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Our imagination is stretched to the utmost, not, as in fiction, to imagine things which are not really there, but just to comprehend those things which are there.

–Richard Feynman

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I was thinking recently about the importance of imagination and came across the words above from the late physicist Richard Feynman. His thought really meshed with my own thoughts on the imagination, which focused on the importance of it not only in art or literature but in so many aspects of our lives.

Actually, my thoughts were more about the lack of imagination I was sensing in all too many people. They seem to not be able to see beyond what is immediately in front of them or to extrapolate what might happen in potential situations beyond the next few minutes. I guess you would call it being short-sighted, a condition that often leads to fear and cynicism. Fearful of the new and cynical of anyone who dares to see beyond tomorrow.

You see this in how people react to many of our current events. This lack of imagination makes them willing to accept only what they can see now, blocking out any vision of what the ramifications might be into the future. This lack of imagination also makes these same folks blind to the patterns that brought us to this current condition.

Their shortsightedness tends to go hand in hand with a short-term memory, one that easily discards facts– and often their own words– that don’t coincide with what they see in the present moment. As a result these folks tend to fall prey to leaders offering them hollow promises and easy answers.

And scapegoats.

Because besides shortsightedness and short-term memory, a lack of imagination also often leads to a lack of empathy and compassion. These folks lack an ability to envision people different than themselves living in different situations. They can’t imagine the hardships or injustices that affect the lives of others. It’s all too easy to turn these people with differences into scapegoats for those lacking in imagination.

I am not writing this because I feel I have any special amount of imagination. I certainly have at times limited my life through my own lack of imagination and the fears and cynicism that it enables. I am sometimes small when I could be large and large when I should be small.

I just want to know how to communicate clearly with those folks who seem to have this lack of imagination, to get them to see possibilities and potentials beyond their own noses now and years into the future. This chasm between those with and without imagination seems to me to be the dividing line in this world right now.

I can still, against the evidence of the present, imagine a better world. But I can also imagine a much worse world. I believe it all depends on inflaming the imaginations of those who have refused to use them to this point.

At this point, I don’t know what or who can do such a thing.

My imagination is still hopeful.

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I used the beginning paragraph from an Immanuel Kant essay as an intro when I first wrote the blogpost about the painting below, Dare to Know. Recent events sent me back to the 1784 essay, What is Enlightenment?, from which they were taken. I found that the rest of the essay was equally as compelling as that first paragraph, describing how the vast majority of people are willing to relinquish the choices in their lives to others. It seems to say that people are  basically fearful of taking responsibility for much of anything and will gladly sacrifice the freedom to think and decide for themselves to anyone willing to tell them what to do, even when it is not in their best interest. This essay urges people to step forward into the light, to question things, to think independently, and accept responsibility. That is how enlightenment can be found.

It seems to me that this describes the current divide in this nation and throughout the world. There are those willing to blindly believe that those in positions of trust, such as our leaders or clergy or captains of industry, will act responsibly, doing what is best for the vast majority of the population without self interest. They choose the path of least resistance, believing hollow promises that require little from them.

And then there are those who question, those who seek truth and clarity, those who demand that trust be earned. They want take responsibility for the decisions in their lives, even those that are difficult and require sacrifice. They desire accountability for themselves and for those others who claim to know what is best for them. 

While it is not always an easy path, that willingness to dare to know may well lead to enlightenment, as Kant indicates. Myself, I prefer that path.

Here is the original blogpost:

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“Enlightenment is man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage is man’s inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another. Self-incurred is this tutelage when its cause lies not in lack of reason but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. Sapere aude!- ‘Have courage to use your own reason!’- that is the motto of enlightenment.”

― Immanuel Kant,  What Is Enlightenment?

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Sapere Aude!  From the Latin for Dare to Know.

I came across the passage above from the 18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant and felt immediately that it was a great match for this new painting. In fact I am calling this piece, 11′ by 15″ on paper,  Dare to Know (Sapere Aude!)

The Red Tree here is removed away from the influence and shading of the other trees and houses in the foreground, out of darkness and into the light. There is a light about the Red Tree and a sense of freedom in the openness of the space around it. It is free to examine the world, free to seek the knowledge it craves, and free to simply think for itself.

It’s a great idea, this concept of enlightenment and one that we definitely could use today. Too many of us form our own base of knowledge by relying on the thoughts and opinions of others, often without giving much consideration as to their truthfulness, motives, or origins. Or we shade our base of knowledge with our own desires for  how reality should appear, holding onto false beliefs that suit us even when they obviously contradict reality.

