Camping trips

I am not a camper, happy or unhappy.

The closest I ever got to camping, besides being sent to camp during summers growing up to give my mother a break where we slept in cabins with rudimentary but working toilets, was the summer a few years back my son and I stayed at the National Park Service’s lodge on the north rim of the Grand Canyon. It is exactly that– perched at the brink of the rim of the canyon, with a lot of small cabins behind it. It is equipped with 2-3 restaurants serving some of the finest food I ever tasted, a saloon, and a gift shop. So maybe it’s not camping, exactly, but there are cabins and they are in the woods.

This Christmas I was invited to go camping with some people out in west Texas, at Big Bend National Park, arguably one of the most beautiful and stark natural places in the country. I know this because I have a cousin who has a hunting lodge there, near Marathon, on the Rio Grande, and I have seen pictures. I know pictures rarely are an adequate representation of a place or a person, but I also drove through it when I moved home to NC from northwest New Mexico. It was getting dark, but I could see shapes, feel the expanse of the place.

But camping? In tents? In the cold? With no bathrooms?? No thanks. Maybe the bears are asleep, maybe the spiders, snakes and scorpions are not so active in the winter either, but I am of an age where I am not ashamed to covet my creature comforts– heat, running water and indoor plumbing, protection from the elements, warm food and easy accessibility to anything else I may need.

Besides, these are not yet truly friends, but acquaintances who I have not known very long and do not know well. I suppose I should be flattered that they thought to include me in something they love to do and have done for years, but do I really want to struggle in a tent to change clothes, find a nice running stream (with no snow melt) where I can splash my face in the icy water and brush my teeth among people I hardly know? Or do you just forego those niceties and risk gum disease, tooth decay and whatever perils await when one wears the same undergarments for days on end. See, this would not have been just for a couple of nights, this was for 10 days. I am not so sure I would still know myself after that length of time with veritable strangers and the vacuum of only the natural world.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d take nature over so-called civilization any day. I think nature’s rhythms are far more reasonable and practical than what people come up with. I mean, take a hurricane. It’s just nature’s way of purging its water systems, clearing out the deadwood and reclaiming itself. But let one big storm like that hit a widely-populated area and you’d think the affront was to people, not to the environment they stole.

But still, nature is bigger and stronger than I am. And it does not know me, not personally. The only thing it takes into account is its own balance. Not sure my equillibrium at this point in my life could mesh with that.

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Tyranny

The free online dictionary gives definition for tyranny as: 

“1. A government in which a single ruler is vested with absolute power.
“2. The office, authority, or jurisdiction of an absolute ruler.
“3. Absolute power, especially when exercised unjustly or cruelly”
 
There is no power in fear. It seems to me that when a ruler exercises power in a tyrannical manner he is afraid of something. Maybe the overwhelming responsibility of that power. Maybe others who might try to take it away. Maybe s/he becomes heady with it and uses it irrationally, simply because s/he can. Maybe s/he becomes afraid of him/herself. Whatever the case, Kim Jong Un did not exercise power fairly when he chose to take the life of an uncle who had helped him achieve the power he has. Or even if the uncle had not been of help or use to him, he still had the right to live.
 
There is no freedom in tyranny. There must be complete control- of actions, of what is said, but how can one have that power? The tyrant cannot rule thought. Sometimes even individuals can’t control their own thoughts. With the control of actions and words ideas, aspirations and hope of change is killed.
 
It often begins in what seems innocent and harmless- someone crying out for defense of a real or imagined hurt against someone or something else. The tiny pea-sized ball begins rolling. It picks up others who join the fray against what- or whomever caused the “pain”… organizations, associations hear the hue and cry and decide it is good publicity or in their best interest to join in the argument. Pretty soon this marble is a boulder, rolling down and crushing even those who live in neutrality, seeking only peace but they got in the way.
 
We can’t speak our minds? How about our hearts? Someone feels crowded out? Is there no one who can hear and sort out these dilemmas with fairness, not just to the offended and the offender but in light of what is true? What is the standard by which we measure to determine who is right and what is not? What is acceptable now  was not acceptable a generation ago, and what does that portend? To determine truth or fairness in light of legal precedent merely purports to advance rules based on man’s previous determinations. 
 
