Memorial Day 2012

And once again I say hello to you all. This is another scheduled post, as I’m not sure how busy I shall be during this period as I get settled in after our family finishes moving. So once again I leave you with something to read.

Often when I write, I write about something fictional. I write about a character based off of myself, somewhere else. I write about other people in places I’ve imagined. I write and am transported to another place, another time, another reality. But sometimes, I decide to write something that’s real. Not contemporary fiction, but something that really happened. It’s not often, but I do it. Earlier on I posted a short section from my memoir. The following selection is also from my memoir, and takes place on Memorial Day 2012. It’s fairly abrupt, but basically a brief snippet of a part of my day. As always, enjoy.

The mayor’s talking by the time I find somewhere good to stand, and then there’s a 21-gun salute. After that, there’s a prayer, a short speech by Barry, and a flower procession of sorts done by some little girls. Phillip plays “Amazing Grace” on the saxophone. Before I know it, the program is done, and there’s coffee and donuts for everyone, courtesy of a local bakery, I’m told.
There are Boston maple donuts, red, white, and blue donuts, jelly filled donuts, sugar donuts, and so many more I’m not sure which one to have. Decisions, decisions.
“You should really have one of those maple donuts,” a middle-aged lady says to me as she takes one. “They’re so—mm, mmm—delicious and sticky that they’re—oh, this is so good—a must have.” The woman winks and finishes the donut. I grin and try one. Hmm. It’s a little too sweet, but I finish it, then have some coffee to wash it all down. I only have it after I’ve poured in half a carton of half-and-half and several packets of sugar.
At exactly 8:30, everyone starts pulling out to go to the nearby village of Broadalbin for the parade. Pastor Mark puts all of the coffee and donuts in his car, and some of the church people help him. The Sunday school teacher for the teens offers to take me to Broadalbin and bring me back when it’s over. She introduces me to her husband and granddaughter, Laura, who I’ve already met earlier on.
It only takes about five minutes for us to get to Broadalbin. It’s a really small place, with practically everything on a couple of streets. We park in the small parking lot, then wait to cross the street. There are police cars, float trucks, vans, and all kinds of vehicles getting ready for the parade. I see a Freemason building. Interesting.
Once all of the church folks have set up their folding chairs and spray themselves with sunscreen and insect repellent, Pastor Mark says we can pass out the remaining donuts to everyone. I help myself to one more, then grab a box and walk to the back streets, where all the people are getting ready. I see the Perth Academy float truck.
Most of my donuts are gone in the first five or so minutes. I see a lady and her husband sitting in a car, and I go over and ask, “Would you like some donuts, ma’am?”
“No thanks, sweetie, I’m good,” she replies.
“Oh, get one for me then, Nancy,” her husband says. She glares at him.
I realize that she thinks she has to pay for them, and I roll my eyes. “They’re free, you know.”
“Oh, really?” She raises an eyebrow. “Then I’ll have one for each of us!” I grab a napkin and give her two, and she bites into hers, laughing a little. “Oh, this is so good. Thanks, dear.”
“Uh, you’re welcome,” I say and walk off.
“Isn’t he the sweetest thing you’ve ever seen?” I hear her say before she’s out of my hearing range. I fume.
Soon, the parade starts, and I find a good area to watch. There are police cars and fire trucks, marching bands and float trucks, and plenty of candy. It’s a glorious time, and when it’s done, everyone claps.

Once again, I thank you for taking the time to read through this post. Have a wonderful day, good people!

“Embrace complicatedness.” —IrishLioness

An Attempt At Poetry, Part 2

Why hello there, lovely people!

I have taken the time to put this post up in advance, so, if all goes well, you won’t be reading this in June, as I write this, but sometime in July.

If you know anything about me, I am not much of a poet (I put up a post a while back with two brief poems I wrote). However, I have done a little dabbling in the area. Below is a poem I wrote a few years ago. I have little idea why I wrote it or what inspired me to. Enjoy!

Final rays of sun are setting.
Then comes the dark, its chill is haunting.
And anything can happen; anything.

They never found out why he entered the place
That was guarded by a dead man’s face.
Yet he passed through it as if in a daze.

The floorboards groaned; some more they creaked.
The darkness reigned and stale water leaked.
His strength began to waver; yet he said he was not weak.

