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This Day

Matthew had some strong ideas about prayer. It is in his book that we find the Lord’s Prayer, also known as “The Swiss Army Knife of Prayers.” This particular prayer, according to Matthew (who should know about such things), is the Alpha and the Omega of prayers. He stresses this when he writes in Matthew 6:9-6:13, “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven….

Of late, and for obvious reasons, I’ve become more likely to pray than to curse. Indeed my new program is to swap a prayer for a curse whenever I find I’ve slipped into the cursing mode.

In a world that is accursed putting more curses into it is never a good idea. We are full up at present. No shortage of curses that I can see. Still, slipping into the cursing mode is easy to do in today’s world. We’re encouraged to do it by the very nature of the secular society.

Add to that my thirty year stint in New York City where the standard reaction to almost any event is either a curse that involves the middle initial of the Savior (Just what does that “H.” stand for anyway?), or the invocation of unnamed males who have an affinity for crude sex only with females of the motherly persuasion, and you’ve got, when it comes to my ability and propensity to curse, one crude mother….

It’s a bad habit and one that I am trying to break. One way is, whenever I catch myself in an angry cursing moment, to recite a prayer instead. And the goto prayer in these multiple moments is always the Lord’s. It’s brief. It’s beautiful. I can say it at high speed and by rote.

Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day…

The Lord’s Prayer also has a hidden benefit. It has, at is core, one simple but profound request:

“Give. Us. This. Day.”

That’s it. That’s the real core of all prayers. That is the one request of the Lord without which nothing else matters. That is what all our past, lost days flow towards and which all our future hoped-for days flow from. Without the gift of “This Day” the ones that have passed have no meaning and the ones that are to come have no potentiality. Both are but abstractions or, as the poet has it:

What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.

Which is a fancy way of saying that without the gift of this day being given all else is lost. Secular thinkers speak of this as being “in the now” as if “being here now” was all that it took to be really alive.

I lived in that popcult fauxworld for years before escaping and, looking back, I seem to remember it not as replete with luminous headlands overlooking the sea, but as the shadowlands that loom beyond a darker border. It was neither a gift nor a curse, a burden or a blessing. It simply was and, as a result, was rather unremarkable.

That secular world originated out of nothing, out of the limited imagination of the noosphere and, with no reach beyond itself, existed closer to the Alpha than to the Omega. It had, as secular things often do, a tangle of bright, shiny deceivers clustered around it like gnats outside a privy, but when you arrived at the center it had nothing to say about tomorrow, and very little to promise about this day other than that it would be roughly similar to yesterday. There was little inscape and no escape. Its “Now” was always the same day, neither given nor taken but simply existing. It was the kind of day in which the existence of the Human and the existence of Planaria were essentially equal. I, for one, would rather ask for my day than simply arrive in it.

Which is why, when I pray the Lord’s Prayer, I always pause — at the very least — when I come to the phrase, “Give us this day.” And in that pause I remember another phrase derived from scripture, “Tomorrow is not promised.”

I once knew that phrase, “Tomorrow is not promised,” in a rather dry, academic, vaguely poetic manner. Now, having had my all my tomorrows removed and then miraculously restored, I understand the phrase down to the marrow of my bones. Coming into this day I always ask “Give us this day.” Departing the day I find I return to the early litanies of childhood, “I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake….”

But then, so far, I do wake and I continue in my project to replace curses with prayers. I’m not very good at it yet. Still fairly shaky. Then again, as another poet tells me,

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

The Lord give me (and give you) This Day.

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“Remain calm. All is well.”

“Oh my God.”

“I hate those guys.”

“RAMMING SPEEEEEED!”

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“Mind the gap between rhetoric and reality”
by Roger Cavazos

North Korea occasionally threatens to “turn Seoul into a Sea of Fire”. The South Korean, U.S. and other international media often relay this statement, amplifying its effect. But can North Korea really do this? Does it matter if they can? The short answer is they can’t; but they can kill many tens of thousands of people, start a larger war and cause a tremendous amount of damage before ultimately losing their regime. Therefore, it doesn’t matter whether they can do it directly since they have the capability to ignite a sequence of events leading to widespread destruction and likely regime change in Pyongyang. Previous Nuclear Weapon Free Zones have usually required about three decades to implement after discussions started during periods of stasis. Therefore, this is a period of stasis in which to explore confidence building measures and possibly something as radical as a Korea Japan Nuclear Weapon Free Zone.

