When desperate, the best thing to do is do better. Don’t give up to helplessness. Don’t succumb to selfish grifting. Try harder. Sacrifice. Endure. See hope in the future. There are people and situations which can help you escape your misery. Find them. You’ll find the worst first. Then you’ll find that the best are flawed. But most likely your escape is the escape you fashion from the pieces of a past that you broke. Pick up the parts that will serve you. Abandon those which cut your hands and break your heart. The puzzle parts are all there for you to put together into a new beginning. At some point you must stop looking back. Look down. Look up. Look sideways. Move forward but protect and defend what is precious to you at all costs.
Heaven and Earth are impartial
And regard myriad things as straw dogs
The sages are impartial
And regard people as straw dogs
The first section of this verse makes me think of my white dog. At times, she seems to be the princess of evil: attacking my livestock, finding escapes from my secure fence, looking for ways to make my life miserable. However, when I settle and watch, I realize evil is a formation in my mind, a straw dog. My flesh and bone dog has needs and desires which I can only imagine and these urges have nothing to do with evil or destructiveness or me.
When I empty my mind of conclusions. When I allow my eyes to observe. When I let nature take its course. I can know more about the mind of another…even a dog. Rather than securing each breach in my fence AFTER it has occurred, I watch and determine if a pattern is occurring, if my dog is seeking the path of least resistance, if the increasing desire to escape will come back down to, decrease back to a tolerable level, to a level that doesn’t lead to a dead dog on the side of the road.
The space between Heaven and Earth
Is it not like a bellows?
Empty, and yet never exhausted
It moves, and produces more
Section two takes my breath away. The image of a bellows inhaling nothing, producing nothing, converting nothing into everything. This idea of physical nothing producing physical everything takes me to my thoughts of what a human should do for fellow humans. Act in good faith. It takes nothing. Listen to what is being said to you. It takes a hollow minute. Admit when you are wrong. It takes an empty ego. How better to repair your soul and enhance your standing with another.
Too many words hasten failure
Cannot compare to keeping quiet
Final section. My dog, though she doesn’t know it, benefits from my caring enough to watch her, to understand her, and thereby love her. My companions in life, though they do not always notice, get more than nothing from me when those nothings are good faith, listening, and humility. All of these nothings hold value where too many words have failed. The treasure of quiet, though less than a straw dog, produces more than tangible treasure. Fills the emptiness of desire. Lasts and fulfills in each one’s eternity of want.
It has been decades since I researched the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. In that long-ago era, I read the very best books on the subject, including Crossfire, On the Trail of the Assassins and Rush to Judgement. I attended Jim Marr’s JFK Class in Arlington, TX and also his JFK Researcher’s Group at the same location. Sometimes we would stop at the local pub and have a few. I was in attendance the night researcher Joe West made his pitch to exhume Kennedy’s body and Gary Mack, Sixth Floor curator and fellow researcher, drilled him to the wall with aggressive questioning. I witnessed John Rademacher presentation on how he and his son found two .222-caliber shell cases on the Grassy Knoll and afterwards how Mr. Mack gently tried to persuade John to inquire deeper into the matter.
Jim Marrs passed in August 2017. Mark Lane left us the year before. Jim Garrison passed in 1992 (Oliver Stone released the movie JFK in 1991, Garrison had a cameo). The John F. Kennedy Assassination slides further into history, along with its loyal researcher and authors.
I have renewed by own interests in the subject. Accompanying this slide towards my own history is a deeper closer look at this much maligned subject. I acquired, at some effort and cost, the memoir of a man forever linked but hardly mentioned in connection to this tragedy, titled “A Man of Intelligence”. I’ve read and annotated this 400-page rare book extensively and it has given me an answer to “Why?”. Also, I’m rereading and annotating the revised version of Jim Marr’s “Crossfire:The Plot that Killed Kennedy”.
It is from my close reading and research of Crossfire that have come up with what I can only describe as a humorous if not hilarious anecdote. Also, from my recent visit to the 2018 JFK Lancer forum in Dallas another little gem, not meant to funny but, in fact funny, in a limited way.
To be continued…
Leader A gives mission B to subordinates C and D.
Subordinates C and D fail to accomplish mission B.
Two years later, Leader A travels to a distant city under the protection of city official E. Leader A is assassinated in distant city while under the protection of official E.
Conspiracy? I hardly think there is enough evidence pointing to persons C and D. Is there means, motive and opportunity? Not so far. But wait, what about the details? Each letter used above are clues to a conspiracy.
After the failure of mission B, Leader A fires subordinates C and D. Subordinate C publicly calls Leader A a traitor and vows to get that “son-of-bitch”. Less than a year later, subordinates C and D are forced to resign their jobs working for Leader A.
