Not many of my readers are familiar with the writings known as the Apocrypha. I find it a shame it took me so long to discover something so important in classical literature and art, but better late than never. Anyway, parts of it are fascinating, other parts less so. For me, wading through the books of the Maccabees is somewhat of a slog, as I'm not fond of endless recountings of wars and battles—not here, not in the Old Testament, not in the Iliad—but that's just me. True, it's interesting to read about the historical period between the Old and New Testaments; nonetheless I find the stories of Tobit, Judith, and Susannah more enjoyable.

There are some gems hidden amongst the tales of fighting, and here is one of them, found in the first chapter of Second Maccabees:

When our fathers were being led captive to Persia, the pious priests of that time took some of the fire of the altar and secretly hid it in the hollow of a dry cistern, where they took such precautions that the place was unknown to any one. But after many years had passed, when it pleased God, Nehemiah, having been commissioned by the king of Persia, sent the descendants of the priests who had hidden the fire to get it. And when they reported to us that they had not found fire but thick liquid, he ordered them to dip it out and bring it. And when the materials for the sacrifices were presented, Nehemiah ordered the priests to sprinkle the liquid on the wood and what was laid upon it. When this was done and some time had passed and the sun, which had been clouded over, shone out, a great fire blazed up, so that all marveled. ... Nehemiah and his associates called this “nephthar,” which means purification, but by most people it is called naphtha.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, July 1, 2022 at 6:39 am | Edit
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When my economist husband tells me an modern article is both consistent with everything he learned about economics in college and in life, and has also taught him something new, I take notice. The article in question is Inflation Reaches Unicorns, by John Mauldin, and should be accessible at that link.

It truly is about economics: investments, venture capitalists, inflation, and yes, even unicorns ("large, well-known companies [which] are choosing to stay private long past the point where they would once have gone public"). It's a cogent and interesting analysis of how we got where we are and where we might be going.

However, what really made me perk up was some excerpts from a forthcoming book by Edward Chancellor, entitled, The Price of Time: The Real Story of Interest. Here Chancellor is actually quoting "Bastiat"—probably French economist Frédéric Bastiat—and it's not clear to me where one ends and the other begins. It's the thought that counts.

In the sphere of economics, a habit, an institution, or a law engenders not just one effect but a series of effects. Of these effects only the first is immediate; it is revealed simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The others merely occur successively; they are not seen; we are lucky if we foresee them. The entire difference between a bad and a good Economist is apparent here. A bad one relies on the visible effect, while the good one takes account of both the effect one can see and of those one must foresee.

The bad economist, says Bastiat, pursues a small current benefit that is followed by a large disadvantage in the future, while the good economist pursues a large benefit in the future at the risk of suffering a small disadvantage in the near term. The American journalist Henry Hazlitt elaborated ... in his bestselling book Economics in One Lesson (1946). Like Bastiat, Hazlitt lamented the "… persistent tendency of men to see only the immediate effects of any given policy, or its effects on only a special group, and to neglect to inquire what the long-run effects of that policy will be not only on the special group but on all groups. It is the fallacy of overlooking secondary consequences."

As I read this, what struck me was its applicability to much more than economics. In particular, read the above paragraphs with an eye to the response of our leaders to the COVID-19 crisis, and you'll see a stunningly accurate description of "bad economics." A more obvious example can hardly be imagined of considering only the immediate effects of a policy, and its potential effects on only a special group, while not only neglecting, but actively suppressing, any thoughts about what might be the long-run effects of that policy on the community as a whole.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, June 28, 2022 at 5:25 am | Edit
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Here's another YouTube channel we've been enjoying: Chris Cappy's Task and Purpose. How on earth could I enjoy videos about military tactics, strategy, history, and weapons? Here's a quote from the channel's About section:

Chris Cappy the host is a former us army infantryman and Iraq Veteran. This YouTube channel is a forum for all things military. From historical information to the latest news on weapons programs. We discuss all these details from the veteran's perspective. The first priority with our videos is to be entertaining.

I guess it's the last sentence. Chris Cappy is knowledgeable and entertaining. He may bill himself as "your average infantryman," but he's not your average military college professor droning on in the front of an auditorium filled with bored students.

The video that hooked me is the one below, How Camouflage Evolved (15 minutes). I'm certain we have grandchildren who would find it as enjoyable as I did.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, June 25, 2022 at 10:40 am | Edit
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I have lived under three different American flags.

