Twas The Night Before the Night Before Christmas

And all through the house nat a creature was stirring or something to that effect.  There are some eight or so videos of Christmas that we like to watch.  So we plan our viewing accordingly.
Little shop Around The Corner, Christmas In Connecticut, We’re No Angels, A Christmas Story, The Bishop’s Wife, The Man Who Came To Dinner, and so on.  The beauty of these videos is that we are transported to an age where Christmas, whether one is a true believer in christianity or an atheist, can experience a sense of  spiritual awareness without the need for dogma.  Out of the various world’s religions, Christianity offers through the Christmas season a type of spiritual awareness that neither Islam nor Judaism not Buddhism  can offer.  Not that I wish to convince anyone to convert to this type of religion.  Peace on earth, good will towards men, what could be simpler?  O’Henry’s Gift Of The Magi explains the point of Christmas, self sacrifice for the happiness of others leads to a sense of having our own sense of happiness.  Christmas is truly the most wonderful season of the year.  Easter can’t compare.  Thanksgiving is a prelude to Christmas.  One need not be religious to celebrate the season.  Hell, one can be an atheist and still celebrate Christmas with Rudolph and Santa Claus and all that commercial stuff.

Now one of the things that helps Christmas is snow.  As a child growing up in Texas, we did not have snow to any great degree.  If we got two inches and it lasted for two days we were in heaven.  Imagine the joy of living in the northeast and having five or six inches of snow on the ground or maybe two feet.  One could actually build sled runs and ski here and there.  My first snow man ans snow fort were a delight.  Then there was the skating on the frozen creeks and small rivers.  Put on two pairs of pants, a couple of sweatshirts or sweaters and a jacket and spend the entire day on the ice playing ice hockey or doing figure eights.  Snow plays a big part in Christmas and without it, well, the holiday doesn’t seem the same.  I can’t imagine having Christmas in the summer time like they do in the southern hemisphere.

I grew up in that age when Christmas trees were still real trees no matter how dead the things were.  We had the old bubble lights and tinsel and glass ornaments and home made ornaments.  Today I no longer kill a tree for Christmas, I choose to do without the mess dying trees leave, the boxes of ornaments, and the new plastic “Life-like” trees.  In my retirement I like to keep it simple spend the money on a couple of good meals.  So Christmas Eve supper will be Arctic Char, green beans with mushrooms and onion, and some rice.  Christmas day is boneless rib roast with a meat sauce, bake potatoes, and asparagus with butter.  Of course the wines will match the courses and I have a wide assortment of cheeses to snack upon.  Neither my body nor my pocketbook could afford to eat like this more than a couple times a year and holidays are good enough reasons to indulge the mind, body, and spirit.  Then come the new year it’s time to get back to work.  Life always has something to keep the mind and body busy.

So from me and mine to you and yours, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

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29 thoughts on “Twas The Night Before the Night Before Christmas

  1. Hi, I came here from Daniel’s blog, I have an interest for short essays.

    Christmas certainly has great merits, especially for encouraging all kinds of people to be generous. For example, I notice that my local food bank tends to receive more support during Christmas and Chinese New Year. Moreover I like that you point out that religion is first and foremost of morality.

    I don’t know if you would be receptive towards this public domain essay of mine, but as a man of varied interests, you should find the following interesting:

    https://archive.org/details/ThePurposeOfMonotheismAndItsFuture

    Also, I understand you don’t like certain large charities, I am wary of mega charities to a certain extent as well. But here is a relatively small one you might like:

    https://purelandsutras.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/unite-for-sight/

    $19 dollars isn’t going to stave off starvation, but it could give someone of no means in a bleak country his eye sight back via cataract surgery, so he could find a job and live.

    I look forward to conversing with you.

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    1. I see you ignore the Greeks and Romans in your short essay. Too bad since the Christianity and even Judaism were greatly influenced by the Greeks in particular and the Romans (who were never that good at philosophy) in a minor way. The subject of ethics and ethical living have been the subject for thousands of years. One can look at the Code of Hanabi and see the future effect it had on the world. It is not monotheism per se that makes the difference for the future of religions in the world. Religion is about belief and teaching its adherents how to have faith. Of course it helps if one believes that one’s religion is the correct or right one. Religion is always a two edged sword.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I did not ignore them, I pointed out why their religious practices were largely replaced instead of existing side by side like Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism.The subject of ethics may have a certain fluidity, but they are timeless as well, and if you stray to far from the red line, you are not ethical.

        Also, thanks for responding so quickly, you might want to update your About page.

        What did you think about the charity? I feel it has distance merit.

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  2. Mankind has always had the practice of ethics in every society from the very beginnings until perhaps now. I say perhaps because the world has reached a tipping point where ethical behavior is what ever may be convenient at the moment. This is the problem of “relativism” where there are no absolutes, only decisions made according to the situation, the desires of the individuals involved, and some rationalism of ethical thought. Call it the dilemma of living in groups. If an individual lives alone there is little need of any sense of ethical behavior. Why? Because there is no interaction with respect to any other individuals. But once men and women live in groups there exists a need for some common sense of ethical standards. Indeed, as members of the groups we join we share common values, goals, and ethical standards of behavior. We may wish to attribute a sense of ethical behavior to the word of a god or gods and that is fine. It is an appeal to authority as an argument. Yet for the many philosophers who believed in the rights of man approach where rights were safe vouched somewhere in the universe because the age of reason said so, well, that is another appeal to authority. There is nothing wrong with your essay, it’s just a little incomplete. Nothing new under the sun one might say. The real problem is by what appeal to authority should we use and is it widely applicable? Human beings being what they are I doubt that you find any great universal agreement among the worlds denizens.

