prisoner

I have not sinned
against a god nor man
nor woman
harmed no beast
—cared for Mother

why do I suffer
these sins of others
the revenge of Man
sins against me
—why am I prisoner here

admit they say and
confess – to what
I did no wrong
I harmed no one
—and yet I’m here

yet I am punished
forced – I sit alone, told to
feel some shame and
remorse and
—guilt for my breath

my dignity
my humanity
they took all from me and
I suffer – I do – I am alone in
—my pain without sympathy

why am I punished
made less than
human – no son of god
son of man
—fuck it all – fuck them all

try harder they say
love this god they pray
why must I see their way
It’s their way I’ll suffer
—the goodness of Death

prisoner by bill reynolds. 5/31/17

Look around. Mind what you see.

D – Dogs of War (NaPoWriMo #5)

This poem refers to crew members (called crew dogs) of B-52 bombers and to their war-time mission of dropping munitions to destroy things and kill people, thus the dogs of war. This is a dark and threatening piece, set in six stanzas of six lines each, with even and odd lines rhyming. Misery and woe are metaphors for the many types of weapons dropped. The shrill is the eerie sound bombs make as they fall. The dog, or beast, refers to the model D, or variant of B-52, which is painted black on the bottom of the airplane. Please question in comment.

We are coming for you.

Dogs of War
by Bill Reynolds

Let us slip from nature’s gravity hold
We war dogs of old, both willing and bold.
Into skies we shall go with misery and woe.
To maim and to kill, who we don’t even know.
Our airman’s life is to die if we will.
Into Death’s realm, we’ll send you the shrill.

We’re lashed to the beast, the marvelous dog,
Behind us we leave the stink and a fog.
The thunderous sound of flying around
We send you a hell, you on the ground.
Wonders of war are set at our feet
Our old friend death, soon you will meet.

A B-52H dropping high-drag bombs and flairs.

Destruction we’ll rain on your cities and towns,
You won’t know we’re there, we don’t make a sound.
Concussion will break you and all that is near,
Along with destruction, we’ll send you the fear.
The black-bottom dogs will come as you sleep
To rip and to tear, into hearts of your sheep.

The countdown will start, as our hearts will race,
But Death we’ll deliver at one horrible pace.
The flashes we’ll see and the fires will rise,
The dogs of war unleased, to your demise.
The horror will come as sure as the sun,
This nightmare relents when war is won.

The Beast

Safe home again with guilt, we shall not feel,
Because of the blow, we were vowed to deal.
To the bar we’ll retire and review the day’s mess,
In laughter and stories, we consider success.
The beast is now resting and finding a tune,
Ready again, the dogs shall return again soon.

The horrors of war are hidden away,
The death and the misery kept well at bay.
From dogs to humans we slowly turn,
To our homes and lives we always return.
Havoc returns with the dogs of war,
Until we can say, no war! No more.

Look both ways, mind the gaps, and fill the world with love and peace.
Lest we…

“…Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war,
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.”
~ Marcus Antonius in Julius Caesar,
Act 3, scene 1, 270–275

 

Who Ya Gunna Kill?

Intrigued? It's murder!

Intrigued? It’s murder!

Seriously? Would you? I spent a career in the military. Flying B-52s would have removed me from the carnage by five miles, but I never dropped bombs on people. Fly all day, spend a few minutes dropping whatever (normal or ‘conventional’ bombs, various kinds of nuclear bombs or missiles, or mines into water like harbors or ports), then home and to the club for a night of brews and pizza before going out again in a day or so. I just missed out on that fun (not) routine in Viet Nam.

I was trained to shoot three guns: two rifles and one pistol. But I never shot anyone either. I spent a career as a trained killer, but I’ve never killed. I don’t even hunt. And, at least for now, I don’t own a firearm. However, I have no doubt that I would kill. War is different. Self-defense is different. I am not a pacifist.

Per the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the most dangerous regions in the world for murder and other violent crimes are Africa, Caribbean (toss in Brazil), and Central America. Canada comes in at 89th with about 516 murders, and the US at 92nd with 12,253 (both based on rate by population). Australia seems to have virtual love fest going on and is way down the list. But I want to look at this from a personal, more individualized perspective.

murder-3A few days ago, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek note on Facebook about how I did not whack some guy because my wife would kill me, had I dispatched the fool to his happy hunting ground. The fact remains, people kill people. I cannot imagine doing that except in self-defense or war. Neither of those would be considered murder, even in the biblical sense. Why do humans kill each other? Mental illness aside, why do we do it?

Here’s a little clip from J. D. Robb’s book, Glory in Death, p 138.

