In Other News…


I told Bear but she didn’t really get it. She DEFINITELY understood we were having a GREAT walk in the rain.

The mountains are at 3000 meters/10,000 feet so it’ll be a while before the snow descends on Bear and me. We can wait as long as there is this promise.

An Epiphany in Escaping from Freedom

It’s true; Escape from Freedom is heavy going for me. I don’t want to jinx it since I’m also enjoying it, and it’s been good for me recovering my brain from Covid, but I’m glad I wasn’t assigned the book to read over the weekend! Forgive me for all these boring posts.

Writing about it as I read helps me process and understand, which makes sense as my academic training at those liberal indoctrination camps was to do just that. I’ve been wading through what I have found to be Fromm’s somewhat questionable and slanted perspective on the Middle Ages and the transition to so-called “modern times.” But I am a medievalist. I like those people. I like their way of thinking. I like their institutions and their religious philosophy. I like their literature and their artwork. I don’t think I romanticize the period, but everything I’ve studied has shown me that we just don’t know much about them, and we assume a lot — for example that they never bathed and had no toilets. Studying them opened my eyes to the fact that we all share a future bias, which is that humanity is better now than it was in the past (whatever that means).

Anyway, one important thing Fromm seems not to have considered, or forgotten, or intentionally ignored, is the impact of the Black Death on the change between Medieval times and the, uh, uh, I’m just going to call it the 16th century. I mean, when 60% of the population of Europe DIES in roughly a decade during the 14th century from the Great Mortality, the world WILL change. One of the biggest changes was that it gave bargaining power to the peasants, tradesmen and craftsmen who survived the disease. (“men” = humans) “You want my labor? You pay for it!” “You want the food I grow? You pay for it!” “You want my skills? You pay for them!” People even moved to places where they had a better opportunity.

But, Fromm seems to be ignoring that and that’s OK. It’s not my book. The Reformation is his destination; it’s what he wants to write about. He is interested in what we might call the “cult of personality.” So am I.

By the beginning of the 16th century, the Church was losing its power over the people. It was a centuries long process. There are 12th and 13th century poems/minnesangs that complain about the pope’s treatment of people particularly those who live far away from Rome. The pope and the emperor(s) had been at war for generations over territory and power, wars that depended on mercenaries from Switzerland and, later, areas in what would become Germany. That ONE thing right there was a big factor in the success of the Swiss reformation in the early 16th century which ultimately led to the growth of several different protestant faiths. There was the period of the papal schism at the end of the 14th century when there were two popes — one in Italy, one in France. There were also what look to us from the long lens of time as “small” attempts to reform the church — Saint Francis — and pretty much every religious order — started out with that aim in mind. My point is that the church wasn’t a static, universally loved power over the people, not at all.

It never occurred to me before that the BIG change of the Reformation was that it put a charismatic (religious or other) leader in front of vulnerable people in contrast to the times when the church was God, God was the church and Bob’s your uncle. The plague (about which Fromm doesn’t write) would have scared the living shit out of people; it was Covid times a million. On top of that, death from the plague was gruesomely ugly, horrifying, and involved the color BLACK which we all know represents evil. People were more concerned about demonic possession than disease since disease WAS demonic possession. Fromm doesn’t write that along with the years of the Renaissance and Reformation came such leading lights as Savonarola or such noble institutions as the Spanish Inquisition, witch-hunts and heavy persecution of Jews who, during the Middle Ages were, for the most part, just other people in the village.

By the 15th century, I imagine people were lost — they’d gone through a period with two popes during the Great Papal Schism; people had died all over the place and the plague didn’t completely go away; clearly God had abandoned them. As Europe picked itself up after that, many great and good things happened, no question, but there was also a spiritual and leadership gap. Religious skepticism — disillusionment — had to have been enormous. Certainly they looked for someone to blame, something to blame and they looked for something to believe in.

