Scotland the Brave

I have heard Scotland the Brave twice on the radio the past two days. I see the men in their kilts, playing the bagpipes, and marching into battle where all virtue is stripped save for bravery and caring for the fallen and suffering, making life both simple and horrible.

The song transcends battle though. I feel a call to life and its potential when I hear the song. I feel it was important to have lived in this world no matter what.

From Raymond Carver:

Late Fragment

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

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Published in: on September 30, 2005 at 8:46 am  Comments (1)  

Just a Feeling

I have faith I am certain; I am certain I have faith. What about the feelings and the emotions arising from uttering those statements?

I spent a lot of time writing in my journal this week. The journal is a blessing and a curse. I get to try out new thoughts and ideas and see how they play without worrying about whether they are born of blind ignorance and stupidity. However, what enters the writing in my journal is a whining voice that feels sorry for myself as if I am this much oppressed being even though I know I am not unless I take my own actions and decisions into account, take credit for my faults, allow for the ways I oppress myself.

The blog is different though. It’s public. My ignorance, stupidity, and self promoting ruminations shine forth for all to see. However, it does allow me to pause while writing and question myself about whether I am happy if only for a psychologically fleeting moment. I often find I am happy in a trivial way, although not fulfilled.

I am menaced by the gap between reality, and my perception and conception of it. I am certain about that even though it is only a feeling.

Published in: on September 30, 2005 at 8:09 am  Leave a Comment  

Domination

Another one of those mornings when the sky is so clear and bright it dominates the grayness of the city, makes me forget I’ll spend the day passing in and out of shadows. Nice.

Published in: on September 30, 2005 at 7:57 am  Leave a Comment  

What Block?

Each time I feel I have writer’s block I read one of my favorite Raymond Carver poems.

Sunday Night

Make use of the things around you.
This light rain
Outside the window, for one.
This cigarette between my fingers,
These feet on the couch.
The faint sound of rock-and-roll,
The red Ferrari in my head.
The woman bumping
Drunkenly around in the kitchen . . .
Put it all in,
Make use.

Published in: on September 29, 2005 at 10:33 am  Comments (2)  

Talking about my generation

What happened to us, the hedonistic generation, the ones that the neocons like to talk about?

We got married, worked in corporate America, and consumed our fair share.

Yes, we were hedonists.

What of the neocons? They never went to war, but they grew up to love it dearly.

And here we are. Me and them.

Published in: on September 27, 2005 at 9:03 pm  Comments (1)  

Are you sure?

“I don’t love you anymore,” she said.

“Are you sure?” I don’t want it to end this way,” I said.

“Yes, I’m sure,” she said.

And that ended it. She was gone forever, never to be seen again.

Published in: on September 27, 2005 at 8:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Dissenters

An odd thing about the moral high ground is that there are often many of them. Take the Iraq War for instance.

When the Iraq War received its highest poll opinions, one could always point to the dissenters, and represent them as a few on the kooky misguided left. Some even claimed that dissent was unpatriotic and aided the enemy. Some unfortunately still do, but I’ve written about that before via informal arguments.

The Iraq War’s support has come unraveled in a hurry though, much more quickly than during the Vietnam era. Noblesse oblige prevents me from calling the minority view, support for the war, part of a misguided kooky fringe on the right. Nothing can be gained from that, and it’s not a valid argument.

It does raise the question as to who are the dissenters. One normally thinks of the opinion of the minority as the party of dissent, but in this case the whole Bush administration and its supporters in Congress carry more weight.

I can’t see how the Iraq War is going to be any more popular a year from now. Imagine all those dissenters flooding the polling places. Imagine those in Congress requiring swing votes modifying their position if not outright dissenting themselves.

Published in: on September 27, 2005 at 5:14 am  Comments (2)  

Abuse

Lynndie England was found guilty of Iraqi prisoner abuse charges. No big surprise there.

I worked at a military prison once. I sympathize with Lynndie, not because of what she did, but because of the position in which she was placed.

I’ve forgotten. How many officers, civilians, and public officials are on trial for abuse charges?

Published in: on September 26, 2005 at 6:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

Desperate Housewives is Back

The new season of Desperate Housewives began last night.

It was the end of a very good day. Earlier, I had reread an essay to which I wanted to return for a long time.

I suffer from Sunday night anxiety, a residual effect from a previous life. Desperate Housewives is the perfect tonic. I go to the local pub, and watch it with acquaintances, people I do not know well, but who seem to like me. After the show, we discuss it a little, try to predict what will happen next week.

Then we trundle off to our trundle beds.

Published in: on September 26, 2005 at 9:15 am  Comments (1)  

Civilization

I reread Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents today. I could cite anywhere in the essay, but I’ll try three.

