Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Say What?

Boy I'll tell ya, every news day nowadays is a what the hell just happened news day. One kinda just sits there with his mouth hanging open as he scrolls through the phone. What happened to my country? What happened to its people? How is this possible? Or maybe my country never was what I thought it to be. Maybe I was just sheltered from what was really out there. Maybe most of us were sheltered from what was out there. Or maybe what was out there had simply rarely shown its face so openly. 

What is this about changing the Constitution with an executive order? The Constitution! Does Trump really believe that he can take a pen and scratch out a clause of the Constitution of the United States and add his own words? What happened to the Republican party, the party of conservatives, the defenders of the Constitution? 

What's going on?

Who are these people in the silly red hats reveling in their cheap circus atmosphere, cheering hate-speech, laughing at insults, roaring in approval at the suggestion that the press, the fourth estate, this time honored American tradition, is the 'enemy of the people'? 

What the hell is going on?  

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Caravan

Who are they?

They are people who believe in the American dream more strongly than we ourselves believe--for they have heard this said of America: 

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door. 

They are unarmed men, women and children--families. And we meet them at the border with 5000 heavily armed professional soldiers. The shame is ours, not theirs. 

They are hungry, poor, afraid, hopeful. They are not Middle Eastern terrorists. They are the terrorized. They are by and large Christian, their souls steeped in the Judeo-Christian narrative of exodus, coming out of Egypt, bound for the promised land. They're not looking for milk and honey, a free ride, stolen treasure, for they know more of hardship than most Americans will ever know and they have walked farther than most Americans will ever walk. They hope to work, to eat, to feed their children, to find peace and safety. 

And we meet them with 5000 soldiers. 

They are not bringing drugs, they are not bringing guns, they are not bringing bombs. We Americans have all those things already. They are not bringing money or cars or caviar or I-Pads or stereo systems or drones or personal household assistants, or any of these totems of our American dream. We already have those things, for all the good they do us. They are bringing destitution, hunger, in hopes of finding sustenance and safety. 

For they have heard this said: 

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 

Monday, October 29, 2018

More on the Ear

A number of ideas being kicked around today regarding my skin/ear problem. First off, of course, we need to see if it is in fact cancer. Doctor seemed to think so, but biopsy will show for certain. If it is, no one seems to like the idea of staying with Kasih Ibu--and I can't blame 'em there. They've always seemed fairly incompetent in the past to me (I've just always gone there because it's closest and I'm lazy). The ex-wife is in favor of Singapore or Jakarta. A friend here says there are good hospitals in Bali (but they're not Kasih Ibu). I'm kind of in favor of pretending I never went to the doctor in the first place. Anyway, my ear pretty much hurts like hell at present because of the chunk the doctor took out of it for biopsy, and I have long since removed the incredibly bulky bandage he had applied, so that I can at least get my helmet on my head and go somewhere. Come to think of it, under the  circumstances, why am I particularly worried about hitting my head on the pavement, anyway? 

A Trip to the Hospital

Well, I finally broke down and went to the damn doctor about the non-healing wound on my ear. Sorry I did, now. Ignorance is bliss. Turns out that I likely do have skin cancer, and what's more chilling yet is that they will probably want to remove about a third of my ear. Not happy about that, because, frankly, I'm kinda attached to my ear; or at the very least, it is attached to me. They took a rather painful biopsy sample today (no anesthesia) and then plastered on a humongous bandage. Had a hell of a time getting my helmet on over that for the ride home.

So it's a kerfuffle. I have no insurance here, so anything that is done will be out of pocket. On the other hand, after the first of the year, I will have Medicare … but then, to use that, I would have to come to America and so pay the cost of coming to America (which would probably amount to far more than just having it done here). Then again, there is the general question of whether doctors here even know what the hell they're doing! The particulars of my visit to Kasih Ibu Hospital this morning are less than reassuring on that count. 

So, damn! 

I could just ignore the whole thing, I suppose. I mean, I got enough trouble already with MS, right? Who has time for ear cancer? 

Sunday, October 28, 2018

The Screeching Halt

At some point in my life, I had given up on new music. Instead, I listened to the old stuff over and over again. Books were the same. I reread books from my past, often more than once, but ignored books that had just come out. Somewhere along the way, time seemed to have come to a screeching halt. 
--Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami

Well, it's true. I often find myself rereading books I have,already read, revisiting favorite movies from the past. Is this because books and movies used to be better? Probably not. I have found a handful of contemporary writers whom I am quite fond off--Haruki Murakami and Yu Hua to name two--and there have been some worthwhile movies, although I suppose that truly worthwhile movies have always been few and far between. Nonetheless, I return again and again to things that have laid hold of me in the past--Shane, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, The Odd Couple, Empire of the Sun, To Kill a Mockingbird; Hawthorne, Fitzgerald, Twain, Hugo, Melville, and so on. 

Do we go back looking for what we may have missed in narrative, meaning; or do we go back in the desire to recapture what we are missing now? Are we, perhaps, searching for threads of the life we have left behind? 

A fellow asked the other day what sort of music I like. What came to mind was Debussy, Chopin, Glenn Miller, Sinatra, The Beatles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Euryhmics.  Who listens to that stuff anymore? What he meant, of course, was contemporary music, a category for which I could not find a single name or song. 

Has the music we loved and still love been long since set like a score to the essential narrative of a life that finds itself, in old age, mostly lived? Do we listen in order to meet ourselves again somewhere along that long and winding road? 

Are these the rocks we cling to as time comes to a screeching halt?

Saturday, October 27, 2018


One more thing about language, as an addendum to my post on the subject from yesterday. 

In addition to speaking proper Indonesian along with the native language of a particular island, and possibly parts of one or two western languages, all Indonesians speak yet another language, which may as well be called gibberish. It's gibberish to me, anyway; and, unfortunately, it is the preferred language of common folks here. One might describe it as a "street" language (or Bahasa kampung)--very heavy on slang and other alternative words and constructions. 

By way of example, as I was coming out the front door today, I encountered a handyman on the property next door. As is common with Indonesians, he was eager to chat with me. Whether or not he was aware that I understood very little of what he said, this did not deter him in any case. I got, in general, that he was describing the work he was doing inside the house; and then he seemed also to be talking about a woman who had rented some other place and had ultimately left without paying the rent. I think. He had quite a lot of say about other things as well, but I have no idea what it was. 