“Biblically speaking,” Nadine put in, “murder is the oldest crime.”

“You could say it has a long tradition. We may be able to filter out certain undesirable tendencies through genetics, chemical treatments, beta scans, we deter with penal colonies and the absence of freedom. But human nature remains human nature.”

Those basic motives for violence that science is unable to filter: love, hate, greed, envy, anger.”

“They separate us from the droids, don’t they?”

“And make us susceptible to joy, sorrow, and passion. That’s a debate for the scientists and the intellectuals. But which of those motives killed Cicely Towers and Yvonne Metcalf?”

Later they add thrill as basic human motive for violence.

Can this be for real? Do people kill because it’s fun? Sorry, that can’t be considered normal. But those other emotions can account for a lot of murders. Love, hate, greed, envy, and anger are common human emotions. And yet, people kill strangers for cutting them off in traffic. We call it road rage, but it’s anger. Statistically, murders of women are often done by male mates, partners, or lovers. What’s up with that?

The countries in the high murder-rate areas that I mentioned have significant drug trafficking problems, and many (but not all) have high rates of poverty. Figuring out motives and getting them into the right categories would be a challenge internationally. So, tell us. Who ya gunna kill?murder-4

It can be a dangerous world out there.
Carefully mind any gaps. Look both ways before crossing borders, fences, or red lines. And, watch for droids.

What Don’t We Know?

Twin fairies: Fenix and Furie

Twin fairies: Fenix and Furie

Since the early 1970s, I’ve held to the opinion that basic human nature is good. I’m not sure why I think so. My conclusion is partly evidence-based for the good, but since so much in human history is to the contrary, many people disagree with me. We seem quite set on damaging ourselves and the world around us in ways that are evil.

I’m also unclear about why it should matter. No one knows the answer to our basic nature. It’s too complicated. But when I consider my personal basic nature, the one I was born with; is it good or evil? Or should I ask, was it? When did it start to change – before or after birth? What do you think your nature is? How do we see the basic nature of others? Good or bad? Are there bad seeds among us?

what-we-dont-know-3It is what it is. However, I wonder if our opinion on this matters more than the real answer. It’s like believing in a god – it either exists or it doesn’t. Our believing or doubting anything changes nothing about reality (placeboes or magic notwithstanding). Our opinion on this affects how we see the world, other people – and most importantly, how we see ourselves. Me, is the one thing in the universe that I have some control over—maybe.

To the point, I just finished reading Straw Dogs by John Gray. It’s unrelated to the 1971 Sam Peckinpah movie of the same name, or to the 2011 remake; both of which are, ironically, based on a novel with a different name (The Siege of Trencher’s Farm).

Note to self: book titles and author’s names matter.

what-we-dont-know-4The premise of Straw Dogs is that humans are animals like any other animal. Both Christianity and Humanism see humans as capable of controlling things much more than Gray and others seem to think we do. This is a philosophical book that challenges many basic assumptions about what it means to be human. While I don’t agree with some of what Gray presents, I admit that he makes astonishing points that lead me to question which of us is correct. Regarding several of his positions, I think he’s nuts. But I find many of his other arguments compelling. Reading John Gray made me think, wonder, and contemplate – not the meaning of life, but its nature.

Are we animals? For an excellent article on this, click here.

Is our nature much different than it has been for centuries? Have we changed significantly in the thousands of years since our first existence as homo sapiens? Are we any different from other animals in terms of what happens to us?

Humans have been in existence much as we are now for about 200,000 years. For about the last 6,000 years, we have been the social creatures we know ourselves to be. How do we fit into our environment? Do we belong here? How long will we survive as a species? Are we masters of our own destiny any more than any other animal? Are we doomed to destruction by our own actions?

I’ve seldom thought about it, but Professor Gray makes this point right off. His position seems to be that the last time we had it right, we were hunter-gatherers. I tend to agree. Gray begins with this basic assumption regarding evolution and religious culture.

“If Darwin’s discovery had been made in a Taoist or Shinto, Hindu or animist, culture it would very likely have become just one more strand in its intertwining mythologies. In these faiths humans and other animals are kin. By contrast, arising among Christians who set humans beyond all other living things, it triggered a bitter controversy that rages on to this day.” ~ John Gray, Straw Dogs

Accordingly, Gray says that Humanist’s believe that through progress, humans can be free of the limits that burden other animals. That by using our knowledge, we can control our environment and flourish as we never have before. Gray also has an interesting take on history; he seems to say it has little or no meaning.

what-we-dont-know-5

I like this book because it deals with some aspects of the dark side of human nature. Interestingly, most of us know about the Holocaust, the WWII effort by Nazis to commit genocide and eradicate Jews. How many other genocides (or politicides) in human history can you name? Gray proposes, with evidence, that genocide is “as human as art or prayer.” Apparently, we are not very nice to each other, to other living creatures, or to nature in general. Along with others of similar philosophies, John Gray is talking about humans in a general sense.

