Usually our storms depart with strong winds in their wake, but this one was amazingly windless. Here is a picture of the pine boughs bent down over my woodpile this morning:
That picture points out some trimming I need to do, but my wife and granddaughter put me to shame, for rather than grouchy they go out for a walk to appreciate the beautiful way the world is changed. Where I see the wires they see the trees.
Maybe if I write a sonnet my mood will become less sardonic.
The storm was wondrously calm. Not a flake
Was blown off a twig, but instead they clung
Where they fell, and made all a frosted cake
Of white. It was a soft snow which stung
No cheeks; a warm snow which made for wet roads.
There was no skidding; no irksome whining
As tires spun; but still boughs bent under loads
That became a burden. Who is designing
This gentle start to an ordeal? It's like
A soft quilt is tucked up under the chin
Of man not ready to die, who'll strike
The quilt away and shout, with a brave grin,
"Not so fast, Wily Winter! Seducing
Can't hide the storm troopers you're loosing!"
(Oops. Started poetic, but I guess I slipped back to my sardonic side, there at the end.)
The storm was calm because the primary low kicked ahead energy along the “triple point” where it occluded. I call such energies “zippers” because they tend to follow where the cold front catches up to a warm front, “zipping up” part of a storms warm sector into an above-the-ground occlusion. When such “zippers” reach the right conditions they “bomb out”, and swiftly have pressures far lower than the primary low, and in fact the primary low and its occlusion may become a minor, “secondary cold front” in the circulation of a gale, in which case the pines roar and the snow is blown from the boughs. However in the case of the last storm the secondary low was slow to form from the “zipper”, and there was very little pressure difference between the primary and secondary low, so the snow drifted down with little wind. The “zipper” gave us a burst of heavy snow either side of midnight on Friday morning, and then as the remnants of the primary low followed we got another twenty-four hours of light snow, ending after midnight Saturday morning. The first burst gave us roughly five inches, and the lighter snow gave us two more.
In the national map below you can see the weakening primary storm lagging behind over us as the secondary strengthens out to sea. (Also note California is drying out as the big Pacific gales are further north towards Alaska.)
But what interests me is that we got snow and not rain. Some of the computer models were seeing rain, as they don’t handle sneaky cold very well. The models are programed to see the atmosphere in terms of small cubes of air, but sometimes the cold air creeps close to the ground, “under the radar” as it were, and the models don’t see it until it is upon us. That is why I have been noting, for over a week, that the “fisherman’s map” I like to look at seems to always have “heavy freezing spray” to our north.
Now here’s what makes me sardonic. If enough cold air can creep down to give us snow when the anomaly maps show us in a cherry red warm spell, with maps looking like this:
What will happen if the models are correct and the cherry red turns to frigid blue in ten days?
I’ll tell you what will happen. At our Childcare children will make pristine, new-fallen snow looking like this:
Look like this:
And maybe we’ll even be able to complete an igloo before it melts away. That’s our third attempt, starting to rise in the distance in the picture below. (Only the walls; the snow wasn’t sticky enough for a roof, yet.) (This picture does a fairly good job of showing a sort of snow-blindness that occurs when the sun is hidden but the sky is bright, and light snow is falling. One’s ability to see contrast between dark and light fades.)
Next storm due Monday, and perhaps another Wednesday night. Feeling sardonic yet?
We just had a foot of powder snow, very different from the last storm, which was wet, heavy snow which froze like concrete. That snow was like shoveling lead, but this was like shoveling feathers.
I was prepared for the storm, but as usual storms tend to stress out various forms of equipment, so that one gets phone-calls and texts of the unwelcome sort, just when one thinks they can settle by a cozy fire.
At first things were proceeding in an orderly manner. Half the customers and an employee were unable to show up at our Childcare, but my son-in-law was snow-blowing the drive for me, and my wife and the rest of my employees were having a wonderful time doing Christmas crafts with the children indoors, as temperatures outside were below fifteen degrees (-9.5 degrees Celsius) and the whirling flakes outdoors were not appealing to them. But they were appealing to me, so I headed out to shovel out my home parking area, which was much easier than usual, with the snow as light as feathers.
I noticed something I often note in December, namely: What a good job everyone does with their clean-up operations, early in the winter. Later, when the snowbanks get higher, and it takes more effort to get the fresh snow over the older snowbanks, things look increasingly sloppy, and by the end of winter the mess can be great, as everyone is haggard and beaten-down and basically concludes, “Why bother; it’ll melt in a week.” But now everyone is fresh and strong, and also knows, “This stuff could last four months,” so the snowbanks are cleanly cut with precise edges, and walkways are wonderfully tidy.
A second thing I noticed was that the snow, which had seemed to be slacking off after an overnight accumulation of around five inches, seemed to be picking up again. So I went in to study weather maps.
Usually this is a delight of mine. I derive great wonderment from maps, especially animated maps, which demonstrate how amazing chaos can be, and how we all look like fools when we try to predict it. I like to just sit by my computer and concentrate, but, as I have described in earlier posts, since my mother-in-law invaded the sanctity of my abode, concentration can be difficult.
On this occasion I entered my house to be confronted by an elderly woman on her hands and knees, her posterior sticking up, as she used a blindingly bright flashlight to penetrate the gloom of the bottom shelf of our refrigerator, where she rummaged about. I hesitated to say anything, as she is easy to offend, but after a time watching her rummage and listening to her grumble, I asked her what she was looking for. She stated it was a opened can of dog food, for her little cross-between-a-poodle-and-a-rat. I got down on my knees beside her, glanced through the churned objects on the lower shelf, and informed her there was no dog food. She sighed someone must have moved it, and, arising with much moaning and groaning, stated she’d just have to open a new can. I rose and decided to look in her own small refrigerator, on a counter-top four feet away. “Here it is!” I announced brightly, but earned a scowl. Besides very poor eyesight, the old woman has a bad memory, and I think she had simply forgotten we got her a refrigerator all her own (to avoid the churning of objects in ours), but, because it is embarrassing to admit you forgot, she insisted I show her exactly where in her refrigerator it was, insisting she had looked there, as if the situation was somehow my fault.
You may be wondering what this has to do with powder snow. So was I.
Eventually I managed a brief time looking at maps, and noted that the radar showed the patches of snow, which had seemed to be “drying up” were now “filling in”. It was all happening in a manner which was deeply fascinating, and which I yearned to study more deeply, but the yapping of a rat-dog and the growl of my far larger beast suggested concentration would likely be fleeting, if not impossible.
Dopplar radar has been wonderful, but not because it worked the way it was expected it would work. The cost was enormous, and to pay for the radar many observers the weather bureau had formerly funded were basically fired. The idea was that the radar would observe better than scattered individuals on the ground, but what the radars were expected to observe proved to basically be a misconception.
The misconception was that precipitation was a bunch of individual entities, which could be tracked like so many mini-hurricanes. Actual experience showed showers popped up and vanished with little regard to their own “entity”. Something else was in control. To look at patches of precipitation alone was like looking at a flapping flag without considering the wind.
In some ways Dopplar Radar cost us a thousand observers and hundreds of thousands of observations, to show us we know diddlysquat. However it is a very interesting diddlysquat.
Our powder storm was interesting because warm air to the south was attempting to ram north, but running into a rock-solid high pressure holding very cold air. On the surface the warm front could not progress north, but the warm air streamed north above the surface (which tends to be the definition of a warm front). Though the front made no progress, copious amounts of moisture did progress, showing as waves of snow rippling and pulsating north on the radar, even as the storm itself could make no progress north.
The storm was what I call a “zipper”, because the cold air behind the storm caught up to the warm front and occluded it, lifting the warm air off the ground, and in a sense cutting off the warm air from any further reinforcement from the south. The cold front continued to press east, turning more and more of the warm front into an occlusion, and an interesting band of especially heavy rain followed the progress of this “zipper”.
Sometimes the zipper becomes a new center of low pressure out to sea to the east, and this new storm causes the occluded front to turn around and become a sort of secondary cold front behind the new low. But this did not happen with this powder storm.
Instead, the uplifted air in the occluded front continued to stream north, behind the point-of-occlusion as it zipped out to sea. No new storm formed to the east, and it seemed every last drop of the warm air in the occlusion would continue to stream north. This continued streaming-from-the-south appeared unusual (to my memory) in storms that “go out to sea.” Usually behind a storm the wind veers to the northwest and precipitation tapers off.
Also the radar showed a fascinating detail. As all the precipitation headed south-to-north it ran up against precipitation associated with the stubborn high-pressure, which was heading east-to-west. At the point of collision everything came to a screeching halt, and there was a band of especially heavy precipitation which did not move south-to-north or east-to-west, but just stood still, and gave some locals amazing snow totals up near thirty inches. (76 centimeters). Largely this area (I think Joseph D’Aleo calls it a “disruption zone”) stayed north of us, but when even a slight bulge came south it was like someone shook the snow-globe, and the world outside my window was a whirl of white. The powder storm was far from over.
And it was right at this point, when it would have been most fascinating to concentrate on maps, certain distractions occurred.
First, I had to attempt to tell my mother-in-law that she might get her rat-dog killed if she continued to be generous with treats, both with her dog and my dog. I disapproved of rewarding dogs when they have done nothing to deserve it, but she seemed to be training my old cur to pester her constantly, and to growlingly regard her little pooch with deep and dark suspicion. My dog kills large rats in seconds, by seizing them and giving a swift shake. Dogs can be fierce, when competitive about food, and my mother-in-law’s kind generosity towards both dogs at the same time might get her tiny pet given a good shake, by my dog. It all might be over in a flash. But how does one tell a generous old lady such a horrible thing?
At this point my cellphone began buzzing and I became aware there were problems at the Childcare. The heat had quit working. The snow was building up fast, but the my snow-blower, which my son-in-law was using, had stopped blowing snow. I had to head over there, but as I did I noted the alternator light came on in my old car.
I figured out the heating problem pretty quickly. The heat shuts off when the exhaust-pipe gets blocked by a drift of snow. They had shoveled snow away from the exhaust pipe, but not looked at the pipe itself. Such modern pipes warm the air sucked in through a central pipe with the hot air exhausted around it, but the air sucked in was filled with powder snow which was incompletely melted and clogged the pipe. Once I pecked away at the ice, with crimson fingers out in the whirl of powder snow, I cleared the obstruction, and the heat turned back on.
No such proof of my mechanical genius was possible with the snow-blower. Gears in a gear-box had shattered to crumbles of metal. I handed my son-inlaw and old-fashioned devise called a “snow-shovel” and told him I’d be back to join him as soon as I attended to my car; the cold had caused the alternator to quit. My mechanical genius did not extend beyond checking the fan belt, which was fine.
I took longer at the local garage than I wanted; it is a gathering place, and one has to observe a certain etiquette; one doesn’t just barge in and demand service; one must await their turn to talk, and current politics meant a lot of talking was occurring. There was no quick fix for the alternator (spraying it with lubricant and tapping it with a hammer didn’t make it work) so I had to leave my car and get a ride through the whirling snow back to the Childcare. It took time, and by the time I got back the snow was at last slacking off, and the early December darkness had descended, with a hair of a crescent moon peeking through the clouds in a ruddy patch of draining twilight, to the west
I felt a little guilty about abandoning my son-in-law. He had shoveled the entire entrance, parking lot, and exit of the Childcare, and gone home to collapse in a heap. He’d been at it all day. I noticed he hadn’t even started his own driveway.
When I considered the situation it occurred to me I had little desire to go home to yapping dogs and distractions. I might as well grab a shovel and at least start my son-in-law’s drive. It turned out to be a brilliant decision.
I’m an old man who gets winded easily, due to the less-than-brilliant decision I made early in life to spend forty years smoking. If I ran a marathon I’d have to stop every twenty steps with my hands on my knees to catch my breath. However I have learned I can complete a marathon, if I don’t get discouraged and sit down. Maybe I’ll come in last, but sometimes a turtle can beat a rabbit. So I decided to at least start my son-in-law’s driveway, down by the street, where the plows had built a wall.
I’d shovel a bit, and then stand and catch my breath, and then shovel a bit more, and catch my breath, and shovel a bit more. This meant I spent a lot of time just standing, and I rather enjoyed that part. I was dressed warmly and worked enough to stay warm, and it is nice to work without the roaring din of a snow-blower. Off in the distance I could hear snow-blowers shutting off, one by one, as other men completed their clean-up more rapidly, and then the final plow-drivers passed, waving as they headed home, as I stood and shoveled, stood and shoveled, only pausing once to walk off and feed the goats, and being rather surprised on my return by how much I’d done. Oddly, rather than more tired, I became more exhilarated.
Talk gets so tiresome at times that I
Hear all as whining, whether it's a small child
Or old mother-in-law. I crave night sky,
Snow-shoveling alone, making a long, white pile
Beside a farm drive. With my snow-blower
Busted, there's no silence quite like silence
After deep snows. One becomes a knower
Of night noises, yet more solid and dense
Is the lack of noise, as the loud machines
And plows turn off, one by one, and whining
Ceases in the distance. As an old man leans
On his shovel, catching breath, the shining
Stars sing silent songs, and the crescent moon
Chases twilight, humming its silent tune.
The rare conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn briefly peeked out between clouds to the west, as red Mars glowered of war between shreds overhead, but I enjoyed peace. With turtle speed I completed the entire drive, smiling to myself over how surprised my son-in-law would be in the morning. If anything the driveway was too short. I decided to stroll the mile home over a country road as white as it was in 1968, when I first came north to meet my new stepmother on a farm, and she took us for a sleigh-ride behind a clopping horse. Back then there were eight houses on a road that now holds fifty, but I liked all the new strings of cheerful Christmas lights in the deep, muffled darkness. I was giddy, walking in a delicious weariness, hallucinating in the acceptable manner of a person seeing faces in clouds, with the clouds the white burden of snow on evergreen boughs. It was windless, and so silent that the only noise beside the squeaking snow under my feet was the ringing in my old-man ears, but even that became acceptable distortions, sleigh bells in my imagination.
There are worse fates than to be an old poet in deep snow in the country.
The deep snow will keep the fox denned tonight,
Nor will the bobcat leave his round footprints
Around my chicken coop. Nor will they fight,
Leaving their circling tracks as hints
Of their endless canine-feline feuding.
Nor will my chickens poke heads from pillbox
Coop; they'll stay inside, clucking and brooding
Over how mad I am, for I'm an old fox
Who wades through deep powder in starlight
And brings them grain and only takes eggs
And not their lives. They cluck I'm not quite right
In the head; it is a clucking that begs
That I please shut the door, and so they're missing
Seeing the starlight and powder snow kissing.
Weather is unfair. Some get rain and some don’t. There is nothing particularly evil about this unfairness. It is just how the Creator made creation. Sometimes you get a bumper crop, and sometimes you are lucky to get a single turnip. The politicians in Washington can legislate all they want, but they aren’t going to alter the fall of raindrops from the clouds. Prayer might work, but legislation doesn’t.
One interesting thing about droughts is that they tend to perpetuate themselves. The dryness creates hotter temperatures which deflect moisture around the periphery of the core. This is quite obvious when the drought is gigantic, as the Dust Bowl was in 1936, but even in the cases of smaller and more local droughts rain has a strange propensity to snub those who need it most.
A current drought afflicts southern Vermont and New Hampshire, along their borders with Massachusetts, and today it was uncanny how the thunderstorms, moving east to west, avoided the lands that thirsted most. There were flash flood warnings blaring from the weather radio, as we dealt with dust. Here is a radar map of rain from this afternoon.
The impressive storms south of Boston and Albany and over Springfield were moving west to east, as were the string of lesser showers to the north approaching Concord. But most irksome to me was the storm right on the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border, approaching the coast. It was a cluster that had looked hopeful as it entered Vermont in the morning, but “dried up” and vanished from the radar as it crossed over me, and only reappeared and blew up to a big thunderstorm as it neared Portsmouth on the coast. Is that fair?
I know, even as I grouse about the extra work I must do watering my plants, that it is fair. The actions and reactions of nature are not only fair, they are beautiful. They are incredible harmony, and the only reason we complain is because we are not in harmony with the harmony. We have our own specific desires that are blind. For example, I transplanted some wet, cucumber seedlings into dusty soil, and failed to immediately water them, and the next day it was too late; they had withered and watering didn’t revive them. Never in my experience have cucumber seedlings needed to be watered so immediately; this June is “A First”. However I didn’t blame the drought; I blamed my inability to adapt to the “sumptuous variety of New England weather”. The weather itself is fair; what is unfair is our responses to it.
Sunday is suppose to be a Day Of Rest, and therefore I suppose working in my garden makes me a sinner, but I tried to lessen the eventual penalty I must pay by making my work into a sort of worship. Rather than cursing the drought I was praising the Creator for the amazing variety that makes my fingerprints different from all others, and also makes every summer unique. Not that I didn’t hope for rain. I hunched my eyebrows to the west, seeking the cumulus that was building.
Storms can build up from innocent-looking cumulus with surprising speed. In fact the vast expenditure needed to create the Doppler Radar produced images which shocked the indoors meteorologists who lobbied for it, which leads me to a bit of a sidetrack.
Back in those days congress didn’t just print money when they needed it, and they told the indoors meteorologists they needed to cut their budget in some areas before they would fund the expensive Doppler Radar. So what the indoor meteorologists did was to fire hundreds of outdoors weather-observers. They figured it was worth it, for they figured Doppler Radar would allow them to track individual thunderstorms in the manner that individual hurricanes were tracked. But what the Doppler Radar revealed was that there is no such thing as “an individual thunderstorm”. A storm was a “complex” of updrafts and down-bursts, forming “cells” of various types, sometimes fighting each other and sometimes assisting each other. The Doppler Radar revealed that, rather than a swirl like a hurricane that could be tracked, a thunder storm was a pulsating blob that made dividing amoebas look dull: breaking in two or into three, or becoming mega-cells, or vanishing, in a manner which was basically impossible to predict, from indoors. What was needed was outdoors observers, but those good people had been fired to save money. It was sort of funny to watch how the indoors meteorologists tried to save face. They made it sound like they were doing the public a favor by enlisting them as “volunteer” observers, called “spotters”. A job taxpayers once payed for is now done for free, but you get what you pay for. Around here a “spotter” caused complete chaos in early June by thinking a shred of cloud was a tornado. I’d take an old-fashioned outdoors observer any day, as some had decades of experience.
A further disrespect towards the old outdoors observers involves indoors meteorologists “correcting” the records they kept. Dr. James Hanson was notorious for such fudging of facts. I think it was done to make modern “Global Warming” look worse than the murderous heat and drought of 1936, but that gets us into politics, and it is unwise to go there.
I’d do the job, if only the indoors meteorologists would get off their high horses and confess Doppler Radar only proved they were ignorant. They closed hundreds of valuable stations, run by valuable outdoor observers, to get a gadget that basically tells you a thunderstorm is bad after it already is bad. An outdoor observer can do the same. But hell if I’ll do it if the people I do the favor for behave as if they are doing me the favor. The fact of the matter is they are not God, they have no control of the weather, and it is far better to be humble in such a situation than puff your ego on a high horse.
Not that I blame them for liking Doppler Radar. It is a cool gadget. Another cool gadget tells you just when lightning bolts hit, and even when you can expect to hear the thunder. I actually like this particular gadget more than Doppler Radar, for it will inform you the moment a ordinary shower becomes a thunder shower. You can even set it to make an audible click, the moment a nearby cloud first makes a bolt. This gadget produced the map below, as the Doppler Radar produced the map above.
This is a wonderful gadget, because, when you focus in on your local area, it not only shows you where the flash you just saw, arriving in your eyes at the speed-of-light, hit he ground, but also shows you a slowly enlarging circle, expanding at the-speed-of-sound, to tell you when to expect to hear the thunder. However even this gadget has its weakness. As an outdoors observer, engrossed with worshipful weeding of my garden on Sunday, I noticed I was hearing thunder this gadget didn’t admit existed.
The reason I could hear such thunder was obvious to me, although I am no Sherlock Holmes. Not all lightning hits the ground, but such lightning makes thunder. A storm can shoot bolts cloud to cloud, ten or even twenty miles from it’s core. Soft, cloud-to-cloud thunder can be heard by outside observers like me, even when gadgets are deaf.
I was in some ways glad it didn’t rain, as I had to weed the beans, and you can’t weed beans in a wet situation because doing so causes problems with a virus attacking the bean’s leaves. (No, it is not the Corona Virus and no, you don’t need to wear a mask. You simply weed when the leaves are dry).
Although drought may be good for beans when you weed them, after weeding they thirst for water. I had to water some flats of seedlings I intend to soon transplant, even as soft thunder muttered from both the north and south. The carrots and tomatoes were crying out for weeding, but I had to water first. It isn’t fair, but is just is how things are. And I eventually did weed some carrots and all the tomatoes, and also the peppers, as daylight faded and you actually could see the lightning to the north and the lightning to the south, which went along with the soft sky thunder. Yet still we remained dry.
As the late day June sun settled and the mosquitoes came out I decided enough worship was enough, and headed to my front stoop to relax with a worshipful beer. And it was then I felt I became a most blessed outdoors observer. I was witnessing stuff Doppler Radar misses.
Some storm to the south was a little closer than the others. The thunder was still soft, but a few flashes of lightning seemed brighter. And then I noticed, against slow moving higher clouds, speeding scud.
There was hardly a draft down where I sat, but the outflow of distant storms produced a wind, around a thousand feet up, of marvelous speed. (I can’t recall ever seeing scud moving so fast, outside of hurricanes). With an imagination like mine it was easy to see an angel on a speeding horse.
What this outflow did was to uplift a local cloud just enough to make it shower. At first it was just a few big drops, platting here or there, but then it became a soft roar in the crisp June foliage of parched trees, at first far away like a whisper, but then edging and sidling closer, until a brief down-burst hit the stoop I hearkened from.
In India they celebrate a monsoon’s first rain. The evening chorus of songbirds hushed at the approach of a downpour in a drought. It began as a sigh on the very edge of hearing, but became an approaching roar. All became giddy in a way only drought knows. My wife came out and stood beside me as the flooding baptism approached, and then began splatting fat, warm droplets down in a way that raised tiny clouds of the dust it pelted. And then all too soon the sigh faded away through the darkening trees. I looked up through parting clouds and saw the high heavens feathered with sunset’s crimson cirrus.
Through parched trees comes the sigh of marching rain, And even evening birds bow heads, made mute With gratitude. The drenched do not complain For it’s been so dry that sunbeams refute Green growing, and, as first fat drops pelt The dirt, small puffs of dust are arising, And now the sigh surrounds. I once felt This way when a kiss brought a surprising End to loneliness. But this shower’s brief And already the soft sigh slides away Through dimming evening; sweet mercy’s relief Fades to memory’s grief, and dripping leaves pray The way men pray when they confess they lack: “Oh Lord, come back. Come back. Come back.”
On Monday we got a mini-monsoon. The heat encouraged a general updraft to form a weak low over southern Maine, which sucked cool and moist maritime air inland and then south towards us, where it clashed with muggy air. At first the showers continued to dry up, as radar showed them approaching, but thunder thumped all around, and finally we got a few more showers. Around sixty miles to our south one locale got four inches and suffered wash-outs, but for the most part we dripped in a delightful summer drizzle. Who would ever think I could delight in drizzle?
Slim was a man of around forty who I knew forty years ago when I lived up on the coast of Maine. He was skinny but strong; wore unfashionable glasses with thick, brown rims; had light brown hair graying at his temples, greased back like Elvis; chain-smoked; had a leathery, tanned face; and had the sort of pointed jaw, missing mass in the cheeks, that made me wonder if he had any molars left to pull, though it was hard to tell, for he hardly ever opened his mouth. I hung on his every word, which was easy to do, for he rarely spoke any. I know he had some coffee-stained front teeth, for he occasionally would grin helplessly, despite his shyness. Usually he was smiling due to the palaver of a fellow he worked with named Tubs, who was Slim’s opposite: Short, round, balding, jolly and very talkative. The two men seemingly had only one thing in common: They were hard workers, able to take on a wide variety of jobs and complete them with speed and skill.
I think I first saw the two men working in 1974. It was a simple job, delivering my mother a pick-up truck load of firewood. I admired the speed of their unloading. It took less than five minutes. Slim never touched the logs, because he used a couple of small hooks with wooden handles, specialized tools I have never seen anyone own or use since.
