A Message From RFK: Fear Not the Path of Truth

There are people in every time and every land who want to stop history in its tracks. They fear the future, mistrust the present, and invoke the security of the comfortable past which, in fact, never existed. — Robert F. Kennedy, June 8, 1964

A thought keeps running through my mind like a moving line across the bottom of a television screen: we are all doing the best we can. I recognize enough truth in it not to yell delete! as I’m told my eldest brother always did when he had a thought he didn’t like, or to say erase! which I tend to do. It must be a family trait–I wonder what word my mother used? Probably balderdash! as she loved drama.

Yes, you did, Mom, I say over my right shoulder, and your wife told me so I say over the left. I know this is bizarre but every time I attribute something to one of them I feel they are complaining behind my back. Just one more proof that I’m crazy. However, I think I always suspect that people on the other side are listening when I talk about them because Mom always told me never to speak ill of the dead. If they couldn’t hear me, why would she think I should worry about it? Or was it just one of those what if things, like what if her deceased sister-in-law could hear her say what a bitch she was? Would she have enough pull in Heaven to get Mom thrown out? I’m sorry. I know that’s ridiculous. I really do have some wierd thoughts, but consider the source. Balderdash! That was mom.

Anyway, I really have tried to refrain from speaking ill of the dead, as I don’t want to offend them, but it’s getting to where too many people I know have passed on, which means I’m running out of ones I can speak ill of and muteness does not come natural to me. As for my mom and brother, I wasn’t actually saying anything bad about them, I was just commenting. You mean I can’t even comment? Jeez!

Well, back to the subject. The first reponse I had to the thought we are all doing the best we can is well, yeah, that’s true if you take into consideration their blah, blah, blahs–listing the perceived faults or handicaps of people I know who are still living. But at this I did yell erase!, knowing that is not what was meant at all.

Because that’s when it finally came to me that I’ve received another love message from the Universe; this one is meant for all the people out there who keep worrying about what’s going to happen to our country, and why things are in such an awful mess. The message is that we’ve just got to play out the hand we were dealt, and quit blaming ourselves for every rotten card that came out of the deck with the devil’s pawprint on it. Maybe someone stacked the deck, and heck, John Wayne could’ve found a way out of it. But since he’s not here we are all doing the best that we can, on Super Tuesday and every other day of the week.

Another message, this one from Bobby, runs across the bottom of my screen. It’s from his last speech on the night he was assassinated. Fear not the path of truth for the lack of people walking on it.

I’m trying, Bobby, but we sure do miss you.

 

 

 

The Human Condition: Poop Has Always Been With Us

Woe am I, the haunted, beset by fates unkind; blessed with a royal demeanor and cursed with a common behind – the human complaint

Not long after my first husband and I were married we found we both liked to read in bed. One night he was reading a history about ancient Rome and I was reading the latest Perry Mason mystery, which he had ridiculed as low-brow. Upon discovering a new word, something he enjoyed immensely, he stopped to tell it to me; tepidarium, he said, was a Roman word for bathhouse. 

Immediately, I picked up a notebook and pen from the nightstand, suddenly inspired to write a poem. Although at that time attempts at poetry was not my normal thing, the verses came flying out of the stratosphere (or scatological sphere?) so fast I had to hurry to get them down before they left again:

“If all men joined together on this earth in dreams of royal origin in their births, then each must blush for shame at his delirium when nature prompts him to the tepidarium.

“I wonder too, if kings join in the mirth when they bare their royal backsides to the earth, or do they dignify and grace their lonely station as they join the common herd in defecation.”

Now I don’t know where the words came from but there they were, and as far as I can tell, were original. However, later when I looked up tepidarium in the dictionary to see the definition for myself, I realized the poem had a fatal flaw. According to Websters Unabridged a tepidarium was described thus: “in the ancient Roman baths, the warm room, situated between the steam room and the cooling room.”

I had equated a Roman bathhouse with a modern day bathroom, which has both a bathtub and a toilet. But in Rome, bathhouses and latrines, where the defecating was done, were separate. And latrine does not rhyme with delirium. If you can think of an appropriate word that does, please let me know as it will make the poem salvageable. Although I doubt that anyone will ever want to publish it.

Actually, Rome was more like my early Appalachian home, the bathhouse being situated in a washtub that hung behind the kitchen stove and the latrine at the end of a path leading away from the house. An interesting difference though, was that the Romans, instead of using pages from a Sears catalogue as we did, since they didn’t have them, used a communal sponge on a stick–rinsing it out after each use.  Duh!

