you mean to imply by “Norway’s territory”. All “those lands which he stood seized of” could be duchies and cities in Poland or Saxony or etc. Had Fortinbras of Norway seized lands in his own Norway? Only maybe; maybe Denmark, maybe Sweden, maybe who knows where. This is just a point of clarity; of course Denmark is an Empire. Claudius is a negotiator, subtle, and my supposition is that the scars upon England were inflicted by Old Hamlet, the warrior. Claudius does not say, “under MY Danish sword,” or “under the sword of MY Danes”. Shakespeare doesn’t show Claudius in such a light.

 That Horatio the outsider should be more tuned in to local politics than are the officers Marcellus and Bernardo, when Hortatio doesn’t even know local custom re incessant wassail-cannon-blasting, tells us that Horatio is there in these instances to allow plot explication for the groundlings. Surely Denmark is unrestful, but soldiers know gossip. It’s a narrative device, not a hint at allegiances. If Hamlet is 16, he is cadet age, and would train with those of like ability; if officer age, with officers. Falconry cries are exchanged between those who know the sport, whether they hunt together or not – Hamlet exchanged such cries with French falc’ners maybe? Swiss Guard were royal guards, de rigueur. (It’s not that you’re wrong, it’s that the strongest case is made by acknowledging and answering objections.)

 Dover Wilson observed long ago that Hamlet was observed during the To Be speech. Hamlet was hardly ever alone. [Hirsh link dead.] If Hamlet knew he was observed, betrayed by Ophelia, prior to the Nunnery outburst, then he’s just being needlessly cruel to her at that point. He is civil until then – which per Wilson is the point the spies are suspected and he tests her by asking where her father is. In “The Heart of Hamet,” Bernard Grebanier has it that “To be” is NOT a contemplation of suicide; I would have it in such a case as an assessment of the deadly risk associated with deadly action: “To get killed, or not to get killed” (which really does work much better). “It lacked form a little” best refers not to Hamlet’s preceding soliloquy, but to his raging with Ophelia ... because, you know, it lacked form a little.

 “The officers join with Horatio in duty to Hamlet, not to Claudius” -- because Horatio is Hamlet’s friend. A friend of Claudius would have reported the ghost to Claudius. Horatio is recruited by the officers not because of his allegiance, but because of his scholarship.

 Claudius committed the perfect crime, and only his conscience accuses him. No doubt the corpse of the viper was produced, a la Antony & Cleopatra. Claudius doesn’t trust Hamlet, but it’s not because he fears “that Hamlet knows something he’s not revealing,” but a coup. Two months prior he’s against sending a merely morose sonephew to Wittenberg; now he will send him mad to England. At no point so far is Claudius malevolent – aside of course from that offstage background stuff, adulterous incest and fratricidal regicide. Point is, the sea air should do Hamlet some good, and it does – if England does him harm, well that would just be a shame.

 There’s no “power play” between Claudius and Hamlet. At most Hamlet is playing quibbling and adolescent word games to unsettle Claudius, which Claudius keeps deflecting. When power is played, Claudius has it all. Off to England, not Wittenberg. That word games are adolescent doesn’t mean people grow out of them ... Shakespeare didn’t.

 Claudius the “cutpurse” isn’t about Hamlet’s ambitions but the killer’s motive – he killed for the crown. Hamlet evolves and upon his return he cites his electoral hopes. Of course Hamlet is aware that his uncle became king. But too much is made of his supposed right. Under an Electoral, non-hereditary Nordic constitution he had no more right than Claudius, and less skill. Sure, all us rabble wanted young King Hamlet, cuz he’s so handsome and popular. But as prudent Electors know, men not boys lead warring kingdoms. More, if Hamlet were underage and had clear rights, Claudius would be regent.

 Polonius’s reference to confinement would never be about prison – banishment to a country estate was the practice, among non-Borgias. Too bad they didn’t confine Ophelia. Laertes is most surely not a natural ally of Claudius, however much Polonius is. He is after retribution, and so makes an alliance. Since Gertrude’s hope was that Ophelia would be Hamlet’s wife, Claudius, so bound to his wife’s pleasure, seems not to have feared an heir from that union. Why Polonius sought to suppress a marriage that would so advance his house does speak to his loyalty to Claudius ... unless P has plans for Laertes. But that’s getting into “children of Lady Macbeth” territory. What is clear is that neither Polonius nor Laertes wants Hamlet as an inlaw. Had WS meant for us to suspect it, Claudius would have been made to imply such a marriage was most retrograde to his desire.

 A pregnant Ophelia is much stronger speculation than a 16 year old Hamlet. Lots of sexual innuendo; only one “sixeteene”. If Ophelia’s death were witnessed, as by Gertrude, there would be no doubt re suicide. If G were a witness of the broken bough, floating clothes, songs and quick sinking, a queen in her gown may not be expected to jump in after for a rescue.

 Your point re quick marriage disinheriting Hamlet is interesting. But that caudle has already done its besmirching, so what can Laertes mean? – especially if he is so tightly wound in Claudius’s camp? Nothing to do with inheritance.

 In your first appendix you give four reasons for the textual disagreement re Hamlet’s age: a needed revision, meaningless data, WS’s bad memory, or an age revision that wasn’t rationalized in previous acts. A fifth choice is that the clown is a clown who talks just to be talking and is not meant to be taken seriously (meaningless data, but serving to make a fool a fool), and a sixth is the Q1 cobbler just got it wrong, bad memory or bad penmanship or what have you. A seventh is that the obvious disagreement between whatever age the clown would have, and the Hamlet-actor’s manifest age before the audience, got a laugh – you had to be there ... you could see him counting backwards to see how old the clown would make him? the look on his face ... priceless! An eighth, likewise, is that the manifest absurdity of the age 16 was an outright and ever so clever joke, the key to which was lost with the season; or an inside joke by one author for the benefit of some other(s), as per the Theatre War – given the graveside clown-head, such a reference only needs proof to be true! (Ah, those troublemakers, Truth & Proof. How easy everything would be...)

 You may wish to move some of your Appendix D into the text prior to your Hallowmas - 12th Night - Shrovetide discussion. It reframes the discussion from Shakespeare as calendar wonk to him being plugged in to deep tradition and normative practice. [“The Stars of Hamlet” “Usher” “illustration” links dead.]

 I have taken Horatio’s “hundred count”, the officers’ “Longer, longer” and the “Not when I saw it” response to mean: on the previous two nights the officers saw it for longer, but on the third night, when H saw it, only a hundred. Perhaps everyone knows this and I’m being obtuse as to some other mystery. Purpose would be to indicate the ghost had a goal, and could/did hang around all night ... waiting for Horatio or Hamlet no doubt.

 Re the star Alderamin in the shoulder of Cephus, and its being rubbed off on the Globe at Middle Temple: Just playing here, but Middle Temple remains from “The Temple”, headquarters of the Knights Templar, which puts one in mind of the freemasons, which brings us back to Al Deramin, the strong shoulder and forearm of Cephus. (Let’s not think about Fortinbras.) Absolute speculation allows us to assert with overweening certainty that over the centuries freemasons have wrought some solitary rite which entails a right thumb firmly pressed upon such and such a spot of such and such a celestial globe, thereby wearing away a certain star. Who can prove that it’s not true? Argal... (I think Bernardo’s Star is just a poetical conceit.)

 There. I got that off my chest. Some points. Hamlet’s being a mid-teen is not a minor point. You provide many interesting thoughts worthy of discussion, but haven’t I gone on long enough? More of a conversation thing anyway, and given how reclusive I am, well, what an artist the world loses in me.

 Kind Regards,

 Jack H

 And as promised, tah dah:

 PS: Re sexten, your discussion (http://princehamlet.com/sixeteene.html) certainly proves that 16 had variant spellings. We can be etymologically sure that 16 would never reasonably be spelled sixtOn. The EE sound must be somehow preserved. But SEXTON is another matter. Here https://books.google.com/books?ei=qH7EVKPPPKvIsATytIC4DQ&id=3-QhAQAAIAAJ&dq=variant+spelling+sexten&focus=searchwithinvolume&q=sexten Sexton appears to be rendered Sexten. In any case, it could – not need be, but could – be spelled as a phonetic or homonym sixteen. I adduce the history of the word: Medieval Latin sacristanus, Old French segrestien, Norman French segrestein, Middle English sekesteyn (and sacristan).