Subordinates C and D have motive to want Leader A dead. However, with such a high visibility and conspicuous circumstances, opportunity is hardly knocking.
Official E, responsible for person A’s protection was the brother of the fired subordinate C. Also, mayor of the distant city where someone took the opportunity to assassinate person A.
What means would subordinates C and D have to carry out such a difficult act? Both were former military. Subordinate D was involved in multiple assassinations of leaders of other countries in the world over a period of decades.
How would they get away with it? Getting away with it would be easy. Fired subordinate D was appointed to the commission to investigate the assassination of Leader A. The person who succeeded Leader A in leadership wanted fired subordinate D to coach the commission on how to interview and what questions to ask.
In the end, what was the attitude of fired subordinates C, D and official E (brother to fired subordinate C and designated protector of assassinated Leader A) concerning their former Leader A?
Three days after the assassination, during the burial of Leader A, fired subordinate C held a gathering of high-ranking military at his domicile in the same city where the funeral was taking place. The crowd in the room was upbeat. Former Leader A’s funeral playing out on TV. Drinks in hand. A knock on the door. It was the guest of honor. Official E flew from the distant city, where his responsibility failed to protect Leader A from assassination, to attend this auspicious event.
Fired, threatening, subordinate C was never interviewed by the commission being directed by fellow fired subordinate D.
Fresh off my latest social disaster, I decided I would review the book which would answer a contemporary mystery.
The book was rare. It was only printed on demand. No local or online book seller had it. No near library held it.
I found my prize at Jelly Fenellie Books in London for the purchase price of $100. I ordered it and it arrived in three weeks…what a surprise!
It was NOT a stogie mimeographed copy or plainly wrapped amateur creation. A hard back. A fine dustcover. A clear library-like protective coat. And more…
This book had the editor’s signature, date, best wishes. This book had the embossed stamp of its prominent owner. Inside, in just the preface and first chapter pages, I found more surprises.
At first, I tried to acquire this book by other methods. I checked the online book brokers. I called a rare book shop in Pennsylvania. I called the publisher, the son of the subject, in Dallas. I contacted the library listed in a universal library search. No luck.
I found this premiumly priced, rare book at Amazon UK site for a high price and ordered it immediately. I waited anxiously. I feared something would happen in transport or delivery that would spoil my self-assessed treasure. Not so.
The book arrived bubble rapped and well taped, though packaging torn, in my mailbox as in the timeframe estimated. I perused it then put it down as if the excitement was over.
When I did cautiously approach the book to read, I anticipated that I would be at first slow to find enjoyment in it followed by boredom followed by drudgery. But that wasn’t the case.
First, I was delighted to see the signature of the author. As mentioned, it was the editor but also the son of the subject. It turned out early that this accomplished military edited amateurishly, but lovingly. He caught the high points the father would have wanted.
Tracing the identity of the embossed stamp, I discovered an author of prodigious works in the area of intelligence and espionage. Also, a colorful politician and public figure, if not an occasional scoundrel. I pursued his trail and found other books and authors to the point I was afraid I would lose my original intent, to review my new rare book.
I reluctantly returned to my expensive find and, after reading only the preface, wondered why I had wandered off.
Great names and events of the mid-twentieth century fell easily on to the preface pages. Fine, precise words. Time lines and lengths of time. Teasers. Resistance to publishing this memoir. A philosophy which I expect will guide this tale or reappear at the epilogue.
Blood. A spot. On Syndee’s ear. Not good. Something else is dead.
It’s the end of summer here and I sit outside for a few minutes with the two dogs and fondle their ears. There is usually something to find, burs and stickers mostly. Blood? Not so much. I know what this means without knowing the whole story. First blood could be one of a very few perpetrators, but this blood presents only as a clue. Before I put them in the back pasture and before I make the early morning rounds of the chickens and the ducks, I need to walk the near earth and discover who did what to who.
Feathers. Outside the goose pen gate. White feathers, scattered about, mostly the little fluffy ones. The geese count three and look in good shape. Another pile. Not white. An attack pile away from the others, towards the Americana chickens in Coop 5. Not good. I thought never opened it yesterday, so I didn’t bother going up and closing it last night. This is the source of the blood. But Big Syndee wouldn’t be the culprit. She doesn’t kill my chickens. Her chickens. But she’ll accept an invitation to a free meal.
The other one. Smaller, pure white Sydnee, she would do this. But she couldn’t. Not reasonably. Yesterday, when we went out in the afternoon, I had closed the pasture gates. I know because I had to open them…very early this morning. The dogs were barking. I got up and went out to see. I opened the gates and walked back…nothing to see. Something had happened or was happening, and the dogs ran to it. Now, with the light, I could see what that something was.