The two men worked like it was some sort of race, with the musically clopping logs flowing off the tailgate of the truck like water. They never needed to stop for a break because they completed the job so swiftly, nor did they grunt and grimace as if it was some big effort. As they worked Tubs was telling some story and Slim was nodding and smiling. Then they saw me watching and immediately became suspicious.
This was to be expected. In 1974 the Vietnam War wasn’t over, and I had long hair. Slim had seen action serving in Korea, some twenty years earlier. In fact some of his shyness may have been due to post-traumatic stress. I imagined my long hair automatically made me be an unpatriotic draft-dodger in his eyes, which made communication between us difficult.
The irony of the situation was that I was not what my long-hair suggested; I had unexpectedly broken my connection with the so-called “counter culture”, and perhaps was in some ways more conservative than Slim, and certainly more conservative than Tubs.
I had not intended to become conservative. I had started out by doing the expected and the acceptable (to hippies) things hippies did: Hitchhiking long distances; joining some loose confederations and cults called “communes”; becoming involved in (and eventually repulsed by) unsavory adventures involving sex and drugs; and, as a sort of conclusion, traveling to India to seek “enlightenment”. (The “Beatles” did it, Peter Townsend of the “Who” did it, and Melanie Safka did it when she was disillusioned).
To be blunt, “enlightenment”, as I then envisioned it, was a sort of Disney-world hallucination lacking the harshness and schizophrenia of LSD’s. I had somewhat vague hopes that some door would open in my forehead, and I would be swept into an experience of shimmering colors and lights, resulting in bliss. Others claimed they’d had such experiences. I hadn’t, and to be honest I really was uncertain where I was going or what I was after, as I headed to India. All I was really sure of was that I didn’t want to work a Real Job.
Instead of visions, or a meeting with any sort of con-artist-guru who promised such things, I had the good fortune to blunder into somewhat boring “good advice”, from the disciples of Meher Baba. (Meher Baba stated he was the Avatar.) Largely the advise they gave was not the sort that would get me out of working a Real Job, so I was not all that gratified.
For example, they stated I should not neglect “attending to my worldly responsibilities,” which initially sounded OK, because I felt a poet’s “responsibility” was to nibble an eraser, gaze dreamily at the sky, and avoid getting a Real Job. Then they seemed to suggest such behavior was deemed “responsible” only if God permitted such behavior to pay my bills, (via hard work, and also fate or “karma”). This amendment soured me slightly, though I kept my opinions to myself. Yet their advise was delivered in such a lovingly down-to-earth manner that I found myself not caring all that much about the subjects we discussed, and instead admiring their down-to-earth delivery. I started to think being down-to-earth might actually be a good thing, and not necessarily be unimaginative “conformity” and a sign I was a “square”.
I must have been a very odd American for the disciples of Meher Baba to have to deal with. Here I had traveled half-way around the world, yet I asked no questions. Somehow I felt asking questions was disrespectful. So I just observed, and kept my questions to myself. I was scheduled to visit for two weeks, but my TWA ticket allowed me to delay my departure, so I kept delaying, and observing. After nearly three months I headed home, because I knew my family and especially my mother would be upset if I skipped Christmas. Also I was flat broke and had run out of people to borrow from. Now I look back and want to slap my forehead, because I asked so few questions, but at the time it was just the way I was, namely a three-letter word: “Shy”.
Because I never asked for advice I can’t say I ever received any, per se. Perhaps I did hear others ask questions I felt were rude to ask, and listened intently to the answers they received. But largely the “advice” I received was contained in the “example” Meher Baba’s disciples set.
I think what impressed me most was that the followers of Meher Baba were not “groupies”, like hippies tended to be. Perhaps hippies were dead set against wearing uniforms, but they tended to be copy-cats and “uniform” in other ways. For example the “Dead-heads” (fans of the rock-group “The Grateful Dead”) agreed about certain things, and if you veered from their “norm” they could be disagreeable. They tended to be birds of a feather who flocked together. The disciples of Meher Baba, on the other hand, were strikingly individualistic, definitely not birds-of-a-feather. They were as different as different could be, yet strangely not in conflict. How was this possible?
That was the question I should have asked, but was too shy to ask. It was on my mind because I had witnessed hippy communes, made up of very similar and on-the-same-page people, disintegrate over minuscule differences tantamount to straws that could not even break a field mouse’s back, let alone a camel’s. How could Meher Baba’s disciples manage what hippies could not? But I never asked, and instead observed.
Meher Baba himself had died nearly five years earlier, on January 31, 1969, yet it was obvious his influence was still profound. However I was not satisfied with “influence” alone. I didn’t want to only see the sunburned people after the Sun had set. I wanted to see the Sun. I suppose I was like Doubting Thomas, refusing to believe in Christ until he himself could finger the wounds on a risen Christ’s hands.
I was not gifted with Thomas’s experiences, and it was frustrating to me, for I constantly met people who had experienced a “risen” Meher Baba.
There was some event called “The Last Darshan” that Meher Baba had been planning-for, scheduled between April and June, 1969, which you might think would have been cancelled when he inconveniently died in January. But people went ahead and the event was held, and the people (from all over the world) who attended the event stated Meher Baba was present in spirit, and that all sorts of amazing stuff happened. However I was not informed and did not attend and wasn’t a witness. I was not gifted with such grand experiences.
In some ways I am like the dour man from Missouri who always says, “Prove it”. I demand certainty. Even back at age twenty-one I had too often been played for the fool, too often been the laughable sucker and embarrassing chump, and I’d be damned if I’d allow it to happen to me again. But I received no countering certainty or “proof”, in terms of supernatural events.
This is not to say I didn’t own a private, secret, inner world, nor didn’t have intimate, muttered conversations with God. I just didn’t hear answers delivered in a booming baritone. My personal “miracles” tended to be coincidences, such as a butterfly landing on my nose, or a certain song coming on the radio, which couldn’t withstand determined cynicism. My “visions” were dismissable as being the result of an overly active imagination; the same psychologists who were amazed at my ability to “free-associate” completely shredded any hopes I might have that my fantasized images might mean something positive. They subjected my poetry to a sort of ruthless cross-examination, hyper-analyzing every symbol, supposedly to increase my self-awareness, but in fact increasing my doubtfulness. In the long run the awareness I developed was that I should keep such thoughts to myself. Rather than making me more outgoing psychology hardened my fortress of shyness.
All the same, hanging around Meher Baba’s disciples was a deeply moving experience. Perhaps people-who-were-highly-individualistic-and-different-yet-who-managed-to-lovingly-get-along struck me as a bit “supernatural”, in its own right. After all, my own parents were brilliant, charming, and in some ways very similar people, but got a divorce. And the political “hawks” and “doves” of the USA were not getting along, and the so-called “alternative” hippy lifestyles were crashing and burning everywhere I looked. Meher Baba’s disciples were different. I saw, in these kindly and generous foreigners, an example I desired to follow, and people I wished to emulate, though I was highly individualistic in my own right, and couldn’t see how I could be a true “follower” of Meher Baba. One might say I was attracted, and perhaps a “follower-from-a-safe-distance”.
Oddest was the lack of “rules” they gave me to follow. The “good advice” lacked all the commandments which many scriptures make into an elaborate and detailed system of “laws”. In some ways I found this disturbing, for in some ways I was aware that the most productive times of my life had involved some sort of brutal drill sergeant demanding discipline and laying-down-the-law, whether the “drill sergeant” was a strict school’s headmaster, or an inanimate and savage storm at sea.
For the most part Meher Baba seemed to forego issuing commandments, and instead to merely describe the problems inherent within addiction-to-creation, and describe the benefits of escaping creation into the embrace of the Creator, without (in my view) mapping out what rules and laws one should obey during the transition. But I did gather, without asking any questions, two things which might be called “laws”, although they were “good advice.”
I should not take drugs and should not indulge in promiscuous sex.
Absorbing this good advice, and accepting it, put me at odds with my hippy peers. Though I was dreaming about harmony, I was plunged into opposition.
When I returned to the United States I discovered I didn’t fit in where I had once fit in. I wanted to share what I had glimpsed to the cult-like groups I was associated with, but seemed unable to find the right words. I didn’t want to reject anyone, but was inarticulate, and felt I had a very slow mouth among very fast talkers. After experiencing ridicule for suggesting sober, prudish, down-to-earth behavior might be wise, I felt hurt, rejected by my peers, and gradually began to search for a different society, where I might fit in.
Looking back, it seems it would have been for the best if I had made the separations swift and dramatic, and as complete as the separation between civilian life and boot-camp. But I was not a quitter, and always held out hope for improvement in relationships that, in truth, were withering away. Unfortunately this meant that, rather than removing a forearm-band-aid swiftly, I made it a long, slow, painful, hair-plucking, and drawn-out process.
To me it seemed loyal and faithful to give people who had in some way betrayed me a second and third chance to betray me. I prolonged my misery, for I felt forgiveness was spiritual, and was confused about when one should “shake the dust from your heels” and leave people in the past. I felt I should forgive people “seven-times-seventy times”, and consequently handed “my pearls to swine”. Last but not least, I was in some ways atrociously arrogant, and it was inconceivable to me that others wouldn’t realize how marvelous I (or at least my poetry) was, understand the enormous error of their ways, and profusely apologize. I felt that, if I only was forgiving long enough, they would mend their ways. “Someday they’ll be sorry.”
It didn’t happen, but I am getting ahead of myself. At age twenty-one I was still full of optimism, and assumed I was moving to Maine only for a brief time. I felt I needed to retreat and regroup, and “get my head on straight,” but imagined that soon my self-imposed isolation would resolve into happy reconciliations and reunions, and the “communes” would become new-and-improved, and we would all stride forward together into the bright uplands of happy-ever-after. (My prediction was that world-wide crises would come to a climax in five or six years, around 1980, and happy-ever-after would happen soon afterwards.)
In some ways I was expectantly waiting for cold stones to get up and warmly dance around singing, and such situations are bound to become frustrating, as you wait, and wait, and wait. Worst is the simple fact that patience of this sort doesn’t pay a positive dividend, but rather one starts to see a sort of rot set in. “All things come to they who wait”, but the best lumber turns into punk if it sits unused. It is through action that spiritual truths are revealed. I was just beginning the process of learning this Truth the hard way, when I moved to Maine.
In conclusion, I was not the typical “long-hair” Slim and Tubs thought I was. I was an ex-hippy with a newfound respect for the down-to-earth, and Slim and Tubs were the very sort of down-to-earth people I respected, but they felt zero affinity towards the likes of me.
Actually an odd affinity did exist, because Slim and I were both very shy, though I suppose Slim would have been horrified (and perhaps even insulted) if anyone suggested there was any sort of similarity between the two of us. He had worked and paid his way since he was sixteen, whereas I mooched off my mother.
I didn’t actually live in my mother’s basement. My step-father had bought a lovely piece of property overlooking the ocean to retire upon, which had two smaller cottages a short ways down a steep hill from the main house, and then, down an even steeper embankment, a dock, and on the dock was a shack. The moment I laid eyes on the shack I felt it was perfect for a poet. It was a lovely abode, (when the weather was warm), but in the eyes of Slim and Tubs living there merely made me a shiftless layabout mooching off his mother.
I tended to sleep late, because I usually had stayed up late the night before writing. I had strong legs and good lungs, and, clutching a tall, oversized, bright-orange coffee cup, would sprint up the staircase from the dock and jog up a steep drive to my mother’s house, to take advantage of the fact her kitchen had an extra faucet that delivered boiling water. This skipped the bother of waiting for water to boil in my shack (which did have electricity.) I’d stir instant coffee and four spoons of sugar and cream into my oversized cup, and often was back down in the shack at my typewriter within minutes. I’d guzzle the coffee, and often sprint back up to my mother’s house only an hour later.
Because I was so addicted to caffeine, my visits were frequent, and from time to time I’d barge into my mother’s kitchen as she had coffee with various people. (The kitchen opened into a dining-room with a beautiful view.) On such occasions I felt it was rude not to pause briefly and pretend to be sociable for at least as long as it took to smoke a cigarette. (Smoking inside was commonplace back then.) Once in a while the persons my mother was having coffee with were Slim and Tubs.
Some women of wealth have an egalitarian streak, or perhaps a mere curiosity, which has them inviting the hired help into elegant dining rooms and serving them coffee from expensive china. I have often been flattered by such generosity, in my own time as a gardener and handyman, and have always tried to reciprocate by being polite, (and as witty and charming as I dare), and asking questions and nodding at the replies. Back in 1974 I knew far less about being “hired help”, and was fascinated by Slim and Tubs holding coffee cups with their pinkies raised, and chatting comfortably with my mother.
My mother was amazing when it came to making people comfortable, which at times made me uncomfortable. Certain aspects of her hospitality didn’t seem entirely honest. For example, she spoke with an elegant English accent, when in fact she was a poor girl who had grown up in a broken home in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. A few times when, as a teenager, I had pushed my luck with the good woman, I had heard that English accent completely vanish, and in surprise had backed away from a fierce Fitchburg wench whom no gentle poet would ever want to mess with.
Despite the fact I was aware there was a side of my mother she did not expose to the general public, I clung to the incongruous and childish belief she was innocent and saintly. For example, I assumed hippies knew more about sex, although my mother had given birth to six children. For another example, I felt hippies were more “experienced” because they had taken LSD, although hippies had amnesia about what they glimpsed when drugged, while my mother remembered with vivid clarity, and had 29 more actual years of actual experience than I had. There is something audaciously comical about youth deeming their elders naive, but I felt my mother was naive and needed my protection.
Not that I had a clue of the wheeling and dealing that was occurring beneath the polite chit-chat, as my mother had coffee with Slim and Tubs. The two men were to some degree on the lookout for a rich lady who would supply them with their next paycheck, and she was on the lookout for local, Maine-Yankee carpenters who could do good work for a tenth of what an interior designer from Boston would charge. I had no idea such skullduggery was involved. I assumed they were above-board and up-front. To be honest, I was incapable of protecting my mother from tricky salesmen, and equally incapable of protecting Slim and Tubs from tricky Moms, because I myself was living in the clouds of idealism.
One cold,January morning in 1975 I came bopping into her kitchen, rumpled and yawning, with my tall, orange cup, and discovered them deeply involved in a discussion about maple wood. The low winter sun was flashing through winter clouds, slanting in through a window that showed a beautiful view of a harbor.
They didn’t look out the window, for the view was old to them, and instead they sat midst sunlit blue curls and wisps of cigarette smoke, intently discussing kitchen counters.
I quickly determined my mother didn’t like the orange Formica counters on the island between the kitchen and dining room, and wanted to replace them with maple. She didn’t want straight-grained maple, neither the creamy sapwood nor the buttery heartwood, and desired a grain less uniform, with “character.” Therefore they were discussing the prices of bird’s-eye, burl, and fiddle-back maple boards, all of which were expensive and made my mother look very disappointed and vaguely critical. As they spoke Tubs did most of the talking, sitting back and expansively ruminating with a jovial and optimistic expression, deferring to Slim when my mother wanted prices. Slim sat hunched forward with his hands folded as if he was praying, for the most part nervously smiling and nodding as Tubs spoke, but occasionally barking the prices of maple boards of various types in an authoritative way, at which point my mother would scratch out calculations on a yellow, legal notebook on the dining-room table, coming up with answers that she looked at with disapproval. Then they apparently arrived at some sort of insurmountable quandary, at which point Tubs sat even further back, locked his fingers behind his neck as a pillow, and looked out the window with deep seriousness, his face unusually grave, as if determining the fate of nations. Then his face lit up and he turned towards my mother with an unspoken idea. At the same point Slim winced slightly, and shrunk down a half inch, as if silently willing Tubs to keep his big mouth shut, but Tubs spoke.
Apparently there was a sort of sugar-maple lumber which not many people knew about. It came from a maple tree near the end of its life, when the growth rings became skinny but before the rot set in and the wood became punky in places, and therefore became unusable. Slim had a word for it. (I want to say “checkered maple”, but search-engines produce no such word.) It was typically light yellow maple wood, but had dark, broad veins of deep brown and even black running through it. When a sawmill sliced up a maple log which produced such boards they tended to cast them aside as relatively worthless, though the planks were solid. Tubs knew where he could get such boards for next to nothing. He wondered if he could bring some boards by, for my mother to look at, to see what she thought of the unusual coloring.
My mother looked intrigued. She always liked being unique, and I could tell she liked the concept of having kitchen counters unlike anyone else’s. She also liked the price. She looked out the window thoughtfully. Tubs smiled serenely. Slim chewed his fingernails as if the suspense was killing him. Then my mother turned to Tubs and said she was very interested in seeing what such maple boards looked like. Tubs nodded and smilingly said he’d bring some boards by. Slim sagged from stiff tension to palatable relief. Then the topic turned to the molding up where the wall met the ceiling, and I headed back down to the shack with my coffee, toying with a poetic idea involving maple planks, which I thought I might insert into a long poem I was laboring on.
The year was not 1829, and I was no Alfred Tennyson. There was absolutely zero market for long poems in 1975, but I thought I could create one. I fostered this illusion because my hippy friends spent hours listening to record albums (video games hadn’t been invented). We would sit and listen to a just-released album together, and have long discussions about what the songs meant. Sometimes, rather than spending an hour listening to an album, I would read them a long poem. (As I recall such readings came about due to a particularly enthusiastic friend demanding I do it, and had nothing to do with me overcoming my shyness and “selling myself”.)
What then happened was extremely gratifying, for, rather than appearing bored stiff or stampeding to the door, people would listen with wide-eyed, rapt attention, laughing at all the right places and growing misty-eyed when I became maudlin. They urged me to write more, looked respectful and interested while I wrote, gathered around to listen when I announced I was done, and never once told me I should get a Real Job. Then, in India, I had written a long story-poem in a wonderfully inspired fit, and it was well-received among total strangers when I read it to them. Due to this encouragement I had the idea I could sell my long poems, if not as printed pages, then as record albums (because people liked the sound of my reading voice.)
But by retreating to Maine I had cut myself off from such encouragement, and I found myself fighting “writer’s block”. I didn’t like admitting I needed encouragement, seeing such a desire as a weakness, as being susceptible-to and swayed-by flattery, but it was obvious that I craved attention. Isolation left me feeling marginalized, ostracized because I had changed my attitude towards sex and drugs, and a sense of profound loneliness descended and began staining my inspiration with gray.
I fought this bleakness with all my might, for most of my poems were in one way or another about how life is brimming with beauty, and I intended them all to be pep-talks for the disillusioned. For example, I might write about a person depressed because their garden was full of weeds, and then describe a friend showing up and weeding with them, turning the dreary task into a rapture about botany, and bugs, and the beauty of cumulus and sunshine and sweat, until weeding seemed like a delight people would pay for, (the way people pay to labor and sweat in a gym.)
The poem I was currently struggling with was called “Armor”, and was based on the premise that people become so emotionally hurt, through undergoing traumatic experiences, that they psychologically don protective armor that makes them clank around clumsily in emotional steel, incapable of touching-with and being touched-by love.
The plot involved two old knights who had died in battle. One then reincarnates as a innocent child with no armor. Because the child has a new brain he has amnesia about past pain, but while wandering dreamily in a garden behind his childhood home he finds a doorway in time, and goes through it and meets his old friend, who still has his armor on and is refusing to be born again. The two then get into an argument about whether or not it is worthwhile being born again, and that is where my imagination ground to a halt.
I tried to force myself to finish the poem with sheer willpower, but had “lost the thread”. The plot refused to go the direction I intended. The old knight with armor was a real sourpuss, but he came up with excellent reasons not to be born, while the boy came across as a bit of a twerp, and his logic was lame. I grew frustrated, whereupon the boy in the poem lost his temper and seemed on the verge of putting armor back on and….and…and where the bleep was my poem headed? The poem started to disintegrate into seemingly pointless sidetracks; for example, I might find myself writing about planks made of maple trees, and how the grain of wood changes as the rot sets in.
Frustrated, I crumpled up a page and trudged moodily back up the hill with my orange coffee up. Tubs and Slim were up by the street, leaving, and I could see them regarding me from afar. Tubs was saying something to Slim, nudging him, and Slim was shaking his head sadly. I didn’t imagine they sympathized with the agony of an artist. As they drove off I felt very alone. Inside the house my mother was smoking and pouring over the numbers on her yellow, legal notepad and looking pleased, and, as an aside, without even looking up at me, asked me to drive to the Post Office and pick up the mail. Our postbox was only a half mile away, but I managed to play self-pitiful violins during the drive. Then, in the mail, I saw a light blue airmail letter addressed to me, from India.
I felt a surge of hope. I can’t really say what I was expecting for I wasn’t expecting such a letter. I suppose the simple fact a blue letter had appeared out of the blue suggested I was going to be recognized in some manner. I tore the letter open, and my hope immediately crashed. Indeed I was recognized, but what was recognized was $50.00 I owed.
I was hit by shame. The debt I owed was utterly different from owing a hippy $50.00. Several hippies owed me $50.00, (which was one reason I was flat broke), but I didn’t think it was a big deal. In hippy terms, in 1974, $50.00 was what you made washing dishes for half a week. Minimum wage was $2.00 an hour, (worth roughly $11.00 now, in 2020). But one thing that I had been shocked by in India was the huge disparity in standards-of-living between “them” and “us”.
I became aware being poor in that land meant working for roughly a penny an hour, though there didn’t seem to be a “minimum wage.” Many seemed to subsist on an income so small they could only buy one meal a day. It gave, “Give us this day our daily bread” a far more poignant meaning. However when they sat down for this “bread”, (often a pancake of millet flour called a chapatti, with a gravy made of lentils called “daal”,) they seemed far happier than hippies managed to be, though hippies ate far more.
It is embarrassing to owe money to a person in a “third world nation”. I handed my mother her mail without mentioning my disgrace, and headed back to my shack forgetting to refill my coffee cup. As I slumped by my typewriter my poem “Armor” seemed pointless. It seemed worse than pointless. After all, of what concern are the problems of a couple of imaginary and dead knights named “Siegfried” and “Heinrich”, to the people of India? I had no excuse for failing to repay the money I owed. All the excuses I used, (which other artists had taught me to utilize on Americans), became utterly hollow when I tried to use them on people who suffer under hot sun for a penny an hour. The people of India didn’t need some ridiculous poem. They needed $50.00. And this meant I needed to work a Real Job.
Worst was the fact the repayment was needed immediately. I glanced around the shack for something I could sell, but I really didn’t own much of value besides my car. I had a pile of LP albums, but no record player. Beyond that I had nothing but old clothes, books and papers. In fact, as I looked around, my entire life seemed more or less worthless.
I saw it wouldn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out the shack wasn’t inhabited by an illiterate clam-digger, and rather by some sort of intellectual. I always felt a clean desk was the sign of a lazy mind, and had six projects going on concurrently, but now they seemed like six silly ways of avoiding the fact I was doing nothing: The busy-work of a man suffering solitary confinement.
My interest in meteorology was demonstrated by notes of the daily readings of my max-min thermometer, and a graph of these readings as opposed to the average, with the time above-normal carefully shaded red and the time below-normal shaded blue. There were also numerous New York Times weather maps (far better then than they are now) clipped from my stepfather’s discarded papers and taped in chronological order on the wall. But what was the use of an avocation without a vocation?
There were also a few charts clipped from newspapers on the desk showing unemployment was rising to 10% in Maine as the Gross National Product crashed 84 billion dollars in the past year. I had an interest in economics, and had even passed my English university-level “A level exams” in economics (due to two terms frantically cramming under the tutelage of a pleasantly mad teacher in Scotland), but I had no clue how to turn such knowledge from an avocation to a vocation. However it did remind me to turn on my battered, crackling radio to listen to the noontime financial report.
I tried to forget my problems and focus on the news. They called the crashing GNP “stagflation” because prices were soaring even as economic growth slowed. It seemed obvious to me prices would soar, considering the Arab Oil Embargo had doubled the price of oil, but the snooty experts on the radio looked everywhere but at the obvious. One fellow stated that the government’s efforts to “stimulate” the economy made people buy bonds rather than investing in businesses, pointing at the component of GNP called “investment”, which had fallen to barely more than half of what it had been. Another fellow blamed women for getting fed up with being home-makers, and joining the work-force in such droves that it shrank wages and increased unemployment. A third fellow blamed “jittery” investors, because the communists in Vietnam seemed unlikely to abide by the terms of the peace-treaty Nixon and Mao worked at, with Nixon now disgraced and Mao now drooling at death’s door. The only good news was that exports, a minor component of GNP, had shot upwards. This was especially good news for coastal areas like Maine, but I shut the radio off, suddenly struck by the utter worthlessness of contemplating billions of dollars when I couldn’t even come up with fifty. Ordinarily I’d be intrigued by President Ford’s idea that tax-cuts might end the “stagflation”, but of what use are tax cuts when you make no money, and therefore pay no taxes?
