Posted by: Mark Nielsen | April 4, 2014

Mental Health, Fort Hood & Other Spiritual Dilemmas

Screen shot 2014-04-04 at 5.30.51 PM.

In the wee hours of the morning Thursday, I tuned my car radio to a talk radio station and started for the first time taking in the “gory details” regarding the latest Fort Hood shooting. I had spent Wednesday listening to music and/or sports, stayed off of Facebook and watched no television. Plus I work alone on a strange work and sleep schedule, which is why the early morning reports the next day on Specialist Lopez were the first I was hearing of the incident.

Having no “water cooler” around which to gather and discuss such incidents, as always, this Marking Time blog post will have to do for me. It is a tough story to engage with, however. Though I am continuing to tay “off the grid”, news-wise, I’m willing to bet that any number of people within the political, gun-control, medical and/or religious sphere are now taking this fresh opportunity to press their own views, to ride on the coattails of the tragedy now being endured by a handful of families in Texas –all in order to shine a light on the Big Picture (or their own version of it).

So it is with some trepidation that I add my own “peacemaker” voice to that debate. These are real people here, not fictional characters, figureheads, or pawns on a philosophical chess board. But ignoring the patterns –especially in light of the shootings at the same location five years ago– is not necessarily the more ethical choice, either.

I fully admit my bias here, and I fully expect a majority of my fellow citizens will disagree, but here goes anyway:

I believe the U.S. military– like just about any military power in history– has a number of impossibly contradictory communication agendas and propaganda messages to maintain. Meanwhile, well-intentioned but ill-informed soldiers and private citizens get caught in the crossfire of these contradictions far too often, and unintended violence of various kinds is often the result.

I would contend that the broader social sickness here is actually an underlying spiritual illness, an addiction to violence, or else we wouldn’t have steadily increasing and alarmingly random violent eruptions in all sectors of Western society, not just in the military. So I wonder if, at times, the real issue is the inherent cracks in the messages themselves.

The wrongheaded but more broadly-taught messages, IMO:

  1. violence is inevitable and necessary,
  2.  a “just war” (about justice and not money) is possible,
  3. those “other” humans are expendable (a.k.a. “my rights and life matter more”)
  4. I have a right to what I want, and to protect it at all costs.

The inability to question these messages may be what causes soldiers, high school students and other ill people (especially men) to crack under the pressure of that tension and contradiction, and turn violent.

I know almost nothing about Specialist Lopez’s personal life or past history, so I can’t comment on that. On the other hand, if even the psychologists treating Lopez had no clue he was in such desperate condition either, then I have to ask: who, if anyone, can be called a credible expert in such things? Certainly not the pundits, military officers or psychiatrists parading across tv screens this week to comfort a scared-out-of-its-wits public.

On the other hand, I do know something about clinical depression. And while it is primarily genetic and chemical, still there are hundreds more public policy supports that can be put in place than we currently attempt. But most societies worldwide choose to sweep the real issues under the rug and scapegoat the sick, instead of addressing the societies’ own complicit role in the steady rise of mental illness’s severity worldwide.

I also know about the higher-than-normal preponderance of mental health problems and addiction incidents within the U.S. military. The numbers don’t lie. So if you have a hard time thinking of it in terms of political or moral philosophy, then let’s just stick to the science: According to a recent medical study, “The suicide rate among veterans increased an average 2.6 percent a year from 2005 to 2011, or more than double that of the 1.1 percent civilian rate” . And lest we think of it as strictly a U.S. problem, or a gun-control problem, similar veteran suicide statistics exist in the U.K., where gun ownership is far lower.

And combat itself, or traumatic brain injury (TBI), are also more political distraction from the good science than they are major scientific determinants themselves. Lopez was never in combat, and in general suicide/homicide/abuse numbers are not much higher for combatants than for other service members. So what, then, was the “trauma” for which Lopez needed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder testing, if not the psychological trauma of combat or of an actual injury? The hard truth is this: the trauma could just as easily have happened when he was ten years old, as when he served overseas.

