Archive for the Philosophy Category

ON POINTLESSNESS

As I have marched and slunk through this long life of mine, it has been my privilege to witness all kinds of efforts that have a point. At the same time, there have been numerous examples that escape enumeration where pointlessness seems to prevail. Let me give you an example or two.

On one occasion, I witnessed a weight-lifting contest. On another I saw a weight-lifting exhibition on television. My antiquated mind tells me that the epitome of pointlessness is weight lifting. What in the world does it accomplish?

The people who pursue a career in weight lifting soon develop a neck that is hard to fit with a standard collar. Their biceps bulge and their chest sticks out, so that fitting them with a suit is a difficult maneuver. Generally speaking, weight lifters are built low to the ground. I would be greatly surprised to see a weight lifter standing five feet ten or higher.

In the weight-lifting exhibitions that I saw, when the weight is lifted over the head with great groans, the climax seems to come when it is released and falls to the floor with a great thud. From beginning to end, I have always asked myself, “What is the point in weight lifting?” My conclusion is that it is absolutely pointless. There may be those who will disagree with that conclusion but for the time being, it seems to me that, again, weight lifting is the epitome of pointlessness.

In the southeastern states of this great country, there is inordinate interest in auto racing. There is an oval track, measuring perhaps two-and-a-half miles in length, where the contestants race their cars in an effort to beat the other contestants. The drivers seem to have their doors bolted in to place, as they climb in through the windows, and as far as I could tell the window glass no longer exists. They race perhaps for fifty or more laps around the oval, cutting off other cars, and from time to time there are spectacular collisions.

In this era where we are dependent upon Middle Eastern oil, it seems to me that in addition to pointlessness, this is a most wasteful exercise. The automobiles used in racing have large engines and probably get no more than eight miles to the gallon. Spectators sit in the stands alongside the track, amidst the smoke and the fumes. They spend the afternoon or evening just watching the cars go around and around. If there is a more pointless operation than auto racing, perhaps it is drag racing.

In drag racing, automobiles with tremendous engines try to beat other automobiles with tremendous engines from a starting point to a finish point perhaps fifty to one hundred yards away. Why this is called “drag racing” is beyond me, but it consumes great amounts of gasoline and the cars are often the victims of overheating and sometimes burst into flames. I am at a loss to believe that there is anything more pointless than drag racing or auto racing.

Mr. Bush, our greatest president in history, from time to time seems to emulate the wasted fuel that is used in auto racing and drag racing. He loads up his 747, called Air Force One, with I believe as many as eighteen thousand gallons of jet fuel and takes off to visit the far far corners of the world. In February, Mr. Bush embarked upon a junket to Africa. His journey was pointless in the extreme. He danced with a Zulu king and read a speech that was of utter valuelessness. Then he climbed into his 747 Air Force One and flew to the next stop.

When he reached Ghana, he attempted to lecture the natives on abstinence. Now it so happens that I spent the last fourteen or fifteen months of my WWII overseas service in the United States Army in Ghana. The men and women there have a free and easy way of life and do not regard sexual intercourse as a cataclysmic event.

When I was the Night Line Chief in Accra, the big British base that we used in Ghana, there was time to kill and I spent that time in discussions with well-educated natives. Those discussions disclosed that they viewed the white man’s efforts at love-making as prudish. The natives of the Gold Coast, which was Ghana’s former name, held the view that if a young man wished to make love to a young woman, he would choose an appropriate moment to suggest such activity. The name given to love-making is “jig-jig.” If the female refused his advances, there were no hard feelings on either side. Perhaps it could be explained as just a bad day.

But in any case, the honorable Mr. Bush used his visit to Accra to lecture the Ghanaians on the virtues of abstinence. Lecturing the men and women on abstinence in Ghana is almost as pointless as weight lifting or auto racing. It is very much like lecturing Eskimos on the danger of wearing bikinis during the winter months.

Today we have a case where the employees of the State Department rifled through the files not only of Barack Obama but also of Hillary Clinton and John McCain. At this early date, we have no conclusion as to why they engaged in this snooping. Without one shred of evidence, the higher authorities in the State Department have called this “innocent snooping.” I remind you this conclusion has been reached without a single shred of evidence.

Now we turn to the pointlessness of this exercise. We are told that the investigation is going to be turned over to the Inspector General of the State Department. In the first place, there is no State Department Inspector General in view of the fact that for the past many months, the Bush administration has refused to name a new Inspector General and so there is only an acting Inspector General.

You may rest assured that turning over the investigation to the Inspector general of the State Department is a pointless exercise in the extreme. At the most, he might hire a low-level contract employee but in the end, “any investigation” will be held back until the term of this Republican administration which ends in January of 2009.

Now there is the forlorn hope that if the Inspector General of the State Department finds some violation of law, he is supposed to turn over such violation to the Justice Department for prosecution. You may recall that the Justice Department allegedly has been conducting an inquiry into the activities of the former Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales. That investigation seems to have gone nowhere, in spite of the fact that there is a written record on several occasions where Gonzales obviously lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The intent in the Justice Department is to, again, play out the plot.

In the final ten months of the most corrupt administration ever in American history, you may expect no significant charges to be found by the authorities at the State Department or at the Department of Justice. In basketball, this is called “playing out the clock” or “freezing the ball.” And if Alberto Gonzales is found guilty of lying to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is hard to imagine given the current Attorney General, he will be pardoned as was the case in the Scooter Libby matter. The point is that there is total pointlessness in referring to the Inspector General of the State Department on the matter of raiding the files of the three candidates for the presidency, just as there is pointlessness in the investigation of Alberto Gonzales. You may remember that on several occasions, the new Attorney General has declined to identify waterboarding as torture. He says that he wouldn’t like it to happen to him, but he must protect the administration at all costs. And so the new Attorney General has prostituted himself on this subject. Expect nothing, because that probably is what we will get.

Well, there you have a few examples of what my alleged mind has produced as pointlessness. Perhaps pointlessness has a legitimate role to play in the affairs of the American republic. But certainly, our scholars and politicians are capable of better activities than weight lifting, NASCAR racing as well as drag racing, abstinence, and the like. The degree to which pointlessness exists in American life has been a concern of mine for a good many years. Now that I have written this gentle essay, I know that nothing will change. But for better or worse, it makes me feel a little better.

