LOT'S WIFE

TURN AROUND..LOOK BACK..SEE WITH NEW EYES

Saturday, December 31, 2011

ABOUT "FACE"

  




“Where did you go to, if I may ask?,  said Thorin to Gandalf
 as they rode along.  "To look ahead." said he.
"And what brought you back in the nick of time?"
"Looking behind,” said he.
                                          ___J.R.R. Tolkien, THE HOBBIT

As we enter a new year, let’s talk about …JANUS and doors..

First ..a little Roman history:




Numa Pompilius is given the credit for the addition of the month of January in the 6th century B.C..



There were seven kings that ruled Rome before it became a republic… Numa was the second…He added Januarius, meaning month of Janus.  

Janus was the Roman god of beginnings and endings and of gates and doors…
Though many Roman gods can trace their roots to the Greek pantheon, Janus stands out as having no Greek counterpart….Janus is Roman.


Janus had two faces….. one face looking to what is behind and one face looking toward what lies ahead.  His ability to look both forward and behind made him the guardian of exits and entrances.

The importance of Janus was seen on Roman coins. The earlier coins depicting an older bearded face looking behind with a younger clean shaven face looking forward.




 As, the Roman Empire grew both faces were shown as clean shaven. Later on in the empire both faces were shown as bearded with Janus holding a key in his right hand.




He was the guardian of the jani,  the ceremonial gateways in Rome; these were usually freestanding structures that were used for symbolically auspicious entrances or exits.



The most famous Roman gateway was the JANUS GEMINUS, which was, in actuality, a shrine to Janus at the north side of the Forum.  It was a simple rectangular bronze structure with double doors at each end. Traditionally, the doors of this shrine were left open in times of war and kept closed when Rome was at peace.





Doorways are powerful…how many times have we entered another room for some reason and then, upon crossing the threshold, forgotten why?

 There was actually a study done on the act of passing through a door and its affect on memory.   “Entering or exiting through a doorway serves as an “Event Boundry” in the mind, which separates episodes of activity and files them away,” says Gabriel Radvansky, a psychology professor at the University of Notre Dame.




An EVENT BOUNDRY…I like that!

 The reasoning behind the symbolism of the two faces is that both gates and doors have two sides.  In order to end something, or to start a new beginning…. one must pass through and exist on one side or the other…. To remain in the middle is not an option.




Doorways symbolize our transitions of life. And …there is no avoiding them.  We are always on thresholds.   Each doorway …. new possibilities…. the necessity of letting go.

There are times when the door behind is slammed shut, forcing the opening of another door that is not chosen, is difficult, but must be entered.


There are the times where there is choice …to close the door, with deliberation, and resolutely walk away, to face the finality of that act and the knowledge that life is now forever changed and cannot be called back..   

And then there are the doors that are sought and opened with excitement … the entrance embraced…a new area to explore..




The story of our lives is in doors, gateways, and thresholds.

It is important to reflect on what was left behind as a door closed and what new territory was revealed in the door that was opened, because it is in that newly opened door that the good things in life are found…the things we did not even know were there.


Crossing the threshold can bring healing, new vision, personal growth, the discovering of a talent, a profession, or new relationships.

And so we return to Janus in his role as the Guardian of Exits and Entrances....the representative of beginnings. In order to enter a new place it is necessary to emerge from the old.






Janus is the god of motion and the starting of actions. He is change and transition. He is the progression of past to future, the passing from one condition to another. He is the shift in the paradigm.




New Year's Eve, exits are faced, for Auld Lang Syne… 

Tomorrow… Janus Day…  face forward, to entrances…
 It is the first of the New Year, seek the doorways... 

 Do not look back…..enter…...


"Go back?" he thought. "No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!"  So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter."

___J.R.R.Tolkien, THE HOBBIT










Sunday, December 11, 2011

THE BLACKSTRAP TSUNAMI



In 1915 THE UNITED STATES ALCOHOL COMPANY, in Boston, completed construction on an enormous above ground storage tank. Its steel sides were curved and it had bottom plates set into a concrete base that were attached together with rivets.



 It was built to hold molasses….the key ingredient in rum, Boston Baked Beans, and, when distilled into industrial alcohol, an ingredient for World War I munitions and explosives.



 The tank stood along the Boston Harbor, next to the city’s most densely populated neighborhood, the steel structure stood 50 feet tall, was 90 feet in diameter, and it would hold more than 2.3 million gallons of molasses.
 