 What a Stratford dialect might favor I do not know; but what was Shakespeare’s inclination? To go for wordplay, ambiguity and equivocation (for which he was not hanged). The final syllable of sexton is clearly mutable: long A, short A, long I, perhaps long E, and I know not what; was it accented? – was it a schwa?

Surname variants are Sexten and Sextain; Sexstone, Sexon, Seckerson, Secretan, Sekerstein, Segerstein, Sekersteyn, Segrestan and Secrestein - here 

https://books.google.com/books?id=5sVq7VQlNwcC&pg=PA2799&lpg=PA2799&dq=reaney+sexten&source=bl&ots=hQlK5IwFJi&sig=tlESSkeIDpuO-iBbqRT8lXwgH4g&hl=en&sa=X&ei=g4vEVNvIOpHGsQSf2IGIBA&ved=0CCQQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=reaney%20sexten&f=false

 And here 

https://books.google.com/books?id=IGYEAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA129&dq=variant+spelling+sexten&hl=en&sa=X&ei=qH7EVKPPPKvIsATytIC4DQ&ved=0CEgQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=variant%20spelling%20sexten&f=false

 we have surname variants of Sexten as Saxton; and as Sexdecim, which rolls into Sextenedale and Sixteendale as placenames after Yorkshire families; Sexdecim has the placename S. Valles; Sixtedale, Sixtendale, Sexendale, Sixendale etc. all are troublesome Brit variant of Thixendale, “a village on the wolds in the East Riding.” Hm. Is it valid to analogize surnames, placenames and jobnames? That is the question. If it be, well then. Observe that in this usage, of placenames, sex is rendered six, contra your Kindle p. 29.

 JH

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Hope

Of course I've said it, innumerably, before.  Honesty, about things I'm honest about, is easy.  My relationship with God is extremely bad.  I am ... immobilized with resentment.   He is waiting patiently for submission.  I say: can't I just be given mercy, and he says: you had it for many years.  I say: patience is not mercy, and he is silent, enigmatically.  I say: how about relenting and see how grateful, thankful I can be.  He says: no, now.  I curse him, and refuse, yet, to die.  He offers a bit more pain, and I have no choice but to accept.  Thank you, God, for this pain.

What do you do when God does not believe your promises?

The irony is not lost upon me.  My own immune system, which I have tended so carefully for a lifetime, is turned against me, broken, piercing me, riven, rent, wracked, ruined.  We are allowed no other refuge.  And I curse in my anger.  My strength is my weakness.  And I curse again.  Because I have been, always really, so utterly imbalanced, then imbalance shall be my undoing.  Oh, no, I appreciate the craft of it all. Thank you, God, for such artful lessons.

My God is the God of implacability.  My God is the no-win God.  No-win, I mean, for me.  No win for him either, of course, since he's not playing a game.  My god is, of course, not the real God -- part of my imbalance again.  This One is modeled after my father, a hard and untender man, to me, very little more than a judge, commandment giver, punisher.  The mantra of my childhood was, "who did this?" -- barked as an angry imperative. Likewise, my brothers: to me, brother is a word synonymous with betrayer.  No matter ... everyone suffers.  Somewhere into this imbalanced idol I have to wedge Jesus.  You know, so God is not a monster, or Satan.  My theogeny is incomplete.  

I have friends, but we do not speak in any meaningful way.  So I remain isolated and deeply discouraged.  I choose this.  It is the outworking of free will.  

I am undertaking heroic interventions, re regaining my health.  I haven't had a bad carb since March.  I'm juicing greens and sprouts everyday.  I haven't cooked anything to speak of in a month.   I eat -- well, drink -- clay.  It's a detox thing.  And so on.  We shall see.  It had been digging into me for a year and a half, so I can't expect a few weeks or months to undo the problem.  Call it a test of the natural-healing beliefs that I've been open to all my adult life.  At least it's not cancer -- not a fatal thing, so if it's all lies, this natural healing thing, the only harm would be in the futility of it.  But perhaps it will work.  I'm using this test as a test.  Chemotherapy has to remain only as a last resort.  I suppose I'm not willing to suffer forever.  But maybe I am.  But if I'm not, and healthfood is a lie, well then Obamacare will save me.  And I will have been proved wrong in yet another core belief.


J

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Things As They Are

If we say, for example, "the Republican Party", what is meant?  Most, we  must mean the Party that does not fight.  Whether from a lack of conviction, or from enervation, or complacency, it's not so much a one-sided fight, or a war of attrition, as a mudslide, faster than continental drift but just as universal.  Show me a revolution, and I'll show you degeneration.  What can we expect of a party? -- that it stop degeneration?  As much to suppose human nature can change.  Only individuals can change, and that, mostly, only after a searing of the soul.

I started this blog some years ago because I needed a place to express myself that was socially acceptable and unchallenged -- a volunteer audience, no peril of me gauchely intruding.  I stopped writing here some seasons ago because the tone was becoming unrelentingly oppressive, re my health and the direction of this country.  But my need to vent is legitimate.  If Job can write a book extolling his own righteousness, I suppose I, like Jeremiah, like Jesus, can weep for Jerusalem -- like David for Absalom, like Peter for himself.

The Party of Lincoln, formerly the Whigs, was one of national expansion and improvement.  No fear of big government -- but government concerning itself only with roads and canals and bridges, and those details specific to their times, such as tariffs and coinage.  A party that understood that making money is what must have been meant, by the pursuit of happiness.  Not materialism, but material turned to human purposes.  Seems, to me, an approach consonant with reality.  Because the individual is important, slavery was odious.  But this importance is honored as a function of the general welfare.  My but doesn't that Constitution have a lot of applications?

The Party of Roosevelt, TR, Progressive, is certainly Republican, as the Radical anti-slavery wing was Republican -- because the alternative was the Democrat Party, drunk like the Whore of Babylon on the blood of the oppressed, grossly pandering to the ravenous rabble.  What's that I imply?  The working man is somehow ignoble?  Please, it's not hard to follow.  The self-seeker is ignoble.  The generous is great of heart.  Thus patriotism is not about love but about sacrifice.  Takes it out of the realm of feeling and into that of action.  Feelings ... like a woman, a child ... like a Democrat.  I jest of course.  It is necessary to be complete.

So Republican progressivism attempted the individual welfare -- using the corrective power of government to correct corporate monopolism.  Monopolies will always lead to corruption and abuse, whether corporate, or labor, or government.  There must always be checks and imbalances.  There must always be a court of redress, an agent of succor, a god to oppose a titan.  What is wisdom, but an appropriate response to an ambiguous situation?  Reality has only two elements: people, and things.  Happiness lies in the balance.

Now we find an America that is unspeakably mutilated.  What nation does not defend its borders? Empires that fail in this, fall.  Nations that fail are subsumed.  In Obama's Niagara of scandals and incompetences, this latest, the Children's Crusade, is among the most shameful.  Betray us, by releasing literal disease, TB and scabies and hitherto undiscovered mountain/jungle contagions, into literally unprepared communities.  Yes, a monumental human tragedy, brought on of course by the invitation to, well, just come.  But of all the things that can be said of this, the most heart-rending is that it is unconstitutional.  Because the US Constitution, with its institutions and its rule of law, is/was the only material salvation the world has/had.  Everything else, throughout history, has been whim -- the righteous pagan's striving for harmony, answered always, as a function of the passage of time, by the passion of the barbarian.

I may speak here, I may, of such merry follies as gay marriage and recreational drug use, legalized.  My disgust has been inchoate and remains unarticulated.  If I do speak, be prepared for a jeremiad of unrestrained vitriol.  Somehow my country has ceased to exist.  Orphaned, widowed, bereft, traduced, betrayed, beaten, raped and robbed, infected, possessed by swine, vampiric, changeling.  Well, this might happen to any country.  American exceptionalism?  We are not excepted from the ruinous consequences of unwatchfulness.

If the wolves creep in and devour our children, it must be because we wished it so.  Was the night not full of howling?  Might we not have closed and barred the door?  Just as hope is not a plan, nor luck a skill, neither is regret a remedy.  When it's too late, the only vigorous action is revenge, which is not the redoubt of a noble spirit.  Passive acceptance, resignation, perseverance under duress ... examples of varying edification to future generations, but no remedy for present evil.