My eyes roamed further along the desk to an absurd chart I had devised to better control my moods. It was based on my feeling that modern psychology was pathetic and in need of drastic improvements, and also on the then-popular idea of “biorhythms”. I was attempting to chart my inner weather the same way I charted the weather outside, thinking that, if I knew what my moods would be before they happened, I’d be better able to handle them; I’d be one step ahead; I’d have an umbrella if the forecast was rain. Now it all seemed worthless. You cannot predict the weather with perfect certainty, nor the economy with perfect certainty, nor your moods with perfect certainty, but one thing was perfectly certain: I needed fifty dollars.
I thrashed in irritation, and my eyes next chanced upon five separate volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica and a novel from the local library. My stepfather had noticed the five holes in his bookshelf, and had asked me to return the encyclopedias the night before, and also I could not afford even library fines when flat broke. With a sigh I prepared to gathered the books up and embark upon the journey back up the hill. Hell if I had time to pursue historical research, if I had to get a Real Job, but merely thinking that thought paused me yet again.
I glanced out the window at the harbor, thinking of how my mind always got sidetracked. I had two catagories for this sidetracking in the “mental activity” of my “biorhythms” chart, and I swiftly jotted a 1.25 in the “wondering” column and a .75 in the “wandering” column. Then I laid my hands on the pile of books without picking them up, thinking how my “research” had sprung from a visit Slim and Tubs paid after a prior job.
Both my mother and stepfather loved books, but when they first moved into their new home the inner living room wall only held two garish pictures, and a small table between them with a garish vase. My parents wanted the entire wall turned into floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, and my stepfather wanted a wall of his study made the same. Enter Slim and Tubs. After they were done they dropped by for a small, final payment, which could have been mailed, but they’d rather have coffee in the process of being paid. (Considering how cozy the local diner was, they were flattering my mother greatly by preferring her coffee, though they may have also been on the lookout for future employment).
Outside the landscape had been shuddering under the first arctic blast of winter, and Tubs came in overdressed as Slim entered as if he didn’t notice the cold. Tubs wore a very puffy parka that made him all the rounder, a sheepskin “mad bomber” hat with enormous ear-flaps down to his shoulders, and a gaudy scarf of a crimson plaid. Slim wore a baseball cap, a plaid shirt, and had his hands thrust deep into the pockets of his jeans. Perhaps his plaid shirt was a bit thicker than usual, but my mother exclaimed, “Poor soul! You must be frozen!” Slim smiled, but Tubs teased, “After minus forty on Chosin Reservoir, zero seems like a heat wave, to Slim.” Slim winced and shot Tubs an irritated glance, and my mother looked surprised, and then adopted a sympathetic expression that confused me. I couldn’t read the Greek on their faces. I should have asked some questions, but instead I was shy.
I retreated, and got the “K” encyclopedia to look up “Korean War” and see if I could find a mention of the “Chosin Reservoir”. It would have been far easier to simply ask Slim, as he’d been there, an actual eyewitness, but shyness made me into a parody of Sherlock Holmes, sleuthing when it was unnecessary.
Now such private-detectiving can be done via the internet. If you are too shy to talk to actual humans you can sleuth with the click of a mouse. But back in 1974-1975 I had to run up and down a hill, sleuthing with volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and then visit the local library, employing the Dewy Decimal System and card catalogs to discovered an obscure history that likely never sold many copies, with some name I can’t remember, (such as “The Chosin Few”).
What I discovered was a wonderful way to sidetrack; engrossing historical trivia which made it hard to be practical, and easy to forget to put wood in the shack’s stove until I noticed my nose was getting cold. Not that I would have discovered much, within the Encyclopedia Britannica. There were things not mentioned in the “K” volume that I found in the “C” volume, under “Cochin Reservoir”, and things not mentioned in the “C” volume that were mentioned in the three subsequent volumes I browsed, but I always had more questions than answers. The obscure autobiography from the local library was a wealth of information buried midst atrocious writing, but if I wanted better I surely should have interviewed Slim, but I was too shy.
In school the Korean War had been described as a “conflict” and a “stalemate”, which made it sound like nothing had been achieved, and even as if nothing had happened. Midst the drab facts of the encyclopedia I saw drab dots, but I could connect the dots, and saw that, as always, war was hell. Through that hell Slim, as a teenager, once walked.
To me the leaders on both sides appeared to be a bunch of idiots, with the UN particularly moronic in terms of gathering intelligence, and Mao particularly moronic in terms of logistics. For example, the UN forces had marched victoriously from the very south to the very north, and assumed they were “mopping up” the final North Korean troops. They even named a maneuver “Operation Home-By-Christmas.” But in fact they were facing 120,000 Chinese troops. Yet Mao, in his haste to prove Chinese could fight better than Europeans, proved Chinese leaders could be equally stupid as Europeans, (though perhaps not quite as stupid as the English at Verdun), for he sent 120,000 of his finest troops south without food and in summer clothing. The cold swiftly killed more of his best men than the UN forces did.
The plight of the foot soldiers on both sides was extreme. At minus forty nothing worked right. Batteries failed and tanks wouldn’t start and walkies-talkies went dead and diesel fuel turned to jelly and guns jammed. Confusion reined on both sides. (One drab phrase from the encyclopedia seemed especially lacking in compassion to me: “Failed to fortify their positions.” It may have been factual, but failed in its own right to comprehend the desperate extremes both sides faced.)
At one point the starving and freezing Chinese troops overran a UN base, and logically assumed the hugely outnumbered and routed UN troops would be hightailing it south. What they didn’t understand was that the UN didn’t understand. Rather than seeing they had been attacked by a huge army, the UN thought the attack was the deeds of desperate North Koreans near the end of their rope. If the Chinese were noted it was assumed they were only a few “advisers”. Therefore the tiny force counter-attacked the huge force, and found the Chinese had “failed to fortify their positions”. Why not? Because they were doing what men do when at their wits end and on the verge of starving and freezing to death: They were rummaging through captured supplies for warm clothing and food. Many had dropped their guns; and they were as surprised by the counter-attack as the UN forces had been by the initial attack, and the rout became a counter-rout. But this then fostered the illusion among the UN forces that they should continue attacking north, when what they should have done is to use the snatched reprieve to swiftly organize a defended retreat south. In the fog of war they probed north, and they soon again met the might of superior numbers and a counter-counter-attack, and were overrun a second time. Units were encircled and cut off, unable to retreat south, with Chinese troops on all sides, and in one of these trapped units was Slim.
During the day the air was filled with the nearly constant droning, roaring and booming of American airplanes and jets, attacking from a base to the south and five aircraft carriers, but as the sun fell and the cold grew fierce all became quiet, and under the dim glow of flares Slim awaited the inevitable Chinese attacks. The dark had a nightmarish quality; you snatched sleep during the day. The encyclopedia showed neat lines and arrows of red and blue, but the battle was an extended melee, a derangement.
Just days before Slim had been patrolling northward through a landscape much like Maine’s, right down to the scattered wood-frame houses and long stretches of wilderness between towns. He was wary, and scared of snipers, but only heard shots and explosions far away. The weather was brisk and autumnal, and he’d been dreaming of being home by Thanksgiving, when suddenly weather colder than he had ever experienced and Chinese troops came storming down from the north.
A man never knows what he can do until he has to. Slim saw sides of himself he never knew existed: Horror, terror, grief, and the rage of a cornered rat. He saw bravery isn’t what you want to be, but what you have to be. But even more disconcerting was elation and hilarity midst all the horror, brotherhood midst bestiality.
One time Slim spotted two Chinese laying in ambush. He was uphill, but they were looking down as a patrol of Slim’s comrades crossed the slope further down. Slim raised his gun to shoot them, but the gun jammed in the bitter cold, so Slim drew his knife and crept up behind them, his pulse thudding in his ears. Then he realized they were frozen to death. Slim heard his own voice first giggle, then sob a single sob, and then growl to himself in the voice of a sergeant, “Keep moving, Private. Move!”
To bolster courage every other word became “fucking”. “Fucking get fucking ammo fucking fast!”
During hand-to-hand fighting airstrikes dropped napalm, and in he hellish heat some Americans roasted along with the Chinese, and a man cursed, “Fuck if I ever fucking pray to God to make it fucking warmer, ever fucking again”. For some insane reason midst insanity this sarcasm caused Slim’s squad to dissolve briefly in paroxysms of helpless laughter, before they all abruptly regained their grimness.
Surrender didn’t seem to be an option for either side. This went against the history of the Chinese warlords, who had tended to defect whenever it was to their advantage, as squads and even as entire divisions, both when fighting Japan and in their own Civil War. Now they fought to the final man, perhaps because Mao had executed the warlords and all were unified under him, or perhaps because his troops knew if they stopped moving they’d freeze, and prisoners would be forced to stand still. Meanwhile the Americans had seen or heard that Koreans were brutal to prisoners: The South Koreans slaughtered the North Koreans as predictably as the Communists “purged” the Non-Communists. The fighting was do-or-die, with the Chinese determined to bottle up and wipe out the UN forces, and with the UN (largely American) forces desperately attempting to break out and force their way south. Retreat was not a matter of backing up. One American officer famously stated, “We’re not retreating. We’re advancing in a new direction.”
Slim’s unit had been ordered to take a hill overlooking the road south, but it hadn’t gone well and they’d been driven back. Slim squinted south with the highway blocked, doubting he’d ever see home again. His gun didn’t shoot and his commanding officers were dead . Half of his unit was dead or wounded, and it was so cold the medics had to thaw the small tubes of morphine in their mouths before they injected the wounded. Many of the fellows he was with were teenagers like he was, eighteen and nineteen years old. What to do? Plan A hadn’t worked; what was plan B?
In this desperate moment Slim glanced sideways over the Chosin Reservoir. It reminded him of a big lake in Maine, and midst a tidal wave of melancholy and nostalgia he remembered ice fishing, and a little voice in his head wondered, “Is the ice safe for fishing yet?” Then he abruptly shrieked, “That fucking ice has got to be fucking thick. It’s been fucking colder than a fucking witch’s tit for fucking days.”
It’s unclear who gave the orders or whether there was any order at all. It simply seemed smarter to move out over the ice, which could hold even jeeps, and go around the Chinese rather than fighting through them. So that is what was done, with the wounded brought along, some walking wounded and some dragged. As the Chinese froze, laying in ambush along the road, hundreds and hundreds of troops escaped over the ice.
Arriving at a hastily-constructed airbase at the southern end of the reservoir, with more than half of his comrades dead (1450 of 2500) Slim was surprised to find himself one of the few judged “able bodied” (385), and while more than a thousand were helicoptered out he was assigned to hold the base’s perimeter along with cooks pulled from the kitchen and clerks yanked from their typewriters, as the marines retreated south from the other side of the reservoir, and reinforcing marines battled up from the south. Slim got to spend a week in this lovely landscape.
Rather than praise, Slim found his army unit belittled by the marines for retreating in a disorganized manner. Slim vowed to pound the heck out of the first marine he met in a bar, but the bars were far to the south, and first they had to break out of their base and fight south through “Hellfire Valley”. The Chinese three times blew up a bridge on the road south, but the engineers kept replacing it, supplied by “flying boxcars”.
If it were not for the Air Force they would have been overwhelmed, but in the end Slim made it to the port of Hungnam after two weeks of solid fighting, and then spent another two weeks defending the perimeter of that port as an evacuation like Dunkirk proceeded. The civilians had no desire to stay, and as Slim prepared to depart he saw 14,000 Koreans crowd aboard a cargo ship built to accommodate 12 passengers. (SS Meredith Victory) The next day, on Christmas Eve, Slim got to see North Korea astern, with massive fireworks occurring as the engineers blew up the entire port, so Mao couldn’t use it.
And now here I was, a quarter century later, and we were still fighting Mao, now in Vietnam. It had been going on since before I was born, and Slim had been there at the beginning, when Mao chose division over a United Korea.
I sighed and looked out over the mudflats. The tide was low. Even at winter you could smell the dead clams.
Actually, I mused, it had been longer than a quarter century. What year did Mao begin the Autumn Harvest Uprising? 1927? Nearly a half century ago. For nearly fifty years the drooling old man had been unable to make peace with his neighbors. For nearly fifty years he had been incapable of seeing any ideas but his own as worthy of anything but destruction. All traditions were his foe, all cultural variety was his foe, any power but his own was his foe, was “counter revolutionary”, and anyone outside was an “imperialist”. What an arrogant and paranoid madman! And what stopped his cancer from spreading? Shy teenagers like Slim.
If only people would, as John Lennon sang, “give peace a chance!” What a different world it would have been if people had chosen to get along, rather than choosing divorce, rather than choosing fifty years of murdering millions upon millions.
I shook my head and gathered up the books. Who was I to think I could solve the world’s problems? No one would pay a penny for my poetry, and I needed fifty dollars.
My mother shot me a curious look as I stomped into her house with a grim expression and began replacing the encyclopedias on the shelf. I was known for taking things out, and not for putting them away, so she knew something was up. However I was not about to tell her I needed fifty dollars. She’d fret, and I thought I’d rather face Chinese troops at forty below than face my mother’s worry.
As I drove to the library to return the book I pondered the fact that getting a Real Job would be admitting defeat, in terms of writing and being a poet. But Slim had been defeated at Chosin Reservoir, and it wasn’t the end of him, was it? I needed to adjust my attitude, and see my retreat was actually “advancing in a new direction.”
I have lost a lot of my interest in the arctic, because the nameless “left” has largely retreated from that battle. Not that they have surrendered, and confessed that their “Global Warming” panic was merely a political creation. In the last month one young Democrat running for president (in 2028) has claimed the world will end in 12 years “if we don’t do something” about Global Warming. Not to be outdone, a second Democrat candidate (for 2020) claimed the world would end in only 10 years, “if we don’t do something.” The political posturing gets far more attention than any actual facts about sea-ice, which makes truly interesting science hard to find.
Unfortunately (for such candidates) the public is growing jaded. The situation is like being long ago told, by a commercial, “Buy Now! The sale ends at midnight!” The ploy might have worked the first time, but a lot of midnights have passed since then, and yet the same inane advertisement keeps running. The public has realized the sale really doesn’t end at midnight, and all further exclaiming about such an “end” looks increasingly insincere, if not silly. No one is buying it…….or are they?
I find myself studying the delusion and the deluded more than the actual sea-ice. The arctic sea-ice was suppose to be gone by now. We’ve been hearing the Alarmist guff about an ice-free Pole for at least thirteen years. (I first heard an earlier hippy-version way back in 1971, back when we used to sit around deciding how the world was going to end, so we wouldn’t have to get a Real Job.) This headline’s from 2008:
The only way politicians can continue to repeat such refuted claims, without understanding it makes them look stupid, is because they have been educated that making such refuted claims makes them look wise. Not only have they been spoon-fed untruths, but they have not been taught to analyze and correct. They have “drunk the Kool-aid,” ingesting the poison of false values while blithely thinking it is virtuous to do so. I am turning into an old crank, for while my own children seem to have grown up with brains that function, young politicians make me feel that beyond my walls we have raised a generation of imbeciles.
While I do not like the word “reeducation”, (due to its association with communist atrocities and brutality), it seems to me these brainwashed people need to be awoken to the fact they have been lied to. Not that I advocate any sort of forced “deprogramming”, but mistaken people need to see their mistakes. But such persuasion is never easy, for a number of reasons.
First, the human ego never likes being told it is wrong. Being wrong involves crumpling up neatly-drawn plans and throwing stuff away and going back to the drawing board, which is work. In the game of “snakes and ladders”, facing-a-mistake is a snake, and people prefer ladders. People prefer progress, however, as engineers know, it is far better to face mistakes early, before you build, than to build and then have a building come crashing down. (“Global Warming” may be now be facing a political version of the latter.)
Second, young people have an innocent trust that their teachers know what they are talking about. Some teachers don’t, and only repeat what they see in books, in a robotic manner. It hurts young idealists to have their trust in teachers broken, and to understand some teachers define “teaching” as being more like a parrot, than as being a person who truly understands the subject they are talking about.
Third, people find it hard to believe that their fellow man could lie to their face, willingly and willfully, and with full knowledge they are perpetuating a deceit. One might expect such evil behavior in a “bad guy” with a black hat and twirled mustache who snickers “Nyah-ha-ha” in a movie, but not in someone they feel is a friend. To realize another is treating you as a sucker admits you have been, to some degree, a sucker, (up to that point, at least), and no one likes admitting they’ve been a fool.
The above difficulties are exacerbated when false values include making-money and/or gaining-awards and/or basking-in-the-flattery-of-social-prestige. We tend to prefer employment to being unemployed, financial security to anxiety, acceptance to rejection, and acclaim to being ostracized. Because we cannot get everything we desire, we must at times compromise and, sad to say, some of our compromises are mistakes. For money we compromise when we shouldn’t, for acceptance we compromise when we shouldn’t, for peace we compromise when we shouldn’t, and so on.
In the case of Global Warming the exacerbation was extreme because literally trillions of dollars were involved. In attempting to seek out the origins of the fallacy, one suspects some very rich people had to be at Global Warming’s roots.
For this reason some suspect the very wealthy members of the “Club Of Rome”, (formed over a half century ago in 1968), have been behind much of the Global Warming advocacy. They announced, (in “The Limits To Growth“, published in 1972), that mankind was running out of resources and time. Because they had so much money and power, they seemed to feel God had placed them in the position to save mankind from a disaster, which they felt was sure to come if populations kept increasing as resources ran out. They gloomily foresaw the degradation of the environment to a degree where the entire planet would become an overgrazed, industrial wasteland and desert, (and they based their ideas on computer models, even back when only very rich men could afford computers). In 1970 they foresaw the disaster would be upon us by 1990.
Others pointed out, and continue to point out, that their computer models contained some underlying assumptions that were very pessimistic, and which over the past half-century have proven untrue. Robert Solow, winner of the Noble prize for Economics, described the Club of Rome’s ideas as “amateurish” and “simplistic”. The Club Of Rome in fact didn’t see how innovative humanity can be, when faced with problems. (This has not discouraged the Club Of Rome from continuing to forecast doom, and their computer models continue to foresee the collapse of civilization, now confidently expected to occur in the middle of the 21st century.)
The Club of Rome likely does not stand alone on the pedestal of blame, but they publish their ideas, and therefore are more exposed. After the Soviet Union fell on Christmas, 1991, they didn’t rejoice at the end of the Cold War, but instead worried that mankind would lack an enemy to fight, stating, in The First Global Revolution, “Every state has been so used to classifying its neighbours as friend or foe, that the sudden absence of traditional adversaries has left governments and public opinion with a great void to fill. New enemies have to be identified, new strategies imagined, and new weapons devised.”
Particularly cynical (to me) is the statement by King & Schneider, “In searching for a common enemy against whom we can unite, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like, would fit the bill. In their totality and their interactions these phenomena do constitute a common threat which must be confronted by everyone together. But in designating these dangers as the enemy, we fall into the trap, which we have already warned readers about, namely mistaking symptoms for causes. All these dangers are caused by human intervention in natural processes, and it is only through changed attitudes and behaviour that they can be overcome. The real enemy then is humanity itself.”
This gloomy view of mankind and its future seemed to generate a need to create a scapegoat for man to fight, and furthermore to encourage a sort of “ends-justify-the-means” mentality wherein it was acceptable to lie, in the process of creating the scapegoat humanity could rally around fighting. I don’t know why they didn’t feel they could just tell the truth, but I imagine an element of condescending snobbishness was involved, wherein they felt humanity was just too stupid to be told the truth. In truth they themselves were the stupid ones, for in the end Highest Truth inevitably works its way to the surface, and it is then that liars have egg on their face.
In a sense we are now seeing that Abraham Lincoln spoke truth when he stated, “You cannot fool all of the people all of the time,” but Lincoln began that statement with, “You can fool some of the people all of the time”, and that is what we are now dealing with: A sort of residue of trusting people, brought up to see “carbon” as a scapegoat, and as a foe.
Some describe these trusting people as “sheeple”, which seems a bit snide and condescending to me. I actually find trusting people far easier to work with. But a problem occurs when it dawns on them they can’t trust. An entire range of reactions is then possible, from apathy to panic to fury to humor to a white-hot determination to stand for Truth. History demonstrates that when faced with such duress some nations crumble, while others experience a “Finest Hour”.
It seems plain to me the United States has arrived at such a tipping point. I have no idea how things will turn out, but do know that at such times every voice matters. While it can be difficult and even dangerous to speak the voice of reason among the raging, often such a voice can turn the tide, and has great influence among the silent even if the speaker is shown the door. The “left” has been all too willing to utilize this “voice” in a shrieking and impolite manner, protesting as conservatives attempt to speak, but conservatives must persist, (hopefully in more soothing tones), if the United States is to remain a two-party-system where Freedom, especially Freedom Of Speech, is a way of life.
Therefore, yawning slightly, I will again debunk what has already been debunked. And that is the idea that the sea-ice over the North Pole is in a “Death Spiral”, and also that, if the sea-ice ever did melt completely away, it would have terrible consequences. While debunking I’ll also point out some attributes of the strange mental state called “Alarmism”.
The “Death Spiral” idea is silly because the sea-ice has melted away in the recent past, without terrible consequences, (and in fact likely with pleasant consequences, in many northern lands).
The evidence is there, but there has been an effort to hide it. I know this sounds a bit paranoid and crazy, but in order to create a “narrative” wherein people could become bug-eyed about sea-ice melting, one had to “erase” the fact it has happened before. The most notable incident involved a scientist being told “we have to erase the Medieval Warm Period”. However the effort to “erase” evidence that disproves the so-called “narrative” has been far more widespread and absurd. Because so much money has been involved, it has pulled the strings of weak people who allowed themselves become puppets for the production of propaganda. Meanwhile such manipulation of monies completely baffled the honest scientists, who care far more about science than “propaganda”, even to a degree where they forget to deposit their paychecks at the bank, until the bank (or their wife) complains.
I wish I had the time to entertain you with all the examples of this silliness I have witnessed. The book would be hilarious, were it not for the fact some very decent and honest scientists have abruptly seen their funding denied, because their honesty clashed with the “narrative”.
I don’t have the time, and instead will merely mention the funding dried up, all of a sudden, when it came to placing cameras on the sea-ice on the Arctic Sea. Where we once could see what was going on up there, a sort of iron curtain has fallen. Only four years ago there were, at one point, eight functioning cameras sending us pictures. Now there are none. What happened?
I’ll give you my take, which is that initially the pictures supported the “narrative”, but then slowly such images began to undermine the “narrative”, at which point the pictures were no longer welcome. I know this sounds like a conspiracy theory, but it just seems odd that, even as it became far cheaper to place such cameras, suddenly there was no money available to do so.
Initially the cameras supported the “narrative” because they showed sea-ice melting in the summer. In actual fact, the sea-ice had always melted in the summer, but normal people didn’t know this. (I myself didn’t know this, back when I was normal.)
In fact, the sun never sets for six months, at the Pole. There is no “cool of the evening” because there is no evening. The sun just rides around the horizon, around and around, higher and higher, so of course temperatures rise. Temperatures commonly rise above freezing in May and then, on average, remain above freezing day after day, week after week, all the way to August. So is it any wonder the sea-ice melts?
This has nothing to do with Global Warming. It has been happening for millennium. But the cameras allowed us to see what only a few hundred arctic explorers had ever seen before. It was wonderful! It was beautiful! But I’m afraid it failed to be alarming enough.
Not that they didn’t try. The cameras showed the melt-water pools that form on the sea-ice during the summer, and sensationalist headlines made it sound like such pools were a new thing. But then a cantankerous old coot like myself would point out such pools were described by arctic explorers clear back to Henry Hudson in the 1600’s, and also that, when a crack formed in the ice, the water typically drained down and the pool vanished. This could result in embarrassment for Alarmists. For example, in 2013 they dubbed one such pool “Lake North Pole”, claiming it signified the beginning of The End, but no sooner had they drawn everyone’s attention to that camera’s view, when the pool drained and vanished, and instead the camera showed a view of a midsummer snow on polished sea-ice.
