Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: government

Does Grendel Represent the Chaos of the Natural World? Part 2 of 2

When last we met, I was spiraling into the depths of a natural world filled with violence and chaos. If you haven’t read it yet, pop back to “Does Grendel Represent the Chaos of the Natural World?” and take a look.

Shall we continue?

“What does a kingdom pretend to do? Save the values of the community – regulate compromise – improve the quality of the commonwealth! In other words, protect the power of the people in power and keep the others down. By common agreement of course, so the fiction goes. And they do that pretty well. We’ll give them that.”

That is exactly what your kingdom, I mean, our nation’s government is doing right now. It’s also very much why I am leaning towards peaceful and non-violent anarchy. Live and let live.

“Rewards to people who fit the System best, you know. King’s immediate thanes, the thanes’ top servants, and so on till you come to the people who don’t fit at all. No problem. Drive them to the darkest corners of the kingdom, starve them, throw them in jail or put them out to war.”

This reminds me of my social media feed and tv news. Comply with what those in power wish or suffer the consequences.

“What is the state in a time of domestic or foreign crisis? What is the state when the chips are down? The answer is obvious and clear! Oh yes! If a few men quit work, the police move in. If the borders are threatened, the army rolls out. Public force is the life and soul of every state: not merely army and police but prisons, judges, tax collectors, every conceivable trick of coercive repression. The state is an organization of violence. Revolution, my dear prince, is not the substitution of immoral for moral, or of illegitimate for legitimate violence; it is simply the pitting of power against power, where the issue is freedom for the winners and enslavement of the rest.”

Public force and coercive repression, the cornerstone of any central government. When you pass a law by vote, you’re asking a separate group of people to use deadly force against those who do not comply. You may think it is best, but when people get held down, beat up, and shot by police for not stopping to receive the punishment for breaking that law, are you ok with that? When the police stop a teenage boy for not wearing a seatbelt, and for whatever reason they feel threatened and shoot him, that is the result of your law. When someone doesn’t pay the appropriate taxes and the government comes and takes everything they have, puts their family on the street, and takes that person to jail, that is a result of your law. When someone buys a drug and sits in their own livingroom alone to use it and relax, and the cops bust in to drag him to a box…I could go on and on but I’m digressing.

Bottom line is that when you vote for a law to be put in the books, you are authorizing violence on another in your name.

“Who says I have to defend myself? I am a machine, like you. Like all of you. Blood-lust and rage are my character. Why does the lion not wisely settle down and be a horse?”

Stop hating! Stop doing drugs! Stop … whatever. Geez! Let people be who they are and choose whether or not you want to associate with them. You know a lion by his look. You allow him to live his own way, in his own space. And you avoid running into him as prey. How about we do the same with other humans?

“Tedium is the worst pain. The mind lays out the world in blocks, and the hushed blood waits for revenge. All order, I’ve come to understand, is theoretical, unreal – a harmless, sensible, smiling mask men slide between the two great, dark realities, the self and the world – two snake-pits.”

I know, it’s all pretty dark and I had a bit of fun wallowing around in it today. I hope I didn’t terrify you. I do get a tad worked up though, especially lately. I’m feeling frustrated and lonely in this world. It seems everyone around me wants so desperately to live inside a fantasy world.

Nature’s reality can be terrifying and cruel, but we humans have a special gift, creativity. We can use it to recognize the world around us and attempt to do better for ourselves, or we can create a little bubble in our minds and live there as long as we can. That is until the bubble is burst and the world’s violence comes flooding in.

Me? I prefer to be aware of the real danger in this world and adjust my own behavior, take my own calculated risks based on my own experience (and the advice from trusted professionals), and allow everyone else to do the same.

I like Grendel. He’s a mean, nasty, violent dude. He has no remorse for who he is. He makes it very clear what he is and what he’ll do. It’s on you to be bigger and stronger than him or respect his boundaries and let him be.

Here’s something interesting I just found; this book is on the Banned Library site. Over the years it has been banned at several schools for being “anti-christian, anti-moral, and violent” and “profane.” Makes you want to read it even more, doesn’t it?

