The Wednesday Rant.

December 6, 2017 | Posted in General

There are a dozen versions of “A Christmas Carol” that roll out this time of the year, for me the 1951 movie with Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge tops the list.

I have a vivid memory of a winter long ago, snow cascading down outside the window, the tree is lit warmly and I am firmly attached to a chair in our living room watching Sim’s incredible performance in an episode of “Family Classics with Frazier Thomas” on WGN television in Chicago.

We all know the story, and over the years the meanings have become more prominent for me. The Charles Dickens classic has gone from a once a year “gotta see it again” to a clearer understanding of what was written in 1843- 174 years ago this Christmas.

Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol” at a time when the British were examining and exploring Christmas traditions from the past, such as carols, as well as new customs such as Christmas trees. He was influenced by experiences from his own past, and from the Christmas stories of other authors, including Washington Irving and Douglas Jerrold. Dickens had written three Christmas stories prior to the novella, and was inspired to write the story following a visit to the Field Lane Ragged school, one of several establishments for London’s half-starved, illiterate street children. The treatment of the poor and the ability of a self-interested man redeeming himself by transforming into a more sympathetic character are the key themes of the story.

Published on December 19th,1843 the first edition sold out by Christmas Eve; by the end of 1844 thirteen editions had been released. Since that time “A Christmas Carol” has never been out of print.

Clearly Dickens had struck a nerve and the roots of his outrage at how the poor and less fortunate were being treated went all the way back to the age of 12, when his father was put into a debtors prison and the character of Ebenezer Scrooge who is described in the book as a “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner” is possibly a combination of his father, and two local “misers” along with elements of Dickens himself-that being the “higher part” of the self.

The central theme of course is transformation. That even though someone might be full of hate, spite, greed, fear, anger, malice and missing the part of their heart marked “humanity” they too can be redeemed (if the right combination of ghosts come along to basically scare the shit outta of them.)

Past, present and future all make their presence known to Scrooge, having him “walk” through his life from beginning to end, something that most of us only do if forced to by circumstances, preferring to fill our lives with diversions rather than decisions.

It is the visit from “The Present” that we are introduced to the two ragged children huddled under the ghost’s flowing robes, staying close to him for protection assumes Scrooge.

As Dickens wrote it…

“Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him
in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but
the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie
of such enormous magnitude.

‘Spirit. are they yours.’ Scrooge could say no more.

‘They are Man’s,’ said the Spirit, looking down upon
them. ‘And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers.
This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both,
and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy,
for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the
writing be erased. Deny it.’ cried the Spirit, stretching out
its hand towards the city. ‘Slander those who tell it ye.
Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse… And abide the end.’ “

“Ignorance” is a lack of knowledge. The word ignorant is an adjective describing a person in the state of being unaware, and can be used to describe individuals who deliberately ignore or disregard important information or facts or individuals who are not aware of that important information or facts. Ignorance can come in three different types: factual ignorance (absence of knowledge of some fact), objectionable ignorance (unacquainted with some actual object), and technical ignorance (absence of knowledge of how to do something that could actually be done).

Dickens felt that if people were informed about the conditions of the day that they had turned a blind eye to, that change…or transformation…would take place, so he used fictional characters to convey very real messages about the human condition and how to improve it.

So here I sit, at a device Dickens might have appreciated but perhaps could never envision, a machine that types my thoughts and allows me instant access to the entire world. The information and knowledge base we have at our fingertips in greater than any other group of humans in the history of the world. There is more technology in my cell phone than in the first lunar module.

And yet…even with all of that…ignorance remains our constant companion.

Back when Dickens walked the streets of London, people routinely stepped over bodies of sick and dying children, pretending not to see what was going on, preferring their own ideology over the worsening conditions. It was only until one of their own became sick that they took notice and began to see what they had become blind to.

I’ve said many times over the years that after attending a hundred funerals and spending considerable time in cemeteries, never once have I seen Democrat, Republican or Independent on a headstone.

And yet we run so much of our lives and “who we are” through a political strainer, ignorant of the bigger picture, stepping over bodies in our attempt to keep ideology intact only to find out that in the end…what we thought mattered most…mattered the least.

When the ghost of Marley (bound and chained by his own greed and selfishness) visits Scrooge to warn him of his impending doom, Ebenezer responds with “but you were always a good man of business…”

Marley thunders and shakes the room at the words and says…

“Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business.”

Be well.
JSA

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Saturday Morning Memo.

December 2, 2017 | Posted in General

 

My dad was a “Trekkie” of the highest order. Never missed an episode, would often times use Spock’s “Mind Meld” on me in an attempt to infuse his thoughts into my brain, trying to get me to cut the grass and take out the trash on his schedule, not mine.

While I appreciate the reruns all these years later, never really got into Kirk, Bones, Scotty and Spock like he did.