I remember mentioning to my wife once that I sometimes had a hard time understanding our friend Samuel, who often did work for us at the house. She shrugged and said, "Yeah, I don't understand him either." And she was born and raised in Indonesia! 

This kind of reminds me of a boiled peanut salesman I once met on the road in central Georgia. He was a talker too, and while I was able to successfully conduct the purchase of a bag of boiled peanuts, I really had no idea what he was saying. Of course, that was largely a problem not of words unknown to me but of words hopelessly mangled by a thick southern drawl. 

So one does a lot of nodding and does his best to react appropriately to facial expressions rather than word meanings, chuckling here, frowning pensively there. That after all--nodding, chuckling, pensive frowning--is a language we can all understand. 

Friday, October 26, 2018

Language Comprehension

I was talking to one of the managers here at Starbucks the other day about language. He had mentioned that all Indonesians speak at least two languages--the universal Indonesian that is spoken throughout the Indonesian archipelago and the native language of one's home island--Balinese, Javanese, Sundanese, and so on. There are over 300 different languages spoken in Indonesia. In addition to this, many will speak one or two western languages, such as English or Dutch, given that the Indonesian language is restricted pretty much to Indonesia. 

It strikes me that starting from a baseline deficit may be one of the most effective springboards to achievement, as expanding one's knowledge becomes a necessity rather than merely a good idea. In America, we find ourselves rather unfortunately content with speaking only the English language, essentially because there is no pressing need to learn another language. There are some, even, who grow angry at the use of a foreign language on American soil, insisting that others 'speak American' if they're going to live in America. 

For my bachelor of arts degree at university, I was required to take two years of a foreign language course. I chose French. But there was no necessity to actually learn to speak French, beyond the minimum requirement of a 'pass' grade, and there was little opportunity to use French afterwards. So I did not learn to speak French. I have forgotten almost everything I picked up to earn the passing grade. I have always regretted this, and I see now, living on an island that hosts vacationers from all around the world, that it would have been really cool to know some French if I ran into a French speaking person, which I sometimes do.

It is personally useful for us to have other people speak our native language; but it may also be more useful yet to consider our inability to speak theirs a critical deficit, to be, through our  own effort, overcome. Language is intimately entwined with personality, emotion, humor, character, such that the deeper essence of a person struggling to use a second language may be lost in translation. In other words, he is often most fully himself when operating in the conventions and nuances of his native tongue. For this reason, I commit myself to using Indonesian when speaking to Indonesians, especially to my friends, so that I may glean the most articulate appreciation of their character. 

At the same time, it can be frustrating to be less than articulate myself--for while I take some pride in being able to use the English language effectively, I am painfully aware of my deficits in the use of Indonesian. But therein lies the springboard to growth that I mentioned above. Deficits are good things, when we use them as a launchpad to better things. 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The End

Returning from my walk this morning, I sit out in the yard with a cup of coffee and scroll through article after article about pipe bombs sent to democratic figures, Obama, Clinton, Soros, Waters, as well as the CNN newsroom, all those who had been favorite targets of Donald Trump. In the house behind my yard, children are singing Twinkle, twinkle, little star. It's a beautiful day. My chest feels heavy. My heart is empty. Someone had taken great care to construct a half dozen or so pipe bombs in hopes of maiming or killing people. Most of the comments appended to these articles express a similarly murderous attitude. No one says anything about healing or coming together. We are all busy at putting together our own pipe bombs. The children in the house behind the yard start into a new song. If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands. A small, pointless tear slowly slides down my left cheek. It feels like the last tear ever and I am surprised at its seeming so inconsequential. The children have stopped singing, but I can hear them laughing and playing. Joy comes with the morning! A song replaces theirs in my head. An old Doors song. This is the end, Beautiful friend, This is the end … Of our elaborate plans, the end; Of everything that stands, the end; No safety or surprise, the end. I'll never look into your eyes again. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Flower Tree

They have these tall trees here in Bali that explode at their tops in great bunches of red, white, or yellow flowers. I am told that the flowers are called frangipani. I've always just called them 'flower trees', but they are certainly beautiful, exotic things by any name. 

I remember a time from my youth when a good friend of mine was employed by the Forest Service for a couple years. He had previously spent very little time in the forest, whereas I had spent every summer of my life there. Suddenly, he became a walking dictionary of the correct terms for every flower and fern and creeping critter--and I found this annoying, for I myself did not know the technical terms for many of these things. I had lived intimately among them, but was more likely to interact with nature on a relationship basis rather than on a scientific or biological or horticultural one. I may not have known, for instance, which tree was a cedar and which a birch, but I knew about the wood itself in a practical, relational nature--which burned well and which did not, which was hard and which was soft. I knew the feel of the one and the feel of the other, the smell of the one and the smell of the other. So, I thought of my friend's terminology, his categories and species and Latin term specifics as a sort of abduction. It seemed a reduction of the purpose of the thing, the essential nature of the thing, to a matter of sterile language alone. 

Often, also, I would know the actual name of a thing, yet would prefer a more personalized term. For example, my brother and I both called Ponderosa Pine trees Vanilla trees because of the smooth, sweet smell of the sap. It was like smelling from a bottle of vanilla extract on our mother's spice shelf. We called the bumblebee a Queen Bee--and the latter term, even now, seems the more terrible. The Gray Jay--a gray bird about the size of a Blue Jay--was a Camp Robber, given its proclivity for hanging about the campsite and waiting for bits of food to drop or plates to be left unattended. 

The personalization of language is a curious sort of thing. Author Walker Percy tells a story of being on a hunting trip as a child with his father. Percy's father said something about a particular bird and the young Percy misheard the name used for the bird. I cannot now remember the details of what sort of bird it was or of what word Percy thought his father had used, but what he points out is that from that time forward, and for years afterward, the bird became exactly what he had understood the word to be, regardless of the actual term which he had later learned--the bird was exactly that word, the sound, the shape, the color of that word and no other.

In any case, I post below a photo of the frangipani--the "flower tree". 

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

A Discussion of Sorts

Got into a little bit of a running discussion today on a Facebook post regarding Trump's culpability in threats of violence or actual acts of violence (the body slamming of a reporter, for instance; the bomb sent to the home of George Soros; the Charlottesville killing, and so on). 