But it surprises me still that my intellectual husband, upon hearing the recitation of my poem, just stared at me without a comment, his mouth gaping open. Were he behaving normally, I would’ve expected him to show off his superior knowledge about bathhouses and latrines. I think my poem flushed the word tepidarium right out of his mind though. Or else he quickly decided, to paraphrase Aeschylus, that even if one is wise, he may sometimes deem it profitable to appear to be foolish.

Politics: Throwing the Bleeps to the Lions

“There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.”  Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

After reading several editorials online this morning I came across the one by Garry Wills in the New York Times: Two Presidents are Worse than One.  Of course Wills is referring to Bill Clinton when he states “He is not the kind to be a potted plant in the White House,” immediately I had a mental image of Bill peeking out from behind a potted plant, his eyes gleaming. The image even brought up another one from a story I read about a woman being arrested for peeing in someones’s potted plant. I hope she doesn’t visit the White House when she gets out of jail, at least not if Bill is there. Yuk! I wish that image had passed me by.

Wills also states that “at a time when we should be trying to return to the single-executive system the Constitution prescribes, it does not seem to be a good idea to put another co-president in the White House.” He’s referring, of course, to the mostly-acknowledged-by-many co-presidency of Dick Cheney.

To add to the fray, in another editorial in the Times, Questions for the Clintons, Bob Herbert asks “whether the Clintons are capable of being anything but divisive,” and “What kind of people are the Clintons? What role will Bill Clinton play in a new Clinton White House? Can they look beyond winning to a wounded nation’s need for healing and unifying?”

And, as Cathy Young states in her editorial Gender and the Politics of Hate in the Boston Globe, “Hillary Clinton has always been a polarizing figure, “Saint Hillary” to some, the Wicked Witch of the West Wing to others; an altruistic crusader for social justice or a power-hungry Mussolini in skirts. There is no question that gender was a large factor in both Hillary-hatred and in Hillary-worship.”

Young also adds: “But Clinton is hardly the only polarizing figure in contemporary American politics, or the only target of visceral, irrational hate out of all proportion to the politician’s actual faults. Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Al Gore and George W. Bush have all been in that boat.”

Aha! So it’s American politics as usual. Every four years we get into name-calling, reputation-bashing public brawls and throw the bleeps to the lions. What fun! The thing is, it tests the mettle of the contenders and the patience of the voters, both of which must be engaged in the toughest feats in the arena if we are to end up with the best possible choice. But–since married couples always fight, and if they don’t someone is giving in too much–why not have a duo in the White House, openly for a change.

Do the pundits actually believe our presidents never looked to their mates for help in running the country? A good wife always helps her husband by sharing his burdens, unless they’re fighting and then, by damn, she will become a potted plant – I’m sure many husbands recognize this allusion.  Let a man have a chance to be a helpmate, or a potted plant if he wishes. The time has come to recognize, acknowledge and promote the truth behind the presidency.  If we don’t, we will miss a sacred moment of opportunity that may never come again.

Eight Days on Sand Key

Normally, when it’s zero degrees in Iowa and snow covers the ground I want nothing more than to hibernate indoors while admiring the winter wonderland through my frosty windows. However, during the recent cold spell, I received an invitation to spend eight days as a guest on Sand Key, compelling me to brave the frigid temperature on the way to the airport where I flew off to bask in the Florida sunshine.

After arriving at the condo with its security gates and different keys for entrances, exits, pool area and changing rooms, I was almost afraid to venture out for fear of not getting back in. My brother and sister-in-law had been granted vacation use of the condo by an employer and were allowed to have visitors so my older brother’s widow was also with them. Although the condo, beautiful and furnished tastefully, was evaluated at almost two million dollars, I was not overawed. It was simply more elegant living quarters than I was accustomed to.

I slept well in the king size bed although I missed Winston’s warm little body against my back and hoped he was behaving for my daughter. This was the first time I’d been away from him overnight in two and a half years, also the first time I had seen my relatives since that time. We had talked often on the phone though and I looked forward to reminiscing about the past.

Although we made small talk, shared meals and loaded the dishwasher together, and on the second day my widowed sister-in-law and I took the trolley to Clearwater to shop for things to take home from Florida, three days went by before we spoke of Kentucky.

