Love and Hate

Sometimes as I do my morning hour of exercise, I run monologues inside my head. Those self conversations run from the mundane to the divine.

This morning I was thinking about love and hate. The two most diametrically opposed emotions of humans. I was wondering if these two things have a Universal or spiritual nature, or if love and hate are inventions of the brains of humans. I know that there has certainly been a lot written and spoken about the two in the history of our human existence.

One would think that any human being would prefer love and kindness over hate and cruelty. But, I wonder if that’s the case. Do some people enjoy hate and spreading hatred more than they do love? It seems every time I turn on the TV, or pick up my computer and look at news stories, or look on social media, I find a higher percentage of hate being spread than of love. Love seems to have taken the back seat in our ride through life and let hate have the wheel.

I look at things that have happened, not only recently but throughout the history of mankind. I watched the storming of the American capital building just over three weeks ago, and I wondered……is this love? I have been indirectly called so many names on social media over the past few years because of my political and religious beliefs, and I wonder….is that love? Is that kindness?

I might turn to one of the books that humanity has written as guidelines for their behavior on Earth. The Bible, the Koran, the Torah. In all of these books, you find that love is better than hate. Kindness is better than cruelty. So many people supposedly follow the guidelines of these books, but it’s very hard to tell when you look around you that people are practicing what they read. Even atheists I know sometimes show more compassion for other people than do the followers of these books which are supposed to be the guides for living a good life.

So, what’s the answer? I was raised as a Christian and studied the Bible pretty much all of my life. I still believe in the teachings of Jesus, even though I don’t actively participate in organized religion anymore and probably never will again. I do think back to Matthew 28. where Jesus says that in the signs of his coming ” because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. ” Is love growing cold between humans?

I personally believe that love is the dominant emotion of human beings, and that kindness is the most basic of acts that one human being can show for another. Love is like water. As water flows it always finds a way to go beyond the obstacles that it encounters. If a huge boulder blocks it’s way, it first tries to find the easiest path around it. If it cannot go around it, it builds up behind it until it flows over it. If it cannot flow over it, it breaks up against it until finally the obstacle is worn down and the water finds a way to flow through. Our love for others has to be like this. We must find a way around the obstacles of hate and cruelty, or go over them, or beat up against them until we wear them down and find a way through. If we cannot find a way for love to “conquer all” as the saying goes, then we are lost.

I believe the best way to conquer hate, is to refuse to participate in it. This is the hardest thing to do…for me personally anyway, and probably for most people.

I am indignant when I see hatred and I want to lash out against it, but to do this is to simply become the thing you are fighting against. You become the thing want to lash out against.

So many people have built up their hate for so many things. People hate anything which is different from what they consider to be “normal”. Things which their “books” tell them are bad.

There is hatred for people of other colors, other philosophies, other natures and actions which people consider “normal” What is normal? How is something or someone who is different from you, or who believes differently than you hurting you? Why do we as humans believe we have to force our beliefs on others? Don’t participate in this type of hate.

We have so much to overcome in this day and age. The pandemic and disease of which we are now in the teeth has exacerbated hatred. People are more isolated. They cannot be around those they love the most without risking the health of some of them. Mental health issues have become common. Children are having to go through their days without being able to associate and play with other children. So much bad surrounds us. In this type of situation, we must try to be even more kind and giving than normal. We should turn away from those who try and divide us. We should refuse to give air to the fire of their hatred, and let it burn itself out.

We have a path our of all of these things which are happening that are causing the world to cascade down upon itself, but that path requires sacrifice and patience on our part with the others who surround us. We can beat hate, and become a better society and a better race, if we only choose to take the first step down that path by deciding we will not hate.

Lying in Today’s World

Lying is now an accepted way of life. People of all ilks try to see how much they can “get away with” when it comes to untruths. Social media such as Twitter and Facebook have exponentially increased the number of lies that are published on a daily basis, coming from the top down, among all manner of people.

