Sunday, October 29, 2006

In an earnest attempt to get to a little round lake on the lee of Thousand Lakes Mountain, we came into direct contact with the affects of a recent rain and snowstorm in the desert.
Trundling around in a search for a road we knew went to the lake, we found gullies and ruts where there were none in any previous trip. Finally, and quite predictably, a gullied wash faced our little transport. We knew we were foiled without at least an hour's work with shovels we didn't have, so we turned around and revised our plans.
With red rock and high desert all around feeding our senses with ripe-peach like gulps, we decided to follow a track neither of us had traveled the length of. With shadows still long and the light still full of the morning, we talked of politics and beauty, tyranny and hope until we saw an odd set of tracks heading off to the side of the road.
"What's up with that?" was the nonchalant and collective query. We drove on fair oblivious. That's not really new, though.
When faced with another ten-foot tall gully, the reason for the tracks clicked. Backing up, we again realized that we might be on another of our fool's errands, but it sure was great to be out.
After gingerly following the short sidetrack to its terminus at the other side of the hazard, we drove on, watching for signs of detour. Consulting the GPS for further clues in contour lines and projected route, I was less-than-delighted to see that the confounded device had dropped the very map that we were about to cross into. Entering blue gridwork signifying 'insufficient information' at the other side of the electronic fount of topography on the display, we had to kick dirt with our boots and scoop with our hands several more times with very little warning past our God-given field of vision. A couple of times we scouted the road past flood washes and debris fields, perhaps just as it ought to be when out exploring the beloved desert. Silly electronic crutches, anyhow.
What we saw and touched while on the way back to a paved highway brought joy to the hearts of the travelers. We ambled the thirty miles at a leisurely pace, vagabonds for beauty every step of the way, though near the end we knew that the whole thing had taken much more time than our dear wives back home had budgeted. I'm sure payment in full will be extracted in due time from our repentant, though for short while, fulfilled hearts.

Friday, October 27, 2006

I've no real experience at war or like bloodshed, but this, one of the most well-known poems from the First World War, speaks well what I feel:

Dulce Et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

-Wilfred Owen

*Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori - it is sweet and right to die for your country. In other words, it is a wonderful and great honour to fight and die for your country

Wilfred Owen died in combat just six days prior to the armistice that ended that particular war. He is a man who has my deepest respect.
Driving along the road this morning toward Manti and my day's labor, I was joined by John Denver.
There are many who think that J.D. was a sap, writing sentimental lyrics and maudlin music. I am not one of those people. I miss the man greatly, I miss his influence in the world and his mixture of idealism and feeble humanity.
I know that he was just a man, but his talent was to speak the hearts of those who hope for something better from ourselves. He was very human and full of foibles and weakness, including an apparent lack of foresight in not checking the fuel level in his airplane, but he had an ability to sing about things that matter; love, wilderness, relationships, yearning and hope.
The sun came up brightly this morning, illuminating the cold mountains in gold. As the music played, I glanced at my little thermometer with a trailing outside probe; it read 18.8 degrees Fahrenheit. The solution of alcohol and other distillates did very little to melt the frost from the windshield, but I had the hope of gasoline fire derived heat in the next few minutes.
As my mind played on the mountains and hills to each side of our valley, I couldn't help but notice the people whizzing past me in their shiny new cars, many with pristine and untried fourwheelers and other toys strapped to trailers or beds. They wore expressions fairly identical to those without accoutrements of recreation, hurriedly passing me as I struggled to keep advancing southward toward my job. There were also farmers and their helpers in their fields on either side of the road, continuing their preparation for the next season, thinking their thoughts and getting things done.
As John Denver sang Sweet Surrender, I drove through Ephraim. Cars were more numerous and darting, though the people outside of those cars seemed less numerous than in the fields. A frantic sense of purpose runs deep in the human race, whether real or imagined, wholesome or entirely frivolous, and the cars with blank faces attest to that. These days, most of our purpose leans toward money and its acquisition.
In Ephraim, that is obvious. I am involved in education and have many friends who teach at Snow College in Ephraim. In our collective experience, most of those who go to school these days pay exorbitant amounts of the stuff into the coffers at the promise that even more exhorbitant amounts of money will be their eventual award at the end of their "education." Few hope or work for anything else but money, any more. Well, other than the hope of some sort of fame, which is even more fleeting.
The road between Ephraim and Manti was long, if only because my foot lacked initiative to push my little Toyota past 45 mph. The light streamed into the valley through canyons in great amber gushes as steam rose from ditches and streams wending their way toward the Sanpitch River to the west. The Mighty Tushars rose from their base next to the Sevier to the south and I fought temptation as mighty as those moutains to drive past the right-hand turn that would take me to the girl's residential treatment center where I endeavor to teach English and Arts and Humanities among other struggles.
My foot found its way to the brake as my hands worked other contraptions that guided me toward work nevertheless. At work, I cannot see the light shining on the valleys or the mountains anymore, only that which seeps through the shades on the windows that look out to the city's dump to the north.
With or without all of his flaws, John Denver is not appreciated here and nor are most of my odd ideas of beauty, love or hope. I keep on trying in my own imperfect way, though.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