E. E. CARR
March 23, 2008
Essay 299
~~~
Kevin’s commentary: Back in high school, I often took English classes wherein participation was required. That is, in order to receive full marks in the class, one had to raise his or her hand and contribute to class discussions at least, for instance, two times a month. This doesn’t seem like much because it isn’t. That said I still knew several people who could not bring themselves to do it. I guess the reason would be shyness, or perhaps unfamiliarity with the material at hand. Despite being an introvert I was never one of these people, because if nothing else I had a penchant for correcting people who said dumb stuff. Indeed this is how I got the majority of my participation credits – by providing arguments.

However, worse than the people who didn’t say anything at all were by far the “agreers.” They were the dumb or quiet folk who either did not read the material or did not have anything to contribute, but who were conscious enough of their grade to contribute anyway. Invariably this was at least a third of the class. To avoid embarrassing themselves with an original thought that might be wrong or at least worth discussing further, they would wait for someone to volunteer something useful, and then at the conclusion of that person’s thought would immediately raise their hand. Upon being called on, they would say “I completely agree with so-and-so.” Sometimes they would then follow that up with a pertinent thought, like “you can find even more evidence of that on page 50” but more commonly you would hear “I thought the same thing when I was reading, and I really think the diction shows that that’s what the author meant” or some horseshit.

I’m making two points here. The first is that on a lot of Pop’s essays, I feel like one of the agreers, and I find that upsetting. As much as I’d like to play devil’s advocate here, to me NASCAR is indeed about as pointless as you can get. So far as lifting weights are concerned, I might be able to make a point about how it is a practice from which the lifters derive personal satisfaction and respect from their peers, which makes them happy and that’s a use (albeit a small one) onto itself. But such a point would be a stretch, because at the end of the day it’s about people making a heavy thing go up for six feet and then down for six feet. Whoopee!

The second is that the agreers are pretty damn useless themselves. And that means by extension, when I write a commentary that pretty much consists of the sentiment that “I agree with the contention of the essay,” I feel similarly useless sometimes. But the fact remains that often my thinking and Pop’s are well aligned. So be it.

SEX, SEX AND MORE SEX

It may seem unseemly for a man of my advanced years to write an essay about sexual matters.  On the other hand, it also seems to me that I had no choice in the matter.  If my mother were to reprimand me for having thoughts about ungodly matters, I would be forced to tell her, “Look, Mom, it ain’t me.  It’s all these other fellows talking about sex.”

In the past week or so, we find that the Governor of New York State is proposing to introduce a bill in his legislature to authorize marriage between people of the same gender.  That was followed quickly by the announcement from the Pentagon that the military services are going to rid themselves of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.  And finally there was the controversy stirred up by the announcement that Mr. Obama is going to deliver the commencement speech at Notre Dame University.  The controversy is anchored in Obama’s thoughts about permitting abortions.

I propose that we start with the proposal by David Patterson, the Governor of New York, to introduce a bill that would permit marriages between homosexual people.  Governor Patterson is a little late to the dance in that there seems to be a movement toward permitting such marriages in this country.  A week or so ago the great state of Iowa passed a bill in its legislature to permit such marriages.  There are now four or five states that permit such marriages and we have the great state of New Jersey, where I now live, threatening to do the same thing.

My views on this matter are well known to the readers of Ezra’s Essays.  It is my belief that a good number of people are born with homosexual tendencies just as there are people who are left-handed or who become bald.  Fundamentally, I believe that there is no such thing as acquired homosexuality.  In short, a person who has homosexual tendencies can do nothing about it.  Beyond that, there are those who would argue that nothing should be done about it.  I belong in the latter camp.

If a lesbian couple or a gay couple lived next door to me, it would have absolutely no effect whatsoever upon my marriage.  It would seem to me that Christian charity would have a complete understanding of this situation.  But, unfortunately, the misunderstanding originates with Christian conservatives.  Curiously, they cite an obscure reference in Leviticus which holds that a man should not sleep with another man. It is of great significance that female homosexuals are not mentioned at all.  To a large measure, the opposition to homosexual marriages is confined to gay people of the male gender.

In the Episcopal Church, a bishop in New Hampshire is a gay man named Gene Robinson. He has lived with his partner for many years.  In my humble opinion, the Reverend Robinson seems to have shown great love for his longstanding partner.  Yet the Episcopal Church is now threatened with a schism which would split the church apart and which could endanger the Anglican Communion under the Archbishop of Canterbury.

It escapes my understanding totally that a religion that embraces love of one’s fellow man should condemn a man because he suffers from a condition over which he has no control.  To repeat an argument that I have used on previous occasions, according to Christian beliefs, all of us are manufactured in the image of God.  Are we to conclude that in the case of gay people or lesbian women, God made a hell of a mistake?  At this point, may I say that God made no mistake, even if those words come from a person with no religious affiliation whatsoever.  Governor Patterson will have a monstrous battle on his hands because his proposal will arouse all sorts of religious opposition.  I have no intention of seeking a gay partner to take into New York to realize the benefits of the Governor’s bill.  I am just a straight man in New Jersey, transplanted from my Missouri roots, who wishes David Patterson God speed in his efforts to overcome a ridiculous bias.

 

Now we turn from a matter of religion to the military.  In pursuing this subject in the military, I am on firmer ground having served a hitch in the American Army.  During my period of service, there was no formal policy against gay people in the military.  It was after the war ended that the conservatives on the right demanded that the military should have a policy excluding gay people.  The debate ended when the military accepted the idea of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”  If I may say so, based upon my experience with the American Army, this is a preposterous solution to this question.

During my service, I was never propositioned by a gay soldier.  I suspect that, in all likelihood, there were gay people who served with me.  But there were never any overtures made to engage in a sexual romp.  No one ever snuck into my bed or cot in the tents or barracks and said, “Let’s make out.”  That didn’t happen.  In other words, the government set out to address a problem that really didn’t exist.

In its application, the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy has resulted in the discharge of thousands of people who are badly needed.  For example, there were several hundred translators skilled in the use of the Arabic language who were dismissed under this policy.  As a result, I am told, there are thousands of pages of documents that are untranslated because the interpreters have been fired.  This is nothing less than cutting off your nose to spite your face.  And it is a national disgrace.

The Secretary of Defense, Mr. Gates, now says that it will take as much as five years to make the new policy effective.  I see no reason why it should take as much as five years to do what is right and should have been done all along.  But in the final analysis, I should be grateful that the American Army and the other military services are now doing the right thing.  That is an accomplishment in and of itself.

Now we return to the proposed commencement address to be given by Barack Obama to the graduating class at Notre Dame University.  As is widely known among the readers of Ezra’s Essays, I have failed to attend a college of any sort.  However, in the bargain as a child of Irish parentage, I have followed the fortunes of Notre Dame very carefully over the years.  When I was a youngster growing up, autumn Saturday afternoons were reserved for hearing the broadcast of Notre Dame football.  To a large extent, I lived and died with the outcome of Notre Dame football games.  I suggest that there are millions of other people of Irish ancestry who are similarly affected.  In the final analysis, the Notre Dame football club is called the “Fighting Irish.” Perhaps that name says it all.

Now it seems that the fact that Barack Obama supports a woman’s right to choose, which is in accordance with decided law in this country, has made him ineligible to deliver the commencement address at Notre Dame University in 2009 which includes an honorary doctorate.  It has always been my belief that universities exist for the purpose of the free exchange of ideas.  Under Father Hesburgh, who guided the fortunes of Notre Dame for many years, that would be the case.  His successors extended the invitation to Barack Obama in the same spirit that Father Hesburgh originated.  There is now a movement that would seek to deny Obama this opportunity to express his views and to receive an honorary doctorate.  My guess is that the movement to stop Obama’s speech will fail miserably and that the talk will take place.

 

I suppose that those who are opposed to the speech only approve of a speaker who produces the standard Roman Catholic line of opposition to abortion in all circumstances. But that is not the purpose of having a great university like Notre Dame.  In the end it is quite likely that those who oppose a Roman Catholic’s right to choose will still hold that view after his speech.  And those who want freedom of choice for women in their pregnancy will probably still hold that view as well.  So in all likelihood, Obama’s speech will change no minds.  But on the other hand, he deserves to be heard, which is in the spirit of a great university such as Notre Dame.

Well, now I have told you about Governor Patterson introducing a same-sex marriage bill in New York and the lifting of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.  And, finally, I have mentioned the commencement address by the President at Notre DameUniversity this coming June.  I know that this essay started out to talk about sex, sex, and more sex.

If I may offer a thought in conclusion, it might be that homosexual arrangements, in marriage or in the “a cappella” arrangement, might be beneficial to all concerned because lesbians and gay men do not impregnate each other; thus the issue of abortion is completely avoided.

This then is my solution to the problem, which seems to antagonize so many of those on the Christian right.  And to readers of Ezra’s Essays, I apologize for the thought that the title of this essay might lead one to believe that this was an essay about salacious thoughts.  But seminarians like myself are devoid of such evil and wicked things.  We are like the driven snow.

 

E. E. CARR

April 21, 2009

Essay 378

~~~

Kevin’s commentary: Man, I think Pop passed up a shot at an even raunchier title, namely “Sex Sex and Gay Sex” or “Gay Sex, Gay Sex and Gay Sex.” But alas, he has yet to reach out to me as a title consultant. Generally speaking he does just fine on his own.