A sinking feeling came over me as I walked further back to Coop 5. Where were the chickens? I saw that the little coop door was left open. There were no chickens behind the water tank where they usually congregated. None either among the high weeds and reeds that cloaked the fenced in chicken yard. Nor in the fence enclosed chicken run which protected Coop 5. Looking through the wire into the coop I didn’t see a single bird. Last hope, I went around to external nest boxes to see who might be laying eggs. I unlatched the door to the first set of four boxes. Nadda. Then the second. No luck. With a sickness at the bottom of my stomach I started to accept that whatever happened, all of my Coop 5 chickens were gone. In one night.
My interest in Absurdist literature and Albert Camus led me to email the blogger Robin Bates, author of the blog BetterLivingThroughBeowulf.Com, and ask him about these subjects. Below is his reply:
Albert Camus was a superstar during his life, in part because he summed up intellectuals’ distress over a world
- which old certainties seemed to be vanishing away
- when religious belief was on the decline
- after a second world war
- now with an atom bomb
Existentialism has some connection with the theater of the absurd. If there is no god, the reasoning went, then our lives have no ultimate meaning and our lives are absurd. As put by some: We are just a chemical reaction that occurred on a small pebbling hurling through the vast reaches of interstellar space, and an encounter with a large enough meteor would put an end to everything in a moment. Existentialism was a response to that bleak view of the world.
It’s always useful for me to remember that existentialism has the word “existence” at its core–it’s a philosophy that directly addresses existence questions, such as
- why are we here?
- where did we come from?
- why do we die?
- what is the meaning of our suffering, etc?
If there is no meaning to life, then it shouldn’t matter if Meursault shoots the Arab in The Stranger. In The Plague, such a sickness causes us all to question the meaning of life. Is there meaning in pushing a rock up a hill over and over, given that this could be a metaphorical expression of many of our lives.
Existentialists traced their thinking back to a number of others, including
- Dostoevsky (especially the Grand Inquisitor chapter in Brothers Karamazov),
- Nietzsche (wrestling with the death of God),
- Kafka, and
- Kierkegaard (Christian existentialists look to him).
The hard-boiled detective novels of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler have been described as existential, with the private eyes seeking to solve sordid crimes, even though the world won’t be that much of a better place even if they are successful. “You’re just a grubby little man in a grubby little world,” one villain tells the detective in Murder My Sweet. In The Maltese Falcon, when pushed to defend why he does what he does, Sam Spade replies, “When you’re partner dies, you’re supposed to do something about it.” It didn’t matter that his partner was a sleaze.
And that gets at one of the existential answers, one that existential authors like Ernest Hemingway also arrived at. If there’s not greater meaning [in life], then you determine a meaning and then you dedicate your life to that meaning. Sisyphus’s life has meaning because he dedicates it to pushing the rock up the hill, even though from another vantage point it’s all absurd. In fact, certain existentialists saw a kind of heroism in dedicating efforts to something which might be absurd.
There’s not much heroism to Vladimir and Estragon waiting around for Godot (God?) in Samuel Beckett’s play–so there’s a thin line between absurdism and existentialism.
Now, there are Christian existentialists, with the apparent absence of God from the world requiring a leap of faith (Kierkegaard). Existentialism is often seen as a very individualist philosophy, which is why it has fallen out of favor with some. After all, as soon as you start talking about families and communities, individual searches can seem somewhat selfish and self-absorbed. But there’s no doubt that existentialism has had a major influence on world literature. A whole generation of young people looking for meaning saw Camus as their spiritual guide.
I just returned today from four days in Virginia. It is the first respite of more than one day from my little chicken farm and its unpretentious responsibilities. When I get away, I use the time to reflect on my concerns and put them in perspective. The short trip to Vienna (VA) provided plenty of metaphorical fodder for my symbolically oriented mind.
Wolf Trap, VA is an area named by early pioneers for the pursuit of the menacing wolves which were a constant threat to community livestock. The menace of wolves represents to me the menace of flood back at Sawmyl Synders Farm. A certain “Wolf Trap Farm” sat on the Difficulty Run tributary. Difficulty Run would surely describe, for me, the last three years of three floodings and recoveries. The Difficulty Run, in VA, flows along mildly, for a while, until it meets the treacherous rapids at a juncture with a larger flow…the Potomac. Potomac in Algonquin means “the place to which tribute is brought”.
Back at the farm, each time my hope was restored, my birds repopulated, and my buildings put back to near normal…I looked up to the heavens. The clouds ominously gathered. They inflated and then darkened. They came thundering down to exact tribute. This treacherous Difficulty Run tributary ends at Dranesville, VA. “Drainsville” is about where I am. I’m not quitting but I’m not going to tell you I’m hopeful either, that would be a trap. Prevailing over this difficulty will not look like anything I can imagine at this time. I’m still draining.
