TBT: Heavy is the Head

Over at her blog Words on the Word, Audre Myers posted a piece yesterday entitled, simply, “Life.”  It’s a succinct and effective little piece about how Life often disrupts our, well, lives, and how our best-laid plans are often thrown out the minute Life demands our immediate attention.

The past several weeks have been full of Life for yours portly; indeed, this school year—which seems to be dragging endlessly onward—has been one of the toughest of my career.  It got me thinking about this post from last May about the difficulties and joys of responsibility.

We all find ourselves busy at times, and I imagine many of us dream of shirking our responsibilities.  The sad fact is, many Americans do—the moment anything becomes inconvenient, or no longer offers the fun thrill it initially did, we move on to something else new and exciting.  There’s an inherent restlesness in that lifestyle, a lifestyle of constant pacing and chasing.

That’s the child’s response to responsibility and difficulty.  As adults, we should adapt to difficulties, and bear our responsibilities cheerfully, even when they are more burdensome than usually—perhaps especially so at those times.

As I noted last year, most of our perceived problems either dissipate into mootness or are otherwise resolved before they truly become problems that need addressing.  Case in point:  I was slated to teach an online class this summer.  That’s not a problem so much as an opportunity, but it was going to require a good bit of legwork this week to get the course ready to launch Monday.

I got home Tuesday evening to take a look at the course, and realized it had either been purged (due to low enrollment) or given to another instructor (likely a full-timer who needed to make his hours).  While I’m a tad disappointed about losing out on some relatively easy money, it’s also “solved” a problem for me—finding the time to put that course together during yet another busy week.

Again, another problem resolved before requiring any real effort on my part—perhaps not on anyone’s.

With that, here is 5 May 2021’s “Heavy is the Head“:

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Life Finds a Way

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The winning just keeps coming—first Elon Musk’s Twitter acquisition, which is a major victory for free speech; now, what appears to be the overturning of Roe v. Wade (1973), one of the most egregiously unconstitutional Supreme Court rulings ever made.

Conservatives have fought for nearly fifty years for this very outcome.  I did not think it would happen in my lifetime—or ever—given the extreme leftward drift of the country.

But elections matter, and this likely ruling demonstrates why.  All of those conservatives who reluctantly voted for Donald Trump because of the prospect of his nominating constitutionalists to the bench have been vindicated, as have those who supported Trump from the get-go:  his Supreme Court nominations clinched the reversal of this terrible, destructive ruling.

(I note with some degree of amused irony that it was the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s stubborn refusal to vacate the bench that made it possible for President Trump to replace her with conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett; seeing how feminists glorify “RBG” as the protector of their “right” to murder children, it was her tight grip on her SCOTUS seat that, ultimately, doomed Roe to the ash bin of history.)

The social media backlash from disenchanted floozies has been ludicrous.  One friend on Facebook even argued that abortions are a form of mental health treatment, as they spare would-be mothers from the struggles of postpartum depression.

But even ladies who I thought weren’t so hung up on a fictitious constitutional “right” to abortion have been bemoaning the end of their “reproductive freedom” or what not.  The “abortion is mental health treatment” girl also bemoaned conservatives’ desire to “control” women.  I don’t want to control anyone, but I don’t want murder to be legal.

Regardless, that hysteria is grounded in constitutional ignorance and the terrifying normalization of infanticide over the past fifty years.  As I’ve patiently explained to many hysterical women over the past week, overturning Roe just means that the debate over abortion returns to the people and the States.  Now, instead of one imaginary constitutional “right”—note that the Constitution is completely silent on the issue of abortion, as it is on almost everything, leaving it up to the people to decide through their State legislatures—there will be fifty different State level policies.  Some States will put loads of restrictions on it (though I doubt any State will completely ban it); other States will probably allow two-year olds to be murdered if they prove to be too much of a nuisance.

What the reversal of Roe is, then, is not just a major victory for the life of the unborn—it’s a victory for federalism.  It might also mean that feminist floozies will have to exercise a little more self-control—or move to California.

It also marks an important moment of spiritual redemption for the United States—I hope!

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TBT^2: Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony

One of the many benefits of teaching music is (re)discovering beloved favorite works.  During last week’s round of distance learning, I had to pull out some of the classics.  If we’re going to sit on a Google Meet call, let’s listen to some music, not just talk about it.

I really love programmatic music—instrumental music that tells a story, often accompanied by program notes explaining (usually very briefly) what the listener is supposed to hear in the musical “story.”  Students often like to imagine their own stories when listening to instrumental music, which is great, but I find that programmatic works give students (and myself!) some guideposts to follow.

