Sunshine

1-28-trail

Oh, sunshine.

My little walkway, above, is growing clear, and with yesterday’s sun all the solar lighting is back up to snuff. Well, two on the rail are in trouble , but that’s what to-do lists are for, right? But light in the darkness is a good thing. It’s nice to see where you’re going.

Mystères élémentaires. Where do I begin? Where does that sun shine?

Or…

Where does the story end?

I suppose there’s a much bigger story in there somewhere, but that wasn’t the original intent. More like breadcrumbs, the mysterious elements were placed along a wayward trail – to lead, perhaps, to a conclusion of your own making. Is that bad storytelling? Maybe, but who knows. That said, I’ve been thinking about the end, such as it is, and where the story might lead next. Deeper into unresolved territory? Deeper into the sunshine, or reaching back into the night?

Same with the third installment of Predators. Except that story has taken on more relevance in the past week or so. I watched women marching all over the country, and I watched men in Washington turning a deaf ear to them – again, and I wonder how much longer this sorry state of affairs can go on. Or, how much lower can we, as a people, sink? We’ve swung like a pendulum almost since our inception, from greed and self interest on one extreme to breezy, often light-headed compassion on the other, and we stumble ever onward through the night, never seeming to find anything like a stable equilibrium.

Yet nature abhors anything, it seems, but equilibrium, and she strives to achieve a steady state – everywhere. Most Economics texts claim equilibrium is a necessary state for stable human societies to evolve, and I think the so-called ‘liberal world order’ strived to achieve such a state of affairs. Any idea what the implications might be if we turned away from the precept – for humans? For Americans? Radical swings, one state of terror to the next? Sounds kind of medieval to me. We’ve been there before, and it wasn’t, by and large, a happy story. Conservative irrationalism or liberal enlightenment…that’s the choice, those are the swings of the pendulum we ride.

I think it’s a simple enough proposition. We’re either all in this together, or we’re not. We are our brother’s keeper, or we’re not. Where is the dividing line? It used to be clear – but it’s  not now. It’s grown obscure.

Or has it?

My mother’s father was a Methodist preacher; she was born in Hollywood – where his church was located – several years before the Great Depression. They moved to Oklahoma City a few months before the depression hit, to her father’s new church, and her most intense memories growing up, like those of many people from her generation, were of the depression – and it’s impact on people’s lives.

She used to talk, oddly enough and more often than not, about her mother’s kitchen.

There was a large yard between her father’s church and the house she grew up in, and within months of the depression beginning her mother was cooking for hundreds of people a day. Men and women, children and grandparents all came to their house, and my grandmother fed them all. My mother stood in that kitchen and helped cook, from the time she got home from school until she went to bed. If they did not cook, people starved. It was as simple as that. That was her reality.

And I think her generation’s experience of the depression shaped a worldview. Isolate yourself and problems around you grow – until they can no longer be contained. Ignore your brother and lose your humanity. Turn away, turn inward – look away when your brother is left to die in the street – and what’s left isn’t worth saving. We’re losing sight of that experience, aren’t we?

I’m old. I’ve watched and listened to JFK, to Ronald Reagan, and to Nelson Mandela talk – in person, and I’ve been to concerts put on by everyone from the Beatles to Zeppelin. And George Strait, too, for that matter. I’ve watched life evolve in this country, and I’ve seen both sides now.

And yet I don’t think it matters what my views are, not in the slightest, at least not in this day and age.

1-28-moose

But my life, and my experiences, are – like it or not – what I write about. I can’t help but write about the things I experienced, what I know and what was important – to me. That’s just being human. The alternative, I suppose, would be to write about the things I know would sell, or things, perhaps, that could be used to manipulate people, but there are already plenty of people doing that. So, I think I’ll stay on the road less traveled, share what was, maybe pass on a few daydreams I had along the way.

So in the end, I think we’re all in this together, all of us – even the moose walking outside our local grocery store. My guess is, if we turn our backs on that most simple proposition, we won’t be around much longer.