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    1. Thanks for your response, I believe that eventually, people will realize that the ultimate authority is karma (which is definite but does come with a range of tolerance within reason), however, you would want to see some proof of that:

      https://purelandsutras.wordpress.com/2016/10/23/liao-fans-four-lessons-changing-fate-and-realizing-our-dreams/

      I recommend you have a look at my post, which is about Ming dynasty scholar Yuan Liao Fan’s autobiography. He did not originally believe in karma, but after he embarked on a program of merit making, he finally eradicated his many karmic retributions and received karmic rewards.

      It’s a worthy read.

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      1. Ah, the problem rears its ugly head. Isn’t Karma an appeal to other worldly authority that has no direct existence? What, pray tell is the difference between an Aztec god, a Christian god, or any other form of super power? If I ask you to show me proof the best you can do is relate story after story that ascribes some action or miracle to a suppose super power that resides somewhere in the universe but cannot be seen or discovered with the best tools available to science. The best you can do is ask me to believe the veracity of your “proof”. I can see the cause and effect of gravity and thus I do not need to have a faith placed in a suppose belief that it exists. I can see its existence for myself. But what experiment can I or you preform to demonstrate to me that Karma exists? Where is the direct cause and effect? You may quote to me the experiences of a Ming dynasty scholar but that hardly constitutes proof. This is the problem with religious or spiritual beliefs, there is no cause and effect that proves their necessity. Thus you ask me to take your evidence as an article of faith, belief conquers all. Except when it doesn’t.

        What religion or spiritual belief offers is that “something” the individual does not believe he can come to by himself and thus needs help with his sense of faith. Religion is a mutual believe’s club like Alcohol Anonymous. It’s a twelve step plan that relies on the help of others. It is a group membership where we all share the same values, beliefs, and goals of the group. It reinforces our sense of belief. It is a crutch in many ways and yet it is a way to help us walk that straight and narrow path. It is a comfort, a godsend, an assistant that helps our lives and as long as we believe all is well.

        You must understand belief and faith to understand religion and spiritual being.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. First of all, thanks for taking the time to craft such a long response so quickly, I had some errands so the delay.

        I can give you living proof in your own life, and if you had read the post to the end you’ll know what I’m talking about:

        Behave well and do three good deeds a day, for a total of 3000 (which you should reach in 1000 days). In general, loose karma manifests in the next life, but diligently cultivated merit manifests within this life in good fortune, with the even bigger bulk arriving in the next life.

        Give the three year project a try, remember, three years may appear like a long time, but 2013 seems like yesterday.

        Moreover, nothing you know now can stave off impermanence and age, and even if science does come up with something that can make you more than human, that’s for VIPs not you. Look at those poor countries, they can’t even get cataract surgery. Only with merit can you advance.

        Check my free and public domain merit accumulation guide at the end of the post I showed you for more info.

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      3. Your life may or may not be proof. And doing three good deeds a day may provide you with the reciprocal Karma reward. On the other hand your perception of a good may not always match another individual’s perception. Besides, good deed accounting is not really following Karma, intent matters more than the deed.

        What I have done is to illustrate the problems associated with promoting a particular religion. Religion is a belief system just a political beliefs can become. It is that uniquely human conundrum that separates us from the lessor species. Given a brain and the ability to think (although many individuals think very little or have little ability in that regard) we tend to construct answers to our questions. Some might ask how the earth formed, others why monkeys travel in troops no more in number than 40 to 60. Still others ask what is the meaning of life or what is existence. You can even call science a belief system. All the laws of science are really nothing more than descriptions of the events and the world that never seem to change. Apples still fall from trees, water still runs down hill, and the ocean waves erode the rocks on the shore. We can construct mathematical formula to express such laws and see that they work each time.

        But human existence is not so scientific. I can observe an individual and see that he makes for himself certain habits but each occurrence of one of these habits may differ slightly in both manner and time. Man is not a machine. And sometimes man will act out of character. We use general principles for the actions and thoughts of mankind. That means that around the world groups of individuals decide for themselves what they find meaningful in life. They decide what they wish to believe in regardless of Karma or Christ, or Buddha, or progressive liberalism. There may or may not be a next life, no one can tell me for sure, I must die to find out the truth of that claim. So go in peace and may your god go with you.

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      4. But to pass from this world without some stock of merit is such a waste of opportunity. And even if you have no wealth to spare, volunteering, a smile, offering assistance will all generate merit:

        https://bitesizedhamma.com/2017/01/04/how-to-give-for-the-person-who-has-nothing/

        In Buddhism, as long as you do some good, it does not matter whether you believe in this god or that god, you will receive the reward. Just like it does not matter if you are accountant or chef, they both draw a salary. The more good you do, the clearer things will appear.

        But thats up to you. I’ll read your short story tomorrow. Also do you have more short stories, I only see one under the “Fiction by…”. page. I like to read a bunch in one go.

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      5. What a man does in public speaks for him, good or bad, but only god knows what is in his heart. My stock of merit remains on this earth, it will not follow me into the next world. The other point is why should I expect a reward for doing good? Why should I not do good for its own sake? And why should I keep account of my good deeds? That would be a materialistic view of the spiritual experience. One doesn’t do good to make life clear or to incur the pleasure of Karma. One does good because in the doing one expresses good.

        There are four hundred and eighty posts, give or take. Most of the short stories are in the last one hundred and fifty posts.

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      6. Oops, Sorry, forget my last line, I just realized you included various stories in between your essays. I had assumed you categorized them differently. I enjoy a marathon tomorrow.