Does Grendel Represent the Chaos of the Natural World? Part 1 of 2

The following post, my notes on book, Grendel by John Gardner, is my first two-parter, so bear with me. There was just too much in this book for one post to contain!

Grendel quote on a desert background.

I’ll tell you what…going through this book and pulling out the quotes that still resonate with me one month after reading was a downer. I started this day with so much hope and joy and then in crashes Grendel…that beast!

At first, I didn’t understand the point of this book, other than a view from another character’s perspective. Then a few weeks later I was listening to the Isaac Morehouse podcast and heard someone (and I’m really sorry but I can’t remember what interview it was) say that the story of Beowulf was showing how humans had fought their way out of chaos and how they had to keep defending civilization from collapsing back into it. That chaos was in the form of Grendel coming each night to kill warriors.

That was when the meaning of the book I read come flooding in on me. Grendel in John Gardner’s book was not chaos, he was simply another part of nature, and he was angry watching mankind kill and destroy its way through the world, just as he did, yet not take responsibility for its actions. Humans sat there in their great halls, pretending that they were better than nature, that they had risen above violence, and yet used it against each other in the most horrific and manipulative ways.

Grendel (nature) is unapologetically violent. He doesn’t hide it or pretend there are good reasons for killing and destroying things. He just is what he is. It is not his job to change his nature, but for others to be aware of him and avoid him if they can.

This is a feeling I’ve had myself. I want to know right out front how the people around me feel about certain things. I don’t want them to blend in. I want them to stand loud and proud. That way I can take full responsibility to avoid or move towards those people, to choose whether I can band together with them or pass them by and leave them to their lives the way they see fit.

I enjoyed reading Grendel’s perspective. He’s open and honestly murderous. He doesn’t hold it against others when they avoid or best him. He is who he is and I can respect that, although I’d rather not live next door to him.

The following are some of my favorite quotes from the book and a few of my thoughts on each. Ever since this morning, when I opened the book and flipped through to copy down my notes here, I’ve had some of these rolling around in my head.


“That is their happiness: they see all life without observing it. They’re buried in it like crabs in mud. Except men, of course.”

Animals, nature…they don’t attempt to change the course of things other than to stay alive and procreate as best they can. They’re just in the world. Us humans, we can use our creative brains to manipulate the world, for better or worse.

“Stars, spattered out through lifeless night from end to end, like jewels scattered in a dead king’s grave, tease, torment my wits toward meaningful patterns that do not exist.”

The human mind is geared to see and recognize patterns, even where there are none. We create a mythology about whatever we don’t understand and make meaning when we can’t discover one.

“I understood that the world was nothing: a mechanical chaos of casual, brute enmity on which we stupidly impose our hopes and fears.”

It still is and always will be. It sounds so damn depressing. Sometimes I want to believe in a fairy tale, but something about harsh reality is so…I don’t know. Maybe it’s like a train wreck. We want to look away and not know but our eyes refuse to obey.

“Hrothgar, who’d begun hardly stronger than the others, began to outstrip the rest. He’d worked out a theory about what fighting was for, and now he no longer fought with his six closest neighbors. He’d shown them the strength of his organization, and now, instead of making war on them, he sent men to them every three months or so, with heavy wagons and back-slings, to gather their tribute to his greatness.”

This is one of the things the Grendel hates most and something we continue to allow “government” to do in our collective names all over the world.

“They sense that, of course, from time to time; have uneasy feelings that all they live by is nonsense.

That’s where the Shaper saves them. Provides an illusion of reality – puts together all their facts with a gluey whine of connectedness.”

Mythology in a nutshell. Hey! Let me out! How did I get in here?!

“Except in the life of a hero, the whole world’s meaningless. The hero sees values beyond what is possible. That’s the nature of a hero. It kills him, of course, ultimately. But it makes the whole struggle of humanity worthwhile.” I nodded in the darkness. “And breaks up the boredom,” I said.

Each of us is hero in our own little corner of the universe, right? But we’re just doing what makes us happy and content, easing our own or other’s suffering. We wouldn’t do it if it didn’t serve us somehow in the world that we live in. It sounds so ugly, I know, but it’s honest. It’s also why we create and watch superhero movies!

