Monday, December 17, 2007

Visitors From a Previous Life

I have been informed that there are actually people reading this blog. Yeah, I may have mentioned this before but it sounds serious now. I sort of expected people to stumble upon this place and maybe read a couple of postings and move on but my sister tells me that she's encountered people from my past who have read about Jon and me and our various struggles, and of course my religious and political rants. That seems odd to me that I might not just be burning off rants to the ether, that people who knew me when I was someone else were following this tune. Very odd. See, the thing is I talk to myself a lot. Seriously, since retiring I find that it's just me, the chickens and Mok the cat pretty much all the time. So I talk to myself. I'm not a polite listener, either. I give myself more grief than my old dear daddy did. I get into arguments and then lose those arguments. But sometimes I do get into a interesting conversation and then if it goes on long enough I write it down. Then I try to recall where I put the paper so I can transcribe it into this space. That's the process. It breaks down sometimes but that's how this happens.

One thing I have noted is that no matter when I start typing Mok will appear at the door and ask me what's going on. I turn from the keyboard and ask, "What is it, sweety cat? What's up?" Mok then rubs against the door jamb and smiles up at me. "Daddy?" she says. "Daddy, can you come here a minute?" Well I'm a sucker for a furry face so I get up and follow her down the hallway. "What is it this time, Mok?" and she walks me to the food area and points to a bowl of wet food. "See? It's all yucky and dry." So I bend down and look at it. Yes, it is all dry on the corners and needs to be fixed. "Alright, Mok. Daddy will fix." Then I stir the food and sometimes mix some dry stuff into it. I set it back down and she checks it out. "Okay." she says and then walks to the door. "But I want to go out now." I open the door and she sticks her head out, putting her ears down slightly. "What's that?" she asks in that whining voice of hers. "That's winter, Mok. It happens around here if you recall. White and wet mostly for many weeks." She looks up at me accusingly. "Why?" she asks. She's not asking why it last so long. She's asking me why I did it. I happen to know that this conversation can last almost as long as winter itself so I have to draw the line. "Mok, it happens. I didn't do it and I most certainly did not do it to you. It's happening to me too. You have to deal with it. In or out. That's the choice. In or out." and I stand there with the door open for maybe a couple of minutes until she backs up and wanders off. This is the scenario many times a day. It beats watching the soaps, I think, but it does make it hard to type.

The chickens are easier to deal with. Talking to them is like talking to a group of old women. They murmur and mutter and shift on their feet but all in all just wait for me to get done with whatever I'm doing and go away so they can continue to gossip about what's going on in the yard. There's a skunk, for instance, living under the woodshed. I've seen her a few times, always at night. A couple of times I was confused by her black appearance and thought she was Mok. If the moon is out I can usually see the stripes but my night vision sucks so if it's dark all I see is a cat sized black blob and I think it's a cat. Which it is, in a way. A pole cat. I chat away to the cat, asking about this and that but not really getting an answer. I suspect it's a dialect thing. The embarrassing thing is when I bend down to pet her and she stamps her feet in protest and lifts her tail. Mok never stamps her feet. As I back away gently I quietly declare, "Nothing personal, Miss Kitty. Thought you were somebody else. I'm gone..." and you never run from a skunk, you back away with head down and then you turn and walk away. The chickens tell me there's a woodchuck under the potting shed but it's been years since I saw one and I'm not sure if they are right. The white tailed deer live out back in the blackberry brambles. They don't talk at all, they just either lay still or run. Two modes, like binary code. Off or on, in or out. There's a lot of binary in this complex world of ours.

George sees things in binary, too. Bad guys, good guys. very simple world he lives in with no consequences and no grey areas. He knows what he knows and you could put it all in a teaspoon.