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  3. On the contrary, only your stock of merit (i.e good deeds) will follow you to the next world, and in fact determines it. If you can do good with Great Compassion, without attachment to forms and figures, that is great. But do you really? Remember, before the Dharma Wheel turns, the stomach rumbles. You may consider yourself lofty, but you are still of this world. Foundations first, that is the Buddhas advice: Sila, Samadhi and Prajna (Wisdom is built on Meditation, which in turn rests on Virtue and Generosity).

    While I understand your World Hunger $19 Dollar Post, I feel it is rather harsh. There are small and medium sized charities doing great work for people who just need a one time boost, for instance, Unite For Sight has alternative funding for their administrative costs (which are kept very low anyways), thus, all the money people donate goes towards surgeries/eye care. If you present a problem, don’t just end it on a cynical note, offer a solution and alternative charitable choice.

    Also, I just read your story Easy, Like Sunday Morning, I like it. You have literary talent in painting a vivd moving image that carries the narrative. The ending lines are great as well, not rushed, but a few memorable and eloquent lines to cap it off.

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    1. As I have said before, I do not keep book on doing good, that is a waste of time and involves the use of ego uselessly. Do I do good? Yes, from time to time I do good in many different ways. Do I have a good feeling from the act of doing good? Yes, I do feel that I have contributed to the “world” in some small way. Do I do good with great compassion? No, I do it more as a matter of fact. Someone needs a little help and I help them if I am able. I open doors for women as a matter of courtesy. It is a small act of doing good and I call it politeness. Being polite to clerks in a store or in a government department is doing good as it makes them feel better about doing their job. Doing good means we treat others as we want to be treated.

      Do I consider myself lofty? Far from it. I am not a humble man but I am not a boastful man. I am who I am, no more and no less. I know far more than 98% of the people in the world and yet I am aware of my ignorance. There is much I still want to know and there is much I don’t care to learn since it is of little use to me. I am of this world and always will be. You wish to believe in rebirth and that is nice but I do not. Hence, I don’t care a fig about building a stock of good deeds. I do good when the chance is offered but I do not seek the chance. My life is not rules with seeking chances of doing good. I don’t chase after virtue or wisdom, they come with being myself. I am 70 years of age and if I am lucky I might live another 15 years. And if I die tomorrow I do so without regret. I have seen death around me and I have risked death. I ceased fearing death a great many years ago.

      I criticize organized charities because they are organized and individuals make their living off them. Why a man should become wealthy working for a charity is a question that needs to be asked. I find it unethical. Mother Theresa didn’t live in a comfortable suburban house and eat the most wonderful food and wear fine clothing. So why should someone who works for a charity feel they are deserving of at least a middle class life simply because they are working for a charity? I don’t ask people to pay me for doing good, why should others? You might think me harsh for such an attitude, but what is charity? The excuse is always that these charities are doing great work. Are they? What is your proof? Feed the Christian Children and let the others starve. Feed the children so they can grow to adulthood and produce more mouths to feed. At what point do we stop interfering with the nature of life and let consequences be taken? If one is a Christian then all life is sacred to god. Fine, let him feed them. Wisdom is learning when not to interfere in the workings of nature. Prolonging agony, prolonging false hope, this is a crime. What if it was me? It’s not. that is the luck of the draw. Life is unfair and the more we try to cheat life by trying to make it fair the more damage we do to life. I think it far more harsh to do greater harm to the world in the name of charity.

      Yes, I do have a talent. How great or small that talent is will take a little time to develop. What you read is first draft full of typos and mistakes. Not every story is told in the right method. I hope to do a lot of editing this late spring and early summer. Right now I am renovating my house and that has taken about fifteen months of you time. It will be nice to be able to “retire” again and go back to writing more. Thank you for the good words on my writing. Very few who do read my stories bother to say anything. but I don’t write for others, I write for myself. And I am my harshest critic.

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      1. Stop worrying about the typos, thats only a matter when editors want to publish, only a troll or pedant will criticize you over such trifling things. In an Aphorism from the Ming dynasty, it goes: “Pedants fail to see the big picture, just like sterile waters have no fish.” Good content is all a man should be focused on, and you have plenty.

        Of course if you want to edit, you should do that, but if I was 70 and in your shoes, I’ll just focus on creating and creating. You may write for yourself, but many artists were not noticed until after they had passed, so since this blog will outlive you, I suggest you get the rights license you want to release the works under and contact information for the executor of your estate posted in your About page some time in the future.

        As for your view in the effectiveness of charity, you are not completely wrong:

        “America has this ‘give to the poor’ movement. I criticize this because giving to the poor is useless. People’s poverty is derived not in this lifetime, but comes because of karma from endless offenses in endless eons. Your help is only temporary and not constant. To really help the poor requires promoting various charity events, encouraging people to do good deeds, and encouraging others to change for the better and be good. This would be the way to really help the poor. Also, do not tell people to slander the Triple Jewel; promote the Buddhadharma everywhere you go so that the Triple Jewel of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha will abide in the world for people to plant blessings. People who make offerings to the Triple Jewel enjoy retributions of blessings so that they will not be poor in the future; that is to truly help the poor.”

        -Ven Master Hsuan Hua ( Earth Store Sutra Commentary on Chapter VI – The Thus Come One’s Praises)

        Giving to the poor chiefly helps the giver, in allowing them to amass merit that will support their quest for Enlightenment. If you really want to help the poor, you need to tell them to do good with what little they have. Which is why these large charities have value, they encourage apathetic people to do good so they don’t pass from this world with nothing but a collection of accumulated memes on twitter.