Our world today is accurately described by Isaiah’s description of ancient Israel: “None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity.”

How then can we continue to survive in the modern world?

We can look again to the knowledge of the ancient text of Proverbs. It tells us to trust in God with all our hearts; and lean not unto our own understanding. If we will acknowledge him, he will direct our path.

If we acknowledge God, and accept that we cannot understand how he created us, or our world, I believe he will give us the understanding we need to navigate the mine field of lies we must sail through every day we live in this modern world.

If we chart our course through life nowadays, based on what we think is true, we will certainly be deceived. Look around you, and you can see it happening every day, “tweet after tweet”.

I don’t think God deals with us through Twitter. I think he still deals with us through our hearts.

What do you think?

Is that the way forgiveness works?

I read once of a King and Queen of Hawaii, back in the old “missionary” days in the 1840’s and 50’s, who were both converted to Christianity by one of the New England missionaries who had come there.

In Hawaii back in those days, it was the custom for a brother and sister of Royal blood to marry each other and produce royal children to fill their shoes. Both the King and Queen knew that being together was “taboo”, but when caught by one of the missionaries, the King proclaimed: “Reverend, I was just going to continue to commit the sin until I know I was close to dying, and then ask Jesus for forgiveness, so I could go to Heaven”
That’s not how it’s supposed to work, I’m sure….but every once in a while after reading a day’s worth of posts and replies on this medium, I wonder if some folks nowadays don’t understand things the same way as the old King of Hawaii.

Irene Goodnight-2014

Irene, goodnightIrene, goodnightGoodnight irene, goodnight ireneI’ll see you in my dreamsThese lyrics and Hank William’s “Jambalaya” were the first songs I ever learned. My Dad said I sang them when I was just over two years old. I remember my Dad singing “Irene goodnight” pretty much all my life. For some reason, he would just break into the chorus from time to time…especially when I was a child. I loved the song, and have ever since. I heard yesterday where Pete Seeger died and in looking at his biography, I saw where his cover of this “Huddy” song ran at number 1 for 13 weeks back in late 1950 which was the year I was born. I never knew that. I know Pete Seeger for all of his other musical achievements during the late 50’s and 60’s. From him and Peter, Paul and Mary…Dylan, and the other early folk groups came my most deep musical influence. I still can do “Puff the Magic Dragon” pretty well on the guitar, and “Turn, Turn, Turn” will always be in my top five songs of all time. I never knew about “Irene” though. I imagine my Dad probably listened to the that song in 1950 and liked the imagery of the lyrics…being in the Navy and away from home. Thanks Pete Seeger for all you did for music in America and for all you did for the people of America. Thanks Dad for memorizing “Goodnight Irene”

Cotton Town

The first thing I remember about Trion, Georgia is the smells of the cotton mill. I was somewhere between two and three years old when Daddy got out of the Navy, and we all moved into a little old house on sixth street, and Mom and Daddy “set up housekeeping”. I’d been living in Blue Ridge with my Mom and Grandparents, and Mom’s little sister who was 11 years old when I was born. Daddy finally got out of the Navy in ‘52, went to Riegel Textile and got a job, rented a house, and moved us in. We were officially Trionites.

But, back to the smell of the mill. I had no complaints as a three year old. I’d been used to smelling the smoke from a wood burning stove, the scents of bacon frying, cornbread baking, biscuits in the oven. I don’t know if I ate any of it, but I was used to olfactory stimulation. The smells of a cotton mill became familiar quickly. There was the slightly musty, but pleasant smell of bales of cotton. They had an earthy odor, accentuated by the pungency of the burlap they were wrapped in. I found out later how huge they were, passing by them sitting out on the open cotton docks like huge marshmallows that had been half way toasted in a fire on the end of a wire coat hanger. There was that smell which was sort of like the one that occurred when Momma would iron blue jeans with a hot clothes iron. Kind of on the edge of burny, extremely hot cotton having the wrinkles pressed out. Found out later on, it was cloth being sanforized. I never really realized what that process entailed until many years later when I worked in the mill as a supervisor in the denim finishing department where denim was being sanforized. I learned that the cloth was run through this huge machine, wet down first then partially dried, and run under a gigantic rubber belt that was tightly pushed up against a steel roller. This process pre shrunk the denim, which kept it from shrinking once it was made into blue jeans and sold. It ran over a gigantic steam wheel to totally dry it out, and the exhaust fans above it carried that smell that I’d smelled so many years earlier out into the night air.