“Shall I call the tree tyrannical, since where it stands nothing survives but itself and its high-borne guests? Condemn it because it sends down stifling darkness, sucks the life from grass, and whitens the sapling leaf for trifling, fluttering friends?”

Those damn trees! Everything in nature strives to stay alive and procreate, including humans. And there are ALL kinds of humans. Some are more aggressive than others, some live well in groups, some…don’t. Know each kind, respect their right to be here and create your own boundaries to thrive.


There’s more coming tomorrow! Aren’t you excited?! I know, it’s a harsh one, but we only know the highs if we accept and trudge through the lows, right? I wrote about this book when I started reading it back in March. Click back to Grendel by John Gardner to read it!

Emotional Slogans Work Wonders for Cola Wars, not Good Government

You’ll probably think this totally nuts coming from me but, I’ve been thinking about words lately.  Shocker, I know. More specifically, the use of emotional slogans and hashtags to gather followers of our causes instead of sound reasoning and logical discussion of ideas.

Slogans are for advertising cola wars. A store front of Coke vs Pepsi.
Photo by Eric Muhr on Unsplash

The following few paragraphs may feel pretty muddled, but I have a few ideas rolling around in my head. They want to connect somehow, I can feel it, but I can’t get them to dance. I’m going to go ahead and throw this unpolished gem out into the universe the way it is and see what happens.

Here’s the thought that came to me while I was in the shower the other day. Lucky for you, I had my notebook in the bathroom just in case this happened, and I was able to capture it!

Two- and three-word slogans are great for deciding which cola to buy or which fast food burgers are the best, not your stance on issues like civil rights and immigration policies. It may feel like you’re rallying people to your cause with a hashtag this or that, but I think it does more harm than good. Good government stems from an intelligent and informed population of citizens, not a war between propaganda and advertising slogans.

The trouble is that, to have a decent conversation about ideas, we need a common language with a broad vocabulary. My concern is that I don’t seem to be able to increase mine no matter how hard I try.

As you have probably noticed, I read a lot and all the experts say that is the best way to increase your vocabulary and I’m sure it does. Over the years, I have learned more words and their meanings. I can usually infer what a word means from its context and if I can’t, or even if I can but am curious about the details, I’ll look it up. But I typically don’t use those words in my everyday speech, or even in my writing.

Why? I think it’s because I’m afraid I won’t be understood by the people around me, not because they (you, my dear reader) are stupid, but because our common vocabulary has become limited across the board and I want to be understood by as many people as possible. When I try to keep it simple, so more people understand, it comes out bland like cafeteria food, mainstream movies, and mass market paperback novels.

Another reason could be that if one doesn’t use a language often enough, one loses the ability to use it, even our native tongue. I don’t speak or write the words I learn through books often enough, so my brain tosses them aside and they become buried and forgotten.

There are a lot of ideas that get lost these days because we just don’t have enough common words to discuss and digest the things that are going on around us and in us. One word is used to describe a multitude of things. Depending on who is using a word and what context they are using it in, the same word can mean even more than what is even listed in our dictionary.

I have an example.

“Love” and “friend” are the words that have brought this to the forefront of my mind the past few weeks, although the trouble spans across our entire language. The thoughts have picked up speed since I started reading “Love & Friendship” by Allan Bloom earlier this month.

What does love mean? Anything you want it to. I love the cat when it purrs, the flowers in my garden, the candy my friend brought me, the woman at the grocery store that helped me reach the box of noodles that was above my head. I love my husband, my mother, my kids, my friend. I love hiking and reading and checking Facebook for likes.

Love…is a myriad of things. So, when I say, “I love you!” you really have no idea what that means.

And what about the word, “friend?” I think Facebook ruined that one, to be completely honest. If I ruled the world, they’d have to use a different word. But it’s always been a bit dubious. What a “friend” means is completely subjective, and you can’t hold others accountable for not behaving as friend should, unless you sat down with them and agreed about the terms and conditions beforehand.

