Monday, July 6, 2015

Principalities and Powers

There is a proclivity among people, and a distinctly modern one, I think, to see others, especially those possessing money or power, as sinister, devoid of natural affections or a common moral sense. These are the puppet masters, who scheme and manipulate from high places, with a motive to betray and control through any and every means. To me, this picture is fatally flawed on a number of levels. It demands an intricate cooperation in the face of the chaos represented by the stubbornness, the contrariness of the individual. It requires us to believe that mere power and riches have the ability to unite, to suck the very essence of a man's soul from his person, such that he may become, in order to be truly sinister, devoid of the most basic components of civilized existence - love, compassion, community, conscientiousness - a mutual agreement that we must survive not alone but together. We may disagree politically, but that doesn't make our opponent a monster. It merely makes him a Republican ( ;) ). We may define the fine points of morality in different ways, but we do so from the inescapable basis that there is such a thing as morality to begin with, and that its key components remain eternally intact. There is no living person, man or woman, rich or poor, strong or weak, who doesn't know what love is. The power of evil, with which we are at war, resides not in man-made plans and institutions, but in high places, in cosmic principalities and powers that are far beyond the ken of mere men.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Gay Marriage

The Supreme Court decision to universally legalize gay marriage was really more complex than many people allow. With some states legalizing gay marriage and others not, all sorts of legal and social difficulties were lining up for the future, in court rooms and in conflicts between state law and federal law. In order that the country may proceed as a union united under common laws, either one case or the other had ultimately to attain. The Federal government has been the supreme and the final authority ever since the Civil War. The rule would have to be collective, not fragmented - pertinent in one place but not in another. The decision, therefore, really had to pose one law for all. The most logical, least troublesome decision was legalization throughout the states.  It was neither a moral nor an immoral decision. It was merely a realistic decision. Everybody prefers his own spin on the thing, but the preference of the court was for practicality, pure and simple. So it's not the beginning of an age of universal tolerance and love. That will never happen in this world. Nor is it the end of the world, as some loudly proclaim. It just is what it is.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Love is known best, most keenly, in its absence.

I wrote this first sentence late last night, hardly knowing why, or what it meant. It just came into my head. Reflecting on it now, it strikes me that the best way to know the full reality, the full force and meaning of love, is by losing it. Only then do we see the preciousness laid bare - and only too late.

The brother, the father, the mother lost. The wife, the husband, the lifelong friend. Immediately, one strives to touch, to embrace what cannot be regained. Now we know, and would act, and speak. Too late. Too late.

We see the things that were left behind, and clutch them to the breast as if they might magically become corporeal - the shirt, the hat, the coat, the glove. The scent is there, but no sentience. Everything has become invisible air, and every thought, every feeling, every word  made empty by the emptiness we could not have ever imagined, yet should have done, by the hour, by the day, by the year. Now gone. Time itself has been annulled and no longer exists.

Remember, therefore, in every present moment; remember while it matters; remember while love yet resides in the human form, for once it departs, it departs once for all. No magic can revive what was magic itself.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Treatment Plan

Rather than continue to patiently trust in winged ministers of health from above, I decided, yesterday, to formulate and carry out a sure fire, 'scientific' plan for self medication and eradication of the ceaseless ringing in my ears.

As it seemed to me, the problem had been insufficiently addressed from the beginning. In America, an MS relapse accompanied by significantly severe symptoms will be treated, first off, with an intravenous dose of steroids followed by a course of p.o. (by mouth) methylprednosolone. Here in Bali, all I got was the latter. This quieted the ringing, but did not stop it, so I was given Clonazepam to be used p.r.n. ( as needed). Additionally, it had always seemed to me that there was an element of congestion in the head or sinuses related to or exasperating the overall condition, which had never been treated at all.

Therefore, having made my diagnosis, I arrived at the following treatment plan: 1 tablet clonazepam at night, 1 tablet methylprednisolone in the morning and 1 tablet pseudoephedrine in the morning.

In fact, this had a definite effect. It put me to sleep for most of the day and caused me to run into various walls or pieces of furniture when awake. It did not alter the ringing in my ears, except, perhaps, to make it a bit louder.