In beginning his discussion of the Reformation, Fromm makes sure we (meaning I) understand that he’s talking about the psychology of the leaders and the followers. I’m cool with that, and as I read I got the feeling I was about to understand the very thing I’ve been struggling with for 6 or 7 years now. And voila…

Fromm writes that psychology of the leaders of the Reformation (early 16th century) meshed with qualities in the psychology of their followers that enabled a religious revolution. He emphasizes that it wasn’t logical, but psychological, meaning that contradictions were an intrinsic part of it. Fromm writes, “The influence of any doctrine of idea depends on the extent to which it appeals to psychic needs in the character structure of those to whom it is addressed. Only if the idea answers powerful psychological needs of certain social groups will it become a potent force in history.”

Nailed it.

I give you Exhibit A. Shooting an assault rifle from a helicopter, the esteemed representative from an impoverished district in Georgia, has just (allegedly) killed a wild pig in Texas. Making America Great (Again)

“I Got to Go!!!”

For everyone who worried that Teddy was left out of my walk with Bear yesterday, this will reassure you that Teddy gets his turn. We headed out this afternoon — just us — and took a trail my dogs LOVE but which I don’t do during snake season, especially when I have both of them. I’ve yet to see a rattlesnake out there but I’ve seen too many in my life to think that just because I haven’t seen one, they’re not around.

As always, Teddy was very happy.

It was very beautiful as I will now attempt to prove.

Aspen on the mountains
Just a pretty scene.

The bees were VERY busy on all the Chamisa. It was fun trying to photograph them.

Bee here now…

I went out because, well, I have a friend trying to deal with some major problems in life and sometimes people in that situation can be assholes and take stuff out on the people who care about them..

Nature doesn’t have moods — we might project moods onto nature. This is not a mood going on in Florida right now. It’s a very dangerous hurricane. While these dramatic hurricanes might be exacerbated (if not caused by) by climate change (I believe they are) it doesn’t mean nature is “angry.” It means that please people I hope you are all in a safe place. That’s your job right now in the face of this thing that is bigger than you are.

For me, even going out in a blizzard clears my mind and returns me to the proper order of things. That said, I don’t go out in lighting storms. AND, 19 years ago, I ran from a fire. I understood that nature is “bigger” than me, and I very much wanted that next hike with my dogs. I remember looking over the mountains the day after we had evacuated and I had gone to a nearby town to stay in the park until I got word about where I could go. Above the mountains — which were more than 300 meters/1000 feet higher than the park — were flames and smoke. The fire was not ONLY coming up the other side, the flames were higher than the hills. We were fine where we were because of the wind direction, an absolutely bizarre reality. Even so, many people had headed east, into the desert to stay wherever they could on the other side of everything. It was a wise plan, but I didn’t want to do that. My plan was to go higher into the mountains. I had camping equipment and water and knew where I could camp for a steady supply of water from a good well. IF I had done that, the fire would have reached within 1/2 mile of me, but I would have been safe. And why? Because two years earlier a fire had come through there. There was little fuel. I knew that.

It wasn’t a great plan, but it had a couple of escape routes and would’ve been OK. I was pretty sure — it proved correct — that they would find a way to open Interstate 8 that day and they did. I was able to drive back down the mountain all the way to the beach where I had a friend who’d offered to let me and the dogs stay as long as we needed to. Early that evening, we loaded up and drove down between flaming mountains and arrived safely at my friend Sally’s house.

My love of nature is not particularly sentimental. I love the beauty, but I know that beauty is complicated and nature isn’t out there, “I feel pretty! O so pretty!” Nature won’t “betray” me, but I can, in nature, betray myself. That’s the danger. Not nature. Us.

More Escape from Freedom — this Time with a Bump on the Head; Rambling Post

Took a tumble yesterday, well, not a tumble, more like a splat, crash, curse, so now I’m typing with my hands but looking at the screen with a black eye, but I’m fine. The thing about falling is that people die that way, so it’s scary. I’ve always been a person who tended to fall — no idea why — but… Bear and Teddy were solicitous and concerned, though not too helpful. Elizabeth came over to check on me. It’s better today, less swollen and so on and so forth.

