Great Literature of our People. 2

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These are two of my favorite poems by Rudyard Kipling.

The Stranger

The Stranger within my gate, He may be true or kind, But he does not talk my talk– I cannot feel his mind. I see the face and the eyes and the mouth, But not the soul behind. The men of my own stock, They may do ill or well, But they tell the lies I am wonted to, They are used to the lies I tell; And we do not need interpreters When we go to buy or sell. The Stranger within my gates, He may be evil or good, But I cannot tell what powers control– What reasons sway his mood; Nor when the Gods of his far-off land Shall repossess his blood. The men of my own stock, Bitter bad they may be, But, at least, they hear the things I hear, And see the things I see; And whatever I think of them and their likes They think of the likes of me. This was my father’s belief And this is also mine: Let the corn be all one sheaf– And the grapes be all one vine, Ere our children’s teeth are set on edge By bitter bread and wine.

IF

IF you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master; If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same; If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breathe a word about your loss; If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, ‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch, if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much; If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

 

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Freedom, the God that Failed

 

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I used to like the story about Patrick Henry and him saying “Give me liberty or give me death!”, but as I have grown older and seen more of the world, I have to say he was a bit naïve. There is no such thing as freedom in this world, or I should say, we wouldn’t very much like this world if there were. If every man were allowed to act however he pleased, it would be chaos, it would immediately be an end to civilization. In fact, it could be argued that civilization itself is a result of men positively choosing to do things they don’t want to do, positively choosing to limit their freedom. The retort to this is often something like, “Well, what we mean by freedom is that we can do what we want, until it interferes with someone else”. The false assumption in this statement is that there are things that we can do that don’t interfere with others.  The fact is, that on this planet, or your village, almost everything you do impacts someone else. Victimless crimes do not exist. Freedom may work okay if we all lived on our own little private islands 100 miles from each other with our own water and food supplies, but realistically there is very little that you do, that doesn’t affect those people living around you.

Before I go further a point of clarification is needed. When I speak of freedom I am talking about freedom of action, freedom of choice, physical earthly freedom.  I am not talking about the freedom that Jesus was referring to when he said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” That is a spiritual freedom. (I plan on writing an article about the difference between the earthly kingdom, and the kingdom of heaven at a latter time.) What Jesus is talking about is the kind of freedom that a prisoner can have more of than his prison guard.

Now I’m no commie, (If Patrick had said, ”Better dead than red” now that’s a saying I can get behind) I don’t want to live in some hippy commune where we all share everything, and there is a nightly curfew (read Ayn Rand’s, Anthem). I like the idea of making my own choices, of self-sufficiency, of not asking others to do for me what I can do for myself, and choosing what kind of life is best for me, not having some government slob telling me what I can and cannot do, but I have to be wise about such serious things.  Let’s say I want my dog to run all over the neighborhood, “nobody’s gonna tell me to cage my dog”. Obviously that would immediately present problems with my neighbors. Also, about the self-sufficiency thing, the fact is, I am where I am today in large part due to my parents and surroundings, both of which I had very little to do with choosing. If my parents wanted to be free, and not be encumbered by a child, I wouldn’t be writing this. Now many people would say, “of course when we say freedom, we don’t mean just do whatever you want” and I agree that when you say freedom you don’t want chaos, that you want rules, but when you put freedom above setting appropriate boundaries, you will end in chaos.

People often falsely assume that the opposite of freedom is slavery, or being a prisoner, but this is not the case. This is like saying the opposite of warm is cold . In fact the opposite of a prisoner is not a free man, but a king. I will explain this. Imagine a man all alone on a deserted tropical island.  Is he a prisoner or a free man? Some would say a free man because he can do whatever he wants (this is false, because he can’t have a cheeseburger), and others would say he is a prisoner because he can’t leave (this is also false, what if there was no place else). So what freedom really comes down to is where you draw the boundaries, and what choices are in or out.  Now back to the king, think of a man with the largest boundaries, the least limits on his actions, could we not call that man a king.  Now we get to a dilemma, out of one side of our mouths we denounce kings, but out of the other we say, “let us all be kings”. So a free man is somewhere on a continuum between a prisoner and a king, the rub is, where on that continuum?