There was also the briny, and very stinky sulfuric smell of the bright dye runoff coming from the printing department. At the time I was a child, they just dumped that excess dye after they were finished into a little creek that ran under the mill and out into the Chattooga River. I used to stand at the little bridge above where the stream ran when I was little and marvel at how beautiful and colorful that water was. I had no idea it was polluting the river something awful, and killing the fish. Back in the fifties, it wasn’t that big an issue. So, I played out on the front steps and in the yard on sixth street. In the bright summer sunshine and during the cold of winter with my heavy coat on, making roads in the dirt for my tootsie toy cars, and pretending to drive all over town. All the while smelling the smells of a Southern cotton mill town wafting through the air.

Death of a Stranger

Paula and I went to Canton, Georgia today to take the two Cocker Spaniels to the lady from the Cocker Spaniel of Georgia Rescue group. Instead of going down I-75 and cutting across on Hwy 20 we went the “old” way on Hwy 140. This is kind a trip down memory lane for us, as we used to come this way quite often between 1970 and 1974 when we lived in Athens. We didn’t really care for the ride on the Interstate back then so we sought out several more “scenic” routes to travel from Athens back “home” to Trion.

This drive takes you through Waleska, Georgia where beautiful little Reinhardt College is located. What a pristine and pretty little campus, plunked down right in the center of rural outback Georgia. Even now, Waleska is much as it was back in the 70’s. Can’t say the same for Canton though.At one time, the entire ride from Athens to Trion or back using these old “back road” routes was pretty much like an extended ride in the county. Canton use to be a tiny little mill town like Trion, before Atlanta crept up on it from the South like a tortoise who comes on slowly but surely and in the end wins the race. Canton is much more like a bedroom community for Atlanta now, with even the old Canton Cotton mill building turned into apartments. Wow….things really have changed. We used to sometimes come this way in the evenings after work when we were coming home. It was beautiful back then….so starkly dark you could spot “shooting stars” from inside the car at night.

The roads are mountainous and curvy and I always was careful and took my time, even as a “young an’” back then. One night as we were going up the first big hill outside of Canton a little red sports car came flying around us on a double yellow line. “Dang,” I said “If that guy don’t know these roads he’s liable to get killed” Prophetic…and quickly so. As we drove on, just another couple of miles we saw a huge flash of light up ahead lighting up the night sky. “What the hell…” I muttered. As we rounded a steep curb we saw the reason. The little red sports car hadn’t mad the curb and had overturned and slammed into the harsh mountain rocks sticking out from the curb. The car was fully in flames…so hot that we could barely stand the heat even from the other side of the road. We could see the guy in the upside down car, immobile and burned in the driver’s seat. “Oh my God” my wife said. It was a lonely and desolate Friday night and there was not much traffic on highway 140 back then. No other cars passing to flag down. No cell phones back then. I didn’t have anything resembling a fire extinguisher…and even if I had I could never have gotten close. We decided to go as quickly as possible to the next house, which was a new trailer on the right hand side of the road about a mile away.

We frantically knocked and told them what had happened and they called the sheriff’s department. We decided not to stay. It wasn’t that we didn’t care, but there was nothing that we could have done. We didn’t know the driver, we were not actual witnesses of the accident, and we did not want to go back to that horrific scene. My wife especially, did not. I gave the people at the trailer my name and my folk’s phone number and told them to tell the police if they needed us to call. They never did. I’m guessing my explanation to the owner of the trailer was sufficient to what they found. We went back that exact same route today, and relived that day. We talked about it again, and how so much time had passed, yet that memory was fresh.