Persisting with Escape from Freedom — Fromm is getting interesting again. He characterizes the Middle Ages as a time when the powerful church taught that “economic interests are subordinate to the real business of life, which is salvation.” Fromm’s goal is to illustrate the “position of the individual in medieval society.” As I typed that — and this could be my head injury — he seems to be undermining one of his main arguments in the beginning of the book which is that history is made by individuals. OH well. “Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds...”

Fromm’s notion of freedom is tied to capitalism. I learn this on the next page. He characterizes Medieval society as “communists” in a very special sense — “Private property is a necessary institution, at lease in a fallen world; men work more and dispute less when goods are private than when they are common. But it is to be tolerated as a concession to human frailty, not applauded as desirable in itself; the ideal — if only man’s nature would rise to it — is communism. ‘Communis enim” wrote Gratian in his derectum, “usus omnium quad sun in hoc mondo omnibus hominibus ease debuit’.

No, I can’t read that either except “use” “world” “humans” and “every or all.” BUT Google Translate to the rescue: “For the common man,” wrote Gratian in his address, “the uses of all that are in this world ought to be made easy for all men.” That happens to be exactly what I believe.

The problem is that in the modern world, communism is more philosophical theory than reality and has been conflated with totalitarianism because it has been forced on people. Lao She, 20th century Chinese novelist, satirized this in his science fiction novel, Cat Country where he calls the system/philosophy “Everybody shareskyism.” The Chinese word for cat is “mao” so it isn’t very difficult to make the verbal leap to “Mao.” This book might have been one reason he was hounded to death by the Red Guard. Any system that’s forced upon a people is — IMO — wrong. But the idea of shared wealth and everyone having all their needs met? I’m still having problems seeing what’s wrong with that. It seems the best for everyone. In my “village” co-ops do better than most other business models. Maybe — as Fromm seems to be thinking — it’s a village v. urban thing.

Fromm identifies Renaissance — and Post Reformation — societies as “capitalist.” Before that, the church — religion, the desire for salvation — mandated the relationship of a person to his wealth. Fromm quotes and paraphrases the historian, R. H. Tawney, whom I do not know. Looking him up, I find a pretty interesting guy.

Richard Henry Tawney (30 November 1880 – 16 January 1962) was an English economic historian, social critic, ethical socialis, Christian Socialist, and important proponent of adult education. The Oxford Companion to British History (1997) explained that Tawney made a “significant impact” in all four of these “interrelated roles”. (Wikipedia)

Anyhoo — when I left Fromm yesterday it was with this amazing idea that I might love — that the end of the medieval system threatened the sense of belonging and threw a heavier burden on individual identity. This led people to the pursuit of fame, of immortality in a different sense than that offered by the church. “This underlying insecurity resulting from the position of an isolated individual in a hostile world tends to explain the genesis of a character trait which was, as *Burckhardt has pointed out, a characteristic of the individual of the Renaissance and not present at least in the same intensity, in the member of the medieval social structure: his passionate craving for fame. If the meaning of life has become doubtful, if one’s relations to others and to ones self to don’t offer security, then fame is one means to silence one’s doubts…” And enter stage RIGHT the swashbuckling tyrant or the entrepreneur — or both.

Whoa… Later in the day I read this in the news:

CNN — 

Ask most politicians why they run for president and you are likely to get an answer that sounds something like, “I wanted to do the most good for the most people as possible,” or something similar.

Donald Trump is not most politicians.

Trump, in an interview with the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman for her forthcoming book, “Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America,” revealed the “why” behind his past and (likely) future bids for the nation’s highest office.

“The question I get asked more than any other question: ‘If you had it to do again, would you have done it?’” Trump told Haberman. “The answer is, yeah, I think so. Because here’s the way I look at it. I have so many rich friends and nobody knows who they are.”

OK. So, just to be crystal clear here – Trump is saying that if he had it to do all over, he would run for president again because it made him more famous. That the key motivation for him to run for president was to be well-known – and it worked.

Lots of stuff in this book and it’s a little overwhelming. It reminds me how a college class is a short-cut to a lot of things that when you try to delve into it by yourself, it’s complex and takes time.