On Wednesday, January 15, 1919, at around half-past noon it was unusually warm, in the mid-40s…it had only been two degrees above zero just three days before.


At about 12:40 p.m. the enormous tank ruptured ….A blast of air from the explosion blew people away and then, seconds later, produced a counterblast that rushed in to fill the vacuum sucking them back in

 People and buildings within hundreds of feet were pierced by flying pieces of metal. A giant chunk of the vat landed in a park that was 200 feet away and witnesses reported a three story house soaring through the air.


 A huge stone pillar that supported an elevated railroad was hit by another flying chunk of metal. Part of the tracks collapsed. The driver managed to stop the train just before it would have plunged over the edge.


But…the very worst, was that the tank emptied the entire 2.3 million gallons of molasses onto Commercial Street within seconds.




Flowing at 35 miles per hour, a "wall of molasses" roared through the streets. It tore buildings from their foundations. Vehicles and horses were buried.


While trying to outrun the rush of the molasses, men, women, children, and animals were hurled against solid objects and drowned where they fell amongst crushed freight cars, autos, and wagons, wood, and steel.


More than 150 people were injured and 21 were killed.

 The flood of molasses engulfed the Boston waterfront like a tsunami. It was 16 feet high and 160 feet wide at the outset. … it destroyed the entire waterfront and a half-mile of Commercial Street.


The flow of the wall of molasses pushed in all directions developing four separate walls smashing across the wharf and into the street.



When the tank exploded it became a source of deadly shrapnel…… thousands of rivets turned into bullets which contributed to the utter destruction of the area.


Within an eye blink the Boston North End inner harbor area looked like the aftermath of a massive bombing.


Rescuers, slogging through the knee deep river of goo had their boots sucked off …it was impossible to move.


Horses that had become trapped had to be shot because there was no way to get them out.


The molasses filled all the cellars and hydraulic siphons were in operation for months to pump it out.


The cobblestone streets, homes, and other buildings had to be continuously sprayed with salt water because fresh water just slid off the glop. The streets were covered with sand.


All the rescue workers, cleanup crews, and sightseers  managed to spread the molasses all over the city. Boots and clothing carried it to the suburbs.


Molasses coated streetcar seats and public telephones. Everything Bostonians touched was sticky For months afterwards, wherever people walked, their shoes stuck to the streets and walks


The clean-up took over 87,000 man-hours. . Once that was done, the filing of lawsuits began. Hearings went on for six years.



When they were brought to court THE UNITED ALCOHOL COMPANY claimed no responsibility. They accused anarchists of blowing up the molasses tank.


No evidence of sabotage was ever discovered. The court eventually ruled for the plaintiffs, finding that the tank had been overfilled and inadequately reinforced.


The enormous tank, 50 feet high and 90 feet in diameter, had been poorly designed and insufficiently tested. Right from the beginning it leaked. Local residents collected leaked molasses for their homes. Company officials reacted to the constant leaks by repainting the tank brown to match the leaking molasses.




Because, on the day of the explosion, the weather was 40 degrees while on the day before it was 2 degrees, it is believed that the sudden increase in temperature caused the molasses to expand and the tank to explode.


The company was made to pay out nearly a million dollars in damages


When investigators looked for the plans that were filed when the tank was built 4 years earlier…..they couldn't find any. The building inspectors stated that “ building plans were not required because the vat was not a building but an industrial device.”


The tank was built with no plans approved and no government inspectors involved.


Shortly after the flood, the Boston Building Department began requiring that all calculations of engineers and architects be filed with their plans. Stamped drawings were required to be signed.


The Boston Molasses Flood triggered the adoption of engineering certification laws in all states, as well as the requirement, that all plans for major structures. be sealed by a registered professional engineer in order to be issued a permit by a municipality or state.

The nation added needed regulations for major structures (not all regulations are bad) and saw the historical trade in molasses decline.


"The flood essentially ended three hundred years' worth of high-volume molasses trade in Boston and New England. While some molasses distilling took place in the city up until World War II, the industry never resumed its level of importance
Molasses, which had played such a key role in the American Revolution, the slave trade, the rum business and in munitions production, slowly disappeared as a staple product in America and as a critical part of the New England economy”


……….Stephen Puleo: Dark Tide: the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919




It has been over 90 years since THE GREAT FLOOD and yet even today Bostonians claim that, when strolling down Commercial Street on a hot day, one can still catch the faint scent of molasses in the air.