I’ve been listening to a group called Civil Twilight this week, a rather popular track called Letters from the Sky. There’s a fine line in here…between memory and what lies ahead:

One of these days the sky’s gonna break
And everything will escape, and I’ll know
One of these days the mountains are gonna fall
Into the sea, and they’ll know
That you and I were made for this
I was made to taste your kiss
We were made to never fall away
Never fall away
One of these days letters are gonna fall
From the sky telling us all to go free
But until that day I’ll find a way to let everybody know
That you’re coming back, you’re coming back for me
‘Cause even though you left me here
I have nothing left to fear
These are only walls that hold me here
Hold me here
Hold me here
Hold me here
The only walls that hold me here
One day soon I’ll hold you like the sun holds the moon
And we will hear those planes overhead
And we won’t have to be scared
‘Cause we
Two little ideas escape into my mind’s eye – ‘the sky’s gonna break’ and ‘one of these days letters are gonna fall from the sky’ – and I see the World Trade Center buildings falling. Coming of age in the 60s I think JFK was the turning point around which everything pivoted, and maybe for this generation it will be that day, when everything changed, and like November ’63, not for the better.
There’s another group, Genesis, that’s tried to put all this in perspective before. Blood on the Rooftops, from Wind and Wuthering (1976) takes a wistful look back at intractable problems:
Let’s skip the news boy (I’ll make some tea)
The Arabs and the Jews boy (too much for me)
They get me confused boy (puts me off to sleep)
And the thing I hate – Oh Lord!
Is staying up late, to watch some debate, on some nation’s fate.

Hypnotised by Batman, Tarzan, still surprised!
You’ve won the West in time to be our guest
Name your prize!

Drop of wine, a glass of beer dear what’s the time?
The grime on the Tyne is mine all mine all mine
Five past nine.

Blood on the rooftops – Venice in the Spring
Streets of San Francisco – a word from Peking
The trouble was started – by a young Errol Flynn
Better in my day – Oh Lord!
For when we got bored, we’d have a world war, happy but poor

And yet, by the late 90s nothing had changed. Here’s another Genesis song, One Man’s Fool from Calling All Stations (1997), that ought to get your attention. Keeping in mind this came out four years before 9/11, and as you read through this, do so with an eye on that day:
As the buildings crumble, tumble to the ground
And the dust-filled smoke rises in the air
You know that somebody somewhere looks with pride, they’re satisfied

To all who think they know
To everyone that knows that they’re right
D’you ever wonder why
D’you never ask the question even in the depths of night?

Now as the daylight fading ends another day
For too many life will never be the same
And it is all for the reason they will never understand

To all who think they know
To everyone that knows that they’re right
D’you ever wonder why
D’you never ask the question even in the depths of night?

And on the morning after do you realise
See the ruined faces and the ruined lives
Inside your head do you never have the thought a moment of doubt?

To all who think they know
To everyone that knows that they’re right
D’you ever wonder why
D’you never ask the question even in the depths of night?

There are only dreams one like any other
What means the earth to one or few means nothing to another
There are only dreams like any other

Drawing lines upon the sand, on the land, on the sea
Then dying to defend them seems quite meaningless to me

Don’t you know what means the earth to some or only one
Can mean just nothing nothing nothing to another

There are only dreams like any other
There are only differences, worth living but not dying for

One man’s joy makes another man weep
Nothing you can do is ever gonna change it
One man’s saint is another man’s fool
One man’s hot is another man’s cool

And when the war is over, won
Will there be peace for evermore?

Statues carved right out of stone, out of wood, made from gold
Praying for their mercy that won’t save their souls

Don’t you know what means the earth to some or only one
Can mean just nothing nothing nothing to another

There are only dreams like any other
There are only hopes and beliefs one like any other
(there are only dreams like any other)
Worth living but not dying for
Living but not dying for not killing for
There are only dreams like any other like any other

To all of those who think that they know
All I can say yes all I can say

One man’s joy makes another man weep
Nothing you can do is ever gonna change it
One man’s saint is another man’s fool
One man’s hot is another man’s cool

There are only dreams like any other
There are only hopes and beliefs, one like any other
There are only dreams like any other…

