Uncle Thor's Lessons, Anecdotes and Humor

13
Sep

No Time for Losers

Some of the best songs tell a story. Jim Croce and Harry Chapin were masters of storytelling songs. Most groups have at least one or two songs that tel la story. Steely Dan’s “Deacon Blues” reminds me of the self-sabotaging people I have seen over the years. It is amazing to see someone throw away every good thing in their lives, only to end up in Nidhogg’s Den (the fate of self-made losers). That song came up tonight while I was listening to some tunes on Youtube.

Right now, I am in the fight of my life. I have not been this bad since the season before I had surgery in `14. The doctors are working on it, but the final battle is all mine. Where there is life, there is hope. When I think of those who have sabotaged themselves, I wonder how they could give up on themselves. So here I am, striving against fate, and wondering why people in much better shape just let Life trample them like a bulldozer.

I have seen my own “rat’s eye view of Hell.” Of my old crew, I am one of the last two or three standing. You name it, I’ve faced it these past 60+ years. Poverty, ill health, loss, betrayal… So what? Chances are that you had your ow nrat’s eye view of Hell. There is no giving up. Think of it as being like the papier-mache Japanese Daruma doll. Every time they roll the doll, it always ends upright. There is a lesson to it: “Fall down seven times, rise up eight.”

Makes sense to me.

One of the most pathetic creatures is a former classmate who gave up about 40 years ago. He had all kinds of friends who wanted to help. The man got knocked down by Life and chose to stay down. Every attempt to help him was rebuffed.

The last I saw him in person, he was a park bum waiting for the local tavern to open. That was around 1988. Last I heard about him was in a 2012 article on indigents. There he was, photographed beside his little shanty made of used plywood and pieces of tarpaper. He is my example of those who choose to stay down rather than rise one more time.

When Life knocks you down, rise. Strive against fate. Never give up. You will make yourself a much better fate than if you decided to stay down like a whipped puppy. Life is too precious to waste wallowing in one’s own mistakes.

When Life hits you seven times, rise up eight!

17
Aug

I am Independent

I am neither Liberal nor Conservative

I am neither Folkish nor Universalist.

I am Independent.

I make my own choices and decisions free of outside influence.

I am not connected to, and do not endorse or support any religious organization, Heathen or otherwise.

By the same token, I refuse to start an organization.

The goal is to empower people, not make followers of them.

I do not judge you and I do not require that you conform to my beliefs.

15
Aug

Catholic Church Abuse Scandal in Pennsylvania

What can I say about this? 301 predator priests and a cover-up stretching over 70 years in Pennsylvania. Over 1,000 youthful victims. Maybe thousands.That appalls me. This church has been repeatedly exposed as a source of abuse and of cover-ups. I guess when their God said, “Suffer the children to come unto me,” he meant it. Suffering children. There are institutionalized cover-ups of sex abuse in the States. Institutionalized cover-ups of brutality in Ireland. Suffer the children, indeed!

Equally appalling is that there was a “playbook” for covering up these sordid crimes. One major “rule” was “Don’t tell the police.”

It is predatory. For an institution that claims its God is “love”, there is no shortage of unlovely behavior. People who use a position of trust to victimize others are reprehensible, and triply so when the victims are children.

This is not limited to Pennsylvania. The situation in Pennsylvania was exposed because a grand jury and the Pennsylvania attorney general did their job. You can be sure that things have been equally bad in other states, not to mention other countries. And now other states will begin their own investigations.

Their scripture says, “By their fruit, you will know them.” Well, there it is. It is not what they say, but what they do. And this heritage of abuse and concealment speaks far louder than any excuses they might make.

*******

Here is a tale of a former classmate who wanted to be a priest. I looked him up on the net a while back and found another tale of priestly misdeeds.

http://thortrains.net/blog/2018/02/28/father-fraud-cautionary-tale/

*******

Incidents like this make me doubly glad that I am one of Thor and Odin’s people.

19
Jul

Appreciation by Contrast

Other beliefs need not challenge our own. Other beliefs can reveal our own by reflection. We can read books about other forms of spirituality without fear of diminishing our own. The trick is to not expect their ideas to match ours. If a few of them do match ,well, no problem. And when they don’t, again, no problem. Comparison, contrast and counterpoint with our way helps us come to a great appreciation and consciousness of our beliefs.

Many religious writings have wisdom, but it is not necessarily our wisdom. Some have more of it than others. The contrast in how they perceive and understand spirituality will, by reflection, make perception and understanding or our own spirituality clearer.