In short, there is no enlightenment based on falsehoods, no way to spin darkness into light. Enlightenment comes in stepping away from the darkness of lies and deceptions to see the world as it is, with clarity. It means stripping away our own self defenses and admitting our own shortcomings, prejudices, and predispositions.

It may not always be what one hoped for but it is an honest reality. And maybe that is enlightenment, the willingness to face all truths with honesty.

To dare to know.

Sapere Aude!

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Despairing.

It’s the first word that comes to mind this morning. I wanted to turn to other things, wanted to crow a little about the Yankees’ victory last night. Maybe talk about painting, music, the weather.

Anything.

Anything but face the ugliness of what one infinitely weak man’s decision has unleashed on people who saw the US as their ally and believed the promises and assurances we gave.

But it’s something I can’t turn away from and still believe that I have an iota of humanity left in my soul. I see the reports and videos of men being shot while being on the ground along the roads in northeast Syria with their hands tied. Of mothers crying over dead and severely injured children.

Of the report of the rape and stoning death of the Hervin Khalef, the Kurdish human rights activist. The image above on the right is from a tweet that includes a video with a boot kicking at her to see if she is alive. Her body is mortified and simply rocks from the push of the boot.

Or of the reports from our forces still on the ground there ( huh, is it possible that the president* lied when he said they had been withdrawn?) that the situation has deteriorated rapidly and that they are being bracketed with shelling from the Turks. Bracketing is a term for using artillery fire to either move opposing forces in a desired direction or keep them from moving at all. It was severe and close enough that the leadership on the ground requested permission to respond with fire. It only subsided when US planes approached the Turkish artillery positions and set the lasers from their missile guidance systems upon them as a warning that we would soon be firing on them.

Or of the mass escapes of ISIS fighters from the prisons where Kurds once held them. Or of the emerging reports that Russian planes have been specifically targeting civilian hospitals in Syria in recent months.

Or so many other reports, all while the cretin slumps around one of his golf courses for the umpteenth time then later in the evening whines about how he is so unfairly treated, all the while heavily slurring his speech while threatening those who dare to hold him accountable. And the idiots of his audience cheer.

Maybe I shouldn’t care. It is 7000 miles a way after all and maybe these people, these Kurds, need to finally stand up for themselves. What have they done for us lately? That’s what you hear on social media from those who are willing to turn their backs on our promises and throw away all the credibility of this nation as a loyal ally to any other nation.

People who can somehow believe that atrocity committed on any person anywhere because of our inaction is somehow okay. People who can simply shrug and say it doesn’t affect them.

Out of sight, out of mind.

Maybe that’s the reason I feel compelled to air my despair and anger this morning, again. I am not willing to let people shrug it off and ignore it. I want to keep it in your sight and in your mind. I want you to see that dead Kurdish woman whenever that horrid creature opens his vile mouth because he is complicit with his inexplicable actions, if not directly responsible, for these atrocities and must be held accountable.

You must consider that if he is willing to tolerate and ignore the suffering his actions have inflicted on these people, it is not a stretch to believe that he will do the same when and if it comes to this land. He is not moved by the suffering of others, doesn’t have the ability to see himself in the faces of those less fortunate than himself in any way.

He is devoid of humanity.

Maybe that’s why I do this thing this morning– because I need to know that I do possess humanity, know that I am a creature of compassion and refuse to close my eyes to the horrors we have wrought upon the lives of others.

I don’t have much. I am powerless in many ways to affect real change. But I am a fucking human being and I will not turn away from atrocity or try to make it less than it is. I have eyes and ears and a mind and a voice that won’t be silenced.

So do you. Use them.

Here’s this Sunday morning music selection. It’s from the Kurdish singer Aynur Doğan who is considered a cultural icon who is keeping the traditional music of the Kurds alive. It’s quite a beautiful piece. While I don’t understand the words, it translates.

Have a day.

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Man on the Moon

Good news– heard we are going to finally put a man on the moon!

Did someone miss something somewhere?

Feel like we’re on the Hindenburg just before it catches fire. Oh, the humanity…

 

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The Back Stabbers

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There are three signs of a hypocrite: when he speaks he speaks lies, when he makes a promise he breaks it, and when he is trusted he betrays his trust.

–Muhammad 

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We are living in a time of treachery.

We are led, if you want to call it that, by a fool gifted with a huge ego, a tiny intellect, and absolutely no morals who has consistently been proven to be untrustworthy throughout a life filled with episodes of him screwing people over.

On Tuesday night, he spent the balance of the great trust that much of the world had placed in the United States over the past seventy or so years on an act of ultimate betrayal. He basically gave Turkey the green light to invade the Kurdish territory of northern Syria, an act that took the defense department by surprise and left the ethnic Kurds alone on a virtual island of death within a week or so of them being assured that we would continue to stand with them.