So it seems to me, sitting here in the sunlight, that all any of us can do is share what we know, what we’ve learned and what we kept close over the years. Songwriters seemed to start doing this in the 60s more and more, and while that was a reflection of the times it’s an idea that’s only grown since. So…music as History?
Images of distant fires, communities gathered in the night telling stories, relating a more useable past. Is that what music has become? Is that how we pass on our most important stories?
What happens when we hold knowledge in? Are we not, in effect, holding progress back. And, well, if knowledge is just lost, it’s like it never happened…so, perhaps, all our experience is without any meaning beyond personal entertainment, and, possibly, with that knowledge lost, future generations can’t learn from our experience, our successes and our mistakes.
Assuming they want to, that is.
But that’s another story, for another day. For another elemental mystery.
Today? I’ll look at the sun, and enjoy the warmth.

38 thoughts on “Sunshine

  1. As we look around the slow collapse of Social Democracy in Europe, the catastrophe in the Middle East, and workforce participation and real wages at 1970s levels here at home, one must surely ask, just what has the so-called “liberal world order” done for the world. Might I suggest that Reagan was right when he said “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help”.

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    • Liberal is a term that gets used, and misused, a lot. Reagan and Nixon were, in the term I’m using, part of the liberal world order. Liberalism, in the greater context I’m trying to assert here, was the impulse behind the American and French revolutions. They were movements to “liberate” the people from absolutist monarchies. Liberal, in the classical term coined by modern historiographers, refers to anti-authoritarianism, usually represented by monarchies, but also theocracies and 20th-century style despots and dictators. Classical 19th century conservatism, aka from Edmund Burke, assert that power should be “conserved” within a central authority, i.e., a monarchy. The liberal world order per se that I’m referring to is the post-war (WWII) economic order, one ascribed to by Republicans and Democrats, and both Nixon and Reagan were devoted to these precepts.
      Your example, about the nine most terrifying words, brings to mind an image I saw last summer. A man, standing in front of his house, wearing a t-shirt that says something along the lines you refer to, e.g., about the evils of big government, and he’s shaking the hands of Forest Service fire fighters who had just saved his house, and his family, as wildfires consumed the land around his home.
      I think, but may not be completely sure about this, that’s what’s called irony.
      Thanks for reading along.

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  2. I think a big difference between your mothers generation and mine is that they stepped up and helped their neighbors. Now we are encouraged to let the .gov take care of it. Sometimes I really think the Amish are on to a good idea, as far as being your neighbors brother and keeper.

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    • Well, good point. Communities and ‘the church’ were the glue that held the fabric of the country together. Not the government. And the population of the country was, what? Less than fifty million at the turn of the last century? And it was racially a lot less diverse, too.
      Yet churches have become almost commercial enterprises today so not sure what role they’ll play going forward, but look at just one other aspect of your now vs then comparison. Medicine was primitive, and physicians fees were often paid through barter arrangement. Medicine today is anything but, and medical insurance has become a form of bankruptcy protection. It’s a very complex world that simply couldn’t exist without regulation, and I say that because in the world we now seem to be embracing, in a world without meaningful regulation, medicine could quickly devolve into a commodity that only the wealthy can afford. Take electricity too, by way of example. FDR championed the REA, the Rural Electrification Act, which brought electricity to all of America, not just to cities that could afford it, and yet Republicans fought him every inch of the way. It was socialism, it would destroy the country, benefit people who could not otherwise afford it. You hear the same talk today, of course, but I think people want to go back to simpler times without really understanding what that means. No electricity? No medicine? Give infrastructure enough time to collapse, then no roads? I’d say if people want to live with limited government they ought to study what that really means in human terms, not just through simplistic ideological slogans. It’s funny, though. Gorbachev thinks that as the post-war order collapses we’ll finally get to experience WW III, and soon, too, within the next few years. I can just about guarantee that things will get real simple, real fast after that. This order did, if nothing else, make a semi-stable international peace possible. I think we’ll live in interesting times, one way or another. Maybe the Amish will teach us how to use horse and buggy again…

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      • All good points. But where is the balance between what we need, and when does it become a nanny state? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Or as CS Lewis said “those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” Too bad I’m just an average guy without any answers.

