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Du Fu, Winding River 1

January 24, 2017 Leave a comment

Introspection has not been much in vogue for, well, the last four or five centuries, at least in the West, anyway. The man of thought has become the man of action, the one who changes the world, makes things better. As we head pell-mell into the post-digital, post-handwritten, robot-manufactured world, the question of just where we might be going should give us pause for thought. Certainly the notion that the very act of thinking could itself alter the world, build its complexity and beauty, and of course its wisdom, would meet with a sceptical response these days. Yet RT suspects that something like this understanding lies close to the heart of Eastern religion and art. This is the world we dream of, the world which heals us and in which we have our true place. It is not magic, but a sense of a broader connection to our surroundings.

Du Fu seems to have started his career as a gifted poet, but one who had not met with profound suffering. The collapse of China in the mid-8th century forced him to flee the capital, and to confront in a basic way his life and the unfolding of history around him. Out of his despair he refashioned the possibilities of Chinese poetry, the Chinese people, and RT would argue, the possibilities of humanity as it today struggles with overwhelming change.

Winding River 1

Du Fu

 

a last petal falling marks the close of spring;

trees shed their 10,000 tears in contentious winds.

I’ll drink my wine, then, and examine

blossoms lying trampled in the mud.

 

and yet, in the abandoned riverside pavilion,

kingfishers flash and mate. At the foot

of high tombs in the park, stone unicorns

rest in conjugal silence.

 

all things live in their joy—

exiled from the palace, I wander,

fame forgotten.

 

PhotoStatues in the Imperial Tomb of Tang Emperor Gaozong. Zingaro. WikiCmns. CC BY 2.0.

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The Five Stages of Falling in Love

February 28, 2016 2 comments

 

File:Tala Birell-Edmund Lowe in Let's Fall in Love.jpg

Status Update: RT’s mom is doing fairly well as she continues to struggle with lung disease. Living in a nursing home is always difficult, but his mom has more or a less adjusted to the challenges. During his most recent visit with her, she told him, “Write another book!”

RT is of course struggling with his own issues as the drama of his mother’s health plays out. Recently, he was looking over the Wikipedia entry on the five stages of grief and was struck by how much they resemble the emotions we experience as we fall in love. RT has been vouchsafed few moments of insight over the last several months, so he felt he should share his flash in the pan:

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The Five Stages of Falling in Love

Denial:  “Are you kidding me? I’m not in love with them! I don’t know their name. We’ve never met. They’re not even a blip on the radar.”

Anger: “Who are you? How can you tell me we’re in love? I don’t like anything about you. In fact, I can’t stand the way you look, the way you smell, your personal habits. Go away! Get out!”

Bargaining: “I know we shouldn’t have kissed. It’s my fault. I smiled and made small talk and then, well, we got romantic for a moment. Look, the whole thing is a mistake, so let’s forget about it. We’ll wipe the slate clean and start over as friends.”

Depression: “Oh my god, we just slept together. We’re really in love. We can’t get out of it. We’re stuck!”

Acceptance: “OK, so we’re in love. Now what do we do?”

Love is like gravity; it is universal and its action continuous. People are always falling in love. There’s no way to stop it. When I recently shared my insight with a friend, they suggested that it applies only to inappropriate relationships. But all love relationships are inappropriate at some level. Nobody is ever really prepared for love or its consequences. At the same time, love is the force that makes us get out of bed in the morning. But now RT is waxing philosophical…

Photo: Tala Birell-Edmund Lowe in Let’s Fall in Love. Publicity still, 1933. WikiCmns; Dr. Macro. Public Domain.

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The Fire In Your Hearts

October 1, 2015 2 comments

RT has been struggling with some problems, not least of them an invasion of the local bug population… running through all the distractions like Ariadne’s thread has been the work on his mother’s memoirs. A Daughter’s Song and Dance is now at the proofing stage, and RT hopes to have the first bound copies in the next week or two. Then it’s publication on Lulu and fundraising for a larger paper run to distribute in bookstores nearby.

Here is one of RT’s reconstruction based on material in the Gospel of Thomas… he hopes it will lift the reader’s spirit, as it has lifted RT’s:

Saying 3. Jesus said, “Do not listen to those you have trusted. If they tell you, ‘Look, the Kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds will get there before you do. If they say, “Hey, the Kingdom is in the ocean,’ then the fish will swim into it first. And if they say, ‘The Kingdom is in the earth,’ the dead will get there before you. But I tell you that the Kingdom is the fire in your hearts, so that you may precede all others.