What does this word stuff have to do with political slogans and hashtags? Everything.

We are a diverse culture, a combination of a myriad of backgrounds. Every time we write a sentence, we mean one thing and anyone that reads it brings their background into interpreting it. What I mean as sarcasm, you take as a serious attack. What I mean as kind, you take an unwanted advance, and someone else takes as an invitation to lord knows what.

When we dumb down issues with a short slogan to attract people’s attention, we aren’t giving the full spectrum of what our cause is attempting to solve. Instead, we’re attracting eyes with bright colors and flashy tags. Yes, some people will look and think, “Hells yes! I’m in!” but they have no idea what they are really backing. And others will see it and immediately be turned off and walk away simply because they don’t identify with that sliver of the message when they might have been staunch supporters.

Yes, I’m deliberately avoiding using actual slogans, but you know what they are. We see them all around us all day long, on every online platform, t-shirt, shop window, and car bumper. I’m not using them because the moment I say one, everyone reading aligns themselves for or against everything else I say. I do it myself.

What’s the solution? I’m not sure. I thought it was increasing my vocabulary, assuming positive intent, and trying to understand the ideas behind the slogans people were splashing all over their profiles. I had started with asking people to define what they meant when I see a slogan used, but that got me some pretty nasty replies, which is why I’m writing this.

Are we not aware that words have different meanings to different people? If I don’t know your motives or intentions, how do I find out without asking? How do we begin to understand each other if we’re discouraged from asking for clarification?

Lately, I’ve found it harder and harder to communicate with people, especially online. I had begun to think that we’d lost a common language, now I think it’s something else. Maybe we’re losing our empathy for each other. It seems we’re assuming that everyone is attacking us, that we are the victims of ill intent everywhere we turn.

I honestly think it’s a simple case of mass miscommunication. We all think we’re speaking the same language but we’re not. It’s starting to look like a modern-day Tower of Babel story.

I’ve read some great books that have helped me ask more questions and make an attempt to see the bigger picture. “The Pleasures of Reading in an Ideological Age” by Robert Alter and “How to Read Nonfiction Like a Professor” by Thomas C. Foster are the first two that come to mind.

Does Change Have to be Violent?

Change… “will come to pass by violence and upheaval, by flame and by fury, for no change comes calmly over the world.”
“It will be so. We do not will it so.”
“Ignorance is king. Many would not profit by his abdication. Many enrich themselves by means of his dark monarchy. They are his Court, and in his name they defraud and govern, enrich themselves and perpetuate their power.”

A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

In the story, I totally agree. A big change is coming and it’s yet to be seen whether or not it will be a good one; good in the “better for all of mankind” kind of way.

But I don’t think change must be violent. Big dramatic changes can disrupt everything, but small, steady, almost unnoticeable changes can be just as good and for more people. The Grand Canyon was slowly eroded into what it is today, or was it? Children are can be born and grow up without violence and pain. A tree grows from seed into a towering pine over hundreds of years.

But I like the small line in the middle most. “It WILL be so. We do not WILL it so.” Inevitability. He believes he’s stating a natural law. He doesn’t want violence, but violence will be the natural consequence of the changes that are coming to their world.

Is progress always violent? Growth spurts are inevitable, I suppose. The more we try to reign in the changes of technological advancement, the more problems we cause in the long run possibly; the old adage of ripping the bandage off quickly.

What’s this? A political post?

I know! There’s just so much going on lately and I do have a lot of thoughts about it. I also talk about it a lot, privately with people I know want to have a real conversation. I don’t typically post about my political leanings and I rarely read social media posts or mainstream news channel articles either.

Like the snob that I’ll admit I am, I tend to get my news information from print magazines, and (I’ll also admit) my husband when he wants to discuss things he’s found throughout the day over dinner or on our afternoon walk.

So, without further ado, here are my thoughts on “politics.”


 

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“Apolitical” does not mean that I’m not aware of what is going on in our country. It doesn’t mean that I’m ignorant of how our government works. It doesn’t mean that I don’t vote.

What it does mean is that I don’t play the game of “politics.”