Flag Day, 2022

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, June 14, 2022 at 6:57 pm | Edit
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Back in April, we ran into an opinion piece by Gary Smith entitled, "Believe in Science? Bad Big-Data Studies May Shake Your Faith." (Yes, I do save up articles in my Blog Idea Bank. Sometimes they're too out of date by the time I get around to them, but often they are still relevant.) The link is to the original article at Bloomberg, but if you've run into your free three article limit, you should be able to find it in many other places, including the New York Times and our own Orlando Sentinel.

Smith's thesis is that the current availability of so much data that can be mined, refined, poked, prodded, and manipulated is making for bad science. There's some good science, too, but a lot that is simply nonsense—and we don't know which is which.

The short article is worth reading in its entirety, but here are some quotes to pique your interest.

The cornerstone of the scientific revolution is the insistence that claims be tested with data, ideally in a randomized controlled trial. ... Today, the problem is not the scarcity of data, but the opposite. We have too much data, and it is undermining the credibility of science.

Luck is inherent in random trials. ... Researchers consequently calculate the probability (the p-value) that the outcomes might happen by chance. A low p-value indicates that the results cannot easily be attributed to the luck of the draw. [This number was arbitrarily decided in the 1920's to be 5%.] ... The “statistically significant” certification needed for publication, funding and fame ... is not a difficult hurdle. Suppose that a hapless researcher calculates the correlations among hundreds of variables, blissfully unaware that the data are all, in fact, random numbers. On average, one out of 20 correlations will be statistically significant, even though every correlation is nothing more than coincidence.

All too often, [researchers] correlate what are essentially randomly chosen variables. This haphazard search for statistical significance even has a name: data mining. As with random numbers, the correlation between randomly chosen, unrelated variables has a 5% chance of being fortuitously statistically significant. Data mining can be augmented by manipulating, pruning and otherwise torturing the data to get low p-values. To find statistical significance, one need merely look sufficiently hard. Thus, the 5% hurdle has had the perverse effect of encouraging researchers to do more tests and report more meaningless results.

A team led by John Ioannidis looked at attempts to replicate 34 highly respected medical studies and found that only 20 were confirmed. The Reproducibility Project attempted to replicate 97 studies published in leading psychology journals and confirmed only 35. The Experimental Economics Replication Project attempted to replicate 18 experimental studies reported in leading economics journals and confirmed only 11.

It is tempting to believe that more data means more knowledge. However, the explosion in the number of things that are measured and recorded has magnified beyond belief the number of coincidental patterns and bogus statistical relationships waiting to deceive us.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, June 11, 2022 at 6:28 am | Edit
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You heard it here first.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia has always seemed dangerous, and somewhat demented, to Western eyes, and his invasion of the Ukraine seems to bear out that impression.

Commentators delight in explaining how deluded the Russians were at every level, expecting to find Nazis on every corner and a hero's welcome from the Ukrainian people. How is it that they had only pre-Chernobyl disaster maps and thus had no idea what they were walking into when they dug into highly radioactive soil? Why do the soldiers and officers so often act like poorly trained recruits? And why is their military equipment so old, sometimes almost half a century out of date?

Everyone knows by now that COVID isolation has driven mental health crises through the roof, and anyone who watched the Olympics knows that Putin has taken those recommendations to the extreme. Is it possible that the president of Russia has simply been driven batshit crazy?

Maybe. Probably.

On the other hand, there could be another explanation.

Suppose you're the president of a country with expansionist ambitions and a burning envy of Western military technology. What do you do?

  • You could pour a lot of money into developing and building modern equipment for your own military
  • You could ramp up your espionage network and steal the technology and then build your equipment
  • You could buy captured American military equipment from the Taliban

Maybe your economy won't stand up to a large increase in military spending. Maybe you don't have the resources to build what you need. Maybe you resent the time it would take to do the job well. So what do you do?

Maybe, just maybe, you invade a nearby, relatively defenseless country. And you do it very poorly. Like the Duchy of Grand Fenwick,* you aren't hoping to win. At least not yet.

You send in your greenest troops and your vehicles and guns otherwise destined for the scrap heap. You lose no opportunity to tweak the rest of the world with your arrogance, your obvious incompetence, and your crimes against civilians, thereby raising the hackles of countries with the greatest array of the most advanced military technology in the world. You allow the war to drag on and on, giving these countries plenty of time to pour billions and billions of dollars worth of advanced technology and powerful equipment into the land you have invaded but not yet captured.

