Not My Fault

“Men at some time are masters of their fates,” says Cassius.
“The fault, dear Brutus,” Cassius continues, “is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings.” Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141)

sheep

Oz was out to dinner with two retail store owners.

A young African-American approaches, introduces himself as our waiter and says his name is Cassius. Only Oz finds this name unusual. The waiter politely takes our drink orders and leaves us to mend for ourselves.

The drinks come, a vodka tonic, a scotch, and beer for Oz.  A couple of swallows later the two retail owners commence bemoaning the economy. It is a fact, they say, that recently many more retail stores had opened. This, they said, cut their “piece of the pie” down to nothing.

Oz tried to explain that it is not about the competition, it is about oneself.

Hardly hearing Oz at all, they continued, “Times are tough,” they continued. “How do we compete against so many when we are one?”

Oz wanted to throw a little Nietzsche into the conversation, i.e. competition makes you stronger, that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, etc…, but by this point the two were wringing their hands and casting their eyes to the sky in divine supplication.

Oz wanted to explain that the internet was a new tool that gave everyone the opportunity to reach new markets, to expand and grow, but his audience was commiserating in abject sorrow.

“Bid me run, and I will strive with things impossible.” Oz muttered to himself.

evening-milky-way

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The good fight, won or lost

There was an old man, his name was Oz, he thought it odd that people like to talk, but not to do.

It is not enough to talk the good talk, one has to fight the good fight, and win.

Warning: Oz talks politics in this post. This is bound to piss people off.

monkey

Think again before reading on

Politicians talk a lot, but seem to ge by without saying much. So, my idealistic daughter says, it is quite refreshing that Bernie Sanders takes a stand.

I agree.

I just don’t agree on many things he stands for. Let everything, says Bernie be free – health care, wages, housing, you name it. Someone else will pay for it. Too simplistic, my daughter says. Well, I didn’t come up with the inscrutable and indefinable phrase Democratic Socialism.

Bernie explains: “While the rich get richer, almost everyone else gets poorer. Democracy is in crisis and oligarchy looms. What we know is determined by the corporate media. Our health care system is in shambles. Our educational system is in crisis.”

We can do better, yes we can.

And, “I don’t believe government should own the means of production, but I do believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a fair deal. ” Hey that is Teddy Roosevelt.

But what is behind the screen, Oz asks? What is fair?

Ah, but we all pay for it now or later. It is like the national debt that no one speaks of. Sooner or later the bill comes due.

It is time, says Oz, not to talk, but do.

Establish livable wages as Bernie says, but encourage businesses to prosper since they will do the paying. Create a health care system for everyone, but make it affordable. Health clinics, more hospitalists, better nursing, pharmacies that give advice and not just push pills, generic pills, might be the better answer. As for economic theory, Oz puts himself out there with, John Forbes Nash Jr. and his theory of non-cooperative equilibria.

Heady stuff, not really, … it is about compromise, something that dosn’t exist in present day politics.

No more lifetime politicians. Try something and someone new. Give the next generation a chance. Let them do something. Oz will be there with advice and talk.

Is there is a good man, or a good woman out there, tell Oz, he is listening, he is looking, but who knows where?

city-window

 

 

It is not about me…

I was, I noticed, seeing my writing for the very first time, looking foolish and feeling sad.
Oz:(

5 Overused words in Fiction, an article by by Kelsie Engen, posted by A Writer’s Path, which I encourage you to read.

Show and Tell

A writer can tell a story or show it. One example, Kelsie Engen gives is:

E.g.  “Tom felt so sad.”

E.g. “Tom’s eyes brimmed with tears, his chest jerking up and down as he fought to control his sob.”

Example 1 is telling. Example 2 is showing.

dog-labrador

Not seen but felt

Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.

Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
That does not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII, William Shakespeare

Ba, ba, bah

“Ba, ba, bah, ba, ba, bah.” Oz can’t remember the words spoken, just the sting of the words meant to hurt, said by children too young to know of things not seen but felt.