Politics treats the government as a game to follow, a team to root for, and colors to wear. It’s a national sport that asks us all to choose sides and form up and I don’t believe it is conducive to governing or living well. In fact, I don’t think politics accomplishes much of anything except to feed some people’s desire to argue about how others should live.

That is why I don’t share my opinions on social media. I don’t post what I believe we should do about individual situations and events. I don’t tell you, “I voted! And you should too!” And I don’t discuss what politicians are currently doing and saying.

I don’t want to participate in the game. I don’t want to feed the machine that does its best to separate us into factions, pit us against each other, and live in fear.

But I do participate in government to the best of my ability, and to the extent my time and energy will allow, without destroying my peace of mind.

There is no win or lose on a journey. There are only choices and what results of those choices.

“Everything is F… – A Book About Hope”

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I’m so far behind on book reviews that it’s just ridiculous. Should I just give up on the pile of just finished books I have here on my desk? Start fresh, so to speak, and simply review the one I’m currently reading when I’m done? That would be the easy way, wouldn’t it?

I think I’ll go ahead and do “mini” reviews for these books. I’ll pull out an idea or two from each and leave it there. Here we go.

I started to write a review for this over a week ago and realized I just can’t. First of all, I should have written it last month when I finished it. That would have been ideal, when the ideas were fresh. I sat here thumbing through looking at the words I underlined and getting a glimpse of the awesome

When I listened to the interview, he said the book would trigger anger in some people. His first book was gentler, this one goes for the throat, right to many people’s most sensitive spots. He got me too and I was prepared. I found myself thinking, “Hold on just one stinkin’ minute, Mark!” But then set it aside to wonder what it was he was really trying to say.

When you go to a doctor about a pain you have, say in your foot, he feels around that foot looking for the pain. He pushes on it in small increments until he pokes it right where it hurts most. “Sorry. I know that hurts. But now I know where exactly to put the medicine.” That’s what the author is doing here, I think.

To find a cure for what ails us, we need to look at all the pieces, all our life narratives, all the things we hold dear, to see which one, and then which part of the that one, is really causing the trouble.

This is one of those books that I’ll have to read again to get more meat off the bone. There was just so much to digest.

Here’s just one idea that I fell in love with!

“…why don’t we do things we know we should do? Because we don’t FEEL like it. Every problem of self-control is not a problem of information or discipline or reason but, rather, of emotion.

…emotional problems are much harder to deal with than logical ones. There are equations to help you calculate the monthly payments on your car loan. There are no equations to help you end a bad relationship.”

His caricature of humans as a consciousness car, driven by a feeling brain with a thinking brain in the passenger seat is just beautiful. Our feelings drive us, and our brain justifies and explains why we’re doing the things we want to do. That’s why we keep doing things we know are not logical. We eat when we’re not hungry. We throw tantrums instead of using our words to communicate needs. And we ruin our long-term relationships, knowing full well that we could navigate the waters a better way.

What can we do to fix it? He goes into some ideas and why they work. Some I’ve heard from my own kids. And some I’ve thought of myself. The big one being, sometimes we have to replace habits instead of kick them.

The book is just awesome. I was looking through my notes and found “How can one book have so many awesome ideas?!” I’d probably have written a thousand page essay about all the brilliant things he said if I had done the review last month when it was all fresh in my head, but instead, I’ll enthusiastically point you in the direction of it so you can read it yourself.

Don’t let the title and sarcastic tone make you think it’s a negative tale of doom. It’s not. Society, government, religion…all the forbidden dinner party topics, wrapped up in 232 pages. You won’t regret it!

Belief

It seems that mankind wants so desperately to be ruled over and controlled by something.

Is it to absolve ourselves of personal responsibility?

Is it just too complicated to think for ourselves?

Two New Books

I started two new books this week. The first one, “Democracy for Realists,” was recommended by Mark Manson on New Years Eve. It’s fascinating, but a long and more difficult read for me. I can only stay focused on it for about an hour before my brain starts to get tired!

