Thursday, September 21, 2017

Lessons from history

Learning by Listening and Reading.

Don't you wish our president would develop these two skills? Those two "skills" along with another that I shall refer to at the end of this scree "might" help him develop some abilities which he obviously lacks.

I certainly had no plan to learn about war and peace by reading about early transportation in America, but the appearance in our Little Free Library of "The Great Railroad Revolution: The History of Trains In America" by Christian Wolman was very relevatory to me. And it was just after my last rant in which I discussed the early days of  air travel during the 40s and 50s. Consider these statements:
  • "Henry Poor, the founder of the American Railway Journal, suggested that the railroads were an agent of national peace and that 'the certain prevention of foreign war' will be one of the numerous advantages of the railroads.”
  • Poor says trains and Christianity go hand in hand as forces for good
  • The Cincinnati Daily Chronicle, in 1843, went further arguing the railroads would bring about permanent peace, reducing prejudices and cementing friendships, calculated to perpetuate the institutions under which we have risen from a mere handful.
  • Wolman, in his book, Engines of War: How Wars Were Won and Lost on the Railways "Far from being a catalyst for peace, the iron horse turned out to be one of the most effective weapons of war invented by man, helping create a far more intense, deadly, link to the type of warfare. The story of the American Civil War can, in fact, be told through the railroads. Only an understanding of the role the railroads played in it can explain how this Civil War became bloodier and more intensely fought than any previous conflict.
  • And McCollum adds, "The scale of destruction and carnage can be directly attributed to the railroads.
Since early childhood I became enamored with railroading. But I had no idea that railroading was seen as a precursor of an American tradition – anticipating that new technical inventions would lead to peace and prosperity for all. Isn't that what we have expected from the computer and its revolutionary' forms of communication? Yet it is now apparent they can also be used for a variety of nefarious purpose.

So what is my take away from this chance personal discovery. It's primarily that we humans have sought to explain/blame world conditions on everything from good luck and chance inventions and even  God's will. But we ourselves and the way we make choices together as humans are responsible for most of the world's conditions which are more threatening to me today than in my previous 91 years.

IF HUMANS CAN DEVELOP THE MIRACLES THAT MAKE LIFE SO ENJOYABLE FOR WE FORTUNATE FEW, THEN SURELY WE HAVE THE CAPACITY TO LEARN TO LIVE TOGETHER IN HARMONY.
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So much for my reading and thought process. I'll take a few weeks off entertain family and friends before embarking on the rant I am most obsessed with.  I'll try to circulate it more broadly when I finish it.

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I was encouraged by several reactions and questions about my thoughts on transportation in the 1940s. Particularly the relationship of bus travel to railroad travel. I clearly remember a variety of medium and long distance travels by rail. San Antonio was quite a center for the Southern Pacific Railroad. It was the half way location for train travel between Florida and California and my grandparents home was only a few blocks from the historic and architecturally dramatic depot. East and West bound trains arrived each day about noon. How interesting to see tons of ice added in each of the passengers cars as a source for early air-conditioning.  What fun to sneak chips of ice to suck on for our own personal cooling.

What a thrill then to take that train traveling east and go about 500 miles to my first Marine Corps base in Lafayette, Louisiana. Military leave time provided me with a number of trips by train which was far superior to any bus travel at that time. And what a fascinating experience to take the troop train from Lafayette to Savannah, Georgia and Marine bases on the East Coast.

Upon being commissioned as a Second Lieutenant at Quantico, Virginia, I took my first flight from newly opened National Airport In D. C. to San Antonio via now-defunct Eastern Air with about four stops on the way to San Antonio. After two weeks leave I was headed for Camp Pendleton, California again taking the railroad from San Antonio to Los Angeles.

Indeed train and planes provided long distance travel and it was only for short trips that we took the bus. My most memorable bus trip occurred upon being discharged from the Marine Corps at the Corpus Christi, Texas Naval Base. The remarkable aspect of that was that in going to the bus station I discovered that the Firestone Tire Store had just received four tires that my father had been searching for to get our Model A Ford running again. During the war, tires were rationed and he kept having flats. Upon learning that the tires would not fit into the luggage compartment of the bus, I prevailed upon my three buddies to join me in holding them on our laps for the 160 mile trip.