The content of this essay makes me proud of my grandfather for being so progressive. Things were different back when he was growing up, and the opinions he holds now are almost guaranteed to have been generated from introspection. I like to think that in part, the fact that I grew up in a very tolerant household is directly attributable to Pop’s tolerance of basically everyone, except I suppose German/Japanese automobile makers. And that last quirk didn’t rub off onto Mom, so my brothers and I are, I hope, largely free and clear of these weird biases that so many people still hold.

SPEAKING UP

Those of you who have come to know me in the past 60 years are probably aware that I harbor certain prejudices.  I see nothing to praise, for example, about the New York Yankees, particularly when they are under the direction of George Steinbrenner.  On the other side of the coin, it has always struck me that the St. Louis Cardinal organization is an entirely praiseworthy outfit from owner to the bat boy.

To carry my prejudices a step further, the world has never known me to full of praise for the German nation.  I feel a lot better about the Germans now that Chancellor Schroeder has taken a principled stand against George W. Bush’s attempts to strong arm the United Nations Security Council on invading Iraq.  While I feel a lot better recently about the Germans, that doesn’t alter the fact that I don’t paste Weiner Schnitzel decals on my Canadian/American Chrysler nor do I do the goose step.

The reason for my less than enthusiastic thoughts about the German nation is that the descendents of the Kaiser attempted, for more than three years, to have me killed.  I, of course, resented that effort during World War II.  In the First World War, German soldiers attempted to gas and to shoot two of my mother’s brothers which made my mother very unhappy.  Perhaps it can be said that I come by my prejudices honestly. Even George Bush carried a prejudice against Saddam Hussein because as Bush said, “He tried to have my daddy killed”.  I know that killing is bad stuff, but it should be explained to the Vietnam avoider that killing is what war is all about and always has been.  Killing Bush’s “Daddy” would have been a routine event for Saddam.  So what else is new?

There is a second prejudice or bias which also applies in the current discussion, that being about religion.  On my sixth birthday, my mother announced that her youngest living child had reached the biblical “age of accountability”.  So she attempted to “save” me in the religious sense.  The “saving” backfired and for the past 75 years, I must state that my absolute faith in non-belief of any religious matters has remained completely intact and has served me well.  When death finally rears its ugly head, it will be greeted not by Bible thumping preachers, but by a drinking party at which it is hoped that Champagne will be served by the deceased host, namely me.

Near the end of World War II in Africa and Europe, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the pony edition of Time Magazine and the military publication Stars  and Stripes, became my main, or only, source of news.  Even today, at noon time, I can remember the BBC announcer saying at the start of the news of the day, “London calling”.  I might add that BBC broadcasts were for my money, the most reliable during the invasion of Iraq. To have lasted this long is a remarkable feat and I send my congratulations.

The war in Europe ended on May 8, 1945.  Shortly after the end of hostilities, I became aware that a German Lutheran pastor, jailed by the Nazi’s, was saying things that I ought to listen to.  The pastor was a German war hero from World War I.  His name of course, is Martin Niemöller, a former U-boat commander from the previous war.  In 1924, Niemöller was ordained as a Lutheran pastor.  Shortly after his release from Hitler’s concentration camps in 1945, Niemöller began to speak out.  Before the war started, Niemöller had vigorously opposed the Nazi Party.  It is remarkable that he was not killed instead of being sent to the concentration camps.

So here I am now saluting a preacher and a German one at that.  You may ask what gives here.  Niemöller’s biography, states that he spoke to over two hundred audiences when he came to the United States after the war.  In almost every case, Niemöller concluded with these sort of words that still ring in my ears:

 

“First, they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist.  Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.  Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.  Then the Nazis came for the Communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.  Then they came for the Catholics and I was a Protestant so I did not speak up.  Then they came for me.  By that time, there was no one to speak up for anyone.”

MARTIN NIEMÖLLER

 

For the better part of 60 years, Martin Niemöller’s words have stuck in my mind.  To do nothing is often a perilous course to follow.  And of course, Niemöller’s injunction against doing nothing is something every citizen of a democracy ought to keep in mind.  Never take civil liberties for granted – Never.

All of this is brought to mind by the United States Senate now unsealing 4000 pages of transcripts from secret sessions held by Senator Joseph McCarthy, Republican of Wisconsin in 1953 and 1954.  Ruth Rosen who writes for the San Francisco Chronicle calls this the “most poisonous period in our nation’s past”.  She goes on to say:

 

“One lesson is how quickly our fragile freedoms can be eroded.  McCarthy rose to power in 1950 on a tsunami of anti-communist hysteria, brandishing a list of ‘known Communists’ in the State Department and held public trials to enhance his own political clout.  He fell from power only when his attacks against the United States Army exposed his indecent prosecution of innocent people.  The Senate censured him in December, 1956.  Discredited and disgraced, he died three years later at the age of 47 years.”

“Nevertheless, his influence lasted for more than a decade.  Loyalty oaths, indictments and black lists destroyed the careers and reputations of thousands of innocent people.  Fear of internal sabotage and infiltration of all institutions crushed dissent.  A pervasive atmosphere of fear quarantined permissible debate.”

Ruth Rosen, San Francisco Chronicle

 

The Bush administration including George W. and Attorney General Ashcroft, are clearly moving to curb or destroy our civil liberties.  Ashcroft has encouraged Federal agencies to reject Freedom of Information Act requests.  Bush has sealed the papers of former Presidents.  In spite of its name, the USA Patriot Act is a sinister act which has expanded government surveillance powers and trampled on the privacy rights of American citizens.  And at the Pentagon, former Admiral John Poindexter now runs his Total Information Program which wants to determine and record what you read and – think about this – how you walk.  The program has been renamed, but the goals remain the same.

Russ Feingold, the Democratic Senator from McCarthy’s home state and the only Senator who voted against the USA Patriot Act, is a fellow filled with doubt and pessimism.  Feingold says, “This is a dark hour for civil liberties in America.  What I’m hearing from Muslims, Arabs, South Asians and similar residents of this country, suggests a climate of fear toward our government that is unprecedented.”  He is quite right.

Consider these two thoughts.  The USA Patriot Act requires librarians to turn over records of those who have been reading what books.  More than 100 communities have passed resolutions against giving Ashcroft library records of who has read certain book titles.  They are shredding those records rather than to give them to Ashcroft.