The question for me is: how does all this square with my position that our basic nature is good? Maybe the answer doesn’t matter because he undermines so many of my humanist leanings, thus shattering my position that humans are special. I’ll retreat to my favorite elusion from Hamlet: “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

There is much we don’t know. But this Zen Proverb meme says it for me.

what-we-dont-know-2

Whatever our nature is, we share that truth with each other.
Let’s live our lives in awe of nature by embracing both sun and rain,
all flora and fauna,
and our fairies — Fenix and Furie.

Life is good and so are we, but mind the gaps and look both ways.

Are Atheists and Believers on Equal Moral Ground?

atheist-morality3

Yes. We are. In most cases, for exactly the same reasons. But too many believers are taught that atheists are worse than immoral. They’re taught that atheists are evil. The following quotation was reported as being recently sent by an orthodox priest to his followers (meme found on a WordPress blog).

One priest’s view

“Lots of sicknesses have come out [of] the closet, and unbelief has come out of the closet too. And unbelief is the worst of them all. Better to be an adulterer…. Better to be a killer…. Better to be any of those things, brothers and sisters, than an unbeliever. There is nothing more foul, there is nothing more grotesque, for a human person to do than to embrace atheism”

At least he seems to see us as human, or almost. When I challenged the person who posted this, she tried to explain that he did not mean to say what he obviously said. Unless the man is grooming for a political campaign, I’ll take him at his word.

A governor’s viewRepublican presidential candidate Ohio Governor John Kasich speaks at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor

Then there is the reported statement by the Governor of Ohio, and former republican presidential candidate, John Kasich. His reaction to actor Daniel Radcliffe’s (Harry Potter) disclosure as atheist is revealing.

“You know that Daniel Radcliffe has declared himself an atheist? I’m serious. What a weird thing. Why would a guy who has had all that success just, I mean, what the hell is wrong with him?” ~ John Kasich

Read about it by clicking here.

The public’s view

atheist-morality6I recently read about research conducted by two prominent universities, one in Canada and the other in Oregon. Their general finding was that people trust atheists slightly less than rapists.

It’s easy to find more, but you get the point. And people wonder why atheists might object? Seriously?

While I am neither surprised nor angry, when some moron priest with a following says that I am worse than a serial killer, a jihadist bomber; that I am nothing but a grotesque, foul human being, please forgive me for being offended.

I’ll face palm, have a beer, and forgive this Christian for his stupid, insulting remark. Which, no doubt, at least hundreds of followers now believe. The clown who posted this seemed to think that atheists might be offended by it. Do ya think? Are you gunna tell me that people like this make the world a better place? These trolls think they are legitimate, and their followers agree.

Another priest on morality

Well, I have a priest to quote too—a Roman Catholic Parish priest. He told us that we should do the right thing. Not to keep out of hell, not to please god, not to impress anyone, not because the Bible or some bishop or pope told us to, but simply “because it is the right thing.”

This atheist agrees. I think most atheists believe in following, or changing, the laws. Even the ones that should not be laws, but are religious rules forced on everyone (civil disobedience protests notwithstanding).

We may protest, object, file law suits, or ping some governor, but we will usually follow the rules. It is the moral thing to do. This is partly why athesists are underrepresented in prison populations. Statistically, the proportional numbers of believers compared to the number of atheists in prison may be worth considering. I’ll let you look it up.

Nihilism (<—click for wiki)

Many believers confuse atheism with nihilism. They’re not the same. It’s unlikely that a moral nihilist would be a theist. Conversely, few atheists may be nihilists, but they could be. Understanding the difference helps, even if it is confusing. Another consideration for believers, be they doubters or true believers, is to ask themselves these four questions.

If I stopped believing in God tomorrow, would my morals change?
Would I become a criminal?
Would I be more willing to rape or murder?
Would I change so much that I would become a different person?

atheist-morality1

The other day I read a comment by someone who, while quite confused about Christian moral standards and values (and he is one), was even more out of line with his view of atheism. He implied that if I was Russian or Chinese, I might view human life as a “warm bucket of spit.” I’m sure that his opinion is held by too many Americans.

That would be nihilism, which is a philosophy—atheism is not. When someone asks an atheist how life can have meaning without god, they’re often thinking philosophically, and probably of some kind of nihilism.