Evil is the word.  What have you done?  What have you done?  You should have fought.


J

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Godz Fuul Dot Com

No, I'm not really back.  But I've gotten a few emails wondering if I'm, well, alive.  I'm alive and kicking, albeit with only one leg.  The other one, the knee, it's not so great.  I won't darken the air with details about my degenerative health issue.  But there are a few things to say.  Phrase-maker that I am, it occurred to me that this is either a tragedy, or ironic, depending on whether or not there is ultimate meaning in the universe.  The other thing is:

I have been in open rebellion against God since the early Aughts.  I am a publicly optimistic person, but inclined to private bitterness (this blog has been considered private).  So when tragedy overtook me and mine, lo those many years ago, I didn't handle it with equanimity.  Well, as I say, if there is meaning in the universe, then God shepherds those he has chosen.  Tough luck for everyone else.  Part of that shepherding includes chastening.  We know the parable Jesus tells about leaving the flock to go after the wayward sheep.  What Jesus didn't say was that it was a shepherd-industry practice, for a sheep that continually wandered off, to break its leg.  Can't get to far, hobbling.  As I happen to know.

It's not, or need not be, punishment.  It's chastening, to get attention from the willful, toward what is important.  It's a nice difference, between punishment and chastening.  The form may be the same, and the intent, and the outcome.  Neither is about pain alone.  The difference lies in the relationship.  Punishment is about justice as much as correction.  Chastening is just about learning.  So what came to me, last week or so, was, as these things sometimes do come, with the clarity of a resonant voice, this simple and super-obvious fact:  God is not mocked.  See?  That's what I've been doing, for many years.  My blog is riddled with it.

God has been patient.  I don't even think he's mad at me.  But if there is meaning to my infirmity, it is in the fact that now, finally, God has my attention.  I said, decades ago, to a nice guy who was confused about God, that it's great to think of God as a friend, but you'd better think of him as God, too.  Well, talking is easy.  But in my case it takes constant pain and the inability to, oh, run, or walk down steps, to listen to the things I already know.  My genius is surpassed only by my stupidity.

I do have a plan, another plan.  Everything I've done so far has been ineffective, so the plans, the inconvenience, necessarily become more extreme.  Now it's very strict detox.  I already cut out literally every bad carb -- they are inflammatory.  No joy.  Next level, then: detox.  Serious green juicing, and bentonite clay (I won't elaborate), and a few other things.  I'll write a detailed case history, if it works.  If not, I'll spew bitterness like a volcanic mudhole.

To my amazement it turns out to be very easy to publish on Kindle.  Some years ago I edited the earlier part of Forgotten Prophets into manuscript form, and then, being me, did absolutely nothing with it. Last effort was 4 years ago, per the save-dates on my computer files.  But now I've uploaded it onto Kindle.  What, $6.95.  To make even one sale would take marketing.  That's unlikely to come from me.  But it's there, for posterity to discover, in a far more manageable format than the inchoate outpouring of the blog itself.

What's that? -- you'd be edified and delighted to read it?  Of course you would.  You may find it HERE -- under the inexplicable title of "Godz Fuul Dot Com: ...".  Why not "Forgotten Prophets Dot Com"?  Because I am a marketing genius.  Oh, there is no actual website by that name.  I suppose I should lock it in, but if there's any rush to beat me to it, it would just be malice.  Who could possibly bear me ill will?  You can "Look Inside" at the first few entries.  I'm not displeased.

J

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Human Nature

Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle is a cornerstone, capstone, keystone of understanding the universe as it is. The position and the velocity of an electron, say, cannot both be known. To measure one is to change the other. Observation is active, not passive. It is not only a participant, but a key player. Einstein loathed this idea, and made numerous attempts to disprove it. Eventually he devised a thought experiment whereby it could be shown that even though the two attributes, of position and velocity, could not both be known, they did both exist. The import being that the wave aspect of an electron was an artifact of an incomplete theory, quantum mechanics, rather than a manifestation of actual reality.

The pragmatic response to this was, per Wolfgang Pauli, “One should no more rack one’s brain about the problem of whether something one cannot know anything about exists all the same, than about the ancient question of how many angels are able to sit on the point of a needle.” Very pragmatic. Einstein’s response was that reality is what it is, regardless of what observation can determine at any given moment. Reality is innate. A falling tree makes a noise, whether or not anyone hears it. As opposed to the idea that, not only is there no noise, if unobserved, but there is no tree, or forest, or sustaining continent. Observation manifests the universe.

So, two intellectually antagonistic worldviews. My response is that nothing can ever be unobserved. The universe is just a set of dimensions in which sundry behaviors occur, like a movie on a screen -- playing out not for the attention of the players, but for an audience not on the screen. Call it what you will -- I would call it God.

If so, then quantum mechanics is certainly incomplete. It fails to factor in the idea that it is not observation, but second-level observation, that limits certainty. That first-level observation, divine, is what calls into being, and sustains, the universe. Truly, what is unobserved would not exist. It’s just that there is no such thing as something that is unobserved.

Not helpful, though, my quibble, unless it answers the dilemma in the controversy under discussion. We cannot after all argue the mind of God. Falling trees and dancing angels take us only so far. But to exclude the question, to suppose that because we cannot measure something, therefore we should not trouble our minds about it, is, if nothing else, deeply unscientific. To suppose we can never find the answer is to say we should not look. Sounds like church doctors, refusing to look through Galileo’s telescope because they already know the answer. Thus, Einstein is the more noble in his approach.

It seems, though, that to transcend the uncertainty of this universe, we have to view it from outside. Rather a supernatural requirement. Needing physics to become metaphysics is too great a demand to put on a physicist, though. Physics, requiring measurement, observation, reproducibility -- scientific method -- cannot evolve into something else and yet remain what it is.

So. The universe plays out its drama upon the stage, the screen, of a stretchable, relativistic space. The ultimate … Ultimate Watcher sees it all, position and velocity -- proscenium arch and painted sets and scene changes and the artifice of the entertainment. The players see none of this -- perceiving only the action and emotion of the drama of which they are a part. They may focus, as a character, upon the action, and remove themselves from the emotion -- cold and analytical, that fellow. They may focus on the emotion rather than the objective -- we all know people like that. Thus, position or velocity, but not both completely. You cannot fully participate and observe.

Both views are correct, relativity and quantum. It’s not just that they have a different focus, macro and micro. For all that the maths of one become irrational when applied to the other, the contradiction is one of misapplied tools -- a radio telescope for an electron microscope. Yes, of course there’s more to it than this. But everything is metaphors.

A few weeks ago some friends held a sort of intervention for me. I say it jokingly, and it’s quite witty, but truth be told. I spent a good while in discussion with my son, who is one of the few people to whom I will listen, and one of the few who dares challenge me. Long story short, after some probing and self-examination I came to the question of how is it possible for someone to change. And of course the application to myself. The answer I got was … well I can’t find a brief way to say it. Disturbing, and sad. Posit a question about the nature of life itself, abundant and joyful. I have two responding questions: does it matter, and am I worth it. Apathy and self-loathing. That’s what made me sad -- to see how defeated I am, in my soul.

The quandary of every drug addict. Wanting to change. In love with the poison. Well, first, it’s hard to do these things alone. But actions come from ideas, but ideas change through actions. Whether you want to or not, and regardless of belief, do what is right. If we are players on a stage, we will act out the drama. We don’t know the script. We only know our character. In this dialectal universe, uncertain, velocity or position, emotion or action, loathing or love, free will or predestination, the free choices we make must count as destiny.

It’s odd how the idealists are pragmatic, and the realists are idealists. The quantum mechanics school supposed that there is no electron, it’s just a Platonic potentiality, until it is measured, so let’s not worry about it -- dancing angels. Einstein maintained that there is a concrete reality regardless of observation, and this matters regardless of our being able to know it. The universe seems to be more quantum than relativistic, deep down, deepest down. So it seems, to us. But unobserved electrons exist, regardless. There is always an observer. What shall we trouble our heads with? I’ve offered many paired-opposites here. What is the opposite of apathy and self-loathing?

I had hoped to come to a practical answer, a distinction and application of the limited observer, a quantum observer, that would rationalize the paradox. We see electrons as waves until we actually see them, but by turning an electron into a point we get position, a snapshot, and not a movie. The blur of motion is lost in the fast-shutter of a clear still image. But this is just more metaphor, certainly not original; the thesis and antithesis resolve in a synthesis, surely, here, of God. In other words, the answer is metaphysical. That is, unanswerable. As with all things, uncertainty is answered only, always, and ultimately by faith.