Now consider that Ashcroft, supported by Bush, has decreed that anyone he names as an enemy combatant, is not entitled to bail and may not consult with a lawyer!  It now appears that if such persons are ever tried, they will be tried by a military court.  As an old soldier, I am here to warn you that “charges dismissed” or “innocent” are words seldom uttered by a military court.  Very often, it is exceedingly difficult to learn of the military court’s decision or its reasoning.

So far, several hundred men rounded up in Afghanistan are held on Guantánamo in Cuba without having the opportunity to select a lawyer.  In addition, at least one or two Americans have been designated by Ashcroft as “enemy combatants” with no testimony at all being heard.  All of these people are in legal limbo as the Bush Administration has intimidated the courts to allow them to be held in custody.  And the press has been cowed as well.

All this does violence to the American concept of justice.  It shouldn’t happen here, but under the leadership of Bush and Ashcraft, civil liberties are being withheld and denied.  The next step is for the Bush-Ashcroft-Cheney-Rumsfeld regime to attempt to punish dissent.  Already, they have stuck a lot more than toes in the water as they have accused Democrats and other dissenters of lack of patriotism when they have opposed Republican initiatives.  And to his everlasting discredit, Tom Daschle, the leader of the Democrats in the Senate, folded his tent and slunk away after Bush’s people accused him of unpatriotic motives.  He simply accused the Bush administration of failure to plan for the rejection of the vote in the United Nations Security Council.  Daschle simply surrendered to the Bush bullies, in spite of the fact that he was right.

An old maxim holds that the price for liberty is eternal vigilance.  This is a dangerous period under George Bush when civil rights and liberties are being subjected to daily attacks.  Unless the Democrats can locate their courage, the future for rights and liberties now look fairly bleak.

By this time, I suspect that some of you may be wondering about my extolling the virtue of a former German man of the cloth, Martin Niemöller.  Currently, it is my thought that as long as Germany wishes to operate peacefully as they have done since 1945, they are an asset to civilized society and ought to be applauded.  On the other hand, I am not shopping for a Mercedes or a BMW nor do I plan to March in the Stueben Day Parade.  As long as the Germans are peaceful and vote against Bush’s pre-emptive invasion of Iraq, I am all for them.

Now as to those of you who may think that my praise of Martin Niemöller represents a change in my religious views, kindly forget it.  My belief in non-belief has not been altered in any respect.  What I have attempted to do in this essay is to salute a very brave man.  When war came in 1914, Niemöller answered the call to duty and served as a U-boat submarine commander.  The fact that he was on the other side from the brothers of my parents does not alter my views.  He carried out his duty to his country.  He was a brave man and I salute him for it.

If Niemöller believed, as a preacher, in eternal life, salvation through being saved and the resurrection, these are propositions that I don’t accept.  In any case, they are beyond this small essay.  Niemöller was a brave man who spoke some eloquent words on the subject of speaking up.  For that, I wanted to pay him a modest tribute.

 

On the other hand, if my religious beliefs are cockeyed, it will be my pleasure to meet Martin Niemöller in Heaven or Paradise where I am certain that he has already read this essay.  Perhaps by the time I arrive, the Reverend may ask me for my current religious views in exchange for which, I would like to hear some stories about him being a U-boat Commander in World War I.  Niemöller may ask if wars are still being fought long after he has been sent to his heavenly reward.  I will tell him that unfortunately is the case.  But being a resident of Paradise or Heaven, I suspect that he already knows that.  I will also tell Reverend Martin that his injunction to speak up against tyranny is excellent advice, particularly here in the United States, against the excesses of the George W. Bush administration who now presents himself as a latter day patriot.  Bush ran away during the Vietnam War.  I would remind Bush that patriots do not attempt to destroy American civil liberties.

 

