For a moment I considered trying to slide this image (the cover of one of my ‘Bergland’ novels) down to show the letter ‘A’ above the word ‘Distant’–itself cropped to half-height–as the title actually exists on the cover of the novel. In truth, this bit of ‘media’ is not what I had in mind for this mini-essay. I wanted to have the photo of the serpent stick, because the ‘idea’ of my current novel, titled The Serpent Stick, is that immortality is our treasure only through DNA, not through a ‘soul’ existing forever in ‘Heaven’, as the Christians have it, and especially not, as some  Christianss have it, that body and  soul are to be there, joined as in life here on Earth, to be met by later ones as desired.

IMG_0033But I leave it here since I think it may be as good an example of my title for this essay as the one I had in mind, 0r I may add the one I had in mind as well! My blog, after all, governed only by me!

So: first the generality, found in The New Yorker magazine, a pub which I both dislike for its snobbish Liberal slant on things political, but also enjoy for its tendency to pursue ideas at length, such as the one I read maybe as far back as in my twenties dealing with the common hen’s egg in such a wealth of detail and at such length I was fascinated then and remain so. Do you know that that sort of ropy white part of a soft-boiled egg, visible when the egg is eaten from the shell, is what turns the egg innards while under the hen during the warmth of hatching if the hen doesn’t turn the whole egg over with her claws–which, if you grew up on a farm, you may have seen, and wondered what the brooding would-be mother of chicks was up to, all that rumpling around with the dozen or so fragile eggs under her. With our propensity to understand things in terms of our human cells, linking effect with cause, we may wonder at the intelligence of a simple hen, whom we associate with having little or no ‘brain’ as we know it, turning the eggs so that the egg will hatch only if the whole egg, not just the top half next to the hen’s warmth, will stay evenly warm.

How I tend to wander off the subject!

OK, back the promised ‘generality’: ‘The really curious thing about minds and brains is that the  truth about them lies not somewhere in the middle but simultaneously on both extremes.’-p.88 of the 9/9/2013 issue.

The argument or theme of the  NYr essay is that our states of mind can depend on realities such as a physical anomaly, such as a bit of contact between a part of one’s brain and the inside of one’s skull. That is, neurology may wind up as the same as philosophy, (the essay providing its own example) and cites Montaigne: “We are always double in ourselves.”

The example I had intended to use to illustrate the generality was that the single-helix serpent stick is a physical reality but when the brain identifies it as a symbol for RNA, the incipient stage of DNA, the act of creating a new cell with each individual’s identity, the mind’s thought of it as a symbol of immortality illustrates brain and mind, two extremes, one real, the other imaginary as truth about them.

But the title page of A Distant Altar does the same for the story under the cover relates a large copper boulder once located in the West Branch of the Ontonagon River in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to the Ojibwe Manitou which, when thought of as the tribe’s Spirit taking care of the tribe’s welfare, can do so whether in the stream or in  the Smithsonian museum in Washington, D.C. See, it doesn’t matter how far apart brain and mind are, or how far apart the symbol and the idea are–truly, the two extremes are still the truth about them.

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oIMG_0037I’d like to remind you, and especially Araneus 1 (did I get that right?) who might happen upon my site, that my voracious and even ‘bodacious’ appetite for reading everything I could get my often grubby hands on from some time before Etha Haskins put some books on that long low table between our Fourth Grade seat/desks that we were allowed to read once our assigned work, such as finding out from the big dictionary how to pronounce ‘cooperate’, was done that I just expanded that appetite in further years.

My dissertation was on Nature in The Faerie Queene, by Edmund Spenser, who knew it would be understood by all readers who knew the word ‘allegory’ as Queen Elizabeth I. And I cast my eye ever wider, Chaucer’s works sending me into great bowls of religious literature (and more, about that literature, distinguished from Holy Text by the word ‘commentary’).