These same Kurds have been our allies for a number of years  and have sacrificed greatly in the fight against ISIS in that part of the world. They have done most of the fighting and paid for it with their blood. Over 11,000 of their troops have died and over 24,000 have been wounded in the fight. To compare, we have lost 5 soldiers in this fight. Our investment there is small by normal defense department standards with a relatively small force. We basically are there to train and, by our mere presence, deter invasions from the Turks, the Syrians and the Russians.

We have a small but vital footprint there. When I say vital I mean lifesaving in the most literal sense for the Kurdish people.

They are now under attack from the Turks, who began airstrikes on Wednesday, targeting the civilian population. There are about 2 million Kurds in the region and all are at risk. We may well be looking at casualties in the hundreds of thousands. Call it what you will– a massacre, ethnic cleansing, genocide or holocaust.

Doesn’t matter. Many, many people will die, families will be slaughtered. And we will just stand and watch it happen. For no good reason other than the whim of the American Fool. Or because of a request or order from his masters in Moscow and Riyadh, who his every action seems to serve in some way.

And if you don’t think the Turks would do such a horrific thing, ask the Armenian people. In 1915 through 1917, they suffered what is termed the Armenian Genocide at the hands of the Turks of the then Ottoman Empire. Estimates for the number of Armenians killed go as high as 1.5 million.

There is a history there. It happened once before and it may very well be happening again right now.

And all because this thing, this vile creature who sullenly inhabits our white house, has no moral center and no sense of loyalty to anything but his own appetites. He is willing to betray anyone or anything so long as it serves his personal purposes. He has betrayed one of our truest allies, most likely sending them to the slaughter. He has betrayed our military and its leadership, who had worked side by side with the Kurds. His betrayal makes their task much more difficult and dangerous going forward. He has betrayed our earned goodwill as a nation and so long as he is in power, we will remain untrustworthy as a nation. A pariah.

I listened yesterday to republican senators yesterday venting their outrage over this betrayal. They somehow thought there is some sort of immunity from the traitorous behavior of this creep, that those things they deemed important would be spared from his treachery. Fools. He will screw every one of them, given enough time.

And that betrayal will eventually extend to the idiots who still stand up for this wretched being. I am willing to give someone a pass for their initial vote for this thing but if you can’t see him for what he really is –and has always been, if you had been paying attention– by this point, you are stupid beyond all belief.

Yeah, I said stupid. Moronic. Imbecilic. Whatever you want to call it.

When he said he liked uneducated people, did you think he was kidding? Whenever he says stupid crap like that, people wave it off and make excuses for it, saying he is just joking around. Well, let me tell you this– he is not funny in any way nor is he a comic. He is a vampire and stupidity is the lifeblood that feeds him.

Maybe you’re not stupid. Maybe you’re just racist or homophobic or xenophobic. You can’t be christian because there are going to be plenty of christian Kurds killed along with their muslim countrymen and no christian would stand for that, right? Whatever the reason, you enabled and made this amoral monster and if you still stand with him, you are no better than him in any way.

That may make some of you angry. I don’t care. You don’t have to read this. You can go to another website that defends this whiny and weak willed cretin or you can write me poison letters and curse my very existence. I don’t give two shits and am sick to death of simpletons and toadies making excuses for the inexcusable and indefensible behavior he has continually displayed these past three years.

This creature is a malignant cancer on this land and on this world. There is real blood on his hands. And by extension, it is on all our hands now and we are much less safe for that.

I wrote most of this late yesterday and set it aside, wanting to cool off and rethink the whole thing before I hit the publish button. I take what I write seriously as it is an extension of my works and myself. I don’t want to write this sort of invective and I certainly don’t look to offend people.

But I knew I had to let it fly after watching that twat stand there yesterday and say that one of his reasons for his betrayal was that the Kurds didn’t fight with us on the beaches of  Normandy in World War II. Well, maybe not but plenty of them fought heroically and died in the other theaters and fronts of that war. You know who didn’t stand with us? Turkey and Saudi Arabia who both claimed neutrality and played to both sides. You know who else? The whole goddamn Trump clan. They haven’t served our nation in the five generations and 150 years that they have darkened our shores. They see service and sacrifice as something that only suckers do.

I am furious at the inhumanity we are witnessing and the fecklessness of his followers. He has crossed lines that have taken us to new depths. I am not sure there is enough time in the remaining years of my lifetime to see us fully recover from the harm he is inflicting on this world. That is, if we can ever recover.

He has set the house on fire and it’s a matter of urgency to save as much of it as we can before it burns to the ground.