What struck me most about this "discussion" is how very rude and hateful Americans have become. Or maybe they've always been that way and I'm just not used to it anymore, having lived in Bali for the last seven years. During this discussion, I was told to Shut my stupid mouth, Go F--k myself, and Just die. Not much was said of the actual issue at hand, though I take it (just guessing) that they were offended by the suggestion that Trump's demonizing of reporters, colored folk, immigrants, Muslims and so on could have anything to do with the threats to the same that have surfaced in society. 

Here in Bali, this sort of speech would be considered extremely inappropriate and unseemly. It would strike the people here as shameful, an embarrassment. It's not that they never disagree. Of course they disagree. But there is a civil way of handling these things, a socially acceptable way. And silence itself is always distinctly possible. They are not "an angry people", I guess you would say; while Americans seem a very angry people indeed. 

Whether or not Trump's violent rhetoric results in violent action is a question for honest debate; but honest debate is the last thing on the mind of the typical Facebook commentator. There is no debate. There is merely dueling curses, and lots of talk of 'libtards' and 'Trumptards'. It's all quite nauseating. 

I guess this is what they call 'tribalism'. I often preface what I say by pointing out that I don't do the whole 'left and right' thing. I mean, a discussion is not bound to go far if you're going to pigeonhole somebody as a 'lefty' or a 'righty' from the outset. What does that even mean?  It means that you have already decided that the individual you are talking to is a certain sort of person with certain sorts of views that may be defined as liberal or conservative, while in fact you know nothing whatsoever about that person or his views. 

Of course, the obvious answer to the problem is to simply avoid expressing your viewpoint on Facebook! No-brainer, there. 

Life's Little Setbacks

I've been sort of out of commission lately, given this truly annoying pain in my right ribcage. It is especially difficult to sit and type. The best thing seems sleep, really, and that's pretty much what I did yesterday, other than groan. Additionally, this long-term non-healing sore on the top of my ear is bothering me more than ever, as a hard lump seems to have developed in the middle of the sore and it is painful to the touch. I suppose I'm going to have to go to the doctor for it. Hate that idea. 

On the other hand, a friend of mine has recently been diagnosed with metastatic carcinoma, with either lung or neuroendocrine as the primary. The docs are still trying to pin it down with various tests and biopsies. And so I am newly grateful for the slowly creeping nuisance that is MS. I may be in pain, but at least I'm alive, right? 

So far (fingers crossed) I'm the only one in my immediate family to have escaped cancer. My brother had a rare sarcomatous cancer that originated in the groin and spread to the circulatory system. My father had abdominal cancer originating in the gallbladder. My mother had breast cancer. Of course, my father and mother were both older than I when they were diagnosed, so I guess I shouldn't declare victory just yet. My brother was only 30. My father's and my brother's cancers were very rapid and they died soon after diagnosis. My mother was supposedly 'cured' of breast cancer, but the tremendous stress, at her age, of chemotherapy and radiation were just too much and (I think) brought on full-blown Alzheimer's disease. 

Ah well, enough of cancer and MS and rib pain for the moment. "And here ya are, and it's a beautiful day. Well, I just don't understand it." (From the movie, Fargo, of course). 

Sunday, October 21, 2018


Yesterday afternoon, the fellas from the banjar came by my door. The banjar is the name for the neighborhood association that collects monthly fees (though I'm not sure what the fee is for) and generally keeps an eye out for whatever. It is the banjar members that patrol at night and knock on the gateposts by the hour--clang! Jam satu (one o'clock). Clang, clang, clang, jam tiga. And so on. One gets used to it, such that he usually doesn't even wake up any more. 

But on this visit, the banjar fellas weren't collecting the monthly fee. They were selling coupons, 10,000 Rupiah apiece, for a drawing later on where one might win a prize (or hadiah, present, as they called it). 

Having some trouble in explaining to me what they were about, one of the fellas asked, "Do you speak English." 

"Yes, of course," I said. 

Immediately upon hearing my answer, the man's mouth fell open, a blankness clouding his face. It seemed that he had realized in that moment that though I may speak English, he did not. 

Well, no worries. We conducted our business in Indonesian and I bought two hadiah tickets, hoping to win first prize, a car. 

"Just park it here in the driveway," I said. 

"One more coupon," they suggested. "The more you buy coupon, the more you win car." 

Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Bone Saw Saga Continues

That's right, we now have the official Saudi explanation for what happened to Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. We are told that fifteen Saudis went to have a discussion with Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Turkey (that's odd, his fiancé thought he was just going in to get marriage documents). The discussion grew heated and 60 year old Khashoggi attacked the fifteen other men in the room (some of whom were members of the Saudi Prince's own security detachment). In the ensuing scuffle, Khashoggi's fingers were amputated and he was injected with a chemical causing paralysis so that he could then be dismembered with a bone saw while still living. Whoops. Well, that's what happens when you bring knives and bone saws to a discussion. Naturally, since he had accidentally died, they figured it would be best to dismember his body and secret it out of the country. Most of us can understand that, right? 

Well, Donald Trump understands it. This explanation appears reasonable to Donald Trump and he has said so on national TV. Which makes Donald Trump either one of the stupidest people in the world or one of the most evil people in the world. Take your choice. 


The atheists are celebrating today because Stephen Hawking, now deceased, has declared in a posthumous book that there is no God. 

Ah ha! 

At the same time, he has concluded that 'aliens' are definitely possible. 


To me, the failure of logic here is fairly obvious. The one unobserved phenomenon is possible, the other is not. How so? Frankly, when it comes to God, or to aliens too at this point, I would rather consult the philosopher than the scientist. What special knowledge, after all, does a scientist bring to the question of God? 

One commentator on the article "schooled" me on the matter. 'It's a very large universe,' he said, 'and therefore it is likely that there are aliens.' 

Umm … huh? Does the size of my wallet make it likely that there is a lot of money in the wallet? And how is it that a large universe makes aliens possible but God impossible? 

Well, the atheists get very touchy over these things and tend to reject logical and philosophical approaches as beside the point. 

I'll just add the following for now. Last year, an interviewer asked the following question of Hawking: "Why is there a universe?" 

Hawking answered: "If I knew that, then I would know everything important." He added, "Then we would know the mind of God."

Friday, October 19, 2018


I've never been one to collect things, to save out artifacts from my life. Those memories that I carry about in my heart seem both sufficiently light and sufficiently heavy without needing to occupy actual space. But there have been a few physical objects that I found myself, for some reason, especially fond of over the years. 