And then?

Then you bring out your A team, your first string, your best and most experienced soldiers, along with the most modern equipment you can muster, all of which have been held back just for this moment. In one fell swoop, you crush the opposition and capture all that lovely best-in-the-world military might.

 You lost some inferior soldiers and a bunch of scrap-metal tanks. So what?

Well, okay, you didn't count on the damage a massive embargo would do to your economy. In the end it might have been cheaper to do the work yourselves.

Then again, with all that captured equipment and intellectual capital, the next invasion is going to go a lot more smoothly....

 


*No relation to Fenwick, Connecticut, as far as I know

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, June 2, 2022 at 7:42 am | Edit
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We're suffering from an epidemic of corporate philanthropy.

Businesses, especially large corporations, are bragging loud and long about their so-called good deeds, whether political or environmental or social or anything else trending in pop culture.

I am not impressed.

If you are a local business (even if that business is a franchise of something larger), and you host fundraisers for your local high school crew team or church youth group, or if you offer goods and services to first responders and disaster victims in your community, go for it. I'm likely to think better of you. That's neighborliness.

But anything on a grander scale than that, no. When you donate funds to support political parties, or activist organizations, or the arts, or even the most benign of charities, whose money are you really spending? Unless you have no shareholders, no employees, no board of directors, and no customers, there's a case to be made that you are making them all unwitting—and in many cases unwilling—donors to your own favorite causes.

Here's what I suggest.

Do you have some extra profit you want to do good with? Consider any or all of the following:

  • Give all your employees an across-the-board raise. Or a one-time bonus, if you're afraid the profits won't be sustainable.
  • Increase the dividends you pay your stockholders.
  • Decrease your prices.

In this way you would help your workers/investors/customers—those who make your profit possible—in a tangible way, while at the same time increasing their ability to support the causes they believe in, instead of the pet causes of a small group of elite corporate decision-makers.

It's your choice. If you want to use company profits to support a particular presidential candidate, or to buy the CEO a new yacht, that's your business. Just don't expect the world to believe that your actions are virtuous.

Is there anything more hypocritical than being generous with other people's money?

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, May 20, 2022 at 6:09 am | Edit
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The first step in taking control of a nation is the simplest. You find someone to hate. ... You will find that hate can unify people more quickly and more fervently than devotion ever could. — Brandon Sanderson (Elantris)

Hatred is not an emotion that is foreign to us. Its presence in the world does not surprise me. What I find shocking is how easy we are manipulated into hating.

No one has to convince me to root for the Ukraine in the current conflict with Russia. After all, I'm a child of the Cold War, when the Soviet Union was always our number one enemy. In this case, they are obviously the invaders, perpetrating atrocities, and even threatening nuclear war. We remember Georgia, Crimea, Belarus, and ask, "Where will it stop if it doesn't stop here?"

But two thoughts give me pause.

First, the level of anger and hatred I see, directed against anything Russian (even harmless Ukrainians with Russian-themed businesses in the U.S.), exceeds reason—as I have seen increasingly on other issues in recent years. We are in grave danger of losing sight of the essential humanity of the Russian people, much as the people of Germany once lost sight of the essential humanity of their friends and neighbors.

Second, while the flame of anger arose naturally in our hearts, it has been and is still being unnaturally accelerated into this disastrous conflagration. Politicians, corporations, educational institutions, news organizations, social media, celebrities of all sorts, our own friends—the push is on to view the Ukraine as totally innocent victims and Russia as completely irrational, evil villains. Merely to suggest that Russia might have had legitimate fears and concerns that led to the move to "liberate" the Ukraine, or that the Ukraine might not be completely free of corruption and illegitimate actions, is to bring down the wrath of all who want to see (or who want us to see) this as a battle between absolutely good and absolute evil.

Even if that were true—and nothing in this world has that kind of clarity—it's bad policy. Unless you really want World War III.

But here's what's really concerning me: I am convinced that if "they"—used metaphorically, not specifically—wanted the completely opposite reaction, they could just as easily have engineered that instead. You don't need to posit a conspiracy behind the power of this behemoth conglomeration of government, media, academia, financial institutions, entertainment, big businesses, Big Tech, and ordinary peer pressure. Ideas themselves have power, and when all these very powerful entities align to push an idea, it becomes almost irresistible.

