Wrapping Up

Where there is no vision, the people perish:
but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

- Proverbs 29:18

Well, it’s been a long year, hasn’t it? This will most likely be my last substantive post of the year, no I’m not quitting, I’m going to be with my family for Christmas, and probably won’t get much written. Jess will be taking over here, I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.

But this year, in a way, I want to call it a malaise, or sort of a mass depression, or something I can’t quite define. But it’s not, is it? It’s much more like the ship of state has been dismasted and is sitting broadside to the storm and the last compass washed over the side with the last wave. And we’re frantically trying to get a sea-anchor rigged before we founder. That’s closer, isn’t it.

This is not an anti-Obama rant. Yes, I feel much the same as most of you but, he’s not the cause, merely a symptom.

But I see the signs all about me. We’re more emphatically patriotic than we have ever been, we’re incredibly caring about our troops (the ‘grunts’, not the leadership). The other day, Lee Wishing, writing in Catholic Lane described going to a Buffalo v Jets game. Here’s a bit of it.

We took our seats in the upper deck. Again, omnipresent drunkenness. I spoke with a happy young couple with glazed-over eyes throughout the game. Another pleasant young couple cheering for the Jets was comfortably numb for four quarters. A few sections away, an inebriated young man slid down the wall at the end of the upper deck and fell backward 40 feet to the lower level. His employer fired him the following day after seeing the viral replay. Later in the game, another disturbance broke out. A man with the bloodiest face I’ve ever seen emerged from the crowd escorted by Bills security [...]

There was one moment that reminded me of the old days. At the beginning of the game, members of the military unrolled an American flag that covered the entire football field and everyone stood to sing the National Anthem respectfully, almost reverently.

Later, the Buffalo Bills cheerleaders, the Jills, performed a dance number wearing military boots, camouflage pants, and skintight black shirts. They ended the routine doing a split and saluting the crowd. The fans went wild for this contemporary sexualized patriotic display. It was as if Beyoncé was about to appear and do a USO show. But still, it was a form of patriotism and my mind flashed back to the flag-waving guys in the back of the truck. Was there a connection, a common thread? Although the Bills were victorious, the day was defined by youthful drunkenness and patriotism. But was there more underlying this unsettling culture?

Was the excessive drinking an expression of hopelessness and a desperate search for happiness? Maybe. On the other hand, was the patriotism an expression of hope in something bigger than oneself – community and country? I think it was.

Here’s the rest

I’ve seen that too. It’s like so many of the young are desperately searching for something to believe in, and settling on America as the best choice on offer. That’s not a bad choice, I think, but blind, drunken longing isn’t going to be enough. America was built by men and women who worked hard long hours for not much, other than the hope that it would be better for their kids. And it always has been, till now.

So has life suddenly turned into a zero-sum game, or have we forgotten something?

I’ve occasionally said that one of my very favorite bloggers is Cassandra of Villainous Company, the reason is that she is a great, perceptive writer. Like many of us who have reached 50 or so, it seems to her that we now live in a different country than the one we grew up in. We have trouble getting our bearings sometimes, it’s like somebody has stolen all the landmarks we built our lives on. Here’s part of one of her posts

But clearly the boys did look neat and clean – at least some of the time. In nearly every photograph their hair is freshly cut and combed, with a neat part on the side. That’s not too surprising; I cut their hair myself every two weeks. It was easier to remember how to even out a cowlick or coax each boy’s locks into subservience to my maternal will if I didn’t allow their hair to grow too long or too uneven. But it wasn’t just the hair. In each photo their outfits are carefully coordinated. Quite a few photos show them in coat and tie, a snazzy set of suspenders or, (when they were very small) those old fashioned rompers and a pair of leather, hard soled English sandals.

That’s when it hit me: it’s not that I was particularly neat or my children particularly well groomed or dressed. You can see the same thing looking back at photos of the ’50s and ’60s in any public place. The men are dressed in suits, the women all wear stockings. Many have gloves and hats. Change happened gradually, but over the years it became harder and harder to find little boys’ suits, leather shoes, the well tailored clothes we saved for months in order to buy and proudly sported at restaurants, airports, even baseball games. No one, nowadays, bronzes their baby’s first set of Nike sneakers. They are nothing like the white leather baby shoes that required so much polishing to keep them free of the dreaded black smudges that earned disapproving looks from old ladies. [...]

For there is no shame in being needy anymore. We have destigmatized failure. When we make poor choices it’s never our fault. We were just unlucky. Prosperity is something we take for granted in a way our parents and grandparents, who came of age in a time before Social Security, 401Ks, Medicare/Medicaid and unemployment insurance were never able to. How dare the bank repossess “our” houses simply because we cannot afford to pay the mortgage note? Why isn’t someone doing something to allow us to keep what’s rightfully ours?