One was a cigarette lighter that belonged to my father when he was in the Navy. It was one of those old style flip-top lighters with cotton inside to soak up the fuel. It was silver and had a picture of a trout on the side along with my father's initials, and it made a pleasant 'clink' when you flipped open the top. I don't know what happened to that lighter. It disappeared somewhere around the turn of the century--either lost or stolen. Smoking has never been quite the same without it.

For quite a long while, during the '90s, I carried an Indian Head nickel in my pocket along with my other change, being careful never to spend the nickel. I just liked it, because of course it had long since been out of circulation and it reminded me of my childhood (when a nickel would buy a Baby Ruth bar). I had received the nickel from a cashier at a Fred Meyers store and just felt lucky, as if she had accidentally returned a piece of my past. Unfortunately, my daughter and her friend later spent this lucky nickel as if it had been any other nickel in the world, and that was that. 

In the drawer of the small table I use to type on, I have a photo of my parents and a photo of my brother. There is also a small spiral notebook containing chapter-by-chapter notes made by my first wife on a book I wrote. I've read neither the book nor the notes in some years, so I don't know why I still have this. 

Of the stories I wrote that were published, I still have a few, and I still have one copy of the children's novel I published back in '91, though I've not read any of these in a long time, either. Perhaps I have kept the book as a reminder of how very badly a major publishing house can botch the art on a book jacket. 

I have no photo albums. I have no old love letters. (Or did I ever receive any love letters? I don't know). I have no knick-knacks or baubles or picture frames or pocket knives or awards or trophies or diplomas or whatever other artifacts there may have been. 

I travel lightly even as I stay in one place. 

But here's something interesting. I happened to be watching an old interview with the author Shelby Foote (notable mainly for his three volume history of the Civil War) regarding in the main his friendship with fellow writer and contemporary Walker Percy (notable for a handful of novels and two collections of philosophical essays). As I watched this interview, I suddenly remembered that Walker Percy had once written me a short note on the back of a blank postcard. He had replied to my appreciative response to one or another of his fiction titles. I thought, huh, why didn't I keep that note from this well-respected, now deceased writer? And then I realized that I had. Yes, there it was, in the little drawer of the table I use to type on. Here was an artifact I had brought along, having been in my possession since somewhere in the 1980s--just something I wanted to have vaguely at hand, like the cigarette lighter with the trout on it, like the Indian Head nickel. Walker Percy's writings meant a lot to me during that time, during the '80s, and I have retained in my mind an essence of what I so admired, such that I will still occasionally find myself explaining a point by referring back to something Percy wrote.

I have posted a photo of the note below; but, given Percy's hieroglyphic style of handwriting, I will type just here what he said: 

Thank you for your kind (and understanding) words. I would  be pleased to think that my better words performed what SR would call an "esthetic reversal" on depression and despair. 
[SR: Soren Kierkegaard]

So, I thank you, Mr. Percy. This meant a lot to me time; and I've brought it along through all these years. 

Houdiini's Last Trick

I'm getting to the point, where my health is concerned, of having to admit that I will likely need medical treatment in the near future. and that being on the far side of the world from a hospital and doctors that can be sought for the same makes for a distinctly less than convenient situation. The good news is that I will soon be eligible for Medicare. The bad news is that it can only be used in America. So, how do I get from here to there, and how do I live there whilst benefitting from treatment there? That's the thing that I really can't unravel. Do I check in to the cheapest motel I can find near a bus line to the hospital? I don't know. I can't picture the thing at all. I guess some people think about these 'what if' scenarios when they are younger. I guess I was never very good at that. I've always figured that things would just 'fall into place' of their own accord. I've relied on some sort of grace, or luck--call it what you want. And to be honest, things always have had a way of working together, falling into place at the proper moment. Yet, I begin to suspect that I may have expended my allotment of luck in life. I may finally have dug a hole that I can't get out of. Houdini's  last trick. Moreover, what would happen to my little house in Bali were I to go to America? And what about the big fat brown dog? Where would she go for her daily sausage treats and cookies? Where would she go for her nap? Who would fill her water bowl? 

Lots of questions, no answers. Growing pain in my back and flank. Nothing is fitting together. Nothing is falling into place. 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Innocents

I happened to see this old movie on YouTube--The Innocents, a 1961 film based, and rather faithfully so, on the Henry James story, The Turn of the Screw. Curiously, I remembered the movie quite well when watching it again, though I was just a child when I first saw it. Moreover, I had the impression, somehow, that I had understood the story better as a child than I did on watching it last night. I can't really say what I understood about it. I can only remember that I had no questions about it at the time, while now, as an old man, I can only wonder what the hell this story was about. I recall a professor in college saying that The Turn of the Screw is a story in which nothing happens, and then going on to explain what a wonderful job James had done at saying nothing. A dubious sort of accomplishment at best. But of course it's not about nothing--for there is something there that made a lasting impression on me those many years ago--perhaps in the same way that the children in the story may have better understood what was happening than the governess from whose viewpoint the story is told. (Interesting to note, by the way, that the screen play was written by Truman Capote).

Moon Landing

On July 20, 1969, America landed the first men on the moon. 

During that same period of time, my family had landed in the high cascades of Oregon, as we did nearly every summer, where we stayed 2-3 weeks in a cabin at Olallie Lake Resort. This summer, however, my father was so enthused about the impending moon landing that he drove the whole family back home for one night so that we could view the event on television. 

I don't remember very much about it now. I was more enthused to have landed in those beloved woods of my youth with their dozens of fresh water lakes and bubbling streams, teaming with brook trout and rainbow trout and frogs and salamanders and water snakes and tadpoles, wrapped in the waving grasses of green meadows, reclining in the shade of rocky peaks on the rolling shoulders of the meandering hills. The moon seemed a drab and barren place--pointless in comparison to this, just as gray and grainy in reality as the picture on our black and white TV. 

And yet, by the time we drove back to the mountains, something had happened. Something had been transferred from those two men on the moon to all Americans. Something had been added, however vague, however obscure, to who we were. We had been to the moon, all of us. 

And because we had been to the moon, and gazed upon the black expanse of space, and tasted with our eyes the thirsty dust of a vacant, airless place, this wonder of our terrestrial home was the more breathlessly wonderful yet. As I walked those woods in the ensuing days, some shadow of a shadow, incorporated in my footsteps, trod upon the ashen, lifeless sands of the moon, and the shadow was vibrant with gratitude and praise, for its toes had touched the very essence of absence. 