*”Who is this Burckhardt guy?” you may be asking as I have been asking. Well, “Carl Jacob Christoph Burckhardt (25 May 1818 – 8 August 1897) was a Swiss historian of art and culture and an influential figure in the historiography of both fields. He is known as one of the major progenitors of cultural history. (Wikipedia)

My Books Are on Sale!!!

Across the World on the Wings of the Wind, is a trilogy of stand-alone novels, a family saga, spanning 500 years of the von Lunkhofen/Schneebeli family from Affoltern am Albis, Switzerland. Two of the three paper bound books in my historical fiction trilogy — Savior and The Brothers Path — are on sale at Amazon for the price of the Kindle Version. The third — The Price — hasn’t been marked down. It’s an amazing deal for three good stories.

Savior — “Imagine living in a world where depression is not regarded as a disease, but as Satan trying to steal your soul. Imagine turning to your priest who counsels you to take the Cross and to travel thousands of miles to the Holy Land to kill people so that you can be free of Satan forever. Imagine you believe this so absolutely that none of the rational arguments offered by your parents, your friends or your beloved can persuade you otherwise. Imagine that this journey costs you everything but the one thing you had hoped to lose — your life. What, from that desperate emptiness, would you find to bring back? Savior is this story.Savior is a coming-of-age novel, set in thirteenth century Switzerland, Palestine and Lebanon. Savior exemplifies the universal human journey of delusion, suffering, discovery, liberation, and transcendence that creates the individual.”

The Brothers Path —“The world-shattering tumult of the Protestant Reformation enters the Schneebeli household when Rudolf Schneebeli is born two months early and dies a few minutes later without being baptized. Named for the well trodden track linking the Schneebeli farmhouse to the old Lunkhofen castle, The Brothers Path is set in a Swiss village near Zürich, between 1524 and 1531. It chronicles the lives of the six Schneebeli brothers, Heinrich, Hannes, Peter, Conrad, Thomann and Andreas. Each brother navigates his own path through, around or directly into the deadly drama of the Protestant reformation. Two hundred years after the events recounted in The Brothers’ Path, thousands of immigrants, mostly Mennonites and Amish, left Switzerland for America looking for safety and freedom they could not find at home. If the novel teaches a ‘lesson’ it would be a reminder why immigrants to America were adamant about separating church and state.

The Price — is the third book in this trilogy. “Hans Kaspar Schneebeli is enthralled by William Penn’s words describing an Eden where there is land for all, and everyone is free to worship as they please. Verena Dups, his long-time love, is happy living on her father’s horse farm in Affoltern-am-Albis near Zürich, Switzerland.It seems nothing can heal the rift when Hans Kaspar insists he wants to go to America, and Verena adamantly refuses. Until…The death of his father, the casual words of a customer, and the plans of his own teenaged sons bring Hans Kaspar to a crisis. His dream of America returns. This time Verena sees that nothing can stop him or her sons. To keep the family together, Verena and her little girls must go, too, even though the voyage is dangerous, and there’s no turning back. The journey across the Atlantic changes all their lives, costing far more than the price of passage. The Price is a love story, a historical novel about a Mennonite family’s emigration from Switzerland to Pennsylvania in the mid-eighteenth century, a powerful rendering of what happened over and over in families that immigrated to America.”

These are historical novels, but not bodice rippers. There are no hunky guys salivating over some vixen’s corset. I think the luv’ sections are a little more real life. 🙂


Savior. The Brothers Path. The Price

More Discussion of Escape from Freedom

Fromm begins his book — and his argument — with his two definitions of freedom — one positive (Freedom To) and the other negative (Freedom From). I’m not sure I buy those as opposites. Freedom FROM hunger is freedom TO eat. Freedom from oppression is, uh, oh, yeah, freedom. But I’m happy to see where he goes with that (to me) rather arbitrary dichotomy. I know one thing for sure about freedom. It’s difficult to define.

Yesterday the ladies and I went to the museum to see the new exhibit which is all kinds of stuff from the olden days. The idea is to figure out what all these strange things were used for. Lyndsie (the new director) made a guide to go with the objects that are common household tools and objects for farming, things like a cream separator and a seed spreader. We had a good time. It was followed by lunch which wasn’t great.