Friday, November 11, 2011

THE WAR AT ELEVEN



The Western Front…the dividing line where German and the Central Powers armies fought the British and French (and later, American) troops.


 It was the 11th hour, the 11th day, the 11th month…1918....the gunfire was silenced as an agreement was reached between Germany and the Allies…. The “War to End All Wars” was over.




15 million deaths and 20 million wounded ranking it among the deadliest conflicts in human history. WWI culled the potential from a generation and changed the map of the world forever.


VERDUN
The sheer number of battlefield dead was staggering…turn around and look at some of the numbers...

Somme …57,000 British soldiers killed in one day….Marne … 500,000 dead…..Ypres where poison gas was first used….over 250,000 dead at the battle of Verdun. Allied dead at Gallipoli number 43,000…..Our Marines experienced what was, at that time, the bloodiest days in its history at Chateau-Thierry and Belleau Wood.

Somme
 It was a charnel house. It was fought with great technological advances in firepower without corresponding advances in mobility…it was fought with aerial attacks, submarines, poisonous gas, machine guns, and heavy artillery....and it was fought soldier to soldier from terrible trenches.   The technology was 20th century but the tactics came from the 1800’s with results that were shattering.



This was ARMISTICE DAY…so while we now honor ALL veterans …let us pause and remember where this day began…






IN FLANDERS FIELDS


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,              
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

 – Lt.-Col. John McCrae ( died of pneumonia on January 28, 1918 )











Saturday, November 5, 2011

RUNNING IN THE GREEN FLASH



"Ever gazed upon the green flash, Master Gibbs?"

"I reckon I've seen my fair share. Happens on rare occasion; the last glimpse of sunset, a green flash shoots up into the sky!"
"Some go their whole lives without ever seeing it. Some claim to have seen it who ain't. …and the green flash happens at sunset, not sunrise."
       ........ Pirates of the Caribbean



 

"Green flash" is the term given to rare optical phenomena that occur shortly after sunset or before sunrise. It is a green spot visible for a short period of time above the sun, or a green ray shoots up from the sunset point.


It is usually seen over a low distant horizon, such as that of the ocean or a prairie, when the sky is clear. It occurs primarily because the atmosphere acts like a weak prism, refracting sunlight and separating it into different colors. The green color lasts from a fraction of a second to two seconds.


I live in Florida. On any given early evening one can walk along the beach and see groups of people just stop dead in their tracks, turn their faces west and await the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico….except if you stop and talk to them about the glory of sunsets they will just look at you quizzically.



 "We’re watching for the green flash," they will say through luminous smiles.


Or they will not look at you at all saying, "Waiting for the green flash,"


"SHUSH….GREEN FLASH!”


They are frozen in time, surrounded by a sky that is ablaze in corals and reds, and yellows and pinks…. quietly waiting for that miraculous moment…. a tiny flash of green just at the horizon.


When I first had the idea for this entry I was going to speak of the Green Flash as a metaphor for life....Noble thoughts about the misguided who await short fleeting moments of perfection while overlooking all the life and lives around them….like the beach people who never saw the wonderful sunsets while they watched for a green glimmer that rarely occurred…..



And, I…. of course…. was one of the BETTER beach people …. there for the perfection of the sunset….not an elusive, 2 seconds OR LESS, of green light.


But then, my 36 year old middle son, Reece, ran 100 miles….on one of the toughest courses in the United States, had never done it before, and ran it well…completing it 6 ½ hours under the 36 hour time allotment.



 He did this despite my protestations that he could injure himself, do internal organ damage, or just DIE!   I was NOT an enthusiastic supporter of this goal..In my opinion he was pursuing 2 seconds of green flash…a fleeting…illusive moment in time..


But he DID it!   And.... as I was getting up at all hours of the night to check the computer for updates from his crew as he ran this ultra marathon, I realized I had to turn around… and see Reece with new eyes…



 What is it like INSIDE the green flash?


My son was willing to take some risk. He wasn’t careless. … But what he did was not without the potential for failure. There is a difference in people who live in the GREEN FLASH. ….

Inside the Green Flash the two risks that stop us all in our tracks, the fear of failure and the fear of ridicule, do not exist. …it is recognized when internal thoughts or MOTHERS are limiting success.


Inside the green flash is the motivation to learn, grow and improve.


What is also gained is exposure to new people, thoughts, ideas, practices, philosophies, and opportunities.



Achieving goals hones strengths which, in turn, aids in adapting to new changes and opportunities quickly.