We have forgotten in this day the meaning in the sands of the moon. We have forgotten where our feet have been. We have forgotten where we came from, and that where we came from is all of us together. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Accidental Bone Saws

Real life and its political and murderous intrigues is not nearly so well plotted as even the least competent of novels. We expect in our fictional stories that the writer will have taken care to organize things such that the tale, as fantastic as it may be, will possess an underlying structure that is sequentially and logically stable. If the story lies to us, if it makes a mockery of our intelligence, we will discard it as not worth reading. But clearly, those who fashion real world narratives find themselves under no compunction to be reasonable. 

Take this real world plot, for instance: An American resident, a Saudi born citizen who is now a reporter for a major American newspaper, walks into a high security Saudi Embassy in Turkey and does not come out again. The first plot goes like this: He disappeared. 

Well, that doesn't work at all well, even for those who don't really care much about plots, because … well, because it is quite impossible. You can't have a story where a person simply disappears, the end. So they come up with a new twist. Oh, on second thought, the man didn't disappear. He was interrogated and something went wrong, he died, and then he disappeared. 

Where is the body? 

Well, according to Turkish officials, the body was cut into little pieces and removed from the embassy in this manner. So, now we have a man who was interrogated by a group of interrogators. The interrogators accidentally killed the man--not a good thing--but by a stroke of good fortune, just happened to have brought along the tools, bone saws and such-like, to dismember the unintended corpse. Gosh, we just wanted to ask him some questions. Good thing we brought along these bone saws. Whew. 

Rogues, our president says (curiously beating the Saudis to the use of the same word). So here's the new plot: Eight rogues walk into a high security embassy lugging bone saws and body bags. They interrogate and (accidentally) kill their captive and then chop him into little pieces. No one notices anything amiss. 

The president finds the story very strong, very convincing. 

I find myself very much on the verge of being ill. I would hope that most readers feel the same. 

Monday, October 15, 2018

Tukang Sadel

Finally went and got my motorbike seat repaired today. Some time ago, it developed a little tear in the vinyl, which proceeded to spread, as these things do. I had been putting black duct tape on the tear, but that's not really a very effective measure, as the duct tape gradually slides as you sit on it and leaves sticky patches where it used to be. 

Falling easily into the American mindset, even after seven years here, I figured that one would just go to the Honda service center and ask for a new seat. I was getting the bike serviced anyway today. 

"New seat?" the man said. "We don't have new seats. And anyway, you don't buy a new seat. You buy a new skin."

Well, I could use a new skin, to be honest. Mine keeps developing these dry, itchy spots. Very annoying. But of course, he wasn't talking about my skin. He was talking about a skin for the seat. 

"Oh, I see. Okay. Can I get it here?" 

"No, no. You go to the little shop. Tukang sadel, tahu kan?"

"Uhh … no." 

So he told me where to find the tukang sadel--the seat repair guy--and off I went. 

After some searching--he had told me to look in a general area--I found the little roadside warung, just a hole in the wall, really, along with the tukang. 

So, what you buy is a sheet of vinyl--choosing a color, plain or with design--and this is applied to the seat you already have. The man detaches the seat from your bike, then cuts all the stitching on the inside and removes the old cover (or 'skin'). He then places the new vinyl over the now naked seat, and carefully positions and stretches and staples, over and over, all the way around. He does this with amazing speed and skill, being careful there are no wrinkles or loose ends. He then cuts off the excess vinyl with a large pair of scissors and reattaches the seat to your bike. The whole thing takes about 15 minutes and costs about 8 bucks. 

This is the way all things work here. It is much like the America of my childhood. All the little shops with their independent specialists--the neighborhood laundry, the fabric shop, the seamstress, the dressmaker, the corner drug store, the soda fountain, the family  owned carwash and the car repair shop, the little café, the neighborhood grocer, the little pastry shop and the candy shop, the curbside fruit seller and the travelling fresh vegetable man, the bakso seller doing his rounds in the evening with his little pushcart, the bubur cart, the fried rice cart. And here comes the man selling DVDs from table to table in the neighborhood warung. There is no Cosco in Bali, no Walmart, no one-stop-shopping-center. 

And you don't just throw things away, as a rule, and get a new one. You fix the one you already have. 

Why in the world did I want to get a new seat when I could just get a new skin instead? 

Now if only I could find a new skin tukang for human skins! 

Leviathans in Sanur

Those who have been to Sanur recently will likely have noticed a new addition to the formerly sleepy little town--this being the introduction of a fleet of humongous new buses that are far too wide for the road through Sanur, Jalan Tamblingan. The five minute drive from Starbucks to the Bypass will now take more like 20 minutes (and that's after you finally get out of your parking spot), as the traffic in both directions becomes hopelessly clogged by the passage of just one of these leviathans. One wonders what genius is responsible for this, or rather what council of geniuses, for this disaster surely took a greater effort than just one person could manage on his own. Aside from the buses being nearly as wide as the street itself, there is the additional problem, which surely anyone familiar with Indonesia should have foreseen, of the common driver's inclination to use the oncoming lane of the road when his own lane is slow. This works particularly poorly in the presence of one of these buses--though it is somewhat comical to watch. And that's a good thing, because you're going to be stuck for a good while with nothing else to do.

Sunday, October 14, 2018


Rediscovering/reconstituting the self after the house burns down. 

That's how I would describe this new novel by Haruki Murakami thus far (though I'm only about 15 percent of the way into it). It's a very long, very slow, very careful novel, which I suspect only Murakami could get away with. Nor do I believe that a writer from a western country could get away with it at all these days. 

And I don't mean to be critical or disapproving. As far as I'm concerned, Murakami can take as much time as he likes. I trust him. I know that he knows what he is doing. Like my old aunt Zelma, who used to unwrap her Christmas packages very carefully so as to save the paper intact, Murakami very carefully unwraps his story, teasing the corners free, revealing one little edge of the prize at a time. It is like the painting that the protagonist here discovers in the attic. One spends hours sitting back just staring at it, taking in one thing at a time and how each relates to the other and how all relate to the whole. And then there is that curious little figure in the lower corner, the man with the strange, long face, emerging from an inexplicable hole in the ground. What can this mean? Who can this be? 

One little mystery here is carefully stacked on top of another--inscrutable, beckoning, each hinting that it might be unveiled if only the observer possessed the proper key. 