 Most unsatisfying.


 J

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hump

Is there something I wanted to say? Some attempt to convey a meaning, some thought or feeling otherwise utterly covered by impassive flesh in stoic visage? Perhaps the celebration, acknowledgment of an anniversary? Solemn and sacred event of lifeshaking import. So often though conception goes unobserved, and we enjoy the fruition much later without concern regarding causation. Perhaps the onset of my undoing lies deep in the past, physical, psychical or spiritual. Who can say. I have to resign myself now, though, to the seemingly obdurate fact that I am ruined, physically.

 Have you had the amusing experience of observing me in motion? It’s quite comical. I hobble. A little hop, or a slow prance, high stepping and careful footfall. Put it to music and add witty commentary and it would be classic. I’m a clown.

Truth be told, I am ashamed. I mask it, bury it, subdue it with anger or humor or stoicism, but I do not feel, no longer feel like a complete man. I got a hint of something equally deep, or moreso, when I was looking into painkillers. I have refused for a lifetime to drug myself, but I’m getting past that. One must after all function. And in my reading I see that nsaids have a number of side effects. Well I knew that. One of the problems is possible erectile dysfunction. Potential loss of potency? As remote a concern to me as spontaneous breast-development. But when I read it, I thought, oh, I don’t want that. Is this what people, men, have to be concerned about? Gut fat and impotence and balding and visible decay before its time? Well now I am crippled, and so I must learn empathy from my own vulnerability, rather than from a tender heart.

It is an unarguable fact that God is incompetent. Just can’t get done what needs doing. Only capable of one thing, administering his own will to the exclusion of any other. Sort of a monomania. We hear, persistently, of his goodness. Also unarguable. From whom all goodness flows. But not all that flows is goodness. There are other wellsprings. In the world, we drink where we may and are inevitably polluted. God in the by and by will set all things right, but that includes the separating of sheep from goats. Oh well. Ho hum. Lost sheep are found, and speckled sheep are in the same fold as white. If I have to wait until I’m dead to walk without five or six different limps, I shall bide my time in rejoicing and good works.

If the blackness of pain stretches out like the shadow of the moon in front of the sun, ‘tis but a thorn in the side, to humble the flesh and its pride. Life? Life is that thing we hold on to even when we no longer know why. Ashes are sweetness. Morning brings renewal. You will not hear my actual voice raging, you will not see me break things or throw things or commit violence. I rage, I admit, in solitude, but I don’t break things. Hardly ever. Years and decades might pass, between such occurrences. I do not pretend, I don’t paste a false smile upon my lips, because I think pretense is dishonest. It would be more thoroughly honest of course to communicate, confide, seek counsel and comfort in fair fellowship, but you must know by now that it isn’t only my lower extremities that are crippled.

It will not be an insult to those I care about, if I say there is no person I feel comfortable confiding in, to reveal not just circumstances, physical details, but the actual degree of my despair. I know in fact I’m incapable of it. I am certain that only sobs and gasping are available to me. So I keep my communication confined to the level of words only, that which is expressible. For me to trust anyone deeply enough to reveal how crippled I really am, it would feel like death. I’d rather be dying, than actually die.

Well, not utterly ruined. I have a few plans. Swimming, cold and hot, would no doubt help. I wish I weren’t so crazy. The doctor I went to mentioned chemotherapy. Before that, if I can manage it, ice baths. A shock to the system severe enough to reset the immune system? Just a theory, but that’s what I’m good at. Nothing else I’ve tried, and it’s a lot, has made an appreciable improvement. And I expect I’ll have to go on a long, quite long juice fast. If that doesn’t work, I suppose I might fast outright. My thinking is to so stress the body that the immune system stops attacking me and gets its act together. I did a total ten day fast many years ago, and it’s not so very hard. But I don’t want to lose a lot of weight. One of the times I lost one of my boys, I accidentally stopped eating, out of grief, and got into the 150s. Pounds. I’m 6 4. So I know how to not eat. What’s that? You think my priorities are confused? Well that’s your opinion.

Every morning I wake up, unrefreshed, but somehow, stupidly, hopeful. I test my limbs, my hips, knees, toes, somehow expecting the problem to be gone. It’s not unreasonable. I’m doing this to myself. It’s my immune system. My disappointment amuses me. What a fool. God and his refining fire. It’s my heart’s one desire. Burn now, or burn later. Such great expectations he must have of me, to be so patient and so unrelenting.

I just wish he weren’t silent, or rather so general in his communication with me. Unreasonable to expect visions, and the purpose of these trials requires that they include no comfort. The eloquence of wretchedness. God isn’t a moron, but you’d think he’d be able to find some other tool.

I am honest, but I’m not completely honest. I do know what is demanded of me. I just don’t want to do it. God speaks, with complete clarity, through conscience. I hate that.

I am ashamed of myself, my body, my health. I don’t want people to see me like this. Most members of my family have not seen me for, well, a couple of years. I’m supposed to be healthy.

---------

Huh. I wrote that yesterday. Today is another day, and as God is my witness I’ll never be angry again, for a little while. I wasn’t going to put this previous up. I write this way more than on anything else, now. Complain complain complain. I know God is bored with me, and you’d be too, if you had to endure a fuller presentation of my bitterness. But I’m bitter. Why, oh why can’t I make you see that. There are other facets to my semi-preciousness. Just recently in fact I got done celebrating one. My intellectual arrogance. Here, let me educate you on the matter.

More than two decades ago I lured some Jehovah’s Witness to my home to argue theology with them. I was like that in those days. Later the internet came along, and I posted this: Cross or Stake. No need to read it; it’s highly specific and on a frankly incidental topic -- was the Cross a cross, or a stake. JWs, you know, have some odd passions. Well, so do I. I am pleased to suppose that my discernment leads me to reality. Be that as it may, searches and surfers do find their way to that blog and that post, and today for the first time someone left a comment. “You are in serious error.” Etc.

And I responded, and he, and I, and he, and so on. Comments.  It’s irksome, the discourtesy, when people just leave comments spouting their own view without addressing the actual evidence I’ve laid out. They do that. Like with my chronology of Easter week -- read the dang thing, and try to understand it, before you try to make your own case. Standard debate procedure. Please, follow the rules. Arguing is about your own side; discussing is about your side, and the other. If you want to argue, go find your girlfriend. These guys who leave a link to their own voluminous writings, expecting me to go and believe. If I go, I’ll either skim lightly, or deeply review the whole thing, and write a long analysis. Too much work. Like reading books by atheists about atheism. Why bother.

But now I feel guilty. You know, that intellectual arrogance thing. Because I wasn’t striving to annihilate him, but I was condescending. I didn’t want to get all verbose -- the issue is minor -- but my tone was so superior, and the brevity of my response, so elliptical, giving only the conclusion of a rebuttal rather than the formulaic proofs that would lead him to follow the reasoning. I allude to commonly-known rules of logic that I don’t spell out, and the guy seems clearly to not know the rules. That sort of thing. It’s snidely discourteous, or can seem so. And I reference Asbergers. Problem is, I’d bet money that it’s a factor in his life. Obsessive energy and encyclopedic attention to fringe topics. And the conspiracy, the secret-knowledge, the gnostic, puritanical demand for pseudo authenticity. It’s great to be authentic. I strive for it. But affectation is impure. Otherwise, it’s robes and sandals, and the Taliban is right in spirit if not practice.

Almost everything is a compromise, and communication is always a judgment call. You can just see that Kenneth has all his ideas front loaded, and wasn’t looking to interact, just to, uh, be admired for his erudition and his purity. Like me. Difference is, I respond -- I make a diligent effort to react to what is actually before me, rather than overawe someone with a Niagara of predigested information. Going into archaic alphabets is my kind of thing -- but it’s pretty autistic to think anyone else wants a data dump out of the blue on the matter.

Nevertheless, I feel a bit guilty. Maybe Kenneth is not sensitive, and has dusted off his sandals. But what if I’ve done some harm, even if only slight?