© 2013, The Rag Tree

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Photo: burning match. Heidas. WikiCmns. CC BY-SA 3.0.

Emily Dickinson’s Leopard

Léon de Wailly Grande Panthere 1812.jpg

By way of breaking long silence, RT offers this beguiling missive from Ms. Dickinson:

Civilization — spurns — the Leopard!
Was the Leopard — bold?
Deserts — never rebuked her Satin —
Ethiop — her Gold —
Tawny — her Customs —
She was Conscious —
Spotted — her Dun Gown —
This was the Leopard’s nature — Signor —
Need — a keeper — frown?

Pity — the Pard — that left her Asia —
Memories — of Palm —
Cannot be stifled — with Narcotic —
Nor suppressed — with Balm —

Drawing: Grand Panthere. Leon de Wailly. 1812. Public Domain.

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Going Local, 2014: Some Good Election News

November 5, 2014 Leave a comment

File:Joseph Wright of Derby. Virgil's Tomb, Sun Breaking through a Cloud.1785.jpg

No one has ever said that RT isn’t a romantic, and he’ll add that being one is not a bad way to cope with troubled times. So here are his reflections on last night’s Republican sweep of the midterm elections–with a distinct stress on the positive:

1) Recreational Marijuana will soon be legal in five states, including Alaska. Five states doesn’t sound like a lot, but RT has a feeling that momentum is growing across the United States for full legalization. As RT has said recently, this can only be good news for West Virginia, which needs all the revenue sources (and legal jobs) it can get. (And by the way, Alaska will be taxing marijuana at $50 the ounce.)

2) Republicans did not quite take over the WV state legislature. They certainly got hold hold of the House of Delegates, with a 64-36 seat majority; on the other hand, the state Senate is evenly split, 17-17, and since the Governor is a Democrat, it means that the Senate remains effectively, if just barely, in Democratic hands. RT will opine that since Democrats have controlled the WV legislature since 1931, the change in power may not be an entirely bad thing. And it is certainly a wake-up call to state Democrats to do some housecleaning and decide how they can address West Virginia’s real needs.

3) Minimum Wage Increases. Voters in four Republican-controlled states have approved referenda increasing the state minimum wage. Of particular note is Alaska’s ballot measure, which raises the state wage to $10.10/hr. and thereafter indexes it to increases in the cost of living. Just to remind folks, the current federal minimum wage is $7.25/hr.

4) A Successful Gun-Control Initiative. Washington State will now require background checks on all gun sales, including at gun shows and online.

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Living in the eastern Panhandle as RT does, he saw a lot of local lifestyles as he canvassed with Kris Loken for the 62nd WV Delegate seat (she lost to a longtime incumbent). The big problem that Democrats face locally (and perhaps nationally) is the image we project: non-local and successful, or, to put things more plainly, we look like carpetbaggers, regardless of the length of time we’ve lived in the area or the efforts we’ve put into local organizations. On the other hand, RT thinks that the good work Democrats are investing in local lives and politics is building some bridges.

Painting: Virgil’s Tomb: Sun Breaking Through the Clouds (1785). Joseph Wright of Derby. WikiCmns; Public Domain.

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Midterm 2014 and the Long Struggle for Justice

October 24, 2014 Leave a comment

RT has been struggling for a couple of weeks to write a post on the upcoming midterm elections. The problem has been finding some basis for optimism in the generally anti-President Obama atmosphere and its attendant prediction that Republicans will take control of the Senate in November.

That the country is in rapid transition seems to RT beyond doubt. He offers three statistics in support:

1) Twenty-six states have expanded Medicaid to offer people living below the poverty line Medicaid coverage (and RT is proud to say that West Virginia is one of them). On the other hand, 24 states have refused so far to take advantage of the federal program.

2) Thirty-two states have legalized gay marriage, including Utah, where a federal judge late last year struck down the state ban on gay marriages, starting the judicial revolt that has led to the current happy state of affairs. And it seems likely that several other states will follow suit.

3) Two states (Colorado and Oregon) have legalized recreational marijuana, and one more (Washington) is scheduled to do so soon. It seems likely that four or five more will vote to legalize marijuana in November, California among them.