Oz closes his eyes and remembers a school yard, a bully, and childhood taunts that stung like the bitter wind of winter. Then as now, young Oz dealt with it by chanting the mantra, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Were that true… winter’s wind would never sting, and happily we would live in the forest of Arden where girls dress as boys, fools give wise advice, and royal courtiers behave like Robin Hood’s band of Merry Men, and nothing is as it seems.

ROSALIND: Love is merely a madness; and, I tell you, deserves as
well a dark house and a whip as madmen do; and the reason why…

snow-cabin

Let it snow

Oz lives in a city where the winter snow falls rarely.

The temperature may dip into the teens for days, the ponds and lakes may freeze, but the snow does not seem to want to come this far, to this place, leaving its snowy white blanket on the Colorado mountains, or the plains of Nebraska and the Dakotas. The trees here, naked and open to the elements, shiver in the wind. Older now, Oz knows the cold is hard on the body. It stings the face, the ice that forms on the sidewalks and roads is an ever present hazard, a fear of a fall and a broken leg or arm.

snow-cabin

Oz recalls younger days, other places where the snow showered the land and blanketed the earth. When snow flurries swirled about. Oz stood in a snow globe world. It was a lovely thing.

Certainly, for the reason that school was cancelled, but also because it transformed the land into a wonderland. There was sledding, snowball fights, building snowman, and the general beauty of seeing a familiar world transformed into an unfamiliar one. When a snowball in the face sweetly stung. When frostbitten hands and feet were ignored as long as one could stand the pain. When falling off a sled was a source of amusement to one and all.

Let it snow. The father or mother of the child knows, that at the end of the day, the child will sleep.

On a more serious note, one recalls standing in the snow alone watching the flakes floating like feathers to earth. A child lifts his or her head to the sky, opens his or her mouth, and goes about the task of catching a flake upon the tongue, experiencing the momentary thrill of the cold before the flake transforms into water.

Let it snow again, a child remembers simple things.

“His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and dead.” James Joyce’s The Dead.

winter-fence

a man hears what he wants to hear

A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest. Paul Simon

sparrow

True then, true now – a man sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest.

A sparrow lights on a branch outside my window, momentarily there, he looks up and down, in stoccatatic movements, he shakes his wings, he swings his gray-brown rump to and fro, like a man who is late to work and waiting for a bus, his head ever alert, wondering has he missed something; now thinking, where shall he go; the sky above is gray and white, a cold and bitter wind blows about him, about us all. See him and the image is stamped upon one’s mind. Now he is gone.

And yet, there he still is, forever on the branch, giving one pause to wonder endlessly where birds go in the rain and the snow.

all theory is gray

Oz is sipping his coffee and watching the sun rise in the east. In the matter of a few minutes, the color of the sky, first inky black turns to crimson red, then orange and yellow and blue.

Oz was thinking of gray, the color the sky was all of yesterday. Then, it was, that Oz chanced to come across a quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, from Faust: First Part.

“All theory is gray, my friend. But forever green is the tree of life.”

Goethe was German and wrote the two lines as one:

“Grau, teurer Freund, ist alle Theorie und grün des Lebens goldner Baum.”
Faust 1, Studierzimmer. (Mephistopheles)

Language and grammar, and the human capacity for understanding restrict our ability to experience thoughts and images. Alas, it is what it is, it is what it seems, and therefore “gray” as Goethe remarks.

Weeks earlier, Oz came across an obscure piece of writing about the weather, gray skies, and how we perceive the same day differently. It was written in 1906. Little can be found about the author, Susan Hanna, other than that she was business manager of the magazine, The Mount Holyoke. One must assume the magazine is associated with the college Mount Holyoke in South Hadley, Massachusetts, the oldest of the Seven Sisters, the female counter part to the Ivy League schools.