You see a man beating his wife. You rise up in righteous wrath and grab him by the neck and slap him with a humiliating open hand across the face, again and again, until he weeps and quivers and soils himself, begging for mercy. You tower over him and point down and warn him with ferocious indignation that he will never again hurt a woman for the rest of his days, or else, for no helpless woman will be abused in your presence while breath remains in you. And some time later, hours or weeks, the rage of his humiliation burns in him until he bludgeons the woman to death with a broken table leg. The heroism, the righteous clarity, what you meant for good has returned only as evil, and no trembling lip or nostril of regret will undo the harm.

How are we to know? Subtler minds than my own have urged for gentleness. We touch each other in countless ways, like sunlight on skin, for any human purpose an infinitude of photons acting as if randomness had meaning. It’s all too much to deal with. I’ve used my intuition and perceptiveness indelicately. I feel guilty. Too late though. (Well, actually not.  He left 11 more comments.  I'm over it.)

Last night my foot, the one that’s about twice as thick as the other, was almost normal, and I felt my spirit yearn for a chance to be humbled by the mercy of God. But this morning it was thick again. I will not be tricked by false mercy. I don’t need a normal foot when I’m in bed. I need it when I’m trying to walk. Don’t toy with me, God. The way I can be arrogant, because I have greater gifts? -- God should be better than that.


J

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Long Letter Home

I wasted a few hours mildly observing a very silly tv program, America Unearthed. It is, theoretically, exactly my sort of thing. I have the notes and research done for a book on the subject, Pre-Columbian Old World contact with the New. Very cool. But I did that work in the mid 90s, and it’s unlikely I’ll ever put it together. Point is, this little tv show (taking an hour to present 7 minutes of material) is exactly, or rather precisely, worthless.

 I’ve seen episodes before. Something about a super-secret Illuminati megacomplex under the Denver Airport; also the Georgia Guidestones. Something about the Masons building and controlling Washington DC. A giant buried rockwall in Texas built by giants.  Conspiracy crap. Oh, I love a real conspiracy. I love them for their rarity. This episode was about an ancient Egyptian presence in Oklahoma; and Celtic. And then one about a medieval Englishman buried in Arizona. Indeed, these things could be true. I’m entirely open to it. I believe there is some very reasonable evidence to support this sort of thing. I like anomalous data.

 But the Egyptian evidence, so called, is a flat 500 pound sandstone rock carved very clearly with an Egyptian style Apis bull.
 I am rusty on this topic, but I used to be pretty confident -- ancient history was the focus of my undergraduate interests. It is clear, in any case, that the Apis carving is certainly meant to be taken as authentic. Is it?

 I googled this particular example and found a nice little skeptical blog addressing the tv show. The bull is dismissed primarily on the grounds that the head is too small -- considered to be a basic error of fraudsters and beginning art students, who do not first chalk out their subject, and thus must artificially squash up the image to make it fit their miscalculated space. (I’m so inept at graphic representations that it’s actually funny -- but doesn’t it seem more likely that an artist would start drawing at the head?  And it seems like a right handed person would start carving, hammer and chisel, from the right.  I'm just saying.) (They left the front-left leg unfinished.)  In any case, of course the carver was an amateur, perhaps gifted, whether ancient Egyptian or modern fraudster -- what, an expedition into the wilds of an unknown continent traveled with a vast retinue of specialized craftsmen?

The blog writer is a scholar of petroglyphs, but certainly not an Egyptologist. His criticism is convincing until one actually looks at authentic Apis bulls. They are characteristic in their small-seeming heads. I remembered this, and checked it again on what you people call the internet (man, it make superficial research so easy -- which is why we can expect an increasing surfeit of hoaxes). The bull is certainly a fraud, but not because the head is too small.

 The stone was supposedly found by a couple of young men out looking for fossils or somesuch in the Oklahoma River. Oklahoma has a river? Hey dude, check this out! Bitchin! An ancient Egyptian Apis bull carved into this flat boulder in the shallow river! Farout! Let’s pull it out and call up some tv guy! And I looked at the two young men, and as they spoke I posited three options: truthful, lying, or I can’t tell. I could tell. Lies lies lies. One of them couldn’t wipe a sneaky little smirk off his face.
 Perhaps it’s just that he’s not an actor and the camera evokes this behavior? And the other could not help but shake his head, no, constantly, with every word he uttered.
 Perhaps it was him indicating dismay at the amazing thing that truly happened? No. Lies lies lies. (Here’s how to determine if someone is lying: be still, listen and observe.)

More telling, to my formerly somewhat trained eye, was the erosion pattern of the inscription. Insignificant. After supposedly 3000 years. Much of that time spent in a riverbed? -- certainly in the wind. Consider: an inscription, inscribed, carved into the stone; exposed to sustained weather patterns -- a current of water, or prevailing direction of wind. What must happen is that one side, leeward, of an inscribed line would be more eroded than the other. What would not happen, in an exposed inscription, is uniform wear. Which is what was in evidence.
Sure, the lines were somewhat rounded, as if someone had made a desultory attempt to simulate age. But really, totally, completely unconvincing, to the point of obvious deceit. Like a little smirk or a constant head-shake negation.

 Well, it’s fine as a puzzle: is this genuine? Like an Encyclopedia Brown mystery. But this is deliberate fraud, which is precisely analogous to counterfeiting. Isaac Newton was Master of the Royal Mint, and looming large among his duties was to oversee the execution of counterfeiters -- if memory serves, by partial hanging, then drawing and quartering. Trust must not be debased. To vandalize truth is profoundly corrupt, if such a quaint conceit can have meaning in Obamerica. These punks need to be caned. The tv guy is just making a living, soft-selling with deliberate naiveté and faux enthusiasm what he must know is not genuine. We expect scholarship from scholars, and entertainment from entertainers.

 The other episode? The medieval Englishman memorialized in a bodiless Arizona cave? His name, according to the runic inscription just outside the cave opening, transliterates as Rough Hurech (HRK?). And indeed, record of a 12th century Peter Hurech is to be found in England, the last of his line. This is where the voiceover guy starts asking the Could it be… questions. These shows are all about open-ended questions that never get answered. Could it be that space aliens built this 43,064 year old megalithic undersea structure? (No.)

 As for Rough Hurech, it is indeed runic script. In “English”, reportedly. No meaningful erosion, and undocumented and unobserved as of a 1984 report by state museum officials on the cave’s genuine Indian petroglyphs … but maybe since then the stone was uncovered and for some reason moved outside and left exposed by, uh, souvenir hunters? What is absolutely a problem is, if memory serves, that runic was a completely archaic form of writing, even 200 years prior to the supposed time in question; it was a first millennium alphabet. Anyone who knew runic, later, would know Latin, and my expectation was that the vulgar tongue would not be used, and that person also would not inscribe in runic. I don’t think there are any examples of authentic High Middle Ages runic inscriptions, by which to see what convention would dictate: it was not a practice, to have a convention.

 In my family are preserved old hymnals and prayer books, brought over from the old counties, Denmark and Norway -- they are printed in that hard-to-read Gothic font. Well, 140 years is a long time. It is completely unreasonable to expect to find such a usage in any contemporary communication, except that which strives deliberately to be obscure. My point is obvious. Rough Hureck may have come to America, and may have been buried in an Arizona cave, but this would be entirely by astronomical and infinitesimal coincidence, and we surely do not have his gravestone.

 As worthless, but not moreso, are the Alien Hunter shows. Any large stone piled onto any other is evidence of space aliens. It’s comical. Likewise the Bigfoot Hunter shows, and the Ghost Hunter shows. I haven’t actually watched one, but, well, I haven’t seen animal pornography either. I’m sure it has its interests. They are all of a piece, Honey Booboo by another name, silly and uncouth behavior for its own sake, or disguised as investigative adventure. There used to be really bad sitcom tv, Three’s Company and Married with Children. Now there is unscripted amateur bad acting of obvious vignettes concocted by producers who are not gifted storytellers. Every cohort has its own expression of lowbrow culture.