Is that truly fair?
 
(c) The Freedictionary by Farlex. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Left No Forwarding Address

So a week ago I was buying a house. In the next 24 hours the sellers defaulted on the contract; they did not offer anything in writing showing they would provide for or perform repairs the inspection turned up so we terminated.

But when I thought I was going to move, I marveled at the amount of catalogs and junk mail that gets stuffed in the mailbox, especially this time of year. So I told myself, just give forwarding information to magazines, organizations and people I want to have my new address (all my bills are paid online) and don’t leave a forwarding address. None of that stuff will follow you.

Then I began wondering: what kind of life am I living where people will know what kind of address at which I will ultimately find myself? Of course at that point I will be unreachable (despite what Mitch Albom’s new fiction novel purports in receiving communications), but like my parents and a few friends who have already moved into a new dimension I’d like for people to think better of where I wind up.

Nobody can send anything to me (except prayers), I can’t bring stuff, but I doubt I will miss any of what is down here. Which makes me wonder why it is so difficult to let go of some things?

I have a necktie my dad used to wear to the office when I worked with him. It has a knight in armor, lance drawn, on horseback. It’s a pretty garish tie, brown and orange as I remember, not silk even, but that tie is one of my cherished possessions. He would wear that tie on days I felt the smallest, most hopeless and wondered whether or not I could ever accomplish any of the things he was working hard at training me to do. When he wore the tie I knew he had figured out something to fix everything, and he did. Presumably when my time comes I will see my dad again, and my mom, but I still can’t bring myself to give her silver to my brother, who entertains far more than I and might make good use of it, nor can I get rid of that tie.

I have my dad’s shaver, a camera still in its box, and the barrel to my brother’s .22 rifle that Dad taught him how to shoot with. No idea what ever became of the stock.

Oh, I also have some photos and a scrap book with memories of the Nutcracker in New York which Dad took me to see every year from when I was around 8, sugar packets from a trip to Aspen, matchbooks, playbills and cocktail napkins. Somehow these tangible things make me feel closer to my memories of Dad, but more than that I guess both he and my mom still speak to me in my heart, if I make myself very still.

So families and very good friends, no matter where we go, somehow keep our addresses, and we theirs, and we don’t lose touch

Thought, at what price?

I seldom watch news programs and if I do it is generally Fox News. I believe they broadcast with a relevance that is more truth, and that is important to me.

Yesterday there was a very short blurb this group called “Freedom From Religion Foundation”: is promoting this December called Take Christ out of Christmas or something like that. They heartily promote the winter solstice where celebrating nature is expected. I visited their website out of curiosity and was surprised to find they view themselves as free thinkers. Oddly enough this belief is held true only if one agrees with their way of thinking.

At the bottom of their site’s home page are shown some examples of free thinkers, among them Thomas Paine. This man failed at nearly everything he attempted but with the help of Benjamin Franklin was brought to America. He is most famous perhaps for his 2 writings, “Common Sense” and “The Age of Reason”. It is this latter work the FFRF dwells heaviest upon as Paine decried the very Creator that enabled him his freedom to live, in liberty, in the fledgling America. He left, avoiding the Revolution, and was later rescued from imprisonment in Paris by Thomas Jefferson and brought back to America, voluntarily, where he died, friendless.

First of all, there is no Christmas without Christ. He has been the guiding light and force of all that we hold important. To not see this is to have become so hardened and self-absorbed as to misunderstand the entire purpose of His coming to save us.

Celebrate nature, revel in the bountiful goodness of that which the soil produces to feed and nourish. But if you are thankful at all how can it be gratitude to anything other than its Creator?

Thomas Paine: http://www.ushistory.org/paine/

Transitioning

Transitioning.

Somehow this Thanksgiving I found myself encapsulated in some sort of selfdom. Hard to describe and not very comfortable. My son appears to be fully incorporated into his girlfriend’s life and family, my brother and his family each have their own aspects to life and yet I am outside of things. If there are any conflicts, issues or discrepancies I am outside of them. Consequently I am also outside of their joys, celebrations and warmth. How did this happen?