Down he went into a musty corridor.
With a determined look set on his face, for
Yet it was dark, he would still take more.

Where was he going? He did not know.
But what he’d take would be greatest foe.
Yet he thought he feared none, but lo!

The final door was in plain sight;
He’d arrived to the end without any light.
Yet behind the door lay his final fight.

There lay a box with a key—just one.
One box mattered not, for he had won!
But suddenly something struck as fast as a fawn.

It writhed and twisted and did a flip
And sucked the blood from off the man’s lip.
Shudder of passion, and Death had the man in its grip.

Day soon came. He was still there.
He had entered the vicious snake’s lair—
Yet he’d asked for it, they said it was fair.

But why did he go and enter that place?
To wander in the darkness of that evil maze.
Perhaps the answer was in the dead man’s face…

Less than three,
Josh

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8

If someone were to ask me what I was, in regards to personality, I’d probably say that I’m a cynic. But, recently, I started thinking about it, and I wondered if that was really accurate. Is a cynic just another term for pessimism? Is a cynic the “harsher” version of realism? What makes a cynic cynical? Who are the realists? What is the difference between optimism and pessimism?

In colloquial terms, we generally assume that a cynic is one who has a lower expectation of other people, tending to believe that their actions are driven by some ulterior motive; a pessimist tends to have a negative view of life in general; and a realist is one who sees life just as it is (which, if one thinks about it, is not exactly possible, as we are all imperceptibly inherently biased in one form or another.)

I waver between cynicism and realism, and often wonder if the two are but synonyms for each other. For example, a cynic tends to see things as they are, and often wishes that there could be a positive change, but realizes that other people make it highly improbable for there to be any lasting change. While a cynic may come off as cold or detached—as an INFJ may exhibit similar traits, but that’s for another post—they tend to observe the world and watch it as it goes through flux, rising and, of course, inevitably falling. A cynic has his standards, but rightly expects that they will be violated, as they all too often are. In essence, a cynic sees things as they are to an extent, but doubts them as they happen, which is not necessarily a bad thing, though it may sound that way. It keeps the cynic grounded in reality, and leaves him with a fairly accurate view of the future.

Another question that may come to mind is this: How are cynics and pessimists different? To help answer the question, I’m going to provide a few examples with what a typical pessimist and cynic would say.

Pessimist: Nobody’s going to be good to me.
Cynic: If someone’s good to me, they probably have a hidden agenda.
***
Pessimist: The glass is half empty.
Cynic: The glass is dirty.
***
Pessimist: The glass is half empty. It’s not going to be filled up now.
Cynic: The glass was full at first. Who drank the other half?

It appears as though the cynic has a doubtful *view* of life itself, while the pessimist *reacts* to life and its apparent unfairness. But is it really quite so simple? Is it truly possible to neatly label a person and stick a tag on them that identifies them as a realist or pessimist or nihilist or cynic? Can we so easily and casually decide that because this person is normally grumpy, he must be a cynic, or that because that person is impassive and apathetic, he is a nihilist?

Søren Kierkegaard said, “Once you label me, you negate me.” We as humans often feel the urge to describe a person in a word or two, when there’s so much more to that person. We use terms like conservative and liberal and socialist to simply everything—but that’s not the truth. We are anything but simple. We are complex persons, mysterious and contradictory. There is no way that we can be boxed up into one specific label. We are left with no freedom or opportunity to rise from our current status. We are negated, and our very individuality—our essence—is canceled. And that alone is one of the most egregious errors we can commit to ourselves and our fellow comrades.

Ultimately, I would have to say that I am not just a cynic or a realist or a pessimist. You are not just one of the above personality types. You are a distinctly unique person, complex and intricate. You are everyone else, and you are only yourself. We weren’t made to just blindly operate with just one set goal in mind, heedless to everything else.

We are here for so much more.

Less than three,
Josh

And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

–Ozymandias, Percy Bysshe Shelley

An Attempt At Poetry

Haidur!

Today’s post will be rather brief; I’m merely going to post two short poems I wrote. In case any of you wish to know, I fail horribly at writing poems with rhythms and rhymes and all that, so I mostly stick to haikus, cinquains, and the occasional limerick. Anywho, here are two poems I wrote a few months ago.

Beauty: A Cinquain
He sees;
It’s her. She stops.
There’s silence, and then she
Gives him a smile that stays with him–
Beauty.