But there was this one episode that hooked me in back in 1967 when I was nine and happened to catch it again last week fifty years later.

“Arena” was written by Gene L. Coon, based on a short story of the same name by Fredric Brown, and directed by Joseph Pevney. The episode introduces the Gorn- a fictional extraterrestrial humanoid reptilian species*. In the episode, while pursuing an unknown enemy for an apparently unprovoked attack, Captain Kirk is forced by powerful entities to battle the opposing Gorn captain unarmed.

Kirk attempts to communicate with the Gorn, but receives no response. The Gorn tracks down Kirk, and Kirk realizes he is outmatched physically and relies on his agility to outrun the Gorn. Kirk gets caught in a rope trap set by the Gorn that injures his leg and slows him down. The Gorn finally communicates with Kirk via the translation device and offers to put him out of his misery. Kirk eventually “outwits” the Gorn and turns the tables then Kirk lies in wait for the Gorn and fires on him, severely wounding the alien. Kirk prepares to strike the Gorn to kill him, but realizes the Gorn’s attack on Cestus III was likely only in self-defense, and allows the Gorn to live. Suddenly, the Gorn disappears, and a Metron appears to Kirk, congratulating him on not only winning the battle but showing the advanced trait of mercy for one’s enemies.

Didja get all that? Good.

That famous first season episode, #18, production #19, first broadcast January 19, 1967 pretty much explains everything going on on the world today…and every day.

We are all both Kirk and Gorn on some level.

Our “Inner Kirk” is the “neomammalian complex” consisting of the cerebral neocortex, a structure found uniquely in higher mammals, and especially humans. It is regarded as the most recent step in the evolution of the mammalian brain, conferring the ability for language, abstraction, planning, and perception.

Our “Inner Gorn” is our reptilian complex, also known as the R-complex or “reptilian brain.” The term derives from the idea that comparative neuroanatomists once believed that the forebrains of reptiles and birds were dominated by these structures.The reptilian complex is responsible for species-typical instinctual behaviors involved in aggression, dominance, territoriality, and ritual displays.

Finally we also have the “paleomammalian brain” but that’s for another time.

Three brains inside every human, some more developed than others, often an ongoing tug-of-war over which “brain” is in charge, running the show or at the helm.

The reptilian brain is the machine behind the scenes as it were, all about our survival and is keeps us functioning without conscious thought when it comes to food, breathing, heart rate, blood pressure and reproduction, among many other system functions.

The Gorn-lizard brain at its very basic is all about fight or flight. If constantly stoked and poked at, backed into a corner and with no other way out, it will fight until the death…or the next Facebook post, text message or “breaking news.”

The Kirk-evolved brain is about thought, processing, critical thinking, assement, learning and communication from a higher point, less reliant knee-jerk emotion and more on perspective. It’s more about response than reaction.

Every moment of every day, especially as unsocial media drenches our somewhat ancient limbic system with content and information that is difficult for the Kirk Brain to process rapidly and stokes the Gorn Brain easily, not hard to see the results.

My conclusion is that most humans over the age of 25 have at this point some form of PTSD. As a veteran who as worked with other vets on military related PTSD, I do not make that statement lightly. Anything that creates trauma, left unprocessed causes a form of stress that is like a constant, toxic leak in our lives, to a greater or lesser degree.

At this point in our “evolution” we are “the walking wounded” spiritually, mentally, emotionally, a species still trying to figure out why humans would stand in line to buy a phone that costs more than my first car…well…at least that’s what I am trying to wrap my Kirk mind around at some point each day.

There is nothing more challenging that the constant bombardment of information you can’t use, about human behavior you cannot change, leaving you frustrated, exhausted, confused, angry, bitter, broken and hopeless.

Its called “the news.”

For those who have become hooked into stuff that keeps their lizard brain on fire, on the lookout for the next enemy attack or battle, headlines that feed the lowest part of their gray matter…matters more than just about anything-its very survival depends on it.

For those who look past the headlines for lifelines of common sense, indicators of truth and progress, confirmation that humanity isn’t just swirling down the cosmic toilet bowl, waiting for the hand of fate to flush it all way, looking to keep their higher mind intact, the struggle is very real, and often times daunting.

When Kirk allows Gorn to live, understanding why the lizard acted the way it did, the power shifted and the energy was lifted. When you spot a Gorn, you know it. Same for the Kirk’s in your life.

Oh yea…that fictional* asterisk for a extraterrestrial humanoid reptilian species?

Its a real species…within every one of us.

So now you know what’s really going on and you can either feed the Gorn or feed Kirk but you can’t do both at the same time.

In order to win the battle you must know your enemy. To know your enemy you have to first know yourself.

“Live long and prosper…”
JSA

 

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