Thus it is important to ask which came first: troubled people with limited employment options entering the military, or else the military environment actually contributing to the psycho-spiritual dilemmas these soldiers face?  (And by environment, I include not just combat, but even the abuse or de-humanizing treatment endured in basic training itself, or on the bases, or in abuses of power within the most structured and secretive “chain of command” in modern life). I honestly don’t know which came first, messed up people, or an infrastructure that recruits them and uses them up. But the anecdotal statements about the environment at Fort Hood in this CNN.com article –statements like “People in jail have a better life than a lot of these soldiers here…” –should not be dismissed. Plus, a human being’s sense of inner security and psychological wholeness is a much more delicate mystery than many people are willing to admit– be they a psychologist, minister, soldier, politician, teacher or ditch-digger.

But biased and powerful voices on the international stage do little to help with such “delicate” matters. They fix all problems with the same tool: a hammer, clumsily and heavily wielded. They (ok, change that to we… since I do pay taxes, thus footing the bill for this b.s.) … we cloak bad policies and messages about power, security, poverty, and economic privilege in the fancy clothes of patriotism and justice. Or occasionally military or political leaders and their manufacturer cronies use such pragmatic justifications as “job creation” instead, or “advancement of technology”. Or constitutional “freedom”, in the case of scared but proud gun enthusiasts. But when it comes to defending one of the four flawed principles above, any old lie, any old hammer, will do just fine. It’s classic bait-and-switch… and it works.

But not on me. As we learn in that old story , this emperor actually has no clothes. In all the ways that count, the military is a business like any other. (A similar point can be made about the criminal justice and prison system, as well… but that is a discussion for another day.) But no other business requires such a suspension of disbelief regarding those basic human rights that we so love to say we support: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Cognitive dissonance –in this case the suspicion that love (divine or human) does not in fact rule, but instead money and power and violence do– is just too much for some people to bear without falling apart, or getting high, or hurting others to stave off feelings of powerlessness.(Case-in-point: domestic abuse and sexual abuse statistics are higher in the military, too… at least double, more likely three times as high, or more.)

This is why I define the problem as psycho-spiritual: the values we are working from are flawed at the outset. And too many soldiers –like the rest of us– have been taught these values, and truly believe them. We treat the symptoms, but never the causes (many of which are economic, or else familial and shameful… and thus private and “off-limits”, difficult to account for within the public policy sphere). Meanwhile, those with the power to change minds, with the choice to stop selling to us and start instead helping us, have bought into that flawed worldview and are only invested in perpetuating it –even if they did not create it, which some did.

Oh sure, we have badly-behaving pop stars to distract us, or for us to foolishly blame for social ills. Meanwhile entire social structures perpetuate beliefs and practices which tear families apart, kill people, and even kill the planet itself, …all while asking us not just to whistle in the dark, but to actually say “It’s getting lighter”.

In fact it is getting darker. Leaders show little good faith (not in God, nor in humans), nor much imagination, in their political wheeling and dealing, nor in the half-hearted solutions they try (and fail) to impose within the confines of a broken system. Each generation’s failures, meanwhile, whittle away at the public trust, and the social fabric and basic decency are strained still more as we start to give up on ourselves and our leaders. We might actually vote, or send more of our “best and brightest” into the military, if we believed justice was actually being done. But that has not been the public perception in years, and in this way, I’m kind of proud of my fellow citizens for not cooperating, for not buying the b.s.

It’s like one great, grand social “Whatever!”,  unspoken but quite clear. Seldom are we taught to “create community”, to make personal sacrifices for the common good. Instead, the immature spirit of “looking out for #1″ rolls onward. Where is the courage? The moral courage necessary to enact the kind of fundamental social changes that are required…

  • required for love (either divine or human) to actually rule,
  • for us to put our money where our mouth is,
  • for funding of mental health initiatives, schools and job training that outpace military spending
  • for elimination of tax loopholes for bankers, CEOs
  • to re-educate a quietly scared but still conformist and self-protective middle class that can’t pull the plug on faulty war machinery?

I may be posing the wrong questions above. I may be woefully idealistic and naive. So be it. At least I’m not accepting the common news reports and shallow political analysis at face value.

Lastly, the possible role of PTSD in the Lopez case brought to mind an older blog post I did, way back during the Bush administration. It comes at the psychology and spirituality of war from a slightly different angle. But if you’re interested, it can be found here:

War Is Ungodly and Wrong, PTSD is Proof (Marking Time)

And for an even more angry, liberal and complex look at the issues above, especially on domestic violence in the military, try this old story from The Nation magazine. It’s worth a look just for the stats themselves, whether or not you agree with the opinions (and to be clear, I agree only in part):

http://www.thenation.com/article/173923/house-horrors-domestic-violence

"Call me Raincheck / Need a shot of Rhythm and Blues" - V.M.

“Call me Raincheck / I need a shot of Rhythm and Blues” – V.M.

As some of you may know, I work as a medical courier these days.

Now and then, I see some mysterious “holy ghost” as I meet people. And then the High Priests, like Van Morrison, help me work it all out. This poem is about that experience. Below that, the song that created the spark for me:

      >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>——————————–>

 

I Choose to  Fade   (3/19-26, 2014)

 

The Belfast Cowboy

says not to let the bastards grind me down.

So I won’t.

I proceed instead in the direction that the compass points.

I am making a house call.

 

It is raining.

On my left

I pass Iggy of Loyola’s street.

On my right,

Therese The Little Flower

is just now opening her shop for the day.

On the radio, a woman sings “You Don’t Know Me”.

This may be true, Honey,

but He does,

and that’s all that counts.

 

When I reach the door of the patient–

the Filipino man

with the winning smile and the withered hand–

I see, and am seen.

There is that mild shock of recognition…

followed by quiet joy.

We smile in unison,

and he hands me his bright red left-over Life,

taking it out of the fridge

from the shelf next to the beer.

 

The Big Idea is so clear to me now–

it is just the niggling little details

that are too fuzzy to make out.

 

I place a vial of his red essence,

the proceeds of his heart,

into my cooler.

And as I walk back down the sidewalk

in a drizzling rain,

a nagging but important question

occurs to me:

“Who is healing whom here?”

 

We did not choose

but were chosen for each other.

Yet even after that,

I still must choose to fade today–

to let my chalk mark run in the rain,

even as this old man’s illness

forces him to do the same.

The rain may make us fade today,

but I’ll take a rain check,

and with Help we will never fade away.

 !  !  !  !  !

 

.

 

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | March 12, 2014

Closed Casket [poem for Philip Seymour Hoffman, 1967-2014]

Philip, as Lester Bangs, imparts curved wisdom in "Almost Famous"

Philip, as Lester Bangs, imparts curved wisdom in “Almost Famous”

.

Closed Casket       [for Philip Seymour Hoffman, 1967-2014]

.

“the only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when we’re uncool.”

         –Lester Bangs/Cameron Crowe/Philip Seymour Hoffman, in Almost Famous

s

The war he fought was not in the news,

although –truth be told– it left him broken;

the kingdom and king that he defended:

seen only in absence, creeds unspoken.

.

Tragedy is a farce. Comedy: his shield.

(If only his father could see him now…)

His heart: a window for those who dared.

His death: mystery. (The why, not how.)

.

A life well-lived? Purpose fulfilled?

Martyrdom: less than he deserved.

Parades, memorials, new folk songs?

Yes, that. Not this. This is absurd.

.

“Toes like fingers” they said he had,

but nobody will see them now.

He walked ten million extra miles,

a sturdy workhorse pulling the plow.

.

His harvest meagre but always timely,

but winter here lasts far too long.

More Bangs for my buck than a hundred others–

He sang a lovely but twisted song.

Australian dingo (photo courtesy National Geographic)

Ash Thursday (Mourning Dove and Dog)         by Mark Nielsen,  3-6-14

I wake up on a Thursday.

It is not just any Thursday, for a trace of ash

remains on my head from the night before.

And while I am glad not to be rudely awakened

by some urgent matter for the third day in a row,

I am also conscious of being weary, already,

though the day has only just begun.

.

For from the moment I awoke,

I was set upon by the dogs that tear at my mind:

“You should write that letter today.”

That’s a sweet but needy Labrador pup.

“Your performance yesterday was atrocious.”

A tenacious Staffordshire terrier.

“Never mind all that…Come hither and see me.”

That persistent bitch from the internet porn site.

But I must confess that I am the dog

who most doggedly nips at my soul, and at others.

.

And so it goes.

(A phrase which makes me think of Vonnegut,

and thus of my beloved,

another Kurt lover–

though yesterday even she was hard to love,

just one more person to make me weary.

But this too shall pass.)

.

Are we all just stray dogs on the hunt,

traveling in packs, maintaining boundaries,

protecting what we think is ours?

Was I misled in my former less scared or mournful thinking?

Can this old dog learn some new tricks?

And what has made my sister Happiness

so fragile and skittish now–

she who was a wrestling, playful,

constant and faithful companion

when we were pups?