Flying: How do you make sure to be on time for your departure on commercial travel (airline flights, etc.) these days? What are your rituals, checklists, notes, and secret strategies? Talk about a time your flight prep wisdom failed you? Talk about a time your strategy saved you?
Jacob Wrestles with an Angel (Genesis 32:22-32) In this biblical story, Jacob wrestles with a man (thought to be an angel or God) and the angel does not prevail. Jacob will not release the angel until the angel blesses him. The angel’s blessing is to rename Jacob to Israel, meaning, roughly, to prevail.
We wrestle with mankind and heavenly spirits our entire lives.
Can you relate to a monumental life struggle in which you prevailed even though you didn’t technically win?
Upon reflection, do life’s most devastating struggles seem to be strategic challenges for growth or demonic curses meant to demoralize?
Have you had pointless struggles which did NOT benefit you later in life? If so, who do you blame?
Self-Authoring: You decide to write your autobiography. In your memory search, you discover that there is someone who contributed mightily to who you are today. You are out of contact with this person. You never said thank you. What can you do to thank a long-lost person who was instrumental in your development? What if they are gone?
Sisyphus: Albert Camus ~ The human condition is characterized by the probability of suffering and the certainty of death—a fate which human reason cannot accept as reasonable.
If Camus’ characterization is right, what can a human do to be able to accept his/her unreasonable fate?
If Camus’ is not accurate, how should his prophecy be re-written to become reasonable?
Dante’s Inferno: This 14th century epic poem puts flatterers in the Eighth Circle of Hell, and condemns them to “living in excrement”, among other things. Betrayers, on the other hand, are directed to the Ninth Circle of Hell, which features sinners being “encased in ice” – and that’s just for starters.
Aren’t you occasionally guilty of both flattery and betrayal? Did you consider these common human behaviors as sins or merely means to an end? Are you less guilty of flattery and betrayal today? Why or why not?
Better Living Through Beowulf: Chinua Achebe (from Things Fall Apart) ~ Okonkwo … strives to show no weakness. He wants to dispel his tainted legacy. Okonkwo works to build his wealth entirely on his own. He is also obsessed with his masculinity, and any slight compromise on this is swiftly destroyed. He has attained a position in his society for which he has striven all his life.
When has your striving for something brought you down? How can distancing oneself from their disavowed legacy become a liability?
Philosophy: Václav Havel ~ There are no exact guidelines. There are probably no guidelines at all. The only thing I can recommend is a sense of humor, an ability to see things in their ridiculous and absurd dimensions, to laugh at others and at ourselves, a sense of irony regarding everything that calls out for parody in this world.
Can a recommendation of perspective and distance be also a guideline to living in awareness?
Does an awareness of all the most dangerous kinds of vanity protect us from both others and ourselves?
Can a good mind and a modest certainty about the meaning of things in turn transform our innocence?
Is having a gratitude for the gift of life and the courage to take responsibility for it a result of:
• a vigilance of spirit or
• merely the result of the circuitous struggle with life and our own stubborn selves?
This Day in History: June 19, 1865 – Over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, slaves in Galveston, Texas, United States, are finally informed of their freedom. The anniversary is still officially celebrated in Texas and 41 other contiguous states as Juneteenth.
What legal, social, or political restrictions are being resurrected in the U.S. or around this world?
When have you emancipated yourself from the restrictions imposed by feckless rule?
It was late. It was dark. We pulled into the driveway and something caught my eye. In the shadows, in the driveway next door, a tiny red dot betrayed dark figure. I opened the garage door and stepped cautiously from the truck. My wife took things from the cab and headed inside. I dropped the tailgate in order to remove the unwieldy cargo. The burning cigarette attached to a man’s mouth approached quickly.
“May I help?” puffed the cig.
“Gladly!” say I.
In a sec the mini-freezer gently met pavement, but with a groan.
“Thanks”, says a me, looking curiously at the grown man.
“I just had surgery on my arm. Ah, she hurts.”, puffed he.
“Lordy!”, I concorded. In this stranger’s efforts to help me, he may have hurt himself.
It turns out, this man was waiting for others to arrive. Upon our last words, several vehicles raced for the curb and piled out into street and marched toward the house of Puffy’s. The neighborly homeowner among them informed me that a friend of theirs, a young adult I surmised, had died suddenly (tragically?). This explanation served as a purpose for the gathering.
The next morning, the next-door driveway and the curbs were clear. Nothing to see here…but… What looked like a tall, rounded vase with a base sat solitary and distinctive near the attached garage. Filled with something which seemed to give it external texture, it was. Internal gravitas? But what was it? Remnants, but of what? A tribute, but to who? Ashes for Algernon? Butts!