Uncertainty – the fear that our carefully constructed worlds could so easily collapse; that we were on the ascending path but could fall just as swiftly as we had risen; that in an instant everything we had might be swept away – is, I think, what lay behind what I saw in those old photos. To keep uncertainty at bay we dressed up, put our best feet forward, struggled to be better than our natures dictated. We did these things to assuage the knowledge that nothing in life is guaranteed: not health, not wealth, not happiness. Without a safety net, constant effort was required to keep the human race on the upward path from savagery and want to civilization and affluence and with every instinct in our being we continually reaffirmed and celebrated the importance of being successful. Because the opposite of success was failure, and failure was shameful. It could also be disastrous.

Prosperity and abundance were things we didn’t take for granted the way we do now. It was all a question of expectations. We wanted wealth and security but didn’t expect these things. After all, success in those days was still an aspiration. A hope, not a birthright.

I can’t help wondering if the growing disconnect between decision and consequence; our bloated sense of entitlement and inflated expectation is not behind many of the things I’ve been reading lately: Gerard’s sense of diminishment.

Retriever’s disappointment?

Instapunk’s despair and loss of faith?

Their essays reminded me of something I read long ago. An essay written by a dear friend about the danger of misplaced expectations: [...]

Now, at 50, I look back with the knowledge that I have taken those first few steps along the downward path. It seems funny to me now, all those years of wishing, hoping, struggling to reach some far off goal. To improve myself. During the election I listened to Barack and Michelle Obama and I realized that there is a vast gulf between what they believe – their expectations – and mine. I grew up in a different America: one in which failure was always a possibility but in which there was also the promise of abundance beyond my wildest dreams. In many ways that is the world we live in now. Our homes, cars, electronic devices are newer, faster, cheaper, and more fully functional than anything I dreamed of back then.

What disturbed me about their words was the realization that they viewed struggling and uncertainty as the Enemy. Whereas I viewed those things as the means to an end; goads that made me uncomfortable but also provided the impetus to propel me from my present state into a far better existence. They made me dissatisfied but also gave me hope that tomorrow would be better than today.

I think Instapunk touched on an interesting thought in his essay. The God I grew up with was a demanding God. We were taught that man is sinful by nature and that only by constant struggle can we hope to transcend our lower selves. That was the essence and the meaning of life: constant struggle to overcome; to improve; to adapt and conquer. And that struggle – the source of our present prosperity and security – is precisely what many of us seek to eliminate.

Their God is a non-judgmental, multicultural God. He sets forth no immutable laws, draws no bright lines between Good and Evil. And to a large extent even conservatives have bought into this seductive trap. We don’t want to be judgmental of others. But more importantly we don’t really want to find ourselves wanting. We have forgotten the purpose of discomfort, of shame, of having to deal with the disapprobation of others.

Read it all, please

And I wonder if that isn’t the key. When we make it impossible to catastrophically fail, do we also make it impossible to succeed? I suspect we do, and yet none of us want anyone to fail. Nor does God wish to see anyone go to Hell. But we, like Him, believe, or say we do, in free will. And part of that is that we can live up to something, or not. We can, in theory tear down the goalposts, but we will always remember where they stood, won’t we?

And I think we know, that if you can’t fail, you can’t succeed, so there’s nothing really to believe in. So we might as well get drunk and enjoy the game.

P.J. O’Rourke on the Baby Boom: the Aftermath – WSJ.com

English: American political satirist and autho...

English: American political satirist and author P. J. O’Rourke. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

[If your were depending on me for your reading the last couple of days, sorry. No real excuses, except that I felt like a break.]

As always, P.J. O’Rourke has a dose of saneness for those of us of a certain age. Yep, I said sane and P.J. O’Rourke in the same sentence, twice no less. But you know we are such a weird generation that he’s probably the sanest of our spokespeople. As always the truth as he sees it. And mostly, I agree.

We are the generation that changed everything. Of all the eras and epochs of Americans, ours is the one that made the biggest impression—on ourselves. That’s an important accomplishment, because we’re the generation that created the self, made the firmament of the self, divided the light of the self from the darkness of the self, and said, “Let there be self.” If you were born between 1946 and 1964, you may have noticed this yourself.

That’s not to say we’re a selfish generation. Selfish means “too concerned with the self,” and we’re not. Self isn’t something we’re just, you know, concerned with. We are self.

