Tuesday, July 17, 2018
‘’Then Jacob was left alone, and . . . wrestled with him until daybreak.’’
From the smallest of the small
through quarks at the bottom of it all
to the farthest galactic star,
through galaxies spun afar,
we wander in a maze;
we wonder at its ways:
Surely all this stuff did arise from the Creator!
Or maybe it evolved through Nature?
Contemplating incredible predetermined complexity,
yet astounded by so much intricate simplicity—
We find two data sources to uncover,
as if there are two original outgrowths to discover.
Now perched on a precipice of nihilistic trauma,
we recall an ancient hand-me-down, historic drama:
Two multi-branched entities with o'erhanging claims to maintain us:
Two historic flora-fauna, purporting to sustain us.
One provokes a quandary chasing endless knowledge;
it arises from, like, stuff we learn in college;
the other, an affirmation, provides purpose for our strife:
we simply harvest belief from an ancient tree of life..
These two trees we see
manifested in humanity.
The smart ones manage to survive
while the faithful eternally revive . . .
'. . . and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”
King of Soul
Tuesday, July 10, 2018
Herein I recommend a novelized real story from that infamous "War in Vietnam."
John Podlaski’s novel about a brand-new American soldier in Vietnam strikes at the heart of the matter— just what the hell were our soldiers over there supposed to be doing?
Them brave boys were putting their asses on the line, stalking communist enemies in strange jungles on the other side of the world, when all the while their survival instinct was demanding them to just hunker down, lay low, and get through their year-long sentence of jungle warfare in one living, still-breathing piece.
And All for what?
Because we sent them to do a job—kill communists, and run the ones we couldn’t kill back to the North.
Now we all know it didn’t work out that way, but we learned some lessons—and the world did too—in the process.
The problem our guys had over there was: how could we know, in a SE Asian village scenario, which villagers were helping the NVA, and which ones were on our side? As if these rice-cultivating peasants knew the difference between Karl Marx and George Washington!
After reading this book, Cherries, it seems to me that, in the midst of the terrible gun battles, every soldier’s internal war must have been a constant conflict between these two missions: to kill enemies and thus keep the brass-mandated “body count” on an upward curve, or to stay alive!
Which would you choose?!
In most cases, it seems it came down to protecting yourself and your squad buddies, while treading fearfully through the booby-trapped minefield of two opposing international ideologies whose political strategies had turned absolutely, militarily lethal.
That project required real men—brave soldiers who could bite the bullet— who could launch out and give it a shot while death and danger stalked them at every turn along the path.
This was a terrible, terrible ordeal that our nation put these guys through! We need to talk about it.We need to acknowledge their incredible bravery. We need to ask: Just what the hell happened back then and there in Vietnam?—in that war that so many of us managed to evade. Whether you were for the war of against it— reading John Podlaski’s “Cherries” is a provocative way to begin the assessment— an evaluation that needs to take place, for the sake of our nation’s future security.
Read the book, because this quasi-autobiographical story gives a close-up, day-to-day, boots-on-the-ground account of what our guys were doing over there in Vietnam, while we were trying to figure it all out here, stateside— here, safe in the home of the free, while the brave were answering the terrible call that our government had imposed on them. They endured that jungular hell-pit so that we, as a nation, could, in spite of defeat, pass successfully through the 20th-century burden of Cold War paranoia.
John’s fictionalized personal story fleshes out the constant conflict between two soldierly inclinations: fulfilling military responsibility by driving up enemy “body counts,” vs. following the human instinct to just stay alive, and somehow make it through your one-year tour of duty without getting your ass killed.
Our American purpose there was unclear. No definite battlefield could be found; the war was waged wherever our boys happened to run into the Viet Cong or the North Vietnam Army, in a perpetual theater-game of deadly hide-and-seek. Our teens and twenties recruits and draftees were dropped into unfamiliar Asian jungles, then immersed immediately in extreme fear—fear like you would feel seeing two of your platoon-mates’ heads staked on bamboo poles.
Not in Kansas any more, Toto!
Khe Sahn. A Shau, Ah shit! What have we gotten ourselves into?!
Read John’s book to find out what perils our boys were trudging through while we stateside were trying to figure out the whys and the wherefores.
BTW, by the 1990’s it was plain to see that the free world, led by the USA, had prevailed in our struggle against both fascism and communism. In the big picture, our effort in Vietnam played an instructive role in that victory. The governance of nations has more to do with learning from your mistakes than fighting a lost cause to some idealized bitter end.
Thanks to you all you guys—Cherries, LongTimers and Lifers—who answered the call to service at that time. Oh yeah, and here’s another belated message: Welcome Home!
King of Soul
Wednesday, July 4, 2018
The New World
The coming of the New World dawns slowly; soon and soon very soon its urgency is, was, and will be proclaimed with bold horns and wind.