So to me, freedom without any qualifiers is in fact terrible, and like always, the devil is in the details. Those details very badly need to be discussed. The point I am trying to make is that it was a mistake to put freedom on such a high pedestal. By doing so we often put things of more lasting importance below it.  A good example of this is having children.  Children take away freedom.  Many people I have personally known have listed freedom as a reason for not having children. This alone is a good enough reason to knock freedom off it’s pedestal.

What the worship of freedom, of liberty, of independence has done, is isolate us. It has caused us to look at ourselves as one individual, instead of part of a long chain of people spanning back in time including our ancestors, and spanning forward in time including our descendants.  It has caused us to live selfishly, to live for ourselves and not for others. It has caused us to ruin our country, to leave our children with a world that will most definitely be filled with war.

Freedom truly isn’t free, it has come at a very high price, a price to me, that wasn’t worth it.

Great Literature of our People. 1

 

Stories_of_beowulf_wiglaf_and_beowulf

These are the two speeches made by Wiglaf in the book Beowulf.  One speech is before fighting the dragon, the second is after the battle.

1.

“I remember the time, when mead we took,
what promise we made to this prince of ours
in the banquet-hall, to our breaker-of-rings,
for gear of combat to give him requital,
for hard-sword and helmet, if hap should bring
stress of this sort! Himself who chose us
from all his army to aid him now,
urged us to glory, and gave these treasures,
because he counted us keen with the spear
and hardy ‘neath helm, though this hero-work
our leader hoped unhelped and alone
to finish for us, — folk-defender
who hath got him glory greater than all men
for daring deeds! Now the day is come
that our noble master has need of the might
of warriors stout. Let us stride along
the hero to help while the heat is about him
glowing and grim! For God is my witness
I am far more fain the fire should seize
along with my lord these limbs of mine!
Unsuiting it seems our shields to bear
homeward hence, save here we essay
to fell the foe and defend the life
of the Weders’ lord. I wot ’twere shame
on the law of our land if alone the king
out of Geatish warriors woe endured
and sank in the struggle! My sword and helmet,
breastplate and board, for us both shall serve!”
Through slaughter-reek strode he to succor his chieftain,
his battle-helm bore, and brief words spake:–
“Beowulf dearest, do all bravely,
as in youthful days of yore thou vowedst
that while life should last thou wouldst let no wise
thy glory droop! Now, great in deeds,
atheling steadfast, with all thy strength
shield thy life! I will stand to help thee.”

2.

“Who sooth will speak, can say indeed
that the ruler who gave you golden rings
and the harness of war in which ye stand
— for he at ale-bench often-times
bestowed on hall-folk helm and breastplate,
lord to liegemen, the likeliest gear
which near of far he could find to give, —
threw away and wasted these weeds of battle,
on men who failed when the foemen came!
Not at all could the king of his comrades-in-arms
venture to vaunt, though the Victory-Wielder,
God, gave him grace that he got revenge
sole with his sword in stress and need.
To rescue his life, ’twas little that I
could serve him in struggle; yet shift I made
(hopeless it seemed) to help my kinsman.
Its strength ever waned, when with weapon I struck
that fatal foe, and the fire less strongly
flowed from its head. — Too few the heroes
in throe of contest that thronged to our king!
Now gift of treasure and girding of sword,
joy of the house and home-delight
shall fail your folk; his freehold-land
every clansman within your kin
shall lose and leave, when lords highborn
hear afar of that flight of yours,
a fameless deed. Yea, death is better
for liegemen all than a life of shame!”