Elizabeth is Australian and she got up early to watch Queen Elizabeth’s funeral. She’s long held the thought (and frequently expressed it) that the United States needs a royal family. On the drive home, I mentioned I was starting to see her point. That led to a front seat discussion about presidents and who did and did not “act presidential.” They agreed Obama acted presidential; there was dispute over whether Biden does. I was in the back so I had the privilege of listening with Fromm’s book still on my mind. I think a lot depends on what a president inherits when he takes office — and Biden inherited a mountain of shit — divided country, an insurrection, a pandemic and its resultant economic challenges, all followed hard on by a war in Europe.

When I was able to pick up Fromm’s book again — beginning a new chapter, “The Emergence of the Individual and the Ambiguity of Freedom” — I was again stunned.

“The social history of man started with his emerging from a state of oneness with the natural world to the awareness of himself as an entity separate from surrounding nature and men.”

Good god… This was a little challenging for me because I think our separation from the natural world is an illusion. We might THINK we’re free of it, but we’re not and, in this particular case, that is to say it seems to ME, that at this juncture in human history, this drive and (its corresponding illusion) is killing us. The other day, MTG said, “AOC worships the climate. I worship God.” All I could think was, “Uh they are one and the same you stoopnagle.”

Too much abuse of our world, resulting from our freedom to create an environment designed for man, might lead us to a very sinister negative freedom, that is freedom FROM life. But the bizarre end-days cult to which she clings might be all about that, after all Revelations says the world will end in fire. I don’t know. I can’t know what goes on in their twisted little minds.

Fromm went on to discuss the emergence of each of us as an individual, a process he called individuation which is the moment in which a person recognizes that he/she is a separate entity, not connected to parents, but a self of its own. As I read I thought about my own childhood and recognized the moment, though it wasn’t a “moment” so much as a process of self-definition that took about three years. It began on a train crossing Wyoming north to south and culminated in a little movie theater in Nebraska watching Lawrence of Arabia and sucking on sour cherries. The first was the opening of the question, “Who am I?” the end was, “I am no one but myself.” A book was an instrument in the beginning; a film in the completion.

I remembered the numerous times my mom said, “You and your brother were easy as little kids and then?”

Well, mom. I thought of all the times I said, “I’m not you. THIS is what I want to do.” I understood at that point that what I did might not work, but I was OK with that, I was OK with failure. My independence mattered more to me even as a kid than success.

It hurt when friends snubbed me (kids do that) and it wasn’t easy for me to make friends, but after a while that was OK, too. I didn’t feel isolated. I came to understand back then, on some level, that all the kids around me were in this process, too. That was one reason kids fight. That was a motivation behind adults organizing us into team sports where each of us would begin to focus more on a skill than in competing for identity. It seemed to me at the time — and I have no idea if it’s true — that girls were generally less determined to become selves than were the boys. Their playground games were more peaceful and sedentary; their games at home seemed to revolve around role plays of adult life. The boy’s games interested me more; I wanted individual achievement. I wanted to get better at things, run faster, hit more balls, see more, know more.

Fromm then discusses how the moment (process?) of individuation affects people (the process is inevitable). Some people are overwhelmed by the sense of solitude in the universe. Others recognize the solitude, but accept it.

“The process of individuation is one of growing strength and integration of its individual personality but it is at the same time a process in which the original identity with others is lost and in which the child becomes more separate from them. This growing separation may result in an isolation that has the quality of desolation and creates intense anxiety and insecurity, it may result in a new kind of closeness and a solidarity with others if the child has been able to develop the inner strength and productivity which are the premise of this new kind of relatedness to the world.”

Whoa. Person 1 — riddled with anxiety and insecurity — will seek submission to escape that painful solitude. Person 2 won’t, having made peace with freedom, or so it goes more or less. I’m not sure, but this seems to be the argument Fromm is building. Naturally, I brought all this home to people I have known. I saw my mom in a completely different way. I saw that she never made peace with the intrinsic solitude of individuality, never found a way to live productively within it. It struck me that perhaps the foundation of freedom is just that. “I’m alone and it’s OK with me.”