Fortunately, Ludwig von Beethoven provided some handy ones for us in his Sixth Symphony, quite possibly my favorite symphony, and certainly my favorite of Beethoven’s.  It’s the so-called “Pastoral” symphony, as it depicts a pleasant trip to the country (besides the roiling thunderstorm in the fourth movement).

It’s also unusual in two respects:  instead of the standard four movements of the classical symphony (a fast opening movement, a slow second movement, a dancelike third movement, and a fast fourth movement), Beethoven includes five; and the third, fourth, and fifth movements all flow seamlessly into one another, without the customary pause between each.

It is also long, especially by the standards of the classical symphony (the Romantics, however, would have easily matched Beethoven for runtime), clocking in at nearly forty-five minutes (the typical classical symphony averages around twenty-five-to-thirty minutes, but forty-five would have been the upper limit for the time).  But that length is in service to Beethoven’s vision, and he fully explores every theme in this symphony.

Here is a particularly excellent performance—the one I showed, in part, to my classes last week—by the Berlin Philharmonic, under the direction of Bernard Haitnik:

With that, here is 4 February 2021’s “TBT: Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony“:

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The Hermit’s Life

During the long week between Christmas and New Year’s, I found myself struggling against some manner of illness (not The Virus, it seems, thank goodness).  I ran a low-grade fever for a couple of days, then suffered with a sore throat and some fatigue for a few days afterwards.  Fortunately, with the week off, I was able to hole up in Port Manor in Lamar, and regular reader and neighbor Bernard Fife brought me some homemade Christmas treats (and an at-home COVID-19 test, which came back negative).

I typically spend the holidays with my parents, or at least surrounded by family.  That was the case leading up to Christmas, but my mystery malady thwarted my plans to return to my childhood home.  Instead, from Tuesday (when the symptoms started coming on) through Sunday, I largely stayed home, with some occasional outings for groceries and the like as my condition began to improve (and once I realized I’d avoided the scourge of The Virus).

Needless to say, that is a lot of time at home.  I am very much a homebody, and like being there, but the demands of work, lessons, family, friends, and all the other social and professional obligations I get myself into mean I rarely get days alone at home.

Be careful what you wish for:  I had six days at home thanks to illness.  Had it not been for being sick, though, it would have been glorious.  Even so, it was pretty great.

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The Frisson of the Night

Yesterday I wrote about the joy—the thrill!—of live music.  I’m excited to see it making a comeback after the long, weary months of The Age of The Virus, and hope we will witness a renaissance of live entertainment.

Live music is most at home, I think, at night.  Sure, there are plenty of fine performances that take place during the day, and a talented classical guitarist plucking out Bach’s Bourrée in E Minor adds a bit of classiness to a tony Sunday brunch, but music lives at night.  After all, Mozart composed Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (“A Little Night Music”), not Ein Kleiner Tagmusik.

There is palpable excitement to the night—a delectable frisson, the promise of things to come.  The night is when things happen.  Granted, they aren’t always good things, but they night promises to be eventful.

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Rebuilding Civilization: The Hunter-Gatherer

Thanks to Audre Myers of Nebraska Energy Observer I have a new commenter on the blog, 39 Pontiac Dream, a proper English gent of the old school (or so I gather).  He very kindly shared some links with me from The Conservative Woman (or TWC as it is styled on its website), a site both Audre and Neo have recommended to me many times.  One of those links was to an intriguing piece by Stuart Wavell, “The next civilisation.”

Our culture has an obsession with apocalyptic scenarios:  massive plagues (a bit too relevant at the moment); zombie uprisings (always a popular one); massive meteor impacts (a bit retro—a favorite of the 1990s).  Perhaps it’s a sign of a moribund and decadent culture that we fantasize about most of human life ending and starting the whole thing over from scratch.

When we indulge in these celluloid and literary fantasies, I suspect the inherent assumption is similar to those who want to restore absolute monarchies:  we assume that we will survive the collapse, just as the would-be monarchists assume they will be king (or at least some important member of the nobility).

Chances are, most of us (yours portly included) would die quite quickly, either from the cataclysm itself, or from the bands of marauding raiders that would inevitably rise up in the wake of such a collapse.  If those didn’t get us, it would be starvation, disease, or our own inability to assess danger that would do us in.

Wavell makes a similar point, with an interesting caveat:  while those of us softened and doughy by the abundance of civilization would find ourselves in the pickle brine, the isolated, self-sufficient hunter-gatherers of the world—and they are still out there!—would be just fine, as they have been for millennia.

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Big News: TPP is Going to the Dogs

According to PetSmart.com, this week is National Adoption Week.  I suppose that’s appropriate, because I’m getting a dog.