 So, in this, I do not despair. It is not the continuing corruption of popular culture that distresses. Yes, it is coarser, by orders of magnitude, but youth become desensitized to the same degree. Rather, I am unspeakably distressed in this: I believe the American spirit has been, finally, ruined. Gay “marriage”, mandatory government-dictated “insurance”, unpoliced “immigration”. Consider our wars. Our military wins them, and our politicians then lose them -- we must say, spurred on by popular opinion. I care not for platitudes; it is results that speak truth. Pols do only what they are allowed to do. Look at what we have allowed, confirmed. Now, in my extremity, when for the first time I am in need of medical doctoring, the American medical establishment is being ruined. Ah well, how ironic. The tragedy lies in the abandonment of, shall we call it Americanism. I won’t belabor it. It is the loss of freedom, as an ideal, that unhinges me. More government, less freedom. It is a self-evident logical formulation.

I believe a number of frankly weird things. I don’t have a problem with conspiracies. I require however evidence sufficient to sustain a claim. Extraordinary beliefs need extraordinary support. Thus I believe in God rather than in randomness. My life is random, as is, now, my health -- as if a lifetime of care did not earn benefit. Ah well. No justice. But the alternative is that randomness produces complexity, and that is impossible. God allows injustice, but physics does not allow the merely mechanical abnegation of entropy. Life does not come from non-life; I have faith insufficient to sustain such a belief. Ergo, God.

 I spend a fair bit of time, at night, in bed, attempting to manipulate my chi. Directing it to the sundry points of virulent inflammation that are crippling me (you can walk without a knee, or hips, but how can you walk without the bottoms of your feet?). It’s just a way of trying to reset my immune system. Any paradigm might do it -- prayer or visualization or hypnotism or meditation or aura work or chakra activation. Whatever. Is it working? Not in the least. My working hypothesis is that God won’t allow me even to trust my good practices. All that lifelong focus on fitness and health? No smoking or drinking or drugs or dead things in my diet? A reed I have leaned upon, that has broken and pierced my hand. On what then might I lean? Wherein shall I place my trust? In the God who allowed my family, my two other sons, to be taken from me? -- lost as far as I knew into a void as black as the abyss? Somewhere I must have misplaced my faith, for him to countenance such a thing. But God is a fanatic, an all or nothing sort of triune personage. We are allowed it seems to love only, only, only God, and nothing else, or he will take it from us. What do we value? Our children? Our health, our self-control, our diligent observation of hygienic practice? For nothing. From the four quarters of the earth Job will lose his cattle and his sons and his health, and the only comfort he will get comes as blame, until God comes in a whirlwind or a peeping voice and informs him unanswerably that all his blamelessness counts for nothing but an invitation to agony. And still must we trust him.

 I defy you, urge you, beg you to prove me wrong. Prove with, you know, evidence, like you’re disproving a ridiculous but prevalent conspiracy theory. I am of course taunting you with futility, asking the impossible, because the only answer does not come in the form of reason. No one can out-reason me, in this. My argument is not in interpretation, but in the evidence itself. Look at what has happened. It speaks for itself. There is only one appropriate answer, to discouragement. I do not know how one might communicate encouragement, through silence. Well, yes, I suppose I do. Because I have done it. Words don’t do it. It’s the conveying of empathy. I know this because I’ve done it, and it works. It’s how you comfort a child. Shut the hell up with the yammering words and hug him. There’s hardly anything in the universe sufficient to convince us we’re not completely alone. We find courage through empathy.

Well, it is true that Job got replacement sons. So never mind then. Do over.

 I have not suffered enough yet, though. It is my belief that God really is trying to break me. There is worse in store for me, until I yield. I am fully capable of never yielding. I’m crazy. So it’s an adventure. Who can hold out the longer. God, with his fiery hailstones and plagues and slaughtered loved ones, or me and my capacity to accommodate increasing debilitude.

 Here’s the deal, God: when I’m swallowed by a great sea creature and spewed up onto an eastward shore, I’ll stop fleeing to the west. Either that, or peep a little more clearly -- I’m not thoroughly convinced of the sincerity of your empathy.


 J

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Starting My First Novel

From, like, 6 years ago -- just cuz it's so good:

---


It was a dark and stormy night.

[No.]

The night was dark, so very dark, and quite stormy. ... It -- by which is meant the night -- was stormy and dark. ... The darkness of the night was so dark, and the storminess made the darkness seem that much darker and more nightlike.

[Yikes. It's just getting worse.]

Dark and stormy, the night screamed like a ravished virgin. ... The dark, stormy night ranted madly in a barometric tantrum.


[Ugh.]

It was an ebonic nocturnal tempest. ... The stygian typhoon of eventide...

[No, no, no.] 

Prosopopeic fuliginous Nyx, enceinte as it were with lachrymal lamia farouche as Hecate, disbosomed upon her terrene demiorb an empyreal borasque.


[Huh?]

Dark storm roiled through the night, stirring up ghosts untroubled since pagan times.

[Pagans?! At least it isn't pirates.]

Dark the night was, and stormy -- aye.

[Dang.]

O Thou, Night of Dark Storm, whither goest? -- whence cometh thine exudations of witching Strife?

[Unbe-freakin-lievable.]

It all started on a dark night that was stormy.

[Um ... no.]

I never would, or could, have dreamed, or believed, that anything like it could ever have had happened, to somebody, anybody at all, really, such as myself, but, man, oh, man, believe you me, it really, truly, did happen, and not too very long ago, either, and, not only that, but, also, what’s more, it happened to me, too, one dark, and stormy, night!

[Ack!!]

"Take me! Take me now, you big man!" moaned Stormie Knight darkly as she threw herself panting and naked onto the hot wet sand.


[Hmm. I'll deal with this later.]

The night swayed into my office on dark clouds like your mother never wanted you to see. A lacy froth of storm just barely held back the thrusting silky light of the soft, full moon. Brother, could I feel the wind rising, and how.

[How ... noir.]

Dark, stormy night rolled madding over the wuthering moor, heedless of the heather blooms.

[Yeah, great -- and here’s Heathcliff wending soulfully through the tuffets.]

Darkness muffled the stormy night, damping dreams as well as earth.

[...and breeding lilacs out of the dead land.]

It was the best of dark and stormy nights, it was the worst of dark and stormy nights.

Once upon a dark and stormy night dreary, while I pondered weak...

To be a dark and stormy night, or not to be a dark...

Let us go then, you and I, when the dark and stormy night is spread out against the sky... 

Call me a dark and stormy night.

Mother died today, or maybe last dark and stormy night -- I can't be sure.
 

These are the dark and stormy nights that try men’s souls.
 