The beginning of resistance is to step back and ask, "Where did I get this idea? What is driving my response?"

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, April 9, 2022 at 9:54 am | Edit
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It's "Museums on Us" weekend, and time to take a look at what might be new around town. Usually that means the Orlando Museum of Art and the Mennello Museum of American Art. Sometimes they have lovely exhibits, and we might go back to take another look at some of what we saw last October.

But the museum websites and the descriptions of new exhibits are not inspiring this month. Here, from the Mennello's site, are a couple of paragraphs that could not possibly have been designed to draw us in.

Many of the artists presented here approach their creative practices conceptually and methodologically, as a means of researching, solving, expressing, and effectively visualizing increasingly complex theories and stylistic ideas across time and disciplines. They have drawn upon personal experience, art history, advances in science, and popular culture to create works that unify formal art theory with current understandings in fields including anthropology, biology, math, philosophy, physics, and psychology. Broadly, the themes explored by the artists fall into reobserving and reimagining of traditional subject matter and the emotional content imbued in still lifes, landscape, and the figure.

“The work ... presented in this exhibition challenges perceptions of language, identity, preservation, and adaptation in both real and hypothetical worlds,” said Katherine Page, curator of art and education, Mennello Museum. “I am especially interested in artistic production, as its contextualizing framework runs parallel to the scientific method that combines the decades-long history of science, printmaking, and modern and postmodern art developments. The artists here are researchers, observers, experimenters, and publishers. As publishers, they share their exciting results—renderings of creation, communication, and conceptualization with a public beyond traditional, specialized academic fields.”

Huh?

I'm not picking on the Mennello in particular. This kind of verbiage abounds in art museums all over. I'm accustomed to dealing with technical language in other fields, and I grant that maybe this makes sense in the higher echelons of the art world, but to the hoi polloi like me it's more than incomprehensible: it sounds utterly irrational. Why would I want to spend time with art that "challenges perceptions of language, identity, preservation, and adaptation in both real and hypothetical worlds"? When I go to an art museum, I'm seeking the good, the true, and the beautiful. Ordinary life is enough of a challenge for me.

When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty but when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong. — Buckminster Fuller

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, March 4, 2022 at 12:29 pm | Edit
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The science fiction writers of the 20th century were often startlingly accurate in their technological predictions, as when Arthur C. Clarke suggested, in 1945, the use of satellites in geostationary orbit to facilitate worldwide communication. They also frequently missed the mark: we hold more computing power in our hands than those writers could imagine, yet we still don't have personal jet packs, let alone interstellar travel.

Science fiction often made social predictions as well, and they too sometimes hit the mark. Here, for example, is a quote from Randall Garrett's Anything  You  Can  Do (published in 1963).

The number of people killed in ordinary accidents in a single week was greater than the total number killed by the Nipe in the last decade, but nowhere were men banding together to put a stop to that sort of death. Accidental death was a known factor, almost a friend; the Nipe was stark horror.

Replace "the Nipe" with "COVID-19" or "guns" and you get the same attitude.

The next is from The  Highest  Treason (1961). In the 60 years that have passed since it was written, I have seen this prediction come true with a vengeance for much of the Western world.

Marriage was a social contract that could be made or broken at the whim of the individual. It served no purpose because it meant nothing, neither party gained anything by the contract that they couldn't have had without it. But a wedding was an excuse for a gala party at which the couple were the center of attention. So the contract was entered into lightly for the sake of a gay time for a while, then broken again so that the game could be played with someone else.

More from The  Highest  Treason. If we haven't yet managed economic levelling, it's not for want of people pushing for just that. We've already made long strides in the battle against high standards and excellence, particularly in education.

Earth was stagnating. Every standard had become meaningless because no standard was held to be better than any other standard. There was no beauty because beauty was superior to ugliness and we couldn't allow superiority or inferiority.

Society had decided that intolerance and hatred were caused by inequality. Raise the standard of living. Make sure that every human being has the necessities of life—food, clothing, shelter, proper medical care, and proper education. More, give them the luxuries, too.... There was no longer any middle class simply because there were no other classes for it to be in the middle of.

But the poor in mind and the poor in spirit were still there—in ever-increasing numbers. Material wealth could be evenly distributed, but it could not remain that way unless Society made sure that the man who was more clever than the rest could not increase his wealth at the expense of his less fortunate brethren. Make it a social stigma to show more ability than the average. Be kind to your fellow man; don't show him up as a stupid clod, no matter how cloddish he may be.