I’ve had the same idea, that elections really don’t mean anything, for a long time but couldn’t really defend it. This book is giving me some great insight to my intuition. I’ve run across a few things I don’t agree with though. Government, federal and state, has gotten into the habit of micro-managing the people and the people have learned to depend on it instead of taking care of themselves and their own families privately.  The election process we have resembles a professional sport now, with one team against another and no principles to speak of. This book gets into why that is.

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Because I can only read this book for about an hour before my brain gets buzzy, and I my goal this year is to read for an average of three hours per day, I picked up another book to read at the same time. It’s called “Snow Falling on Cedars” by David Guterson.

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I found it at the thrift store for a dollar a few months ago and was intriqued by the cover. Yep, that’s how I find books sometimes, especially if they are a dollar. If I don’t like it right away, I stop reading it and drop it back at the thrift store so they can sell it to someone else. I’m only out a dollar.

This book is turning out great! World War II, Japanese immigrants being sent to Manzanar. It’s historical fiction and one of my favorite eras. I’ve been to Manzanar with my family and read a few other books about what happened. One was called “Nisei Daughter” by Monica Sone. What I already know is blending into this story so well.

One thing I found so strange when I first started reading about the Japanese Internment was how quick we all were to “evacuate” these people. The more I read, the more I understand.

It wasn’t like we all just turned on them. We were already wary of them. Japanese culture is very different from Western culture. Many behaviors that the Japanese consider respectful and honorable, we see as rude and suspicious. It was difficult for Westerners to accept them into society and the many immigrants did not want to assimilate either. They wanted to live thier own way and be left alone. When Pearl Harbor was bombed, it was easy for us to villify the Japanese immigrants and our government was happy to comply with our wishes.

I’m really fascinated about cultural differences and how they affect people’s perception of others. Don’t think we have outgrown our wariness of strangers!

There was a lot more going on at the time, especially on the west coast of the United States. It’s a interesting topic. Since I’ve read a bit about it in the past, this story’s setting is very clear to me and a fictional account of a love triangle and forbidden relationships in the midst of World War II is icing on that cake.

I think it’ll take me awhile to read “Democracy for Realists.” It’s long and involved, but I’ll write more about it as I read. I’m already more than halfway done with “Snow Falling on Cedars.” It’s that engaging!

I could sit here and quote Allan Bloom’s Interpretive Essay about “The Republic of Plato” all day long. I read the translation and then then the essay and felt that it was worth all the effort. In fact, I’d say read the essay first and then Plato. Maybe? Hard to say which would be better. Reading the Republic, I started to wonder what the point was. I’ve never been a big fan of Plato or Socratic Reasoning. I can’t seem to follow it. Call me lazy, but it takes too much effort. My son has shown me that some people find it natural and I’m just not one of those people. I’m glad I read it, again, and even more happy that the interpretive essay afterward was so enlightening.

This paragraph is what I want to share today, though.

If the infinite longing for justice on earth is merely a dream or a prayer, the shedding of blood in its name turns from idealism into criminality. The revolutions of Communism and Fascism are made in the name of perfect regimes which are to be their consequence. What matter if a few million die now, if one is sure that countless generations of mankind will enjoy the fruits of justice? Socrates thinks about the end which is ultimately aimed at by all reformers and revolutionaries but to which they do not pay sufficient attention. He shows what a regime would have to be in order to just and why such a regime is impossible. Regimes can be improved but not perfected; injustice will always remain. The proper spirit of reform, then, is moderation. Socrates constructs his utopia to point up the dangers of what we would call utopianism; as such it is the greatest critique of political idealism ever written. The Republic serves to moderate the extreme passion for political justice by showing the limits of what can be demanded and expected of the city; and, at the same time, it shows the direction in which the immoderate desires can be meaningfully channeled.”

This is exactly what libertarians have been trying to say. There is no heaven on earth. There is no perfect. The more you try to define it for others and use the force to create it, the more you move toward tyranny. Think about it. Religions in the past have done the same thing. There is no “greater good” reason in this life to use violence against others. Even God does not do it. So why do we think we can do it?

Any use of force is violence, in my opinion. Taxes, fines, jail, etc. = violence against others.

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