If the North Korean Peoples Army (KPA) were to start a doctrinal, conventional artillery barrage focused on South Korean forces, we could expect to see around three thousand casualties in the first few minutes, but the casualty rate would quickly drop as the surprise wears off and counter-battery fires slow down the North Korean rates of fire. If the KPA were to engage Seoul in a primarily counter-value fashion by firing into Seoul instead of primarily aiming at military targets, there would likely be around thirty-thousand casualties in a short amount of time. Statistically speaking, almost eight-hundred of those casualties would be foreigners given Seoul’s international demographic. Chinese make up almost seventy percent of foreigners in Seoul and its northern environs which means KPA might also kill six-hundred Chinese diplomats, multi-national corporation leaders, and ranking cadre children who are students in Seoul. Horrible, but nothing approaching “millions”. Three primary factors and three secondary factors account for the huge discrepancy between rhetoric and reality: [click to continue…]

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The Japanese: Nuked Too Much or…. (I rest my case.)

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Dust in the Wind and the Summer of 77

We had the experience but missed the meaning,
And approach to the meaning restores the experience
In a different form, beyond any meaning
We can assign to happiness.

— Eliot, The Dry Salvages

Following a memory of my own, I “found” this video shortly after it was posted to YouTube around three years ago. It struck me then as enormously powerful in that offhand, out-of-left-field way that found objects can be. The power of this short window into 1977 is that it captures, without intent, the elements of memory. It melds the plaintive almost psalmic acoustic hit by Kansas with an imagery whose sheer faded quality adds to an overall impression of other times once lived and now gone beyond recall. It is the essence of “time in a bottle.”

Ordinary when made the film aged into something beyond itself. The better memories do that. They seem, if we think of them at all at the time we have the experience we will later remember, to be just barely beyond the cusp of ordinary. Often we don’t even discover them as memories until years later when they emerge, not as they were, but as they have become as our souls expand enough to value what we thought at the time was dross as the real gold of our lives.

The fact that it was viewable by me at all was one of those strange conjunctions of love and fate that the Web has made possible. The video is under the YouTube account of “uselessdirector” who has in the years since he posted this posted only two other personal bits in his account. The response to those is what it should be. Negligible. But the response to this video is now above 3,640,000 6,277,000 9,391,787 views with fresh comments still coming in almost hourly.

What is the provenance of this video? Uselessdirector states only, “Filmed in 1977 by my dad, this music video nearly became “dust in the wind” until it was restored from its failing 8mm format.” His role was to see the film as it was made, 8MM or 16MM, and to save it as a video before time faded the film to invisibility. He caught it just in time and in doing so caught time itself. Then because he knew it had a value beyond itself and because he could, he placed it on YouTube where, in time, it was discovered.

From the video itself, we learn the names of the “Cast” in the credits and also see a list of “The Tribe.” Aside from that there are other hints to the spring or summer in which this was made. We discover it was made in Findley Lake, New York, a small rural community up near the shore of Lake Erie. Was “The Tribe” a group of friends or a small commune of the kind that were still common in those years? Did the young man and young woman paired as “Adam” and “Eve” have a relationship outside the film or was it only for the purposes of the film? Somehow I doubt it was the latter.

Looking a little deeper into the Net I found a few things worth noting. For one thing it is possible, through the odd but wonderful Google Street View to compare “Then” with “Now” and confirm, as if we did not know it with every cell of our being, that “Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky.”

 An interesting exercise in contrasting the present to a memory. But “interesting” is pretty much the finish of the exercise. In mere aesthetic terms it is obvious that the “Then” as evoked by the film image is far superior to the glimpse of “Now” gleaned by a Google Street View car sweeping by and capturing a slice of that particular road during the particular minute it passed that otherwise nondescript place on the edge of Findley Lake. The former is gold, the latter dross.