All men are created equal, and let's make sure they stay that way!

Well, that's depressing. It's a good thing that as a child the social commentary in my beloved science fiction stories went over my head, probably because I had no interest in it. Or maybe this is the sort of thing that only becomes obvious when we can look back over the years.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, January 18, 2022 at 6:36 am | Edit
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Chick-fil-A posted this sign:

Today,  we  remember  a
great  leader,  humanitarian
and  Atlantan,  while  pausing
to  reflect  on  his  legacy

When you're retired, most Federal holidays boil down to "days on which we don't get any mail." But yes, I do know what today is. Nonetheless, I puzzled over this longer than I should have. Atlantan? What mythological association links Martin Luther King, Jr. with the Lost City?

It didn't take too many seconds for the penny to drop, but this may be an indication that my recent reading has been heavily weighted towards the Fantasy genre.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, January 17, 2022 at 11:04 am | Edit
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December in Florida can be interesting, weather-wise. One day we wear sweatshirts, the next shorts. Not long ago I noted that I had used the electric heater in my office and a couple of hours later turned on the air conditioning in my car. It's not unusual—and it's also not new.

It's tempting to look at our currently warm temperatures and think it a recent phenomenon. Today's high is predicted to be 84 degrees. Must be due to climate change, right?

It could be. I'm not denying that the climate changes, and we've personally seen the dramatic effects of warming on Alpine glaciers over the last 50 years. But not everything that looks like a hammer, really is a hammer. I was recently browsing through my journal from 1984—the year we moved to Florida, more than a quarter century ago—and found this entry for Friday, December 21.

Hello winter! By the calendar, of course. It's still hot here—highs in the 80's.

So, December 1984 was about the same as December 2021. I'm kind of hoping January doesn't follow the same pattern, though. This is from the entry one month later, January 21, 1985.

Brrr! Hard freeze last night. It was 23 degrees when we got up.

Experiences like this make me wish my journal hadn't eventually fallen victim to other priorities of life. I've lived long enough that it provides cultural as well as personal perspective. For the same reason I enjoy reading the journals my father kept, though he, too, left frustratingly blank years.

Speaking of years, 2022 is nearly upon us. We are finding it difficult to feel the passage of time correctly. The years 2020 and 2021 have upended our our lives, and time is out of joint. Be that as it may, we wish you all a

Happy  New  Year!

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, December 31, 2021 at 11:12 am | Edit
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Those who are smart and protecting themselves need to continue doing their best to protect themselves and their loved ones.

I found this in a comment on a friend's Facebook post. One advantage of information overload is that such comments quickly become "anonymized information" in my brain, protecting the innocent and the guilty alike.

What struck me about this statement, with which I heartily agree, is what it tells me about how much we are alike. We all want to protect ourselves and our loved ones, and most of us have opinions as to how best to do that.

It is in the means, not the ends, that we disagree.

Some people move to rural areas and learn to farm. Some organize and join unions. Some purchase and learn to use guns. Others choose to homeschool, or to take political action, or to stockpile food and other essentials. Some work hard to strengthen family and community ties, or to attend to their own physical fitness, or to build up a strong financial base. And some people get vaccinated against COVID-19. Many choose more than one of these paths.

The writer of the Facebook comment was specifically speaking of COVID-19 vaccination, which I certainly consider to be a valid way of choosing to protect oneself and one's family. Unfortunately, the context of the above quotation wasn't as reasonable.

I know this is callous, but those who are smart and protecting themselves need to continue doing their best to protect themselves and their loved ones. What happens to those who do not care, is no longer taking up my headspace.

Just as the excerpt epitomizes what we have in common, the context shows what is dividing us. Because by "those who do not care," the writer appears to mean those who choose not to follow his own particular choices. Possibly, he's expressing his willingness to leave them alone to make their own decisions. But the callousness, which he admits, contains the implication that he considers doing them harm to be a valid part of protecting himself.