But there is one question which I can hardly evade. If the development of civilization has such a far reaching similarity to the development of the individual and if it employs the same methods, may we not be justified in resolving the diagnosis that, under the influence of cultural urges, some civilizations, or some epochs of civilization—possibly the whole of mankind—have become ‘neurotic’?

And then:

One thing only do I know for certain and that is that man’s judgments of value follow directly his wishes for happiness—that, accordingly, they are an attempt to support his illusions with arguments.

And then:

The fateful question for the human species seems to me to be whether and to what extent their cultural development will succeed in mastering the disturbance of their communal life by the human instinct of aggression and self-destruction.

Civilization and its attendant conscience places heavy demands upon us. If civilization makes us neurotic, then might there be a breaking point where the disturbance becomes too much to handle and a door opens through which our more aggressive tendencies escape?

Civilization lulls us into a false sense of security. It absolves of us of the need to think because we count on civilization to make everything right no matter how severe our outbreaks of aggression. We play a fool’s game.

Published in: on September 25, 2005 at 11:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Tough Guy

I wonder if Bill O’Reilly is a tough guy when he’s walking around on the street, or is he just belligerent and aggressive when sitting behind the safety of his Fox News desk? Enquiring minds like mine want to know.

Fox News seems like tabloid journalism at its finest. Rupert Murdoch must be laughing all the way to the bank. No wonder the National Enquirer is dipping their toes into the political waters.

I can forgive Fox News their business model, but hiding behind conservative political idealism is so hypocritical and galling.

Now, we turn to our expert on Cindy Sheehan limousine liberalism.

Published in: on September 25, 2005 at 12:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Washington D. C., 1998

I visited Washington D. C. in 1998 the week the Starr Report came out. I happened to be walking away the Capital Building while Clinton’s legal team was walking in to receive the Starr report. I remarked to my friend, “looks like they are going to the woodshed.” I got an appreciative smile from one of the attorneys who overheard me.

The next day, I was standing in line to take the White House tour. Everybody in line was reading the WaPo copy of the report for the spicy, juicy parts.

A couple and their two young children were standing in line behind me. The husband asked, “do you think it’s worth the wait to get in?” His wife said, “No, there’s nothing in there but a desk and a box of cigars. Let’s go.” Ouch!

I wonder what people standing in line are saying now in light of the National Enquirer story that President Bush is “boozing” again. (NE’s word not mine.) “Let’s go. There’s nothing in there but a desk and a case of bourbon.”

Ah, for the good old days.

Published in: on September 25, 2005 at 12:12 pm  Leave a Comment  

Listening to Country Music in Blogland

I am listening to country music from a radio station in Glasgow, Scotland right now. I am fond of country music in appropriate doses.

Country music tends toward pure fantasy. Love is always pure and never sullied. Sex is completely hedonistic as long as you are a cowboy. The mythical Heartland values create an idyllic world.

Country music satisfies my occasional need for fantasy. Plus, the singers and musicians are very talented.

Published in: on September 25, 2005 at 7:29 am  Leave a Comment  

Friday Night Baseball and a Couch

Freud’s Couch

Another night of hard drinking before, during, and after the baseball game.

This morning, I wrote and loved it. My voice, ricocheting around the inside of my skull, delighted me.

Now, I must go out for a spell on a honey of a day, and drift and dream.

Published in: on September 24, 2005 at 11:11 am  Leave a Comment  

Fortuna smiles, at least for now


Writing a little, reading some philosophy, going to the baseball game with friends, why worry about being rich and famous?

Published in: on September 23, 2005 at 10:43 am  Leave a Comment  

The Divide and Certainty

While reading Nietzsche, I am confronted, once again, with the divide between Classical virtues and values and Christian virtues and values, not the divide between nihilism and Christianity, that’s too boring, but the Classical/Christian split which is the tougher nut to crack.

Isaiah Berlin’s The Originality of Machiavelli echoes through the canyon too, that is, his idea that Machiavelli recommends the Classical virtues over the Christian virtues if one wants to build a strong and prosperous state.

What of the United States? How would Machiavelli and Nietzsche make sense of current political events and their justifications? I can’t answer that here. I think I will try after I have done much more thinking about the questions.

In the United States, we have the supreme merging of aristocratic (?) values with Christian values in the wealthy CEO class. Government exists first of all to concentrate wealth, influence, and justification for the CEO class. I look at the distribution of income numbers and legislation and know it’s true, true in the sense of what the numbers say. I arrive at my preliminary opinions about values based on the numbers.

Two hierarchies, the aristocratic and the Christian, are married. One class spans them both. What was once two sets of values blend together and are self reinforcing. The virtue charity is an interesting case.