What was the memory I was following when I first found this film? It was the memory of that song heard first in the summer of 1977 somewhere in London, New York, or Burgundy. I loved the summer of 1977. It was one of my favorite years. It was one of those luminous years when everything seemed to fall right and come together into something you could assign to happiness. I’d wait 26 years for the next one.

I heard the song once again in memory. It was in a suburban mall parking lot in Connecticut on a chill winter evening during one of those years when it all went smash.

If I have to choose between memories I’ll take the one contained in this ineffable bit of short film saved from the fade and the fog of time. It’s one of those strange artifacts that evokes among those alive in the time it was made the cliched thought, “Dear God, were we ever that young?” Made on a whim during an afternoon, the film answers, “Yes, you were. Yes, we all were. And in time, with the grace of God, we all will be again.”

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“Trump makes one believe for a moment in the American dream again.”

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Let’s Review 23: Winterset


Claude Monet worked on his painting La Pie (The Magpie) during the winter of 1898/9. Monet tackled the great challenge of a snow-covered landscape. The setting for this work is near the commune of Étretat in Normandy. Monet lived in a house near here with his girlfriend, Camille Doncieux and their one-year-old son, Jean. This painting of a place in the countryside near Etretat, was painted en plein air by Monet and uses very unusual pale, luminous colours. In the work we see a solitary black magpie perched atop a gate. The light of the sun shines upon freshly fallen snow creating blue shadows. The work is hailed as one of the best winterscapes by Monet and is part of the Musée d’€™Oresay permanent collection.  It is said to be one of its most popular. Winter landscapes  

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[click to continue…]

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The Narrows

I.
The first time down the path
The cave is hidden from your eye.
You wander in a deep ravine
That frames a slice of sky.

Your unsure step will stumble
Where lizards prance on leaves,
But still the stream will carry you
Through the shadow-stippled breeze.

You’ll come to where the bathers bare
Sun themselves on steaming stones,
And one child’s laughter scintillates
Like water flowing over bones.

Oak roots reach down across the rock
And map the drift of streams.
The bathers loll within their sleep,
And reflect the shape of dreams.

Snakes and crickets search the seams
Of granite aeons made,
While leaves slide through air to spin
On water stained with shade.

The solid rock betrays your feet.
Your steps become unsure.
The raven on the boulder bows.
His wings begin to stir.

The grass bends down before the wind.
The ferns bow in the fading light.
The clouds retreat, the stars emerge,
The ravine is draped with night.
[click to continue…]

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Keeping Track: 100 Racist Things


From One Hundred Racist Things – waka waka waka 

Tucker Carlson has offered his Twitter followers one of the best “tweetstorms” the world has ever seen: #100RacistThings. You can see the thread here, but it’s so good I’m going to preserve it for posterity in this post — because this is the sort of thing that gets people banned from Twitter these days.

1. Tamarisk trees in Palm Springs, California.
2. The ice cream truck song.
3. Credit scores.
4. Car insurance.
5. Crime statistics.
6. Halloween costumes.
7. Calling Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas.”
8. Most of the better Disney movies.
9. Dr. Seuss.
10. White flight.
11. Reversing white flight.
12. White chefs who make burritos.
13. Milk.
14. Tanning.
15. NFL owners.
16. Being mad about NFL national anthem protests.
17. Mathematics. (See also here.)
18. Science.
19. Yale requiring English students to study Chaucer and Shakespeare.
20. All white people.
21. Proper English grammar.
22. Patriotism.
23. The iPhone X’s facial recognition technology.
24. Makeup.
25. Emoji.
[click to continue…]

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Happy Birthday to Me: In My Extreme Age

Turn around, a decade [plus one two] is gone. 70? 71? 72? Doesn’t feel so old. I’m told that it is but it doesn’t feel that old. At the same time I confess I’m not exactly sure who this geezer is who shows up in the mirror every morning — or where he came from. The thing is he keeps writing notes like this and leaving them where I can’t help finding them:

In my extreme age —
In my age extreme —
Skin planed to glassine,
Bone buffed to crystal,
Light locked in the marrow,
And memory melded to images only….