Strings vibrate with anticipation, mounting intensity, declaring themes of freedom.
Flute gently flows; bassoon resonates with agreement
while horns flourish, air tubes tremble.
Quiet strings set a tone for oboe’s innocence, double reeds inhaling human breath, portending meditations of possibility, proclamations of potentiality, yet quelling quietly the revolutionary air we breathe in smooth strides of tender melody;
Bows sweep up the fervency of this New World and now the golden door swings open, accompanied by bold trombones, to awaken huddled masses yearning to be free!
Strings, undulating in support, inspire a melting pot of symphonic unity, the Union resounding. Harmony ripening establishes a beachhead of audible beauty with well-tempered passion. Strains of melody wave like amber waves of grain. Themes of freedom abound in the harvesting of human liberty, melding with the promise of a New World; it arrives so fragile, and yet so bold.
Oboes dance with joy; bass viols celebrate the depth of profundity;
Oboe re-enters with contented notes while swaying strings agree. Conductor Alan Gilbert affirms,
then urges them on with baton uplift, so horns part the ready sea of sound with their bold fanfare. Strings conclude with soft sleepy assent.
Dream on, America!
Sudden ascension disrupts slumber with vigorous alarm, restive rhythm overtaking repose. Go West, young man! Flutes flutter in resonating encouragement; bold horns proclaim valor and future victories yet to be seen over perils yet unknown.
Rounded melodies bring forth renewals of resolve, heaps of purposeful harmony, mountains of good will, joy abounding, with triumph of compassion and reigning in of passion, to squeeze compelling music out of skeletal staffed spheres written upon pages of Dvorak's painstaking work.
Anticipation is building. Culmination coming. Tremolos of trials intervene.
Haste and urgency suddenly are the order of the day. Trombones resound with trouble in their snouts— not trouble they have made,
--but prescient tremors of trials yet to be born, paths yet to be traveled, mountains to be climbed, trails to be trod, skies to be bright-lit with sun, then clouded with rain bringing nourishment to rivers swift, streams flowing with exploration, as cello bows stride with expansion, across the wide prairie, through the dark forest, vivacious sonorities ascending into skies of blue, purple mountains majesty and amber waves of sound.
Crescendo coming, but abruptly arrested with woodwind moments of repose. Questions arise of when and where conclusions can occur with so much going on. And how can this orchestra it end? when we have only just begun—we have not yet spun upward in fulfillment of all we had hoped for.
When where and how could this would this, should this New World arrive at such suspension of tension in frantic strains strung out upon the peaks of human achievement and then laden into craters of creation at tranquility base? and now suddenly resolving to conclude in bold trombone harmonies with brassy bravado faithfully at their side and bountiful background violins striding o'er the airwaves in intense kinesis. Oh say do those star-sparkling trumpets yet arise! to conclude our tumultuous philharmonia with triumphant trumpet harmonia. . . but now fading into silence.
There you have it, y’all. The New World as Antonin Dvorak conceived it in 1893, and New York Philharmonic performed it in 2016.
King of Soul
Saturday, June 30, 2018
Everywhere everywhere we have waves bouncing around.
The sun sends them to us, across 93 millions of space. They hit our little planet; they reverberate in all kinds of ways. Some of them we capture and channel into energetic uses.
Others we do not capture at all. They just ripple around placidly in places unseen.
Out in the wild, in some natural place where the planetary stream gently trickles through unspoiled environs, we may notice waves just rippling along being their leisurely selves.
If we peer closely at them, we may notice the universal vibration passing through our brief moment in time and space.
In other locations, where humans have captured the waves and trained them into commercial or utilitarian applications, they just degenerate into more of the blahblah interference that we encounter every day in our electronified existence. Like this pic taken at a gas station, where apparently the petrol pushers have determined that we cannot be without electronic stimulation for any amount of time—even the 2 or 3 minutes it takes to fill an itinerant gasoline tank.
Although it is strangely reassuring to see a human face there in the mix, especially a pretty one. . .
Sunday, June 24, 2018
The great physicist, James Clerk Maxwell, had a problem in 1867. It was a very old problem; many had tried to solve it before he came along. It wasn’t actually his problem to fix, but merely to figure it out; his objective was to try and determine who or what had already solved "the problem". Because, you see, the matter had already been taken care of long, long ago.
Otherwise none of us would be here; nothing would be here.
The actual problem-solver who had worked it out was not thought to be credible at the time of Maxwell's work. The problem-solver's presumptuous representatives had made such a mess of things.
Consequently, in the 1800’s, the scientific community placed little or no credence in what the so-called Church had to say about anything—especially presumably scientific matters like the origin and unfolding of the Universe.