Granted, the differences can be stark. For example: our definition of a God may be light years apart from that of other sects, so as to be another thing entirely. You have to look beyond the word to read the meaning because religions use similar words to express very different things.

Do not be concerned about the challenge of other theologies. In fact, they are no challenge at all.

13
Jul

Requiem for an Imp

I won’t even mention her name.

She was a person who seemed to have a love affair with bad luck. It began in her childhood and haunted her, at least as long as I knew her. The last I saw of the woman was around 1990. At that time, we were not on cordial terms.

She went through my life like a tornado back in the late 80s. She did that to several people. To show her kindness was an invitation to disaster. Her path was marked by the wreckage of her betrayals.

I just learned a few disturbing facts. We knew each other when we lived in another city far from here. As things turned out, she somehow ended up in this town toward the end of her life. Our paths never crossed here. I don’t know how long she was here or under what circumstances. I got the impression it was some kind of assisted living for people with certain illnesses. What they were, I have no idea.

The woman was listed under both her married and maiden name, though she had been divorced since the 80s. From the little information on the Internet, she died of a brief illness at the age of 57. There was a short obituary.

The obituary mentioned her siblings and parents by name, but did not name her children.

As mentioned previously, she had a love affair with bad luck. The woman knew how to sabotage a good situation and blame others for the debacle. She never counted the consequences of that kind of living. Such is a lonely existence. Under those circumstances, friendships are temporary alliances that eventually turn to hostilities.

It is hard to develop character in oneself when one’s youthful existence had been one of dysfunction and chaos. It is hard to escape the bad patterns of life when one gravitates to the people and circumstances that perpetuate the misery. Even when befriending better people, she always chose to return to the self-made unfortunates.

Despite it all, I sincerely hope that she was surrounded by people who cared at the end.

There is no moral ot this story, just a remembrance of one left behind a long time ago. She was simply someone who appeared in my life like a passing comet that quickly faded into obscurity. The most memorable thing about her is the damage she did to herself, her family, and any who chose to befriend her.

26
Jun

No Time to Hate

Be Aware

In these times, many people harshly judge others who disagree with them, especially in matters of politics. The vitriolic rhetoric and outright hatred are disheartening. People think that because of a difference in opinion, they are justified in spewing hatred. This comes from all sides.

But not from me.

I do not think less of you for how you voted at any time.

I do not think less of you for where you stand on issues ranging from trade wars to immigration to people’s rights.

I do not think less of you for your personal beliefs.

I do not demand that you explain to me why you voted as you did, why you believe as you do, or why you stand on issues as you do. I expect you to extend me the same courtesy. If you are my friend, I expect you will respect my choices as I have respected yours.

I will think less of you when you treat others unfairly because of their beliefs, choices, political preferences, etc.

By the way, when you express hatred for those who voted for Trump, you express hatred for me. I made a choice of the candidate I thought best and voted accordingly, as I always do. That is the American way. I don’t think ill of those who voted for Hilary because I assume they felt she was their best choice. Unlike most people, I am not bamboozled by politicians. All of them are a mixed bag of good and bad. The best candidate has more that I feel is good than he does the bad.

Having a difference of opinion is NEVER justification for mistreating others. It is NEVER cause for treating others unfairly. Shame on you if your HATRED and hateful actions and words define you. And that goes for all sides.

Things are pretty sick when a member of Congress is exhorting people to mistreat others because of their political preference. We have gone from Freedom of Speech to Freedom to Act Like Jerks.

21
Jun

Fundraiser for American Legion Post 54, Freehold

American Legion Post 54 is celebrating its Centennial next year. (1919 – 2019) We are one of the oldest posts in the country. Several events are being planned. As a fund raiser, we are selling certificates to get a professional car wash at Freehold Raceway Car Wash in Freehold Township. I have several of these tickets. You get exterior wash, wheels & tires cleaned, interior vacuum, dash dusted, windows inside and out, towel dry. If you are in the Freehold area and would like to support us and get a great car wash, contact me. Tickets are $19 each.

Thanks in advance!

American Legion Post 54 Fundraiser - Car Wash!

15
Jun

Celebrity Suicides: A Missed Lesson

The recent suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade made big headlines. They were followed by a spate of televised memorials. Now the dust is settling and everyone is about to go back to normal. Bourdain and Spade are slipping into memory as people focus on the latest bit of popular news.