        Moreover, logistics is not free, and this is why we pay charities because organizations cost money. And if not for their full time work, I would not have the chance to help someone with my own limited logistical reach. The consequences for this unsustainable world will fall one day, but a season for all things, and until the dreaded season arrives, we should do our best to alleviate someone’s pain.

        Lastly, I would like to commend your decorum and politeness, that is so often missing today. I often hear about rudeness towards clerks and service staff, and I am perplexed as to the origin of such malice.

        Also, its good that you are remodeling your home, after my home was renovated, I was able to write poetry because I suddenly felt very happy. Your writing will be even better when your home is done.

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      2. Charities are by their nature impersonal institutions. What you are observing in American and much of the developed world is a shift in the populations from rural to urban living. Urban populations are now a majority in America. The strange thing about population concentration is that it does not allow openness between individuals but encourages anonymity. Hence, we interact with our immediate neighbors, almost ignoring them, while looking for human contact on the internet and social media.

        Before the rise of more modern cultures, the villages looked after their own with out any public bureaucracy. I grew up in what may have been the last of the times where neighbors helped each other as a matter of course. Being a good neighbor was important and helping was seen as a part of that. Churches were often to most important part of the community when it came to charity. Giving was more spontaneous and less a tax deduction. But what we have seen, in particular since the great depression and the policies of FDR, is the steady increase in government interference in private life. It is belief by liberals and socialists that government not only knows best but is the solution to all problems, public and private. Thus we erect vast bureaucracies to deal with these problems and only make them worse. The War on Poverty has only increased poverty’s affliction. Welfare keeps people poor. In 1865 this country freed the slaves and in 1964 we created a program to make people slaves again. that may sound racist but look at the welfare roles. Look at the number of black children who are raised solely by their mothers and without any significant male guidance except learning the laws of the street jungle. But it is not just America. This is the history of the western world. Eventually it will collapse under its own weight.

        As far as clerks in stores and government offices are concerned, most of the attitudes many people have are conditioned by expectations. Store clerks are usually not the brightest individuals and really do not do well at handling exceptions. So people become frustrated and vent their anger. Sometimes it is actually easier to help the clerk solve the problem. Unfortunately too many impatient people want to solve the problem for the clerk and cause him to lose face. As for government employees, they have their unions and their policies and the government has a monopoly. there is no competing government around the corner waiting to steal the other’s business. Would be great if there was, countries might be better run.

        As for private charities, if you want to start one remember that the government must approve and actively interfere in your charity. Hence, you must be willing to treat it as a business and run it as a profit making organization even it it is a non profit organization. The top management gets the profits and the poor get the rest. That is the way of the western world. Personally, I have a theory that the world has a carrying capacity when it comes to population and we are close to reaching it. When that happens all hell breaks lose and a good many civilizations will be destroyed. A scientist named Calhoun did an interesting experiment using rats. He created a rat universe that could hold six hundred rats comfortably with all the comforts of living for rats. You can read about it on Wikipedia. The rat population never reached 600. The social structure broke down and all the rats died. True, we aren’t rats but I see much of the same effects today that were exhibited by the rats. It’s not global warming (a myth) that will kill us, it is over population. this earth can carry perhaps 12 billion individuals. I don’t think we will make it past nine. We are over seven billion now and that number is increasing rapidly. Something to think about. And as they say, Karma is a bitch.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. A brilliant comment, I am so glad you voiced this. All this micromanaging and top heavy structure of the world is not sustainable:

        Actually, I wrote an essay around the philosophy of Jin Dynasty Scholar Fu Xuan (i.e. importance of less urbanization, less bureaucracy, family and community etc. etc.) in the Eight Legged Essay form:

        https://archive.org/details/EightLeggedEssayFreedomAndVirtueComesFromGreenSimplicity

        the truth is, I was hesitant to promote this essay because it runs against the industrialized lifestyle and urban culture we live in. I don’t want to be skewered with the “get on with the times…” dismissal.

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      4. One can pick any introductory economics text book and read about free markets and the virtue of free trade and all the other virtues of capitalism. Indeed, capitalism is a virtuous economic system. It operates on the idea that if one doesn’t not indulge in full consumption one can save earnings and in time collect the savings for capital formation, the means of investing in future production. This is the idea that the farmer saves some of his production to plant more crops on additional land and tuns gain a surplus. Or in terms of psychological progress, deferred gratification leads to greater rewards. But the one thing these economists don’t bother to explain is the need to account for all inputs.

        An increasing population needs an increasing production of consumable goods. It also needs an increase in capital goods. A house is a capital good, not a consumable good. A capital good has a very long life. Consumable goods usually are consumed within the year of their purchase. Thus, consumable goods are an expense of living. But the production of consumable goods involves more than the cost of raw materials and the cost of labor. The capital investment is apportioned to each unit. So far, so good. But there are other costs that many economist overlook. The cost of pollution is almost never factored into the cost of the consumable good. The cost of social disruption is another cost that is never part of the original cost of the goods produced. Decreasing resources are factored through higher raw material costs.

        So far, so good. But we come across other factors of living that are an indirect result of things like scales of economy. Obsolescence, incompatibility, unit standardization, the list goes on. The basic Karma for life is death. We are born and then we die. No one has ever made it out of the world yet unless he were an astronaut and even then he will have to return. More on economics later

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  4. You raise important points on the wastefulness and pollution caused by putting profit on the pedestal. Another thing I am concerned about is the industrialized and wasteful scale of meat production. Our gluttony for hormone ridden crop guzzling meat is taking the food out of a lot of people’s mouths and causing plenty of pollution.