Friday, October 12, 2018

Migrant Pain

I've been stuck with my least favorite sort of pain over the last few days (when one always has one sort of pain or another in one locale or another, he ends up choosing out favorites and least favorites). This is the one that centers in my lower flank, around toward the back, just at the base of the ribcage, and it is accompanied by an uncomfortable swelling in my right flank. This would be a common spot for kidney pain, associated with a kidney stone, for instance, but it is clearly of more of a musculoskeletal nature and is relieved somewhat with an icepack. It is quite oppressive, quite uncomfortable and it's putting a hell of a damper on my usual 'sunny disposition'. It also makes sitting in a chair very uncomfortable, which is unfortunate given that most of my entertainments involve sitting in a chair, such as the one I'm sitting at now at Starbucks, and either writing, reading, or watching a movie. Walking is a more comfortable activity, pain-wise, but the temperature today is round about 500 degrees Fahrenheit (I think), so walking is out. The only helpful application, really, is that of patience, for, as long as history is the reliable measure, the pain will soon migrate back to my shoulder and neck region, which I find far more bearable. 

Thursday, October 11, 2018


There's sort of charming thing that Muslims do here in Indonesia. I don't know, maybe Muslims everywhere do it. When a child, or a young man or young woman, greets an adult male, they will take your hand in their right hand and, bowing slightly, press the back of your hand to their forehead, communicating thus their respect or honor. It's always a bit of a surprise to a westerner, as we are used to just having a handshake (if we are acknowledged at all, that is). Indonesian parents take care to instill this custom in their youngsters. Similarly, the Balinese custom is to press the palms together in front of the breast, like a prayer position, and bow slightly. This is done even in casual meetings, such as when you step up to the cashier in a supermarket. There's something to be said for these polite gestures, I reckon. It makes one feel more genuinely, or more fully acknowledged. There is a graciousness among Asians in general that we are lacking these days in western culture, especially with respect to older people (such as myself). There is also the respectful application of a title, as I've mentioned before (Pak, Tuan, Om, and so on). These are like 'Sir', only with a warmer feeling. Together, these gestures impart a simple feeling of interpersonal connectedness. I find it refreshing and endearing. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Disease of the Disease

Often enough--and far more often than I would have previously imagined--I will talk to folks in the MS community who have essentially been dumped by friends and even family members after being diagnosed with MS. They fade away, they simply disappear, they lose your phone number. They feel betrayed, burdened. That's right--they, the non-afflicted--are burdened by your burden. 

This has been the most surprising discovery in my own journey with MS, and as regards the social mechanics of disease in general--this curious, unanticipated curse of incapacitation. I had imagined, in the healthy, supple bliss of naivete, that the common reaction of a friend, of a loved-one to adversity would be to draw closer. Here is a chance, after all, to show the fiber in character, the strength at the core of love. Perhaps my expectations were thus because I myself am thus. It seems natural to me. When adversity strikes, you move into the gap, you draw closer yet, you fill the role of love more fully. 

How very astounding it has been to see the obverse in effect. It is hardly believable, and yet there it is. It seems at last that one's life, one's person, was not so important as what it could contribute to the other. You were not so much an individual, complete and worthy in yourself, as a byproduct, the value of which lay in what can  be derived. In a narcissistic age, we say not 'in sickness and in health', but 'as long as', 'if', 'depending upon'. We say "No, I did not sign up for this".

A contract has been broken, a promise withdrawn. This was not the plan. 

In a narcissistic age, in a Me-for-me age, we flee. There is a right way to do life, and a wrong way to do life; and disease is clearly the wrong way. It just didn't work out, honey. I'm sorry for you, but it's not my fault. 

And, in fact, it may be the fault of the afflicted. Susan Sontag writes compellingly on this response in her book Illness as Metaphor. "Nothing is more punitive than to give a disease a meaning," she writes, "--that meaning being invariably a moralistic one." This is the disease as character flaw, as moral failing, as bad karma. 

I remember my second wife once saying that my disease was surely a punishment for divorcing her. One feels sorry, of course, but not too sorry, because, after all, you brought this on yourself. 

There are a thousand justifications, a thousand dodges--or perhaps worse yet, there is none at all, for the matter doesn't seem important enough to require an excuse.

Just today I talked to a man named Lloyd, via an internet app. He had called a couple of old friends, he wrote. They told him that they were very busy right now and would call back later. One of those types of 'later' that never come. 

"I'm too young for this," Lloyd's wife of 38 years told him. "I want to have fun. I'm not going to be tied down to a sick husband." 

I didn't sign up for this.

Nor did we, of course. But that's no excuse. 

I loved my brother like my own life. When he got sick, I loved him even more. Were it possible, were it an option, I would have gone to the grave for him--and come back again! For I was strong and able and healthy and he was weak because of the cancer. 

I would do the same for you, my sons, my daughters, my wives, my friends. I am a breath away, a thought away, a letter away, a phone call away. And yet for you, now, I have become silence, invisibility. I am no longer here. I feel myself here, and yet I am not here. 

Not long ago, I saw a little comic on the internet. An old man had brought his telephone into the shop for repair. The clerk at the desk said, "There's nothing at all wrong with your phone, sir." And the old man, somber, disappointed, answered "But then … why does it never ring?"

If I'm laden at all,
I'm laden with sadness
That everyone's heart
Isn't filled with the gladness
Of love for one another
--The Hollies, He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

It's All Relative

For the past couple weeks, a certain book I read not so very long ago kept popping in and out of my head, but I could not for the life of me remember the title. Not so unusual, given the general disrepair of my memory, but bothersome, you know--because what I wanted was to see if the promised sequels to the book had been published, and, in order to do that, it was of course necessary to remember either the title of the book I had read or the name of its author. 

Yesterday, in one of these weird twists of synchronicity, I happened quite by accident to run across the title while looking at something else on the internet for some other reason. 

The book is Angela's Ashes, and the author is Frank McCourt. It is an autobiography of his childhood years in Ireland, spent in hardship and poverty beyond the imagination of most folks; and McCourt, in his manner of relaying the story, makes it both heartbreaking and hilarious, which is perhaps an achievement only the Irish can truly rise to. 

I noted that the two sequels are now indeed available (Oh Boy!), and moreover that a movie had been made of Angela's Ashes.

Naturally, I straightaway looked this up and watched it last night on my laptop. As is most often the case with movies made from great books, the film fell short somewhat, and I think that is because the humor had a hard time overcoming the relentlessly bleak stage on which it transpires. But therein, on the other hand, lies the strength of the film, for it is grey and grimy and rainy throughout. Poverty pictured is even more striking than poverty described. 