So I'm keeping an eye out for that little bird that visited from the heavens the other day swooped away with my plague of headaches.

I wonder why he didn't take the ringing, too. Ah, but one should not question these things. This thorn in the flesh may have its own reason. His grace is sufficient for me.


It occurs to me that, once my son has gone back to America, and whilst my wife is traveling about the world on business, I will need to come up with a reasonable plan for feeding myself in a reasonable way. Although I have cooked meals for some forty years, I have never liked to cook. I have always done so out of necessity. There were always other people who needed to eat. Left to my own devices, I am most likely to eat whatever can go direct from the box to the mouth. My dinner tonight, for example, was a raison nut brownie from Circle K and a bowl of Wheatbix. Oh, and half a banana. That was the healthy part. Chances are, this diet is not going to work well in the long run.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Bathroon Troubles

I had one of those rare experiences tonight of the type that strike fear into the hearts of even the bravest of men, that challenge the will to survive, test the limits of faith - akin to being buried chin-deep in an ant hill or stretched on the rack or cast overboard into the depths of the sea.

In short, I locked myself into the bathroom and could not get out.

The doorknob, a rusty, dilapidated, reliably useless bit of garbage that had never worked before, suddenly did work - after a fashion, anyway. It worked to the extent that the bolt went into the slot and would not retreat from thence no matter how you turned the wobbly knobs on either side of the door.

Luckily, my son was at home and, also luckily, did not have his ears plugged with his earphones at the time, which would be the more usual case. So at least I had someone to communicate with.

Fortunate, also, was the fact that the landlord, who had promised to replace the door in February 2014, had never done so, and therefore it still retained the eaten away portion at its base. Through this convenient fissure, my son was able to pass various tools - a screwdriver, a hammer, a knife.

He pounded, screwed and stabbed from the outside while I pounded, screwed and stabbed from within. And yet the door was stubborn, unbeatable, proving itself, despite appearances and the unkind judgements of the past, to be the strongest door that has ever been or ever will be made.

I thought then to attack the thing from the flank, so to speak, and remove the hinges with the hammer and screwdriver - yet, again, the door had me flat beaten, for the hinges, over time and under the influence of daily dampness and rust, had been transformed into impenetrable spikes, solid adamant iron from top to bottom. I succeeded only in breaking the head of the screwdriver.

Now, a cubicle sized bathroom gets pretty hot in Bali, such that, within a half hour, I was dripping with sweat and feeling breathless and exhausted. Shall I end my days here, sitting dejectedly on the toilet, exchanging my parting thoughts with someone who really just wanted to get back to his video game?

No! No, it shall not be. As much as I hated to expose my stupidity, it would have to be done. I would send my son next door to Vyt's house. I have long known Vyt to be a man of high intelligence and practical abilities, and, moreover, a man not likely to be surprised at my incompetence.

Although Vyt has been suffering from a cold, he came right over and began to pound, screw and stab with true expertise. At last, he was able to pound the doorknob right on through the door, and I was free at last. My imprisonment had lasted perhaps an hour. It seemed like ages.

His first comment, in customarily sage manner, was that it was a good thing that the landlord had never replaced the door, else I would have had no tools to work with from the inside.

A blessing in disguise, surely enough. Yet, undisguised is the goodness and readiness of my friend.

As a postscript, I could not help but imagine, somewhat later on, what my predicament would have been had my son already returned to America and had my wife been away in Java or Timbuktu, as she often is. Should I have died an ignoble death, sprawled on the bathroom floor, one hand still clutching that fatal knob in its death grip?

Ah, praise God for His attention to the stupid and His protection of the simple-minded!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Deer Me

Once upon a time a strange thing happened to me. This was about 20 years ago, I reckon.

I and my family were camping in the high cascades of Oregon, near Mt. Jefferson, at a place called Monon Lake. We decided one day to take a trip about five miles up the road to Breightenbush Lake, which lies just below the ridges fronting the peak of Mt. Jefferson. Two miles short of the lake, the road - or what used to be a road - turns into not much more than a creek-bed, due to years of snow runoff and neglect. The land is Indian land now, having been turned over to the Warm Springs Tribes after surveyors found that the borders had been wrongly drawn, and the tribes have not maintained the area. More money to be made at Kah-Nee-Tah Resort and Casino in the desert.