The truth is that nothing is ever achieved in life unless you dare to believe that something inside you is bigger than the circumstances you face.



Reece & Jeremy

 A goal is an invitation to take a journey. That journey travels inward to face hard realities. Inside the green flash the enemy is only within.


Accepting the invitation requires courage and requires acting in spite of fear (or MOTHER).



We were created to achieve. We all have very unique gifts, talents, and hidden resources.
The decision is to do the work….. to decide to make the journey….to go through the struggle...and it is PERSONAL... 

The triumph is in taking the journey. And the taking of that journey can be life changing.



Reece and Jeremy crossing the finish line!


Success is about what you do with the talent you have. Inside the green flash is the love of the battle, the challenge, the journey.


Inside the green flash is the knowledge that you did the best you could to become the best you could be.




Light continues to travel…it does not stop just because someone is not seeing it.


" 'Over the edge'...Ah, it's driving me over the bloomin' edge. Sunrises don't set"               
 Pirates of the Caribbean














Wednesday, October 12, 2011

LEAVING THE OLD WORLD



"Following the light of the sun, we left the Old World".....Christopher Columbus... August, 1492



About 20 years ago Berkeley, California, declared Columbus Day abhorrent and invented Indigenous Peoples’ Day!!!    It was not long after this declaration that other institutions and governments followed suit.

In 1992,  the 500th anniversary of Columbus's discovery of America,  just saying "Columbus's discovery of America" was cause for excoriation by the overseers of political correctness. Examples include:


The National Council of Churches " an invasion" that led to "genocide, slavery, 'ecocide,' and exploitation."


The American Library Association …. “Columbus's arrival heralded "a legacy of European piracy, brutality, slave trading, murder, disease, conquest, and ethnocide."



The National Education Association (as many know…my FAVORITE of unions) "never again will Christopher Columbus sit on a pedestal in United States history."


To the multiculturalists Columbus is the symbol for all subsequent atrocities that befell Native Americans.


Yes…I KNOW…Columbus kidnapped natives for show in Spain (none of them made it alive) on his first voyage, enslaved several hundred Indians on his second visit, and after his third trip faced charges back home of governing as a tyrant. And EVEN WORSE, while at sea, the admiral and his crew ate a dolphin—OH, THE MADNESS!!!


Columbus was not a sensitive metrosexual male.
He was a mariner with many years at sea and a man very much in keeping with the nature of his time.
It cannot be overlooked that Europe in 1492 was superstitious, interested in slavery, and capable of savagery. This traveled to the Americas with Columbus.


But, this explorer also praised some of the tribes he encountered as “gentle,” “full of love,” “without greed,” and “free from wickedness.” …exclaiming, “I believe there is no better race.” …


Christopher then described tribal warfare, cannibalism, castration, the exploitation of women, and slavery among many of the other native people.



 Just a reminder… at this same time, the Aztecs of Mexico, the Maya, and the Incas of South America performed elaborate rites of human sacrifice, in which thousands of captive Indians were ritually murdered, until their altars were drenched in blood . . . and priests collapsed with exhaustion from stabbing their victims.   As Dinesh D'Souza wrote in a 1995 article in the journal First Things. "When men of noble birth died, wives and concubines were often strangled and buried with them."


NOBODY was noble.  


But, the politically correct obsession with all Christopher did wrong has obscured his very profound accomplishment:




Columbus discovered the New World. He was the man who sowed the seeds of Western civilization in the New World …and YOU dear reader would not be sitting here if he hadn’t.


No Indian holy men decried Indian cannibalism and child sacrifice -- just as no Indian mariner sailed east and discovered Europe. Only the culture that made possible an Age of Exploration could make possible the culture that stated,  "We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal."



 Columbus's glory is not that he discovered America, but that he set in motion the POSSIBILITY of America.


While the enslavement and cultural conquest of peoples is common in humanity’s history…. leading the way for discovering two continents is not.   Some have even argued that other than Christ, it would be difficult to name a person who changed the world as dramatically as Columbus did.

 Columbus endured the skepticism of potential patrons (THEY THOUGHT THE WORLD WAS FLAT!), a near mutiny,  and more than a month at sea to reach the Americas.





It is said that the Vikings discovered what became known as America before Columbus, and that Phoenician navigators went to South America. 
Even if they did..... SO WHAT?    They never came back.  Nobody else followed.  They never wrote about it.  They never returned to do anything with it.