The fact the cameras at times embarrassed Alarmists, showing freezing where Satellites indicated thaw, or snowfalls at the peak of the melt-season, or waters clotted with sea-ice in a location other “official” maps showed open water, made them seem unhelpful, to those most interested in the “narrative”. The cameras, initially supportive to the “narrative”, had become a liability. As a cynical old coot, I feel it is no great wonder that the funding dried up.
Nor is it a great wonder to me that richer Alarmists no longer invested in other arctic endeavors. We used to be able to get pictures from all sorts of crazy dudes who planned to prove how bad Global Warming was by being the first to row to the Pole in a bathtub. Or, well, maybe not a bathtub, but in other inadequate craft.
What amazed me most about such young adventurers was: They always got funded. The money was flowing like rivers, but now it has dried up. I think they tended to show too much sea-ice and not enough melting, and failed to support the “narrative.”
I was sad to see that, for the first time in years, there was no “Barneo” base at the Pole this April. Many tourists were willing to fork out $20,000 to ski at the Pole, but there was apparently not enough extra “science money” to make the truly marvelous event, (which even included a yearly marathon), worth the organizers getting over various political differences.
Officially the 2019 Barneo base didn’t happen because of bickering between Russia and Ukraine, but in the past such bickering was lubricated out of existence by a surging inflow of money. Now the money has dried up. Forgive me if I sound overly suspicious, but I think Barneo was also unhelpful to the “narrative”. There was something about the sight of jets landing on the ice (to unload wealthy tourists) that failed to support the idea the Pole would soon be an open ocean.
To me this seems to demonstrate how, as soon as you agree you must “erase” some element of Truth to promote your “narrative”, you have become compromised. Some idealism has egged-you-on into a predicament where you will wind up with egg-on-your-face.
This is not to say that the people who promoted the “narrative” didn’t mean well. They deemed their lies “white lies”. However when they had money and power they could seduce all sorts of people to do what they wanted, and to be at their beck and call. Sad to say, but many scientists, faced with a choice between working in the field they went to college to study, or flipping burgers in a fast-food joint, will chose to work in the field of science, even if it requires some compromise. Some “white lies.”
Nearly every job I’ve ever worked has involved putting up with stuff I’d rather not put-up-with. Compromise is part of life. But it should not involve too great a disregard of Truth.
I’ve worked for employers who demanded discipline. For example, I worked for a place where you could be fired if you “punched in” one second late. This seemed ridiculous to me, because some people tended to sit around the time-clock shooting the bull and drinking coffee for a half hour after they punched-in, while other got right to work. The Truth was that the time-stamp on the time-clock’s punch-card didn’t indicate how hard a man worked. But the boss didn’t want to hear my debate, so I compromised, for a while, and made sure to never be one second late. Eventually I would refuse to obey such discipline, and got fired, but I knew I deserved it. However I knew I could just go get another job. If I left a job in a factory I could go work in a cannery.
I think it isn’t so easy for scientists. It is harder for them to just go get another job. Albert Einstein did need to flee fascism and Germany, but if he had been driven to get a job running a fork lift, I shudder to think of the complete disaster which might have ensued. (To be honest, I didn’t always do so hot myself, as a poet operating a forklift.) (Cue sound-effect of much breaking glass.)
It seems a bit sad to me that funding is no longer flowing like wine, to study melting-at-the-Pole, because I know there are certain scientists who were hired, and asked to compromise a great deal, to make that subject their specialty. Employers shouldn’t just cut the funding for such faithful slaves. Sadly, whoever is funding the Global Warming idea is now treating some scientists like industrialists once treated coal miners, once the miners got old and were no longer useful. This is unwise. Kipling stated there is no fury like the fury of a woman scorned, but I think the fury of an abandoned slave may be as bad. When you deny a man all income, honor, and dignity, despite loyal service, a mere mouse may become a cornered rat.
Fortunately I don’t need to worry about losing income, honor and dignity, concerning sea-ice, because such study is only my hobby. True, due to some stuff I don’t understand concerning “search-engines”, my old posts about sea-ice used to get me over 700 views, and this post will likely get only 40, but this will not effect my income. Or my honor and dignity. After all, sea-ice is just my frickin’ hobby, and I’ll do it even if nobody “views.” The best things in life are free, but sometimes you are the only viewer. For example: That sunrise you saw, a while back. You might have wished there was someone you could share it with, but there wasn’t, yet it was majestic all the same. It was a joy just for you, and all your own (nor were you truly alone, in a spiritual sense).
Some Alarmists lack such joy, and sadly are lodged in unhappiness. They are unhappy because the sea-ice refuses to obey them. Here is the latest evidence:
The sea-ice “extent” graph seems to show a “recovery”. Rather than the “accelerating decline” predicted by “Death Spiral” theory, we are above the depths reached during the low-ice years in 2007 and 2012. The recent “maximum” was higher than last year’s, and, despite great excitement by Alarmists about a recent dip in “extent”, we are not in any way, shape or form headed towards an ice-free summer, this year.
As I look at the above graph, it with an awareness Alarmists seem to lack, concerning the past. I can only suppose it is because, where they must “erase” for the sake of a “narrative”, I simply accept history as it is.
And even most-recent history shows April cannot predict September’s minimum. In 2006 the extent in April was one of the lowest, in recent history, but by September the 2006 minimum was one of the highest, yet this highness, while making 2007 far higher than 2006 the next April, didn’t keep 2007 from having a September minimum which was the second lowest, in recent memory. Obviously the situation in April means little. If it meant much, 2006’s minimum would be lower than 2007’s, in September. In actual fact 2006 is one of the highest recent September extents, as 2007 is one of the lowest. April’s extent, in and of itself, is a lousy predictor.
Because I know recent history, I had a hard time getting all bent out of shape by a recent dip in the above “extent graph”, which some Alarmists claimed was proof all Capitalists should become Communists. Yes, you heard me right. They did claim such a preposterous thing. Look at the small downward blip in the graph, and imagine the leap of faith required to conclude it had such a huge political significance.
Forgive me, but I didn’t even want to join the discussion.
Such discussion has always repelled me. This is a bit of a side track, but I think my dislike was formed by a mildly traumatic event at the end of my boyhood. Back when I was a grubby little boy some elders felt I might be improved by cleaning up what I wore, or having my hair cut more often, but I always found such fussing annoying. I had better things to do, and preferred hiking and fishing to being neat and tidy.
My slovenliness reached a peak around 1965, when, as youngest in my class, I was the last to show any sign of growing pubic hair, in the showers after gym class. I was the last true boy, and got in trouble with authorities by being grubby and careless, and wearing jeans to school ( illegal, back then) and having hair over the tops of my ears (also illegal) or wearing tattered sneakers, (you were suppose to wear shoes). I didn’t mean to rebel; I simply was neglectful. Meanwhile my pals were hit by hormones and abruptly became insanely interested in fashion and females. They got in different trouble by daring to wear fashionable clothing, which broke certain school dress-codes. Their jet-black pants were too tight and too short; so tight about their ankles they could barely get them over their feet when they put them on, and they wore expensive footwear called “Beatle Boots” which the grown-ups banned because they were boots and not shoes. None of this made a lick of sense to me, for, after all, I was still a boy. What made sense was hiking and fishing.
I think the experience shaped me. Because I was youngest I saw, like the child seeing the Emperor had no clothes, that what was politically correct in 1965 was silly. My mind was impressed, and my thought was shaped in a way which saw the “fashion” others desired was actually repellent.
Therefore, when hormones hit me only a year later, I had no desire the wear pants tight around the ankle and Beatle-boots, because that seemed silly. Rather I would do what was not silly. Quite accidentally I was seeking an “alternative lifestyle”. And what was the alternative? At that time it was to remain a child, a Huckleberry Finn, and to continue hiking and fishing, but to do so with the fever of an adolescent rather than the quietude of a boy. I learned to have a (nearly) complete disregard for fashion and political correctness. I had no idea this made me more adult than many adults. I was merely “thinking for myself”.
I think by 1967 the fashions of the politically correct became so shameful that many men have zealously burned all evidence, and developed amnesia. It was a fashion called “mod”. Men wore polka dots. I remember it quite clearly: Absurd, brightly colored polka dots. Not just ties, but sport coats. But nearly all evidence has been erased, like the Medieval Warm Period. What man would confess to being such a fool of fashion?
There was no way you were going to get me to dress in polka dots. Sorry, but even the slight chance, (very slight), that I could seduce a babe couldn’t trick me into wearing such peacock buffoonery. I stuck with my dirty jeans, and stuck with neglecting to get my hair cut until my shaggy locks got me rebuked by the school principle, and I stuck with hiking and fishing.
Then, in 1969, to my complete astonishment, dirty jeans and shaggy locks became fashionable and politically correct. As the youngest senior in my class I was abruptly the guy who was ahead of the curve, the guy who saw what was hip before all others, the guru of fashion.
I won’t pretend the flattery didn’t sway me. Every dog has his day. But, as fashion moved on to “disco”, I was like a guru wistfully watching all his disciples rush off to John Travolta.
Forgive me if I am belaboring my point, but it has been the experience of my life that a large part of “political correctness” is superficiality. It has next to nothing to do with the underlying Truth. At best “political correctness” is a dirty reflection through a warped mirror of what is actually occurring in the honest foundations of society, and at worst it is a complete misrepresentation.
There is much in my life I am not proud about, but one thing that makes me smile is that I still walk about in dirty jeans. I am what I am. I have been spared a great deal of bother and nuisance, by skipping fashion (most of the time) and instead focusing on work, and skipping political correctness, and instead focusing on Truth.
The Truth is that we are not threatened by the melting of arctic ice. The Truth also is we would be better off if the sea-ice totally melted. If it melted, we might return to climatic periods described as “Optimums”. If the sea-ice utterly melted northern climates under “arctic regimes” might instead experience “maritime regimes”.
In terms of Greenland, replacing the current “arctic regime” with a “maritime regime” would have a huge benefit. Permafrost would fade away, so you could dig a grave, as the Vikings once did. You could raise fodder, and deliver midwinter water, to 100,000 sheep and goats and 2000 cattle, as the Vikings once did. On good summers you could grow barley for beer, as the Vikings once did.
But some assume such evidence must be erased, along with other proof the Medieval Warm Period was warmer. What perverse ideology can be so stupid? Why erase what actually happened? Why erase actual experience which provides science with data, and which then corrects our past mistakes and furthers our future’s thought?
Who would do this? It is at this point my sense of humor kicks in, and I remember the persons who felt it was so dreadfully important to dress in “mod” fashions in 1967. I always wondered how the minds of such people work. What are you telling yourself when you don a ridiculous polka-dot outfit? For that matter, what was Abraham Lincoln telling himself when he donned his stove-pipe hat? (I like to believe he was muttering curses under his breath, the way I did when my mother made me dress in a suit and go to dancing school, when I’d rather be fishing.)
And why did George Washington wear that silly wig? Oh…wait…..he didn’t wear a wig. That was his natural hair, (though he may have powdered it.) Wigs were for people who went prematurely bald, especially when they went bald as teenagers.
Why should you go bald at such an early age? It was a side-effect of a revenge Native Americans had upon Europeans. (No, not the addiction to tobacco.) The revenge was a sexually transmitted disease which Columbus (or his crew) brought back to Spain, and which swept through Europe as the worst epidemic since the Black Plague. To abruptly go bald (often in a patchy manner) as a teenager became a sign you had not been chaste, and to hide from the shame (made so blatant by the abrupt, patchy baldness), people wore wigs, if they could afford them. (Even a cheap wig cost a week’s wages), (but a side-effect was that wigs helped people avoid the annoyance of lice. They shaved what hair they had left, and if lice got in their wig they could just boil the wig. Problem solved). But, as wigs were expensive, they became status symbols, and the rich bought and wore amazingly tall and curly and flowing wigs, whereupon they were called “bigwigs”.
The irony is, of course, that wearing such a wig would not fool the wise, who would know you wore wear the hairpiece because you had been immoral and contracted a SID which might (before antibiotics) eventually rot your brain and cause tragic insanity.
But, to the simple, a bigwig is impressive. The wigs in the above painting may have costed more than a layman could make in half a year. (Isn’t it odd how people can turn hiding shame into a status symbol)?
In my humble opinion “Global Warming” is a sort of polka-dotted “bigwig” that silly people use to impress other silly people with. Alarmist dogma has little to do with virtue, just as contracting syphilis has little to do with virtue, but the dogma becomes a sort of “bigwig” that intellectually bald people use to hide their intellectual shame. In actual fact they may be as weakened and clipped as Samson was after Delilah was done with him, but, (by virtue signaling), the politically-correct state, “Look at me! I have more hair than Samson had, at his most mighty!”
I wonder if they think they are fooling themselves. After all, at some point men took off their “mod” suits, and they did not put those absurd outfits in the closet, and wait for such bizarre garb to come back into fashion. They threw the polka-dot suits into the rubbish, (or perhaps burned them), to destroy all evidence they had ever been so ridiculous.
In like manner Alarmists are backpedaling from their fashionable statements, regarding the Arctic being in a “Death-Spiral”.
One last-ditch effort to prove there was less ice, even when the “extent” increased, involved stating that, while the “extent” might have increased, the expanding ice was thinner and had become something they dubbed “rotten ice.” What mattered was suddenly not “extent”, but “volume”.
Of course measuring the “volume” was very difficult, and involved variables and margins-of-error much greater than measuring “extent”, (and indeed the best-science involving volume-measurement may be worse than the best-science is regarding what the weather will be ten days from now), but, for what it was worth, the “volume” graph was going down, even as the “extent” went flat and even rose slightly. “Volume” became the new talking-point, and the new proof the “Death-spiral” was ongoing.
But drat! Wouldn’t you just know it? Just as “Lake North Pole” vanished as soon as they got people looking at it, as soon as they got people looking at the “Volume” graph, it shot upwards last winter. Don’t you just hate it, when that happens?
I myself figured the sea-ice volume grew because last year a sort of “Wrong-way-flow” prevented sea-ice from being flushed south through Fram Strait in the more usual manner. At times these wrong-way winds even pushed the ordinarily-piled-up sea-ice away from Greenland’s north coast. ( Sensationalist Headline: “Open Water North Of Greenland Proves Sea-ice Is About To Vanish. Polar Bears Will Drown”). This year has seen the wrong-way winds quit, and lots of sea-ice has been flushed south through Fram Strait to cool the Atlantic. As such sea-ice melts its “volume” drops to zero, and is subtracted from the total, so I expected the “Volume” graph to fall. Surprisingly, it hasn’t (so far):
If you are actually interested in arctic sea-ice, the refusal of “volume” to diminish is a fascinating development. But if you are interested in promoting a “narrative” it is incredibly annoying. This is one heck of a way to run a “Death Spiral”.
In fact, where we formally saw an attempt to “erase the Medieval War Period”, we may now be seeing an attempt to “erase the Death Spiral”.
I can’t say I blame whosoever may be involved. It is darned embarrassing to be predicting a sort of end-to-the-World, (though I reiterate that I think an ice-free Arctic Ocean would be a good thing), but then to, year after year, have your prediction be proven wrong. It seems quite normal and natural to change the subject. In a way it seems like burning an old, “mod” suit with blaring polka dots. Some things are best forgotten.
The problem is, we are not talking about mere silly outfits people chose to wear. We are talking about trillions of tax-dollars, the sweat of hard-working taxpayers, and how such dollars are spent. Are they spent wisely, or are they wasted on polka-dots?
With funding for cameras, and crazy adventurers, and the Barneo blue-ice jetport, all mysteriously vanished, just about the only pictures of sea-ice I can observe come from postings on the small-town websites of little communities in Alaska and Canada, who sit by the sea and have to deal with sea-ice, as it clogs their harbors every winter. Often the ice can keep boats from bringing fresh groceries, and the local people must either hunker down and subsist on stored-up blubber and canned goods, or rely on icebreakers and airlifted goods.
On Labrador Island they rely on icebreakers and ferries with strengthened bows, but there were shortages last winter. There is always a struggle to get supplies across the Strait Of Belle Isle, due to sea-ice.
(First, I should note that, if the “Death Spiral” is real, that ice shouldn’t even be there. Last winter it was described as “the worst in thirty years”. But never mind that.)
Second, with all the advancements in technology, surely last winter should have seen more fresh vegetables than ever, out on the island.
The lady in the picture has been running her market forty years, and she stated last winter was the worst, in terms of getting fresh vegetables.
How is it possible that 40 years ago, way back in 1978, the Canadians who lived back then could do a better job delivering groceries than the modern generation of politically-correct idealists can do?
Attempting to poke into the details, I had to descend into the bizarre world of Canadian politics, which currently involves lots of polka-dots, and not much sanity. Apparently they replaced an old, tired, but adequate ferry called the “Apollo” with a ferry that butchers the English language with the ungrammatical name, “Qajaq”.
As a boy I learned it was very bad luck to ever use the letter “Q” without the letter “U” after it. (After all, look what happened to Iraq). (Also, if I wrote “Q” without “U”, I might be kept after school, which was very bad luck). No good could possibly come of naming a ship “Qajaq”, but for Canadians it has become very stylish to write “Q” without a “U”, as doing so is apparently a sort of virtue-signaling, indicative of “sensitivity” towards “indigenous peoples.” (I’m not sure how sensitive naming a ferry “Qajaq” actually is, for I think in Inuit “qajaq” is the plural of “qyaq”, which is a skinny little kayak; in any case, an odd name for a car-carrying ferry.)
Qajaq lived up to my superstitions. Even with the help of ice-breakers, it could not deliver the groceries, and for weeks couldn’t even leave port. The people who live out on the island, and the truck-drivers dependent on the ferry to earn their living, grew scornful of the politicians who had mismanaged. After around a month the coast guard used ice-breakers to barge a minimum of groceries out to Labrador Island, but the ships were not designed for cargo and many groceries froze solid and had to be returned.
I learned all sorts of bits about the Canadian government, eavesdropping in small town chat-rooms. Apparently a large amount of money was squandered on “cronies” who built a road to the ferry terminal, but not enough money was spent on the ferry itself. Also, although the politicians were very proud of the Qajaq, because it had only half the “carbon footprint” of the Apollo, the local people scornfully stated this goal was achieved only by having a puny engine, merely half as strong as Apollo’s, which meant that, even with a reinforced bow, that the Qajaq couldn’t push through sea-ice the Apollo had once shouldered through.
I bit my tongue, for it is not my place to butt into a neighbor’s business, but I did want to mention that their politicians seemed to spend far too much time being “sensitive” about naming their ships, and far too little time being “sensible” about shipping.
The way to avoid mismanagement is to hire sensible managers, and the way to be sensible is to take a hard look at facts. It is distinctly unhelpful to “erase” the facts, yet much political-correctness seems aimed at not-allowing certain facts to be faced. Certain subjects must not be broached, certain realities must be avoided, certain sleeping-dogs must not be disturbed even with a ten-foot-pole, until one is reduced to mincing about on eggs, more focused on polka-dots and big-wigs than what really matters. It is only then that politicians cease being helpful and begin to be hazards, more concerned with genuflecting than with making sure groceries are delivered. Even the most garrulous old store-owner knows there comes a time to “stop talking and to start stocking” (the shelves). When a politician can’t see this, and becomes more busy erasing things such as the Medieval Warm Period than with delivering the goods, then troubles arise. It is when shelves are empty that people tend to dust off an old Winston Churchill quote:
“The loyalties which center upon (the leader) are enormous. If he trips he must be sustained. If he makes mistakes they must be covered. If he sleeps he must not be wantonly disturbed. If he is no good he must be pole-axed…”
This was what got Donald Trump elected. People were sick of mismanagement. The politically-correct were horrified, and attempted to pole-ax Trump even before he took office, which demonstrates they did not read the rest of the Churchill quote:
“…But this last extreme process cannot be carried out every day; and certainly not in the days after (the leader) has been chosen.”
The simple fact of the matter is that what matters is not polka-dots, nor how big your wig is, but how you manage the cards dealt out to you. There are people dealt nothing but deuces who amaze all with their success, and there are those who are dealt aces who fall flat on their faces. (Hmm. Might be a poem in that.)
Some people, though seemingly dealt only deuces, Become locomotives and never cabooses. Other elite ones are dealt only aces Yet traipse into trouble and fall on their faces.
It is true that a lot depends on your teammates; a fantastic soccer player will never be a winner if his goal-tender takes his eye off the ball to admire a blond babe in the stands; a great quarterback will have trouble completing a pass if his blockers are spineless and his coach is the moronic relative of a moronic owner. However some, even when dealt the worst hands, still manage to manage. There are ordinary people you meet every day who only manage to be ordinary by defying incredible odds. Conversely, there are pompous bigwigs who think their feces smell better than everyone else’s, utterly oblivious to an impending pole-ax.
The nice thing about a two-party system is that no actual pole-ax is involved. No guillotine is rolled out to chop off your head. There is no “Terror”, no Stalinist purges, no horrible Maoist “Cultural Revolution”, no “Night Of The Long Knives” where Hitler assassinated his best-friend Brown-Shirts although they had lifted him to power. Instead, in a two-party system, you are subjected to what the sports-world calls “being benched.” You are not kicked off the team, but you are told to go sit down and think about how you contributed to the fact the team lost the last game.
A problem arises when one wants so badly to have star-status they cannot abide even the thought of any sort of demotion. Their mother told them they were wonderful, and it hurts them tremendously when they find out they are merely ordinary. They received a trophy in school, (sometimes a “participation trophy” for doing nothing beyond showing up), and they expect life to give them another. They feel “entitled”, and feel they should be quarterback even if not gifted in that regard. Even if they are five-foot-two and can’t throw, they feel some “injustice” is involved if the best way they can help the team is to sell hot-dogs in the stands. They have lost the ability to see the facts a good manager sees, preferring to “erase” certain aspects of Truth, and to live in a rosy dream-world that can only remain rosy if reality doesn’t rear its head with ugly repercussions.
If one erases things such as the “Medieval Warm Period”, one eventually winds up with a so-called “false narrative” one is dependent upon, and then one becomes overly focused on things such as naming a boat, or “carbon emissions”, and the repercussions are empty shelves. Karma then tends to be ruthless. What goes around comes around.
In a way it is amusing, for often a reason some get sidetracked is because they feel “life isn’t fair”, and then, after their sidetrack leads them deep into a forest of buffoonery involving polka-dots and big-wigs and other forms of virtue-signaling political-correctness, they become extremely indignant when it turns out life is fair, after all.
It is difficult to explain the unfairness of life, for God’s Creation involves a vast, intricate complexity beyond the capacity of the human psyche to completely comprehend. Why are some born rich and some born poor, some born beautiful and some born ugly, some born sharp and some born dull? Is it due to the Karma of past lives? Is it due to evil White Men exploiting? Is it due to carbon emissions? Is it due to eating too much beef and not enough kale? Or is it merely a given in life, called “troubles?”
Having spent most of my life attempting to avoid trouble but getting into plenty, I tend to feel troubles are part of life, (and that, in fact, life would be boring without them).
If anyone was going to successfully avoid trouble, I would think it would be a man with super-powers, who could walk on water, and raise the dead, and give sight to the blind, such as Jesus is believed by some to have been. But even Jesus didn’t seem to avoid trouble, nor promise his followers an easy road: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
This is not to say that some elements of truthfully facing-trouble don’t defy basic mathematics:
As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.“Truly I tell you,”he said,“this poor widow has put in more than all the others.”
To people only focused on the mathematics of money, and not the entirety of Truth, this statement made by Jesus is illogical. Their minds, in over-focusing on money, have “erased” other things that matter.
I seem to see, in history, a rising and falling of people nearly as predictable as the rising and falling of tides. Initially people focus on Truth in its vast and incomprehensible entirety, and are made swiftly aware of their inabilities and mistakes, but are equally swift to respond to Truth’s corrections. People call Truth inanimate, but Truth does give people a swift boot in the posterior if they neglect to factor-in certain elements. Call it “Divine Intervention” or call it “Murphy’s Law”, Truth is swift to correct and discipline those people humble enough to admit their mistakes, and who eagerly learn from them. Because they are swift to learn they rise on a tide of Truth, and often gain prosperity, popularity, and power.
But then the rot sets in. People enjoy prosperity, popularity and power, and these three things are seen as being worthwhile in and of themselves, even to the point where Truth slips from the center of people’s attention. The “erasure” is slight at first, but the addiction is insidious, and slowly makes inroads upon the initial, steadfast focus on Truth. The tide is falling, though the people heading down often think they are richer, more famous, and more powerful than ever. Towards the end they become the butts of jokes, utterly focused on polka-dots and big-wigs, and amazingly blind to the Truth that brought about prosperity, popularity and power in the first place. This downfall is described by some as “being given to sin.”