The legalization of gay marriage in the United States amounts, in RT’s opinion, to a social revolution. That the collapse of legal opposition to gay marriage happened so swiftly has left him gaping. As with other social revolutions, this one will likely take decades to play itself out, and surely the American right wing will draw energy from the general confusion as people adjust to the new social reality. What, for instance, will gay spouses be called–husband and husband, wife and wife? It will take a generation for the language to migrate, taking our conversation and perspective along with it. But the central point seems settled: people have a right to marry the person they love.

The users of marijuana have experienced a journey towards legalization easily as arduous as gay couples. Pot, that darling of the 1960s culture wars, was so demonized that long after hippies were accepted as one of America’s tribes, smoking the substance was still considered a seditious act. But common sense seems to be carrying the day, finally: marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol and tobacco and the grossly disproportionate sentences handed down to keep its use “under control” have ruined lives and cost the country untold fortunes in incarceration costs and lost human potential. In fact, this particular “lifestyle” reform is one of the few political issues that seems to enjoy support across the spectrum. Implementation at the state level will have to be monitored to ensure that the medical fallout from smoking is minimized and that teenagers and young adults are discouraged from developing a habit. But in general, Requiescat in pace.

Elsewhere in this blog, RT has proposed the following amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “The right to eat nutritious food, to be adequately clothed and sheltered, and to receive necessary medical attention from a physician shall not be denied.” That the Affordable Healthcare Act has substantially increased the rolls of the medically insured (to the tune of 8+ million people) is perhaps the most important humanitarian achievement in the United States since the enacting of LBJ’s Great Society legislation in the 1960s. Not that anything worth doing is easy, but RT has a suspicion that the momentum here is also towards nationwide acceptance.

Was it Martin Luther King Jr. who said, “The arc is long, but tends towards justice”? Words worth considering, now that the midterm elections are almost upon us.

Photo: MLK Jr. at 1963 March on Washington. USIA (NARA). Public Domain.

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Storm, Storm, Rainbow

Barrymore_Garbo_Grand_Hotel_042432--WikiPD

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Well, things have been rough at RT’s premises lately. The roughest event was the accident his mother has been living through the last 4 or 5 weeks: at the beginning of July, she fell and broke her leg above the ankle. Now, things have gone well for her and are going better in the last couple of weeks. She had surgery on the day of the fall to repair the leg and then was transferred down to a rehab facility, a good one, as it turns out, in Winchester. She caught pneumonia, but the medical center in Winchester pulled her through with a blood transfusion and the last week or so she’s been sounding sharp and is making respectable progress in the various therapies she is receiving. Her ultimate status is still unclear, but she does seem to be moving in the right direction.

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In related news, mom’s memoir, A Daughter’s Song and Dance, has been making excellent progress. RT is looking for manuscript readers even as he begins to assemble print-ready pages for the first two of the story’s three parts. The book is 260 double-spaced pages, but will be longer when RT has finished adding such minor items as an introduction, and it will contain photos and various ornaments, drawings, and scrapbook material. It is turning out to be a bit of a pot-boiler, but of the classier sort, and certainly mom and I have learned a lot about her childhood, early adulthood, and the times she grew up in (not least of which, for RT, has been discovering that the classic Hollywood film, Grand Hotel (1932) has survived; RT wants to buy a copy & watch).

RT is waiting for reader feedback before he makes any decisions about probable publication dates. He does, though, plan both publication online and via a print run of 50-100 copies. How he will finance the print-run remains unclear; perhaps through a crowd-funding site.

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RT’s other writing projects have not gone away. Working with a prose project like the memoirs and editing a narrative voice as distinctive as his mother’s has given him some perspective on Gilgamesh, and he thinks that when he returns to the poem (as he most likely will after DS&D is published), it will be with renewed enthusiasm. The Dragons of Grammar, a collection of RT’s posts on the informative and entertaining creatures,  may well be the other project that can completed in a reasonable short period of time.

RT’s blogs have also been on his mind now that things are better with mom, and doubtless he once again will be expostulating on his favorite topics and bloggers.

The DoGs send a fond smoke-ring or two in the direction of loyal readers, and RT adds a wink.        RT

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Photo: John Barrymore and Greta Garbo in Grand Hotel. Publicity Still. WikiCmns; Public Domain.

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