Here’s a fitting song for the day from the O’Jays. Watch your backs, stupid people. He’s coming for you soon.

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Esther Denouncing Haman- Ernest Normand (1857-1923)

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“Whoever digs a pit will fall into it; if someone rolls a stone, it will roll back on them.”

–Proverbs 26:27

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I am not going to go into the whole Purim story of Haman and Mordecai contained in the biblical book of Esther. I will leave the reading of that to you, good readers. As I have said many times before here, I am not a religious person. But I do see the biblical stories as templates for basic human behavior and experience, much as I see the ancient Greek and Roman tales of mythology. The behaviors they describe are repeated so often throughout history by countless individuals that one can easily assume that they are included in our DNA.

That said, I get the feeling that the current US president*– he who will go unnamed here— is following the pattern set down by Haman in the story  that is the basis for the Jewish holiday of Purim.

Perhaps the name of this president* will soon be treated in the same manner as that of Haman during the Purim celebration when the story, the Megillah, from which the term the whole megillah comes, is read. Each time the name of Haman is read the congregants create a cacophony of sound to drown out its utterance.

His family should also certainly hope their story doesn’t fully follow the pattern set down in the original.

Purim next occurs on March 9-10 of 2020.

Let’s see what those days bring…

 

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“I recall Gandhi said ultimately all things devolve into the political, but I’d argue that all things devolve into pro-people and anti-people. And I can pose the question, which side are you on?”

― Stetson Kennedy

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I came across the above quote from the late author/activist/folklorist Stetson Kennedy (1916-2011) and it really spoke to me, especially when applied to the current affairs taking place here in this country.

Myself, I see the current administration not being particularly pro-people. They tend to be more pro-corporation, pro-wealthy, pro-white. Actually, they tend are the wrong words here– they are those things.

I would call them anti-people.

This is fairly evident especially if you are a person of color, a woman, a gay or transgender person, a non-christian, an immigrant, a poor person, a sick person, a person who likes clean water and air, a person who prefers fair and honest elections, a person who doesn’t want to have to pack a sidearm to go to the market, a person who doesn’t like their nation’s leader* cozying up to our longtime foes and slapping down our allies, a person who values education and the sciences, a person who sees the value of collective bargaining and the pure falsity of trickle down economics or someone who prefers simple truth to absolute deception.

In these times, his question is a valid one– which side are you on? If you can’t answer this simple question, we’re all in world of trouble.

That said, I thought I would share a little more info on Stetson Kennedy because I am pretty sure he’s well off most of our radars. Part of the family of Stetson hat fame, he was a folklorist, having written a well regarded book on the folklore of his native Florida, as well as a civil rights and union activist through the early part of his adult life. Unable to serve in WW II because of a back injury, Kennedy turned his efforts to righting some of the injustices and dangers he saw in his own part of the world, primarily racial hatred and inequality. He infiltrated the KKK and wrote a book, I Rode With the Ku Klux Klan, which exposed the rituals and actions of the group and that ultimately led to a governmental crackdown on it, crippling the hate group for decades to come.

An interesting part of this story is that while he was infiltrating the KKK, he was feeding code words from the group to the writers of the Superman radio show who used them in a 16 part segment on the show called Clan of the Fiery Cross. It had a huge impact in the public perception of the group and set back its recruitment and growth for decades.

No one wanted to be in a group that the Man of Steel was against. If only it were still that way.

Here are a few more words from Kennedy:

“There is more than one way to be Kluxed, and we need to think about ourselves and the kind of people we elect into public office.”

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“The bed sheet brigade is bad enough, but the real threat to Americans and human rights today is the plain clothes Klux in the halls of government and certain black-robed Klux on court benches.”

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“If the Bush brothers really think that women and minorities are getting preferential treatment, they should get themselves a sex change, paint themselves black and check it out.”

–Stetson Kennedy, 2004


That brings us to this Sunday morning music. It’s, believe it or not, a song called Stetson Kennedy from one of my favorite albums, Mermaid Avenue, from the collaboration of Billy Bragg and Wilco in creating songs from a group of previously unrecorded Woody Guthrie lyrics. Guthrie was friend of Kennedy and when Kennedy ran for the governorship of Florida in 1952 — which he lost and for which he was vilified and basically ran out of the state– Guthrie wrote the lyrics for a campaign song that never came about. Bragg and Wilco did it many years later, in 1997. I liked this song before I knew Stetson Kennedy was particularly the line:

I ain’t the world’s best writer nor the world’s best speller
But when I believe in something I’m the loudest yeller

Give a listen and have yourself a decent Sunday. And, hey, pick a side, will ya’?

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