19th-century scientists and other serious researchers like Darwin, Marx and many others were all in a tizzy about throwing the God idea out with the bath water. It was a leap of faith instead of a rational inference. They did have some legitimate arguments about the Church’s faith-based input, because the so-called Church had made such a mess of things while they were running the show back in the middle ages. Two especially bad screwed-ups the Church had done happened when they had, earlier, rejected the findings of Copernicus and Galileo.
But you betcha the mystery still lay unsolved when the science boys took over, long about 1800 or so. They were working on the mystery intently. And so Mr. Maxwell, diligent Scot that he was, took hold of the mantle in 1867, as many others were doing at the time, and he gave it a shot—solving the riddle.
The question of how all this happened.
This existence, this world we live in—how did it get here?
There was, you see, a piece missing in this great puzzle of existence.
In the chain of events that ostensibly took place when the universe was made, there was a missing link that no one had been able to figure out. So, James Clerk Maxwell tackled the question, striving to solve the riddle of the missing link.
Therefore Dr. Maxwell came up with what he called the "Demon." My unschooled opinion says he could have chosen a better word. . . something like what Rene Descartes had termed it, the Prime Mover.
As Peter Hoffman gives an explanation of Maxwell's work, the Scot posed this profound question:
“How can molecular machines extract work from the uniform-temperature environment of cells without violating the second law of thermodynamics?”
In other words, how can atoms and molecules organize themselves to become something more than what they already are—just a bunch of damn molecules kicking around like unemployed vagrants?
Or to put it yet another way: How could life have come out of dead particles?
And so, as Dr. Maxwell pondered the problem of the missing link in 1867, he came up with the idea of (what was later called Maxwell’s. . .) Demon.
Peter M. Hoffman explains it, in his 2012 book, Life’s Ratchet, https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B00A29OFHS/ref this way:
“Maxwell’s demon . . . was a a tiny hypothetical creature who controlled a little door separating two gas-filled chambers, which initially have the same average temperature. The job of the demon was to separate gas molecules into fast and slow molecules. . . Starting from a uniform-temperature system, the demon had created a temperature gradient—making one side cold and the other side hot. . . This temperature gradient could now be used to do work if a little turbine could be placed in the demon’s door.”
The analogy of a demon is not, of course, to be taken literally. James Maxwell was a brilliant physicist whose work paralleled Einstein’s. His use of the hypothetical creature is merely a literary device to communicate the function of an unidentified catalyst that makes something constructive happen in an environment in which (theoretically) nothing can happen.
Obviously something did happen, back in the days of universe origin, or we wouldn’t be here. Nothing would be here, if the problem had not been solved. Someone, demon or otherwise, must have worked it out.
Rene Descartes, a mathematician who lived in the 1600’s, had stumbled upon the same dilemma. He had posited the idea of a Prime Mover, which seemed pretty logical at the time.
Still does, if you ask me.
An original cause (as in cause in effect), that caused everything else to happen, big bang blah blah etc. and so forth and so on.
But what diligent mathematicians and scientists neglected to mention was that the problem had long ago been solved by a mysterious entity who had been so erroneously represented by the so-called Church: God.
Not a demon, but God. The demons were the created beings who tried to pull rank on the Creator, YWHeh.
Therefore, in order to now— in the 21st-century— give credit where credit is due . . .
I say it was a notable accomplishment what YWHeh did, when he solved the problem of the missing link, way back in time. And he said so.
He said it was good— in the first chapter of his bestseller, Genesis.
It was good when He separated light from darkness. Genesis 1:4:
"God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness."
This "separation" function is no chance development. It needed to happen. It's no coincidence that Maxwell's demon and Creator YWHeh both are depicted as having "separated" something from something else. . . The Separator's accomplishment was functionally something like Maxwell’s presumed demon's task of separating molecules into two different energy levels in order to create
“a temperature difference between the chambers without expending work, thus seemingly violating the second law.”
The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics is the law that YWHeh seems to have broken when he started the ball of the universe rolling. But it didn’t matter if he broke that “Law” because he set up the whole kitnkiboodle anyway, back in the Day. That 2nd Law of Thermodynamics was an idea that we came up to try and explain it all. It wasn't something that YWHeh declared when he declared Let there be light and so forth and so on.
On Day 1 (whatever that means to you) the Prime Mover separated light from darkness, and the rest is history.
Not bad for a day’s work, YHWeh. Keep up the good work.
Friday, June 15, 2018
To go with the flow, or to go against it—that is the question.
Whether ’tis nobler to nurture the notion that mankind was innocent in some presumed condition of noble savagery—or to accept traditional religion that pronounces us guilty of offenses against Nature or against God.
If we are, or were, indeed, noble savages in our beginnings, why should we have taken on the disciplines and restrictions of religion—doctrines that judge us culpable of sin and thus in need of repair, salvation, or some kind of evolving perfection yet to be realized?