What I found myself contemplating, after finishing the film, is how very fortunate I have been in life. I have never wanted for the basics of existence--food, clothing, warmth, security. I have never had to worry about what, or whether, I would eat the next day. I have never had to worry whether I would have a house to live in or parents to take care of me. I have never had to eat out of a garbage can nor off a discarded, oily sheet of newspaper. Though I have never had a lot in life, comparatively speaking, I have also never wanted for anything essential. I suppose that now in these present years I am poorer than I have ever been beforehand, and yet, compared to the lot of the McCourt's, I  live in abundance and comfort. And so for that I am thankful. Newly thankful. 

Monday, October 8, 2018

The End of the Final Descent

One has the feeling that throughout the process of writing his four book series, the Monstrumologist, Rick Yancey was trying to find the story he was writing, and that finally, in book four, the story found him. It is as if creator and creation were travelling the same circle, each feeling the way forward in frightful darkness, and finally, together, closing the loop, meeting in a grim, though gratifying embrace, just exactly where they were destined to meet from the very beginning. In short, it is difficult to imagine a more perfect conclusion to the tale than that reached in The Final Descent. 

The only problem is that it is also difficult to imagine what I can read now that will be half as engaging!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Victory or Glitch

One has to wonder these days about our definition of victory. A judge is approved for a Supreme Court seat by a margin of two votes, and this is declared, by the president and by the GOP, as "a great victory". 

How so? 

In the past, Justices were regularly approved by wide margins, represented by votes from both parties. For a party already in the majority to call squeaking through like this a great victory is nothing less than absurd. It is, if anything, a testimony to just how very broken our government is. In short, it is a great defeat for the notion that representatives are committed to representing the people rather than merely 'winning' one for their own party. Indeed, if winning a partisan vote is the standard to  be striven for, the so-called 'victory' was ensured from the start given the simple majority of Republicans in the senate. The worthiness of the candidate him- or herself becomes a moot point. 

I can only think that one would prefer to see a candidate elevated on the strength of his appeal in some measure to both parties. He is, after all, to be a Supreme Court Justice, not a partisan mascot. 

When a closely contested football game is won through a poor call from the referee, we are not elated. We are disappointed. It is regretful, because it essentially nullifies both the victory and the defeat, for the result has been tainted. The glitch itself has won.

Many seem to have forgotten that ours is a democracy ideally devoted to serving as many as possible. To this end, moderation is the obvious key, and not the embrace of extreme positions on either the left or the right. 

Ultimately, we did not approve a Supreme Court Justice. We merely reminded everyone that one party in the senate happens to have two more votes than the other. 

Wake Up!

Exhaustion strikes again. Got a full night's sleep, but still falling asleep again after getting up and having a coffee and a small breakfast. Didn't even get out for my morning walk--which may be part of the problem, actually. I've read before that moderate exercise can be helpful for MS fatigue, and in fact I've found that to be so. It's sort of like winding up the clock rather than letting it continue to run down. On another level, it kind of engages your body and mind, moving things forward. Still, it takes sometimes a Herculean sort of effort to get out of the chair, away from the morning news, get dressed and get out the door. Heat, also, is not helpful. Heat itself contributes to MS fatigue, and it is certainly damn hot at this season in Bali, even by 7 o'clock in the morning.  I had regularly been waking up between 5 and 6, which made the idea of a walk more pleasant, but my body seems to have discarded that habit and I find that I am more often sleeping till 7 or 7:30. Anyway, I've finally dragged myself out to Starbucks for a morning coffee, already 11:30 now. Moreover, they have given me a Vente instead of a Grande (though I ordered a Grande), and so that's an unexpected blessing. 

Saturday, October 6, 2018


I've made a half dozen attempts this morning to write something, but on each attempt I find that I am overcome by the sickness unto death, an overwhelming intellectual and spiritual nausea. I can only say, finally, that I am this day very content to be living in faraway Indonesia, separated by vast oceans from the moral sickness that afflicts my home country. 

Friday, October 5, 2018


Had lunch today with the ex at her villa in Sanur, along with an old friend of hers and a friend of the friend's, a rather attractive woman named Galuh.

"I'm Richard," I said, putting out my hand. 

"I know," Galuh said, taking my hand. "We've met. More than once." 

Hmm. Well, that's awkward. Although not unusual. Still, I should've thought that I would remember such a pretty face. 

The old, now familiar curse of facial recognition failure strikes again. 

This reminds me of another incident in the past. I was at the JCO Donuts café when a woman came out with a dish of ice cream and sat at the table beside mine. We chatted for a time, and when she got up to leave, I said that it had been nice to meet her. 

"You've already met me," the woman said. I'm your neighbor." 

Good grief.  

I may as well just change my name to Stupid

The Sham Must Go On

I happened to see a short interview this morning with Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon). He described a conversation with a man, now a professor of theology. who said that he remembered hearing of the incident between Kavanaugh and Ford at the time it happened. He was very troubled, and remembered discussing the matter with a friend as well. And yet, the FBI was not interested in hearing his testimony.

To me, that's it in a nutshell. This was not an investigation. It was a sham, controlled by the White House and devoted to finding no new information and hearing no corroborative evidence. This is just one story in many from people who tried to contact the FBI and were essentially ignored.

How sad it is to find that even the FBI, our highest law enforcement agency, has turned its back on the American people.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Seasonal Drawbacks

High on the list of drawbacks incurred in depending solely on a motorbike for transportation, especially at the present time of year in Bali, is the necessity of wearing a helmet. Well, it's not necessarily necessary. Often enough one will see people not doing so, especially in areas where there are no police posts. But it's prudent, in any case, police or no police, because falling off and hitting one's head on the pavement would at the very least be not cool, and, worse, might well be fatal. So I wear a helmet, unless I'm just going a block or two to the local market or laundry. 

The thing about a helmet, especially as the season turns from hot to hellishly hot, is that the thing functions sort of like a pressure cooker. Even after a fairly short journey, one undoes his chin strap and releases a cloud of steam. His head will be dripping with sweat, and, I think, will have shrunk a hat size or two. Whether the brain undergoes a commensurate shrinkage, I am not sure. Of course, the foamy inside of the helmet will have become like a sponge dipped in warm water, and will remain so for the duration of the season, or until you buy a new helmet. It will also take on, over time, a rather pungent, rather offensive odor, which of course transfers to one's hair and skin through the daily applications of the helmet to the head.   