Of my extreme age —
In my age extreme

In my extreme age —
In my age extreme —
Thoughts thinned to one
And dreams dimmed to soul;
To that one shred of thread
Which stitches the shroud

Of my extreme age —
In my age extreme.

In that age extreme,
That extreme edge of age,
There shall still
In such stillness
Ring in my ears
One echo of now;

Of my extreme age —
In my age extreme.

In our age extreme
Your echo shall glimmer
Ever on the river that streams
Through time’s silted canyons
Of my extreme age —
In my age extreme.

Of our extreme age —
In our age extreme.

— Vanderleun for Emma Jean.

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Let’s Review 22: Kwanza 2017 Edition

Stand Still Like the Hummingbird: Robot hummingbird passes flight tests (w/ Video)

We have a major political party, the world’s oldest, the Democrat Party, has decided to throw its lot in with the voters and ignore the taxpayers. It’s not a totally stupid short-to-medium-term policy, although ultimately it leads to Venezuela, Greece, and Detroit. The DiploMad 2.0

Black Woman Accuses Charlie Rose of Racism For NOT Sexually Harassing Her

I love it when the Americans go John Wayne. It bodes well for the peace of the world.  Naughty & nice

Deconstructing Jordan Peterson   I want everyone to stop using the word “gender”€ for anything other than masculine and feminine nouns. I am male. I am of the male sex. I am not of the male gender.  You do not have choice in participating in your sexual  identity, contrary to all fashionable nonsense of the era. “Gender”€ is akin to the Marxist use of the word “exploitation”€. It is ideologically loaded; it is nonsense on stilts. Biology is not a social construct.

One of 2017’s Most Exciting Plant Conservation Moments

What Might Civil War Be Like?  When your idea of a military hero is Bowe Bergdahl or Bradley “call-me-Chelsea” Manning, it is evident that you’ve planned to fight your battles exclusively in the movies. …Although the left probably has a certain pool of minority ex-soldiers to draw on, I doubt they have a single general officer that still has his original issue genitalia. I’ll take a Texan and a Tar Heel against a metrosexual and a social justice warrior any day — while admitting that the latter might conduct a far more colorful parade. 

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Gifts


The best gift I’ve received in the last few years was a small wooden box, fashioned by hand, and containing a number of carefully selected small objects each with a personal meaning. It has no commercial value. It is a gift of the hand that is filled with the heart. I keep it nearby in my home and, from time to time, I open it and take out each object and hold them briefly before putting them back in their box and the box back on the shelf.

In another time and in another place I once saw the most Christmas gifts I’ve ever seen in a single home. It was in a place where the hands had gone astray and the heart been misplaced. It was the struggle of quantity to overcome quality made manifest.

It was at a home of some people I once knew in a town I once lived in. They had the required large house of many rooms. As a family of four they had about five rooms for every person. It was a house they could all hide in and they did. They hid from each other and they hid all year. On Christmas, however, they came out and pretended they were still a family.

The tree was set up in what these days we call “the family room” even though the room was really just a pass-through for the other rooms. The tree was, as these things had to be in that land at that time, very large and professionally decorated in whatever theme was deemed to be “in” that year. The star at the tip touched and was bent down by the ceiling. The ornaments were so thick that they obscured the green boughs that supported them. The lights were so numerous that the whole tree could have been hauled out and found a place among the approach lights to an airport.

It was good it was a big tree since it needed to be strong to support the wild pile of gifts that started where the two stairs down into the sunken family room bottomed out. The gifts then rose, in a tumult of wrapping paper, in a riot of colored ribbons, to a level of at least two and a half feet by the time they reached the outer boughs. For the family of four there were literally hundreds of presents all wrapped and tossed into the room like some third-world garbage heap until they filled the family room corner to corner.

To pass through this room you had to step carefully along the edges and most people who’d come to the party just went down the adjoining hallway.