So when I gather my powers, go ‘couchant’ (think of a cat ready pounce on that mouse) to state a simple fact  that my fifth novel, after my first memoir, A Syttende Mai Son (sneaking in a bit of Norsk!), is based upon a very real walking stick I shaped (cutting down the shogetsu cherry tree in Japan, peeling its bark, capping and footing it) but leaving untouched in every way except with linseed oil still have yet, in my car trunk, that single helix marvel of natural growth, you know I’m going to spring higher, do more than describe it, tell where I walk with it, and such like.

As are all my books, TSS is listed in Amazon. B&N, and so on. More fact: Underneath the title page  quote from T. Jefferson is a photo of the stick. And here are two more facts: The Ophite sect of early, early Christianity believed that the Eden serpent was, not the devil, but a forerunner of Salvation.  The Viking longboats not only sported a form of serpent high prow but their stave churches flaunted the same form.

So that’s for the blog title. Take a ride, you don’t have to accept any of Ishmael’s belief–the Jefferson quote isn ‘t for decoration. ’cause, like Ish keeps insisting in TSS, I ain’t no kind of evangelist, nohow, nosirree bob!

And I’ll be at the Decatur Book Fair, Atlanta, over Labor Day weekend–ayuh, with TSS! (and more).

PS Remember, early in this site I told you I was in the Viking longboat!

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A silly question, on its face, I know! Here’s what brings it up: I was near the end of a NYT-zine puzzle about Rome being called ‘the eternal city’ and the writer being quoted said her parents had two different reactions to that title for Rome on their visit. (The puzzle was an ‘Acrostic,  in which one moves letters from clue words up to certain numbers in a blank above). Her mother’s was that one must build well to last for eternity, the father’s was that you lay a few bricks and have eternity to finish in.

Being the person I am, and even further estranged by education and first and third ‘careers’ stressing words, their meanings now and before, I went to my huge unabridged (old though it is, dated in –get this!–the previous century) for what follows:

‘infinite time; duration w/o beginning or end’

Rome’s government as an Empire was established in 27 BC. so it fits the ‘w/o end’ part (though now  a city only) but not the ‘w/o beginning’ part. So to be exact, or ‘persnickety’ if you prefer, Rome, which ‘wasn’t built in a day’ as most of us have heard before,  both reactions, by mother and father, are doomed to be mistaken.

I grant that a load of wisdom, or at least a morally valuable reaction such as the mother’s  is more easily acceptable, or ‘true’ than the father’s. Hers teaches us a ‘lesson’ like those we began hearing in, say, the first grade, while his is doomed from the start, since if eternity is w/o end Rome will never be finished! It does portray the father, or maybe the husband, as he appears in some of the cartoons–one who hasn’t mowed the yard, or taken out the garbage.

Speaking of puzzles, what is the answer to the title above. Best I can do is it’s a period of time–no, that’s not true–it’s something with no beginning and no end.

Like space itself. Inside of which our Earth in its kind of atmosphere sus taining life floats, rotating as it revolves.

All of which is to prepare you for my claim: Rome isn’t ‘the eternal city’ excepting the pope—the implied meaning of calling Rome the eternal city is its location for the original Christian Church for, as the New Testament states, the only eternal city is named ‘Heaven’, not ‘Rome’.

Am I going too far with this: Rome is called the Eternal City because it puts believers in mind of Heaven? So it gets its name from the very fact that it is not the eternal city?

And what, then, about these words: ‘In the Beginning . . . . ‘?

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Just the other day I pondered what word I could put on a kind of banner to hang so insouciantly over the far corner of an enlarged cover photo of, say, The Serpent Stick at the Decatur Book Fair over the Labor Day Weekend. Yes, I’ll  be sitting there with some copies at a signing in my booth. What word should give those passing my one of the hundreds of booths, each with a cover under the sun or rain in Decatur Square, amidst all the gigantism of Atlanta, GA a reason to stop, and, rather than asking that tiresome question, “What’s it about?”, pick up a copy, read the first line, and be rooted there by

‘Knowledge of Good and Evil will kill you.’

What word would do–and be true to the novel’s content?