Also high on the list of drawbacks is rain. In this case, the helmet is more blessing than bane, as it will keep your head and some of  your face out of the rain, though this affords little comfort, given that the remainder of one's body and clothing will be submerged. We have here long vinyl smocks that extend from the shoulders to below the knees; but the smocks themselves are problematic, in that you have to pull to the side of the road to retrieve the smock from your seat compartment in order to climb into the tent-like protection of the smock, fasten the buttons and what-not, and by the time you do that, you will have already become fairly soggy. Moreover, the rain finds ingenious ways of entering any and every open space, from above, from below, and from the sides. The smock is more of a fashion statement than an effective measure against the rain, I suppose. 

So, I consider these less than delightful realities as we prepare to enter the rainy season, which is also the hot season. At least we get them both out of the way at the same time. And though I complain about the drawbacks, I still generally prefer the motorbike to a car (which is good, because I don't have a car). Sure, you have AC in the car, and sure, you stay dry in the car--but it also takes you at least twice as long to get anywhere than it does on a bike. In a car, you can spend the better part of your day getting somewhere and back, whereas on the motorbike you zip along around the cars and between the cars and, where possible, under the cars, and Bob's yer uncle! (Which, in British slang, means 'you're all set'). 

And on those very rare days when the rain is constant--well, that's what the internet and movie channels are for.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The Final Descent

On to The Final Descent, book 4 in Rick Yancey’s Monstrumologist series.

In the introduction to the book, Yancey writes the following: “There were times when I wasn’t sure what I was writing, but I never doubted that it was worth writing. ... I may not have always known what I had, yet I always knew I had something.”

This is so very true of the process of writing fiction, which entails the writer’s own unspoken journey of discovery, and which is often enough fraught with labors of doubt and fearsome inward struggle. One is keenly aware of having a tiger by the tail and unsure of what to do next, other than just to see what the tiger will do. It is an exhausting, draining struggle and the fruits of victory ultimately go to the reader.

Looking forward to reading book 4, even as I regret that the story must end.


Perhaps there is a general sense of guilt in my country. People don't like feeling guilty. It makes them angry. So they turn to angry politicians who also reject the strictures of moral integrity and culpability. Hypocrisy is raised to the level of artform, transformed to self-righteous indignation. Which itself is a machination of the unwilling guilty. Strange times are these.  

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Rose Colored Glasses

I happened to sit down this morning near an elderly looking man at the coffee spot, and of course straightaway he wanted to chat. It's normal in Bali, this chatting between total strangers. So we shared all the basic information--where are you from, how long have you been here, where do you live, are you married, how many children do you have--and then we talked some more about more specific things--the cost of housing, the benefit of renting a house as opposed to an apartment, and so on and so forth. He asked about my former career, and how old I am now. 

"Sixty-four", I said. 

"Ah, almost the same. I am 62." 

You may remember that I started out by saying I sat down near an "elderly" man.  Turns out that I am the elderly man. 

Isn't it funny how we have this internal picture of ourselves that doesn't really jive with reality? In my mind, I was looking at and speaking to an elderly man, quite unlike myself. Lol. In fact, I am older than he! Moreover, to be honest, he appeared to be in better health than I. And yet, I had instantly considered him to be both an elderly and an older man. 

I guess my rose colored glasses only function when the lens is aimed at me. 

Monday, October 1, 2018

The Rape of Nanking

I happened yesterday to kind of randomly watch a documentary about the rape of Nanking. I had not previously been very familiar with those events, back in 1937, just before the outset of World War II. And it struck me how very important it is for us to be vigilantly aware of history, because we cannot rightly weigh and understand later events without an awareness of what went before. 

One will hear often enough nowadays young Americans faulting the country for using the atomic bomb at the end of the war--as if this incident happened in a vacuum. They will say that America did not need to use the atomic bomb, brutally killing thousands. They just wanted to see what it would do. (Nor are they likely to be aware that conventional bombing had already killed more than both atom bombs put together).  

But take a step back for a minute. Take a look at 1937. The Japanese, in a quest for empire, and for the resources of other countries, had invaded China without cause. After the fall of Shanghai, and moving upon Nanking, the capital city at that time, the Japanese troops were told that they did not need to observe any rules of war whatsoever. In fact, they were encouraged not to. As the Japanese moved on Nanking, they killed and raped as they pleased. Following the fall of Nanking, a six week period of uninterrupted riot ensued at the hands of the soldiers. Thousands of civilians were killed. Thousands of women were raped and gang raped, and then killed if they were still alive. Babies were skewered on bayonets, or cut from pregnant mothers' wombs. Men were used in bayonet practice or beheaded. At home in Japan, newspapers printed pictures of the severed heads for the amusement of their readers.

One comes away not very inclined to shed many tears for the ultimate fate of the Japanese. A nuclear blast seems rather quick and clean in comparison. 

It is heartbreaking, really, to look at the photos and films of the people of Nanking before the invasion. You see children holding hands, going to school; young women posing, smiling in their new dresses; old grandfathers laughing with their grandchildren--none of them knowing that someone else's violent dream of empire would soon subject them to terror and torment and rape and death, that the light of innocent men, women, and children would be brutally, pitilessly snuffed out as if they were no more precious than bugs. 

It cries out for payment, for justice, does it not? It sets into motion a fearsome pendulum.  And who can stop it? 

Well, I watched a second documentary, and it turns out that we can. Or at least we can try. This one told another story of Nanking. In a certain part of the city was a Christian college and medical center. The administrators of this community declared a safe zone and received on the grounds some 200,000 civilians. The Japanese refused to honor the zone, invading the area again and again to carry off men for execution and women for rape; and again and again they were confronted by the missionaries, who placed themselves between the soldiers and their prey. They were not able to save all. But they saved many thousands by laying down their own lives in favor of the defenseless. These were the poor, the homeless, the helpless, the friendless but for the stubborn, courageous compassion of their protectors. 

The pendulum is set in motion by our hands. It also stopped by our 

Greater love hath no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.  

Careless People

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”
—F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Yes, Scott, I know prople like this, too. They are the proof of vanity. They are the face of futility. They are poison in the world, a plague that kills both them and their victims. They are the waste of life, abiding in the sewer of blind self-absorption, where even love cannot penetrate or provide a cure.