***
Absolute: A Haiku
It takes a moment–
A smile, touch, a loving act.
Hold it while it lasts
.

Less than three,
Josh

“What is the Absolute? Something that appears to us in fleeting experiences–say, through the gentle smile of a beautiful woman, or even through the warm caring smile of a person who may otherwise seem ugly and rude. In such miraculous but extremely fragile moments, another dimension transpires through our reality. As such, the Absolute is easily corroded; it slips all too easily through our fingers and must be handled as carefully as a butterfly.” –Slavoj Žižek

Let’s (Sort Of) Talk About Atheists and Christians

Namaste!

This is the second post in my “Let’s Talk About X” series, which I just decided to do today. Like I ever plan. So, as usual, I’m going to type away whatever comes to mind, and you, dear reader, can come along if you wish.

Before I begin rambling, however, I’m going to post a quote that I’ve read before. It’s from Chassidic literature. Do read before continuing.

The Master teaches the student that God created everything in the world to be appreciated, since everything is here to teach us a lesson.
One clever student asks “What lesson can we learn from atheists? Why did God create them?”
The Master responds “God created atheists to teach us the most important lesson of them all — the lesson of true compassion. You see, when an atheist performs and act of charity, visits someone who is sick, helps someone in need, and cares for the world, he is not doing so because of some religious teaching. He does not believe that God commanded him to perform this act. In fact, he does not believe in God at all, so his acts are based on an inner sense of morality. And look at the kindness he can bestow upon others simply because he feels it to be right.”
“This means,” the Master continued “that when someone reaches out to you for help, you should never say ‘I pray that God will help you.’ Instead for the moment, you should become an atheist, imagine that there is no God who can help, and say ‘I will help you.’”

Right then. I was talking to someone on the Internet earlier, and our conversation came around to the point of Christian clichés. When someone goes to a Christian for advice, how often do they hear some of the following?

“Oh, just talk to God about it, and you’ll figure it out.”
“You definitely need to get in the Word.”
“Have you tried talking to your pastor?

Now, is there anything that’s inherently wrong with the above? No, there is not. But all too often, when one says something similar to the above responses, it does more harm than good. And why? Think about it, people. If someone has come to you for advice about a problem, they’ve opened up to you. They’ve exposed a part of themselves. They might feel vulnerable, confused, and hurt. And when you essentially tell them to go to S/someone else, does it not feel as though you are shoving them off, pushing them away? Yes, they can turn to God, assuming they’re a Christian, but even if they aren’t, your opinion obviously is of some importance to them.

By nearly ignoring the problem, little *actual* help is done. Let’s think about it like this, readers. Assume that I have a deep, personal problem, and I go to you and ask for your advice. I’ve prayed. I’ve meditated. But I’m still uncertain. Then, I come to you, I open up to you, I expose myself, and I am told to go back and do what I have already done. I now feel as if I am but a child, being sent to do the obvious. That is not what I came for! I came for actual help! If I have asked God for help, what am I to expect? Has He not placed you to be of assistance? To help those who need it? Is it not our calling? By sending me back to the place I have come from, you shrug off the responsibility that you have been given. And how dare we? We must not talk, but *do*. We must *help*.

And this is where we see the difference in atheism and Christianity. Yes, you may not agree with atheism, but the principle is the same: if there were no God, would you help the person? If God did not exist, what would you do? We must not help out of a mere sense of duty, but out of willingness. If we help because the great Cosmic Moral Enforcer (see the quote at the end of my Stream of Consciousness post) requires that we must, what is the good in that?

Instead, we must take the time to examine ourselves and focus upon what we do, analyzing the motives behind it, and deciding what changes we must make. How can we make a difference? How can we truly help?

As I have said before, it all begins with one person. It begins with you.

Less than three,
Josh

“The way a crow/Shook down on me/The dust of snow/From a hemlock tree/Has given my heart/A change of mood/And saved some part/Of a day I had rued.” –Robert Frost’s Dust of Snow

The Greatest Country In The World?

Hey ho, people!

Well, it’s Independence Day for all of you Americans, which means cookouts, fireworks, and festivities. But how much of it is for the mere sake of the atmosphere? How many people actually care about the sacrifices that were made hundreds of years ago? I’ve seen so many people with such flippant attitudes that it’s simply off-putting and disrespectful. But that’s not what I want to talk about today. In fact, I didn’t plan on blogging at all, merely posting up a quote I read, so I’ll get to that in a moment.