The same trailer was still there…had been built onto several times over the years and looks well lived in, now 40 years later. Forty years. Yet I still have that image in my head of that man or boy’s body in that burning car. I can still feel the heat at that curve and feel a little uneasy looking at the rocks there, which bore the blackened marks of fire for many years. My wife remembers jumping up in the bed at my folk’s house several times that night when the gas heater would light up. I’ve never witnessed that happening again during my entire driving career from that day til now, and I hope I never will. Somebody’s son died that night. Maybe somebody’s brother. I believe it was a young man, so he could have been a student or someone just starting out in a working career in life. Wasted, because he had a red sport’s car that he couldn’t control going around a curve. I never tried to find out who it was. I didn’t want to know. I still don’t. I feel some sense of guilt because of what I said as the driver passed us going up the hill…..

Picking Sides

As first graders one of the first things the teachers taught us to do at recess was to “pick sides” to play games. Red rover, Tug of war, later on other team sports. We chose sides for tasks inside the classrooms. From the very beginning of our education, a hierchy was established. The same children were chosen by the “leaders” for the same sides every time. The same kids were picked last every time. We were taught to be devisive from the very start and it continued through our entire school career.

After a while, it was something from which you could not break free. Practically everything we do requires us to choose a side. Take a moment and think about it. I don’t have to name them all, you know of what I speak. Sides. Choose a side. Right or left. Red or Blue. Pro this, or pro that. “Red rover, red rover send Susie right over” I was usually one of the last people picked for any team. I know why now. It was because I didn’t want to be on a side. I think maybe I just wanted to be an observer or maybe a referee. I never fit well on either side. I still don’t. I think it was wrong of them to make us choose sides.

Choosing teams would have been better. There is quite a difference you know. The experience we obtain as we grow through childhood shapes our opinions for life. I have never changed my basic philosophy about things since I was a young man. I have pretended, and acted. I have conformed to rules with which I did not agree. I have assuaged the feelings of many. I am none the worse for it because I know the real person who I am and I’m satisfied with my actions. On occasions I have had to choose sides. But I did not like it. I live for the day when society does not demand we must hate one another for the side on which we have been picked, or with which we choose to affiliate.

I’m afraid my frustrations or lack of patience may occasionally spill over into expression of opinions which may not be popular. For this I apologize in advance and beg you remember it’s just the way I was taught. “Bum, bum, bum here we come blowing our bugles and beating our drums”

The Duality of Humanity

I can’t get inside anyone else’s mind to see how they really think. None of us can as of yet…at least I don’t think that technology yet exists. So, we pretty much live our entire lives with our own “monologue” playing in our heads. I personally have several “announcers” who host the events going on in my mind. One is very kind and empathetic. One is cynical and skeptical. One tells me what I believe is logical and what is craziness. One is quick to anger and might resort to violence….if…..the others did not keep him under control. They have done a pretty good job of keeping that one under control all of my life.

We humans read what other people say on social media. We see reports of what famous people say on TV. We hear the politicians and their rantings and ravings. Often I wonder if their inner person is set up like mine, and if he or she is, then which announcer is speaking at the time they are saying hateful things? There are a lot of hateful things being said. I perceive that these people are either acting, or that their other, more kind voices cannot control the angry person who lives inside of each of us.

I hope as humanity progresses forward into the future that more and more people learn to let their loving selves control their actions. If they do not, then I don’t know what’s ultimately going to happen to the human race.

Last Year and Today….a combined story from early 2019 and early 2021, with some thinking in between.

Watching the movie “First Man” yesterday about Neil Armstrong’s life, and about America putting men on the moon was a stark reminder of where we have been as a country, as opposed to where we are now.

