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Wed May 2, 2012, 03:42 PM

Kelly at the Pond

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"True civilization lies in the dominance of self, and not in the dominance of other men. Is not humanness a matter of heart and mind, and is it not evident in the form of relationships with man? Is not kindness more powerful than arrogance, and truth more powerful than the sword? I am going to venture that the man who sat on the ground in his tepee, meditating on life and its meaning, accepting the kinship of all the creatures, and acknowledging unity with the universe of things, was infusing into his being the true essence of civilization. And when native man left off this form of development, his humanization was retarded in growth."
-- Luther Standing Bear; Land of the Spotted Eagle; 1933.

Due to numerous morning/ early afternoon appointments, I have been spending more time at my pond in the evening. As I fill the bird-feeders with black oil sunflower seeds, a couple of dozen Koi swim over to the southwest "corner" of the pond. They know that they are about to be fed. And as soon an their evening meal hits the water's surface, hundreds of minnows -- from tiny to large -- create what Horace called "a poem without words" -- with countless small ripples intersecting on the pond's top.

Next, I toss more food into a deeper section of the water, which the trout inhabit. These fish tend to "jump" their meal, and the sight and sounds of their feeding is distinct from either Koi or minnow. Then, I take a seat in my old Adirondack rocker, and marvel at the display of colors on the Koi. Blue, green, red, orange, purple, yellow, and bright gold .... along with patches of black and white.

I believe that because human beings are the only non-essential participant in the web of life on earth, we benefit from recognizing the environment as school. Little children are aware of this, of course, and learn while playing at a pond or a waterfalls. Too often, US culture restricts people's ability to spend either quiet time or play time in a natural setting.

Each evening, my dog Kelly goes with me to the pond. He is a curious fellow: while both of his parents are jet black, he is white, with blue spots. Although he is primarily a boxer, he looks like a dalmatian. Kelly isn't big -- he weighs 75 pounds -- but is powerfully built. I get a kick out of watching him lower himself to the ground, and follow his nose in an odd, muscular crawl. While Kelly is good-natured around people (comically so), I have seen him become aggressive when stray dogs and coyote come onto our property/ Kelly's territory. So it makes me laugh when, in response to the trout jumping, he responds with anxious yips.

Thus, one of the laws of the universe was best noted by the late musician Harry Nilsson: "Everything is the exact opposite of what it really is."

******* ******* ******* ******* ******* *******

My son D called me after he finished work yesterday. He's doing construction on Long Island, saving up money in order to go back to school. He was accepted to start at SUNY-Binghamton in the fall.

About a week ago, at a neighborhood cook-out, D was talking to a lady that he described as "old, probably close to (my) age." She said that, with his formal training as a prison guard, he could get hired at the school where she teaches. While the position does pay well, he is stunned by the reality that a public school requires a prison guard with a different title.

Instead, he is interviewing for a job on a farm. He prefers that life-style to either construction or a school guard. "It just seems," he told me, "more like what human beings are supposed to do." A couple of urban co-workers made jokes about "farmers," he said, until he reminded him of who actually provides the best foods that humans consume.

******* ******* ******* ******* ******* *******

On Monday morning, I went to see an eye specialist; she immediately referred me to another, who works out of a regional "teaching" hospital. Looking back, I think the folks at the hospital recognized that I was a bit anxious, and so they would patiently explain what the various tests they subjected me to, were for. I told them that while I do not have a scientific mind, I have great admiration of those who do; more, while the information they were providing me with was fascinating, I would much prefer it was someone else's eyes.

Eventually, this specialist asked me if by chance I had ever been assaulted, or in a fight where I took hard blows to my head? Indeed, I had boxed in my youth. Why hadn't I mentioned that? It was decades ago, and not anything I would connect with my current circumstances.

Long story a little shorter: I learned that eyes get damaged in boxing, and that I have too much scar tissue in my eyes to allow my otherwise good vision to reach its potential. She told me that in her practice, she sees two general types of injuries: the ordinary, and the extraordinary. Guess what mine are? She then asked if I would mind being subjected to a couple other series of tests and exams. She said I should feel free to decline, as these would be both uncomfortable and not beneficial for me. I asked what they were for? Extra credit for the interns.