Those loving Christians

atheist-morality4

I’m trying to figure out why so many Christians work so hard to make atheists look so bad. What do you suppose that is all about? Some lie knowingly (as in bear false witness), some may misunderstand, some may be warning their own group not to look upon nonbelievers or free thinkers as being just like them. Otherwise, the believers might become apostate and walk away from that religious fantasy (and take their money with them).

Atheists want a better world

atheist-morality2Whether someone dislikes the fact that nonbelievers exist, that we work with believers to keep church and state separate, or that their family members may embrace atheism; we will continue to come out. We will continue to speak up. We will continue to deny the existence of any god. And, we will continue to share the moral high ground with most believers and to counter all claims to the contrary.

Believe as you will, be sure to look both ways.

Respect, Tolerance, and Silence

Imagine this. What if we could talk about anything—face-to-face? We each could honestly tell the other what we really think. Why can’t we? Should we? Why would we want to? Somehow, after adolescence, I lost that open and honest relationship with the world.

Respect1You might say, “Bill, I don’t agree with you. Explain how you decided that.” I may provide my information based upon my experience, reading, some internet or TV source, or maybe I’d inform you about some scientific evidence. If you still disagree with me, you may then counter what I said by presenting similar evidence.

Or you might look at me and say, “I don’t care what evidence you have. I still don’t agree with you. I prefer to believe otherwise.” Maybe you think I’m nuts (get in line). Then I might say, “Ok, I suppose we need another round. It’s your turn to buy, right?”

A dictionary defines respect like this.

  1. A feeling of admiring someone or something that is good, valuable, important, etc.
  2. A feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc., and should be treated in an appropriate way.
  3. A particular way of thinking about or looking at something.

Respect5We may respect each other—people, not necessarily ideas or beliefs. I think we should always be civil, polite, and treat each other well. I don’t mean politically correct. Maybe we like (or love) each other. If we share any common opinions, those should make our relationship better. At some point, we may even find respect (see 1 or 2, above) for each other’s opinions.

If we differ in some of our opinions, do we opt to keep our opinions or beliefs private (not talk)? Or, we may publicize some or all of what we think. We may share beliefs only between us or within a limited group—semi-private.

Respect2

What about our opinions or beliefs regarding sports, movies, music, restaurants, work issues, pot legalization, politics, or religion? How should we balance our differences while keeping with the priority of our relationship? What is our relationship? Are we family, friends, co-workers, or acquaintances in some other way? May we discuss or argue?

Is the metaphorical elephant in the room? If I am an atheist and you are religious (Christian, Jew, Pagan, Muslim; you pick), how is that going to work? Should we have that talk? If not, case closed. If we do talk, how do we do it? It seems to me that for some people, this is no problem. While others should not discuss religion or politics.

REspect4Respect for, or tolerance of, religious belief is an interesting topic in itself, especially to an atheist. All atheists want equal treatment (or respect, if you prefer) and tolerance in return from believers and religious persons—equal to what those folks want from everyone else. Look at the definitions of respect above one more time. Does the believer choose number 1 or 2 regarding someone’s atheism? Stop rolling your eyes and answer the question. Ok, then we shouldn’t talk about it. We need to move on.

Let’s drop a level and try tolerance. It’s defined as the willingness to tolerate (duh!) something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not agree with. That can work, but respect is gone. We don’t need it. However, we’re back at square-one because we still can’t have that talk. The elephant now wants to leave us because it’s grown impatient with our conundrum and is tired of us being wishy-washy. We’re merely putting up with each other’s crazy ideas.

Two weeks ago, someone objected to atheists saying, “I don’t believe in God.” Somehow, that is a profession of faith in her view. It’s not, but I agree with her point, sort of. I would prefer to say, “There are no gods.” It’s not so much a question of what I believe, or don’t believe. It is a fact and should be so-stated.

Following that comment, some believers would be personally offended by my blasphemy. They would be off, following the elephant down the street brooding about how insensitive and rude I was. They might rant about me in their blog. Perhaps they’d unfriend me on Facebook. Maybe they’d call my mom. Why? Because I was not respectful of their religious beliefs.

REspect3

If you are a religious person, I don’t need to have feelings regarding the goodness, value, or importance of your religion any more than you need to regarding my atheism. We do not, and we will not, agree. We may tolerate each other’s opinion or beliefs, up to a point. We should be respectful of each other’s dignity and rights. But opinions and beliefs are not rights.

Respect6We should certainly not be limited in our actions by any religion, nor are we under any obligation to pay for any religious practice.