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I've been busy lately traveling and involved with a new project. Much of that will be answering questions again on REDDIT"S Ask Me Anything  And I've also discovered a new venue where I have been invited to share my writings, writerbeat.com

I then  PLAN THAT MY NEXT BLOG WILL CONCERN RELIGION and the community that churches provide their attendants. You might recall that it is one of the five factors that have shaped my life although I NOW CONSIDER MYSELF AN ATHEIST rejecting the lifelong teachings I've been exposed to about a god in heaven, the virgin birth and a life in heaven after death. Yet because of what churches have the potential to provide I still find myself a member of and attendant at a variety of churches. You see, along with a number of other factors, I feel religion has not only been a major cause of the world's problems, but I also feel that is the only through a proper understanding  relationship between religions that the world problems can be solved.

IN THE MEAN TIME..................

I'd like to encourage you to take time to read a lecture/sermon that should be read by our PRESENT president about an aspect of his character I find he lacks -  HUMILITY. The advice was given to former president Barack Obama at Washington's National Cathedral upon his second inaugural by Methodist Minister the Rev. Adam Hamilton.

I hope you'll take the time to listen to it in its entirety. I think you will see why president Trump asked that there be no sermon before he would agree to attend a similar service this last January at The Washington National Cathedral.









Wednesday, September 13, 2017

LOST IN TODAY'S SOCIETY: A SENSE of PERMANENCE and ASSURANCE

As an optimist all my 91 years, I certainly hadn't planned to share these rather bleak thoughts with others. I truly continue to feel that humankind is on a positive trajectory toward the "good" (however one might like to interpret that.) However a nostalgic trip to be with my children and grandchildren in Ann Arbor revealed a heightened degree of societal change that caused me to reconsider views about the current and pending changes in the American lifestyle. They may be somewhat trivial but I felt there was deeper meaning in two respects:
  • The loss of permanence.
In my youth there was a feeling that – except for the seemingly few, distant affluent members of society – we were all a part of a rather broad middle class. (Naturally I am aware, growing up in Texas, that two minority groups were not even considered because of their skin color.) As I visited homes of friends and others who seem to be a part of a upwardly mobile class there was one possession that seem to identify them as different status than us – their home had a PIANO!. To me it symbolized affluence and culture, both aspects that were to be cherished and sought after. What a change to see that now they are objects that are almost impossible to even Give Away!

This alone is perhaps quite trivial, but to me it forces me to reassess what really are the permanent and enduring factors in life.
  • The loss of assurance.
As a graduate student in the 50s, I was bothered by the professor in my major field of study who persisted in asking, "What do you see yourself doing 20 years now?" While I disliked the question, there was some logic in the question. I should be able to plan my future with some certainty. Now however the question seems totally out of place in the new world we have created in the past 20 years. Uncertainty and change are all about us. No longer can we find companies that we know will be around to provide retirement security. Except for a few sacrosanct professions (medicine, protection) vocations are either diminished or disappearing.

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So what is the point of this old man's tale? I've slept on it and after 24 hours I find two rising to the surface:

  • Why do we persist in measuring progress by the new things we create for only the few? Before we add the next exotic new smart phone why don't we measure progress by making sure that everyone has a smart phone? I recall a time when progress was measured by something like "A chicken in every pot and a Ford in every garage." It's time to go beyond that and make sure all have a pot and a garage.
  • Rather than measuring progress by planning ahead for careers and training for the few, why can't we measure progress by planning to have adequate healthcare for all rather than inventing a new exotic discovery that only a few can afford?
I remain convinced that there are lessons to be learned from looking at the past. There are lessons to be learned from history

Thursday, August 31, 2017

So what's next?

I'm amazed that it's taken over 91 years for me to truly appreciate what has made my life so satisfying and personally rewarding. But hopefully it doesn't stop here. And for me I feel it can only continue if I am being useful. With decreased physical stamina and skills, I find happiness in sharing views with others – particularly by reflecting on and sharing my life experience with others. 

In the previous Rant, you might recall, I briefly mentioned the five factors that have enriched my life. I sincerely believe that others might benefit from some of my observations on each of them, but it will take sometime to organize my thoughts. While none of us were able to influence our birth "situation", each of us can be enriched by more fully understanding the role and developments surrounding the other four factors.
  • Family..
  • Schools.
  • Government,.
  • Community.
I find it striking that each of these is undergoing tremendous stress and change in society today. The one I am eager to talk about first will be Community. However it will take me several weeks to organize thoughts in a coherent way. In the meantime, as the spirit moves me, I'll share what I think are interesting tidbits from an earlier world that I once inhabited.

So on to a fascinating aspect of air travel in the 40' s and 50' s!

Airports in this era were nothing like the shopping malls that surround today's "tunnels" leading to the jets. The "then major city of Detroit" was serviced by the former World War II bomber plant of Henry Ford. It was built to build bombers and after the war in was converted to the Kaiser/Frazier plant producing long-sought Henry J's and Frazier automobiles.   With the demise of it as an auto plant it became Willow Run Airport to replace the small downtown Detroit airport.

