Friday, March 26, 2010


"I believe that man must learn to live without those consolations called religious, which his own intelligence must by now have told him belong to the childhood of the race.  Philosophy can really give us nothing permanent to believe either;  it is too rich in answers, each canceling out the rest.  The quest for Meaning is foredoomed.  Human life 'means' nothing.  But that is not to say that it is not worth living.  What does a Debussy Arabesque 'mean,' or a rainbow or a rose?  A man delights in all of these, knowing himself to be no more - a wisp of music and a haze of dreams dissolving against the sun.  Man has only his own two feet to stand on, his own human trinity to see him through:  Reason,  Courage, and Grace.  And the first plus the second equals the third."

from The Blood Of The Lamb,
by Peter DeVries


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dangling Conversations

Overheard at the Duck and Cover Diner
(home of the Scratch 'n Sniff menu)

"Commitment?  Why, that's like tenant farming, or being an indentured servant!"

"As a writer, she is very fond of Meaning No. 2."

"Sounds like he has a split personality."
"No, but he is half-assed."

"People who say risible are laughable."

"I used to run like the wind; now all I can do is break it."

"Young man", she said to me, "Young man, isn't it true that when I die and go to Heaven there will be only Americans there?"

Friday, March 19, 2010

Poem for March, by C. S. Lewis

Each month I select for this blog a poem that is a personal favorite.  Here is my choice for March 2010.

The Future Of Forestry

How will the legend of the age of trees
feel when the last tree falls in england?
When the concrete spreads and the town conquers
the country's heart:  when contraceptive
tarmac's laid where farm has faded,
tramline flows where slept a hamlet,
and shop-fronts, blazing without a stop from
Dover to Wrath, have glazed us over?
Simplest tales will then bewilder
the questioning children, "What was a chestnut?
Say what it means to climb a Beanstalk,
Tell me, grandfather, what an elm is.
What was Autumn?  They never taught us.'
Then, told by teachers how once from mould
came growing creatures of lower nature
able to live and die, though neither
beast nor man, and around them wreathing
excellent clothing, breathing sunlight-
half understanding, thier ill-acquainted
fancy will tint their wonder-paintings
-Trees as men walking, wood-romances
of goblins stalking in silky green,
of milk-sheen froth upon the lace of hawthorn's
collar, pallor in the face of a birchgirl.
So shall a homeless time, though dimly
catch from afar (for soul is watchful)
a sight of tree-delighted Eden.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Remember When?

When the singer sang the song instead of their 'personal interpretation' of the song?

The Blood Of The Lamb

I am reading a novel, The Blood Of The Lamb, by Peter DeVries.  It promises to be a good read.  I am only into the second chapter and I find it to be funny and wise.  For example:

Humor:  " grandfather went out to the front porch, where he stood scratching himself in a manner said to be depreciating property values."
Wisdom:   "What people believe is a measure of what they suffer."

Now, that's my idea of a page-turner.

Monday, March 15, 2010


The Field Guides report that the American robin is a common winter resident in south Florida but, for reasons that surpass our comprehension, we see robins in our neighborhood only at migration time, and even then, as a sometime event.
This spring, however, was very different. The sightings at migration time began the same as other years. A sizeable flock of robins appeared on the lawn and hopped about searching for food. We have three bird baths grouped together under the branches of a Senegal date palm (phoenix reclinata). Robins drank and bathed in happy communal groups and then exchanged places with those foraging on the lawn.
I saw that the water level in the baths was almost nil for the intensive use they received, but I was reluctant to refill them for fear of scaring the birds away. I was starved for the sight and sound of robins and I knew that, as in other years, once this flock was gone there might be no more until fall migration.
Then commerce intervened. A landscaping company, contracted to care for my neighbor’s yard, appeared with their roaring mowers and noisy blowers and whining trimmers. The songbirds fled.
I went outside to scrub and clean and refill the three baths. I told myself that another flock might come along in a day or so.
The landscapers finished and withdrew. An hour passed. Then - the robins were back! They were everywhere and the baths were crowded again! They seemed happier and more excited by their good fortune than they had seemed in the earlier visit but I may have been projecting my own feelings onto them.
I enjoyed their company until twilight when they began to drift away. Just before dark, I cleaned and refilled the baths for the resident birds to use in the day to come. Looking northward for a few moments, I visualized the robins in flight in the night sky, thanked them for their company, and said farewell.
The next day began with another flock of robins.  Or perhaps it was the same flock.   I say that because we had robins for a total of nine consecutive days!  This has never happened before and I believe it was the weather and that mysterious signal system which tells birds when it's time to migrate to nesting grounds.  It seems improbable that nine different flocks would stop in the same back yard for nine days in a row.
For the nine days the robins were here, south Florida had unusually cold weather with frost in the interior region.  Simultaneously, in the north, there were numerous snow storms including the record-setting snowfall earlier this month.
In any case, I was kept busy cleaning and refilling the bird baths.  I discovered that my doing so did not frighten the birds at all.  They simply pulled back and waited for me to leave.
All over now.  Great enjoyment while it lasted.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


"It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things:  freedom of speech,  freedom of conscience,  and the prudence never to practice either of them."
Mark Twain (American writer)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Rambles & Grumbles

"I complain about the American economic 'free market' system and people proceed to tell me how much it has given to me.  They don't grasp that my complaint is about what it has taken away."