Hawaiians, for instance, who were alive here on the island of Kauai (I am wondering, as I write this on Kauai in 2018)—those Hawaiians who lived here in 1778 when Captain James Cook suddenly showed up with his fancy ship and his threatening weaponry, his magical gadgets, highly-trained crew, impressive use of language and documents, his tailored clothing and highly developed European culture—those relatively primitive people who first saw Capt. Cook’s two ships sail up to the mouth of the Waimea River . . .
Why should they have accepted his intrusion into their simple, primitive life?
To go with the flow, or to go against it—that was their question.
Would they go with the “arc of history” or resist it?
Did they eventually accept highly developed European culture to replace their traditional tribal existence? Did they accede to it out of submission, or out of necessity, or out of attraction to the new fancy stuff they saw? Were they conquered? Or were they taken by the hand and brought gently, Christian-like, into 18th-century civilization, and ultimately into 19th, 20th and 21st-century lifestyle?
Look around Hawaii today. What do you think?
They accepted it.
They went with the flow. One thing we know for sure about the so-called primitive Hawaiians of 1778: they knew how to go with the flow. They were here on this remote island in the middle of earth’s largest ocean, long before we technolified haoles were here, and they had arrived here at some earlier time because they knew how to make “the flow” of this life and the Pacific Ocean work for them.
So now, 2018, it is what it is. Hawaii, like every other place in our modern world, is what it is. Some may lament the demise of noble savagery that has been the result of Captain Cook’s intrusion into this paradisical (though deadly if you don’t know what you’re doing) island. Others may celebrate the entrance of the Hawaiians into modern life.
Some may come and some may go.
Captain Cook came. He left and came back again. The beginning of Captain James Cook’s Hawaii experience happened when his crew sailed their two ships to the mouth of the Waimea River— a river that flowed from mile-high Waialeale crater down to sea level at the southwest shore of Kauai.
He died in 1779, shot dead by an Hawaiian on the Big Island of Hawaii, at the other end of this island archipelago. His sudden demise came in the midst of dispute between some of his own crew members and the natives of Hawaii.
Many have lived and died since that time.
Two days ago, up on the other end of Kauai island, the northeast end, at a strand called Larsen’s Beach, we witnessed the life-end of another person, a contemporary. The man was a traveler from Pennsylvania. He had been snorkeling at a reef in unpredictable waters when the Ocean took hold of him.
A little while later, his flippers floated to shore. After we had witnessed a team of chance beach visitors (us), and then a couple of jet-skiing lifeguards from some other nearby beach, and then EMT guys flown in on a “bird,”—after we had witnessed all this collective noble attempt to coax life back into the snorkeler’s breathless lungs and heart, we saw his neon-green flippers float back to shore.
Maybe he was going with the flow; maybe he was going against it; maybe he was fighting against the current, or maybe he was just going with that flow of life and death that eventually captures us all.
In my case, that flow will, in the long run, take me to death, and then resurrected life, as was demonstrated by Jesus.
Am I really going with the flow, you may ask, in joining the historical current of the Christian faith into which I was born?
Or am I going against the rational flow by subscribing to such an incredible prospect as life after death?
God only knows.
King of Soul
Wednesday, June 13, 2018
(With appreciation of Matthew Arnold’s poem, Dover Beach)
The Ocean is strong today.
The waves roll in; the sun is bright
upon the Pacific. In this island surf the light
sparkles and tumbles; the rocky shores stand,
steadfast and vast, under a friendly sun.
Let’s do the beach; this afternoon’s energy is vigorous.
But hey! from this long splash of spray,
where sea meets the sun-kiss’d land—
Listen! we hear the pounding roar
of sand grains which the waves draw back, and fling,
forever, upon this high strand.
Beginning and ceasing, and then beginning again,
with a forceful rhythm it perseveres, to roll
The eternal resonance of wonder in.
Dear Matthew, back in the day,
heard this on the North Sea, and it brought
into his mind the ponderous ebb and flow
of our melancholy brood; we
hear it still the same; yet with that lamenting we discern
a reverberating of relentless purpose
in this pounding Pacific shore.
Oh sea of faith!
Persistent and unrelenting, all ‘round our earth’s shore—
you flap forever like folds of a bright banner unfurled.
Although I also feel
that ancient melancholy, the long, withdrawing roar,
retreating, in the breath
of the evening wind, laden with our roiling refugees
and the uncared-for masses of the world.
Oh, people, let us be true
To one another! For the world, which seems
to boil before us like a pot of strife—
so disjointed, so distraught, so stubbornly the same,
really has somewhere some joy, love, and even flashes of benevolence,
some certainty— here and there a little peace— even some easing of the pain,
while we here on this fragg’ed globe
get swept with fake news and tweeting dweebs who incite us,
as ill-informed combatants clash with their devices.