We had a lovely sunset this evening; hope yours was, too.

What is the shape of your inner reality and can you tell from whence it came or how it was formed?
There are those who say that this life is a dream, and while I have no idea as to the amount of truth in that concept, it is a point upon which I ponder quite often.
It is wonderful the way a little town keeps track of itself and of all its units. If every single man and woman, child and baby, acts and conducts itself in a known pattern and breaks on walls and differs with no one and experiments in no way and is not sick and does not endanger the ease and peace of mind or steady unbroken flow of the town then that unit can disappear and never be heard of. But let no man step out of the regular thought or the known and trusted pattern m, and the nerves of the townspeople ring with nervousness and communication travels over the nerve lines of the town. Every town communicates to the whole.
-John Steinbeck
The Pearl

Why is it that systems within nature beget similar systems? Those systems within a protist resemble those within a human being which resemble those within a town which resemble those within a state, etcetera, ad infinitum?
Does not a dream state show one the singularity of an action or emotion such that it can dominate the dream and become the focus, eventually breaking the concentration of the sleep and awakening the dreamer to a confused state of focus only broken by furious reorientation and reassurance that wakefulness is the true reality?
I experience this when thinking on the state of mankind, with its pockets of prosperity and abject poverty, wherein the people of that state exist solely to the purpose of furthering their own predicament. The people of those societies exist in states of happiness and sadness, often regardless of their economic or material status. Their external resemble their internal systems, working to preserve the stasis within or without. Is this not the stuff of dreams?
How does Steinbeck's observation of the small town not apply to society at large? How does it not apply to the United States of America, with a status quo attempting to preserve the wealth of those who are wealthy, the productivity of those who still produce, and the apathy of those who exist at the periphery? Each population has its systems and patterns kept functioning by those interested in enforcement or order, ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny, as it always does, straight through from the small to the large, the simple to the more complex.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The process of aging within a society obsessed with youth and the possibility of life after death through the beneficence of an abstract and, to some, distant God is a strange and discordant thing. Time's river relentlessly wears deep fissures in one's face and hands. That same river either can refresh and deepen the mind's channel or erode the mind completely, depending on mysterious circumstance or the whims of the Gods.
In my life of relationships with human beings, I have been affected by the rise and fall of many a good person. I have seen bright lights fade slowly or blink out suddenly as a result of what, to that person at least, seemed like rational and logical decisions in the face of a hostile environment.
There have been those among us who have been able to chart and record their own course into the oblivion of the other side, through art or writing, helping us to understand a little more the fear and apprehension that are experienced when leaving this mortal coil. Besides those who are able to record the dilated veil of Alzheimer’s, we have a rich history of work talking about the process of or sudden blink of death's eye.
I remember reading many in my life, including one when I was in fifth or sixth grade; those stories and anecdotes affected me greatly. An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge is the earliest in my mind of stories that made me think of the intersection of life and death, and there through, about understanding and appreciating the moments that come in between the difficulties of the birth canal and the unknown beyond life's gates. It even became one of the most popular "Twilight Zone" episodes ever, a testament to its ability to affect even people in the 'modern' era.
'Tis an unusual trick to show a child the uncertainty and trickery possible at the close of life with one breath and with the other describe Jesus as the Savior of all mankind; with power over death and purveyor of certainty and security for the life beyond. There are very few people with the mystical or religious agility to treat the question that seeks to reconcile the possibilities of the metaphysical with the posits of science.
Is this something that we revisit frequently in our own lives, telling stories and reassuring our neighbors as to our position of security and prosperity when in reality, truth is closer to a view that the abyss is at our feet and the blade closer to our neck with each passing second? Which of these extremes visits more damage upon our collective psyche, the idea that we are nested wards of an unseen god or the opposite; we are feeble individual flames, naked to the whims of the wide sky and shaky earth?
The question stands and our society remains obsessed with a fleeting youth. Perhaps religions as we practice them aren't up to the test of our society today. Perhaps we really need to dig deeper into our own true selves, into our collective history to pull the essence of religion and a deeper understanding of the now with the end of facing day-to-day life with a better view of the unknown on either end of this short life.