Many Americans constantly go around saying, “We’re the greatest, we’re the best!” when, in reality, they aren’t. They really aren’t. I am not American, and I’m not claiming superiority. It is merely what I think. Below is a quote by Will McAvoy that sums up my feelings. Please be objective whilst reading. That is all I ask. Thank you.

There is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world. We’re 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force, and number four in exports.

We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are allies.

We sure used to be. We stood up for what was right! We fought for moral reasons, we passed and struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars, and we acted like men. We aspired to intelligence; we didn’t belittle it; it didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn’t scare so easy. And we were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered.

The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one—America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.

Happy Fourth of July, Americans.

Less than three,
Josh

Stream of Consciousness

Aloha!

So I was feeling rather bored today (not that that’s something new), and I decided to try out something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time: write something using stream of consciousness.

You might not know what that means. No worries, that’s why I’m here. The definition of the above term is “to depict the multitudinous thoughts and feelings which pass through the mind.” Basically, it’s letting the reader be right there with a certain character as he goes through his life. The reader is privy to the character’s actual *thought process* as it happens. It is not like a soliloquy, where the character speaks to an audience. This is what a character is actually thinking–the confused, jumbled up ramblings. As it happens. Once put into writing, it allows the writer to format the ramblings however he pleases, which makes for an interesting piece.

So, I decided to write a story using said technique, following a character as she gets ready to go skydiving.

The moments finally here the time to skydive the moment ive been waiting for for so long so very long is here its here its here its here. nervous.
so
very
nervous and excited
excited.
up in the sky, more than 10 thousand feet up. Up up up.
so
nervous
moment is here time to jump is here everything is ready; i feel bogged down. Bogged down by the weight so much. many myths about skydiving, silly myths; no rip-cords, gone around the ‘80s, the 1980s i think. rigs and chutes instead, or something. no rip-cords rip-cords are silly, a myth.
Myth.
Myth.
cant talk while falling too much wind too much noise.
Instructor is with me, Jason Jason Holmes cute face brown sandy hair slightly pale, strange; slightly pale not like him not like him at all. Sick. i hate being sick. poor Jason, cant be sick or maybe its just me like it normally is its probably just me.
always me
me
me. i hate me.
no time for that now almost time to jump final preparations and checks and whatnot jumping together…Jason and me. and me. jumping together. Tandem jumping. tandem skydiving.
Nervousnervousnervousnerv
Ous
NERVOUS
Jumping no solid ground air in my face sudden rush of wind cant feel or hear or think or do anything wind all around me want to scream cant scream scream scream falling falling
F
A
L
L
I
N
G
.
In control—I think. jason is there looks dizzy. Dizzy. Not good i think dizzy is not good not here not now not ever dizzy. Motions, he doesnt respond. Doesnt respond.
not awake. Unconscious.
UNCONSCIOUS. falling
Ohmygoodnessthiscantbehappeningnownotmenotevercantbelievethisneedjason.
need Jason now.
falling, falling, falling. Dont remember anything dont know what to do ground is rushing up so fast
falling
falling
falling
what to do? Jason wont wake up wont wake up somethings wrong need help now.
FALLING
Must work chute now open it so dont die cant die but what matters nothing matters i hate me i hate me FALLING
jason
holmes
jason holmes falling
must save him save him now jason holmes must not die
struggling. Struggling. Deploy, CHUTE. DePloY cHuTe. NO. NOW.
not working.
Fall
Ing
FALLING
failure
fatal error death death DEATH falling death its all over DEATH falling it ends here it ends now DEATH
FALLING

Faster
FASTER
fallING
100 mph winds or more 100mph. so fast.
People below.
pEoPle waving. cant see. well enough. Cant and
dont know what to do.

Falling

ground rushing. CLOSER> falling closer faster falling

its over over everything is over failure death falling. SoRrY.

goodbye, sorry. jason mother father me hate me failure FALLING death everything confused ground rushing up closer closer

No no no going to die die going to die going to d

Less than three,
Josh

Sam: Well, aren’t you kind of like the cosmic moral enforcer of the universe?
God: Cosmic moral enforcer? Sam, I’m not a comic book villain!
God’s Grammar: A Novel, Mick Mooney