Upon entering the dark, depressing factory one was met by strange machines. Actually they look like slot machines –  and in retrospect they almost served as the famed "one armed bandits". Travelers were so wary traveler of the risks of flight who believed that air travel that they eagerly paid a few dollars so that their surviving kin would have an economic windfall!

How gullible we were. In reminiscing with my partner, Linda, whose father was a TWA pilot I learned that "those in the know" knew that lives were more at risk in driving to the airport than they were in their few hours in the air.

Here I feel is another lesson for those who would decry and debunk the lessons of history it's not hard to see that knowledgeable people avoided those who prey upon the fear of others. And to see a lifelong lesson that was impressed upon me: the foolishness of counting on a miracle to provide the happiness that allegedly only money can provide.

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Unless I have time to consolidate my thoughts about Community, I'll share thoughts about other archaic modes of transportation, particularly the railroad next week.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Five factors involved in creating this fulfilling life of mine!

With 91 years behind me, I doubt that anything can cause me to change this conviction of mine that I have experienced a truly unusual, satisfying and fulfilling life. Never achieving great wealth and having experienced the "Great Depression," I have had both emotional and material satisfaction. I've never truly lusted for more. As I look back at the source of it all, I find five distinct factors.
  1. The fortune of birth. How fortunate that there were no complications when the daughter of German immigrants gave birth to Roland, over 9 pounds, with the assistance of a midwife. I feel I've had advantages by the country of my birth, the absence of any negative DNA factors or physical limitations.  Also provided by chance were my being a part of a privileged racial group and a host of other socio/cultural/economic advantages. Thus good health and other advantages were mine as I exited the womb.
  2. A lifetime of family love and support - yet I cannot recall ANY overt expression of affection until I had the first kiss I can remember at age 20 with the woman who became my wife.
  3. A caring community – for me it has been a changing and liberating/liberated church community.
  4. A very good public school education that was both free and easily accessible beginning in first grade and continued through the completion of a Ph. D. degree.
  5. A government best described by President Barack Obama's statement paraphrased as, "I didn't build this life alone, but I had the help of a supportive government."
I'm looking forward to occasionally looking at each of the five factors in more depth.  And just now, as I publish this, I realize that - more than revealing the facts of my life - I hope I might disclose "secrets" from "the good old days" that can encourage others to consider and ponder the well-spring and meaning of  their life. 

I hope you'll check out my blog occasionally and share thoughts about them with me

Ron

Thursday, August 10, 2017

A New Thrill at 91 - Driving! And some thoughts on What constitutes THE GOOD LIFE (As I've seen it!)

At my families request, I gave up driving our 2006 Pontiac!  Oh, I still think I'm the best driver in the family, but it's hard to find anyone who agrees with me. Fearful that an unexpected accident might prove them right, I gave up my keys! I truly enjoy public transportation, can endure metro's flaws,  and may someday go against my prejudice and even take Uber.

When I realized that merely walking causes intense pain in my lower back, I found a marvelous teen thrill - being old/mature enough to get behind a steering wheel!  It happened amazingly in the most unlikely place - the shopping mecca, COSTCO! Without needing a drivers license or insurance, with 30 seconds of instruction, I found myself tooling around the wide aisles from the Hearing Center to the Pharmacy to the abundance of free samples and other retiree Shangri La's.

Once again being open to simple new experiences has enabled me to see how full and "rich" my life has been - for 61 pre-retirement years and almost 31 since.  And it causes me to ponder and puzzle:

How is this possible? What factors account for a good life for so many - like me - in my generation and is it going to be available for my kids and grandkids?

  • Surely good health is important!  But I know of some who feel as I do about their lives who have experienced great suffering.
  • I've had sufficient income. It seems especially important in these retirement years. How fortunate I am that Social Security and a good STATE pension system (from a career in education) make it possible for me to enjoy life during these 31 years of retirement. Yet I am very pessimistic with the direction of American society where a number of critical factors from impatience to have everything "right now" to poor distribution of wealth makes retirement opportunities like mine less likely. Surely I realize many other factors have been involved. However many in my generation have joined me in living the good life not because of our planning, but because the norms of society were structured to provide us with this benefit.
  • I continue to be impressed with the opportunities in other developed nations for middle-class folks to have retirement and vacation opportunities not available to most in our middle-class. Relatives of mine in Germany ranging from policeman to teachers appear to have sufficient middle class salaries that provide adequate health care and other benefits including lengthy vacation time for meaningful travel.
  • But this just scratches the surface of the things I marvel at from my youth that provided our lower middle class (especially income-wise) to have very satisfactory life experiences and doors opened for the further life I have experienced. 
  • "The fullness of my retirement living RIGHT NOW" prevents me from the many thoughts I'd like to share.  Thoughts about "the good old days" that cause some to think that America was once great!  Perhaps I'll enlarge on them in two weeks when I next Rant! 