For some reason, I became obsessed with the idea of finding a canine pal a few weeks ago.  I can’t really explain why, though I do have some theories, but I think it’s the same obsession my father succumbed to last summer when he purchased a rat terrier puppy, Atticus (née Mike).  After dog-sitting my girlfriend’s German Shepherd, Lily, for a week, that desire only deepened.

I was looking at my county’s humane society, which has a number of very adorable pups up for adoption.  I really fell in love with an old Shepherd mix named Mattus, who has now been adopted and sent to a new life in Vermont (their politics aside, that sounds a bit like paradise).

But then I began searching a bit further afield, and stumbled upon a very old dog, Riley, who is fostered in a town nearby.  Riley is a bull terrier, the breed perhaps best known due to the Budweiser mascot Spuds MacKenzie or the Target spokesdog, Bullseye.  I was not considering the breed at all, as they are quite mischievous and can be a handful for newcomers to dog ownership, but the description of old Riley—a chilled dude nearing the end of his life, just looking for a place to crash in comfort and snacks in his final days—seemed like a good fit.

After notifying the Bull Terrier Rescue Mission of my interest in Riley, one of their placement coordinators, Anja, contacted me for an in-depth discussion about the breed, Riley, etc.  Among other things, I learned that some bull terriers suffer from a form of obsessive-compulsion that causes them to chase their tales for unhealthily long periods of time; in England, they’re known as “nanny dogs,” as they will watch children under their care with an eagle eye; and that the breed possesses an unusually high pain threshold, meaning it doesn’t feel pain nearly as soon as other dogs.

We also determined after our hour-long discussion that Riley would not be a good fit for me.  Indeed, I’d woken up the night before contemplating the life changes necessary to care for an extremely elderly dog with a heart murmur.  Anja stressed to me that the Rescue places animals and owners together with the best possible fit, and that no owner should have to totally upend his life just to take in a dog.  I agree completely, but it was good to hear it from someone whose life is, arguably, consumed with dogs much of the time.

So after a long, productive conversation, Anja had all of my information and my preferences, and told me to be patient—it could be a couple of months before the right dog showed up in my area, but with bull terriers coming in all the time, she would be in touch.

With that, I made a small donation to the Rescue, and continued looking at the local humane society, if for no other reason than to whet my appetite.  I did go ahead and purchase a copy of Jane Killion’s When Pigs Fly!: Training Success with Impossible Dogs, figuring that having the authoritative training text for bull terriers would come in handy with most dogs, but especially if I ended up with a bull terrier.  Then I went about the business of moving my girlfriend to Athens.

It was on the long drive back to Columbia Friday afternoon, after completing our first run down to Georgia, that I received a text from Anja:  there was an eight-year old female bull terrier named Murphy who’d just been taken to a shelter in North Carolina.  As soon as I saw her picture, I knew that my life was going to get much more interesting:

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Small Ponds

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Blogging is a notoriously inwardly focused medium, one in which the blogger injects not only his or her beliefs into the commentary delivered, but even his or her personality—lives, thoughts, seemingly unconnected details, etc.  At its best, blogging offers a glimpse into how people think, and the inextricable intertwining of the personal, subjective interlocutor with the supposedly objective facts under consideration.  At its worst, it devolves into self-indulgent “me-search,” in which the writers’ subjective experience becomes the primary—even the only—means through which the writer can understand the topic.

The latter situation is what I strenuously wish to avoid, though my blog is, at times, excessively self-indulgent and solipsistic.  I don’t think I’ve quite gone as low as a mommy blogger or a gloomy, self-absorbed teen, but I’ll admit I occasionally dash of some hasty “me-search” to meet my self-imposed daily quota.  Perhaps these pieces are worth your time—I hope they are—but I apologize if they aren’t.

That said, I do believe there is value in learning from one’s personal experiences (as I write that, I realize how painfully obvious that observation—I can’t even call it an “insight”—is).  Much of human wisdom—of history—consists of the hard lessons learned from individuals’ personal experiences with the world.  While I am by no means a great man or a world-historic figure—one critic of the blog once labeled me a “mediocrity”—I have, at least, thrown myself into multiple arenas in my short life, each one teaching me something different about our world and the human condition.  From politics to music to writing to teachingand on and on—I’ve learned my fair share of insights.

All of that waxing philosophical is to get to this point:  I have learned that the small pond—the small school, the small town, the small institution, the small business, etc.—is, while oft overlooked or derided, a very nice place to be.  The small pond is where opportunity exists.  If I am indeed a mediocrity, I’ve made a good life for myself being, perhaps, the First Among Mediocrities, the one willing to toss his hat into the ring.  That has made all the difference.

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