    I am more unhappy with the fact that some people use the Bible to justify such business. Because, I chanced upon a detailed article in 2015 that examines the Bible and finds that is does not actually support eating meat, and that contrary to popular thought, it was the grain offering that was accepted, not the burnt offering:

    I feel you (as a former Sunday school teacher) will find this article to be very eye opening:

    http://www.all-creatures.org/discuss/didabel.html

    My response to them is posted here:

    http://www.all-creatures.org/discuss/didabel-20151014-b.html

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    1. Actually, I was forced into being a sunday school teacher. In fact, the minister and my wife at the time forced me to join their church. I really dislike organized religion, I prefer mine unorganized. But what I found was that the sunday school material for teenagers was of such crappy quality, more about “Let’s talk about our feelings and how good god is…” rather than understanding what it is we are suppose to believe, well, I just had to go on a tear and educated these bored children. So I know enough of the old testiment to teach these kids what was in the old testament. You know, Christians are very ignorant about their religion and in particular the old testament. I was able to show those kids that even back in the days several thousand years ago the parents and the kids had similar problems, nothing new under the sun. My teachings were not appreciated by the minister and the congregation at large and I was relieved of my duties, which is what I wanted. The funny thing is that the minister and the congregation seems to believe that their official religion was a kind of believe what you want affair. Very sad, indeed.

      Well, I do not apologize for being a meat eater. On the other hand the feed lots we have built in the meat industry are a sin against nature. Whether is be beef, pork, lamb, or chicken, the economic push towards units of production and unitized products does leave a lot to be desired. In the last hundred years we have become very distanced from knowing how to farm, knowing animal husbandry, and food production in general. Lord help the people in the large metropolitan areas if they should ever lose their access to the food supply. I worked on my aunts farm in Texas when I was a child between the ages of 9 to sixteen. Every summer my older brother and I would spend time down there. I know what it is to do hard physical labor. You ain’t had fun until you’ve gone out and baled and carried hay in that hot 100 degree sun all day. We also had chores to do. feed the chickens, gather the eggs, feed the hogs and keep the pens clean, and feed the cows and keep track of them. dug my shahe of post holes for fences and strung a few miles of barbed wire. No sir, ain’t no stranger to hard work. In return we got to drive the tractors and my uncle’s two ton truck. sometimes we even drove my aunts car. And all that before the age of sixteen. That farm is where I learned how to back trailers, a manly art. But we moved up north to Philadelphia and life was never the same. City people for all their street smarts and city hustle don’t really know much more than taking advantage of people. Large population centers tend to bring out the worst in mankind, not the best. Or at least I feel that way.

      No there are worst wastes of energy than meat processing. But let us not talk about the ills of the world, god knows there are more than enough to go around.

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      1. I am aware you were coerced into the post, but I thought that the background would make you at least interested enough to consider the non mainstream view of the article. Furthermore, you were sincere despite your dislike of the post, you could have just breezed through it on auto pilot. You gave a lot more than what some people give.

        I’m glad you were a real farmer once, and I agree with your view on how mass urbanization has corrupted people’s hearts, as I’ve outlined in my Eight Legged Essay.

        Regarding your dislike of organized religion, thats interesting, because the Buddha has said in the Dharma Ending Age (i.e. now), the quality of organized religion will decline considerably:

        “I will tell you now that in the future Dharma-ending age, the ranks of men will be swamped by the wicked. They will be treacherous, unfilial, cruel, unrighteous and inhumane. In this era of delusion, demons and scoundrels will infiltrate the Sangha. Whether monk or novice, many of them will be willfully blind to their own ever mounting evil but eagle-eyed to the real or perceived offenses of others. They will envy the Sages and be jealous of the virtuous. Moreover, they will proceed to subvert the good works of others. They themselves will disdain to do any good, be brutishly obstinate and envious of the Sages. Not only do they neglect to uphold the Dharma, they shamelessly sabotage the efforts of the faithful who do so. Thus, they effectively block the Way path to salvation and lead many astray. As they are decadent and hanker after profit, they hoard wealth and pile up money. Ignorant they are to the fact that such conduct is both harmful and corrupting. Naturally, when their lives end, they will fall into the evil paths and become hell-beings, emaciated ghouls and animals.”

        -Page 13, Woe and Weal of the Faithful Sutra (my own free and public domain translation)
        https://purelandsutras.wordpress.com/2016/10/25/a-foundational-text-the-woe-and-weal-of-the-faithful-sutra/

        Buddhism is actually now best practiced alone, with the Sutra as your teacher.

        I don’t know what your plans are, but if I were you, and if there were no others factors, I would sell up the new renovated house for a good price and move somewhere rural to homestead :

        http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/self-reliance/self-sufficient-homestead-zm0z11zkon

        Also, write your stories in cursive on nice paper, penmanship is rare today and will be treasured again, because what is new is the rare, and the common becomes old. You are old enough to know cursive, people nowadays can’t write good cursive to save their life.

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      2. You know, for the past fifty year i have been wanting to go the homestead way. the problem is one of logistics. I live on Social Security and thus my means are sparse. Yes, there is some savings but one really needs to find a decent piece of land at a good price. At seventy I am a little old to go the homestead route. On the other hand it is still attractive. I am aware of all the problems of homesteading and the legal problems are many. Federal, state, and local governments hate any independence by the citizenry. A foreign country is not a solution for one finds just as many roadblocks to independence. God knows I have researched them all. I do believe my partner and I (she lacks the legal distinction of married wife but what is a piece of paper, when Nancy in the musical Oliver asks Bill Sykes if he loves her he answers, “I sleeps with you, don’t I”) may find a place near Chattanooga in the future. Just another place to live. On the other hand, I can design houses and such. So design and building goes hand in hand. It’s a matter of what you are willing to settle for. As for farming, I can do that. Mostly it is growing vegetables and chickens. One might throw in a couple of hogs and a couple of cows. Beyond that, one really needs about ten acres to live in an independent manner. It is not an easy life, mind you. One needs to master a variety of skills, most of which I have and can add to easily. I have more than enough tools and it is easy to add more such as welding equipment. Actually, there is little in the mechanical arts I cannot teach myself to do. And I have my library, my pride and joy. Over one hundred boxes of books, about three or four thousand volumes. I am the academic, you know. Or better, I am the walking oxymoron, a rarity in this world.