Thursday, August 3, 2017

Why I keep Ranting and Raving at 91!

Perhaps there are some who wonder (just as I have) what impels me to compose and circulate these Rants and Raves as a nonagenarian. While some occasionally have been read by a fairly large audience, the great majority have not had many readers, and only one or two of them has stimulated thoughtful responses. This is especially true in my last Rant concerning my views on statehood for Washington DC. There was nary any talk-back regarding a topic that I thought would engender ridicule, if nothing else.  I've wondered sometimes if it were only my family who inflate my ego and reads these (ed. I'm sure most of them are even too busy to do so).

 Yet I feel almost compelled, yea driven to do so. In moments of self-analysis I find many explanations for this kind of "activism".
  • Ever since retiring from public school work, I felt I was free, for the first time as I moved to DC, to express myself on controversial, especially political, events.
  • And I have NEVER in my lifetime felt our nation so endanger - particularly by polarization - than I do at present,
  • From the use of Reddit's, "Ask Me Anything" I grew accustomed to having an audience of thousand asking me questions and seeking advice.
  • I've had a lifelong compulsion to be useful, and feel that I should continue to try to make a difference by helping and do my part to try to make the world better.
  • I've long felt that one of the greatest problems in society is a lack of inter-generational interaction and other failures of communication between segments of our society.. I particularly feel that the speed of change has  relegated the experience and insights of  "the older generation" to the sidelines and society has not benefited enough from their view of past mistakes and accomplishments.
  • And on a very intimate and personal level, I've marveled at the clarity of inspiration that has come to me on quite a regular basis about 3:30 AM "too frequently and thought-provokingly" for me to ignore. And though I am not a believer in the "god" I was exposed to  my entire  life in liberal churches, I feel that I join Samuel of biblical history in being given some inspiration, creative insight, whatever, that forces me to think more clearly and contemplate action.  I KNOW it is not "god"!  But there is something from the solitude of sleep or nature that provides inspiration and compunction for thought and action.
Thus I'll continue to "have my say" in my Rants..  Whether they are read or not is immaterial - it provides me satisfaction - yea relief - to express my feelings.  I may do it more (or even less) than every Thursday.  You can check periodically.  Remember you can always put the blogs on a header or app.(or whatever it is called).

And speaking of another venture; after one month – Reddit's policy requires a six month waiting period – I'll open myself to answering questions from those who care to ask a question of a 90+ years oldster.  I've had a great time answering over 2000 questions during several previous sessions.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

A strategy for DC progress more feasible than statehood.

Since I've been away from the "swamp that refuses to be drained," I was incensed to return to our nation's capital to find that once again Congress wants to interfere with local government and deny us of our right as citizens to "die with dignity," as well as other of other rights as citizens in the land of the free.

I know that for many committed activists the cause of statehood for DC has been a consuming goal and one we rightly deserve. Yet the realist within me sees it as an impossible dream. Years of protest have brought us no progress toward that goal and currently it is further from realization than ever. Yet the welfare of our citizens is in increased jeopardy from a government in disarray.  Thus I feel a new tact is necessary. It would be organized around two basic principles:
  • Putting pressure on Congress to provide adequate financing to truly make the District of Columbia a living example of what democracy can accomplish and be known as "The Shining City on a Hill for All Residents)."
  • Congress would not be permitted to unilaterally interfere with the lawmaking actions taken by local government action.
How exciting it would be for young and old, rich and poor, folks of all races and creeds and immigrant status to join together in a cause unifying us all.

I well know that many readers of my Rants will say something like, "He's finally lost it, he believes in miracles as an unreasonable idealist." And since I have my own definition of "Miracles" I plead guilty. Certainly the fact that a "supposedly" knowledgeable citizenry could elect a man as president so ignorant of what democracy is all about truly makes me believe in miracles.

All my life I have been proud to note the upward trajectory toward equality for all in our country. Through protests and proper procedures we have progressed to become the envy of the world as we have recognized past errors and failures.

Stay tuned for further "miraculous thoughts" that come to me in growing despair in the middle of the night as I see my beloved country plunging into a "state" I have not witnesses in my 91+ years.