Saturday, September 7, 2013

Sound and Experience

When I close my eyes - here in this wood, near that stream, under this light canopy suspended by delicate aluminum poles - here in the dark, jacket and the socks I wore for pillow, when I close my eyes the world disappears. The wood and stream and tent and pillow: out. But not, like a candle, instant. I close my eyes and they dissolve slowly with my day and my tomorrow. They melt out of my mind as my aches melt from my body, and are replaced by

In the rafters of this place there is a tripping - a wash - a cacophonous rainbow of noise. An army of privateer mice simultaneously and incessantly sound the march on bells made of hollowed acorns. To my right, over the broad river, the frogs - the mice men’s warring cousins - thump a tinny response on lilly-pads with silver spoons.

Much closer, inches from my face, the suspended fabric resonates without rhythm. The vibrations are more than heard. The thump-thump, thumpthump,thump can be felt along the length of my naked body. A cool, cold noise welcome in the humid pre-summer night.

These, I thought, were all I could hear: the small army at war and the cold low beat, but I turned on my side and concentrating-intently I discovered one more Sound.

Quietly all around and under me, beneath the carpet out the door, beneath the floor inside, echoes a rustley shifting. An old man shuffles to church - slowly, patiently, trudging the old path, sliding footsteps through the leaves.

This is the rain, and these are a few of the oldest and best sounds in the world. A thousand years before a thousand years ago someone lay under a canopy in a wood near a stream and heard just the same things I hear tonight: The same tiny war, the same deep cold beat, the same old man shuffling through the leaves.

Like a child's first cry, this rain is the oldest and newest sound on earth. Its ancient ritual is verdant, fresh with new life. It is bitter with wild shock, and refreshing, calming, homely. It's worst gales are yet welcome.

Life is full of these tiny experiences: moments to, not merely cherish, but ardently pursue. This night, this rain, this experience is not an accident. It is a quest. These sounds are an elusive beast I've hunted and captured and will hold on to for the rest of my life. This memory is mine now. I will guard it jealously.

So I lay under my tent in the dark wood near a broad stream and listened. I waited intently for the warriors to begin the charge they were sounding, for the clash of mousy rapier on the toad's heavy staves. I resisted the cold beating at the edge of all my senses, and expected the ring of church bells, the end of the old man's ritual. But nothing changed until I slept.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Separate but Equal

Source: Warren K. Leffler, U. S. News and World Report, Donated to the Library of Congress
Today, June 11, is the anniversary of this event: Stand In the Schoolhouse Door, in which a U.S. state governor attempted to physically block the entrance of a public university to prevent the admittance of two black students. It is a deep shame that this could ever have occurred in the United States, deeper that it happened just 50 years ago, and deeper still that, following this sorry demonstration, this man would again be elected to the governorship three more times.

It is important also to remember that the argument made for segregation - separate but equal treatment - fifty years ago is still being made today. About marriage. It is just as true for gay rights today as it was for civil rights then: separate is not equal. The only real purpose for segregation or civil unions is to provide a legal method for one group of people to treat another unjustly.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Mount Washington

Photo credits for the background uploaded at 14:35 EST belong to Gregg M. Erickson.
Photo source: Mount Washington Panorama
Wikipedia User Page: Farwestern

The top image is a scaled and cropped, but otherwise original, version of Mr. Erickson's photograph. The second is the image after I modified it using the increasingly useful, open-source software, GIMP.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Non-Partisan Thoughts on Gun Control and Fear

[This short article does not draw any final conclusions on this subject. It is intended to be a place to start: ideas and questions to begin upon in your own contemplation. On this site you will never be told what to think; neither will you intentionally be handed ammunition to use to tell others what to think. Rather, you should be encouraged to think.]

Text of the Second Amendment:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. 

The second constitutional amendment, the right to keep and bear arms, was authored out of fear - an honest and well-justified fear of government - but fear nonetheless. The purpose of an active militia is to protect the people from a ruined State; to maintain, not merely the philosophical grounds for, but the constant pragmatic threat of revolution. The founders did not consider themselves, or their fresh (and often conflicting) ideas on government, to be perfect and readily admitted the possibility that their new nation could go very wrong.

Fear was the motive, and until that is grasped all other questions, arguments, and ideologies are secondary, because fear motivates all people in this discussion and makes them into equals. The 2nd amendment was authored out of fear of Bad Government, and gun control legislation is authored out of fear of Bad People. The First Question is: In today's world, which is the more immediate fear?

It is only after that question is answered that we can gain a real grasp of this issue. Its answer places the question of control in a different, and possibly brighter, light, and gives rise to a new set of questions which are not often even asked in the present debate.

For example, if we assume that our answer is Fear of Bad People then we're forced into a few other questions. For the moment forget about whether more or less gun control is good for protecting us against bad people and answer this: Is the language of the 2nd Amendment useful for this new purpose? It frames the debate in terms of the other, Fear of Bad Government, and says nothing about the right of a person to self-defense. No matter what our queries support in terms of the effect more or less gun control has on the increase or decrease of violent crime rates, the 2nd Amendment appears to need revision if our acting motive is fear of Bad People.

If we assume the other way, that our primary fear is of Bad Government, then it hardly matters what the effect of gun control is upon violent crime. If we have to pay for our protection against Bad Government with increased violence in the streets or slums, then so be it. If not, great, but if that's the price then we'll pay it.

In other words, the discussion of whether or not gun control laws make us safer is meaningless unless we answer the question: Safer from what? And, if we answer, safer from Bad People, then the 2nd amendment becomes, in a real way, obsolete.