        Ah, cursive writing, I print because my cursive is not that good. I was taught the Palmer method but all those rounded letters have become more stilted. I keep wanting to develop the cursive to my style but that will take time. But I do have quite a few typewriters, mostly Olympias and a couple of Royals. I will be teaching myself typewriter repair in the future. My grandfather’s Underwood needs restoration. Well, just another skill to add to my tombstone. Meanwhile I have journals filled with my observations. I like ink pens, the style with nibs. I tend to collect such things and admit to having a couple of Mont Blanc Ink Pens. There is something about using one of them that is a sheer joy. Of course good bond paper is a must. I think it like writing in Chinese where one partakes in the art of writing. I may even take up writing Chinese Characters. Calligraphy is what they call it.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Very fascinating post, thanks for writing it.

        Typewriters are beautiful, the perfect compromise between penmanship and generic computer text. You must save the typewriter and get it working again. And Calligraphy is an excellent past time, here are some fine examples you can check out:

        http://www.amtb.tw/mobao/mobao10.htm

        They are released under a free to reprint license as long as they are respected, so if you want some decoration, just print it out using a high grade printer and frame it.

        Also, I was told common law marriage is still recognized in many places, so you might not need a piece of paper in either case.

        A retirement filled with typewriters, a rich/cozy library and study, and a small backyard vegetable garden to tend to is in my view a fine alternative to homesteading. Almost like modest landed gentry.

        Also, I was thinking, why don’t you write a long fiction work , perhaps mirroring some parts of Plato’s Republic, where you lay out a vision for a more just future. It could serve as a profound novel for posterity.

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      4. When I started writing I was doing an exercise called journaling. The idea was to write whatever came to mind and try to fill two pages each morning. I have filled a couple of notebooks with that practice and when I travel I often take a small notebook and write my observations. After a while I started to write poetry. Poetry is a hard mistress. It is very personal, very intense, and very unforgiving as an art. I am, if I am honest, a mediocre poet. Then I started to write novels. I wrote three of them and they were, let us say, unworthy of the daylight. But writing is a craft as well as an art. One learns by doing. And just as the visual artist learns new techniques by observing other artist or their work, so the writer learns by reading other writers. I never like reading fiction when I was a young boy or teenager unless it was a short story. I much prefered non fiction such as science or history. But for the past ten years I have made up for my lack of fiction reading and it provides me with an education that formal education could not duplicate. Americans who want to be writers love becoming members of local writing groups and in the university setting students are required to become members of writing groups. The fact, there are so many graduates with degrees in English and Literature that a great many of them can’t find work suitable for their training. So we have quite the industry of such people running writers groups, offering editorial services, and the teaching of creative writing classes. So many teachers who can not do teach what they can not do. I like the example of Mark Twain (real name Samuel Clemens ), the American Shakespeare, who had very little formal education and yet not only taught himself how to write fiction and essays but became a great writer. But people want short cuts and the easy way. They think creative writing must be driven by formulas and gimmicks. Most will only write drivel and dross, kill more trees than is good for the planet. Some will become competent but that is their limit. And a few will become excellent writers worth the time to read.

        I have had plans for more novels and I think I have most of the skills I need to become more successful in novel writing. It is a different animal than the short story genre and many writers fail to do well in both. Those who can transcend the differences usually stand out in the world. Ideas come and go, many of then are good. But nothing strikes me as excellent yet. Story telling is as much a visual art as it is oral or written. We see with our minds, visualize in a dream like manner. To be a successful film maker one must be able to visualize extremely well since the pictures tell the story to a large extent. The writer has only his ability to use words to describe what he sees but the film maker has the real thing. It’s the idea that is the difficult part to convey.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. A profound comment, your remarks on visualization is exactly what I believe in as well. To be able to not only paint with words, but to express music and action, that is the ideal!

        I think the problem you see in literary circles and higher education is that we have too many arrogant academics, not enough farmers (I mean real ones not big biz ones). In Confucian values, the scholar and farmer were the most respected, and the merchant was the least respected. Because being in touch with nature, it makes you wise, patient, virtuous and calm, which is important for writing good things. For example:

        “There was a scholar named Wei-Yan Chang from Jiangying who was very learned and wrote good essays. He was also very well known among many scholars. One year he took his exam at Nanjing and stayed at a Taoist temple.

        When the results were posted, he found that he had not passed the exam. He became furious and loudly accused the examiner of being blind for not recognizing his obvious talents. At that time, a Taoist monk stood by smiling and Wei-Yan immediately directed his anger towards the monk. The monk said…

        Monk: Your essay must not be good!

        Liao-Fan: Wei-Yan got even angrier.

        Wei-Yan: How do you know it is not good when you have not even read it?

        Monk: I often hear people say that the most important element in writing good essays is a peaceful heart and harmonious temperament. Your loud and angry accusations just now clearly show that your mind is certainly not at peace and your temperament is violent. How could you possibly write good essays?”

        -Liao Fan Four Lessons

        Thus, your advantage is that your experiences make you more genuine than those pedantic academic courtiers. And in my opinion, those English degree types you describe sound like pharisees to me- more concerned with the gilded clock on the mantlepiece than chopping wood to burn in the winter blizzard strikes.