E. E. CARR

May 22, 2003

Essay 68

~~~

Kevin’s commentary: This essay is particularly topical in light of recent NSA actions to monitor and harvest data from nine of the biggest companies on the internet.  People need to realize that there is a tradeoff between liberty and security and we’re already tipping way in the favor of the latter. To get from 99.8% secure to 99.9% secure requires a hugely disproportionate sacrifice of basic privacy and freedoms.

ABIDING CONCLUSIONS

The title to this essay is a very practical one. The “abiding” part has to do with some thoughts that have remained in my brain for the better part of 80 years. The “conclusion” part has to do with these statements which allow no room for debate. And, finally, you will be surprised to know that the title of this essay springs from my thoughts about an old Protestant hymn called “Abide with me.” The first verse of that old hymn contains these lines:

Abide with me.
Fast falls the even tide,
The darkness deepens.
Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail
And comforts flee,
Help of the helpless,
Oh, abide with me.

I am not quite sure if the authors of that old hymn view it as the opening lines of an iconoclast’s essay. But the fault lies not with me but with the authors of that hymn. They are the ones who put the abiding conclusions firmly in place in my brain for the past 80 years. Now, having introduced you to a hymn of the Protestant faith, I think that we can proceed with abiding conclusions.

There are six in number. The first abiding conclusion comes from Walter Nollmann, who happens to be our son-in-law. Walter is properly wed to my elder daughter, a fact to which I can attest because I attended their wedding.

For the many years that the New York Jets, a football team, have been in existence, Walter has followed their fortunes assiduously. I am not that much of a football fan because of the brutality involved in the game. But in any event, it seems to me that over many years, the New York Jets have had a tendency to lose their games in the last few minutes. Sometimes the loss involves stupid penalties and other times it involves not being on top of clock management. But be that as it may, Walter Nollmann has made the following abiding conclusion to which I subscribe. Walter has said that, “In the end, you know that the New York Jets are always going to break your heart.” There is no argument about his conclusion. A fact is a fact. And so the fans of the New York Jets always proceed into games knowing that sooner or later the Jets will break your heart.

Now we proceed to an abiding conclusion from a gentleman for whom I have the highest respect. That would be Wayne Johnson.

Wayne is a plumber extraordinaire who has some observations about life, particularly here and in New York. Wayne attended a trade school where he learned the art of plumbing, which he practices with great artistry.

Upon learning of my blindness four and a half years ago, Wayne accepted a cup of coffee from Judy, my wife, and sat down in a living room chair. Early in the conversation, Wayne said to me, “I see you have had a bit of a setback.” From that point the conversation flowed freely and I explained to him what glaucoma amounted to. It was a great relief to discuss blindness openly with a person whom I greatly respect. Compare that to the experience of a treasured friend who had had a mastectomy. She has reported that in some of her conversations with people she has known a long time, they make great efforts to avoid the use of the word “cancer.” An identical avoidance occurs when the subject is blindness. In Wayne’s case, he said that he had observed that I had “a bit of a setback” and that I was doing everything possible to overcome it. As I said, that was four and a half years ago and my memory of that discussion vividly remains with me. It is for that reason that I have included it in my abiding conclusion essay.

Now let us turn to Tom Eadone, who for many years operated a limousine service based in Chatham, New Jersey. Tom was a native of Newark, New Jersey and he distrusted politicians of all stripes. His distrust was well-placed because there are not many politicians blessed with honesty who come from the Newark background. On one occasion, Tom offered this abiding conclusion. Mr. Eadone said, “I never trust a politician who spent more on his campaign than the job would pay him.”

As you can see, those words of caution have long been with us. Regularly politicians up to and including the federal level spend more on their campaigns than the jobs that they seek would ever think about paying them. Michael Bloomberg, who spent an inordinate amount of money to be elected mayor of New York City for his third term, would be the prime candidate for violating Tom Eadone’s rule. But Tom’s cautious thought is a thorough abiding conclusion. Never trust a politician who spends more on his campaign than the job will pay.

The next abiding conclusion comes from my favorite hardware store owner, who goes by the name of Lefty Vincendese. Lefty has survived the landing of 1944 at Omaha Beach. As happens to most of us, as age bears down upon our shoulders, two or three severe ailments have tended to slow Lefty down. He is more than 80 years of age, so that is fully understandable. In recent years, Crohn’s Disease has descended upon Lefty. I gather that Crohn’s Disease is a painful ailment. On one occasion, Judy, my wife, asked Lefty how he was feeling. Lefty responded by saying, “I will never feel good again.”

There seems to be an affinity between not feeling well and aging. If Crohn’s Disease is thrown into the mix, it is entirely understandable why Lefty would say that he does not look forward to feeling good again during his remaining years. The point is that Lefty was not seeking anybody’s pity. He was merely stating a fact that should have been apparent to all of us. After Lefty made that remark, I concluded that it had to be involved in our abiding conclusions. It is one of the greatest.

Now let us go on to a personal involvement of mine. In 1942, when I enlisted in the American Army, there was a six-week period of training in Las Vegas, New Mexico where dust pervaded the drill field as well as the barracks and the mess halls. There was a corporal there who was put in charge of training my platoon. Somewhere along the line, he wanted us to march in an oblique fashion. That means marching at a 45˚ angle as opposed to left flank, which is 90˚, or right flank or straight forward.

Clearly, the corporal was having trouble with what he wanted us to do and at one point I spoke up. I said to the corporal, “I think I can help you.” Instantly the corporal said, “Soldier, you don’t get paid for thinking. You get paid for doing whatever you are told to do.” That event took place 68 years ago or thereabouts, and I have not forgotten it. Presumably if I had stayed in the American Army I might now be a staff sergeant or perhaps even a colonel. But I elected to leave the Army at the first opportunity. But I have always remembered the thought that “Soldier, you don’t get paid for thinking.” So it is inevitable that it be included in our abiding conclusions.

The final thought has to do with Dell van Buren Barbee. In a previous essay, I explained that Dell was the car washer in one of the filling stations in which I worked. Dell had two or three years of schooling in a Mississippi school house for black people. I suspect that it was not of the Harvard level. But Dell could make his points reasonably clear. On a cold winter’s day when rain obliterated the Missouri landscape, Dell offered these unsolicited thoughts to me about relations between the sexes. I will clean this up as best I can; I believe you will get his meaning. Dell van Buren Barbee said, “If God invented something better than f..ing, he kept it for hisself.” I made no attempt to correct Dell’s grammar because I was overwhelmed by the logic of his remark.

So there are the six instances of abiding conclusions. Many of them have appeared in earlier essays but have never been brought together in this context. I am going to offer these abiding conclusions to my grandsons, which will give them a firm footing as they proceed in life. On the other hand, they may have little value at all. I cannot escape the conclusion that the words “Soldier, you don’t get paid for thinking” are of inestimable value. If we had clear thinking like that coming from our politicians, we might have avoided the near meltdown of our financial institutions. But then again, perhaps nothing could be done about the recession or depression that is upon us.

This essay started with a Protestant hymn, which is a magnificent piece of music. It can be sung as a solo; it lends itself to duets as well as trios

and quartets, as well as to choirs. And I can only repeat those lines about all of us growing older, saying “Help of the helpless, abide with me.” If there is anything that the deities can work on, it might be to stop the aging process. But I am here to tell you that it ain’t going to happen any time soon.

E. E. CARR

January 27, 2010

Essay 433
~~

Kevin’s commentary:

This is easily one of my favorite essays that I’ve posted in several weeks.

More on football brutality here.

Regarding politicians and payments, I am not sure it would be possible to find many who fit the criterion of the campaign costing less than the job. The highest office in the land is paid $400,000 a year, whereas the cost of a presidential campaigns runs into the dozens if not hundreds of millions. Now, if that rule only applies to out-of-pocket fundraising, perhaps a few more would fall into the net prescribed but it would still eliminate a sizable chunk. Romney, for instance, would only make $1.6 million as president for four years, whereas he personally contributed around $35 million to his own campaign.

In China that situation is even more interesting; officially, government salaries are very low, yet they are the most sought-after jobs in the country. People will buy a job that “pays” $2,500 a month for a million dollars, because it comes with the power to take bribes and generally be a corrupt asshole and make lots of cash.. A majority of the government in that country is run in this way.

More on  “you don’t get paid for thinking” here and here.

PARADISE AND MARTYRS AND VIRGINS

I realize that talking about religion is often considered a third rail in the public discourse in this country.  The following essay is a dispassionate view of the Muslim belief that martyrs, such as those blowing up dozens of their fellow citizens, both Muslims and Christians, will go directly to Paradise.  I am not an expert on heavenly rewards that accrue to Christians and Muslims, but I assume that the Muslim Paradise is a lovely place.  It is made more so by the promise of the Ayatollahs and the imams that martyrs will be rewarded by an entitlement to varying numbers of virgins.  The number of virgins seems to range from 20 in one case to as many as 100 in another case.

I am not a Muslim, so I do not know how to pick the best deal on entering Paradise.  But several questions occur to me.  For example, where is Paradise located?  Is it adjacent to the Christian heaven?  Is it located high up in the sky and, if so, what are we going to do about the lack of oxygen and cold temperatures that occur at high altitudes?  The next question would have to do with whether my bodily remains will be transported to Paradise.  Otherwise, how can I walk around Paradise and enjoy the company of the many virgins who will accompany me?  Until the Ayatollahs find it in their hearts to answer such innocent questions as these, I believe that I will continue to withhold my membership from their mosques.

Does it strike anyone as peculiar that martyrs are always male figures?  Even the Catholic Church has admitted female nuns to sainthood.  But from what I have read – and I do not read Arabic – it seems that Paradise is reserved for males.  The only females who have ever been mentioned in my presence have been the virgins.  This would suggest that the male domination here on earth would continue when Paradise has been achieved.

Now a particularly vexing question occurs when a prospective martyr is told that he will receive somewhere between 20 and 100 virgins.  The question has to be, “What in the world is he supposed to do with them?”  Is he supposed to hold hands?  Is he supposed to neck with them?  Is he supposed to make love with them?  According to the Koran or whatever the Muslims read those questions are left unaddressed.  If the virgins are supplied for the sole purpose of gazing at them, it would suggest that most martyrs would consider it a bad deal.  So until we know what a martyr is supposed to do with the virgins, I again will withhold my judgment.

Now it has always been assumed that the virgins who welcome the martyrs to Paradise are young.  But clearly that is absolutely not the case.  I have not done extensive research on this subject, but I assume that there are Muslim virgins in their 50s and 60s and some are even on Social Security.  Who gets to assign the virgins to the martyrs?  Does the martyr get to pick them out?  Let us say that a martyr is attracted to skinny women.  If such a virgin were assigned to a martyr who preferred fat virgins, could he reject her?  The same would apply to hefty women who might be bigger than the martyr himself.  So the point here is that in assigning virgins to the martyr, it does not follow that all of them will be young women, or thin women or fat women.

Now let us consider some practical matters about the virgins and martyrs.  If on the average there are 50 virgins supplied to the martyrs, the question is, who is supposed to keep peace among them.  Jealousies inevitably arise between women and their male counterparts as well. But I suppose that before long the martyr will soon become disgusted by the catfights that take place among his assigned virgins.  And what are we going to do with taking turns?  One of the sources of irritation would have to be that if the martyr, for example, showed some preference for one virgin over another.  Supposing he liked to hold hands or even neck with his virgin, this might become a scandal among the other virgins in the harem.

There is one thought that intrudes here.  Are we always to assume that every virgin is a Muslim?  Suppose a Christian or Jewish woman were included in the virgins assigned to the martyr.  Do you believe that if the martyr made love to such a virgin he would be committing a grave sin?  I do not know the answers to such ponderous questions as this, but it seems to me that the arrangement in Paradise is a lot like it is on this earth.  Here women are expected to provide meals and, I suppose, sexual service to the observant Muslims.  But in Paradise it would seem that much the same deal would apply with the exception that most of the residents of Paradise seem to be male martyrs.  Do you suspect that there may be some homosexuality taking place?  I can’t answer that question, but as a non-believer I try not to get mixed up in religious affairs.

Now another question comes into view.  When the martyr straps his suicide belt of explosives around his chest, and when he reaches the prescribed target, he will blow himself to smithereens.  I know a little bit about explosives and I can tell you that anyone in the vicinity of a large  explosive will be lost forever.  There is no better way to describe what happens than to say, being blown to smithereens.  If the martyr cannot enjoy the earthly existence as a man with two legs and two arms etc., and he is blown to smithereens, what is there left in Paradise for the virgins to claim as their own?  Beyond that, if it is contended that it is not the body that assumes residence in Paradise, one must assume that when the explosives go off in the belt worn by the martyr and destroy his body, he must also suffer the loss of his soul or whatever the Muslims call the inner self.

I am not ready for martyrdom either as a Muslim or as a member of any other religion.  Until all of these questions are answered, I would prefer for the imams and Ayatollahs who espouse sermons on Fridays in their mosques to retire until they have answers to my questions.

And what are we going to do about a virgin who tells the heroic martyr, “Not tonight, dear.”  Does that give him license to call on another virgin?  Or should the martyr sulk?  As a libertarian I continue to be troubled by the discrimination toward female martyrs of the Muslim sect.  What is their reward?  Do you think that in all of the Muslim lands, there are male virgins that can be collected in Paradise for distribution to female martyrs?  And, finally, I know that there are contentions that homosexuality does not exist in Muslim countries.  Don’t you believe it!

That brings up the question, “What is the reward for a gay or a lesbian martyr?”  Would the lesbians have some priority in picking virgins?  These are troubling questions for a non-Muslim infidel to master.  There is one other question having to do with celibacy.  If a celibate male ascended to Paradise, he would be assigned 50 to 75 virgins.  Would he be run out of Paradise because he rejected the use of the virgins?

Before this essay finishes, I would like to ask preachers of Muslim thought, “What rational man believes that complete virginity is the ultimate achievement in life?”  I am aware of the celibacy rules that pertain in some religions but I still shake my head at the thought that any rational man would assume that virginity is the sole ultimate achievement of mankind.

I am dictating this on a cold Thursday, which of course is the day before the Muslim Sabbath.  Tomorrow I will not attend religious services at my nearby mosque even if there were a nearby mosque.  That should not be considered a slight to the Muslims because I do not attend services on the Christian Sabbath.  May I assure all of my readers that I have no intention of becoming a martyr even though the prospects are enticing.

But until the imams and Ayatollahs answer my questions, I will withhold my adherence to their beliefs and I will try to stick around this earth to see whether or not Hosni Mubarak finally discerns that the Egyptian people no longer want his services.

 

E. E. CARR

February 10, 2011

Essay 533