Before us, self was without form and void, like our parents in their dumpy clothes and vague ideas. Then we came along. Now the personal is the political. The personal is the socioeconomic. The personal is the religious and the secular, science and the arts. The personal is everything that creepeth upon the earth after his (and, let us hasten to add, her) kind. If the baby boom has done one thing, it’s to beget a personal universe. (Our apologies for anyone who personally happens to be a jerk.)

Self is like fish, proverbially speaking. Give a man a fish and you’ve fed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and, if he turns into a dry-fly catch-and-release angling fanatic up to his liver in icy water wearing ridiculous waders and an absurd hat, pestering trout with 3-pound test line on a $1,000 graphite rod, and going on endlessly about Royal Coachman lures that he tied himself using muskrat fur and partridge feathers…well, at least his life partner is glad to have him out of the house.

So here we are in the baby-boom cosmos, formed in our image, personally tailored to our individual needs, and predetermined to be eternally fresh and novel. And we saw that it was good. Or pretty good.

Continue reading P.J. O’Rourke on the Baby Boom: the Aftermath – WSJ.com.

 

 

Guilty Pleasures

Well, folks, it’s Saturday, I’m kind of lazy, and I’ve heard a rumor that Jess is indulging her girly side, and has gone shopping. This is also the 1201st post on Nebraska Energy Observer. I have no idea if that’s any sort of a milestone or not but, that’s what the dashboard says. So there.

One thing that doing this blog has done for me is introduce me to a whole lot of fascinating people, and let me call reading and listening to them, research. Now that’s a winner! So I’m going to share one of my guilty pleasures with you. Ever seen one of Bill Whittle’s Stratosphere Lounge podcasts?

Well, here is one, so get a cup of coffee, find a comfortable chair and enjoy.

Later, Gator :-)

Car 54, Where are you

When I was a kid there was a comedy about the NYPD, and a couple of misfit officers who were never where they should have been. It seems strange now, a comedy about the police but it was reasonably amusing.

Simpler, better days, they were.

But I can also remember my folks telling my sisters to call when they got home. I thought it was silly, they’re grown-ups they’ll be fine, after all they always had been. Funny how this changes, isn’t it?

My partner is currently in the Philippines with his fiancée, if I haven’t mentioned it she’s pretty darned wonderful in my opinion, as well, apart from being an industrial engineer and a specialist in lean management.

Immigration has turned into a nightmare, apparently our State Department equates self-employment with being unemployed, in some cases I’m sure it’s true but their requirements for sponsoring her into the country are very burdensome, they start with $80,000 in liquid assets and go on from there, and then add the requirements of her government and you have just created a red tape mountain of Everestian proportions.

They completely failed once, and that is why or business is on hold, we decided if we were going to get this done, we would just have to close and let him take a job, we do enough side work to keep me going but that’s about it, for now. Honestly, he took a pretty good pay cut to do it as well.

And he’s like that too, he’s knows its going fine so why tell anybody so (full disclosure: so am I) but you know, it’s hard when your sitting here with several problems stewing and you don’t know for sure because you haven’t heard from him. It’s very likely that everything is fine and he’s having a wonderful time like those old postcards from Florida said. But I wish he’s say so.

Silly? Of course it is. But I’ll bet every one of you parents know exactly what I mean. After a while, the ‘what-if’s’ start piling in and pretty soon you’re living on coffee and antacids, and worrying more and more.

And if it happens that two people drop off the screen at the same time, it seems to about treble the worry. Rational? No, it’s not. But it is.

Car 54, Where are You?

Rattling Around in my Brain this Easter Monday

For some reason this morning a couplet from The Battle Hymn of the Republic‘s third verse, as slightly revised for the US military is rattling around the echoing space in my brain, so I thought I’d share it with you.

As He died to make men holy;

Let us live to make men free.

In other news: Jeff Carter over at Townhall has some wisdom from a farmer that will stand you in good stead.

  • “Your fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight and bull-strong.”
  • “Keep skunks, lawyers and bankers at a distance.”
  • “Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.”
  • “A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.”
  • “Words that soak into your ears are whispered…….not yelled.”
  • Meanness don’t just happen overnight.”
  • “Forgive your enemies; it messes up their heads.”
  • “Do not corner something that you know is meaner than you.”
  • “It don’t take a very big person to carry a grudge.”
  • “You cannot unsay a cruel word.”
  • “Every path has a few puddles.”
  • “When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.”
  • “The best sermons are lived, not preached.”
  • “Most of the stuff people worry about, ain’t never gonna happen anyway.”
  • “Don’t judge folks by their relatives.

Continue reading Wisdom from the Farm

%d bloggers like this: