About Me

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Did Socrates say "Know Thyself", or was he misunderstood, as all are. Show Thyself is all we can do. The knowing is unknowable.  

I am filled with joy.  It can't be helped.  

Became a Farmer, Builder, Musician, Tank Commander, Librarian, Lawyer and Minister. I have failed at many things. And now retired.  Filled, just filled, with Joy. 

Saturday, May 30, 2009

"Prayer changes nothing but the pray-er".

It is obvious that prayer does not change anything. The futility of appeals to any or all gods is proved by the record of the saints and the demons, and all of us in between, who have begged, promised, pled and sacrificed, and were answered with silence and inattention.

Today, however, I heard a man declare that prayer changes ONE thing: The Prayer.

So true! Yes, the act of prayer fixes the pray-er to the message and massages the medium. To the one set of ears which hear the articulation, in the interaction of saying it, hearing it, and "getting it", there is a chance of change.

Of course, most of the time, the praying is formulaic. Iterations of "Bless this food to our bodies" locks us into the sleep likely to prevent the possibility of any "change" at the heart of the praying and prayed for.

Still, it is also obvious that we constantly pray. We do many things that do not really "change" anything, and prayer is one of them. The lack of change does not change, and we are not likely to wean ourselves from our futilities.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Climbing - vocabulary

Definitions / words to help keep the climb in perspective. Note that climbing or exploring, like culinary activities, is dominated by French words:


Apparel - Outside, a durable, breathable, alpine soft shell with moisture-shedding doubleweave polyester, glued seams and stretch. Inside, wool, with layers of cotton.

Ascension - Ideal term for describing the upward climb. Contrast with "the Fall".

Big Wall - said of climbing a rock face.

Bivouac / bivouacked - temporary pitching of tent, with an intention that it is a place of rest and protection in the course of an ordeal. What is usually abandoned in the "last ditch descent".

Bottleneck - a geological feature that limits passage to a tricky and dangerous passage. On the Abruzzi route on K2, the B. is a 60-degree couloir at 27,100 feet.

British Paratroopers on Mt.McKinley (qv) climb - On June 4, 1998, a 10-man team of British soldiers set out to climb Mt.McKinley. The rangers at Talkeetna recommended the West Buttress (Grade 2), because some team members had no experience with glacier crossings and ice climbing. The rangers also told them to acclimatize for several days at 16,200 feet. The team ignored the outsider advice (see Groupness qv). They chose to climb the West Rib (Grade 4), and attempted to summit after only one day, and split the group 7 times in rescues required in attempting a highly technical finish. Found themselves on the mountain for three weeks, partially exposed in wet bivouc bags during bad weather.

Climber's Elbow - tendinits of the Medial Epicondyle (qv). Can be prevented with stretching and strengthening of the forearm.

Couloir - a deep gorge, where a gorge is a deep gulley. The big drop.

Everest - [None of the local names were established before British scientists named it after one of their own who had himself made every effort to use local names -- but see also Sagarmatha (Nepali: सगरमाथा), Chomolungma or Qomolangma (Tibetan: ཇོ་མོ་གླང་མ) or Zhumulangma (Chinese: 珠穆朗玛峰 Zhūmùlǎngmǎ Fēng)]– the highest mountain on Earth, as measured by the height above sea level of its summit, 8,848 metres (29,029 ft - first established by theodolites, then in 1999 by GPS unit embedded in the rock). The mountain, which is part of the Himalaya range in High Asia, is located on the border between Sagarmatha Zone, Nepal, and Tibet, China. 3,681 aspirants have summitted, with a death toll of 210. Note K2 is 4 times more dangerous -- qv.

Fixed ropes - clip lines and rappels anchored to the rock or with ice screws left in place by previous teams.

Frostbite - with hypothermia, frozen body tissue. Usually to ears, nose, fingers/hands, legs and feet. Appendages may be visibly curled, dysfunctional. Regarding the 2006 David Sharp controversy, although still living, he was climbing solo and already suffering from severe frostbite when first located by other teams ascending Everest.

Groupness - the downfall of many a good corporation and climbing team. Study by MIT Sloan showing relationship between how long a group has been together and how well it communicates with outsiders. New groups perform better than older groups which become insular and technically dysfunctional over time. Example: 1998 British paratroopers set out to climb McKinley, Alaska (qv.)

Hard go - a difficult climb or descent; cf. the euphemism, "highly technical climb".