In truth I regretfully left my first choice on the Thesaurus page. What a spell-casting ring has ‘metempsychosis’! But not simple enough, and of course far too many letters for a banner. What happens in the book for Ishmael is that in his research into his ancestry  far back past the grandfather, the ‘bestefar’ he never knew, dead  under the sea off the Lofoten Islands before Ishmael was born, he finds enough knowledge to free him from the ineptness of Lutheran Christianity to find a Belief concomitant with the current Christian Era (2,000 AD in the old terms) giving him a new life. So—REVIVAL.

Not only short, not only simple, not only with a ‘hook’ for the passerby, but no matter which of my previous books I’m signing for a purchaser/friend, it matches the content of all five earlier works.

In my first, a memoir my years 6-16 on the Thompson farm north of Bergland, MI (UP)IMG_0028it recounts my escape from farm chores and stepfather Ole for a new life until 18 in my Father’s cottage on Lake Gogebic. And  so it is in the others. Now, the word firm, of what material the letters and the banner itself?

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This revised on 25 June, below

Thoughts  about same-sex marriage, certainly a current phenomenon flowering in our culture, stir my earliest memories from ashes I thought long cold.

A preschooler during the Great Depression in the then-declining fortunes of Bergland, MI (UP), I sat on the back steps of our house in the field north of town  to watch and wonder at a pack of some dozen nondescript dogs snapping at each other while swarming across the open field between our company house and the High School behind another dog, patently ignoring its followers, of whom mother, sitting beside me, said, “She’s in heat.”; another day, same steps,the cows of our town in that same field grazing calmly except for one who kept mounting her munching mates from behind for a few seconds each, the under beast hastening clear, of which my mother said, “She wants a bull”; and finally, the two of us again on  the back steps , the swaggering nephew of the town’s founder and mill-owner crossing in front of the row of homes just left of the High School to enter the home of a woman with children though a  husband was never evident  nor even named.

Of which no comment by my mother but a bit of a smile and a flashing in her eyes–the nephew was of enviable height, strength and ruggedly handsome, then in his early forties.

For the preschooler,not  yet knowledgeable, comments and response seemingly acceptable, but to a preschooler, , the occasion of vague wondering none the less.

Now, an octogenarian, long ago grasping the whole of the comments and response, and aware of same-sex marriage and the demands for standing equal to that accorded he-she marriages, observant as was the preschooler, wondering a bit, but, now certainly adult, to learn what there is to learn about attraction for one’s own gender, I went to a site called Front Line on my HP PC to read and ponder an essay in a medical journal  The Lancet by its editor, Robert Horton, titled ‘Is Homosexuality Inherited?’.

You will note that in the title there seems to be no judgment either stated or implied.

Not so in the wide spectrum of our culture this writer and likely many readers have observed. In my years of playing varsity basketball and football, the twenty-five years of active duty with my well-testosteroned Semper Fi fellows, those who shunned female companionship were  called various names loaded more or less with scorn: Fairy, fag, are among the less crude. I recall one event of a beer-bust out by Lake Moraine when one Marine told his long-time constant companion as they rejoined our hoisting group:”Stay away from me, Tom,”–Tom to common knowledge being quiet, a bit pudgier than the rest of us, and soft- spoken, quite free of male swagger, male boastfulness.

No further explication needed, I hope.

More serious, with explosive possibilities: While sea-going, the carrier jet propulsion officer, his primary responsibility the maintenance and functioning of the steam catapult to bring planes launched from zero to flight speed at leaving the ship’s bow over water, his additional duty that of ship’s legal officer, notified me that I was his replacement in that office, and, further, that the Gun Boss was under investigation for homosexual acts with his office yeoman, and my first job was to complete the investigation and bring charges as demanded by the UCMJ.

The military position on the practice of same-gender sex was, upon conviction: loss of rank, imprisonment, dishonorable discharge, because one could be bludgeoned into disclosure of military secrets by those desiring to acquire military secrets by threatening disclosure of the homosexual activity. While that experience does not qualify me to comment on lesbian acts, the evidence in writing against the Gun Boss (a Lieutenant Commander)yielded evidence of repugnant details in the most disgusting sense imaginable. For those craving relief at this, I commend to you a poem by A.E. Housman, published in More Poems, beginning

Because I liked you better

Than suits a man to say,

which demonstrates honor found in a man amidst what was then despised.

