Monday, January 2, 2017

When a Significant Book Strikes You

Occasionally the lyrics of a song can make a great impression on the listener. They aren't just trying to rhyme. Nor are they wailing about their frustrated lusts and infatuations. The thoughts are important and fundamental, and they managed to make them so concise that they fit into a song. Incredible!

Books can be like that, too. The 'soul' of the reader is so weary of being insignificant flotsam, rushed along by the cultural effluvium of the times. If it manages to get even a glimpse of a truthful Big Picture, then life hasn't been wasted.

That is the effect that reading a book had on me, recently. The book was Pat Buchanan's "Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War." You may enjoy the book even if you don't agree with every opinion of his.

Here we are, a century after the 'Great War,' and we are still suffering the consequences of World Wars I and II and the Cold War. None of the fundamental assumptions of the American Empire ever get talked about in the daily news. 

The glorification of the military can not be questioned in America. Flying on an airplane for the first time in 20 years, I noticed them announcing that military personnel were allowed to board the plane first. How hopeful it would have made me if ten civilians had shouted 'Why?' when that announcement was made. At least I had the satisfaction of boycotting my sister's burial in a national military cemetery, you know, with all the other "heroes who have sacrificed to protect our freedoms." I would believe in the Easter Bunny before I believed that whopper.

By taking aim at the foundation (or 'creation') myth of the American Empire, the "Good War" of World War II, Buchanan is doing a bold thing. Doesn't it seem strange that an Irish Catholic kid like Pat would be such a radical debunker of the prevailing myth of modern America?

Perhaps not. Maybe the greatest courage is likely to be demonstrated by the believers in one myth, such as Buchanan's Catholicism, when they take aim at a rival myth.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Cognitive Dissonance at Christmas

While flying for the first time in 20 years, I certainly saw the convenience of smartphones, compared to the clumsy laptop I was dragging around. It was a good example of 'cognitive dissonance.' But this Christmas I experienced an extreme example of cognitive dissonance. 

Let's shift a little bit first: I congratulate anybody who makes it through life without having to clean up the ghastly mess left by a relative who has died recently. So much of the mess was avoidable. But we all tend to ignore our own mortality, so a bit of orderliness doesn't get a chance.

The cognitive dissonance comes in when the relative's death occurs near Christmas. Look at all the maniac shoppers driving around, stressed out of their minds, crashing into each other in the parking lots. Yesterday I actually saw a pickup truck turn a road's shoulder into a driving lane by jumping his right-hand wheels over the curb, and up onto a sidewalk.

It would never occur to these shoppers that their precious 'bargains' (and fun luxuries) are headed to next year's yard sale. Or maybe they won't. Maybe they will just pile up in basements and closets. And then the 'lucky' relatives will get to rent a payloader and dispose of all that crap when the shopper dies.

Think of the Indian tradition of putting a carcass on a funeral pyre, and then lighting the match. Maybe that is a good idea for material detritus.