K2 - 28,250 feet, in Pakistan's Karakoram Range, a much harder and deadlier peak than Everest. August 1, 2008 saw 11 climbers killed on the Abruzzi Ridge. First ascent was in 1954. By 2007, only 284 climbers had summitted, while 66 died trying.

Medial Epicondyle - inside of the elbow. Used to describe flat ridge leading up to a rock face.

Motivator - The dangerous condition on the climb, such as an oncoming storm, or a geological feature such as an overhanging serac above a bottleneck.

Rappel - a descent of a vertical cliff or wall made by using a doubled rope that is fixed to a higher point and fastened to the body.

Road - "A strip of land along which one may pass from where it is too tiresome to be, to where it is futile to go." - A. Bierce.

Prolotherapy Injections - Anti-anti-inflammatory: re-ignites the natural anti-inflammatory response with injection of glucose. Note that anti-inflammatory drugs reduce pain, but impede healing, by stifling the flow of regenerative proteins or even blood supply to damaged areas.

Serac - A pinnacle of ice among the crevasses of a glacier; also, one of the blocks into which a glacier breaks on a steep grade.

Sloughed off -- as when a serac that had hung in place for decades suddenly collapses off the mountain, and may cover the trail with freshly broken impedimenta. May refer to the natural removal of fixed ropes you counted on.

Summit - reach the top.

Technical - euphemism for a climbing difficulty.

Top out - reach the top.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Book: "JESUS; the man who lives" by Malcomb Muggeridge

This work is a wonderful walk through the biographical portions of the first four Gospels, with full-page Art illustrations. Our "St. Mugg" provides the narrative company of a perpetually skeptical but late to his ardency, Believer. Muggeridge does note that no historical sources outside of the Gospels are available to corroborate anything said or done by Jesus. [To date, the actual existence of Jesus remains uncorroborated by real or direct evidence. He left no artifact or archeology or contemporary record. This lacuna is highlighted by the forged insertion into Josephus' history.]

The three chapters explore His Coming, His Teachings, and His Dying and Living. The Teachings of Jesus should be of interest to everyone, and they are honestly quoted and helpfully explored -- admitting to the obscurities. Jesus presents no theology, no law, nor even a Church.

"The religion Jesus gave the world is an experience, not a body of ideas or principles. It is in being lived that it lives, as it is in loving that the love which it discloses at the heart of all creation become manifest." [71]

The study is as comprehensive as the Gospels themselves. Intense, even comparative across these sources, noting the discrepant versions of events and parables -- for example, the three very different versions of the spikenard episode: "When Jesus was in Bethany with Lazarus, [who he had previously raised from the dead when Martha sent for Jesus to advise him that his beloved had died]... while Martha was preparing supper, Mary took a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and annointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair..." [124].

The emphasis is on what actual sins are, and that sin is rarely what the authorities say it is -- for example, Jesus roundly abuses hypocrisy -- the Pharisees "who say and do not" -- as the worst possible offense.[130]

Those of us not given to power over others or to accumulations of material things, will be gratified by Muggeridge's faithful recitation and explosion of the Beatitudes, and in particular, the bits about the poor and the meek. On the eve of of his crucifiction at Gethesemane -- this must be important -- Jesus told a lawyer to sell everything, give the proceeds to the poor, and "follow me". [114]. Jesus repeats this "distribute unto the poor" admonishment to his close friends, Lazarus, Martha and Mary.[116] If a "Christian" is one who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ, then there cannot, cannot, be more than a few dozen Christians in the world today. What a hypocrite professes makes the point.

A light on St. Mugg's own conversion is shed in the summary of Jesus' teachings provided by Jesus himself:

"Jesus summarized all his teaching for us in two great propositions which have provided Christendom with, as it were, its moral and spiritual axis...: 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and the second, like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.' On these two commandments, he insisted, hang all the law and the prophets. His manner of presenting them indicates their interdependence; unless we love God we cannot love our neighbour, and, correspondingly, unless we love our neighbour we cannot love God. Once again, there has to be a balance...".[130]

"The simple fact is that to be truly loved God has to become a Man without thereby ceasing to be God. Hence Jesus, ... Thus the two commandments become one...". [133]

Here we may have but the core of Muggeridge's conversion to Catholicism late in life.

Of course, he managed at the end to regain his certainty that Faith had no meaning, and died knowing there was no immortality or God. But that is another book, not this one. Much of the grace and gratitude of the religion which St. Mugg did so brilliantly express is so in this one.