 



It would be a decade before Europeans realized that the lands Columbus had reached were not part of Asia but an entirely different continent. This was due to astronomical observations made by Amerigo Vespucci off the coast of South America.



It is important to remember that without the voyages of Christopher Columbus, Vespucci would have had no opportunity to conclude a "new continent" had been discovered, and the Americas would not have been opened to Europeans at that time in history.


History, therefore,  would have proceeded along entirely different lines.



BEHIND him lay the gray Azores,
Behind the Gates of Hercules;
Before him not the ghost of shores,
Before him only shoreless seas.
The good mate said: "Now we must pray,
For lo! the very stars are gone.
Brave Admiral, speak, what shall I say?"
"Why, say, 'Sail on! sail on! and on!' "



Columbus sailed from Palos, Spain on August 3, 1492. He went to the Canary Islands, and proceeded to the west until he sighted land on October 12, 1492.





The route chosen by Columbus for return was sailing north on the latitude of Lisbon, and then, as he had suspected, he found favorable winds and current for the voyage home.  It was an amazing accomplishment! He was perfectly right and this route towards the Antilles and back became the accepted standard for centuries. Columbus traveled four times to the Antilles.


"My men grow mutinous day by day;
My men grow ghastly wan and weak."
The stout mate thought of home; a spray
Of salt wave washed his swarthy cheek.          
"What shall I say, brave Admiral, say,            
If we sight naught but seas at dawn?"
"Why, you shall say at break of day,
'Sail on! sail on! and on!' "

He was a great man. Unschooled, he taught himself to read and write, then studied geography, cartography, theology, and cosmography. He went to sea at 14 and became a seaman of extraordinary skill, whose pre-1492 career had taken him north of the Arctic Circle and south nearly to the equator.



They sailed and sailed, as winds might blow,
Until at last the blanched mate said:
"Why, now not even God would know
Should I and all my men fall dead.        
These very winds forget their way,
For God from these dead seas is gone.
Now speak, brave Admiral, speak and say" --
He said, "Sail on! sail on! and on!"


He was convinced that the Earth curved and was completely focused on the subject of reaching the fabled East by sailing west. For nearly eight years he struggled to find a patron to finance his "Enterprise of the Indies." He was turned down over and over again.

Then…Isabella of Spain finally agreed to stake his venture.

Christopher Columbus traveled thousands of miles across uncharted ocean with no method but dead reckoning to find his bearings. Columbus sailed without celestial navigation, without longitude, without any reliable way to measure speed.

It would have been enough that he found his way to the Caribbean and that he found his way back. He repeated this trip three times! If he had discovered nothing, his nautical achievements alone would have earned him a notable place in history.

Three very small ships…THE NINA, THE PINTA, and THE SANTA MARIA were readied for this trip, without knowing that this would become a voyage that would change everything. The world to follow would be a different world for all of us.




They sailed. They sailed. Then spake the mate:
"This mad sea shows his teeth tonight.
He curls his lip, he lies in wait,
With lifted teeth, as if to bite!
Brave Admiral, say but one good word:  
What shall we do when hope is gone?"
The words leapt like a leaping sword:
"Sail on! sail on! sail on! and on!"

On board were some of the very distinctive Western qualities that made and continue to make it possible for human beings to rise above their baser notions and enlighten themselves: Columbus came with a thirst for knowledge, and a passion for progress…Sailing with him were also thoughts about natural law and human rights, and a Judeo-Christian ethic of justice and morality.

We are WHO we are and WHERE we are because of the ideas and enterprise of this man....this EXPLORER .


To be profitable an idea has to be the cause of actions that will change the direction of the world ….it must call forth a paradigm shift.   And sometimes the impact of that shift takes many centuries to be realized.


The world, after Christopher Columbus, was never the same.


Our ideas about navigation and shipbuilding, geography, history, politics, philosophy, botany and other disciplines were forever affected.


In Christopher Columbus we had proof that the Earth was a sphere. We learned we could travel farther than we ever imagined, we could live in a land that was thought not to exist, we could build new lives based on new ideas… and when we looked to the horizon we did not have see monsters and a deep frightening abyss….we could see a shining promise.

Then pale and worn, he kept his deck,
And peered through darkness. Ah, that night
Of all dark nights! And then a speck --
A light! A light! At last a light!   
It grew, a starlit flag unfurled!
It grew to be Time's burst of dawn.



He gained a world; he gave that world    
Its grandest lesson: "On! sail on!"


COLUMBUS by Joaquin Miller