I seem to recall a time in my life when binary worked for me, but that was long, long ago. We used to have a simple formula for when things got slightly more complex, back when I was being a Viking guy in the SCA. House Ramshead was a group of like minded individuals who liked to dress up in 7th century clothes and go to tournies and revels with others like us and pretend we were not who or when we were. Ramshead had this slogan: if you can't drink it, eat it or screw it, hit it with your mace. The mace is a short metal club used for prying armored guys out of their life. I always liked it and have a couple even as we speak. I taught Jess how to throw Lady Janis, the first mace I owned. She's spiked and flanged and weighs about 7 lbs. You throw her like you toss a bowling ball, using hip, shoulders, wrist. Hard to explain in writing but Jess could hit a beer bottle cap from about 15 feet. The chunk of the mace slamming into the tree stump is just a great sound. I like to think it sounds like it would slamming into a man's chest. "WHAT?" you ask. Yes, I like to think about how the mace really would impact a human and why not? We know what they look like down through the ages and we know that maces were the preferred weapon of kings and bishops but we stopped using them pretty much these last few hundred years and rumors have come up which deny the mace's place in history. King Tut used a mace. The real King Arthur likely used a mace. Bishop Odo used a mace. I used a mace to open beer bottles until the spike got short and thick and started breaking the necks off. The academic in me is curious about what would happen if I tossed the mace good and hard at a man wearing Kevlar. It was designed to go through steel chest plates, see and Kevlar is designed to stop little bitty bullets flying at high sped, but I bet they never took a flying mace into account when designing Kevlar. I'd be willing to bet on it. I think it would go through the plastic and pin the vest to the guy's chest with a pleasant and profound THUNK. And then the object of my fear would be far less fearful. Gotta think ahead.

Let me give you an example of the sort of pseudo Viking guy I was. I know this man named Jon, not my son but one of the reasons Jon is named Jon. He was like me, a student of the middle ages and curious about things. He also liked the mace, probably still does. So we went down to his basement one January night, sipping mead and chatting about that THUNK sound. I suggested that a mace thrown into a shield would disable the shield and make the man vulnerable. Jon wasn't quite sure but willing to test the theory. We first held the mace while one of us beat on it. No doubt the vibration was a pain! A man fighting a mace man would be unhappy for sure with his arm feeling tingly and strange, almost numb. But that wasn't good enough, so I strapped on a sword. yes, I own swords and so does Jess. Mine is prettier but she inherits all my gear so she's not jealous. I don the sword and Jon puts the shield against a post in his basement. I pick up Janis and take a stance. Jon says, "Begin!" and I toss Janis and draw the sword in one move. Janis drives into the thick plywood shield with a nice THUNK and I am in a new stance with the sword drawn and ready. Jon goes over to pick up and put on the shield. The idea was that a man would be forced to fight with a shield attached to a 7 lb mace as well as deal with a 24" steel shaft hanging out of the shield. Jon lifted up the shield and said, "Uh, William, we have a problem." I thought I'd broken the shield or something but he turns it around and shows me. Janis's spike is protruding about 2" from the back of the shield, exactly where the man's forearm would be. "My gosh," I say. "It seems," Jon said, "that the fighter would be stapled to his own shield. And probably sporting at least one broken bone." He lifted the shield/mace up and felt the weight and balance. "I think we can safely say that a man facing a mace would be incapable of fighting any further if the mace man can throw the mace like this." Now, the reason we did this experiment was because in the Bayeux Tapestry showing the invasion by William the Conquerer there are battle scenes showing arrows, spears and maces flying through the air. I've had many people tell me they thought that the people tossing their maces were in a panic, throwing away their weapons and running away. Nonsense, I said. No true mace man throws away his mace, clearly they are attacking the shields of the opposing group. Then they draw their swords and attack the man. I think that our experiment in the basement showed that to be a real possibility and that changes the way you view the tapestry story.

History can change the way you view the Now if you try to understand it. Often in history a man leaves his kingdom to a son who is not up to the charge. A war results, many people die and the kingdom goes through some changes. Sometimes the people rise up and do the changing, sometimes it's another army. This has happened so many times you would think that kings and Presidents would see that just because the fruit of your loins is bright eyed and loyal doesn't mean they can do the same kind of work you did in creating this kingdom of yours. In fact you and your son have almost nothing in common but a name. But you fight to make a nation and then you give it to your moronic son who has never fought for anything but another drink or the virginity of an unwilling gal. The your kingdom goes to crap and all because you were unable to see with a clear vision. Now me, I know that Jon could not take over my house and work because the poor kid can't even blink his eyes when you ask him to. In fact, if we lived in the 7th century Jon would be long dead from fevers and infections. Back in the 7th century if you took a mace to the head you would go into a coma, bleed in the brain case and die from the pressure. It would be over in a few hours at best. But now we can fix the infections, mostly, and shunt the blood into the abdomen via a plastic tube in the brain case. We can do everything to make that body live for years. We just can't make the brain heal.