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  3. Paint fumes. I’ve been painting since 10 this morning. Week 2 of renovating the kitchen. The tile guy shows up tomorrow for the backsplash, countertops on Wednesday, and then the floor guy refinishes the wood floors Thursday, so…….

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  4. All the cool kids use sprayers now, at least according to the clerk at Sherwin Williams. Just past Goose Pond Rd heading to Lyme on the left was an office developed called 13 Dartmouth Collection Highway. I painted a lot of inside and outsides of those colonial houses during my summers and school breaks.

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      • It was a French restaurant called D’Artagnan until the mid 90’s. Peter Gaylor (he was a member of the Olympic fencing team, and fell in love with French cooking while practicing with the French team) and his wife Rebecca Cunningham ran it. They use to source their duck eggs and goat milk from us. The house it was in had been in Concord, NH, before it was moved, in pieces, to Lyme.

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      • That whole group of buildings was like walking into an 18th century village; when I was working on Mr Christian I had them in mind when working on the Clemens’ farm. With that one and Simon Pearce so close it was easy to feel coddled.

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  5. Believe it or not, the Selectmen hated that development, and fought it tooth and nail, even though there was no zoning code in Lyme at the time – the battle even made it to the NY Times. “Out of keeping with the town’s rural character” was the selectman’s argument.

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  6. That’s the thing with New England. They hate CHANGE, even beneficial change that enhances the character of the place. Yet I can appreciate their POV, a lot of those old towns are really special, and once the flavor is gone, it’s gone forever.

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  7. So true. Ever notice the all the abandoned RR right of ways in NH with the tracks intact? That’s because it take an act of the legislature to grant permission to remove the rails, even if its been decades since the last rain ran. Scary change, that.

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      • In some spots they have done that, and its been quite successful. You can ride Amtrak from North Station in Boston all the way to Brunswick Maine now, and its so popular that they are re-installing double track in many sections to increase capacity to meet demand. But the other sections, with no population centers or destinations to support ridership, and their industrial base long dried up?

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  8. Population and business used to follow active rail lines. I wonder if that paradigm will come about again. I suspect when private ownership of cars dwindles low enough it will. Might be nice to have the infrastructure in place…

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  9. So true. dwindling infrastructure always reminds me of the Dire Straits song “Telegraph Road”.

    I used to like to go to work but they shut it down
    I got a right to go to work but there’s no work here to be found
    Yes and they say we’re gonna have to pay what’s owed
    We’re gonna have to reap from some seed that’s been sowed
    And the birds up on the wires and the telegraph poles
    They can always fly away from this rain and this cold
    You can hear them singing out their telegraph code
    All the way down the telegraph road

    You know I’d sooner forget but I remember those nights
    When life was just a bet on a race between the lights
    You had your head on my shoulder you had your hand in my hair
    Now you act a little colder like you don’t seem to care
    But believe in me baby and I’ll take you away
    From out of this darkness and into the day
    From these rivers of headlights these rivers of rain
    From the anger that lives on the streets with these names
    ‘cos I’ve run every red light on memory lane
    I’ve seen desperation explode into flames
    And I don’t want to see it again. . .

    >from all of these signs saying sorry but we’re closed
    All the way down the telegraph road