 

A Letter to Public School Teachers

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I hope you acknowledge that you work for the government, and that working for the government is different than working for a private business, and that the real issue is not that you are making 8,000K less than the teachers in some other bigger city, but how much should teachers be making. We are always hearing the teachers whining about their pay and how hard their job is, and how important they are, it’s getting old. Especially when the kids that you are supposed to be “educating” are getting dumber and dumber and the administrators are getting fatter and fatter, and the union is buying up every politician in sight. Teachers’ salaries should be determined not by subjective notions of a “living wage,” but by the amount of money the taxpayers are willing to voluntarily pay for their children’s education. The good thing about teachers, when determining appropriate wages, is that we have a private sector equivalent, private schools, where we already know how much people are willing to pay for their child’s education.  You make statements like “every profession should have a cost of living raise” very naively without qualifying.  A company cannot continue to increase the wages of its employees if the income of the company does not increase and the effectiveness of their employees goes down. What will happen is the company would go out of business. If the government did not force people to send their kids to public schools, or people were able to get vouchers, parents would pull their kids out of public school faster than you could say “social justice.”  You only set yourself up for failure if you detach what you are being paid from what the company is making, or what the customers are willing to pay for your product/service. But since you work for the government you will be the last to go out of business, and what do you care, hey you got CalSTRS.  You also say your pay is “far behind.” Everybody feels that they aren’t paid enough, everyone feels like their job is the hardest, the toughest, that nobody understands, but we can’t put our feelings ahead of morality or logic. Public school teachers should be paid what their equivalents in the private schools from their area are paid. From very little research on the interwebs it looks like in California, public school teachers are paid about 20,000K more than private school teachers, so it looks like what would be more appropriate would be a pay decrease not a pay increase.

Lessons From Mario Kart

mario cart

When I was a kid we would play Mario Kart (Super Mario Kart was released in 1992). Mario kart is a video game where you race other players, there are different characters, different tracks, and fun little tricks like dropping banana peels to trip up the other racers. I have a lot of fond memories of playing the game with my brothers, especially in the battle mode where you try to knock off those three balls that were spinning around the other player. Oftentimes I would play it alone, when nobody was around, or when I wanted to hone my skills so that I could beat my brothers.  When you are playing the game alone you have a few options, you could race the computer, you could race all alone, or you could race yourself.  How you would race yourself was you would first complete one race all by yourself, then you would race it again, except this time there was a shadow version of yourself from the last race racing with you.  This was very amusing because every time you did better the shadow version would become your best time, so that every race you could get a little bit better, it really was a great idea, and a lot of fun.

Now I haven’t played Mario Kart in probably 20 years, but one day as I was lecturing my daughter, and she was arguing with me, it came back to me.  If you have kids you will have heard the argument my daughter was making, and if you don’t have kids you need to start working on having some (that I will have to talk about in another blog post).  So the argument is simple, there are many variations of it, but the most common is, “Well, you did it Dad.” Basically, the argument is addressing where exactly the bar for our behavior should be. What my child was trying to say was, why should the bar be higher for me than it was for you?  The general response to this is, “Well if I jumped off a cliff would you?” or some such thing trying to say that just because one person does something stupid doesn’t mean that you should do it. Now this is an okay way to respond, but the problem is that generally both parties agree that jumping off a cliff is bad, but they do not agree on the goodness of the current action that is the cause of the debate in the first place.  Generally, the child thinks it’s okay and the parent doesn’t.  Now my general go to response to this argument was (and sometimes I still use it) that the bar should not be the parent, but it should be Jesus; that the parent is a flawed person, and that we shouldn’t try to match the behavior of a flawed person, but we should match the behavior of a perfect person, Jesus.  This is also a good response, but it too has flaws, the flaws being that the child is often discouraged, knowing that they can never live up to such a high standard.  So in the midst of one of these debates is when Mario Kart came to me.

So it goes like this: Imagine that your life is like a very long course of Mario Kart.  There are other racers on the course, there are obstacles, there are twists and turns.  The track sometimes has pits and water or ice, sometimes your cart breaks down, or is difficult to control.  There are those big stone things that try to crush you, sometimes you only get the stupid coins when you really need the red shell. You get the idea. Once I get them to understand the concept, I tell them about the shadow racer thing. So there will be other racers that are better than you, others that are slower, maybe one will be perfect (Jesus), but you really aren’t racing against them.  You are racing against the shadow version of yourself doing the best possible time.

Each one of us has unique lives, unique circumstances. It oftentimes does not make sense to compare ourselves to others, but to the best possible version of ourselves. Our ancestors understood this concept, the ancients understood it, it is time that we start to understand it, and to teach our children.