~~~

Kevin’s commentary: you know, I actually took 2 or 3 classes at Northwestern that touched on this, because middle eastern studies fell into the scope of my major. So I can shed some light! The Qur’an talks a couple times about these “companions” that are promised in addition to the spouses you get. Said companions are supposed to have really pretty eyes and be “ideal,” but that’s pretty much all you get. The companions are gender neutral; women can make it to paradise just like men.

Now, once you get into Hadith, that’s when things start to get pretty messed up. Hadith, for the uninformed, are things that we’re pretty sure that the prophet Muhammad probably said something similar to, at some point.

You might think that it would be crazy to count on the godly reliability of literally any fucking thing that any person who knew Muhammad alleges that the guy said — not to a crowd, not in a temple, just a thing that he at one point told someone. But it’s okay! For the last fourteen hundred or so years there’s been a group of people who have wasted their lives attempting to trace the reliability of thousands and thousands of claims about hadith, much of which were recorded centuries after the death of the prophet. What this means is that if you were rich, or your cousin was related to Aisha, you could say shit like “in the market the other day, I asked Muhammad about the afterlife and he promised me that I would get to bone 70 translucent angel virgin chicks” and boom you have scripture. There are 4000 of these accepted hadith and they’re mostly comical.

(Sitenote: As if the scripture was any better… there are these amazing rules for, say, the mild penalties incurred if a man cheats on his wife, but if he cheats on his wife with the wife of the prophet then you’re supposed to die, etcetc. It’s like, if I was a six year old and someone told me that I got to be the boss, these were the types of “rules” I’d make up. Here’s how the rules work, and here’s how they apply to me.  But my point here is that Hadith are even more baseless and absurd than the rest of the religious texts because they’ve obviously been made up by people in the year 700 who needed the ultimate authority on their arguments to rule in their favor.)

So yeah, Hadith. They’re bonkers and conflict a lot because, as I’ve hopefully made clear, they’re even more horseshit than normal religious texts are, mainly because if you have two guys from pure, reliable bloodlines and one of them says “we got promised 50 virgins” and the other one is more creative and he goes “no we get 70 and also they’re angel virgins” then you basically have to roll with it. There’s a whole secondary corps of people who are, even now, wasting their time trying to mediate between this type of conflict. They take it super seriously. Like, still-put-you-to-death-in-2013-based-on-a-thing-that-a-friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend-said-that-someone-said-that-someone-said-that-Muhammad’s-brother-in-law’s-buddy’s-previous-dog’s-owner’s-nephew-heard-Muhammad-say serious.

 

Oh yeah the point of all this is that the Houris are almost entirely described in the Hadith, so you get gems like these, which have been lifted shamelessly from wikipedia:  “Houris will be so beautiful, pure and transparent that the marrow of the bones of their legs will be seen through the bones and the flesh.”

Also that “they will not urinate, relieve nature, spit, or have any nasal secretions. Their combs will be of gold, and their sweat will smell like musk. The aloes-wood will be used in their censers.”

This one’s probably my favorite though: “Houris do not want wives to annoy their husbands, since the houris will also be the wives of the husbands in the afterlife. “Mu’adh bin Jobal (Allah be pleased with him) reported that Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said, ‘A woman does not annoy her husband but his spouse from amongst the maidens with wide eyes intensely white and deeply black will say: Do not annoy him, may Allah ruin you.” He is with you as a passing guest. Very soon, he will part with you and come to us.”

God’s word right there, if I’ve ever seen it.

I wish I could say I were making this up. I could write a whole second rant like this about suicide bombing’s permissibility (not permissible. You’re cool to die a martyr if you get overwhelmed by enemies and you blow yourself up to take some of them with you, but only if your life is 100% forfeit. If you just walk onto a bus of infidels and blow it up, you’re actually NOT in the clear. Who knew?) but it’s bedtime.