        As for the poetry, I feel you should look at it this way: Free Verse poetry is now accepted. Thus, what you consider “mediocre” is probably great prose poetry, no need to be constricted by regular meter or rhyme. Plus, the English language is changing along with the demographics, so the stress syllables are less likely to appear obvious to perhaps the soon to be majortiy immigrants who used to speak a syllabic timed language, or natives who have a regional accent that has non regular stresses. So I say focus on deploying your strong vocabulary (which English has an advantage with its rich treasury of words), alliteration etc.,and your strong story telling abilities.

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      6. I have always written in free verse, rhyming has never been something I could do well. The major problem with poetry is that it is a contradiction. Some might call it emotion in a slow and controlled motion. Others express it as spontaneous outbursts kept inhibited by controlled purpose. I will not go that far in my own description. I think it as the joy of playing with individual words and placing them in a suitable form. It seeks to tell a story in a few quick strokes of a brush giving us the suggestions of that story without boring us with absolute detail. You know, we all learn creativity but we learn it differently and to a greater or lesser degree. It is problem solving and we are seeking an answer. So it should come as no surprise that individual differences comes into play in our differing abilities. Not all problem solving is alike and so too creativity. Since I have a very agile mind in respects to many endeavors I should not be disappointed if poetry wasn’t one of them. A man of many talents does not regret talents he does not possess.

        As for education and formal degrees, well, they are easy enough to come by. We have the English to thank for the over abundance of social degrees. An English gentleman’s son was not expect to work for a living and so sent off to school to learn the classics. Greek, Latin, history, and philosophy were the mainstays as long as one did not take them seriously. Keep the young boy occupied until he was ready to take his place in gentil society. Drinking, gambling, and carousing were young men waiting for their inheritance of family fortune, marriage, and more family.

        The Americans, having never had a royal monarchy and patronage baggage settled on a more pragmatic course. The very limited gentleman’s society was limited in membership and more based on inherited wealth of those who worked for a living. Farming took too long to gather such wealth and tradesmans were paid too little. The merchant who could take larger risks than his competitor and win the larger reward became the new wealth of society. Sons were expected to learn the business or learn a suitable trade such as law (which is still something of a trade no matter how many prestigious law school abound, law is more than book learning). So the British became the great mercantile merchants of the world and the Americans to great engineers and scientists. Of course with wealth and higher standards of living society can indulge the classical and social studies. And after the second world war America entered an age of prosperity that gave us the leisure to indulge classical studies and tolerate increased social studies, the latter has become an infected wart upon our necks. But we produced the engineers, the mathematicians, and the scientists in numbers never seen before that time. The major problem in producing all the professionals was the cost. The GI Bill of Rights gave to ordinary men the means to attend universities. This pushed universities and colleges to expand and hire more teachers. But what destroyed the academic schools was the introduction of student loans. At first the student loan was obtained through a bank. Then the government decided to start backing that loan program until it became a shackle around both legs of the student. the schools were only too glad to indulge any fool of any ability to attend and earn a degree. Of course with an increase in student population of every academic rank, the graduation rate had to stay the same or improve. For those students of average or lesser ability how was this to be obtained? Lowed standards, added fluff courses (all those on the classical and social side of the university need to teach the required number of courses so we make up easy courses and make them mandatory), all the ills of stupidity come into play except on the science side of the university. One cannot bullshit math and science. Either one knows how to do the higher levels of mathematics or one does not. Of course the biggest academic lie is the department of education. If one wants a regular BA in English the courses are different and harder than if one obtains a BA in Education to teach English.
        And the fact is, that regular BA in English is very limited. If I want someone to write ad copy in a marketing department I could hire a graduate in Business who majored in marketing and teach him more than enough English to be very good at his job. To teach someone who majored in English enough about marketing would take four or five time longer. The value of a degree is its usefulness. One of the reasons why prior to 1980 so many companies would hire a degreed individual over a non degreed individual was that prior to that time the degreed individual had shown a propensity to learn and to teach himself.

        Yes, I acquire a couple of degrees late in life, call it ego, if you will. But I have always taught myself what I wanted to learn and it wasn’t until I was nearly twenty that I began in earnest. I am at the point now that if I so desired to learn enough engineering and astrophysics I could design and build a spaceship capable of traveling almost anywhere. My only failing is languages but that didn’t stop me from acquiring a considerable knowledge of linguistics. To me learning and teaching myself are second nature, I do it all the time and I go beyond just merely learning the rights things. I mix the academic with the physical trades and the business transactions. If I had to sum up my life for a tombstone I would have carved on it, “He was a walking Oxymoron”. Even in death humor has its say.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. William, I am glad to have made your acquaintance. You are a perceptive man. I feel you are not an oxymoron, but here for a purpose: To write one long profound philosophical work. It’s just like how some business owners make their sons work in every position of the company so they have experience in everything before succeeding to the leadership. You have farmed, traded, studied, met both agreeable and disagreeable people, and have lived through 7 decades of tumult.

    I feel that this blog is inadequate as your literary legacy, and that you need to write a Magnum Opus. Not just a novel, but something more. A good blogging man once told me: When a person passes, a whole library disappears with them. Perhaps you could consider wiring a grand work that is an amalgamation of social policy and commentary/autobiography/moral advocacy/advice to posterity/ sustainable living.

    Also, if you have not already done so, make sure that there are provisions in your will that ensures your library will be distributed to someone who will care for it upon your passing. These collections are easily scattered without a steward (or worse, trashed).