For the next two hours or so, I was shuffled from room to room, allowing numerous people the chance to gaze deeply into my eyes. D said that this demonstrates my obsessive-repulsive need to be at the center of attention. He noted that I had traveled about 100 miles as a result of this attention-seeking behavior.

I figure that if damage was done while boxing, it is a lot easier for me to deal with it. For boxing was the one bright spot in my early life. My wife sees it differently; she focuses on the harm that boxing did long-term. Clearly, one of us views it exactly the opposite of what it actually was.

******* ******* ******* ******* ******* *******

On one hand, human beings are savages -- the same as our primitive ancestors. We're just better-dressed, and enjoy the benefits of modern technology. On the other hand, we are Earth flowers, as unique individually as a single dandelion. These were the thoughts that I was thinking as the sun set. Then, as the darkness fell, I thoroughly enjoyed looking up at the stars, while listening to the song of the "peeper" frogs.

Eventually, I came inside, and watched a re-run of "Real Time with Bill Maher." It's a show that I sometimes watch with three of my children, who think Maher is an impressive thinker. I tend to see him more as an above-average comedian, who from time to time nails a social commentary. But tonight, I heard him talking about Willard Romney's nonsense about Barack Obama resenting other people's successes. And then, Maher asked, "Does Mitt really believe he is more successful than Obama?" He noted that Romney was the son of wealth, who has gained in wealth; Obama, on the other hand, was born into a single-parent family on food stamps. Mitt has made a fortune off of other people's suffering; Barack became the first black President of the United States.

Why, I wondered, were comedy shows now a better source of socio-political discussion than most of the "news" media? When did it change so sharply? Might have been around the time that public schools began hiring prison guards. There are many ways in which it is true that a democrat in the White House resembles a republican in that same setting. But make no mistake: that is far more defined by the job, than by comparisons of personal being. No matter how large his bank account may be, George W. Bush is an utter failure in the sense of successfully being a good and mature human being. The internal ethical system of Joe Biden is far superior to the rotten scum of a Dick Cheney. While Biden and Cheney may hold the same job, they are as different as sugar and shit.

Why is it that our culture considers holding the office of a politician, being seated as a supreme court judge, or being a slick businessman who commits "legal" theft each and every day, to be a true sign of "success"? And at the same time, a friend once reminded me, that it is viewed as not only okay, even legitimate -- but actually fashionable -- to be a petty, racist, sexist, egotistical, mean, envious, malicious snake -- so long as you hold political/ economic power?

This is a sick society.

******* ******* ******* ******* ******* *******

I asked my wife and daughters if they wanted to go sleep out in our cabin near the pond? Their need to get up early for work and school prevented that from happening. And so, after they went up to bed, Kelly and I went out for a walk around the pond.

It's not a really big pond, by any means. Certainly not a lake. But it shares in that greatness of the water-cycle here on earth; it provides for the fish and frogs and salamanders, and other creatures living in the water, and for the plant and animal life surrounding it. My sons and daughters have built numerous flower beds and put up bird houses and feeders. It is my favorite spot on earth.

It seems curious, indeed, that a portion of our society would view a habitat like this as a natural resource to be used to hydrofrack for gas .... and that making money off of it, despite ruining the site, and poisoning all the life in contact with it, is the true measure of success. Worse, the very minds that are diseased with greed and destruction, are those that this society continues to view as "leaders," and recognizes their "power." But that is the exact opposite of their true being: they do not achieve results by way of self-discipline that brings out their good potential; instead, they are ruled by external and violent forces, which can only result in destruction, disease, and death.

Kelly comes back after a long run around the field and some woods. He cools off for a moment in the pond, and drinks his fill. Then he attempts to jump up on my lap, demanding my attention. I do believe this is his favorite spot, too.