Neanderthal man used clubs, or wooden maces. When a Neanderthal took a mace to the head they would go into a coma. If the pressure in the brain started going up the shaman would take up a flint or alabaster tool and make a hole in the brain case and let the pressure out. Then they'd replace the bit of skull and fold the scalp back over the hole. If things got infected the shaman would apply a paste of comfrey, goldenseal, and other herbs. If a fever broke out the shaman would do some more herbs and maybe go into a trance. Once in the trance they would go to the spirit plane and look for the person's spirit. Chances are they would not be far and they would be confused after that hit to the head. Often the spirit thinks that the spirit plane is the place to be and the shaman may have to wrestle it or argue with it and try to make it go back to the patient. It might require dealing with spirits of infection as well. Those are life forms which live in a wound and try to be the primary life form there, but that will result in the death of the host body so you have to convince them to move on. If everything goes well the shaman comes out of their trance and the person lives many more years. We know this because there have been skulls recovered from Neanderthal caves with healed over bits of skull which seem to have been used in a healing operation and unless we are mistaken, most likely were removed to release pressure in the brain, and it worked because the wound was healed.

Primitive men did not wear three piece suits or hunt for fun, but they were not as primitive as a man who has the choice of killing hundreds of thousands of innocent women and children or ignoring an insult to his father and chooses to kill the women and children. In the course of this killing spree there are about 24,000 men and women who have been slammed about so hard by IEDs or mortar rounds that their brains have been mashed by the brain case. their brains swell up with pressure and if the pressure is not released, they either die or go into a deep coma. Nobody tries to rescue their spirit. Nobody goes into the spirit plane to argue, wrestle or reason with the spirits involved. Nobody even considers the pressure in the brain, the damage in the brain structure and the resulting effects on their ability to reason, to think, to talk or to do anything other than stare at the ceiling counting spots. The reason, you see, is that George has ordered that traumatic brain injuries not be diagnosed as such, because such injuries takes decades to heal. The military considers the actions and behavior of the brain injured vet as signs of depression or personality disorders. If they are diagnosed as personality disorders frequently the vet is discharged as an unworthy killer of women and children and is sent home to bleed internally and die, or to recover some functioning and deal with the various dead parts of the brain by standing at street corners carrying a thermos of coffee and yelling at passing cars.

After the Viet Nam debacle many vets came home addicted to drugs because either the military gave them so many opiates that they needed them every day, or because the problems of undiagnosed brain injuries were so mind altering they needed to get numb. Might also be the scenes of women bleeding on the ground, children screaming with missing arms and men staggering around holding dead babies. That might be upsetting them. They aren't as strong as George who sleeps like a dead baby, no dreams, no regrets, no experience in the real world.

This is the season of Persephone, of Inanna. The Earth Mother descends to Hell and the world gets darker, colder and apparently mostly dead. The parts of the world that burrow down into the Earth are still alive, just comatose. In the spring she will arise and flowers will bloom again. It's a great circle that has been wheeling around the heavens forever and will wheel around hundreds of thousands of years after George, his father and the vets are dust under our feet. She rises in the spring and leaps across the fields, her white tail flashing, her eyes bright and alert. She comes out from under the woodshed, under the kiln shed and digs around the compost for worms and bugs. She rises to the tops of the trees and sings a song of life and love, of eggs in a nest, of children flying away. She stands in the woods watching her children play in the sun. Next year she will go down again, but always she returns to the light. Things die and are reborn. The sands are soaked in blood and then they are covered with flowers. You can't stop her, nor ignore her because you are part of her form, part of her life. When she stops living, everything stops living. This is why taking life is a sacred act because it involves the Mother of us all. You don't do it thoughtlessly or out of ignorance. The good news is that like so many Mothers before, she is forgiving of our childishness. She knows we will grow up or fall down and in the end the wheel rolls again and we are born again to a new form and a new life. This makes each life a gift and we should show gratitude for that life by treating our brothers and sisters as good as we would be treated. When you pass by the vet on the street, mumbling and angry, remember that they were in hell and came back. They have been touched by the divine and are themselves sacred. Their vision is not like yours. Consider this as you walk by thinking your clear thoughts, moving those intact legs. Don't forget to thank Mother for it all.

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