.

Dreading the day ahead, I consider:

Is this life supposed to be fun,

or just toil?

Can it be fun again like it was with my sister?

.

Is there good reason today to fight,

to kick these new dogs of hell at our heels?

Or should I instead merely feel the bite,

then bleed, then seek my Mother to heal

this pouting, churning, whispering rage

(the real cause of my weary state)?

Is this just the bleeding stage?

Is it just the bullying, gluttonous, terrified,

insecure spirit of this present age

that tempts and dogs me today?

And where is my Master with that bandage?

.

Lastly, is there a promise broken?

A hunger and thirst for righteousness,

not yet fulfilled–

a “falling short” for all of us,

a good reason for this weary rage?

My cup doth not run over,

and our creek is nearly dry.

So was I spoiled before,

or is this weariness a normal response

to an abnormal situation,

to a reality less than what was hoped for:

a kingdom not yet come,

with less love, more blood, more toil? And hunger.

And if so, who broke the promise?

.

I read but struggle with a favorite Easter poem.

(Even He is hidden today,

and I whine like a hungry pup awaiting my father’s return.)

I lick my wounded heel.

I am dis-illusioned:

the illusion

that I would escape unwounded

has been removed from my eyes like a veil.

.

I sip my coffee, and it is not so hot.

More disappointment.

Yet why is my first thought again

that I have let myself down,

instead of recalling reality:

this stupid, cheap, and ancient coffeemaker?

Suffering. Imperfection.

It just Is. It is nobody’s fault.

Bad, bitter coffee, you are not my fault.

So go away, dog.

Your tag says your name is Shame.

I have no scrap of food for you,

and you shall gnaw on my shinbone no longer.

I love you, and I know where you live,

but it is not here.

Not anymore.

.

Thus I try again today

to enjoy what there is to enjoy.

To look for my food, or my mother,

outside in the sunshine.

I look forward, look around.

I try to be not just dust,

but let life be breathed again

into the dust and ashes of my bones.

I wrestle my brother, Sadness,

(who looks like our mother Grief

but in fact is not much like her).

And this time it is Sadness

who goes away with tail between his legs.

I am still dog-tired, but I sniff the air yet again.

I look up.

Outside my den in the yew bush,

a pale yellow mourning dove eyes me,

coos softly,

nodding her head.

——      ——

http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/Matthew-Henry/Gen/Serpent-Cursed-Promised-Seed

–Matthew Henry (b.1662 – d.1714) – his concise commentary on Genesis 3, and hope, and heel-biting serpents (dressed above like bad dogs)

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | February 10, 2014

Amazon’s 100-Book Bucket List: Where You At?

The list includes children's literature and nonfiction as well. This picture from the adult nonfiction documentary: 'Wild Things of the Amazon  Jungle" (not really...)

The list includes children’s literature and nonfiction as well. This picture is from the adult nonfiction documentary: ‘Wild Things of the AmazonJungle” (not really…)

I expect that the new Amazon “100 Books to Read in a Lifetime” list (see below) will generate some discussion, heat, or controversy… but only over the next few days, after which we ‘mericans will move on to other “news”. [As if it is even NEWS that Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut or Great Expectations are good books... d'uh...]

But in my opinion, the inclusion of many books from the past ten or so years may be the biggest difference between this Amazon list and other such past lists, like that of famous curmudgeon and brilliant blowhard Allan Bloom (he of “The Closing of the American Mind” and the whole cultural literacy debate). Amazon’s list is, if nothing else, a bit more trendy or forward-looking than those generated by people one would call academics, or (God forbid) intellectuals.

Okay. You caught me. Maybe I am an intellectual… i.e. a snob. But at least I feel guilty about it.

And yes, the Life List is to a large extent a tricky marketing ploy on Amazon’s part. As in, “Let’s have a team curate and publicize such a list AS NEWS –and then we can let that free-advertising-news-story boost sales of these same 100 books through our OWN website! Cool! ”  (Reader’s zomboid response when at the Amazon site: “Oh look, an easy click-thru hyperlink for Fahrenheit 451, which I think I have up in an attic box somewhere and know I can get at the library– but this will be so much easier– a cheap and satisfying impulse buy, brought right to my door…”).