 

 

 

Oh PS, “Not tonight, dear” is grounds for divorce

IT HASN’T HAPPENED YET

In the spring of the year 2010, I found myself in the offices of my favorite internist on more occasions than I would like to recall.  I had no specific complaints, such as my foot hurting or my head hurting, but rather I told the internist that I simply felt lousy, lousy, lousy.  The internist did what internists have always done.  At first they order blood tests.  My blood tests showed that everything was normal.

So the internist referred me to a lung specialist.  I made two trips to the lung specialist, including a breathing test, and passed all of them.  But I still felt lousy.

So the internist then referred me to an allergist.  He prescribed a medication that relieved my breathing problems but stopped urination.  Given a choice between breathing and urination, I opted for urination.

It seems to me that there was one other referral made by the internist but I can’t remember what that one was.  Finally the internist must have suspected that at 88 years, I was responding to voices from outer space.  On that final occasion, the internist recommended that I should go see a psychiatrist.

It was difficult to find the office of the psychiatrist but eventually it was located.  The first visit was getting to know each other.  The second visit had to do with getting down to business.  By the time the third visit took place, I had come to the conclusion that there was no point in seeing the psychiatrist any more.  Apparently, he had come to the same conclusion.

But he did offer this one gem that has stuck with me ever since my visit.  I told the psychiatrist, among other things, that I had the feeling that I was taking cold that would lead to pneumonia, or that I was falling.  The psychiatrist answered by saying, “It hasn’t happened yet.”

I believe that I had told the psychiatrist that for the first 70 missions that I flew in World War II, I wore my parachute harness which was a bit of a bother.  On the 71th mission, we were shot down and it was necessary to use that parachute harness finally.  I told the psychiatrist that my fear of catching cold and falling down was well founded just as the fear of being shot down justified my wearing that parachute harness for the first 70 missions.

The psychiatrist was never a soldier and therefore never appreciated my thought about wearing the parachute harness.  Instead, he simply repeated to me in connection with my current concerns, “It hasn’t happened yet.”

I made three trips to the psychiatrist’s office and came away with one thought in my pocket.  That thought was, “It hasn’t happened yet.”  As time goes on, when I have a fear of falling or being hit by a missile or being struck by thunder, I can always recall that it hasn’t happened yet.  While I did not think much of going to the psychiatrist, I find that his advice that it hasn’t happened yet was well founded.

So I offer this thought to you.  If you go through life saying that it has not happened yet, you will save yourself trips to the hard-to-find psychiatrist’s office and the money you save will be devoted to other matters that you enjoy.  I am happy to be of service to my readers in this regard.  Remember that when you suspect danger, you should always repeat the thought that it hasn’t happened yet.  I find myself quoting those lines repeatedly these days and in fact it seems to work.  So remember it hasn’t happened yet, and for all we know it may never happen.

Final thought.  After the experience with the psychiatrist, I had some problems that required me to visit a neurologist.  The first thing she did was to order a blood test during which it was disclosed that on one hand, the level of vitamin B-6 was high at five times the upper limit.  On the other hand, the level of vitamin B-12 was quite low.   When I made adjustments for these two vitamins, the experience of feeling lousy, lousy, lousy disappeared.  In the end, I suspect, that the best advice I can give anyone is to go see their neurologist before seeing any psychiatrist.

 

E. E. CARR

July 1, 2011

Essay 560

~~~

Kevin’s commentary: In a rare twist ending, Pop totally got pneumonia here in 2013. So it has happened. And now it’s okay again. I’m not sure of the philosophical implications of its happening, but especially in conjunction with the parachute scenario maybe an essay entitled “It happened, but all is well” is in order.

 

MAKING THINGS EVEN

There are several conditions and practices in the world that authorize men to have multiple wives.  In the western world where Christianity prevails, we limit one man to one woman at a time.  A knock on Mormonism is that for years the Mormons insisted that their followers could have multiple wives.  It seems that Orrin Hatch, for example, the Senator from Utah, contends that he is a product of a Mormon marriage wherein he was the son of the number two or three or four wife.

In the interests of equality, it would be significant for me to find out if there is a religion that practices multiple husbands.  Certainly there must be some hot-blooded women who could handle two or three husbands at a time.  Currently that is against the law in the United States but I see no reason why the issue of multiple husbands could not be explored.  It has always been my interest in seeing that females were accorded equal opportunity.

The purpose of this essayette is to explore the possibility of multiple husbands for women, much as the Muslims provide multiple wives for their adherents’ marriages.  I do not expect that this thought of multiple husbands will sweep the country but in the interests of fairness, what could be wrong with looking into the possibility that some women desire and prefer multiple simultaneous husbands?  Yes, I know about the right-wingers who contend that a marriage should be between one woman and one man.  But I dismiss the thought processes of right-wingers.  As a matter of fact, they have no thought processes.

So this essayette is provided simply for the purpose of exploring the possibility that somewhere, some time, somehow there may be a religion or a practice that authorizes multiple husbands for women.  If love is a wonderful thing, what could be wrong with one woman having multiple husbands?  So I will leave you with those thoughts, recognizing that not many people will follow such a practice, but in any event I think it is worth considering.

 

E. E. CARR

August 3, 2011

Essay 569

~~~
Kevin Shepherd:

I wonder how many husbands Pop thinks that Judy ought to handle. I do wonder though, if there’s ever been a matriarchal culture where this was standard practice. Surely there has to be at least one?

Also, read more about Pop’s thoughts on this subject here.

THE ABOMINABLE MONTHS OF THE YEAR

For all of my long life, I have detested months that have 31 days in their duration.  At the moment, we are enduring the grim days of January in the new year.  When two months of 31 days follow each other, that is the cruelest time of year for every creature known to me.

July and August are 31-day months when the weather is warm or hot.  At least July and August have the saving grace of occurring during the baseball season and they are the location of the birthdays of my wife and myself.  So in fact I can live with July and August, even though they are 31-day months, which means that the banks and the investment houses can keep our money a day or two longer before returning the meager interest to us.  So in my case, I can survive the grimmest months of the summer because of the presence of baseball broadcasts.  I enjoy baseball’s pennant races and some of the trades that occur at that time of year.

But July and August are one thing.  When we reach the end of the year, we are confronted with the grim prospects of another pair of 31-day months known under the Julian calendar and perhaps under the Georgian calendar as December and January.  The weather is cold at this time of year in the northern hemisphere.  Bad news abounds everywhere. There are slips and falls, and complaints about inadequate heat are joys to the gas companies’ ears.  December is long and grim, ending in the Christmas season.  I am fully aware that there are those who take great delight in the coming of the Christmas season.  Unfortunately the proprietor of Ezra’s Essays is not among those who find delight in Christmas.  Beyond that, in the instant case, the end of December in New Jersey was marked by a snowfall that measured somewhere between 24 inches and 32 inches.  Immediately following hot on the heels of the long month of December is January, an equally grim month.  January is cold and long, and the days are short.

So I am proposing a means of keeping track of the passing of time that will not accord with the Julian or Gregorian methods now in use.  From all that I can gather in my research, the debate about the Julian and Gregorian systems had to do with the timing of Easter.  I cannot say that Easter brings joyful tidings to this old beat-up body.  Sometimes Easter comes early and sometimes it comes late, and often the women have to dress in their finery to greet Easter on a cold day.  But I am proposing a means of taking care of the long months.  It will probably not meet with the approval of the banks and holding companies.  But after their performance in recent years, they deserve to be held to account.