To return to ‘Is Homosexuality Inherited’: While I postulated earlier that in that title lay no hint of an ‘attitude’, it does express an attitude once common among apologists for alcoholism: That it was a disease or a genetic ‘fault’, not a willful choice warranting verbal or physical or any other kind of abuse.

“The notion of the homosexual as a deeply disturbed deviant in need of treatment was the orthodoxy until only recently,” Horton writes early on. Then in sequence he examines the findings of others who cite the incidence of homosexual activity in fruit flies, activated by a gene called ‘w’ for ‘white” or the lack of serotonin in the brain, or ‘…the interstitial nucleus of the anterior hypothalamus (INAH)3; or in women “…with congenital adrenal hyperplasia”; or as the title suggests, homosexuality if inherited is “…passed from generation to generation through women.”

Horton concludes that all of these studies lack standing because the sample was too small, the conclusions are not supported by other investigations, and so forth. It does seem that at least one of the reasons for each and every such study is to find a reason for homosexuality and its practice other than a willful choice deserving condemnation by a civilized society for a variety of reasons such as religious beliefs condemning the practice, a destruction of civilization’s apparent core: marriage of he-she, family life, and children to maintain that culture after parents are dead and buried.

After citing “The cultural historian Jonathan Katz has recently attacked the naive partitioning of sexual orientation by tracing the dominance of the norm–heterosexuality–throughout history …as an invented tradition.”, Horton states his own conclusion: “…the heterosexual/homosexual  binary is not in nature, but is socially constructed, therefore deconstructable. . . . what does it mean to be gay or straight?–offers the possibility of eliminating what can be the most oppressive of cultural forces, the prejudiced social norm.”

So that was the aim: To rid society of “. . . the prejudiced social norm.”

We can all agree that throughout history those who felt oppressed often if not always banded together and moved to somewhere else, a place more or less hospitable to human life and even happiness. The Boers did that, the Pilgrims did that, those who it is hypothesized crossed over to America on the Bering Strait ridge did that. Israel  exists because enough Jews  did that. One of the most widespread of religions posits a River Jordan over which its believers can reach their promised land. One of the latest theories about the expansion of early homo sapiens was that from Africa some went north long enough to assimilate traits common to the Neanderthals, then returned to Africa so that their descendants exhibit, in the skeletons found there, traits found also among the Neanderthal bones.

Ah, you may respond, now  there are nowhere any places habitable for deviants, whether it become the ‘heterosexual’ who are the deviants, or the ‘homosexuals’, whatever are the differences between the two, or if all differences are seen as merely minor or ‘here and gone’. All of us are the same (how difficult it is to write that!) basically in the modern attitude toward sexuality, it seems, with only unimportant minor variations. In musical terms, we are all in the same scale, just in varying keys, by some technological sleight of hand able to harmonize suitably.

So I yield on the ‘move’ solution. My attempt at rationality in the issue of same-sex marriage forces me to consider its stature, though Horton claimed its root–homosexuality–the MOST oppressive of cultural forces. Without getting into ranking it with or against other oppressive cultural forces, there are some that deserve consideration as well. One of them now in midsummer America, specifically the United States (though the adjective grows less and less suitable nowadays!) is immigration. Aside from the distaste of some weight simply because ‘Messicans’ seem of lower caste, especially to the southern states folks, it is the sheer numbers apparently without citizenship (read non-taxpaying) who take the ‘stoop labor’ jobs while legal citizens swell the jobless numbers which in  turn swell the benefits which swell the already monstrous national debt, thus driving the Democrat/Liberal/Progressive demand for more taxes. That drive contributes to the growing dimness of ‘United’ and the stretching of the Constitution.