I don't enjoy people who get bored easily.  They always seem too quick to experiment, to change things thoughtlessly.  'There's nothing to do', they cry, 'every thing is the same, always the same'.   Before I can stop them, my world is changed; the things I loved to do are gone or altered forever.  Damn their tiny minds, their black imaginarys.

The world is full of experts who are prideful of their perceptive judgements of others.  For example, the meek man is often ridiculed as someone who lacked what it took to succeed, intimating that he had failed in life.
In fact, the meek man was quite aware of who he was, and, more important, who he wasn't.  He had the wisdom to know that all men are not the same, that some are meant to lead and some to follow, and the winners are those who are loyal to their destiny.  The losers are those who pretend to be other than what they are.

A young woman, a girl really, has just finished a stint at a studio microphone sing-talking a song without any melodic line.  She is asked to comment on her singing.  "I know it's not Broadway," she says, "but maybe that's a good thing.  Maybe we should start being open to new sounds."
Here is someone who is an apologist for her self and her time.  She welcomes a future without standards.  I believe this is called feeling good about yourself.

I am still trying to understand why so much of our life is spent on ideas and passions and goals that have no lasting useful relevance to our personal life.

Remember when you could eat without worry or fear or guilt?
When walking was a pleasure, not a duty?
When health insurance was something that people not only didn't have, but didn't talk about.
When blues music was an authentic cry of pain and not a forum for whining?
When one could choose to be poor, and afford it?
If you don't remember, you missed something good.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


"Back in 1964, I had a mortgage payment of $51, and I made $200 a week.  Four mortgage payments there.  What I make today will not hold four mortgage payments."

Finley, the barber

Voice from the New Bourgeoisie

West Palm Beach artist Ralph Wolfe Cowan:
"My aim is to reflect contemporary man's ultimate desire for self-expression and living on the edge.  The latest in technology is how today's individuals define themselves and separate themselves from one another.  Even the lack of clothing is a statement of stepping out of established moral and social boundaries."
His subjects sport exotic tattoos, designer clothing and the latest de rigueur accessories.  His pictures also include meteors being pulled to earth by helium balloons, and there are mysterious symbols etched in sand and rocks.  He explained:  "They represent how society is re-examining its belief and understanding of the world, turning it inside out to see new possibilities."

From an article in Palm Beach Post, by Gary Schwan

Where are the philistines when you need them?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The avant garde

The term avant-garde is not used much these days.  At least I don't find it in the reading I do.  Thinking about that,  I wondered if one should say the term is dead, or perhaps the avant-garde has won.  It does seem that all art more than a year old is passe and valueless in the aesthetic sense.  Much art may continue to sell and draw huge auction prices but very little of it seems to be spoken of as innovative or challenging.
What risks are there for the artist today?  There are no barriers to self-expression, no statement too outrageous, no subject so vapid, no color so misused, no space so filled with dross, that art cannot find a way to transform it into its green web of commerce. 
Today, in museums and galleries, we are confronted with art works that look like materials left on the floor for the sweeper.  But this distribution of materials is intentional.  The jumble of wire, the splintered axe handle, the fine layer of sawdust, the irregular stack of newspapers are meant to speak to us by the unusual, even outrageous presence of their incongruity.  There is meaning here if we will give ourselves the unbiased chance to discover it.
Once the avant-garde artist flouted the norms of our culture and provoked us to feel and to think about how we see the world and how we spend out lives.  It remained moderately successful on the margins and was useful as a catalyst to the mainstream world of art.
Now the outrageous is the norm.  The avant-garde is the New Bourgeoisie. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Technology and Natural Selection

Many years ago I was taken with the possibility that the telephone, by giving us an alternative to face-to-face conversation, would alter the ways that our minds perceive and confront reality.  On the few occasions I spoke of this idea to friends, I was the subject of laughter.  What a crazy idea was the most common reaction. 
One person did  note that many people had stopped writing letters or postcards because it was so easy to call  and talk directly.  Exactly, I replied.  Isn't it possible that prolonged habits of this kind will weaken the written form of our language?  Might it not weaken our mental capacity to form coherent and logical statements if we do away with the process of writing our questions, answers or ideas?
After all, when we speak on the phone we rush our speech to  permit the other party to respond.  When we write, we use a much slower, reflective process whereby we choose our words, re-read what is written, edit what we wrote, and may even sleep on it to be sure we got it right.
No, everyone felt, human nature can't change without genetic change.  Using the telephone won't do that.
Well, hold on there!
Rob Boyd, a professor in the Department of Anthropology at UCLA has co-authored a book with Peter J. Richerson titled "Not By Our Genes Alone: how culture transformed human evolution".  They have researched this idea for a number of years and present examples of genetic changes due to habits of living derived from a people's system of beliefs.
The first chapter of their book reviews the prevalence of violence in the South of the U.S. when compared to the rest of the nation and the possible causes for it.  It is an interesting read.
If there is merit to this branch of anthropology, (and I believe there is), what of the ubiquitous cell phone, the computer, the television?  All these inventions have changed the way we live;  no one doubts that.  They may also be changing what kind of human beings appear in the distant future.
An exciting time to be alive.  Oh, to be young again, and devote one's life to study this!
And this is a separate issue from the physical effects of chemicals in our food and water and that now live in our bodies.  We have become permanent receptors for chemicals.  When babies are born today, some of these foreign chemicals are already in their bodies, passed on to them from the parents.
There is wisdom which lives outside the temporal realms of knowledge or action or reality.  One of those immutable rules is that principles are weaker than purposes, especially those purposes that are born with the fetus.