This realization has been an unexpected side-effect of studying sea-ice. It has occurred because one cannot talk about what the sea-ice is actually doing, in actual terms, without at some point treading upon the vast and duck-like flat-feet of Alarmists, and being exposed to the sputtering bombast of their wrath.
(Pause, if you will, and reflect back upon the painting of the pompous “bigwigs” I portrayed earlier in this post. Better yet, go back and look at the picture, and imagine telling those gentlemen about the real reason they wore their wigs. Do you think they’d be nice, hearing your words?)
In other words, even if you want to talk about sea-ice and sea-ice alone, there are individuals who change the subject. They seem to prefer to distract one’s focus away from the Truth about sea-ice, and instead towards their personal ire. Their logic smells of red herrings. They don’t want Truth to be the center of attention, preferring that they themselves be the center. Have pity on them. They are very needy fellows, because they need help.
As interested as I am in sea-ice, I feel Alarmist’s cries for help must be respected. That is why I go on such long side-tracks, attempting to explain the antics of my fellow man, when sea-ice is often more interesting. To walk heedlessly past a person dressed in polka-dots and big-wigs, when they are crying out for help, is in some ways like walking past a person sinking in quicksand.
Of course, they are unaware they are crying out for help. Part of their derangement is that they think I am treading on their vast toes. Which is why solving their silly problem is taking so much longer than it should.
It is a pity Alarmists are so needy and require so much pampering, because there is actually some interesting stuff going on at the Pole. With the “Death Spiral” now a dogma undergoing what seems to require an erasure much like the “Medieval Warm Period’s”, there are far fewer pictures to look at, so we aren’t able to closely examine the changes we dimly see in other data.
What are the changes?
There was a shift in weather patterns that led to fewer charges of Atlantic air north over the Pole, especially in Fram Strait. But on the Pacific side there was a push of sea-ice north through Being Strait. If I had time I’d love to study this shifting pattern in greater detail, (rather than deal with the denials of those who, for over a decade, have called me “a denier. “)
The air was a little milder than normal over the Pole, when compared against thirty-year-norms, last winter, yet it was far colder than most recent winters.
Notice how the red line actually dipped below the green line twice during the depth of winter, which hasn’t happened since 2015. Also the “peaks” above normal were far more modest. Compare the warm surges last winter (above) with the warm surges the prior winter (below).
If you add up the area of the space between the red lines and green lines you get a rough estimate of the amount of chill the sea-ice was exposed to, which can allow you to make a guess at how much thicker the ice got. However the milder air also tends to lead to more snow, which further insulates the ice from chill, and may further decrease the thickness of the ice. Therefore, because last winter had colder temperatures, and likely less snow, the ice may have thickened more, which may partially explain the failure of volume to decrease, despite more sea-ice being exported south through Fram Strait.
However less snow may have a contrary effect, now that the sun has risen north of the Arctic Circle. The snow has the ability, due to its high albedo, to delay the melting. Less-deep snow may mean an earlier start to the formation of melt-water pools. (And here is where cameras would be such a help.)
Despite the fact temperatures (and likely humidity) have been above normal during recent winters, this has changed, year after year, during the month of May. Often May has seen the first below-normal temperatures in many months, and quite often temperatures have remained more often below-normal than above-normal through much of the following summer. I’ll be interested to see if it happens again this year.
The fact summer temperatures are below-normal tends to suggest the sunshine is weaker. The so-called “Quiet Sun” may be showing its effect. Oddly, the “Quiet Sun” may also be showing its effect even when it doesn’t shine at the Pole, during the winter, and may be causing the warmer winters at the Pole.
This is utterly contrary to ordinary thought. How could a weaker sun make it warmer?
Warming might happen because the sun’s energy does not merely manifest in a way measured by thermometers, but also as energy measured by anemometers. A weaker sun might lead to weaker winds. If those weaker winds happened to be Trade Winds, the result would be less up-welling of cold waters to the west of continents down towards the equator. Less cold water at the equator would allow there to be more warm water (an El Nino rather than a La Nina), and this leads to warmer and more-moist air heading north to the Pole.
The arctic is in many respects a desert, with air that is very cold and very dry. The introduction of even a slight amount of moisture can have a huge effect in terms of temperature. The same amount of evaporated moisture which would result in a very small temperature rise at the equator, (and might even lower temperatures if a thunderstorm resulted), can result in a spike of winter temperatures at the Pole of over twenty degrees, (still below freezing). It is therefore wrong to give arctic temperatures the same “weight” as tropical temperatures.
In fact, if you give arctic temperatures the same “weight” as tropical temperatures, and created an “average” between the two, you might even create a statistical error, wherein the increase at the Pole would have the effect of “masking” a growing decrease elsewhere. A slight amount of mere moisture, at the Pole, could consequently corrupt the “Global Average Temperature”, which some politicians place so much importance upon.
I wish I had time to continue. I have only brought up two lovely variables which thermometers don’t measure, namely Trade Winds and humidity at the Pole. Truth is far more complex and beautiful, and includes far more subtlety than temperature, humidity and wind-speed. It is for the best, if we wish to be good stewards of the gift we call “our planet”, to remain humble, concerning our relationship with Truth. We must be constantly ready to be corrected.
The alternative seems to me to be an arrogant refusal to accept correction, and a behavior which seems basically adolescent. It seems but an immature, audacious certainty that “the science is settled”, and that Truth has nothing more it can teach us. It is the ossified enunciation of paralyzed thinking, addicted to polka-dots and enamored of big-wigs, and the great irony is that, in seeking to avoid correction, it invites more and greater corrections. In the end such Alarmism is simply a way of cruising for a bruising.
It has occurred to me that age does not merely make us infirm and decrepit. It also has a benefit, in that some of us become, (unlike certain professors), less likely to fall prey to the goofs of youth, chief of which is infatuation. We are less likely to seize upon an answer and think we have found the solution before we have even gotten our feet wet with the actual problem. The escape from infatuation is to know you do not know the answer, and this realization is fundamental to being truly responsive, which is fundamental to being truly loving.
Every dawn is fresh and new. We may think we know what the weather will be, but in fact we don’t. The most fabulous computers our world has seen (so far) have been devoted to telling us what the weather will be when we get out of bed, and we have seen them proved wrong. Before we go to bed we can study the work of brilliant minds, the computer weather-models of Europe, Canada, the USA, Japan, and others, and they may all promise us a sunny day, but when we rise from bed and step outside to sniff the air we hear the roll of morning thunder. Our Creator has his own plan, and does not heed the computer models. So who should you obey? What your government states the weather will be? Or what our Creator states the weather actually is?
I tend to side with the Creator, for He is the Truth. Computer models are but an approximation, sort of like a four-year-old’s drawing of my face, at my Childcare. I don’t scold the child for a lousy drawing, and I don’t suppose God scolds the fellows who devise computer models. But, when push comes to shove, I tend to consult a mirror before a four-year-old, when it comes to how my wrinkled, toothless, old face looks, and, when it comes to the morning’s weather, I prefer to step outside and sniff the air, and trust my nose more than I trust bureaucrats staring at computer read-outs, far away.
When I step outside to sniff the air I can’t tell you how many times the weather has surprised me. This proves I am not in control. Despite all the effort I’ve put into comprehending the complexity of New England weather, I’m still ignorant. I am faced with my own imperfection on a daily basis, but does this make the dawn imperfect? No, for even when the daybreak annoys me with snow I must shovel, it is perfect. I may call it perfectly annoying, but still it is perfect. If there is any imperfection involved, it is in my grouchy responses.
As a child-care-professional I make no claim to be perfect, though the government regulations at times seem to want to demand perfection, and to desire bubble-wrapping childhood so no child’s knee is ever seen with a scab. Instead of pretending perfection, I wear my imperfections as a reason to laugh, like a joker, like the child-care-professional Yorick, the court jester of Hamlet’s father in Shakespeare’s play. Hamlet recalls riding Yorick’s shoulders as a boy, and kissing him, and the way Yorick could make everyone laugh, but Yorick’s single appearance in the play is as a skull.
Facing mortality is a great blow to the optimism and infatuations of youth, which also owns a completely contrary sense of invulnerability. This is what makes Hamlet’s comment to Horatio so timeless:
Mortality is the great equalizer, because the exact same fate that befalls a jester befalls a king, and awaited Stalin and Sennacherib. Physically we are all doomed. But in terms of minds, Stalin and Sennacherib were downright depressing, whereas Isaiah, Shakespeare, and Norman Rockwell were (and remain) lively. The difference seems to be that the tyrant seeks power while the poet seeks love’s joy, and worldly power is perishable, while love is not.
A sort of epiphany occurred to me during the final weeks before our national elections, here in the USA, last November. At that time Alarmists were sticking with their arguments about sea-ice, despite the fact their arguments were utterly refuted. Worse, young and naive voters were convinced by Alarmist’s baldfaced lies. In effect I was zealously informed by youth (who didn’t know penguins don’t live with polar bears) that I knew nothing about arctic sea-ice.
If you look back across five years on this site you will see how I have sought to learn all I could about sea-ice, and to patiently share what I have learned. And yet some loud child, just barely of voting age, presumes to tell me what the Truth is, about sea-ice?
It stopped me in my tracks. Truth is such a beautiful thing, and I wanted so badly to share the joy and laughter, yet ignorance has power, and a virtual entity like “Google”, that exists unseen, can seek to demote me, so I sink twenty pages down on it’s “search engine”, so impatient youth will never “search” long enough to hear the truth I’ve learned about sea-ice. Instead they will just parrot the falsehood they have been indoctrinated with, by the politically-correct, who may not be aware of it, but are behaving in a Maoist manner.
Call me discouraged if you will, but I needed time to think.
It seems to me that, if Truth has the power I claim it has, and the pen has the power I claim it has, then there has been a singular lack of evidence that corroborates my belief. I seem to be standing in the same shoes that the sane people of Hitler’s Germany, of Stalin’s Russia, and of Mao’s China, stood in.
What was the use of telling the Truth? I seemed to be beating my brains against a brick wall.
I have recently finished reading “In The Garden Of The Beasts” by Erik Larson, describing the days leading up to the ugliness of the night Hitler first revealed the capacity of his hate and his inability to love, called, “The Night of the Long Knives,” from the view of the American ambassador and his somewhat randy and rambunctious daughter.
I don’t like that period of history, for I always see how Hitler could have been stopped, but none would heed the sane voices. Yet a fascination drags me to look at what I don’t like, perhaps to see how the sane managed to stay sane.
For example, when I first read “The Last Lion” by William Manchester, I couldn’t comprehend how Churchill stayed sane during the period 1933 to 1939. He could see where Hitler was headed, and what his aim was, and knew that if Hitler wasn’t stopped then war, and the death of millions, would be the result. But Churchill, (who knew first-hand the horrors of the trenches, and who wanted to avoid a major war), was called a “war monger” for stating Hitler must be confronted and stopped with a minor war. How great must have been his level of frustration! To be ignored, year after year, and to have his own imperfections magnified, as Hitler’s were forgiven. How did he manage to keep a shred of sanity, as the politically-correct steered civilization to a holocaust?
He must have had a mystic faith in some higher power, called Truth, which would win in the end. In a speech Churchill stated that if Hitler was not stopped, and achieved his goals, the world would face a new, prolonged dark age, made worse by the powers of modern science, but even that statement hints at an underlying belief in goodness. How? It suggests that even if the darkness is “prolonged”, it must lose eventually to the dawn of enlightenment.
It is ironic that Churchill was seen as a hawk and war monger, when what he desired was to confront Hitler in 1933, when Hitler was still weak, and when confrontation would allow the world to enjoy peace, and avoid the hell of war. He was the opposite of a war-monger. He was a peace-lover. But perhaps “peace”, at that time, was too intellectually attached to a royalty, wealth, and empire which God had decided to hit with His “ax”, because the empire’s rich exploited the empire’s poor, and when a rich man died “vultures would gather”, and that rich man’s “widow would be destitute”. People in power put the wrong things ahead of the right things, and lustful infatuation came before love.
When I read Churchill’s speeches from the 1930’s I have an odd sense the dude wasn’t really a politician. He was a poet. His prose has a cadence that your toes want to tap to, as you listen. There are some things that touch your heart, even as your mind objects. Such things have their origins in Truth, and seem to me evidence Churchill was a man living in proximity-to and association-with Truth.
That being said, it must be admitted Churchill (like all of us) had his weaknesses, one of which was a fierce loyalty in 1936 to the new English king, Edward.
Such respect of royalty may seem odd in Churchill’s case, for Churchill had an American mother, and gladly embraced a family-legend that his mother’s great-grandmother, (who had the wonderful Puritan name “Experience Martin”), had skin darker than her siblings and may have been the result of an indiscretion involving an Iroquois Indian. This would make Churchill a sort of “half breed”. (I should add that I’ve found no documentary evidence the family-legend is true). However it seems Churchill himself didn’t seem to mind the possibility he had some fierce Iroquois warrior blood in his veins. This may have given him reason to dislike Hitler’s emphasis on “racial purity.” If so, it perhaps should have also made him dislike King Edward’s contempt towards “inferior races” as well. Instead, Churchill enacted intense patriotic respect for the monarchy, (which American patriots can’t comprehend, unless they can comprehend that back then badmouthing the British monarchy was the English equivalent of an American spitting on the American flag.)
Edward is an odd character, for, at a time when great men craved power, he wanted to be done with it. Where Stalin and Hitler would kill for power, and Churchill would take the most unpopular stances with bulldog determination seeking to gain power through persuasion, Edward seemingly was more comfortable as an obedient and even subservient follower. Not that he didn’t have some strong opinions.
Edward had reason to hate communists, as his aunt had been murdered along with her husband, (the Russian Czar), and all her four children. Therefore he approved of Hitler’s hatred of communists. He also didn’t mind Hitler’s love of Germans, as he was largely German himself. He shared Hitler’s belief that some races were “inferior”, and in his travels around the British Empire he had little sympathy for his impoverished subjects, tending to see poverty not as a choice, or as a misfortune, but as brought about by the genetically diminished intelligence of an inferior race. Lastly, he didn’t mind Hitler’s autocratic mindset, because democracy had been such a shambles in Germany, which suggested an autocrat was necessary. To Edward the alternative to a fascist tyrant seemed to be a communist tyrant. Europe had seen few examples of revolution having results like America’s; largely European revolution resulted in some sort of “Terror” like France’s, and to resulting in people falling back to the “safety” of some sort of monarch, or a dictator like Napoleon.
One thing that made the royalty and the upper class so despised by communists of that time was that their lifestyle made them dependent on a staff of servants. Royalty were freed from doing their own laundry, which may have given them time to attend to other matters, but meant they were in fact inept, in terms of doing laundry. But some did not see themselves as inept, but rather as “more civilized”. People who lived more minimalist lifestyles, wherein one prepared ones own food, cut ones own firewood, and washed ones own clothes, were sometimes deemed “less civilized”, simply because such minimalists had little free time to sit about discussing politics at cocktail parties. It was not uncommon for the wealthiest English Brahman to not merely have clean clothes laid out twice a day, but to have a servant who dressed them. In some cases the servants were appreciated and well cared-for, (Churchill’s staff were largely devoted to him), but in other cases the staff felt disdained, because their unappreciative bosses looked down their noses and said the “inferior” should “know their place”. This belittling was what the communists most despised, and a servant’s natural dislike of an employer’s unappreciative snobbery was a resentment communists tended to nurture, like a small cut into an abscess, from a pout towards rage and revolution.
In a simplistic manner this tended to divide a nation’s naturally united people into Royalists and Antiroyalists, or the Bourgeoisie and the Prolatariate. To continue this simplistic division, Edward was faced with a choice between Hitler and Stalin, and, because Stalin was on the side that had murdered his Aunt and Uncle and all their children, the choice seemed simple. Though the pictures below are from a year later (1937) they demonstrate a friendliness between Edward and Hitler that likely would have made Churchill cringe. (Between the two pictures Hitler likely gallantly kissed the lady’s hand).
The woman in the above pictures is the American divorcee, Wallis Simpson, who the king eventually gave up his throne for. The king was likely warned the relationship with her was unwise, (as “intelligence” [IE: gossip and spies] stated she had not only enjoyed an affair with Hitler’s foreign minister, Ribbentrop, but years earlier had an affair with Mussolini’s son-in-law [while in China, of all places]). However Edward likely knew much about the indiscretions of the upper class, having been a playboy himself, nor was he particularly upset about prewar, (pre-genocide) fascism, having been brought up to believe he was a king and superior to “commoners”, due to his “royal blood” alone. Ms Simpson likely was a person with whom he could be frank, about the foibles of leaders, and was a woman who knew much about the presumptions of the powerful, and with her he likely enjoyed a level of understanding he didn’t find elsewhere, and he fell in love.
Because king Edward had access to “red boxes” holding state secrets, (to keep him abreast of government decisions), and because Mrs.Simpson was suspected of being a spy, some were alarmed by how open he was with her. A private detective was hired to trail them. But in 1936 the upper class were oblivious to the approaching holocaust. Churchill’s deep distrust of Hitler, and of fascism in general, was not a widely held view. Many of England’s upper class, like Edward, felt Hitler was a good opponent for Stalin, and Hitler ought be supported, to stand as a “bulwark” against the rise of communism in Russia, and that Hitler could be controlled. Meanwhile Hitler felt England would eventually side with him, and that Edward could be controlled.
In spiritual terms both royalists and communists (in my view) are birds of a feather, for they both are based on autocratic concepts, and tend to want to be rid of restraints to absolute power, such as “constitutional monarchy” or “democratic socialism.” Royalists and Communists see each other as absolute opposites, and are unaware that, because “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”, they actually create each other, and are dependent on each other, due to the perverse, Karmic nature of hatred. This was about to become horribly clear in the Spanish Civil War, but in 1936 that nightmare hadn’t started yet.
Churchill clearly saw that Hitler could not be controlled by appeasement, and that force would be required, but had a difficult time marshaling public opinion, as the British public loathed the thought of another war. He finally seemed to making some headway in 1936, after Hitler ignored signed treaties and broke trust by marching troops into the demilitarized Rhineland. Hitler himself later stated that, if the French had marched their own troops in to meet him, he would have had to back off, and that his move was a big gamble. Confronting Hitler was exactly what Churchill urged. He was winning support, and at this point, (when reading “The Last Lion“) I feel a surge of hope (even though I know the future), for Churchill’s power-of-persuasion was on the verge of saving Europe from the approaching holocaust. But then, right when an ordinary politician would make sure to keep cultivating a popular position, mincing and smirking towards cameras and the press, Churchill does something in his bulldog manner that was bound to lose votes.
It was right then Edward announced his intent to marry the divorced commoner Ms. Simpson. The public was horrified. The outrage was not so much that Ms. Simpson was a commoner, (or a fascist spy), but that that she was divorced not merely once, but in the process of divorcing a second husband.
It is difficult for people nowadays to understand the shame and disgrace involved back then, when people broke their marriage vows. Not that the upper crust didn’t cheat on each other, but they didn’t divorce. (In fact some upper class marriages involved couples able to have tremendous rows about the affairs they discovered each other were having, who still were able to make-up, and laugh about their moral indiscretions, later in their marriages.) (King Edward VII (Edward’s grandfather) may even have had a door put in at the back of the palace, so Queen Victoria would not see his lovers coming and going, but he would never, never divorce his queen.) In conclusion, while an affair might be dismissed as a “foible”, a divorce was a big deal. In 1935, when Edward had introduced Ms. Simpson to his mother and father (IE “presented her at court”) his father was furious when he discovered she was divorced, for divorced women simply were not allowed in to be present at court. The English church deemed relations with a divorced woman “adultery”. The British press was silent about the kings “affair”, (even as the American press blared the news), hoping that the new king would get over his “infatuation”, and the affair could be discreetly dismissed. The British press imposed this self-censorship for they were well aware of the outrage that would occur if the public was asked to accept such a woman as their queen.
There was a lot of behind-the-scenes speculation about what gave Ms. Simpson her power. Edward seemed “under her thumb” and “to enjoy being ordered about”. Various pseudo-psychological ideas were bandied about, basically involving her being really good in bed, and the king being masochistic, but none of this solved the problem, which was that Edward was smitten. Finally the press couldn’t hide the romance much longer, as the English who visited United States read the great delight the American Press got over the idea of an American queen. Finally Prime Minister Baldwin visited Edward to bring things to a head, basically telling him the English people would not accept Ms. Simpson as their queen.
As this news broke Churchill was immediately loyal to the king, which cost him much of his new-found popularity. It was typical for Churchill to take unpopular stances, but when I read this part of “the Last Lion” I groaned and rolled my eyes. Why should Churchill be loyal? Edward disagreed with Churchill and felt Hitler should be allowed to militarize the Rhineland. He disagreed with Churchill and said the Italians should be allowed to march into Ethiopia. When the Ethiopian king visited England seeking aid, Edward refused to meet him. Yet Churchill remained loyal. Churchill floated the idea of a “morganatic marriage”, where the king could remain king but his wife would not be called “queen”, and it floated like a lead balloon.
Perhaps Churchill’s loyalty was in part due to the fact his own father had married an American, so he was less scandalized by Edward’s choice of a foreign commoner, but it also was founded on an old-fashioned British belief in near-blind loyalty to the king, (as a figurehead, if not in fact). As a rebellious American, I, of course, have problems with such loyalty to any worldly king, preferring a concept, “liberty”, as my ruler, (though that too can be a false god, if “liberty” is anything short of true Truth.)
In some ways the loyalty of those times seems quaint and archaic, though “those times” are relatively recent times. It is an indication of how brutalized ordinary faith has become, that fidelity, whether to a marriage or to a leader, is now something we deem laughable, and even sneer at. However loyalty was in Churchill’s blood, and even when he opposed he was “the loyal opposition”. He would lose all the political capital he had painstakingly gained before he would throw his king under the bus. This made me groan as I read about it, for Hitler marched into the Rhineland unopposed.
This was all the more exasperating because Edward had more compassion towards Hitler than he had towards Churchill. Fascists could be loyal to royalty, while communists killed royalty. Furthermore, if you want to play at being a pseudo-psychologist, Edward preferred heiling someone else, to being a king and shouldering the burden of responsibility. There are embarrassing pictures of him teaching the future queen of England to heil when she was just a child.
There are other pictures of Edward supposedly “heiling” Germans (when he may have been merely waving.)
But then Edward did something that baffled the mind-set of both Hitler and Stalin. He gave up power. For what? For loyalty to a lady he loved, loved more than power. In this manner he was equal to Churchill, (though not in matters of insight and intelligence.)
A picture that chills me is from 1937, which demonstrates Edward’s lack of insight and intelligence and especially foresight. He is inspecting the troops of the cruel and merciless Nazi SS.
One odd thing about this picture is that it may be photo-shopped. I have seen other versions of the same picture, wherein Edward has an arm raised and “heiling”. The question then becomes, which is the photo-shopped photo? Has the above photo been “cleaned up” by monarchists, or was the “heiling” photo “made politically-correct” by communists?
It doesn’t really matter, for both sides are haywire, in my humble opinion, for both sides are autocratic, and therefore cut off from the healing powers of Love. However even as late as 1937 Edward could have thought he was wise and politically-correct to heil the SS, and that Churchill was the naive and foolish poet. (Although Churchill was loyal to Edward, I see little evidence Edward returned the favor.)
The idea at that time was that Hitler could be controlled. By flattering here, and appeasing there, Hitler could be utilized as a useful puppet in the real war, which was against the communists who were determined to murder the upper class. Stalin was the beast, and Hitler was merely beastly.
By 1937 it was clear Hitler was a murderer. He didn’t merely disenfranchise and rob Jews; his insanely patriotic Brown Shirts didn’t merely beat American tourists who didn’t know enough to “heil” passing troops. Hitler himself had Rohm, his good buddy and leader of the “Brown Shirts”, executed, (just as Stalin had his former comrade Trotsky assassinated). Such behavior was definitely not proper among the English upper crust, but, because Hitler respected royalty where Stalin didn’t, Hitler’s atrocities could be winked at. The politically-correct felt Hitler could be cultivated, advised, and used as a useful tool, for Germans would eventually wage war with Russia (as Hitler promised to do in his autobiography). Then, as Germans and Russians slaughtered each other, the English politically-correct could sit back and enjoy the benefits of peace, and of being “better”, like Brahmans served by Untouchables, superior-to and more-civilized-than and intellectually-smarter-than murderous barbarians, like Stalin and Hitler.