From what I read at CNN.com about the process of creating the list, and the team that did so, I don’t think the Amazon list is such a bad thing. And take note: this is coming from a former high school English teacher– one who left public education partly because the line between education and inherently-biased cultural indoctrination, or between enlightenment for its own sake and equipping cookie-cutter students for better jobs, or between teaching and MARKETING, gets blurrier every year. (Full disclosure: I also left because even as a grown-up, I hated doing my own “homework” at 7pm to prep for the next day. Yet that’s the industry standard in that field… But we won’t talk about labor issues, political rhetoric or social psychology here, we’ll save those for another day… hee hee).

So anyway, if nothing else, I post this here so that you as a reader can take a fun personal inventory of how many of these books you have read. If you want to. And if you do want to, you can also comment below… and/or keep the discussion going by sharing this around.

However, even if you have only read three of these, remember:  there are no winners and losers here. Discussing the cultural history and literary gifts from our human family over the past 200 years should not result in arguments. Not about which are the most important or don’t belong (i.e. the inclusion/exclusion of certain titles), nor about who is smarter than a fifth grader (“here is how many books Big Important ME has read”), nor debates about whether one book is bad, or boring, or “better than Book X, and here’s why.”

In my case, the books that I have read here are in RED. I’ve read 39 of them. Not bragging, just informing Marking Time readers, or else reminding my future senile self which books I read and then forgot ALL about. Ha. (Plus there are a couple of others below I only read in-part, or else perhaps I read another equally good book by the same author. The Amazon list curators even said that they intentionally did not list any author twice, so my having read three other Salman Rushdie books ought to count for something, right? Half a point? Come on, Teacher, give me my extra credit!)

So… what is YOUR number? And how many of your titles are written by women… or, God forbid, by foreigners! And remember, it’s not a competition, just a curiosity question. If all you ever read are trashy crime thrillers, then by all means, go right ahead. I like ‘em, too.

Below is the list. Note that it is in ALPHA order, not in order of importance (plus the list is not even in true library-style alpha order, or else the first “A” book would be Alice in Wonderland… which is not a bad place to start, by the way, and a quick read to boot.)

But get Alice and the Cheshire Cat at the LIBRARY!!! Stop cluttering up your house, and consuming without thinking, and doing what they tell you to do, in the exact WAY that they tell you to do it…  You’re better than that, my friend.

  1. 1984 by George Orwell
  2. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  3. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
  4. A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
  5. A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning: The Short-Lived Edition by Lemony Snicket
  6. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  7. Alice Munro: Selected Stories by Alice Munro
  8. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  9. All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
  10. Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt
  11. Are You There, God? It’s me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  12. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
  13. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  14. Born To Run – A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
  15. Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
  16. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  17. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  18. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  19. Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese
  20. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown
  21. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 1 by Jeff Kinney
  22. Dune by Frank Herbert
  23. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  24. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream by Hunter S. Thompson
  25. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  26. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  27. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  28. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared M. Diamond
  29. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  30. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  31. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
  32. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  33. Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware
  34. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
  35. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  36. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  37. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  38. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  39. Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
  40. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  41. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
  42. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  43. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  44. Moneyball by Michael Lewis
  45. Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
  46. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  47. Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
  48. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
  49. Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
  50. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
  51. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
  52. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  53. Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  54. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  55. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  56. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley
  57. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  58. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  59. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  60. The Color of Water by James McBride
  61. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  62. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
  63. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
  64. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  65. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  66. The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
  67. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  68. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  69. The House At Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne
  70. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  71. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  72. The Liars’ Club: A Memoir by Mary Karr
  73. The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan
  74. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  75. The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
  76. The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright
  77. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  78. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks
  79. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
  80. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  81. The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver
  82. The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro
  83. The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
  84. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  85. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  86. The Shining by Stephen King
  87. The Stranger by Albert Camus
  88. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  89. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
  90. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  91. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  92. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel by Haruki Murakami
  93. The World According to Garp by John Irving
  94. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
  95. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  96. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  97. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
  98. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
  99. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
  100. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Posted by: Mark Nielsen | February 3, 2014

yes… i, mark of marking time, am still here

Can't a guy get some peace & quiet around here. Taken somewhere in Appalachia by Mark... maybe West Virginia?

Can’t a guy get some peace & quiet around here. Taken somewhere in Appalachia by Mark… maybe West Virginia?