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  10. Where do I start, to which points do I respond, or do I stay quiet in the background?
    Bannon replacing a General on the NSC? Emma Lazarus or America First? The common good in regulations? Rural homes should burn because they are too far out for volunteer fire protection? Just like REA the $1 added to every phone bill pushed service into areas beyond the economic reach of all but the super wealthy. Public schools are not for profit for a reason. Remind me again what purpose insurance companies provide in our health care. Those abandoned rails were stretched across the empty country by a combination of private funding and land grants. The same type of land grants that fostered Universities in locations far from the privately endowed walls covered with ivy.
    Deregulation, Privatization, Self Reliance, the Gospel of Wealth, vs being branded a mooch for relying on a monthly direct deposit from SS after years of FICA deductions. Wondering whether you will be able to go back to your cardiologist for an annual check up after repeal without replace. Worrying whether my grandchildren will be able to afford the fees for the private charter school that replaced their neighborhood K-12 District. Remembering what it was like to sing in a school choir, play an instrument in the band, or first stroking a brush on an empty surface in art class. All normal parts of the curricula prior to standardized testing for STEM core classes.
    I too am old. But with age comes our personal memory palace. I’m old enough to remember the close up of the hole worn in the sole of Adlai Stevenson’s shoe. The week my father and grandfather were locked inside the railroad yard during a deadly and brutal strike. Before there were only Red and Blue States and candidates tried to visit all 48. Learning about the extermination orders still law until the 70s in Utah and Idaho denying the right to vote and hold public office to Mormons, but today Mormon legislators support the Presidential Order against Muslims. The John Birch Society and Breitbart are not that different. Alt Right is the new Aryan Compound in Dalton Gardens, Waco, Ruby Ridge. Alt News is not new. The Gulf of Tonkin, The sinking of the Maine, WMD, Radical Islamic Terrorists.
    Music as compass or conscience? I’m old enough to remember Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, The Smothers Brothers, songs were a way to bind people to a cause.
    Fashion as political predictor? Pegged pants and bell bottoms could not have foretold that Orange would be the New Black (president).

    I keep hearing, be afraid, very afraid.

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    • And let’s not leave out Spicer telling State Department employees this morning to get with the program or leave. The sad truth is that a civil war was declared on 1/20, and you don’t fight wars with words and get very far. Memory is a fragile thing…in twenty years people won’t remember what was lost. The state will have them living in fear, afraid to rock the boat. What was past is prologue.
      You know, the railroads were levied with special taxes in the 50s to pay for highways and airports. They paid to cut there own throats, then the lifeblood that sustained them, US Mail contracts, was pulled in ’67, and even though it cost more, the mail started moving by truck. Passenger service disappeared a few years later, and manufacturing began to fade soon after. Railroads were the glue that held this country together in so many ways, and perhaps all this decline can be traced to that loss of community our railroads held together. It’s a simplistic notion, too simple, I know, but I’m speechless after the last few days.

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  11. Dartmouth was chartered to educate the Indian tribes, though they do their damnedest forget it. It seems to me that somewhere along the way, as a country we lost those benevolent institutions that at a less than national level helped bind us together – such as unions and large corporations (AT&T, IBM) who took their civic obligations seriously. Of course, I’m seeing that from the lens of a member of generation X.

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    • To me it’s a simple distinction. Stewardship capitalism vs Predatory capitalism. That’s the difference between the 1930s-40s and the 1980s-present. The sense that we’re all in this together, e.g., capital lifts everyone up, vs the present, where it’s back to Hobbes (life is nasty brutish and short). Historically, when Republicans are ascendant (the 1890s, the 1920, and the 1980s) you find distortions in capital that lead to rampant inequality, volatile markets, and economic crashes. Trumpism is so far outside those norms it’s hard to tell where this will lead, but as Republican pollster Luntz observed a few months ago, about 40% of Trumps voters seem to hate America so much they want to see it burn to the ground. I think it likely they’ll see their wish come true.

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  12. Some numbers to contemplate.
    How do you define a minority President?

    2016 Presidential Election
    62,985,105 voted for Mr Trump
    45.9% of those who did vote, voted for Mr Trump
    round numbers are 63 Million, 46%

    65,853,625 or 48% voted for Clinton
    2,868,520 more than voted for Trump – but
    4,489,233 more voted for Others

    63 million voted for Trump
    70.3 million voted for someone else.

    231,556,622 eligible voters
    27.2% of those eligible to vote, voted for Mr Trump – or
    170 million did not vote for Mr Trump

    No matter which numbers you use, or how you look at them, Donald J Trump is a minority president. *

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_2016

    * In everyone’s mind except his own

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    • I think, if I understand the Fox News version of this apparent quandary, that in this world view, NY and CA make up the difference cited, and those two states are full of illegal immigrants so shouldn’t be counted. I noted a petition in CA to break away from the union is nearing a half million signatures. Like Texas a few years ago. Now children, let’s put our toy guns away and get back to work.

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  13. On a less somber note, here is a train ride from the way back machine. I remember getting stuck waiting at a grade crossing for one of these trains, and thinking “where did that come from?”

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