In my humble opinion, if, ( and I stress “if”), these smug people, discussing international politics over scotch-and-soda at a cocktail party, actually had the control they imagined they had, then they should be included in the ranks of mass murderers. Of course, they would flatter themselves, and think they were saving the lives of British troops, and it would only be “other” soldiers dying, out of view. They would be deeply offended if I told them they were plotting the murder of millions of Germans and millions of Russians, to preserve their own lives of soft, plush, upper-class luxury. In a sense they were no different than Mao, certain that what was good for them was good for not merely Britain, but the entire World.
Such upper-class intellectuals had no real excuse for their vanity. They had attended the best schools, and had been forced to study dreary poetry, and had seen the work of the poet John Keats, who in fact describes just such hardhearted people as the elite of 1936 became, when describing (In 1818) two brothers who killed their own sister’s lover:
“With her two brothers this fair lady dwelt, Enriched from ancestral merchandize, And for them many a weary hand did swelt In torched mines and noisy factories, And many once proud-quiver’d loins did melt In blood from stinging whip;–with hollow eyes Many all day in dazzling river stood, To take the rich-ored driftings of the flood.
For them the Ceylon diver held his breath, And went all naked to the hungry shark; For them his ears gush’d blood; for them in death The seal on the cold ice with piteous bark Lay full of darts; for them alone did seethe A thousand men in troubles wide and dark: Half-ignorant, they turn’d an easy wheel, That set sharp racks at work, to pinch and peel.
Why were they proud? Because their marble founts Gush’d with more pride than do a wretch’s tears?– Why were they proud? Because fair orange-mounts Were of more soft ascent than lazar stairs?– Why were they proud? Because red-lin’d accounts Were richer than the songs of Grecian years?– Why were they proud? again we ask aloud, Why in the name of Glory were they proud?”
What naive fools the politically correct of 1936 turned out to be! But they were sure they had things all figured out. To them politics was like a game of billiards, and they were certain they saw how all the balls lay, and that they had all the shots all figured out and arranged, but then the layout of things changed, because others shot first.
To jump ahead, rather than Germany and Russia exhausting themselves in a war between communists and fascists, in August 1939 Stalin and Hitler, supposedly worst and irreconcilable enemies, agreed to be friends. Who could have ever predicted that? But both evil men stood to gain, as they had agreed to together wipe Poland off the face of the map, dividing the spoils.
Then Stalin got to sit back and laugh, for he likely knew Hitler had been cultivated to destroy him, but, instead of communists being destroyed, he got to to see Hitler turn the full brunt of his military might onto peaceful and unsuspecting non-communists, as for two years communists enjoyed, if not peace and prosperity, at least time to recover from self-destructive purges, and an utterly bungled war with tiny Finland. (Little did Stalin know the enormous price Russia would pay for these two years of peace. It is never a wise thing to feed a mad dog, nor to help a Hitler.)
But now allow me to jump back to 1936, when the politically-correct were completely unaware of what lay ahead. It should have been obvious to these ignoramuses (and was all too painfully obvious to Churchill) that they were making some serious mistakes, (but instead they continued to believe they held the strings and others were the puppets, until they were completely embarrassed by the falling of France, when it started looking like Hitler held the strings, and that they themselves were the puppets, at which point they turned to Churchill, [likely not because they they thought Churchill could bring victory, but because they they themselves wanted to escape the blame of defeat.])
(In actual fact Truth held the strings, but powerful people seldom give credit where credit is due.)
1936 also marked the start of the Spanish Civil War. My take is that the nation was suffering the birth-pains of reform, with the people who desired reform arguing with those who liked the old ways, and, rather than a two-party-system allowing these disagreements to be worked out in a civil manner, things became uncivil. (This is called a “civil” war, though it is the exact opposite of civility.) What is particularly horrible is how outsiders exacerbated the incivility, rather than making peace. Hitler and Mussolini supported the traditionalists, as Stalin supported the reformers, and both sides got to try out their new weapons and their techniques for “controlling the masses”, and in the process did much to destroy both Spanish traditions and reforms. Meanwhile the politically correct of England didn’t lift a finger to help. They had a “hands off” policy, publicly stating the civil war involved the “internal affairs” of Spain, and needed to be resolved by the Spanish, while privately gloating how the Fascists and Communists were spending so much money, as they didn’t spend a dime. I think some patted themselves on the back, seeing Spain’s horrible suffering as proof they were successfully employing Hitler as a “bulwark” against Stalin.
Yet despite the government’s official non-involvement, the Spanish agony touched the hearts of all sorts of young poets. Even when doing so broke certain laws, they rushed to Spain to fight, some for Republican principles, winding up with Stalin’s troops, and some for Jesus and the Church, winding up with Hitler’s troops. Most were profoundly disillusioned by what they went through, and many accurately wrote about the complete inhumanity and stupidity involved. (A good example is Hemingway’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls.”) My favorite example of an artist being disillusioned was Eric Arthur Blair, who joined the anti-fascist Republican side, and got shot through the throat by Franco’s fascists, yet, surviving that, also nearly got killed by the side he had joined, as the communists involved felt he should be “purged”.
Most know this poet by his pen name, “George Orwell”, (and whose work I didn’t at all like, when I was forced to read it, [“Animal Farm” and “1984“], in high school English classes, when I was fifteen, for I found his work “depressing”, and utterly unlike what I called “true poetry”, [which “inspired” rather than “depressed]”.) However Eric Arthur Blair’s view of Truth was based on grim, ugly facts, and on what he actually experienced, and he has been rewarded with the adjective, “Orwellian”, which describes how ugly life looks, if politically-correct standards are upheld.
Neither Hitler nor Stalin cared much for the advice of Jesus, but, along those lines, neither did the Catholic Church of Spain. The Spanish Inquisition is a horrendous example of a church disgracing the name of Jesus. And, if Karma is a reality, and if it is true that what goes around comes around, perhaps the Spanish Catholic church was merely reaping what it sowed, when priests, friars and nuns were murdered without trial in the Spanish Civil War. (The Wikipedia figures are: 4,184 priests, 2,365 monks and friars, and 283 nuns.)
However, in terms of propaganda, it doesn’t seem entirely wise for communists to have a picture like the picture below appear in the London Newspaper, the Daily Mail, with the heading “Spanish Reds war on religion.” (The picture below was such bad publicity that the cynic in me thinks it may well have been posed, and be propaganda.)
While it may be a Marxist belief that “religion is the opiate of the masses”, to actually execute Jesus a second time seems like unwise publicity for communists, for many of the proletariat, even when they dislike priests, like to go to the sanctuary of a church and to idealize that a Superior to priests is present on the alter. Therefore it was also bad propaganda to take an alter that looked like this:
And make it look like this:
However the worst publicity the communists could have ever imagined was named Andre Marty, who brought the paranoid insanity of a Stalinist purge to the struggles in Spain. Like Mao he felt it was necessary to “purify”, not by killing the enemy, but by killing soldiers on his own side. He held some title like “Commissar Of Foreign Troops,” which gave him the power to execute, (with only a pretense of a trial), any who begged to differ with him. This might include idealistic young poets who came to Spain to sacrifice their lives fighting Fascism, but who happened to think Trotsky had some good ideas. Rather than fighting a fascist they got killed by a communist. Of the roughly 5000 foreigners who died fighting for the anti-fascist side, only 4500 were killed by fascists, for Andrè Marty rather proudly stated he had executed 500.
But Marty couldn’t kill all the poets, and those he let slip through his nets are not kind to his memory. Hemingway is cruel, describing Andrè Marty, (not even bothering to change his name), in “For Whom The Bell Tolls“. In the case of Eric Arthur Blair, who barely escaped Marty’s purges, Marty (and Stalin) will be immortalized, as long as the book lives, as the evil pig Napoleon in “Animal Farm“.
Eric Arthur Blair had surprising difficulty getting “Animal Farm” published. Even when he found a publisher, the publisher changed his mind after a visit from a prominent member of England’s “Ministry of Information” (who later turned out to be a Stalinist double agent.) Such opposition seems a bit odd, considering Eric’s tale is basically a fairy tale and fable, involving talking animals. However those who read it seemed to know it held dynamite: Truth too true for revelation. (Stalin had become an Allie of England, after being double-crossed by Hitler, when the book was being written, and the book could have been censored then, because war-time censorship ruled, and being “anti-Russia” was unhelpful to the war effort. However, after the war was won, when the publisher initially accepted the book, such censorship should have been relaxed, yet still many of the politically-correct didn’t want to see the fairy tale published, and publishers continued a sort of censorship, taking on the role of “gatekeepers”.) This suppression not only didn’t discourage Eric Arthur Blair; it encouraged him to write “1984“.
However I have leaped ahead of myself. In 1936 the politically-correct had no idea where England would be in ten years, nor that they’d ever have to get Churchill out of power, in an attempt to regain their odd mode of highly hypocritical moral leadership. In 1936 they smugly sat back and watched Spain as fascists butchered communists, and communists butchered fascists, and thought to themselves, “This is how the game is played.”
This is not how the game is played. You are not allowed to sit back, when gifted with power, and to passively observe inhumanity. Sooner or later you will repent your inaction, as the inhumanity rises up to bite you. Yet so many politically-correct people in history believe it is wise to turn a blind eye to immorality, and then over and over are flabbergasted to find their own necks stretched on the guillotine. (The inventor of the guillotine was beheaded by his own invention.)
By 1936 Stalin’s inhumanity was obvious, as was Hitler’s. Stalin was purging many of his best generals, (which may explain why his army was pathetic when it tried to overpower tiny Finland in 1939.) Hitler had purged many of the Brown Shirts who were responsible for bringing him to power. Stalin in fact purged every “founding father” of Russia’s rebellion in 1917, because they were not Stalinist enough, because they were not Stalin. And, in like manner, Andrè Marty was killing the poets who bravely came to Spain to fight fascism. Is it any wonder his side lost?
This is not how the game is played. Killing the people on your own side is distinctly unwise. And, while Stalin and Hitler made this a “sin of commission”, to sit back and smugly watch was a “sin of omission”, (unless you, as an editor, censored or used “gatekeeper” status to silence those poets attempting to be whistle-blowers, in which case you were involved in a sly and subtle “sin of commission”). In all cases such politically-correct behavior will rise up to bite you, history shows.
For the sake of argument I’ll briefly entertain the concept that “desperate times require desperate deeds.” Some will argue that the Republican position in Spain was so perilous that Andrè Marty was justified in hacking off heads, to “discipline” troops.
I will counter by comparing his behavior with the behavior of George Washington, when he was in an equally desperate and perilous situation in December, 1776.
In twelve months Washington had fallen far. He had fallen from marching into Boston victorious, after driving the English out, to being driven from New York City defeated, and getting his army’s butt booted by Cornwallis clear across New Jersey and across the Delaware River, to where some of his his ill-fed, ill-clothed and ill-supplied troops wrapped their bootless feet in rags and left bloody footprints in the snow at Valley Forge. People who had praised him twelve months before, stating “We” are winning, were now grumbling that “You” are losing. He desperately needed help but wasn’t getting any. What did he do? Kill people who criticized?
No. Instead he was truthful, and expressed to everyone that he needed support urgently.
First, he told the colonial congress that if they didn’t send food and clothing they soon would have no army. Instead of food they sent four representatives unannounced, and Washington interrupted his busy schedule and showed them the army’s dire need in person, and the representatives got the message loudly and clearly, and brought the message back to Philadelphia, and then supplies-for-troops became a top priority among politicians in Philadelphia, (as did extra pay for the troops).
Second, he was truthful with his troops. He confessed they were in dire straits, and ordered that they fast and pray, for God’s help. He also pleaded for their help. Many had only enlisted for the year 1776, and had every right to to go home to their farms (where they would be warmer and better fed) on January first. Washington begged them to stay just two more weeks, promising them ten dollars extra in their pay, and also explaining that their nation desperately needed them, and that they had a great power and influence, in the present tense, that they might never, never have again. For a moment none of the sullen troops stepped forward, but then, slowly and somewhat reluctantly, most of them did.
Third, on a practical level, he demanded General Charles Lee bring 2000 troops down from the north and Colonel John Cadwalader bring recruits from Philadelphia north (around 1000). He got no response. Just then a letter from Lee to Cadwalader passed through Washington’s camp. In his need to know if reinforcements were coming, Washington opened the letter.
The letter continued an ongoing discussion between the two men about how Washington might not be a general fit for the job of freeing America. Such doubt might be expected from Lee, who had made it fairly obvious that he felt he, and not Washington, should command the Army, but Cadwalader was a friend and confidant of Washington’s, and the exposure of his dwindling faith likely hurt. (Basically the letter wondered if Washington lacked the necessary assertiveness to be decisive, suggesting he was too prone to back off. In essence it stated Washington retreated too much, and didn’t know how to attack.)
Stalin or Hitler or Andrè Marty would have had the two men immediately “purged”. Immediately “Liquidated.” Washington? He apologized for reading their mail, and explained why he had done so.
Washington’s gentleness might not be politically-correct among those of a dog-eat-dog mentality, but I think it was very effective. Honesty always is. At the very least it told both men that Washington respected their exchange of thoughts. How they then felt, I don’t know. However it seems that, rather than executing the two men, Washington took their accidentally revealed “advice” to heart, for he immediately became more decisive, and attacked.
He was helped by two things. First, his troops, who had felt neglected and forgotten, abruptly felt cared for, as Washington’s efforts succeeded in bringing foodstuffs, and perhaps more importantly blankets (which meant more than we can imagine, as the blankets were actually hand-made by supporters), and furthermore brought news that the public was touched by the soldier’s efforts and their suffering. Thomas Paine’s inspiring and poetic broadsheet, “The Crisis”, may even have reached the troops, though it is dated December 23 and they first crossed the Delaware December 25, (and communication was slower before the internet.) “These are the times that try men’s souls.”
Ten days later the situation had radically changed. Washington had crossed the Delaware three times and defeated the English at Trenton, and then stalled Conwallis’s counterattack with delaying skirmishes at Five Mile Run and Shabakunk Creek, and a stand at the bridge in the Battle of Assunpink Creek. Then Washington out-maneuvered Cornwallis, for as night fell Cornwallis drew up his forces and planned to attack across the creek in the morning, certain he was about to “bag the old fox”. Across the creek bright fires burned and the clinking and clanking of picks and shovels made it sound like trenches were being dug and earthworks erected, but the fires and noise was made by a group of men left behind to create the illusion Washington was still there, as he slipped away. These noisy men slipped away as well, in the first dusk of dawn, and when Cornwallis attacked the next day he found no Americans. They were away, winning the Battle of Princeton. At this point the winter was growing harsh, so the British retreated north to await the warmer weather of spring. The Americans also hunkered down to await the spring, but in far more comfortable circumstances, as they had captured all sorts of provisions.
Though seemingly small victories, the news that Washington wasn’t in retreat, but that he had fought back and won, did wonders for American morale. On the streets of New York City, behind enemy lines, the news Washington had captured a thousand Hessian troops was spread by mouth, and the effect was electric.
But their joy is off the point. The point I wish to make is that Washington didn’t need to “purge” a single soul, to turn the tide.
In many senses Washington was down to his last dime; he was very nearly a general without an army, and had to plead with his troops not to abandon him, as so many had only enlisted for 1776, and were free to go home on January first. Yet he never threatened them. They were given a choice. Some did depart on January first, but most chose to stay, and to be part of tiny army that defeated a superpower.
When I compare Washington’s behavior to Andrè Marty’s, I sense I am seeing something missed by those who subscribe to certain unspiritual ideas about power-politics. It seems to be a difference between being crudely politically-correct or having a more high-minded Karmic-Correctness.
Once again the two different ways of behaving basically boils down to the difference between infatuation and love, yet this distinction eludes the logic of many. They cannot see why the American Revolution didn’t result in the “Terror” of the French Revolution, or the dual “Red Terror” and “White Terror” of the Spanish Civil War, or the terrible “Night Of Long Knives” of Hitler’s accent, or the terror of Stalin’s terrible purges or of Mao’s “Proletarian Cultural Revolution”.
If Truth must be known, the American Revolution also had its “terrors.” War is hell, and the American Revolution could well be called “The First American Civil War”. In areas under the Crown’s control Loyalists felt free to dispossess “traitorous” Patriots, (including some men who signed the Declaration of Independence), jailed other Patriots in prisonships so abysmal that many died, and hung some, (like Nathan Hale, a mere school teacher), as spies, but later these same Loyalists found themselves dispossessed of all wealth and property and sent penniless north by the thousands, to trudge to Canada. Yet, as these Loyalists trekked north, many would not have made it to Canada, were it not for the mercy of rural farmers whom they had formerly scorned as “bumpkins,” and had called “enemies of the Crown.” All in all, comparing the American Revolution with other Revolutions in other lands, it was a civil war with far more civility than usual.
To even suggest suggest history holds the fingerprints of anything “High” opens a can of worms, for many find belief difficult when they look at genocides, slaughters, and demoralizing behaviors. They do have a belief, but it is a belief in disbelief. In Truth, they are mistaken, and there is a reason for hope. And I could end this writing with that (but will go on).
As soon as I state, as an American, that the revolution that created the United States had a higher and more ethical side than other civil wars, I fully expect to “catch it from both sides”; for being a mushy dreamer who lacks the spine to take a stand. Why? Because in many situations I feel both sides are wrong. I assert that, unless one prefers to see a revolution and civil war wherein millions die, and wherein both the principles of reform and the principles of tradition are shattered, and wherein humanity degenerates to foulness and lowness, a so-called “centrist” position is desirable. All this means is one listens to others; one respects others; the reformer listens to the traditionalist as the traditionalist listens to the reformer; in other words, a “two-party-system”, where respect and honor and even loving-one’s-enemies are held in high regard, and beheading opponents is regarded with disdain.
People do not become faithless without reason. A baby is born with faith that its cries will be answered, but if left all alone in a cold and dark room it may be deeply scarred. In like manner many young idealists have wild hopes in a compassionate Almighty, and believe they are invulnerable because a kind Deity watches over them, and then, like the youth who dashed off to help “the right side” in the Spanish Civil War, have their faith mangled by the hell of war. They often then bounce from one extreme to the other; from naive faith to fierce atheism. In actual fact faith needs to mature, and become centered.
History demonstrates, over and over, that when a society loses faith in the decency of respect and honor, they in some way become disconnected to the roots of Truth. A withering of the lush, green and vigorous vines springing from love and liberty occurs. Even a “Chosen People” like the Jews can suffer ruinous exile from their capital of Jerusalem, as Jeremiah so poignantly describes in “Lamentations.” Conversely, when a people behave in an opposite manner, they become filled with some sort of sap springing from the roots of Truth, and they prosper and gain powers no one expected.
Allow me briefly sidetrack to an example of how things unexpectedly worked out for George Washington. It involves General Charles Lee, who was not being as helpful as he could have been, and who Stalin would have purged. Lee was taking far longer than he should have taken to bring the 2000 troops he commanded south to help Washington in the time of crisis. It has been suggested he had ulterior motives for his delay, and that either, (when he accused Washington of lacking the courage to battle) he was doing what psychobabble calls, “projecting”, (and he himself feared battle), or that he slyly calculated that if Washington’s troops were decimated as his force remained unscathed he would become de facto commander. He lacked Washington’s commitment to the cause; where Washington served without pay Lee’s letters complain he should be paid more. Then, as if divinity stepped in, Lee was removed, and no “purge” was necessary.
It happened like this: As his troops slowly preceded south Lee decided to forgo the discomfort of winter tents and to spend a night in a comfortable tavern three miles behind the lines. It has been suggested “a lady of the evening” may have been involved. Early the next morning a raiding party of 25 British horsemen, carefully avoiding the 2000 troops, came galloping up to the tavern. Lee hid in his nightgown, but the tavern owner’s wife, fearing her property would be torched, ran outside screaming that she was a Loyalist, and that General Lee had forced her to house him against her will. The English were delighted to capture a general. Then, with Lee out of the picture, the second-in-command led the 2000 troops south to Washington with haste.
(As an aside to an aside, General Lee did not go to a dismal prison-ship, but was housed well in New York City, (because officers treated officers with dignity, back then), and later was returned to Washington in a “prisoner-exchange.” Washington gave him a second chance, because trained generals were in short supply among ragtag troops, but when Lee again refused to follow orders, this time refusing to attack in the heat of a battle and allowing the English to escape a trap, Washington was done with him. And if you wonder how Washington could replace such a skilled person, again divinity seemingly stepped in, for Tadeusz Kościuszko unexpectedly arrived from Poland.)
Call me a dreamer if you will, and dismiss such events as luck and coincidence, but when I see these events sprinkled through history I always shake my head in amazement. It seems to me there is a Power whom the powerful are deaf and blind to, yet Whom the deaf can hear and the blind can see.
The politically-correct, who think they know all there is to know about power, are always blind-sided by this Mystery. This occurs because they see worldly power as an end-all and be-all, when it is actually a byproduct of a greater things: Life, Liberty and Love. Because political power is a byproduct, it actually is a bit like manure. Manure is a byproduct of farming, and valuable for enriching the soil of a garden, but it would be absurd to see manure as being so important that one blew up entire farms for piles of shit. Yet the politically-correct, one way or another, always seem to succumb to this lunacy, and, because they ignore what is important, preferring shit, they are always utterly amazed when power is snatched away and given to those who do not subscribe to their views; consequently they are blind-sided.
For an ancient example, when Genghis Khan was born around 1162 few cared a hoot about a bunch of crazy cowboys riding about and fighting neighboring cowboys on a remote prairie, far from the centers of power. When he died seventy-five years later, Japan, China, Russia, Persia and all of Europe feared him. How the heck did such a rural hick gain such power?
It seems to me that, though people now primarily see Genghis Khan as a mass murderer, he did have some spiritual qualities. He did slaughter large populations who resisted him, but also absorbed people who would work with him. He seemed to have a keen awareness of his own weaknesses, and knew that he needed others. For example, as a nomad he had no idea how to run a city, so he sought people who knew how to run the cities he conquered. Yet he did not always seek such governors from the politically-correct; he would ignore a Brahman of high rank in favor of an Untouchable who had a proven record of getting things done. In like manner, he ignored religious big-shots who thought they were high priests, in favor of humble friars and monks who could simply talk the talk and also walk the walk. This ability to judge men by the quality of their character, rather than the political-correctness of their caste, enabled him to first unite a collection of warring cowboys into a powerful nation, and, second, to unify the peoples he conquered into a religiously tolerant empire, (which was [and is] an unexpected tolerance to see, in one whom many now regard as a mass murderer).
In 1162 the politically-correct in China were likely imagining they had complete control over the Mongol cowboys to their north, and that they were clever and crafty to pit Mongol against Mongol, supporting one group of cowboys one month and another the next. And yes, such diplomacy might wreck havoc among the Mongol tribes, and cause much misery upon those distant steppes, but making misery elsewhere only proved (supposedly) that the Chinese were smarter and superior to northern-barbarian neighbors. When they tricked such loser Mongol tribes into killing each other off, what harm could come of it?
The politically correct of China were completely blind-sided by the Karmic consequences and repercussions. They never saw the Mongol cowboys coming, never envisioned unified hoards galloping south from over the horizon and taking over their entire land, and ruling it. Yet, like the Jews of Jeremiah’s Jerusalem, they got the “ax” they deserved. In fact, they got a worse “ax” than the Jews, for after the Mongols, China saw the invading Manchus of Manchuria, and then got Imperialistic Europeans. But would any of this Karmic backlash have happened, if they had treated Mongols (and other non-Chinese) differently, in the first place?
In like manner, in 1450, who, of all the politically-correct in Europe, as laser-focused (as they were) on the post-Byzantine treachery of the spice-wars between the Ottoman and Venetian Empires, payed any attention to three tiny kingdoms far to the west, at the very periphery of Europe, called Portugal, Aragon, and Castile? Yet, a half century later, the Pope was dividing the entire planet between the Portuguese and Spanish empires. Yet, even as Spain and Portugal gained their power, who was paying attention to the obscure Island to the north, Britain? Who then could dream that, (as I described earlier), Britain would come close to ruling the world? And yet, as the English first felt their power, who paid much attention to their thirteen impoverished colonies clinging to the east coast of North America?