I wrote an article about this:

http://thortrains.net/blog/2018/06/08/anthony-bourdain-and-the-monster-that-causes-suicide/

Celebrity suicide is not the latest news tidbit. It is not a time for morbid memorials or a chance to rerun the victims’ old TV shows. Celebrity suicide is a reminder that this monster can strike anyone, anywhere, any time regardless of fame, popularity, wealth or prestige. In other words, it is a time for us to consider the whole problem and how it affects the people in our own individual worlds. Just as opiate / opioid addiction is a scourge of this time, so suicide is a growing menace. It affects the famous and it affects folks close to home.

For years, suicide was something that was swept under the carpet. People did not discuss it. Suicide was an unforgivable sin. People might pass it off as a “shooting accident” or an accidental overdose. The real issue was “hush-hush”. It was discussed in whispers.

A suicide brings feelings of shame on the survivors.*

“Why did he do this to me? What did I do wrong? How did I fail him? Why couldn’t he talk to me? Why didn’t I recognize the signs? How could I have not seen what was coming?” Thoughts like this haunted survivors then as now.

The truth is that suicide, like addiction and other woes, thrives in silence. By not acknowledging it and discussing it, we allow it to thrive with impunity. Like addiction, alcoholism and many other woes, suicide loses some of its venom when we look at it and acknowledge that it is there.

An old Irish saying comes to the fore: ‘Better a Devil you can see than one that you can’t.”

The general public is dropping the ball on suicide as the memory of the recent celebrity suicides fade. The subject falls away while the public follows the next big thing. What is needed is to make suicide a subject of discussion and put it under the light. We need to acknowledge it, see it, and admit that this is a thriving monster. Only then can we implement solutions that will minimize it and take away some of its power.

A problem can only be solved once it is acknowledged. Ignoring or hush-hushing a problem does not make it go away. To the contrary, it allows the problem to rage without anything to slow or stop it.

22 veterans die of suicide every day, so they say. We need to discuss it and the problems that can lead to it, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). People other than veterans also commit suicide. We need to discuss the other causes, such as Depression, Despair, Mental Illness, Alcoholism and Addiction. The biggest step in defeating suicide is to put the monster out in the open where we can see it, examine it and talk about it.

Denial – the tendency to ignore a fact – feeds human woes, We cannot say “It won’t happen here,” or “He’s just seeking attention,” or some other excuse. Denying there is a problem allows that problem to run rampant without any opposition.

Here is an concrete example to explain denial: In 1941, the Army had an experimental radar station on Hawaii. It shut down at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday mornings. One Sunday before shut-down ,the radar detected a large signal. The radar men contacted their commander to report the sighting.

The commander pooh-poohed it. “It’s just a flock or birds, or maybe that formation of Army planes scheduled to land here today,” he said. “Shut it down.”

The sighting was neither birds nor Army Air Corps aircraft. The day was December 7th, 1941, and the object was the fleet of Japanese aircraft coming to attack Pearl Harbor. By not investigating, the officer let the Japanese attack unannounced. His belief that it was birds or Allied planes is like Denial. It did not change the fact that something bad was on the way.

I do not know the nuances of suicide. All I know to do, if confronted by a suicidal individual, is to call for help, and then stay there and try to talk him down until help arrives. What I know is to take it seriously and take action. Consider tackling suicide in the context of a quote from the Havamal: “When one does you wrong. let the wrong be known and fall upon him.”

When suicide or any other monster rears its ugly head, say something and take action. Maybe you don’t have the solution, but you can be sure there is somebody that does. Like a stroke or heart attack, a potential suicide requires quick action. There can be no hesitation.

It is too late for Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. Let their example on the international stage prompt action on the local front. Suicide is a real problem and it is not fading away. We can become aware locally and perhaps have the opportunity to prevent suicides close to home. This is a serious menace and any one of us might be on the front line when an acquaintance, friend or relative starts down that road to suicide.

You can save a life. It all starts with awareness.

*******

*Ironically, in Japanese culture, suicide can be an act of honor under certain occasions.

15
Jun

Religious Freedom versus Religious Bigotry

Religion is a personal matter. There is no one religion for everyone. Just look at all the major and minor denominations out there. Even within the major denominations are smaller sects and divisions.

I believe in religious freedom to a point. On the point where someone else’s religious freedom infringes on mine, there is a problem. Where a religion is abusive, controlling or otherwise harmful, there is a problem.

I have friends and relatives in a variety of denominations: Heathen, Pagan, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Shinto, Taoist, Buddhist, Metaphysical, Hermetic and others.