As I have said, there are two methods of keeping time in centuries called the Julian and Gregorian calendars.  The first was named after Julius Caesar and the second was named after a pope, both of whom presumably were Roman Catholics.  I am proposing that we do away with the Julian and Gregorian calendars and instead employ a method named after my father to be known as the Ezraine system of counting our days.

Actually the Ezraine method should have the word Senior in its title so that it would not be confused with the presumptions of a youngster such as myself.  I wish to point out that the method of Ezraine Senior occurred to me during the recent great snowfall when the ground and the highways were covered with pure white snow.  Snow whiteness of the ground leads me to believe that my method of counting our days is not only immaculate, but was perfectly conceived.  I believe it is fair to say that this was an immaculate conception.

What I am proposing in the Ezraine Sr. system of accounting for our days is that every month would have no more than 28 days.  Obviously I have taken my cue from the month of February, which has only 28 days.  During the month of February, there are faint signs of spring. We know that at the end of February, baseball players report to training camps.  From time to time there are warm days in February when we can see that springtime is not far off.

The main inducement is that February has only 28 days, which should be the model for every month in the year.  And if the banks and investment houses have to pay off their customers three days early, I would say, “More power to the people!  The hell with the banks and the investment houses!”

I am aware that if every month had only 28 days, there would be some days left over.  I am proposing that the leftover days be gathered in a bunch and should be celebrated by calling them the month of “Ezraine Junior”.  Further, I am proposing that this new month occur in October or late September, which would mark the end of the baseball season.

The month of Ezraine Junior was named after the Bible scribe of Jerusalem who was named Ezra.  It seems to this observer that for all of the previous centuries, the Julian and Georgian calendars celebrated the Roman Catholics.  Giving a shot to the Jews seems only fair to this observer who is neutral on all religions.

That is my contribution to the advancement of civilization.  The idea for every month having 28 days occurred to me on a snowy day when the ground and all the buildings were covered in white.  Thus the proposal has the background of being conceived in innocence and immaculately.

I now ask you who in this world could be opposed to the Ezraine Senior method of counting our centuries?  The obvious answer is only the bankers and the investment houses that plunged all of our prosperity into the ditch as recently as two years ago.  Don’t worry about the banks and investment houses as they are instruments of Satan.  I can only say in all honesty that the Ezraine Senior method of keeping track of centuries strikes me as entirely holy.  And I ask you, who can be opposed to holiness?

 

E. E. CARR

January 4, 2011

Essay 522

~~

Kevin’s commentary:

Would the baseball season be extended into the Ezraine Junior month? That’s really the key question there. I think a very short extra month could be rather nice, actually. Maybe it’d be a holiday month where everyone is required to stay home and watch baseball. Or listen to baseball as the case may be.

TIME

Perhaps I should spend more time in my bathroom in view of the fact that the preponderance of ideas that occur for these essays come to me during my bathroom visits.  I am not alone in extolling the virtues of the bathroom.  John Munro, the wonderfully gifted artist and composer, wrote a song not long ago called “While I Am Here.”   He is an Australian and moved there from his native Scotland a good many years ago.  When I asked Brother Munro the circumstances that led to his writing “While I Am Here,” he told me that he was taking a shower and the song came to him.  I would encourage all of my readers to pay attention to the words of John Munro and to take showers regularly.  The point is that some of his songs, some of his works, occurred to him as he was visiting the bathroom.

A blind man has great difficulty in making notations on inspirations that may occur while he is engaged in the bathroom.  Whatever notations I might save couldn’t be read by me.  The alternative is to call my wife and ask her to make a note on the cassette recorder that I will use at a different date.  Just recently one of the bathroom inspirations occurred to me.  This is basically a philosophical thought.  This rare philosophical thought holds that the time of day is mankind’s most democratic institution.

For example, when the twelve o’clock hour of the afternoon is reached, every man and woman takes a break to consider how the afternoon will proceed.  It makes no difference whether the man is a rich one or a poor one.  The fact is that the noon hour has been reached.  It is quite obvious that the rich man may dine on caviar and paté de foie gras while the poor man eats a bologna sandwich.  But that is not the point.  The point is that the noon hour has been reached and this applies to the wealthy man as well as to all others.  There is no such thing as having as having what Mitt Romney says as a retroactive noon hour.  As you can see, the time of day applies to everyone, which I consider to be our most democratic institution.  I realize that politicians will try to alter this concept by the introduction of daylight saving time.  But in the end, the time of day is mankind’s most democratic institution.

Everyone is restricted to the same number of hours.  Whether you call them days or nights, hours or minutes, it is the same for everyone.  This thought occurred to me in that holiest of places, the bathroom.  As such, I think it should be taken seriously.

It appears to me that two giant communist nations have undertaken a desire to tamper with time.  In Russia, for example, the same time, which is Moscow time, applies to Vladivostok on the eastern border of the Russia, and westward to the Polish border, a distance of about 3,500 miles.  This means that school children, for example, in the Vladivostok region reach school around the mid-morning hours that day.  But this is the Russian idea of democracy.  I don’t think much of it.

In China, another very large country, there is only one time zone, which is the time zone of Beijing.  But in the final analysis, the politicians may tamper with the time of day, but it all comes down to the thought that the time of day is mankind’s most democratic institution.

These thoughts about the time of day come to you from a man who has only intermittently worn a wristwatch. Actually, it was not a wristwatch but a wristwatch whose strap was folded in such a way that it would fit into a little pocket that men have in their jackets.  I only used it when I traveled.  Ordinarily I used nothing in the way of personal timepieces.  But be that as it may, I take great comfort in saying that the time of day is mankind’s most democratic institution.

It may also be argued that the time of day is mankind’s most autocratic institution.  However, the thought that the time of day is mankind’s most democratic institution came to me first.  I am willing to rest my case on that premise.

 

E. E. CARR

August 12, 2012

Essay 682

 

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Kevin’s commentary:

I had to create a new category — philosophy — to contain this post.

I think Pop may be amused to know that I too do some of my best thinking in the bathroom. For me it is the shower. You can ask any of my college roommates — when it came time to write any major paper for class, I would take what I called a ‘thesis shower’ which is exactly what it would sound like. Basically I would do a ton of research on the broad topic and then take as long of a shower as was necessary to assemble the research into the shell of an argument. I’ve been doing this since the highschool days with debate cases, and do it even still with my own personal blogs. I think it is fair to infer that the reason that the “Kevin’s commentary” section on this webpage is generally disjointed is simply that I do not tend to shower immediately prior to writing them.

In any event, I agree with the idea here that time is the greatest equalizer. All the money in the world cannot buy you a twenty-fifth hour in the day, and there’s something wonderful about that.

 

Pop’s response: The basic premise in this essay is that the time of day is the world’s most democratic institution.  I did not write this – but also the time of day is the most autocratic institution in the world.  This is a corollary thought.  If the time of day is our most democratic institution, then it must follow that the same time of day is our most autocratic institution.  If for example, I make a reservation to have a meal at 12 noon, I cannot object if the owner ignores me when I show up at quarter past the noon hour.

I did not write this because it would open up a new can of worms.  So I let the democratic proposition stand.

Ezra