The point I am trying to make is that the politically-correct often don’t see what is coming, even though they often exude a plush assurance that purrs like a sleek cat’s, and radiate confidence that insists they have power, and control. They don’t control, which is shown by how often history demonstrates them being blind-sided by shifts in power. They like to think they see the future and have invested wisely, but often wind up looking like an investor in horses and buggies just before the invention of the car, or an investor in typewriters just before the the invention of the word-processor. Their vision of the future is clouded, because they ignore Truth, and instead are besotted by power. They fail to see the true Source of power, and that power itself is a byproduct like manure. In this manner the politically-correct are worshiping a “false god” and are led by “false prophets.” To be blunt, they worship shit.
Not that there is anything wrong with a byproduct, in and of itself. As a farmer I call manure “brown gold” and recognize its power to be helpful in the nourishment of plants in my garden. But I do not value the shit more than the animals that produce the shit, which is what, in a manner of speaking, the politically-correct seem all too prone to doing. History seems to over and over demonstrate how the politically-correct put shit ahead of what matters more, and how they are then are astonished when their future turns brown and stinks.
In many ways the more wicked of the politically-correct are comical, if one is able to detach oneself from all the unnecessary heartache they cause. Like jealous schoolgirls, anxious to be seen as fashionable, they rush hither and thither from fad to fad, glad to be seen in the right place and in a panic when fashion shifts and what was right becomes wrong. Though pompous and vainglorious, (and highly offended if you equate them with schoolgirls), top-hatted bankers can be a joke. They are full of themselves when stocks soar, and then verge on suicide when markets crash. While money is no more evil than manure, love of money is a madness worthy of laughing at, reminiscent of a gambler’s yo-yoing mood as he makes ten thousand at nine o’clock and has lost it by ten. At nine he is radiant and struts through the casino with a babe on either arm, and at ten he trudges in despair with his complexion green, all alone, as his fair-weather-friends have all fled. Without roots drinking deeply of Truth, people are reduced to being but panicky lemmings dashing back and forth between two cliffs.
Sadly, faith in the Truth has been shattered by horrible amounts of unnecessary heartache. The very people entrusted with the upholding of faith have abused the trust so severely, and been such awful hypocrites, that people have lost faith in faith. Where Washington once ordered his troops to fast and pray, such faithful behavior is now deemed politically-incorrect. To suggest civility might have political benefits tends to be laughed at, in our cynical times. It tends to spoofed, (for example, in Monty Python skits). However even the spoofing of civility has an odd peacemaking power, because it makes people laugh, and it is hard to strike out in rage when you are laughing.
In fact I once knew a cheerful young man at an English public school, (back when corporal punishment was commonplace, and bullying and baiting were the norm), who sailed through many dangerous social-situations and escaped unscathed, simply by pretending to be terribly offended and challenging people twice his size (even teachers) to fisticuffs. In a voice halfway between an English Lord and Foghorn Leghorn’s, he’d shout, “Sir! You have pushed me too far! Honor is at stake, sir, honor! Prepare yourself for a pummeling!” Then he would prance about furiously shadowboxing jabs for one or two seconds with a fierce scowl, before predictably pausing, raising an index finder and one eyebrow, and inquiring in the most polite manner, “Queensbury Rules?” Somehow the way the young fellow’s eyebrows shifted from incivility to civility never failed to win over his enemy, often buckling his foe over at the waist with paroxysms of laughter. He made Foghorn Leghorn look dull.
Of course, certain politically-correct people no more like the humor of cartoons than they like the talking animals of “Animal Farm”. Why? Perhaps the antics of a loudmouthed rooster too closely resembles their own sophism. When a cartoon character expects one result, and another occurs, it too closely copies situations such as the the politically-correct of 1936 feeling smug about arranging things so Hitler would fight Stalin, and then being flabbergasted when Hitler and Stalin signed their non-aggression pact. In the first case it may seem a mere cartoon, with a silly rooster facing a chicken-hawk and/or cat and/or farm-dog and/or sex-crazed hen and/or younger-generation, while in the second case it may seem a deadly serious reality, but I see a similarity in the disapproval of the politically correct, and how they seek to censor not merely a political fable such as “Animal Farm”, but even cartoons.
It is not the soldiers on the battlefields who attempt to banish the slapstick humor of “Tom and Jerry” cartoons, but rather it is the politically-correct. Why are they so offended by a mouse clobbering a cat with an impossibly over-sized hammer? Is it not just a modern version of “Punch and Judy” puppets? Yet with pious expressions they state “Tom and Jerry” “encourages violence”. Encourages violence? Who is encouraging violence? Do they think those soldiers are out on the battlefield getting shot-at and shelled for the fun of it? Do the politically-correct think “Tom and Jerry” cartoons cause war, and war has nothing to do with their own lusts for luxury, privilege, power and sex?
Besides taxing my wallet, the politically-correct tax my patience. They seem to feel they can hold on to all the accouterments of love without the bother of actually loving. For, in Truth, love does tend to make a person rich and gives them power, but another gift is joy, yet the politically-correct have a terrible tendency to frown at laughter, and shame people for joking, and to gain more glee from scolding, than from confessing an embarrassment with a chuckle. They are epitomized by the garlic-faced priest, the dour schoolmarm, the glowering headmaster, and become absolutely furious when you demonstrate that they themselves are the joke.
They don all the trappings of love’s successful bounty, but are like small children dressing up as kings and queens. They flounce about, forgetting love works from dawn to dusk and puts in constant overtime, and instead they desire the harvest without the hard work. Then they become strangely irate when they see joy descend not upon themselves, but upon their servants. I think it makes them honestly angry to see there is more humor in a cottage than a castle, more good-natured hilarity on a noisy factory floor than in the morgue-like mansion the factory supports, and far more laughter in a reeking cannery than among the erudite nibbling pickled herring. Having experienced both sides, I know this to be true, but many poor envy the rich, as many rich resent the poor, because the grass is always greener on the far side of a fence.
In Truth, it is more blessed to give than to receive, and blessed are the poor, which in effect conversely means that the politically-correct are accursed. In their smugness they parody amazing ignorance, and are dunces to such a delightful degree that the heavens shout with laughter at their downfalls, which they richly deserve. However such humor is often hidden, here on earth. It is funny to see another slip and sit down hard on an icy pavement, but not so funny to be the one who falls. The haughty call another’s laughter at their discomfiture politically-incorrect, and even “unspiritual”. Then, when such humor bursts from tightly pressed lips, it appears sardonic or ironic or sarcastic, as a sort of gallows humor. However its persistence is a proof joy cannot be quenched any more than Truth can be destroyed. This is never made more clear than in the humor of poor soldiers suffering the hell of war.
The people who actually suffer on the battlefields, and in the trenches, are living so close to the end of life that they do experience joy in situations where the politically-correct deem it politically-incorrect to laugh. An example of soldier’s humor that struck me as amazingly incorrect, in all polite society, dates from the Korean war. But telling this tale involves explaining a great deal, (perhaps creating a long run for a short slide), because the actors on the stage need a background.
We need to jump ahead 13 years from 1936 to 1949, when Mao moved from doing good to doing bad. He moved from unifying China to attacking people outside his borders. In this manner he was a bit like Hitler. If Hitler had dropped dead in 1938, just after he annexed the “German” part of Czechoslovakia, he might be remembered as the man who unified the German people, and freed them from foreign oppressors. In like manner, if Mao had dropped dead in 1949, he would be remembered as the man who unified China, freeing it from the confusion of divided Chinese warlords, and foreign oppressors, ( non-Han “imperialists” from Manchuria and Europe and Imperial Japan). But no, Mao couldn’t stop at his own borders. Just as Hitler felt compelled to advance his fascist concept of German superiority outside his homeland, Mao felt compelled to advance his communist agenda outside his own borders.
Mao’s aggressiveness is in some ways understandable, if you look at the belittling attitude Europe had towards China during Europe’s most obnoxious and imperialistic period, towards the end of the 1800’s. The Chinese felt they were the most civilized people on earth, and Europeans were just a different form of barbarian, but Europeans felt the Chinese were primitive and in need of Europe’s supposedly-superior and politically-correct intelligence and modernization, and were busily dividing China up into “spheres of economic interest” which Europeans would control (just as India had been subjected to European control.) The Chinese revolted, with the “Boxer’s Rebellion”, which resulted in a humiliating defeat for Chinese patriots, and an increase in the imperialistic powers of foreigners in China.
The patriot who actually began throwing the foreigners out of China was Sun Yat-sen, (who Americans approved-of because he admired George Washington). He devised a uniquely Chinese blend of foreign ideas, using parts of American democracy and parts of European communism, which he called “The Three Principles of the People.”
The first principle is called by some “nationalism” or even “fascism”, but basically stated the Han Chinese should be ruled by the Han Chinese, and not a Manchu royalty. The second principle stated an individual had rights, and was downright American. But the third principle stated the government should be concerned with people’s welfare, and was European and socialistic. These three ideas never had a chance to jell and be properly worked out, as Sun Yat-Sen died in 1923, and no one followed who upheld his sane and “centrist” concepts, and instead things degenerated to a communist dictator on one side and a royalist-fascist dictator on the other, much like the situation in the Spanish Civil War, only in the case of China the communists won. Nor did the communist Mao display the sanity of the fascist Franco. Where Franco was made wise by the civil war that bled Spain dry, and kept Spain out of World War Two, Mao was eager for more bloodshed.
Why? Partly it was because Mao believed communism was good and would sweep over the entire planet like a new religion. He wanted to continue the “good work” he felt he had done in his homeland, extending communism beyond his shores. Second, he wanted to counter the idea that China was a dissolute push-over, and couldn’t fight back. Third, he wanted recognition on the world stage, as he wasn’t yet recognized as the legal government of China by the United Nations, and the defeated Nationalists, (relegated to the island of Taiwan), still held China’s seat on the UN Security Council. Lastly, like Hitler, he desired to conquer (or “gain-influence-in”) neighboring lands for China’s economic benefit, and to have satellite-puppet nations, like Stalin had. This made Mao, the second he stepped beyond his own borders, just as “imperialistic” as the imperialistic nations he so despised, only he saw his own imperialism as something higher and finer, and used double-speak to call it “liberation.”
At this point most in the United States appear gullible and naive. Americans thought war was over and treaties were binding, and that aggression-beyond-one’s-borders was something all had agreed was unwise, and that imperialism was wrong. America was busily (and somewhat proudly) working to grant America’s lone “colony”, (the Philippines), their independence. When Churchill gave his “Iron Curtain” speech in 1946, many Americans distrusted Churchill more than they distrusted Stalin, seeing Russia’s “excesses” (purges) at home, (which most Americans knew very little about), as an unfortunate side of a civil war, similar to brutalities which occurred in America’s Civil War, while seeing Churchill as an old-school 19th century imperialist, primarily focused on propping up the crumbling British Empire. (In fact some American socialists detest Churchill to this day, including a recent American president who had a bust of Churchill removed from the White House.) Churchill didn’t care. He squared his shoulders and, as an old man in his mid-seventies, thrown out of office by the people he had saved, once again expressed an unpopular view, which was poetic because it held Truth. It is well worth rereading, 72 years later, as much he said stands the test of time, and hints the old man may have had some degree of the “gift of prophesy”.
Two sections which strike me as particularly poetic (including the famous “iron curtain” section) are as follows:
” …We cannot be blind to the fact that the liberties enjoyed by individual citizens throughout the United States and throughout the British Empire are not valid in a considerable number of countries, some of which are very powerful. In these States control is enforced upon the common people by various kinds of allembracing police governments to a degree which is overwhelming and contrary to every principle of democracy. The power of the State is exercised without restraint, either by dictators or by compact oligarchies operating through a privileged party and a political police. It is not our duty at this time when difficulties are so numerous to interfere forcibly in the internal affairs of countries which we have not conquered in war, but we must never cease to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man which are the joint inheritance of the English-speaking world and which through Magna Carta, the Bill of rights, the Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, and the English common law find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence… “
“…From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in some cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow. Athens alone — Greece with its immortal glories — is free to decide its future at an election under British, American and French observation. The Russian-dominated Polish Government has been encouraged to make enormous and wrongful inroads upon Germany, and mass expulsions of millions of Germans on a scale grievous and undreamed-of are now taking place. The Communist parties, which were very small in all these Eastern States of Europe, have been raised to pre-eminence and power far beyond their numbers and are seeking everywhere to obtain totalitarian control. Police governments are prevailing in nearly every case, and so far, except in Czechoslovakia, there is no true democracy…”
Many in the United States did not want to hear this, in 1946. A huge effort was being made to beat swords back into plowshares. American military expenditures plunged from nearly 40% of the American GNP during World War Two to down around 5% just afterwards. The war had forced America to hugely increase its military from roughly 350,000 to at least 12,000,000 men, (some sources count 16,000,000), and, with roughly 60% of that force comprised of military men who didn’t volunteer and were drafted, huge numbers of men (and some women) wanted out of the military. They wanted to go home, and raise a family. The shift of so many from war-based-employment to the ordinary pursuits of working men made peace as great a shock to the economy as war was. Furthermore, few homes had been built during the Great Depression, and nearly none during the war, and now all the returning soldiers all required housing. People in the United States figured there were problems enough, inherent with facing peace, even in the United States which had no bombed cities, and that places which had seen cities leveled would be even more interested in building. Who in their right mind would desire more war and destruction?
Mao was who. Why? Because for him the war was not over. He must “liberate” Asia and the world from “imperialism”. He consequently brought horror to peaceful lands, certain he was improving society. He was not much different from the Spanish Inquisition believing it was righteous to chop off the hands of Native Americans in Mexico, because they were “heathens” who needed to be brutalized into seeing the Truth. Mao, like Stalin, felt he was pushing mankind to a higher and better level, by being brutal.
Ordinary Americans of that time appear in many ways baffled by the attitude of communists. In 1945 China and Russia were our friends. How could they be shooting at us in 1950, only five years later? Much of the United State’s policy seemed conducted midst bewilderment and confusion. For example, when hostilities resumed in Korea there was a need for Sherman tanks. Where were all the tanks we built to fight Hitler? In city and small town parks, where they had been placed as monuments to World War Two. Just imagine the dismay of peace-loving townsfolk, as mechanics arrived on town commons to rewire engines, and the tanks were then taken off the pedestals and went clanking up onto transport trucks.
Now skip ahead to young soldiers finding themselves yanked from plopping nickles into American jukeboxes and from slurping at ice-cream sodas, to being plunked into hellish battlefields in Korea.
The United Nation’s “police action” in Korea surged from the the 38th parallel to the extreme south, to the extreme north, south again and north again. However I will skip all that, and merely describe American soldiers laughing in a situation which no politically-correct person would think was a scene anyone could even smile about.
Korea has hot summers and frigid winters, and the laughable event occurred during the summer’s heat. The situation was this: After a savage fight, exhausted American troops were slumped in a farmer’s field. It was a period of relative calm which no one would call peace, except a soldier. The summer sun was beating down, and the soldiers were so tired they had not the strength to form a burial party to deal with the corpses of North Korean soldiers bloating all around them. What they desperately needed to do was to drink water and eat some food, but no one had much of an appetite, with not only dead bodies all around, but the hot and humid air thick with the stink of excrement, because Korean farmers fertilized their fields with human feces. The sergeant of this squad had to get his troops nourished so they would have the strength to stand up to an expected counterattack.
Most of the squad were were teenagers, or barely over twenty, (as the draft of that time had a deferment for people who had served in World War Two), but the the sergeant had seen action in the past, and seemed very old to the young men. He was described as a a heavyset man with an square, jutting jaw and a sour expression, stereotypical for a sergeant, but his age wasn’t stated.
If he lied about his age when he joined the army (as was quite common back then) he may have been as young as 28 or as old as 52. If he claimed to be 21 when he was only 17, he might have joined in 1918 (in the great excitement of that time), or in 1939 (to escape Great Depression poverty and unemployment, and also perhaps to escape working for FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corp). In any case he was “an old campaigner” and had experience on the battlefield. Korea was the third ferocious war that the United States had seen in thirty-two years. The sergeant had likely served in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Southern France, and Germany by 1945. He knew it was important to eat, no matter how horrible the restaurant was, so he attempted to set a good example, as the veteran in the situation. Perhaps he berated his squad for complaining, but then sat on some wreckage, stolidly chewing a spam sandwich despite the fact the bloating body of a dead invader lay right in front of him. No matter how disgusted he may have felt inwardly, externally he was stoic, munching with machismo. But just then the dead body in front of him, due to decomposition creating gasses in its guts, produced a long, loud, and bubbling belch. The sergeant’s immediate and involuntary response was to vomit the entire sandwich he had just eaten.
His squad’s reaction was to promptly dissolve into helpless, weeping laughter. After looking around with a wounded expression for a moment, the sergeant began laughing himself. The prolonged laughter was the last thing any of the men expected, and was amazingly relieving and refreshing, and was an event one of the soldiers recalled with vivid clarity years later.
The humor in the situation is not all that different from the humor of seeing a pompous snob slip and fall on ice, the primary difference being that that sergeant was able to laugh at his own discomfiture. What is more surprising to me is that some politically-correct people, sipping drinks far from the battlefield, seem completely unable to get such a joke, and rather look down their noses at the resiliency of the human spirit. They seem to display a dour intellectual skill at downplaying courage, and to instead see joy in grim circumstances as a type of mental illness, as masochism, or sadism, or some other warped behavior, and to justify their disdain with extraordinary psychobabble.
The simple fact of the matter is that suffering cannot kill the Truth, and in fact can make appreciation of Truth keener. Not all hearts are hardened like Stalin’s when broken. Stalin is purported to have stated, regarding his first wife, “She softened my hard heart, and when she died I never again (was soft)”, but the poet John Keats, if anything, grew more tender due to the suffering he experienced nursing first his mother, and later his younger brother, as they died of tuberculosis. His beautiful “Ode to Melancholy” states:
“…Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows, Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave, And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.
She dwells with Beauty—Beauty that must die; And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh, Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips: Ay, in the very temple of Delight Veil’d Melancholy has her sovran shrine, Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue Can burst Joy’s grape against his palate fine; His soul shalt taste the sadness of her might, And be among her cloudy trophies hung.”
In a way Keats is merely speaking a truism commonly expressed as, “You’ve gotta pay the dues if you want to sing the blues.” When the politically-correct seek to avoid suffering they inadvertently deny themselves much that is most beautiful.
An amazing example of a poet finding beauty in hell is the war-poetry of Wilford Owen. Owen seemed a poet specifically born to tell the truth about the trenches of World War One, for fate had him survive, against all odds, until the final week of the war. (His mother received the telegram announcing his death as the church bells rang, celebrating the war’s end.) Various psychobabble tends to degrade the compassion he felt for his comrades-in-arms, (and even for the Germans he killed), as “homoerotic”, when in fact he was a somewhat delicate, prissy poet who adored green fields and flowers, yet was plunged into the exact opposite. The spiritual crisis he went through, and the amazing maturation he displayed, (moving from “songs of innocence” to “songs of experience” like William Blake), deserves admiration and not psychobabble.
Basically he wrote most of his best poetry when in a hospital, before returning to the trenches. We have rough drafts he never had time to fine-tune. In some ways it portrays a mind experiencing flash-backs, (what is now called “post-traumatic-stress” but back then was called “shell shock”). He simply tells the truth. One great poem describes witnessing the death of a fellow soldier who didn’t quite get his gas mask in place in time, and how “as under a green sea, I saw him drowning.” He describes the slow torture of a man gradually dying as lungs fill with blood, and mocks the statement that to die for one’s country is a glorious thing.
However, midst the realism of describing the true hell of war, he also describes the true heroism of the soldiers, and how in that heroism is both beauty and joy. In “Apologia pro Poemate Meo” he begins, “I, too, saw God through mud…” and concludes:
”…I have perceived much beauty In the hoarse oaths that kept our courage straight; Heard music in the silentness of duty; Found peace where shell-storms spouted reddest spate.
Nevertheless, except you share With them in hell the sorrowful dark of hell, Whose world is but the trembling of a flare, And heaven but as the highway for a shell,
You shall not hear their mirth: You shall not come to think them well content By any jest of mine. These men are worth Your tears: You are not worth their merriment.”
The above poem, with its echo of “Ode to Melancholy”, does an amazing job of both describing the sheer, unnecessary hell of war, and also the heaven of brotherhood which appears among men in deplorable circumstances, from factory-floor to storm-at-sea to the gruesome landscapes of war. But who is the “you” Owen speaks to, at the end? It seems (to me) to be the politically-correct, who mix the oblivion of ignorance with downright condescending psychobabble. People undergoing shell shock don’t need psychobabble; they likely can only be truly helped by another who has been through similar hell, who has faced the crucifixion of simple men, (and who understands Christ truly did sweat blood before his humiliation, for they have witnessed ordinary soldiers undergoing hematidrosis.)
One mysterious poem among Owen’s notes contains amazing assonance, and also describes meeting a German soldier who he bayoneted the day before, in a dream. He may not have shown the poem to anyone. Reluctance would have been understandable, for one knows what psychobabble would state, about the peculiar “vision” he shared in “Strange Meeting.” In the eyes of many, dreary, so-called pragmatists, “Strange Meeting” is but the raving hallucinations of a shell-shocked madman.
Yet one needs to also ask, what is so sane about war? The First World War was basically a disagreement between Cousin George and Cousin Willy, and began with prancing horses and fancy uniforms. It was suppose to be “over by Christmas,” and there was even a somewhat accidental and unofficial truce in 1914 on Christmas, when the German and English played soccer in No-Man’s-Land.
The soldiers in the above picture faced trouble, for they were “fraternizing with the enemy”, and their starched superiors demanded “discipline”. Not that the men were immediately willing to stop “fraternizing” with their new friends, but when the officers ordered the artillery behind the lines to start firing on Boxing Day the men had to return to their trenches. The killing resumed, and it does not take too long, when friends standing beside you are cut down, before feelings of incidental friendship turn to hate. But I think the episode demonstrates war’s origins lie not among the ordinary soldiers, who the politically-correct like to call “low”, but rather among the “high”, the erudite sophists greedy for power. And perhaps it also explains why poetry gets along so poorly with politics, (unless you include mocking limericks).
Last week I talked about the old captains of coastal schooners, and the way they studied the sky for signs of “Hurricane Heights”.
Before railways were built in the mid 1800’s the main way to ship things was by boat, (which is why we speak of “shipping” things, even when we use trucks.) New York City was so big and growing so fast it had an insatiable appetite for lumber, and not all could be supplied by barging it down the Hudson River. Good money could be made “schooning” lumber down from Maine, but, before the Cape Cod Canal was built in 1914 (and widened to its current size 1935-1940) the route south was nearly 150 miles longer, and involved going outside Cape Cod, which was that much closer to the hurricanes people on shore hardly noticed because they had “gone out to sea.” Even when the hurricanes’s winds were to the east huge waves traveled outwards, and when they reached the shoals off the elbow of Cape Cod they could turn waters a ship could ordinarily navigate over into a landscape of breaking waves, huge combers far from a beach, with troughs so deep a keel could hit sand. Therefore a wise captain kept “an eye to the sky”.
This was done in a manner we can’t imagine. If we tried to force ourselves to study the sky we would soon start to fidget. Our minds would wander, and before long we’d get up and go to see what was happening elsewhere. However the old captains were stuck at the tiller or helm, and couldn’t go anywhere any faster than the boat was going. They studied the sky for hours upon hours.
One thing was very important to know, and that was whether the wind was going to back or veer. This was especially important when heading upwind. Without engines a ship had to tack to and fro, and (for example) a north-bound ship’s course could be made shorter if you knew beforehand whether the the headwind was going to shift to the northeast (veer) or to the northwest (back).
A rough idea where the nearest storm was located was to face the wind and stick out your right arm and point. You were pointing at the storm. But what direction was it moving? To guess at that you would look up at the high clouds, which moved with upper air winds that “steered” the storms. Then, by having a rough idea of whether the storm was approaching or departing or moving parallel to the ship, the captain would have a rough idea whether the winds would pick up or die down, and how they might back or veer. On dull days this merely shortened the route and number of tacks necessary, and on more exciting voyages it might be the difference between successfully reaching safe haven, or shipwreck and death.
Few would bother study the sky to this degree now. What would be the point? Now, if a captain wants to go upwind, he just takes down the sails and turns on the engine. There are a lot fewer shipwrecks now, but modern captains are dimwits compared to the captains of yore, when it comes to eyeing the sky with understanding. The need is no longer there to sharpen wits to that degree, and in fact if anyone now spent that much time studying the sky we might call them “obsessive”.