Hello,

If you are a friend or semi-regular reader here at MT, this is for you. The rest of you: “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”

This is a note just to say that –prompted by my buddy George– i have just looked back at my lack of blog posts for exactly the past month [1-3-14 ]  (a month which featured the putting out of several figurative “fires”, lots of bad day job work for low pay, a burgeoning romantic relationship, a sick friend, a slightly busted computer, some conga/djembe drumming, some churching, a weekend-long retreat, more jobseeking, work and play with The Boy, plus probably a half dozen other possibly higher priorities). Nevertheless:      Ugh! I feel so stretched and off my game.

Some new poems still come forth now and then, and I have started several posts on music, contemplative spirituality, and other frequently-tackled topics… and then I get called back to work, and well, y’know, …the flame of inspiration not always as fresh later on. So on the back burner it goes, where hopefully the slow simmering will be good for the newish, now ripening, material. Or it will die on the vine, especially if it was self-indulget crap and deserves to die.

But… I am fine. For now, this placeholder and Groundhog-hugging greeting will have to do. I’m not sure if I will see you tomorrow — or not until spring!

M. Sebastian

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | January 3, 2014

Liam Heneghan – Pooh bear and the ecology of childhood

 

Classic Pooh is clearly the underdog, but he may yet have a shot. [Excerpt of a Mark Tatulli 2008 “Lio” comic strip.]

Classic Pooh is clearly the underdog, but he may yet have a shot. [Excerpt of a Mark Tatulli 2008 “Lio” comic strip.]

Liam Heneghan – Pooh bear and the ecology of childhood.

Above:

A DePaul University (Chicago) professor from Ireland reflects on migration and our sense of place, on our childhood connection to nature, and on the spiritual or psychological challenges of a disconnection from the landscape. This is offered in the spirit of my own serio-comic Winnie-the-Pooh blog series a number of years ago. Go HERE  for the first of my own five part series.

For burning down, or keeping warm?

For keeping warm, shedding Light

a kind of prayer for me in December: for sick friends, for Advent, and for the Kingdom coming… I misplaced this the other day, but we’ve got it back now!

…and yet, I shall not rage , but love my way into the Light that loved me first–

Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night

BY DYLAN THOMAS

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
.  .  .  .  .

Dylan Thomas, “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night” from The Poems of Dylan Thomas. Copyright 1939, 1946 by New Directions Publishing Corporation. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

===== =====
– the above text compliments of the Poetry Foundation,  text Source: The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1957)

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | January 2, 2014

Your 2014 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductees!

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at sunset; Clevelan...

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at sunset; Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ladies and gentlemen, in case you had not heard, your 2014 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees!

Stay tuned here for discussion and comments coming soon, on some of the artists below, especially Peter Gabriel, The E Street Band (featuring Little Steven), Hall and Oates, and Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam.

.

- See more at: http://rockhall.com/inductees/#sthash.4r3wyrgB.dpuf

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Pure 1980 Golden Cheese music video for You Make My Dreams Come True – Hall and Oates. This song [in any form, even as dated and dopey as this vid... unless it was intended to be ironic and campy on purpose] is one of my all-time favorites… Philly blue-eyed pop-soul, from two of the best ever.

Posted by: Mark Nielsen | December 25, 2013

Bring the Silly! Advent Reflections on the Sacred & Profane

Mark Nielsen:

Another of my Christmas classics from MARKing Time. Happy holidays, happy birthday, Jesus (even if you were not born in December really), and above all, …BRING THE SILLY!!!

Originally posted on Marking Time:

Pythons’ Ministry of Silly Walks sketch, 1970

I woke up today with a Christmas conundrum dancing in my head like a sugarplum (Ahem… I said dancing, not silly-walking, though conundrums do walk silly as well).

Here was my puzzle:

Is Santa Claus a harmless, jolly old elf, or an important Christian saint — one whose faith and charity we have abandoned in our shallow, juvenile modern fascination with the NYSE closing bell and those cute little jingle bells? Or is he both?

A classic shot of one of our more devilish saints.

On a personal level, and on a more year-round basis, the conundrum looks like this:

How can I expect anyone to take me seriously if I’m so consistently silly, juvenile or whimsical?

Conversely, how can I embrace my objectively unavoidable creative self — while still credibly addressing spiritually and classically serious matters like faith, contemplation, high art, education, social justice, philosophy and family dynamics.

What am I to do with myself? My Robin-Williams-randomness, my…

View original 1,585 more words

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