Friday, October 13, 2006

I just got back from a little walk from the far end of Mt. Pleasant to Spring City with my family, a few other people and this chap. Marshall Thompson is a young man who recently got home from Iraq and felt the need to do something more to promote peace and real solutions than he had been able to do as a soldier over there.
We talked at length about ourselves and our hopes and observations, and along the way Marshall mentioned that while there seems to be a lack media coverage of his walk, the people that he's met and walked with have been overwhelming in their support of his efforts and of the causes that he is drawing attention to. He had his doubts upon embarking upon his journey, but those were exorcised by the number of people who have walked with him and spread the word by mouth and through non-traditional media.
He told me that majority of people he's seen and talked with have voiced a desire to change course in Iraq in spite of a dearth of related opinion at large coupled with much coverage of the contrary. Though there exists a lack of political will in congress and the executive to truly examine and re-evaluate the situation in Iraq generally, it would seem that the street, more specifically the predominately "red" Utah street, feels otherwise.
His writings are available on his site, as is a log of his progress and efforts. Check it out. Marshall's quite a fellow, and he deserves real support.

Monday, October 9, 2006

A huge amount of work has gone into Mother Jones' "Lie by Lie: Chronicle of a War Foretold: August 1990 to March 2003." Check it out here.
A good place to start in Sept 2001, and expand in both directions from there. This, in my humble opinion is just the tip of the ice shelf in a submerged morass of lies, subterfuge and obfuscation in order to take advantage of power and opportunity for profit.
I reference Adam Smith, who said, "Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all." This is truly what has become of our government in the United States. The few with much plan and collude in order to amass more and protect that which they have been able to procure through their privileged station.
Does this not describe the current capitalists and capitalist tools in leadership positions today?

Monday, October 2, 2006

There are times when the stimuli from all the points in one's life begin to converge and make a single screeching sound that doesn't come from any one place or from any of the places involved.
As the veins in my hands refill after the night's rest, that sound comes down from the sky and through the ceiling above as near as can be dreamed, filling that faint space between each new thought and reaction. I cannot recount how or where that impression began; I can only scare remaining small doses of fame-lust from the tips of every finger and whisper your name.
Each tone evolves a new regression. Though seldom guilty of gluttony, my head teeters on the edge of this; the creation of new space for clever fools and the harbingers of accidental cravings. Which will eventually first come to awakening? Only edges of the opposite horizon will tell.
As for you, my potent connection with emptiness, may your children know the love of joy.