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Arrow 22 replies Author Time Post
Reply Kelly at the Pond (Original post)
H2O Man May 2012 OP
livetohike May 2012 #1
H2O Man May 2012 #5
KansDem May 2012 #2
hootinholler May 2012 #3
stevedeshazer May 2012 #4
H2O Man May 2012 #16
UnrepentantLiberal May 2012 #20
Beringia May 2012 #6
Richard D May 2012 #7
Zorra May 2012 #8
raouldukelives May 2012 #9
ThingsGottaChange May 2012 #10
byronius May 2012 #11
Odin2005 May 2012 #12
Duppers May 2012 #13
CaliforniaPeggy May 2012 #14
csziggy May 2012 #15
snappyturtle May 2012 #17
Namvet67 May 2012 #18
cliff48 May 2012 #19
Auggie May 2012 #21
mmonk May 2012 #22

Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed May 2, 2012, 03:50 PM

1. I think we can only keep educating and hope we change minds

Thanks for the wonderful post. As far as this being a sick society.....yes, I can't believe how many rednecks there are and how proud they are of being so.....in rural PA, you can't escape them.

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Response to livetohike (Reply #1)

Thu May 3, 2012, 08:40 AM

5. Rural upstate New York

has a dense population of rednecks. Far worse is the expanding cluster of (relatively) young professionals who identify with the national republican "leadership." Yikes!

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed May 2, 2012, 03:52 PM

2. Thanks...

...for sharing your pond with us!

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed May 2, 2012, 06:26 PM

3. Kind of puts it in perspective

I think things started changing before they started hiring guards for schools. After Tricky Dick gave Mr Trudeau his start and Mr Carlin started explaining how government works in clear terms. Then again, one could point to that cowboy in the 40's and 50's who's name escapes me but his wit remains, George someone?

Thanks for the essay!

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Wed May 2, 2012, 07:07 PM

4. I'm usually impressed with your writing efforts here.

But this is one of your finest. Thanks for sharing your observations so eloquently.

Your pond might be my favorite spot, too. And that I need a dog after losing my 17-year old border terrier recently.

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Response to stevedeshazer (Reply #4)

Thu May 3, 2012, 08:44 PM

16. Thanks!

That's interesting: I wrote this, then was tempted to "zap" it, rather than post it. So I put it aside for several hours. I figured it would most likely be of no interest to people here. Eventually, I decided to post it, and add it to my old DU journal, in case I wanted it at some future point, to re-work.

I appreciate that you and others took the time to read it, and to respond.

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Response to H2O Man (Reply #16)

Fri May 4, 2012, 09:28 AM

20. You're an excellent writter.

 

I thought I was reading an excerpt from a novel.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu May 3, 2012, 11:14 AM

6. Thanks for sharing

I wish I had my own pond.

Off subject, but I saw the Dalai Lama in Chicago recently at Loyola University. They introduced him by saying he was a friend of Thomas Merton. While waiting to speak, the Dalai Lama sat cross-legged on a small couch they set up for him, which looked so unusual. You never see speakers sitting cross-legged. Then at the end of his talk, he said how he knew Thomas Merton and Merton had said he got up at 2 am and went to bed at 7 pm in the monastery. And the Dalai Lama said he kept the same hours.

Reading some of the Dalai Lama's books, I discovered Buddhists don't believe in God. This was a little unsettling for some reason. But surely it didn't stop Merton from having a relationship and learning from the Dalai Lama.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu May 3, 2012, 11:53 AM

7. Beautiful writing.

I really enjoyed reading it. Thank you.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu May 3, 2012, 12:23 PM

8. Ho. Most excellent post. Thank you.

Last edited Thu May 3, 2012, 03:40 PM - Edit history (1)

One of my favorite posts ever on DU.

Having been raised in nature, and having been fortunate to have lived my whole life in very rural areas, connected to the Earth, I have reflected on, almost daily, these conflicting value systems that you write about.

The way of being that you describe below is, from my perspective, insane.

"It seems curious, indeed, that a portion of our society would view a habitat like this as a natural resource to be used to hydrofrack for gas .... and that making money off of it, despite ruining the site, and poisoning all the life in contact with it, is the true measure of success. Worse, the very minds that are diseased with greed and destruction, are those that this society continues to view as "leaders," and recognizes their "power." But that is the exact opposite of their true being: they do not achieve results by way of self-discipline that brings out their good potential; instead, they are ruled by external and violent forces, which can only result in destruction, disease, and death."