Which oppression is linked to the dollar’s inflation, an attempt by the Federal Reserve to print  more ‘fiat’ money with all of our gold in Fort Knox well above the number of new dollars to replace worn-out (in the material sense) dollars. It has been claimed that the USD is now one thousand percent inflated since 1900. A common subject for who, say, are in the waiting room  until the dermatologists can decide if the temple rash is a squamous one or not, to recite such catechisms as “When I bought my first car, I did it while making thirty-five cents an hour in the lumber yard. I’d pull up the pump at Piper’s Gas Station & Garage at the junction of M28 and M64, Bill would come out, work the back-and-forth lever until the upper glass cylinder was full, and then hold the spigot in the gas tank opening for five gallons–a dollar’s worth of gas.” In a different context, JFK, as president, stated, “A rising tide floats all ships” and all of us here in the States (I omit the adjective) are in need of Mae Wests!

Some other cultural oppressions exist in fiats meant to be kindly. Or are at onset so dressed to appear so before a complaisant citizenry. There is,  though, what might be called ‘collateral damage’ or ‘unintended consequences’ in these days of robots flying overhead.

First historically was the graduated income tax, which does what its name implies except to the some forty-plus percent of our citizens who don’t pay any. Instead, their income is a monthly ‘unearned income rebate’ from the Federal vote-buyers to supplement what a special credit card lately changing its name to an EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer!!) provides. Second was a program called Social Security designed to cushion the days and nights of those who became too old to work. . The law as stated directed the Treasury Secretary to take the moieties deducted from workers’ pay each month, and, when some left over existed after paying those eligible (estimated to top off at eighty dollars a month) it was to be invested at not less than three percent to grow the fund, as that money was called.

Which never happened. It is  said that in Fort Knox, where all national gold is, after yielded up by FDR’s order, kept now are little slips of paper with ‘IOU’ inscribed thereupon.

What I am building up to is a cultural oppression making same-sex marriage as faded and ghostly as that word before ‘States’.

After Social Security came Medicare, designed to lighten the burden of rising medical expenses (one of the hurricanes raising the figurative tide cited above from JFK) which will double its cost in  the latest Obama Care health fiat. Ironically, taking care of its citizens’ health keeps them alive longer, thus swelling the sums needed for Social Security; both programs  are threatened with engulfment because the Federal chains of business regulation, and futile spending on ‘green’ energy, drives businesses overseas and chokes the revenue flow. Add to these wastes of expenditures the fruitless wars to bring freedom to countries, especially those at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, who recede to their former dictatorships, usually of Muslim imams and Caliph Khomeini, within a year or two of our forces departure.

Taxpayers are drowning.

Finally then, for a stance of rationality on the  same-sex marriage issue. Hereby, intending practical rationality, I leave myself open to the charge of cynicism.  I believe all of the issues  of cultural oppression I list can be subsumed under the general heading of OVERPOPULATION. I model my solution on that adopted by Swift in his A Modest Proposal. When published it was a novel stance on the state of Irish poverty at least in families because of too many children, and, as is the saying about the old woman who lived in the shoe, the Irish didn’t know what to do with all of those children

“[10] I do therefore humbly offer it to publick consideration, that of the hundred and twenty thousand Children, already computed, twenty thousand may be reserved for Breed, whereof only one fourth part to be Males, which is more than we allow to Sheepblack Cattle, or Swine, and my reason is, that these Children are seldom the Fruits of Marriage, a Circumstance not much regarded by our Savages, therefore, one Male will be sufficient to serve four Females. That the remaining hundred thousand may at a year Old be offered in Sale to the persons of Quality, 13  and Fortune, through the Kingdom, always advising the Mother to let them Suck plentifully in the last Month, so as to render them Plump, and Fat for a good Table. A Child will make two Dishes at an Entertainment for Friends, and when the Family dines alone, the fore or hind Quarter will make a reasonable Dish, and seasoned with a little Pepper or Salt will be very good Boiled on the fourth Day, especially in Winter.”
In terms of the achievable harmony alluded to earlier here is the theme for this my symphony:
From neither is there addition to the population.And eventually, be the overall pace adagio or allegro, the remainder population will provide for itself, so that redistribution of wealth will cease. For which those in barren jointure may well find the prejudice reversed to accolade as trend-setters.
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Cultural Marxism

Cultural Marxism.

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