It’s strange, but I learned for the first time that my brother, who was twelve when I was eight, did not remember that he was the one who woke me to tell me that morning that Daddy had died during the early morning hours. Yet that moment stands out in my mind as clearly as if it was yesterday.

In another instance my widowed sister-in-law said to me “Who would ever have thought it would be you, little Amanda Nell, who would do the family book. Who would have thought it!”

I have always had trouble interpreting the things people say, but what I learned from my brother and what my sister-in-law said seemed connected somehow. All those years ago my brother had left the room not knowing my body had turned to stone. I remember lying rigid in the bed with no feeling at all and yet I don’t remember getting up. Sometime later I stood in the doorway to the front room in our Appalachian home staring at my father’s body lying in the casket while relatives and neighbors sat in chairs around the room staring at me. I once said to my mother “It was really hard on me when Daddy died.”

“It was hard on all of us,” she said.

As I caught the plane home I had my brother and his wife drop me off early at the airport because I was halfway through an interesting novel and also because I knew the day was finally warm enough for them to play golf. We’d had a few cold, for Florida, blustery days.

But as I sat in the Tampa Airport, I remembered those days so long ago when my brother had shared such terrible news, news he doesn’t remember telling me. I thought of my sister-in-law saying “Who would ever have thought it” that I would be the one to do the family book.  But, I thought to myself, I had to.  Because nobody else did. And it was important to leave a written record for those who wanted to know what our small world was like during that place and time. 

Back in Cedar Rapids my daughter picked me up at the airport and I hugged her close, rejoicing to be back in this cozy place I’ve created for myself. When I awoke this morning the temperature was  nine below, but inside I felt a warm glow the frigid weather will never touch. 

Hillary–Warming the Cockles of Our Hearts

“While Obama was spouting poetry, Clinton stuck to what she knew best, unexciting but smart prose. Instead of giving voters goose bumps, she gave them chicken soup.” – Joan Vennochi, Boston Globe Columnist

In a great editorial in the Boston Globe this morning Joan Vennochi refers to Hillary as “The Chicken Soup Candidate”. Which really struck me–just yesterday I had made an off-the-cuff remark to my daughter that I thought Hillary wants to be the Mother of our Country. And, if George Washington, our first president, is known as the Father of our Country, why shouldn’t the first woman be thought of as the Mother?

I had come to this startling thought while looking at an Astrology chart for Hillary which shows, if the time of birth I used is correct, that her natal Moon, representing her emotional nature by sign and house, is in Pisces in the tenth.  There are conflicting reports regarding her time of birth but I used the one for 8:00 pm on October 26, 1947. The tenth house in a chart represents the public, the career, and reputation while the Moon there in Pisces shows an intuitive connection to the public. You might even say Hillary wants to mother the whole world.

It’s funny how this description also fits with a criticism I’ve heard of her — that she thinks she knows “what’s right for everybody” (shades of Jewish motherhood!). As children mature, they often rebel against their mothers, calling it “cutting the umbilical cord”. Otherwise, boys are in danger of becoming “mama’s boys” and girls in staying “tied to the apron strings”. But secretly most of us need mothering, especially when we are sick or discouraged, and during those times we welcome, with a grateful heart, the loving dispensers of chicken soup.

If a woman can lead us through this transitional period from the old order to the new while also dispensing chicken soup when it is needed, isn’t that an added gift we would appreciate in a leader? What about the fireside chats of FDR? Or the warm fatherly mien of Ronald Reagan? Didn’t they warm the cockles of our hearts? This is the part of Hillary that she had not allowed to show before, because she had to keep proving she is presidential material, that she has the knowledge, the experience and the toughness to lead this country as well as any man.

While Obama waxed eloquent, she kept hammering on the issues. If she had strayed into poetry, the media was ready to jump on her like jackals on road kill. Which they will continue to do. There is a “Stop Hillary” chant that is irrational in its intent and fierceness. I do not understand it.

I’m afraid of how far these people will go to cut her down.

The Myth in the Race for the Presidency

“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”  —  Niccolo Machiavelli The Prince (1532)

News Flash: In a little village in Kenya called Nyangoma-Kogelo, people gather around the radio listening to the latest update on the voting in Iowa, United States of America. According to the radio, one of their own, who has blood kin still living in the village, is winning in the first step of an election leading up to choosing the new president of that faraway country. Before the year is out, Barack Hussein Obama could be the leader of the strongest nation in the world.