In the beginning, it was a dark and stormy night.

~~~~~

It hadn’t rained for months, and the hard bright sunlight streaming all day through the window was harsh enough finally to kill the fat angry fly that clattered around in the dry air like a broken shopping cart. But now the sun had fallen, and night with it. Somewhere out of the Pacific, storm clouds crept through the darkness and laid hold of the sky.
 

Rain was falling.
 

It was almost comical, slopping down in a deliberate drench. I could picture the dark fairies hidden just above the backdrop of the clouds, giggling and snorting to each other, gleeful with malice, scooping out great wooden bucketfulls from the waters of the firmament. You just don’t expect government workers to try so hard. A light mist, a drizzle, maybe even a few scattered showers. The minimum, just to meet the quota. Certainly nothing as exuberant as this.
 

I smiled. Odd, how we smile outloud. Even when a man's so sick of himself he can barely breathe, he still acts out his little pantomimes. No one’s there, no one watching, no audience. Yet he talks to himself, smiles when he's alone. His inner life spills out, overflows, too much to be contained. Witness me, O Creation! I’m so interesting!
 

No one’s watching. No flies, no peeping toms, no fairies or angels or demons or ghosts. I didn’t see any. Well, maybe ghosts.
 

And still the rain falls.
 

I was in my office. I’d just wrapped up the Svenson case, and for the past few days I found myself with nothing to do. I was out of whiskey. I lit another cigarette. It was a dark and stormy night.
 

A knock sounded at the door. Goodness, who can it be at this late hour? ...




J

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Gilead

I hate God the way I hate my father. Their failings stem from different strictures in their natures, but the damage they have done is analogous. Words are insufficient of course to communicate my meaning. God, and father, are easy, but hate is a tough word. Hate the sin not the sinner. But the agent of failure is accountable. Can we judge God, then? Language is insufficient.  We can't even argue with him.  Because he doesn't argue back.

God cares about only one thing. Righteousness. That’s the only thing God cares about. Nothing else. Only that. Love, and mercy, and justice, and grace -- it all falls under this broadest description. His character. Of righteousness. The world stands or falls on that. Well, it falls. And then, because of his righteousness, he provides a way of grace. And to demonstrate his holiness he puts himself, as his son, through infinite torment. There is no consideration that will cause me to believe that if he will do that to himself, to his son, he would hesitate for an infinitesimal moment to judge and condemn us. There’s a way out -- take it or don’t, and be damned. Does he suffer in his heart because of this? Sure he does. But more important to him than even his own suffering, is his righteousness.

Thus, there is no forgiveness, for the unrepentant. Didn’t take your chance? Too bad for you. There is no deal, no bargain, we can make with God. I’m sure he doesn’t laugh at us, in his heart or before his assembled angels at our rabbinical attempts to pursued him. We do not mock our children. But whereas no human father is righteous, God is, and he cannot compromise, when it comes to the greater good. What after all do we have to bargain with? I’ll be good from now on if you give me such and such? No, be good for the sake of righteousness. I’ll put away this sin, that vice, for a time or forever, if you give me some particular blessing? Thus was Sodom destroyed. The meteors were already blazing towards a set intercept point, latitude and longitude, minute and second. It was foreordained that there should be a Dead Sea. We converse with God, in our prayers. But prayer is where we listen, and God does not. He knows what he wants, and he cannot deviate from righteousness.

God cannot conceive that he might need to be forgiven. He is so very righteous after all. Part of it is that we have only language, human language, and God isn’t human.  Human speech is not his native tongue. He needs a mediator.  So when we formulate our anguish and dismay and despair into words, something is lost in the interpretation, and in any case words are mere approximations. We can’t out-argue him, and we can’t articulate our emotions, and we just have to depend on his seeing our hearts, brokenness and pain. Well, yes, he sees. But what can he do? Only what righteousness allows.

So we suffer in a fallen world, for our sins, for the sins of others, for happenstance, for reasons and for no reason at all. And God watches, utterly, completely, unyieldingly implacable. Does he wish to comfort us? How? Through the beauty of the world? Grief robs the world of its beauty. Through the revelation of scripture? Words are what we use to tell lies with -- at best they are reflections, and too often ambiguous, confusing, comforting only in the way that soothing noises to a child might be. Where else are we do find comfort? Sympathetic humans -- family, friend, community, fellowship -- surely here, but this is to say nothing at all, given that sometimes our hearts are too broken even to allow eye contact. There is no comfort where there is no trust.

So yes, I trust God. I trust him to do as he pleases. I trust him to send even more pain, even more harsh and bitter lessons, to hector and beat and pound at us until we are ground to dust, nothing left of our will save that which conforms to his. Well, it’s a good thing to agree with truth. And it is good that all necessary energy should be expended, to teach lessons that must be learned. If I am stiff-necked, as I am, it is only fitting that I should have my neck broken. This is the chastening that a father reserves for his son.

We are commanded to love God. I do not. I hate him. I would rather never have been conceived, than live in this world. I hate this world. I know I’m doing it wrong, the way I live my life. I know I’m trapped. I know there is a madness in my soul that poisons every moment of self-reflection. I know that when I say hate, I mean resentment and unforgiveness and unrepentance and dishonesty and self-righteousness. I realize that I am withholding my trust as a bargaining tactic, and I know that when I surrender everything I have, that will have to include everything that I want. I want to be happy. I want to feel well. I want to be loved. It may be, that when I finally succumb to the pain and give in to God’s demands, it will be at the final moment of my life, and I will have lived a meaningless life, utterly solitary, needlessly defiant, futile and a waste. As one through fire.

Before that, then, I would hope, if hope can mean something other than trust, that God takes pity on me, and places his hand on my shoulder, and draws me to his breast, and consoles my broken spirit. Because I’m too unsociable for human company, and the revelation of nature and of scripture seem to be insufficient. It’s just a little fantasy I have, though. God appears only to prophets.


J

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Etc

I went on and on just now, the way I do, about pain and unforgiveness and injustice. And the need for eternal torture and the inadequate performance of God, and the impossibility for me of peace. There were some good lines and some gripping images, and it was touching in the revelation of my deeply flawed humanity. But it’s been said before, and goes nowhere.

 I have however come up hard against something that seems worth saying. I do want comfort, you know, I want to be soothed, strengthened. Because my soul has been poisoned by resentment, and my body, which had always been reliable, now pains me. It’s not a betrayal; it is a wounded animal, and I mourn for its distress. Point is, where shall I find encouragement?

 There is that part of us, the small child, that wants to be rescued, picked up in our tears and held and reassured that we are loved -- which is the true cure for that sort of childish pain. That sort of rough-and-tumble fall-down pain is never the real problem; it’s the idea that we suffer alone, in the presence of indifference. A child who bumps himself while actually alone doesn’t cry. That says it all.

 There’s that part of me that wants God to just intervene, have mercy or compassion on me, manifest his angel as a solid presence of healing. Indeed, there is that desire in me. So I asked myself, why doesn’t God just do that? He does it for some people. Why not me? And the answer, as happens, really, always, when I ask this sort of question, comes with the clarity of a voice from across a table. God is holy, and he is disinclined to manifest himself within a heart filled with rage.

 We say God. Jesus, Holy Spirit -- it’s this last who does most or all of the comforting. I just don’t think the Holy Spirit dives headlong into a cesspool. That’s not very holy. Holy means separated apart, reserved for cleanliness and respect -- the idea of sacred. There has to be a clean spot, for God to slip through. I think of the way a cat picks its way through mud.

 One has to make room, for God. Clear a space, a little altar in your heart, where madness and filth don’t quite reach. Seems like a small enough thing to ask.

 For all I know, my life as an athletic person is ending. Maybe this affliction will pass. If not, what will I have left? Rage and pain fill me. There’s only one domain left, my intellect. Will this be attacked too? Body, soul and mind? I did not fully appreciate my health, although I protected it. And I did nothing to clarify my soul, filling it instead with resentment and other low things. And my intelligence is no small thing, but it is almost totally wasted, or completely, given the insignificance of this blog and of the few other interactions I have whereby I share ideas. Transient, superficial, insignificant. The fact that you, you might find some amusement in what I do -- it’s nice, to amuse for a moment. It hardly leaves a mark, a pebble into the water. The meaning of life must surely be more than to make remarks that are forgotten.

 I had some blood tests done, just standard stuff, inflammation (which I can spy with my little eye) and bloodwork, whatever that is -- but it’s phone tag with the doctor. So now I have the luxury of imagining something fatal has been found, and there is a thrill in the idea, like I can finally give up and just be done with this, and it won’t be my fault, I can’t be blamed. A little self-dramatizing, comforting. I can’t be blamed. Well, yes, I could be, as has happened in the past, falsely, but there I am, dead, and finally I’ll get justice from God. He can apologize to me, and reward me for my patience, self-restraint and excellence.

 Yeah.


J

Monday, December 2, 2013

OFTEN

     
Someday you will leave.
I’m sure that in this
it will not be your purpose
to cause pain.

     And here I’ll say something philosophical
     about the nature of change
     and the wisdom of letting go.
     Then a rhythmic image of nature,
     naked branches, twigs
     scraping at a window.
     Then I allude to something visceral
     and violent, like dripping blood,
     drip drip, but not so obvious--
     thrumming in your ears.
     Then something innocuous again,
     like a breeze and slow breathing,
     then I close with--
     either ‘And’ or ‘But’--

often I discover my left index finger
tapping, fast as if with anxiety.


