Daily Archives: January 3, 2012

A Side to ‘Freedom’ Worth Considering

Those of us spoiled to a particular concept of freedom and the fear it’s coming unravelled might be well served to read Papillon once in a while.  I didn’t mention it in my review of it here, but I should have:  Papillon.

From one perspective the entire book is about freedom of a sort we, confined to our mental boxes containing what freedom is, refuse to acknowledge exists, can exist, for ourselves and those around us.  It’s the story by Henri Charriere of his own life, searching and occasionally finding that kind of freedom while trapped in an environment few slaves in history could match for savagery endured.  A deliberate, carefully devised savagery imposed by a modern, civilized nation.

A nation, I’ll add, not too unlike our own.

But what I intended to say about Papillon this post is one of the corner-of-the-eye aspects of freedom and Charriere’s finding of it during the most trying of times.  Once when he was in solitary confinement so severe as to be intended to drive him insane, to break him, destroy him.  Another when he was confined to a boat with other escapees mid-ocean.

These shreds of rhetorical freedom we savor can be unravelled like a wool sweater with a touch of pen to paper.  The freedom Charriere describes are immune to confiscation.   But they’re the responsibility of each of us to find within ourselves.  Nobody’s capable of giving them to us by signing a paper.  We can’t win them by force of arms by storming a Bastille, or Winter Palace.

The winds of history are eroding away those easy freedoms written on parchment and signed into some illusion of reality for most of the citizenry.  That’s happening and there aren’t any heroes likely to ride in on white horses, nor White Houses to save them. 

But we don’t have to allow ourselves the anguish of loss.  A piece of each of us lives outside the rules and the rule-makers, the savages, the rapacious Viking kings of government and finance.

Maybe the starting place for finding real freedom requires losing the illusion that Viking kings can give it to us and take it away.

Choose Something Like a Star


 Choose Something Like a Star

by Robert Frost – 1947

O Star (the fairest one in sight),
We grant your loftiness the right
To some obscurity of cloud –
It will not do to say of night,
Since dark is what brings out your light.
Some mystery becomes the proud.
But to be wholly taciturn
In your reserve is not allowed.

Say something to us we can learn
By heart and when alone repeat.
Say something! And it says “I burn.”
But say with what degree of heat.
Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade.
Use language we can comprehend.
Tell us what elements you blend.

It gives us strangely little aid,
But does tell something in the end.
And steadfast as Keats’ Eremite,
Not even stooping from its sphere,
It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.

It isn’t as though you have a more favorable alternative.

Old Jules

The Challenge of 2012: Not Knowing Who Wants to be King

One of my personal goals during the past several decades has been to live through an entire presidential term without knowing which politician occupies the White House.  A second goal is to not know which segment the single party occupying the Congressional seats disguised as two parties pretends to  be the one in power.

I almost made it through a presidential term without knowing who was up there once, but I fell off the wagon inadvertently because of 9/11.  I don’t recall who the guy was who was president then, but I do remember having to know who he was then for a while.

This time around I hornswoggled myself into knowing.  Him being a black guy, I was curious to see whether he’d be any different than the string of white ones preceding him.  But now I’ve satisfied myself he isn’t and my curiosity’s receded sufficiently to allow me to pound it down into the seldom-referred-to compartment of my brain where I try to keep things that are none of my affair. 

Old Sol and I have that in common, not wanting to know who is president of the US.  He doesn’t want to know, either.  Notice how he’s got his face squinched up in preparation for what he knows is coming.

But the challenge doesn’t begin with a new president.  It begins early during each election year as a Chinese fire drill of power-hungry liars telling the truth about one-another, but lies about themselves.  Along with the attitudinal lackeys of each among the citizenry saying things back and forth, repeating the lies in favor of their own preference and in opposition to those they vilify for one reason or another.

I’m going to be modifying the reading material online and offline I expose myself to so’s to help me in my goal of not knowing the names of all those lowlifes and read whatever lies they’re telling about others, and what truths are being told about them by their enemies.

From my point of view the greatest presidents of the US are those nobody ever heard of.  They did their jobs so well they barely get honorable mention in history because nothing noteworthy happened while they were president.  Which ought to be the goal of every president.

Here are some presidents I consider the great ones:

Martin Van Buren

Millard Fillmore


Franklin Pierce

Rutherford B Hayes

James Garfield

Chester A Arthur

Warren G. Harding

I’m including Jefferson Davis because nobody even acknowledges he was once president of half the country:


Here are two candidates for future greatness:

Gerald Ford


Jimmy Carter

Once the willow switch and razor strop went out of style as a method for dealing with loud, greedy, demanding children, the only methods left were ‘reasoning’ with them, which didn’t work, then ignoring them.

I’m going to skip the reasoning and just ignore them.

Old Jules