I was raised by a kind of distant yet demanding father. It was not until very late in his life did I feel he actually needed or wanted any love I had for him. It was an odd thing but happy nonetheless.

This is different. As though I have spun off the orbit of their lives. Maybe this is what happens when a child (having grown to adult) chooses the life they prefer to live. It’s good I think to understand this. So much of my life I bounced off walls and doorways trying to find my way until I actually saw myself as I was and could then better adapt and change. Until that happens no one can make any kind of progress. They just stay in their own space, spinning and spinning, wasting time and energy until the light dawns and they are able to see themselves for who they are, what they have been and where they are. How they got there isn’t important, blackouts happen whether you drink or not. The important thing is to get your bearings, find your course and steer for it. It’s good to include others with this voyage but sometimes a lot of it is solo. And it is gradual.

The hardest thing, I think, is to see what God did for us in Jesus Christ. We selfish humans cannot fathom such love as someone wanting us so badly to be free of anything that encumbers our spirit that he would assume the responsibility and pay the penalty.Somehow God can do this for us but we cannot do it for others. Frederick Buechner says this far better than I in his book, Wishful Thinking, then again in Beyond Words:

“What is new about the New Covenant, therefore, is not the idea that God loves the world enough to bleed for it, but the claim that here he is actually putting his money where his mouth is. Like a father saying about his sick child, ‘I’d do anything to make you well,’ God finally calls his own bluff and does it. Jesus Christ is what God does, and the cross where God did it is the central symbol of New Covenant faith. So what? Does the suffering of the father for the sick child make the sick child well? In the last analysis, we each have to answer for ourselves.”

Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC, by Buechner, Frederick. Harper & Row, Publishers, (c) 1973. Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC’s of Faith, by Frederick Buechner. Harper San Francisco, Publishers (c) 2004

Transitioning

Somehow this Thanksgiving I found myself encapsulated in some sort of selfdom. Hard to describe and not very comfortable. My son appears to be fully incorporated into his girlfriend’s life and family, my brother and his family each have their own aspects to life and yet I am outside of things. If there are any conflicts, issues or discrepancies I am outside of them. Consequently I am also outside of their joys, celebrations and warmth. How did this happen?

I was raised by a kind of distant yet demanding father. It was not until very late in his life did I feel he actually needed or wanted any love I had for him. It was an odd thing but happy nonetheless.

This is different. As though I have spun off the orbit of their lives. Maybe this is what happens when a child (having grown to adult) chooses the life they prefer to live. It’s good I think to understand this. So much of my life I bounced off walls and doorways trying to find my way until I actually saw myself as I was and could then better adapt and change. Until that happens no one can make any kind of progress. They just stay in their own space, spinning and spinning, wasting time and energy until the light dawns and they are able to see themselves for who they are, what they have been and where they are. How they got there isn’t important, blackouts happen whether you drink or not. The important thing is to get your bearings, find your course and steer for it. It’s good to include others with you on this voyage but sometimes a lot of it is solo. And it is gradual.

The hardest thing, I think, is to see what God did for us in Jesus Christ. We selfish humans cannot fathom such love as someone wanting us so badly to be free of anything that encumbers our spirit that he would assume the responsibility and pay the penalty.Somehow God can do this for us but we cannot do it for others or ourselves. Frederick Buechner says this far better than I in his book, Wishful Thinking, then again in Beyond Words: 

“What is new about the New Covenant, therefore, is not the idea that God loves the world enough to bleed for it, but the claim that here he is actually putting his money where his mouth is. Like a father saying about his sick child, ‘I’d do anything to make you well,’ God finally calls his own bluff and does it. Jesus Christ is what God does, and the cross where God did it is the central symbol of New Covenant faith. So what? Does the suffering of the father for the sick child make the sick child well? In the last analysis, we each have to answer for ourselves.”

Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC, by Buechner, Frederick. Harper & Row, Publishers, (c) 1973. Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC’s of Faith, by Frederick Buechner. Harper San Francisco, Publishers (c) 2004