    Moreover, I am a strong believer of the free sharing of knowledge, so if you do write such a book, I would suggest you release it under a more generous license, if possible.

    I feel you should do what most others cannot be bothered to do in this era of 140 characters or less.

    Lastly, I would like to recommend to you this Eastern Philosophical work compiled during the Tang Dynasty, it covers many centuries of immensely profound social management and statecraft wisdom, here is volume 1:

    https://archive.org/details/TheGoverningPrinciplesOfAncientChina360Passages

    It was a pleasure discussing with you, happy reading!

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    1. Thank you for the reference, I shall try to read through it this month. I started reading Chinese history when I was in the military. I was nineteen and stations in southeast Asia at the time. The library on the military base was large and I was reading my way through quite a number of histories, most of which were general in nature but helpful. Most of what I read was European history and South American histories. But I managed to find a number of monographs on places like Laos and Nepal. Also on the base was a book store that sold paperback and hard bound volumes that had been printed in Japan. So I purchased a two volume history of China and proceeded to read my way up to the eighteenth century. Since then I have in my collection at least a dozen more histories of China written from different perspectives. I look forward to getting back to reading those volumes. I keep a wish list on Amazon of books I want but can’t really afford to buy as frequently as I would like. There must be a dozen books on Chinese philosophy and I think I have bought a couple. My house is in an uproar right now, books pack away and in storage, possessions packed away and stored where they will. Another month, maybe two and I can start to regain control of this mess. One day I might actually get everything unpacked. Even then I would need at least 110 feet of 8 foot high bookshelves to house all the books. It seems strange to me that I already need a much larger house not for living space but for the library.

      I gave away over six hundred books to the charity Goodwill. Do you know why? That was about $10,000 worth of excellent and well maintained technical books on network engineering and design. No university library wanted them, no public library wanted them. Can you imagine that? I no longer had any use for them. The tech crash came in 2001 and I was out of a job with no way back in the industry. I was considered too old and outdated. Oh I loved my work, pursued it with a passion. But technology never loved me back. I had to face the fact that I would never work in that industry again. I ended up driving a semi truck across the country hauling freight everywhere in the country. But the knowledge never really goes away, just the using of it. Now I could care less what is going on with computers, networks, and communications. And my knowledge, like my technical books, I couldn’t give away. That is a profound statement about modern life. Or at least in the western culture. It is one of the symptoms of the disease the west has become infected. We are seeing the fruits of that disease today. A loss of collective memory, a dysfunctional society based on individual identity and the attempt to avoid any personal responsibility or thought. Will another Mongol horde ride in to take our civilization down and cause us to build another? I think that horde is Islam and we’ve nothing to combat it.

      The idea of a magnum opus is entertaining. Should I do as Edward Gibbon did and write about the fall of western civilization? I think half a dozen books have been written already although none of which has much of a clue. Most of those writers don’t really understand human behavior or technology. Human behavior is driven from the ground up, not the top down as we have been taught in our public schools. And technology is not the golden sceptre of magical wealth that lifts us all out of the mire of humanity. If anything it tends to be a heavy iron bludgeon beating us down into the mire and like the dabs of much and mire that explode upwards with every heavy blow the elite tend to escape the blows for a time. I could do the dystopian opus but that would mean mixing George Orwell and Aldous Huxley , for we have those two forces vying for command of the world. The end result is fascism in any case. Having given up on divine intervention we have case our fates to the winds of technology and commercialism. Perhaps that is the theme upon which I should comment. In fiat money we trust. It is the perfect metaphor.

      It will be another month or two before I start writing again. I’ve got to get my shop in order. I build a 400 square foot building to house my woodworking tools and equipment. Right now it is full of household goods and stuff. A corner of it will be dedicated to my writing space. And there is some work to be done on it. I need to place a stronger floor in it and then add some electrical wiring and other such things. Then the walls will need to be insulated, think I will use the closed cell spray foam. About a month of two worth of work. But that will be more relaxing. Work benches to be made and storage to put in. Rather than sheet rock I may use 5/8 thick 1 x 6 cedar on the walls. Wood dampens sound better than sheet rock. Last will be putting in a split HVAC system for heating and cooling. The winters don’t normally get too cold although this year we have seen below freezing temperatures and had snow flurries last Friday. But the summers do get hot. From June through September we usually get long spells of 100 plus degree heat. Life never stops until it does.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m so glad you are interested! And thank you as always for your detailed and profound replies.

        Its really good you donated the books to Goodwill, with those merits, you’ll be even smarter in the next life. Moreover, as what you gave away are physical assets (i.e. $10,000), you’ll have good wealth as karmic reward as well. Give knowledge get knowledge, give wealth, get wealth!

        As for the many problems of our society, look at it this way, the Chinese phrase for “crisis” is a combination of “danger” and “opportunity”. If the world was in perfect peace, you would just be living life wandering from one amusement to another, but it is precisely because you have lived through war, cold war, economic crashes, ideological strife, inequality, injustice, shifts in technology, and so forth that you can write great things. You can be like those Spring and Autumn era philosophers and thinkers (e.g. like one of the Hundred Schools of Thought), many of which were interested in Agrarian ideals like you.

        I still recommend you consider the charity Unite for Sight. It’s not a handout you’re giving, its about saving potential. For the eyes you save with a few dollars to fund cataract surgery could be a pair of eyes that will one day read and admire your works in the decades to come. Moreover, all the wonderful books you have are only useful because you have a pair of eyes that work.

        Also, after you’re done with the house, I recommend you take a picture of the study/library with your typewriter and do a post on it. Anything with books is bound to look good, and with the recent changes to the Reader, a picture is more likely to bring attention than words alone.

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