Just as racism is inherently stupid, so is religious bigotry. While I might not agree with sects other than my own insofar as beliefs and practices, I do agree with the innate right of people to believe as they wish. They should be able to worship in comfort, without hassles.

People ought to feel secure in their religious choices and in their houses of worship. To that end, I am opposed to vandalism of religious structures, shrines, statues, etc. Consider this: in the Pagan Mediterranean and Middle East, many religions lived side-by-side. Sects from Egypt, Assyria, Persia, Palestine, Spain, Germany, Britain, Gaul, Greece, Rome and its other provinces had temples in the major cities. You never read of people attacking other houses of worship during the Pagan era. This is how it should be today.

Okay, so we were not very nice during the Middle Ages. Christianity, both Roman and Eastern, attacked non-Christian shrines and temples. And my ancestors (Vikings) had great fun sacking Christian monasteries and other installations. GET OVER IT! Those days are over. Inquisitions, witch burnings and Viking raids ended a long time ago. We got past those centuries of hostility. Your ancestors razed our shrines; my ancestors cracked your monks over the head with axes and robbed their valuables. All that ended a long time ago.

Consider this: when I was in the Army, the enemy were the Vietcong and NVA. That was 45 years ago. Today, on one of my hobby forums, we welcome members from Vietnam. Some of the American members who served when I did are happy to send the Vietnamese fellows odds and ends which hobbyists in that country cannot get.* The war is over a long time. Poles exchange stuff with Russians, Germans trade with the French, and Chinese share with the Japanese, and so on. Here in the United States, Northerners and Southerners buried the hatchet over a hundred years ago. The old wars are over and so is the animosity. World War II ended 73 years ago; Vietnam ended 43 years ago. The Civil War ended 153 years ago. We got over it.

Religious wars ended a long time ago. Aside from a few extremists, Christians, Jews and Muslims learned to live together. Hindus. Shintoists, Confucianists, Buddhists and Taoists learned to live in societies dominated by other religions. Heathens and Pagans have learned to abide in societies that still misunderstand aspect of their beliefs. If we can get over wars, we can get over religious animosity from the past.

Granted, there are fundamentalist bigots in almost every denomination. We know of Christian bigots, the most prominent being a few narrow-hearted televangelists. There are Muslim bigots, from ISIL to a few Middle Eastern Muslim television imams. And there are a few Jewish bigots who dislike non-Jews. We have a few religious bigots in Heathenism and Paganism,and I am sure the other denominations have them, as well. Yet most folks in these religions are good folks who mean well to others. You do not hear much about the kind, generous people because they do not make for news headlines.

Kipling told a tale of sea captains from many countries discussing why they thought their religion was the right one. One fellow, a Chinese captain, had not said anything. The others finally asked him his opinion. He answered with questions:

“Which country owns the Sun?” the sea captain asked his fellow seamen.

The others replied that no country owned the Sun. The Sun was there for everyone.

“Would you agree that God is greater than the Sun?”

They all agreed.

“Then if no country can own the Sun, how can any church own all of God, who is greater than the sun?”

Learn the lesson.

In my years of experiencing different expressions of spirituality (from Alchemy to Zen and back again), I have found that all have something to offer No religion is devoid of truth. Each has truths that it expresses more than others. We can learn something from all of them, and we do not have to back down on our personal beliefs to do so.

Religious freedom is more than the right to believe and worship. Religion freedom is the obligation to extend to believers of other sects that same rights and dignity you want for yourself. Most of us can get along. The enemy is not a religion, creed or sect. The enemy is bigotry.

Live and let live.

*************

One of my pleasures has been experiencing different kinds of spiritual practice. That is no joke about “Alchemy to Zen.” I’ve practiced “treatment: with the metaphysicians, invoked with the Hermeticists (High Ritual Magick), done Sabbats with the Wiccans, cut Runes with Heathens, read Tarot with psychics, prayed with half a dozen sects, ate “sacred cookies” with Hindus and meditated with the Zen people, and much more. I have attended rites of different kinds from many denominations, from worship to weddings to funerals. These latter include Catholic, Episcopal (Anglican), Lutheran, Baptist, Pentecostal, and Jewish rites. My thoughts on religion are based as much on experience as well as study. Technically, I am an interfaith minister, though my personal beliefs are Heathen. If you wish to experience other religions, here is an article I wrote with good guidelines for a safe and pleasant journey: http://thorsmanstuff.blogspot.com/2018/05/some-guidelines-for-searching-varieties.html

*****************

*Strange but true. A Vietnamese member of one of the toy soldier collector forums asked about how he might get some of the Vietnam-era plastic American infantrymen. American members responded and sent him some. The Vietnamese hobbyist was overjoyed. Reminds me of the time I was selling a few sets of toy Civil War soldiers and cannons. Several went to a hobbyist in the Carolinas. He was amused that he his toy Confederates came from the North.