That is very dangerous ground indeed. We can do better.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, December 17, 2021 at 8:22 pm | Edit
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"Find Your ZZZs: How to Get the Best Sleep Every Night"

It was a two-page article in our local city newspaper—and very large print at that. So I certainly couldn't have expected anything profound. I'm only calling it out because I was struck by how inapplicable it was to me. The advice given must work for many people, because I've heard it in just about every article I've read about sleep. But one size simply doesn't fit all, and I wish that were more universally acknowledged. Here's some of the advice given:

  • Set your bedtime so that you wake up at the end of a 90-minute sleep cycle Not applicable, since I'm one of the blessed people who almost never uses an alarm clock. I wake up when I wake up, and figure there's no need to worry about sleep cycles.
  • 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime, turn off bright lights and put devices away "Avoiding screen time at least 30 minutes before bed is critical to your quality of sleep." That's a very common recommendation, but for me just a few minutes of reading or doing puzzles in bed is the best trick I've found for putting me right to sleep, and it doesn't matter a bit whether they're print or electronic.
  • Decrease the amount of disruptive light in the room with blackout curtains or a sleep mask. This might actually be useful. Light doesn't keep me from falling asleep, but our neighbor's bright, motion-activated light does wake me up and make me wonder which of our wild animals is dancing on the lawn.
  • Keep your room a cool temperature (experts suggest between 60 and 67 degrees) Right. Maybe that works for a northerner, but running the A/C that much is not in our budget. Besides, at that temperature, I'd be wearing my winter pajamas and huddling under the blankets. 
  • Invest in your sleep with a supportive bed and comfortable bedding You mean the mattress and box springs we got second-hand from my in-laws almost 20 years ago should be replaced? At least the author had the grace to admit that "upfront costs of a new bed may be intimidating"—as we re-discover every time we think we might do just that.
  • Don't use the snooze button Not a problem, since I'm not using an alarm clock.
  • Expose yourself to sunlight when you get up Hmm. I think not. Since I'm usually up a couple of hours before sunrise, that's not going to happen; it's especially hard during Daylight Saving Time.

I'm not complaining; I'm sure the article was helpful for some folks. But I do find that more and more these days people are over-generalizing when it comes to what other people are like. I guess we just need to be more aware of what truly works for us and not worry about what other people think.

Actually, I do have one complaint, I suppose: With all that advice about going to bed and waking up, they did not address the only trouble I do have with sleeping: getting back to sleep after awakening in the middle of the night!  Praying is the best help with that—but only memorized prayers; if I have to think to any extent it only speeds the squirrel-wheel in my brain.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, December 11, 2021 at 7:29 am | Edit
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I know I'm a little late for this Thanksgiving wish, since we're now well into Advent and the rest of the country is singing Christmas carols and concentrating on commerce. But on the real Thanksgiving Day we were far too busy indulging in our family's week-long celebration (my grandson's "favorite holiday of the year") to write at that time. (If it looks as if managed to keep up my blogging schedule, that's largely because I had a backlog of posts stored up for the purpose.)

Our missing persons list (always honored on the tablecloth participants sign every year) was longer than usual, but we still numbered over 30 people, and it was SO GOOD to get back to a reasonably normal life again. (If you don't count as abnormal spending most of a day trying to get a COVID-19 test when every source less than a two-hour drive away seemed to be out of stock.)

Holidays rarely retain much of their original purpose, so it's not surprising that Thanksgiving, too, has strayed far from its origins. But no amount of debunking and grinchiness will stop me from recognizing that this year marks the 400th anniversary of the First Thanksgiving. I know that that occasion was hardly unique in being a harvest festival celebration of thanksgiving to God. I know that many descendants of the original Native Americans at that feast wish that their ancestors had been a little less friendly with the Pilgrims. I know that the original looked far different from what is re-enacted in American elementary schools. I know that Thanksgiving didn't become a national holiday till Abraham Lincoln made it so.

So what? That doesn't change the fact that 400 years ago the Pilgrims, having suffered through a tremendously difficult year, gave a feast to return thanks to God for their survival, and shared that meal with their neighbors. We feast in memory of that festival, even if we don't always acknowledge it. And I want our grandchildren to know that if certain of that company had not been among those First Thanksgiving celebrants, they themselves would not be here today.

There were no decorated evergreens in Bethlehem. George Washington didn't refuse to lie to his father about a cherry tree incident. The first Easter had nothing to do with rabbits or eggs or candy. How many people really think about the birth of America on Independence Day, or about workers on Labor Day? Holidays take on a life and spirit of their own, and the alternative to enjoying them for what they are tends to be unhelpful grumbling. I will celebrate all that is good in our modern celebrations, and I will celebrate all that is good about what inspired them.

Happy 400th birthday, Thanksgiving!

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, December 3, 2021 at 6:14 pm | Edit
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