In the larger rooms on that day before Christmas the family of four was holding their party for their friends and acquaintances. At that time and in that land the people attending still had lots of young children and their laughter and chatter gave a nice Christmasesque soundtrack to the drinking and eating that went on and on and on.

Our hosts were, to say the least, not getting along that year. Alcohol was taking its toll on the couple, as were the standard infidelities and betrayals common to that set in that land at that time. The hosts tried to put their war into a state of truce on this day so they could pretend, for a little longer, that everything was picture perfect in their world. But as the drinks kicked in their bickering became more and more bitter and I finally sought refuge from the ill spirits and moved off into the house.

I stood at one entrance to the tree/gift room and looked out the window over the mound of presents at the softly falling snow that filled their yard and pool. The winking lights of the tree and the Manheim Steamroller Christmas music coming out of the hidden speakers gave me a moment of Christmas feeling. Angry voices rose for a moment from the far room and then faded.

One of their boys, driven from the room by his parents’ rancor, showed up at the other entrance of the room and looked out over the massive pile of presents. He was a good kid. About four years old and less than three feet high. Red headed and freckled. A Norman Rockwell of a boy. I smiled at him and he smiled at me and then took a step down the first of the two stairs into the gift room.

And tripped.

And disappeared.

Before I could move that kid pitched forward into the gift pile and, with a swoosh and a crunch, was gone.

There were so many gifts piled up that they literally swallowed up the child so that the child could not be seen. He’d vanished beneath the waves of wrapping paper and bows.

After a moment his head popped up like a drowning child in a sea of turbulent affluence and he literally began to make crawling and swimming motions to get himself back to the safety of the stairs. There he climbed out, stood up and glanced at me ashamed by something he didn’t understand.

“Looks like you’re going to have a very big Christmas,” I said.

He looked out at the presents that contained at least a hundred with his name on them.

“I guess” he said.

“I dunno,” he said.

Then he went back to the party and back to his parents, The Bickersons.

I had a similar but much smaller Christmas that year in that lost land of long ago. But it was, for that year, a good Christmas.

As for The Bickersons, their marriage and family was finished by late spring of that year. It had gone off to the same landfill that today contains all those hundreds of gifts. It couldn’t, I guess, take the weight. I dunno.

I treasure few things in this world but I do treasure my small burled wooden box containing the things of the hand and the things of the heart. I know where that gift is and what that gift is. And it abides.

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Apollo 8’s Christmas Eve Message, 1968

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First take. Perfect take. One and done.

Make time for this. Full screen. Full voice.

[click to continue…]

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Hanukkah Candles on Christmas Eve

And the Light shineth in darkness: and the darkness did not comprehend it. — John 1:5

Throughout the night, the cold drew close,
And wrapped our home in shrouds of frost.
Within eight candles lent us light,
Returning to us what we’d lost.

Around us, all our village slept.
Our children safe, their breathing slow.
Eight candles gleamed beside the tree,
Their flames burned long, burned low.

Then all fell silent round my house.
The snow was blue, the shadows, slate.
You could almost hear the planet turn.
I stood bereft beside my gate.

Behind me, those I loved slept warm,
Protected by God’s endless grace.
Below me lay the village streets,
Wrapped in winter’s chill embrace.

The darkness waned, the morning loomed,
Within my house the fire grew bright.
But still I walked on fragile snow,
And prayed for greater light.

As a child I’d lived in dreams of stars,
Of Peace on Earth –life’s golden seal–
And This Night seemed, of all our nights,
The one when all such dreams were real.

Tonight I know this is not so.
The world is not as we would wish,
But as we make it, day by day,
And this is the mystery and the Gift.

The candles whisper of His Gift.
The stars reflect them high above.
The Gift is given to us again,
That we remember how to love.

for Justine Van der Leun — Mill Hill Drive, Southport, Connecticut, 1990

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I’m not going to lie.
Christmas really hurts this time
Cause you’re not here to celebrate with me.
Tears fill my eyes.
And memories flood my mind,
As I place your ornament upon our tree.
Although this year I have a broken heart,
It gives me hope and joy as I remember where you are.
[click to continue…]

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