J

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

TG

If anyone deserved good health, it was me. You deserve what you earn. Then again, you own only what you can keep. It is self evident that God acts upon humanity only in a general way. There simply are no specific miracles. Oh, sure, of course there are, but so rarely, profoundly exotic, sui generis. Two-headed calves are not miracles. Spontaneous remission is not a miracle. The midnight reprieve of the condemned is not a miracle. These are just things that happen.

 Prayer does not move God. So very rarely does he, as it were, repent himself. Shadows moving backward on the sundial; human depravity that brings forth a Flood. Offhand I can’t think of any other example. Earthquakes and brimstone from the skies – these are phenomena of nature, acts of God, as we say, but traceable to the current nature, rather than any initial created perfect condition, of the universe. Prayer, then, is what we do when we want to change our own minds.

Rarely do we get special warnings. Usually it is conscience that warns us: gee, maybe that wouldn't be such a good thing to do?  But if the thing seems to be mere change, a left turn instead of a right? -- well, you should have driven more carefully, slowly, looked both ways, been more mindful of intersections and headlong traffic. Or you eat out, give yourself a special treat or just pick up a bite, and a bacteria colony comes along with it. What warning was there? Prepare your own food? -- meditate before every meal and await a highsign? If there were such a thing as the urim and thummim any longer, I doubt if it would function. God acts in the universe only upon quarks and upon conscience. He sustains the universe, and he seeks for our salvation. All the rest of it is happenstance.

The wicked prosper, the virtuous suffer, and justice might as well be counted as a miracle, more rare than two-headed serpents. What than is the purpose? Here it is, Thanksgiving. Indeed, we must be thankful. It can always get worse. You had better cling with utmost desperation to what you have, cherish and treasure and spray out thanks like a pulsar pervading infinite space. God has demanded of us a thankful spirit, and commanded us to rejoice, always. Through suffering? Oh, sweet child, to think you know anything of suffering. Whatever we are put through could be so very much worse. The burn victim must be thankful that he can walk; the paralytic must be grateful that he can speak. And at the end of an ungrateful life is an eternity of pain. Indeed, it can be so much infinitely worse. Thanksgiving, then.

The meaning of life is the curse and necessity of free will, and what we do with it. Should I have said blessing, as well? Find them where you may. We stand on the shore of a vast cesspool of cruelty and indifference. We stand on a small floating island in that pool. Most of humanity is nearly submerged, deprived of the blessing even of a place to stand.

 For my part, I have poisoned my spirit with unforgiveness, virtually mad by now with the need to avoid those persons and situations that have given me, well, past anguish. How is this wrong? When we reach an intersection we must remember the rules of the road, look both ways and avoid catastrophe. The people in our lives who have ignored the rules of, well, humanity -- aren’t there rules that must guide us? No. Apparently there are not. We must forgive. Forgive the oncoming truck.  Which seems so stupid and insane a thing to do that I cannot. Christ can be Christlike. It seems a contradiction that we must be, also. It isn’t, of course -- forgiveness doesn’t mean trust. My problem, one of them, is that I’d like to see justice. All I can do, to approximate that, is hold a grudge. Poor substitute.

 We learn our first lessons about God through the character of our fathers. Very very grim. Very bad plan, God. You fucked up. That must be the first step on election: God puts us in a toxic crippling family and then lets us fend for ourselves -- those who are elected will thrive, find support and stability and sanity where we may. It can happen. And late late later, maybe we get some friends, or find a mate, or carve out a place for ourselves in the world. We find meaning. And perhaps the wasted years that have been consumed as by locusts are returned to us and we achieve or approach our potential. Perhaps it is this way. The meaning of hope is that tomorrow might be better than today. Perhaps our pain will be less. Perhaps our solitude will be broken. Perhaps our spirit will lay down its burden, seen to be so completely unnecessary. Perhaps God will smile on us, and we feel that smile as peace and love and fellowship.

 I have been silent in these pages for some weeks now. Sometimes I write, but I don’t think of myself as a complainer, so I keep it to myself. These pages are for saying what I feel like saying, but not everything is fit for print. I have friends, but there’s no one I would lay my burdens on. Seems discourteous, that level of intimacy, when I’m so superficial a persona. I know I’m wrong in this. Count it as another of my sins.

 I will isolate myself for Thanksgiving, and Friday, emerge briefly on Saturday and disappear again on Sunday. The world, and moving through it, is painful. I should have been more grateful, when I felt well. As it is, I will be thankful that I am not paralyzed, physically.


 J

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Wave

It is self evident that I am brilliant, but I’m unaccomplished and undisciplined. So my philosophical speculations are likely to be astute, and accurate as far as I have my facts straight, and original in that I came up with them -- which is not to say they are original. Perhaps my new ideas are clichés, to initiates of the arcana.

I was thinking about light, photons, having wavelike properties. Then I thought about what a wave actually is. It is the transfer of energy, momentum, through a medium, from one molecule to another, in a bumping sort of movement. Water molecule A pushes against water molecule B, losing energy as it transmits it. Water rises outward in wave formation as energy moves out, losing it in the trough, transferring it to the crest. Same with sound: air molecules push against molecules further out. Or a guitar string, or a whip, or the ground during an earthquake. It requires the outward transfer of energy.

 Given this concrete definition, how can light be a wave? Is a photon pushing against another, which in turn pushes against another? No -- no more than a bullet pushes against another bullet, and so on. So I thought, the term wave must be an analogy, and I wonder if this thought has been thought before. We get caught up in the word wavelike, which leads us down false paths.

 Then I thought about how a photon is timeless, eternal. An object traveling at the speed of light would be frozen in time -- an astronaut traveling for 20 years at light speed would return to earth after 20 years, virtually no time having passes for him. And an object going faster than light would move backwards in time -- impossible of course, but that’s what would happen if it could. So what is the universe like, to a photon? Frozen, the way a reel of film is frozen (without a projector’s movement and light to give it life). All laid out, contiguous but static. The astronaut would observe 20 years of an earthling’s life as if it were a person-shaped line of extruded toothpaste -- not a point moving through time but a completed line. That’s why they say things stretch at near light speed … perhaps it’s not so much a stretch as an infinitude of multiplicities -- every moment abutting the next as a physical object. Thus would an object gain infinite mass. Yet, again, the universe would not be so much frozen as imperceptible -- moving faster and faster, to the vanishing point; even the most distant stars would move their given distance, instantly, which is to say, undetected. To a photon, the universe is black and empty.

 Then I thought about what a photon is like to itself. It is a line, a streak, originating at the source whence it emanates, ending at an eyeball or a black surface or whatnot. It is not a particle or a wave, to itself. It is a string, timeless. And that gave me the idea about how it can be a wave. A photon manifests, intrudes, in time, the universe, as the movement of a single oscillation along its length. If it travels/extends 186,000 times 10 miles -- so it lasts 10 seconds -- the wave along its length shows up as a photon each second every 186.000 miles (and all the relevant fractions). A photon experiences the universe the way a monkey slides down a vine; the vine is always there, and there is no jungle. That’s how a particle can be a wave: the same way a vibration moves along a violin string. You may very well call a piece of a vibration, a particle. It’s not a bullet traveling down a barrel, it’s a shotgun load.

 Then I thought about how everything is in motion at 186,000 miles per second. For us, as objects at “rest”, almost all of that motion is spent moving through time; for an object moving through space at near light speed, there is hardly any motion left for movement through time, so time slows for it. Something is going to be slower, the object or its time. It’s an inverse function, always ends up as 1. Movement through time and movement through space sum up to lightspeed. This is basic relativity

 But what I was really thinking was, that explains, oh, say, angels. Our mundane world, plodding innert materialism, is almost all time and almost no speed. Matter is slow, racing through time; light is fast, and massless and timeless. What of consciousness that was all speed and no time? -- like light? Innately massless, that is, nonmaterial, immaterial, incorporeal -- but if it does slow down, entering time, it gains mass, becomes physical (as an object which increases in speed gains mass) (“objects” then of both types, material and, um, radiant, gain mass when they change speed to a relativistic degree). It is a different set of laws that must govern such a plane. The idea that we express as 186,000 “miles” per “second” (space and time) must find its expression some other way.

Ours is a universe of (slow) mass-particles racing through time. Another would be of timeless massless-particles, its entities comprised of such “molecules” and aware in time at the wave-point, pervading the entire universe, as a mass-particle would take on the mass of the universe if it could attain light-speed.  And I’m just ignoring gravity.  But

I could drive myself to distraction, following up the implications.

 I have no desire to start a cult, however, and I’m too bad at selling things to write a book about it. I’m like the Unibomber -- alone in his shack, spewing out ideas, with no reality check, no other strong intellect to challenge or correct or encourage. I don’t get a lot of feedback. Mostly I’m not understood. I may be wrong, but I’m not crazy-wrong. And even with old, simple and obvious ideas, it’s hard to be understood.

 Pain, pain, go away. Come again some other day. I got old suddenly, and too soon.  A certain symptom has manifested, that informs me that my now long-term issue is not bursitis or what have you.  Unsettling.  But depression is close enough to despair that I have cause to fear for my life, if my life is imperiled.  I'm sure I'll go to a doctor, though.  After all, it would be crazy not to.  And what an artist the world would lose, in me.


 J