The strength, resolve and focus that we had as a country to go to the moon…to beat the Russians in our space program, was something which inspired and united us as a people. I know there were a few detractors who protested about the money being spent on that program, and that protest was addressed in the movie.

Overall though, it was a matter of togetherness that included most Americans. Was there a black astronaut at first? A woman? No there was not. I do firmly believe however, that the overall encompassing reach of the program, on all levels…not just the men who composed the crews, led to more inclusion, faster than in other areas of our countries culture.

I know that as far as me personally, the space program was a part of my childhood, which I cannot separate from my psyche. It was an excitement, and an interest from the days of Sputnik and Telstar, all the way through the Mercury program, with pictures of Alan Shepherd and John Glenn taped to the headboard of my bed, right next to JFK’s and RFK’s. It continued through Gemini, with all its tragic deaths….finally into the Apollo program. My favorite photo of all time was from Apollo 8, the first photo of our beautiful blue marble hanging out there in space, like the last gorgeous Christmas ornament hanging lonely but divine on the tree being taken down for the year.

I think perhaps my somewhat obsessive need to photograph the moon, and watch the skies, stems from my childhood wonder with putting men into outer space.

Paula and I were more amazed than ever before about our ability as human beings to do such hard and complicated things with such “primitive” equipment.  Now that we have increased our technical knowledge so exponentially we should be able to perform miracles.  Maybe, we have indeed done so already in our creation of two new “types” of vaccines which we have never had before for this deadly disease which is disrupting our world and killing so many people.  Such brilliant technology for use here on Earth, inside the “outer space of our inner bodies”

I hope all of this will one day lead to our exploration of our Universe.  I hope mankind can get past our unsavory nature and evolve into people who can love and respect each other.  Can we get past the point where we want to kill each other and focus all of that energy on loving each other?  If we can ever do that, there’s no limit to the miracles we can create.

Dozing off in the Light of the West

I love the sunlight coming from the West. I’m not really totally sure of the reasons. It could be that my bedroom window in my parent’s house on 9th Street was facing the West. A lot of times as a kid, I’d come home from school and lay on my bed to do my homework. Sometimes I’d drift off to sleep, with the soft low light seeping in through that window, like some syrupy sleep potion. I’d dream sweet dreams about the future, about love, about sorrow. Wonderful dreams, none of which I now can remember. Fall naps on school days. Winter naps on weekends. Simmer was for fun, so there was no time for naps then. Fall sunshine was my favorite. After all the leaves had fallen. I remember being able to look out that high window by standing up on my mattress. I loved to watch the cool winds of Autumn blow through the giant Magnolia tree that grew just outside, and watch those huge brown leaves tumble. I loved those solitary minutes that I was able to steal, as the Western sum light filtered in through that window.

At at our old house on Elm street, our living room had one window which faced West. I used to sit in my recliner many days, especially after 2011 and doze off in the evenings and daydream. In the Fall when the sunshine was “just right” it gave me a feeling of comfort and sometimes even euphoria to have the sweet sunshine lull me. I know, it sounds crazy…but it’s true.

It never happened to me while we lived in Mom and Dad’s old house on 7th street…in the two years we lived there from 2009 to 2011. The windows just weren’t in the right position. I did take quite a few naps with baby Rue and baby Eli there though…..just like I’ve napped with Evie and Ellie since then.

Since we moved from the old house to our place here in Ringgold, I haven’t had as many episodes of the “western light daydreaming” as I used to. We’ve certainly got plenty of light coming from the West though. Especially during the late Fall through early spring, when the leaves are off the trees.  The setting sun comes in the window every day and bids me goodbye and goodnight.  Maybe I don’t daydream as much because I’m getting older.  Maybe it’s because I have just “used up” all of my good daydreams.  Whatever it is….I miss them and hope that one sweet day, I’ll be sitting here looking out to the West and start to doze off…..