When I was young, you could travel the road, albeit carefully, in a common sedan. Now, you need a four wheel drive SUV. I had walked that piece of road many times with my son - from Horseshoe Lake, past Spoon Lake and thus to Breightenbush Lake - but this time we had a four wheel drive Isuzu Trooper and were able to negotiate the ruts and rocks, swaying, jolting and sliding, to be sure, but able to top the final rise and roll down to a siding near the lake.

We got out and shouldered our various gear and backpacks. My plan was to fish during the morning hours while the rest of the family swam or explored. Many years before, my father had shown me how to walk to the center of the lake from a certain point on the shoreline marked by a triangular black rock about the size of a common chair. As long as you stuck to the proper route, you would not go further than chest deep in the water, and that for just a short bit. You would then gradually climb onto a shelf of red rock until you found yourself but ankle deep in the water. This shelf is roughly circular, perhaps the size of a baseball diamond, and you can walk along the edge of the shelf with your fly rod, cast your fly into the deep water just beyond the rocks, and the fish - rainbow, brook and kokanee trout - just love it there, where the water turns deep and green and the breeze stirs up gentle, glittering ripples.

But none of this is strange. I am sidetracked by memory. The strange thing is this:

As we begin down the overgrown trail to the lake, we suddenly find, walking right beside us, as if he were just another member of our excursion, a full grown stag – a male  deer. In these high mountains, where the deer are wild and intensely shy, this sort of thing just doesn’t happen. If you see a deer from a distance, he will most certainly leap away into the woods – or, perhaps, if the distance is great enough, he will warily stare at you, ready to bolt. But here comes this deer, walking right alongside us, allowing us to pet him, rubbing shoulders as we squeeze through the denser spots on the trail, unconcerned, even, with our dog, who seems, oddly, equally unconcerned with the deer. In fact, when we reach the shoreline, the dog steps into the water to take a pee, and the deer follows right along to empty his bladder at the same time. This dog, Norman by name, had otherwise never been known to be anything other than a hater of deers, especially in family protection mode, and I had never known a wild deer to do anything other than his best to avoid a dog.

Something is just not right with this picture – pleasant seeming on the surface, but not right somewhere beneath. As we move along the lake shore, the deer moves right along with us. We keep expecting that he will suddenly come to his wits and shoot away into the forest like an arrow, but he does no such thing. He meanders along, stops when we stop, walks when we walk, waits when we sit.

But then, as we reach the black rock previously mentioned, something changes. The deer will not budge another step forward. He backs up a bit, then walks toward us again, backs up a bit and walks forward.

Beyond the rock is a shallow bay which disperses into a wide green meadow shot through with wild flowers and traversed by narrow, natural canals, home to salamanders, frogs and minnows. Beyond the meadow, the land rises again and hidden in the woods beyond are several small lake basins, containing water in early summer, dry by August. Beyond those lakes is a bald-topped hill, red like a sunburned head.

As a matter of course, deers like meadows. In fact, a meadow is the most likely place to see a deer. But this deer is not going into that meadow. No way. And we all have the impression, somehow, that he doesn’t want us to either. There is much to be seen and enjoyed in the meadow, and it’s the only route to the opposite shore of the lake, but that deer is not going, and, at length, it is decided that neither are we. He knows, and we know, that we shouldn’t.

And I will never know how or why.

My wife later reckoned that that deer was my brother – or rather my brother’s spirit – for we had spread his ashes just a year before over the edge of a cliff not far from here. Others reckoned that he was a guardian angel of some sort, while others concluded that he was just plain crazy.

Who knows, or will ever know? In the end, we did as he seemed to insist we do, and, by and by, he wandered off into the the thickets until we could see him no more.

It comes back to me every now and then, this mystery, and I remember it almost as clearly as the day it happened. I hope to meet that deer again someday, in a realm where animals use words that people can hear and comprehend – and I’m gonna find out just what meant to say.