08
Jun

Anthony Bourdain and The Monster that Causes Suicide

One of the more illumining cable shows was named Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. Master chef Anthony Bourdain would travel to exotic places and give a commentary on the food and culture. Along with famed places like Paris and Rome, he also visited obscure locations such as Paraguay and Cambodia. I remember one of the more surprising episodes where he ate in a common streetside restaurant in Hanoi with President Obama. He drank moonshine in Thailand, ate silkworms in Korea and scoffed down sushi in Japan.

Not exactly my idea of gourmet fare, but the man was unafraid when it came to chow. Be it Peru, Morocco, Paraguay or Portugal, Anthony Bourdain seemed to gush with love of life’s pleasures. That is why it was so stunning to hear he committed suicide.

Or was it?

In recent years ,we have heard of several famous and successful individuals who became suicides. Just last week, fashion designer Kate Spade hung herself. Robin Williams was perhaps the most prominent of the suicides. They have been happening as far back as I can remember. Among them was George Reeves, the first Superman of television. And we used to ask ourselves: “Why?”

“Why would people with success, riches and fame want to kill themselves? It does not seem reasonable.”

Reason has nothing to do with it.

The sad fact is that most of these people are powerless over the thing that kills. It is a mental illness that can be so unexpected and so powerful that they apparently have no defense when it strikes. This little monster can lie dormant for decades. You may have noticed that many of these famous suicides had, at one point in their lives, been hopelessly alcoholic or abused drugs. In many cases, the hooch and drugs were ways of self-medicating to mitigate a mental illness. Depressives, schizophrenics, bipolar and many other mentally-ill people may self-medicate, especially if the real illness remains undiagnosed. Booze and drugs silence the voices, soothe the dark feelings and take the edge off the unseen anguish that plagues them.

Bourdain had problems with booze and drugs in his younger years. Williams had dealt with bouts of depression. Reeves had seen his career fizzle, with few prospects for the future. He was also reported to be a heavy drinker. Yet how does one know if alcohol and drugs are symptoms of this mental illness, or just a case of chemical dependency?

We don’t. Even the experts cannot tell for sure.

In the case of Kate Spade, we do not know if she ever had a drinking or drug problem.

The sad fact is that the experts know so little about it. This is an illness that is a master of concealment, hiding for years in the psyche of the afflicted. The bottom line is that suicide is no joke and nothing to be taken casually.

These celebrity suicides remind us that mental illness is no respecter of rank, title, achievement, wealth or acclaim. No amount of money or prestige is a buffer against it. Mental illness attacks regardless of education, economic status, prestige, popularity or any other factor. it hits rich and poor, famous and obscure, good and bad. As much as modern science can do in the way of healing, there are places where it has little power.

This week saw Anthony Bourdain and designer Kate Spade take their own lives. We heard of them because they are famous. Let us not forget the many unknown people who have died the same way. Perhaps a cure might be found. And perhaps one of us may be in the right place and right time to prevent a suicide. This is serious and according to the experts, it is getting worse. No doubt the epidemic of opioid addiction is adding fuel to the fire. Nonetheless, horrors like this thrive in darkness. By speaking of them openly, we open the way to diminish them, even if just a little bit. As the Irish say, “Better a devil you can see than one that you can’t.”

**********

Back in the 80s, my work was with substance abusers. Mental illness was a different field. Everything I learned about mental illness was from listening to people who had those problems. I am reminded of two friends who had committed suicide. Both had suffered from mental illness and had made strides to overcome it. No matter how well they did, they could not win that final battle. Worst of all, nobody saw it coming.

It may seem strange that many times, people commit suicide while they are at the top of their fame and the pinnacle of achievement. Many years ago, a friend who had bipolar disorder explained his illness to me. He had made three suicide attempts before he was diagnosed and his disease was treated.

Bipolar has its high and low cycles. There is the manic / high phase and the depressive / low phase. You might think he did his during the depression part of it. He did all three attempts at the height of the manic phase. In view of Bourdain, Williams and Spade, they were at the heights of their careers and fame. I don’t think this is a coincidence.

In Norse and German Runecraft, Wunjo is the Rune of Joy. it is also said to be a Rune that can cause insanity. The ancients noticed this phenomena long ago.

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