It is of such things that myths are made, and herein lies proof that beneath the horrible events in America during 1963 and 1968 the tattered dreams of liberty survived. In spite of the rampant corporate greed and dirty politics that has besmirched the face of America its heart still beats to the drums of the promise of liberty and justice for all. This election year is proving to us that the bright and shining future we once envisioned for America, although hard to see beyond the recent carnage of war, still waits if only we have the courage it will take to reach it.

We must, above all, have a strong leader, one whose fortitude is proven. Although wonderful speeches gladden our hearts, we need a leader who can take on the fiercest dragons and withstand their fire. As worthy as he is in many ways, this is not Obama. Although he has it in him to be a great statesman, his moment is not yet. When he is more seasoned his time will come, and then his relatives in West Kenya will once again gather around their radios or televisions — and listen with pride.

So far, this election year has revealed that, on the Democrat side, a black man can run for president and win the primary vote in Iowa, a state where less than 3% of the population is black. That a woman can reach third place in the same contest and leave a few male candidates in the dust. The second place winner, an all white male, is not gay or we would have a third category attesting to our progress in keeping America’s promise of liberty and justice for all. But this man is a great fighter for justice.

We also have another party from which to choose. On the Republican side the winner in Iowa is a former Baptist minister, and the second place winner is a candidate of the Mormon religion. Winning third place is a former actor, politician and lobbyist. The fourth place, won by the last of the most viable candidates, is a man with a calm countenance that belies his myth, the old warrier who fought the dragons of olden times and offers his aging wisdom to his country and its young warriors.

A new world order is on the horizon whether we seek it or not, and we must choose our agent of change carefully in order to make the right choices in the future while not sacrificing our integrity as a nation. Only in preserving the good from the past can we hope to stay on the right course in the future.

And even if we stray from our course, we should do as Washington Irving did when traveling in a stagecoach, find comfort in shifting our position and being bruised in a new place. 

Update: January 8th, New Hampshire, the second battle: After a tight race the First Woman wins on the Democrat side and the Old Warrior wins on the Republican side.  The arena will move to the state of Michigan for the next Republican battle, where the *First Mormon will attempt to wrest the scepter from the hands of the Old Warrior. In the next Democrat battle, in South Carolina, the First Black will try to regain his earlier lead over the First Woman.

*Although the First Morman’s father competed for the nomination in 1968 but lost, as will he who is trying to fulfill his father’s dream.  In the past other candidates have vied to be the “First” of their kind but this year marks a turning point in history.  Whether they win or not, the Firsts have broken down the barriers of the old order in preparation for the new. 

Is Your Soul Stored in the Rafters?

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited – whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution” – Albert Einstein

As a child I often imagined a door in my mind. Even though it was closed, from underneath it a golden light beckoned, trying to entice me to open it. But my heart would pound as I crept near, forcing me to stop in fear of what might lie behind the door. And even though the light glowed warmly from the crack along the bottom, for a long time I withheld my trust. Not long before this a terrible thing had happened in my life, something that had taken the innocence of my childhood and introduced me to death and poverty, and I had learned to be afraid. But in recent years I’ve likened that yellow light to a flow of inspiration and imagination that I gradually began to draw on during my lifelong search for meaning. I view it now as a spiritual gift from the Universe, which even during my childhood, saved me from despair.

As for the mundane things in life, I often had to struggle to understand them. I learned acceptable behavior for the most part by imitating others. Well, I thought, if this is how things are done, I guess I will do them–but why? The world made no sense to me, but I was stuck here so I made the best of it. And since the first step in learning how to be is through learning how to do, I learned how to do, although often getting it wrong. It took me many more years to learn how to be–and I’m still learning yet. I made a great leap forward when I was finally able to make my outside more closely match my inside, but it sometimes requires a conscious effort not to get distracted by too much of the deadening doses of what is often referred to as reality.

According to Carl Jung “All the works of man have their origin in creative fantasy,” and Immanuel Kant said “Happiness is not an ideal of reason, but of imagination.” I’ve heard people say they have no imagination but I think they mean by this the ability to create fiction. When they tell something they believe to be factually true they do not think they are using their imagination since the story they’re relating is “real”. I wonder how many of them limit themselves to the facts and miss out on the beauty of their own existence when their imagination is engaged? How many, like myself, have years of feelings stored in the rafters because they haven’t yet found the tools with which to express them?