I am still working through this delicate, walking on egg shells, situation. How do you handle this? Are you willing and able to have the talk? What advice would you have? Have you had any good, or disastrous, outcomes to these personal, face-to-face discussions?

Life is complex, look both ways.

 

Frat Friday (Ego)

The Paradox of The Writer’s Ego 

EGO: “Noun. A person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance. Synonyms: self-worth, self-respect, self-image, self-confidence.”

 

Ego4Some people think that ego is a bad thing. In a way, they are right. In a way, they are wrong. A wooden plaque (given to me by a friend) hangs in my room so that if I (ironically) hold my nose up, just slightly, I can see it. It says, “Humility is not one of my faults, but if I had one, that would be it.” Before you attack my lack of profundity, my friend made and gave the plaque to me as a bit of an ironic joke (I hope).

I recall my father using descriptive phrases like “too big for your britches” and “Who the hell do you think you are?” One might think such comments  damaging to my ego or creativity and may have hampered my development. My ego survived and my limited creativity seems fine.

In my thinking, ego has little direct effect on creativity regardless of its health or condition. We writers (all artists?) are diverse people. But we are people. All kinds of folks paint great landscapes. George W. Bush paints, and he is better at it than I am. Who knew? The former Prez was hiding an artist all that time.

There are many web sites and books to help us write better. Most of the tidbits I learn from them are helpful. However, I often wonder if Stephen King isn’t right — they are all BS (from somewhere in On Writing). My point is that while we’re all different in many ways, we seem open to writing better.

I spent my entire life preparing to do (and doing) something else. After I gave all that up and retired, I woke up one day and declared that I am a writer. It was not who do I think I am? It was what I am – a writer, because I said so. That is ego. But is it evil or bad? Am I egotistical? I said nothing of quality, and I am a QA professional. I am as good at writing today as I can be. Tomorrow I want to be better. I am also as good as I can be at spelling, and my spelling is horrible. My writing gets better each day, my spelling does not, and my ego is managing.

Ego1

 

Most of the be-a-better-writer advice I’ve read says we need to dump our ego to write (or do anything) well. Other things say we should believe in our abilities and work hard at it. Unfortunately, changing who we are is more difficult than changing the tire on the family Ford. I think that if I work hard on this blog and do the research, it should be good enough. My ego tells me that I can do this. I can do it. I can get my point of view across. That is self-confidence – ego.

Ego3I’m making the claim that ego is mostly good for writers. I presume that it is good for artists who work in other forms of artistic expression. I also think that being humble is good and being courageous is good. I also think that each of us should do what works for us. We’re unique individuals who share a passion (if you want to call it that). I admit that an out of control ego is a problem for more than just the narcissist, and egotistical people have their issues. But over-blown personalities write and sell books too.

Narcissism: “Noun. Excessive or erotic interest in oneself. Synonyms: vanity, self-love, self-admiration, self-absorption, self-obsession, conceit, self-centeredness, self-regard, egotism, egoism. In Psychology, it’s an extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration.”

 

“Egotistical is excessively conceited or absorbed in oneself; self-centered. Synonyms: self-centered, selfish, egocentric, egomaniacal, self-interested, self-seeking, self-absorbed, narcissistic, vain, conceited, self-important; boastful.”

Then there is the paradox. I like to refer to myself as a “wannabe” and I see no reason to reject that. I think my skill and my work improves each time I make changes or corrections. My writing improves every time someone reads it and tells me what they think of it. My ego can, and often does, take a beating. At some point we stop all of that. We are ready for what is the painful process known as “getting it published.”

Ego2We need our ego to launch the work to readers. We need to believe that we can and want to do it. We also need to deal with whatever criticism and rejection we encounter.

Our poor egos. Our old friend stands ready to push emotional pain buttons with every rejection or criticism. It happens. And it happens most often to wannabes. But it’s part of the process, if you want to be published. After enough of this ego pounding us with emotion (can our egos survive all of this?) we may want to stop writing.

sad6To quote from Poe’s Preface to a republishing of his poems: “These trifles are collected and republished chiefly with a view to their redemption from the many improvements (made by publishers)…I am naturally anxious that what I have written should circulate as I wrote it….” He goes on to say that it is not that his work is that important, but the people who read it are. Ego?

The writer’s ego is a good thing. From day one, it is at the core of our being able to do what we want to do. But ego is not good at dealing with the humbling experience of rejection. I am sure the damage done too often leads to quitting. But, if we quit, do we say, I am not a writer?

If you want to read more on this topic, check out the following.

Insecure Writers Support Group (IWSG). This looks like a good site for all writers, insecure or not. Two other interesting blogs on writer’s ego are here and here.