Corporate and Christian values are powerless to prevent suffering for those at the bottom of the hierarchy. Charity provides alms to those who have suffered, and soothes the troubled conscience. It allows one to say, “well even those who suffer are a little worthy. They are kind of like human beings.” However, the hierarchy values perpetuation of the hierarchy as a supreme value. Others who might be worthy of the public good are secondary to those whose wealth and faith place them on top.

Democracy is the great secular value. Give control of a democracy to the piously rich and you will have submitted to hierarchical religious and commercial values and your place in the hierarchical order. Escape is possible for the few, not the many.

These are thoughts of which I am uncertain. I am certain about science and mathematics, but I am uncertain about political philosophy. I might change my mind by the end of the day about what I have just said. Give me a sheet of paper and I can easily list my major philosophical beliefs except for my political beliefs. I suppose that is because I have not worked out exactly what are my political values. I kind of have, but ‘kind of’ does not count. I look for some depth beyond idle slogans.

That leaves a gap to be filled. And all the books to read and reread. And lots of hard thinking.

Published in: on September 23, 2005 at 8:13 am  Comments (2)  

Milwaukee

It’s time to go to Milwaukee to watch the Cubs play. That’s about all my mind can handle today.

Published in: on September 22, 2005 at 5:54 am  Leave a Comment  

Political Economy

You cannot get far into political economy without talking about morals. That means walking into the back room, where the unconscious mind works, and sifting and sorting through a bewildering collection of moral objects.

Published in: on September 21, 2005 at 11:25 am  Leave a Comment  

Arithmetic


C. F. Gauss, generally considered the greatest mathematician, published his Disquisitiones Arithmeticae when he was 19 years old. The book is still worth studying. A faculty for numbers will get you through it.

From Excursions in Number Theory by Ogilvy and Anderson.

In the beginning there were no numbers; or if there were, primitive man was unaware of them. Whether the numbers were always “there” (where?), or had to be invented, has been a much discussed question, and we shall leave it to the philosophers to continue that discussion without our aid. What we can say with some assurance is the the ability to count came relatively late to civilization. Nineteenth-century naturalists claimed that some animals could count up to 5. Early man could not do as well, and there are known to be isolated primitive tribes even today where any quantity more than 3 is known simply as “many.”

Published in: on September 21, 2005 at 10:33 am  Leave a Comment  

Crusader

The Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople, Delacroix

The day was not quite so handsome as today
with its clear blue sky, but all the same
it was good day for a crusade,
to be bathed in blood,
proud of the merciless heart.

Published in: on September 21, 2005 at 9:42 am  Leave a Comment  

Always Real, Always There

She’s always there, blonde, sexy, seductive, and wearing red. She tells me what to do and how to get along in life. She appears when I am trying to concentrate the most, when I feel I have conscious control of my thoughts and actions. She gazes at me while I gaze at the world.

She is my unconscious. And I’ll never be free of her.

Published in: on September 20, 2005 at 12:55 pm  Comments (1)  

"Win or Die Choking"

I can tell summer is almost over because a Chicago baseball team is sliding into infamy. The White Sox lost to the Indians 7-5 last night. Cleveland is only 2 1/2 games back and the Yankees are 4 behind.

The White Sox starting pitching looks as old and tired as I feel. The White Sox advertising says, “Win or die trying.” The Chicago Tribune ran a headline this morning, “Win or die choking.” Ouch!

I should run some sort of realistic numbers on this thing, but intuitively I suspect what was once a near statistical impossibility has become a statistical probability even though there are only 13 games left to the season.

Published in: on September 20, 2005 at 7:20 am  Comments (3)  

Scraps

I jot the images for my next novel on postcards, cocktail napkins, and 3 X 5 scraps of notebook paper. I throw the scraps in a shoebox because I am too lazy to type them into the computer.

This is the time of the year when my mind drifts more than usual. I suspect my blog will become even more like disorganized incoherent postcards.

Darn, I wish I knew how to write.

After the leaves have fallen, we return

To a plain sense of things. It is as if

We had come to an end of the imagination,

Inanimate in an inert savoir.

The Plain Sense of Things, Wallace Stevens

Published in: on September 19, 2005 at 12:29 pm  Comments (2)  

Seems Like Yesterday

It was not long ago when the sky lightened at about 4:30. That doesn’t happen anymore.

I hate waking up in the dark.

Published in: on September 19, 2005 at 3:32 am  Comments (1)  

Charitable Funding for Iraq

The Chicago Tribune reports on the U. S. Government’s attempt to obtain charitable contributions for the rebuilding of Iraq. The article goes on to discuss what is wrong with this picture.

I’ll only say it will be cold day in Hell before I give a charitable contribution to the current administration to secretly spend the money as they see fit.

Published in: on September 18, 2005 at 8:32 am  Leave a Comment