The world is the “same old place” my dear friend and here are Susan’s thoughts:

“Yesterday was dark and cold and dreary. The sky was gray, the snow was white; the trees black against the gray and white. The wind came around the corners with an angry cry, and whipped the dry bushes, and swept the snow across the path. The world was angry, it knew not why. It was tired of the ceaseless tossing and motion; tired of being the same old world forever.

Today is different. There is the same white snow, the same sky, and the same trees. But today is not yesterday; for the wind swirls the snow in a circling dance; it draws the bushes and twigs out from their hiding places. It bends the trees in rollicking laughter at the very joy of living, – of being the same old world, in the same old way.

Today is not yesterday, but why is today, today?”

Today the sun rises in the east to chase the gray away. The sky at night was inky black. At morn it turn to crimson red, then orange and yellow, now blue.

yellow-morning-oil

Tous les matins du monde sans retour

Tous les matins du monde is a 1991 novel by Pascal Quignard, which was simultaneously made into a French film. The film starred Gérard Depardieu as an aging viola player in the court of King Louis XIV, looking back on his life. The book is like a series of still life paintings, capturing successive moments in the life of composer Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe and his student Marin Marais.

Gentle reader, we struggle to make sense of life, to find meaning in its moments, looking for direction, a way forward.

Pascal deals with the subject of art. Can it be taught? Do words suffice to explain the art of the viola? Is not the music felt? It is an emotion, and therefore incapable of literary discription. Once notes are transcribed, Monsieur Saint-Colombe believes, they become like a painting, nature morte.

the five senses, Lugin Baugin,
the five senses, Lugin Baugin,

 

Nature Morte

The subject of still life (nature morte) paintings comes up in the book through Sainte-Colombe’s friendship with the painter Lugin Baugin. Saint-Colombe requests of his friend a painting of his room after the apparition of his dead wife comes to him. Gentle reader, is there not irony in the capture of nature in a painting, and the idea that nature though captured is dead to all the senses excepting the eye?

Tous les matins du monde

But it is not he death of nature I wish to discuss. Rather it is the enigmatic meaning of the title, Tous les matins du monde.

The phrase is not delivered in the book until Chapter 26, and then it is delivered by the author as a comment on the passage of time:

“Tous les matins du monde sont sans retour. Les annees etait passees.”

Gentle reader, though we are tempted to translate literally as “without returning,” the better meaning is never to return. Each morning, each moment passes, and is gone. A painting, a thought, real to the eye and the memory is still dead to the world.

pocket-watch-sand-2

 

Are You There?

newport-lighthouse-poster

The daily question the Wizard of Oz asks is, “Are you there?”

The question is directed at those who stumble across his blog and glance at a word or two before moving on. Where they are going and where they have been do not interest Oz because those places are unknowable. Oz is curious about the gentle reader who comes across his story and then moves on.

Are you there?

The search for intelligent life in the universe is an ongoing process that has yet to produce any results. Oz learned that SETI (the funded project) was suspended a few years back due to lack of funds, and, dare we say, interest?

All this reminds young Oz of the times when he traveled with dear old dad in the family car.

When he asked his father, “Are we there yet?” Dad would reply, “No, but we are here.” Dad could have replied, “Wherever you go, you are there.” No, he would leave that bit of nonsense to Buckaroo Banzai. For Dad lived in the moment. He was patient. He was kind and understanding. Now dad is gone and Oz is left with only the memory of an old man who liked to travel, who liked to walk here and there, who said many things a young Oz did not understand then, but does now.

And now Oz wants to know, “Dad, are you there?”

It is, at times like this, when Oz is melancholic that he pulls out an old and worn copy of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. On a dog eared page is the quote by the forever befuddled Arthur Dent:

You know,” said Arthur, “it’s at times like this, when I’m trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space that I really wish I’d listened to what my mother told me when I was young.”

“Why, what did she tell you?”

“I don’t know, I didn’t listen.”

Oz returns to his thoughts of his father, to the walks along the Oregon coast and the conversation.

‘I am listening,’ he wants to say to his father, ‘it is just that I don’t understand.’

signs-oregon