Fromm makes that point.

P.S. This might be tedious, but I don’t have anyone around to talk about this with. Writing about it helps me process the ideas. The book is just under 300 pages so this won’t go on forever 😜

I Know It’s In There Somewhere…

Fall is definitely pushing summer out of its way. No incognito here. It’s coming in brash and full-faced. Some of the leaves on my trees are yellow. It’s cold in my house this morning. The furnace comes on. If we get a week or so without freezing I might get two tomatoes. The beans are steadily giving me seeds for next year. It seems as if summer never happened, and, I guess, for me it didn’t, not that I mind all that much, but the reasons stink.

The new “bivalent” vaccine is out, but the CDC advises people who’ve had Covid to wait 3 months. OK. That’s next month. At some point I’ll toodle over to the park — or wherever — and get on the bus, Gus.

I don’t know. Yesterday, a very strange day as far as my brain went (which wasn’t far), I did a little more research into the phenomenon of “long Covid.” I learned that, “Researchers estimate that worldwide, 43 percent of people who have had COVID-19 experience some form of long COVID. They also found that trouble with memory — a feature of brain fog — was the second most commonly reported symptom of long COVID after fatigue. The exact cause of brain fog after COVID-19 is unknown. One theory is that high levels of inflammation or immune activity in response to COVID-19 impact the brain. But additional research is needed.” (Source) The key to all of this is “more research is needed.” Just a pity we can’t research things BEFORE they happen.

43% is a lot. The inflammation question is key, I think, and I have a pre-existing condition that is a chronic inflammation. Whatever it is, I’m stuck with it for the nonce. If you have friends dealing with this, be kind. It’s NOT hypochondria. At least my hip is working again. “At least?” Actually, it’s a LOT that my hip is working again. I’m very grateful to be able to haul my sluggish brain through fall’s beauty in the San Luis Valley.

Not Going Back…

Everyone thinks they want time travel but I’m wondering about that. There are some dead people I’d love to spend just one more afternoon with, but I’d end up in the same place without them, so maybe not. To me the message is enjoy the moment as deeply and well as you can. Except the bad ones. Don’t savor them. If they have something to teach, learn it and get the hell out of there.

Woody Allen’s beautiful time-travel movie — Midnight in Paris — made the perfect argument against it which is no antibiotics or vaccinations and other medical miracles that have made it possible for me to reach 70 years old.

I think Ray Bradbury had the right idea in his story The Sound of Thunder. When you arrive in the past (or future?) you walk on an elevated sidewalk that keeps the present from touching the past. It is also the source for the term, “butterfly effect.” It’s a wonderful story and, in my memory (time travel?) I can still see myself on the floor in my bedroom in Nebraska reading a 35 cent paper back with line art illustrations. I remember I asked my dad and he said, “Ray Bradbury is right. We have no idea how things work, fit together, to make the present.”

It’s hard enough to pee here now, as was written on the bathroom wall of the Ladies’ at Muddy Waters of the Platte back in the late 1970s. Yesterday I got up on the step ladder and took down a pastel drawing my friend Wes Kennedy did back in 1979/80. I have it because he didn’t have any money and I had $40. He knew I wanted it, but he’d priced it beyond my reach. It was supposed to be of the vase of lilies and the grapefruit on my dining room table. The thing is my table was cherry and round and the flowers were, uh, yeah, lilies. Details, details. One afternoon, he walked over to my house (we both lived in Capitol Hill in Denver) and offered it to me for whatever I had in my wallet. That was a gamble. Lucky for him, I had two 20s. That would buy substantial groceries at that time, though, so it wasn’t such a bad deal, plus I took him to dinner at Zach’s

Yesterday as I cleaned the piece of art and its environs, I talked to Wes. I told him I still missed him and all the fun we had back in the day. I told him that I loved the drawing as much now as ever, and that it hangs where I can always see it, immortalizing a very brief moment of time. If Wes were that 20 something kid today, he probably wouldn’t die of HIV/Aids. So, time travel?

I’m seriously going to try not to write any more politics. I can’t promise, I can only promise to try.