One of my favorite "philosophers" is Smohalla. He lived not far from the same land where I grew up, and I may have wandered in his footsteps at times. The excerpt that the passage below was taken from was authored by a man who was from a different culture, with a very different preponderant value system, than that of Smohalla. The difference in perspective between the value systems of the author and Smohalla appears to be extreme, and I thought this exchange might interest you, in light of your post.

"My young men shall never work," said he with a wave of the hand, including numerous imaginary Indians, as well as the two seated near by. " Men who work cannot dream, and wisdom comes to us in dreams."

" But your young men have to work hard during the fishing season to get food for winter."

" This work only lasts for a few weeks. Besides, it is natural work and does them no harm. But the work of the white man hardens soul and body : nor is it right to tear up and mutilate the earth as white men do."

"We simply take the gifts that are freely offered. We no more harm the earth than would an infant's fingers harm its mother's breast. But the white man tears up large tracts of land, runs deep ditches, cuts down forests, and changes the whole face of the earth. You know very well this is not right. Every honest man,'" said he, looking at me searchingly, "knows in his heart that this is all wrong. But the white men are so greedy they do not consider these things."


http://www.nevadaobserver.com/Reading%20Room%20Documents/smohalla_1891.htm

"OWS seeks to replace the entire political, social, and economic culture with a wider sense of human community. It already conducts itself in that manner. Rather than leaders with the prerogative to make decisions for the group, OWS operates on consensus. It is clear from the past ten or twelve years that there is no political, institutional solution for what ails us. Fortunately, we do not need one."

http://www.democraticunderground.com/1002579714



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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu May 3, 2012, 12:46 PM

9. A sick society. You said a mouthfull all right.

It's the acceptance of this sickness that sickens me. People cannot be bothered to turn away from the "good things in life" very long no matter how deeply they may say they care about nature or human life. The "good things" of course being what the TV has told them the good things in life are. Celebrities, fancy cars, yachts and private jets. It's gonna set you back way more gold than a simple farm is going to provide.
Once the desire for things over nature was established we've been going downhill fast. People will do anything to emulate a rich person. All because it's been pounded into their heads from a young age it is how we measure success. Once the desire for gold is well established some people will stop at nothing to make it. From the Black Hills to black gold, our thirst is insatiable. No people, wilderness or future is too special not to be sacrificed for it. In our short lifespans we don't have much time to question the how and the why of our leaders or values. If this is truly the way we were meant to live our lives. Measuring success by the deposit receipt and never considering the massive suffering we have caused in order to make it or what kind of world we will leave behind.

I've heard Koi can live upwards of 200 years. I'm one of those people who can spend a small chunk of time talking to an animal and have gotten more favorable responses from them than many of my friends. I could only imagine sitting and speaking to a Koi that my great grandfather might have sat and talked to in the same way. I wonder what a 200 year old fish would think about what he has seen if we could ask him. About what kind of world he will leave behind. I can tell you this for certain, he has done more for the benefit of this planet than many people I know. Myself included.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu May 3, 2012, 01:22 PM

10. You just made my day

Your writing made it easy to picture your beautiful, peaceful pond. And to imagine myself sitting by one as well. Thank you.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu May 3, 2012, 01:38 PM

11. Beautiful, man.

Really, important words for me to hear today. Thank you.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu May 3, 2012, 01:40 PM

12. Thanks, H-Man! Love your posts!

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu May 3, 2012, 02:28 PM

13. Bravo

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu May 3, 2012, 02:43 PM

14. You are fortunate indeed to have Kelly, and your pond, my dear H20 Man...

Thank you for sharing them with us.

Your eloquence never fails to amaze me...

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu May 3, 2012, 03:08 PM

15. Thank you for reminding us to appreciate what we have all around us!

By spending more time just being at peace with the life around us.

Too often it's hard to make time to do so when that should be our first priority.

Thank you.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Fri May 4, 2012, 01:19 AM

17. Oh wow! You never disappoint...words of wisdom always. K&R nt

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Fri May 4, 2012, 06:13 AM

18. Great writing....a lost art

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Fri May 4, 2012, 09:23 AM

19. Good stuff

Thank you

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Fri May 4, 2012, 11:00 AM

21. Wonderful ... K&R

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Fri May 4, 2012, 11:12 AM

22. It is either a sick society or not really a society at all anymore.

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