Personally I feel a certain amount of obsession is necessary, if you want to ever be really good at something. One person who seems really good, concerning the understanding and prediction of hurricanes, is Joe Bastardi, and he quite freely confesses he obsessed on weather maps so much when young that he was in some ways a nerd. But it paid off in terms of genius. Some years ago he looked at a tropical depression off the coast of Africa and said, “Houston, we have a problem”, which some say is one of the best long-range forecasts ever made.
Last Monday he said it looked like we could have frontal remnants becoming a storm like Brenda in 1960. I said, “La-la-la! I’m not listening”. Why? Because I want to pretend I’m an old schooner captain, and trying to see signs of storm only using my eyes and a barometer. (Of course I did hear Bastardi, but I can pretend I didn’t.)
Friday the skies were as blue as they get, and the air refreshing and cool, which is a reprieve but also a reason to be on guard.
The passage of a Canadian high-pressure is often a prelude to trouble brewing to the south. (Bastardi calls high-pressure to the north “A ridge over troubled waters.”[Hat tip, Simon and Garfunkle.]) Not that you want to spoil your summer by worrying every time it’s sunny, but you watch for the return of clouds and the southerly flow behind the high pressure. And sure enough, when I awoke Saturday morning the newspaper had arrived, not on my doorstep, but in the sky straight overhead.
What would such a newspaper tell an old schooner captain? I see two clues he’d see in the scene below, plus a clue he wouldn’t see.
First, just over the pines to the lower left is a bit of low cumulus, so low you could almost call it scud.
Right off the bat, his farsighted eyes squint to determine what direction those low clouds are moving. If they are moving to the right and approaching then the wind is southwest. That would be a benign wind, as the storm would be to the northwest, and likely a summertime Alberta Clipper. At worst, if it was hot and muggy, a Clipper might swing down a cold front and bring thunder, but the air is still refreshing and the sky is still deep blue and Canadian, so thunder is unlikely. But, because the captain has time to watch the sky, he notes the low clouds are not approaching; they are moving to the right and retreating. The wind is not from the southwest, but from the southeast.
A southeast wind is a whole different kettle of fish. It means a storm is to the southwest. Something may be coming up the coast. A certain wariness awakes. (I should note more than eyes were used by schooner captains. Like a dog (whose morning newspaper may be a fire hydrant) he sniffs the air, as a southwest land breeze has a completely different smell from a southeast sea breeze. He also likely runs his fingers through his hair, for hair tells you a lot about humidity. All his senses are involved; the sea is a sensual experience.)
Lastly he is very aware if the wind is backing or veering, and this southeast wind has veered all the way from the northwest through the northeast . For reasons I don’t understand, this is different from a wind that backs 180 degrees the other way, although it winds up blowing from the same direction.
Then his eyes lift a bit higher to the left, over the cherry tree, to the cirrus (which he would call a “mare’s tail”).
Cirrus is high clouds snowing into slower wind beneath. To the captain this is more reassuring than cirrocumulus, which is indicative of warmer air aloft and more inclined to be associated with hurricanes. Also the cirrus is still approaching from north of due west, which should “steer” a storm out to sea. However a rumple of concern appears on his brow, for he notices the high cloud’s movement is not as much from the north as it was. Indeed the high clouds are backing, even as the low clouds veer. Knowing nothing of upper air maps, heedless of upper air ridges or trofs, the wheels in his head start whirring. If the high clouds back, and especially if they back with speed, look out.
However I have one clue he doesn’t. There were no jets back then, and I can squint at contrails, and spot one over the trees in the center.
When contrails quickly evaporate behind a jet, it is a sign of descending and drying air aloft, and a sign of fair weather. When, as is the case with the contrail above, the contrail expands into a cloud, as if part of a cloud-seeding experiment, it is a sign of moisture aloft and rising air, and a sign of increasing clouds and approaching storms. (It doesn’t say what kind of storm: Gentle rain or hurricane or the squalls of a thundering front.)
Even without contrails the old schooner captains were likely observing whether high clouds were growing or evaporating. Where modern yachtsmen can set a “self-sailor” and be buried in a book, the skippers of yore would only “lash the helm” when there was a lot of other work to do. They liked the feel of the helm, and likely, by making subtle responses to each passing swell, could shave an hour or two off the length of a cruise.
When I was young I attempted to have spiritual experiences by closing my eyes, sitting cross-legged, and gazing up at the inside of my forehead. I never lasted very long. Rather than sacred subjects my my mind gravitated towards how divine pizza or a woman’s body was. But at the helm of a sailboat without a self-sailor I was forced to pay attention or the boat might luff or jibe, and paying-attention became a sort of yoga leading to an altered state of consciousness. This divine intoxication is the reason some people are fanatics about sailing, while those who haven’t imbibed the wine cannot see the good of it, or why anyone in their right mind would willingly suffer seasickness.
How many modern people, with their short attention spans and craving for constant stimulation, can sit and watch a cloud as it passes from one side of the sky to the other? The so-called boredom would drive many nuts, and perhaps there is an element of craziness in being at sea. However it has its own constant stimulation, in the rocking of the waves and passing of the swells, the ruffling of sails and the ringing of rigging, the hypnotic slosh and thud and gurgling of waters, and it all combines to enter one into a different dimension, a different relationship with reality, with sea and sky. Call it “obsessive” if you will, but it includes the wisdom of the weather-wise.
Just looking at the clouds I’ve pictured above, the old schooner captains would have known “something was brewing” to the south. Would they have set sail? Well, that was up to them to decide, and they did know how to handle a moderate storm. All business involves an element called “risk”.
And how do they compare with modern computers? Well, the billion dollar GFS Model never caught onto the coastal development until Saturday morning, right about the time an old captain would have tasted the first hints of a wind-shift to the southeast.
Others models did better, but how is one to chose? Even a single model can have fifty “runs” that all differ. Which one is right?
The answer seems to be obsessive, like Joe Bastardi. In order to be good at anything you need to in some ways over-do it. But Mr. Bastardi does amaze me. Last Monday he said that by Saturday a storm “like Brenda in 1960” could appear on the coast. He also forecast that the weather bureau likely wouldn’t call it a hurricane, despite tropical characteristics. Then, on Saturday , there it was, looking all the world like a dying hurricane, though it had never officially been a hurricane and therefore could not officially be a dying one.
The weather bureau can bicker all it wants about whether things are “official”. I think they may be jealous if Joe’s ability, even to the mean level of not calling an event “tropical” because to do so might make Joe look better than they. But we are not suppose to become irrational, and envy is irrational. The simple fact of the matter is that Mr. Bastardi kicked their butts. And, when faced with superiority, the smart thing to do is sit at the feet of the master, and inquire, “How the heck did you do it?”
Let’s face it: If you had plans on the water off the coast of New Jersey or Long Island on Saturday, wouldn’t you like a heads-up that storm-force gusts like the feeder-bands of a hurricane could be coming north?
A final clue that this storm was “tropical” was shown by how quickly it is weakened once it cut inland.
What are we to conclude from all this? Perhaps we should conclude this: The next time we are called “obsessive”, we should respond, “Thank you very much.”
There is nothing like being stuck indoors, doing your taxes, to make absolutely everything else seem preferable. Even the rotten weather has a romantic allure, as if I can faintly sniff distant seaweed on the raw east winds. Of course, that is humbug, but it is a good humbug.
The warm air is stuck to our south. It hasn’t made much progress since this morning. (Click maps, or open to new tabs, to clarify and enlarge.)
The cold high pressure up over Quebec does not want to budge, and low pressure is shunted out to sea south of us, without a warm sector coming up our way. In fact we get east winds off the cold Atlantic, or even northeast winds from up in Labrador, where the coldest air lurks, below zero even in April. (Below -17.8° Celsius). We sure don’t want that stuff coming south.
This morning you could watch the rain try to come north, but change to snow as it neared us.
During the day the high sun had such power that even through the overcast it kept the swirling snow and sleet from sticking, however now night has fallen, and the sleet has a power it lacked before.
It’s hard to focus on taxes when the sleet is tapping at my window, evoking memories of other Aprils, when the yearning for spring wrestled with the final fits of winter. In some ways it is a season unto itself, a sort of false spring, but a false winter as well. It is something you expect, this far north.
In 1990, just before I met my wife, we had temperatures at the start of April up over 90° (32.2° Celsius), and my customers were consumed by a sort of panic about being “behind”, in terms of spring gardening. I remember telling one very sweet old lady it likely would be sleeting in a week, and she shouldn’t plant her tomatoes, but she insisted, and the customer is always correct. Then, around a week later, I was out working in her garden in a bone-chilling rain, which turned to sleet. She called me in, and served me a lovely bowl of hot soup at a table in a glassed-in porch, and as she plunked the bowl in front of me her old, blue eyes looked out over the forlorn scene, and she spoke the three simple words, “You were right.”
In 1973 my teenager-years had just ended, and my gardener’s job was to trudge out into sleet and rain to trim back a rose garden that had gone amazingly out of control, in a widow’s back yard. Her husband had loved roses, but after he died the garden had turned into a savage wilderness of wicked thorns so towering and thick you half expected to find a castle holding Sleeping Beauty in the midst. It took me a week to cut it all back to a semblance of control. When I remarked to the widow I had never seen roses so vigorous, she simply smiled and said, “My husband loved those roses so much he asked that his ashes be spread among their roots. I guess he is part of the plants by now.”
That is a northern April. It is a splicing of two incongruous ropes, Death and Rebirth.
I hear you tapping at my window, Silver April Sleet, laughing as wind’s blow A shudder down the street, and things don’t grow, As you pepper buds with patters, for you know What matters, and what shatters the blunt-willed Farmer slogging in big boots, and makes song birds Slouch silent on wet twigs, so disgruntled They won’t peep. I hear you tap, but what’s heard’s A song sweeter than waxed ears hear. You cast pearls Of silver-grey over a drab landscape, Singing songs so unlike snow’s that, though wind hurls Needles in my face, I find escape. When you cast your pearls, it is not to swine, For April has ears that can hear the Divine.
I’m up late, boiling maple sap on the porch, and feeling the chill creep in at the edges of the house, as the temperature is down to 25° ( -3.9° Celsius). To be honest, it doesn’t feel much like April at the moment. Yet another in a seemingly endless series of arctic high pressures has sunk south over us, getting in the way of balmy Chinook winds that make places like Montana warmer than New Hampshire. (Click map to clarify and enlarge.)
Looking at the above map, it looks all the world like the high pressure will move east and some nice, south winds will move over us, from the west. However I’m skeptical, due to seeing such golden promises before, and seeing that all that gets to us is a brief patch of mild rain, or even an occlusion, with all the mildness aloft, and things down where I live cold, gray, and clammy.
I’m not all that grouchy about how things have turned out, for we have been through a sort of drought, and the deep snow cover has slowly but steadily shrunk, without the floods you might expect. At the start of March we had towering snowbanks and four feet of snow on the level, and if you had offered me even money on a bet that we would get through the entire month of March without a major snowstorm or, worse, rainstorm, I would have taken the bet, and would have lost.
In essence winter had us up against the ropes, and could have slugged us to tweet-tweet; look-at-the-birdie-land with even a modest nor’easter. However somewhere someone must have prayed a good prayer. You don’t see it too often in boxing matches, but dropping to your knees and praying for mercy when you are up against the ropes is apparently a good strategy, providing you remember to jump back to you feet before the referee counts to ten.
In any case, we’ve made it to April. I walked out into the garden today to measure how deep the snow is, and it is less than a foot now, in places. However it is “corn snow”, which is granular crystals of ice which, if you measured them, each would be a cube with sides of an eighth of an inch, or a little more. It is dense stuff, and needs some nice days with temperatures up in the seventies ( above 21° Celsius ) to get rid of it. We are having trouble getting up to fifty (10° Celsius).
This is exasperating to me, as a farmer. In the Spring of 2012 I already had my peas, spinach, lettuce, onions and Potatoes planted. This April it is so cold that tonight even the maple sap will stop rising. (This is actually a good thing, if you are a farmer who supplements his income with maple syrup sales, but even these cold nights will not salvage this season for many. It has been so cold the season was very late to start, and the bright sun will convince trees to bud out even if temperatures stay cold, so many farms will only produce half as much syrup as last year.)
The landscape is still snowcovered, and the buds on trees haven’t even started to swell. When it does warm, what I am faced with is having to plant in a hurry. It looks like we will move from Winter to Summer with very little Spring. Rather than just sitting back and relaxing, I need to hustle and start flats of seedlings indoors, and then, when the snow finally is gone, to transplant like crazy.
For example, it takes lettuce roughly ten days between the day you plant it and the day you see the first tiny green plant. I can’t sit around waiting for the soil to thaw. Why not? Because as soon as the weather gets hot, lettuce “bolts”, which means it turns, sometimes in only 48 hours, from nice leafy stuff you would want in your salad into a flower stalk that is amazingly bitter. Conclusion? If I wait for the soil to thaw, by the time ten days pass and the lettuce sprouts, the prime cool-weather lettuce-growing weather will be swiftly passing, however, if I plant little lettuce seedlings as soon as the soil thaws, the lettuce will be thriving during those same ten days, and I’ll have fat heads of lettuce to sell, and will get rich and drive about in a Cadillac.
Or maybe not. However this does give you a hint of the fact farmers cannot hide from Truth. The weather is what it is. Climate Scientists may be able to “adjust” and “homogenize” temperatures to get the results they want, but farmers face a Truth that can’t be fiddled with.
One time, when I was attempting to explain this Truth to a very secular person I deeply respect, he became exasperated, as if I was merely an idealistic airhead without any foundation in reality, and he told me, “You haven’t a clue how politics operates.”
Hmm. Perhaps I know all too well how far politics has drifted from Truth.
Politics over-focuses on power, with the mentality of a schoolyard bully, who has no idea it is better to be friends with people than to dominate with fear.
As a sort of proof, I ask you this: When you think of the word “power”, do you associate it it with the word “friend”, or the word “fear”?
Most of modern politics is scare-tactics. “Global Warming” is all about fear, and has little to do with love, trust, and friendship.
Truth, on the other hand, turns out to be closely associated to a thing called “Love.”
The proof is in the pudding. The farmer who attends to Truth has a garden that blooms, while the politician that fosters falsehood can only heap hate upon hate.
Eventually they have to throttle the voices of Truth, as is now occurring on “Twitter” where Steave Goddard and others are banned from stating the Truth about the “Global Warming” dogma.
I really don’t have time for this trivia, which Politicians think is so Big. Maybe if I was young and loaded with hormones I could get suckered into a fight with fat fools, but I’m old and it takes a bit more than moronic behavior to rouse the dying embers of my old fire. As far as I’m concerned, lettuce seedlings are more worthy of attention than a doomed president. However occasionally some nitwit provokes the gray ashes of my dying fire to a shower of sparks, as occurred when I read,
“I have read somewhere only one in two hundred is actually a leader, and to control a group all that is needed is to identify and break that leader.”
I had to respond, and my response was,
“The fallacy in this thought is that it fails to recognize the true power, behind the scenes, is Truth. For example, the boiling point of water doesn’t care who wins an election; it is what it is.
Over and over people are so seduced by the attractiveness of power that they resort to falsehood to grasp it. One way or another, they justify their wrongdoing, promising tomorrow to repay for today’s ripoff, making a mantra of “the ends justify the means”.
Then over and over you see such powerful people slowly rot, (often from the inside out), as their facade of well-being is slowly corroded by Truth. In the end Truth trumps all the cleverness of power politics, and even kings come to understand they are powerless before it. Maybe it isn’t as obvious as Nebuchadnezzar going mad for seven years, but it is a reality.
Perhaps it is due to something as simple as the fact that studying Truth leads to wisdom, while studying falsehood leads to ignorance, and ignorant people do ignorant stuff that, in the end, ruins them.”
Within those words is some poetry, and other artsy stuff, including the stuff that grows real lettuce. However politicians are interested in false lettuce (IE: the green leaves of dollar bills). Politicians are not interested in the cream, atop the milk of my life. What they are snorting after is my feces, the byproduct of my life.
If I seem bitter, it is because rather than writing poetry, I have to do my taxes. I have to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”. (The Bible politely calls this “filthy lucre”, but a truer translation is “feces”.)
Don’t get get me wrong. As a farmer I value feces. We call it “manure” and also “brown gold.” We understand it is not to be hoarded, and is best used to fertilize the fields. To be a miser of manure makes no sense. The sooner you can get rid of it and mix it into your garden, the lusher the lettuce crop will be.
If politicians and the IRS merely wanted to gather a huge pile of manure, deeming it the source of political power, it would be demented, but at least they might promise to dole it out to the actual gardeners who actually grow stuff. They would be like mothers who are more interested in collecting milk than in nursing their babes. However the madness of political correctness and “smart politics” has gone beyond even this.
It has even gone beyond the rare situation that dairy farmers occasionally see, wherein a mother cow or goat sucks her own teat for nourishment.
Things have gotten so out of hand that the current crop of politically correct politicians are not merely hoarding a huge heap of feces. They have actually started to eat the stuff.
As much as I resent the lack of appreciation the government displays towards poet-citizens like me, as they demand more and more of me, I sort of like the fact that, as their taxes take the byproduct of my hard work, they are eating my shit.
I doubt anyone wants much to hear about my ten days with walking pneumonia, however therein lies the challenge: A good writer can make anything interesting.
One interesting thing about pneumonia is that it makes interesting things dull. Oxygen is darned important stuff. Little tanks of oxygen should be attached to the back of math books, with nozzles that spray into students’s faces. I, for one, might have found the classes more interesting. Many have told me that Math is actually an interesting subject, and all I can reply is that they obviously were getting more oxygen than I was.
The past ten days have been like a prolonged Math class. I kept waiting for the bell to ring, so I could rush out and escape the room and see life begin again. In fact I tried to keep myself going at the start, as often it seems to do more harm to give in to a cold, than to dress very warmly, eat very well, drink only one drink, sweat a lot, and sleep more than usual. Healthy work usually cures a cold, but not this time.
I felt very uneasy when I noticed lots of other old geezers my age were going down like dominoes, and spending time in bed. Usually our immune systems have been exposed to so many bugs over the decades we can man the ship as the youth go down, but not this time. I’d bound from bed in the morning thinking, “I must be better by now,” but found I was weak as a kitten and slow as molasses and had a headache and feverish feeling starting in the middle of the morning, and by afternoon my temperature would be above a hundred. My IQ was well below that.
Finally I broke down and spent some time in bed. Antibiotics were not clearing my lungs, and proved my local doctor was quite correct when he told me the chest-cold afflicting the town was likely viral and not bacterial. I take viral pneumonia seriously, ever since it swiftly did in the creator of the Muppet’s. (They’ve never been as good, ever since.)
It is very annoying to be stuck in bed when your IQ is greatly reduced and absolutely everything seems uninteresting. My main occupation was hacking up phlegm, and when I felt particularly congested I’d dress up like it was minus-forty when it actually was thawing, and go out to split some wood for the fire, as exercise seems to clear roughly a pound of phlegm from my system. Then I’d have a deep drink of water and crawl shuddering back to bed.
My dull mind got to thinking, as my fever spiked, about the expression “British Phlegm.” I’d always thought it was a rather cool trait, (for example, when they arrive home and see ten firetrucks and the entire block ablaze and their home burning from cellar to attic, they calmly say something such as, “I must remember not to make the fire insurance payment for the next quarter, next week.”) Now it seemed a sort of insulting expression, equating the English with mucus.
Ordinarily I’d hop on that idea like a chicken on a worm, but a speedy response was too much like work, so I took a nap before I looked up the word “phlegmatic.” I was informed it meant, “Having or suggesting a calm,sluggishtemperament;unemotional or apathetic.”
That described me to the T, and, after another nap and a couple aspirin, I discovered “phlegm” was one of the four “humors” that, according to ancient medicine, governed human health, vitality, intelligence and personality.
That also made sense, because when you can’t breathe and aren’t getting enough oxygen you do develop a sort of calm. There had been several occasions for sarcasm that I completely missed, after I got congested. It wasn’t that I didn’t know sarcasm was suited for the situation; I simply couldn’t think of any.
However when I traced the roots of the word back to the roots in ancient Greek I became very tired. The root was from,phlegein, “to burn.” How could a bright fire come to mean a dullness?The aspirin was wearing off and I felt sweaty and very tired, so I took another nap.
When I awoke I bounded from bed, certain I was better, but after around five false starts I crawled back into bed to reconsider the subject of phlegm.
It turns out the word “Phlegm” has even more ancient roots in the “Common Tongue” of ancient Europe, Indo-European. The ancient word was “Bhel” and it basically meant extremely bright and white. It gave birth to some words that seem logical, such as “blaze”, “blanch”, “blush”, “beluga” and “blitzkrieg”. However the word “blind” takes some thinking, as it seems the opposite of white, though of course white light can be blinding. Things get downright difficult to comprehend when you consider the fact :”Bhel” was also the root of words like “bleak” and “black.”
It was too much for my diminished IQ, so I took another nap. Awakening after midnight drenched in sweat, I decided a fever was good for dull wits, as you get some strange thinking sprinkled in. It made perfect sense to me that a bright blaze could make black charcoal, so the words blaze and black could be related. After an aspirin it stopped making so much sense, and I could only guess that some ancient suffix was involved, in the way we can use a suffix to turn “sun” into “sunless.”
I was wide awake in the dead of night, as I had slept so much during the day, so I thought I might compose a blog entry. I couldn’t even think of a first sentence. Weather maps made no sense. Instead I just wandered, and eventually got back to the subject of phlegm.
I’d wandered back to ancient India, which oddly has some words that are the same in Ireland. Perhaps there was some sort of pre-Tower-of-Babel civilization, some golden age more civil than we can imagine, that allowed a common tongue to be shared. But I’ll leave that for people with higher IQs and lower temperatures.
Back in the time of the Sanskrit scholars they may not have known of oxygen or oxygen tanks, but they did know air was necessary for fire, and for life. Air was “Vayu” and life was “Prana”, and they were so deeply interconnected it was impossible to separate them.
This made perfect sense to me in the dead of night. When you have pneumonia it is very obvious air is connected to life. I don’t need to sit cross-legged, and to learn how to breathe out of alternate nostrils, to know that. I’ve seen it, been humbled by it, and am sick of it.
However I came across one ancient tale that tickled me. It involved a situation where all the various Hindu gods (with a small “G”) wondered who was most important to humans. So, each in turn, withdrew from humanity, (or one particular Job-like human,) to see how he’d fare.
[Don’t get me wrong. I believe there is only one God (with a capital “G”) and it irks me when Christians get too compartmentalized with Father-Son-Spirit, or distracted by Saints and the Virgin Mary. However it also irks me when psuedo-scientists miss all the wonder of clouds and sky and wind, thinking they can reduce it to jostling molecules of Nitrogen and Oxygen and H2O and some trace gases. Only when such scientists get old does their wonder return, and do they confess that even after a lifetime of study of something such as the AMO, they have barely scratched the surface. They are on the verge, in their wonder, of giving the AMO the status of a god (with a small “g”) for the AMO is beyond human understanding and control. Yet these same scientists, when they were young, called the ancients “quaint” when they called a breeze a sort of little angel or small god, called a “zephyr”.]
However the Sanskrit scholars of ancient times take the cake, when it comes to giving various powers of nature god-status, and picturing them as beings with wills of their own. (Where we speak of our “mind”, they have a god with a bull elephant head, prone to occasional fits rut-madness.)
In any case, all these gods began withdrawing their influence from man, and man suffered but survived, until it was the turn of the god of air. He only started to stand up, and not only did man reel, but so did all the other gods. All the other gods then conceded that (not including God with a capital “G”), the god of air was most important.
Without Vayu there is no Prana. Pneumonia makes this disgustingly apparent. All your study, all your learning, all your projects, are put on hold. At first you say, “when I get better” work will resume. Then, when five days sees you not better but worse, you start to say “if I get better.”
That word “when” takes too much for granted, and when it is replaced by “if” a writer is reduced to the proper point of humbleness. After all, it is an amazingly arrogant profession, (if you ever bother to think about it), and can use some cutting down to size. It is important to remember you can’t even begin, without the mercy of a healing Creator.
Which leads me to a final mystery. Considering breathing and air is so important to the production of clearly articulated thoughts, while are so many young writers chain smokers?
I curse what that habit did to my lungs, but glad to say I feel better today, and able to make even pneumonia interesting.