Uncle Thor's Lessons, Anecdotes and Humor

21
Jun

Hatred is a self-induced poison.

This week, we saw the wreckage that came of hate. In my own county, a respected police officer gunned down his ex-wife in Asbury Park. He did this in broad daylight. The result is that their nine children will grow up without parents. His wife is dead and he is going to prison for a very long time. In Charleston, South Carolina, a hate-filled young man gunned down nine people holding a bible study. The boy was White and this victims were Black. Ironically, they invited him to join them when he showed up at the church. By all accounts, both the police officer’s ex-wife and the nine churchgoers were good people who had the love and respect of many. Coincidentally, the ex-wife was also active in her church.

These may seem like two very different events, but there is one point they share. Both are extreme acts of hate. Both hurt others and as a result, both of the perpetrators will suffer. The aftermath includes a dead mother, nine dead parishioners, and nine orphaned children. That number nine sticks out like a sore thumb. Hate destroys. In these cases, hate kills.

What can we do? The message is clear. We cannot allow hatred to take hold within ourselves. Likewise, we need to help our loved ones avoid the path to hatred. If we see a relative or friend becoming hateful, we need to step in and say something to them. We can try to derail their hate-immersed thinking. It may not be easy, but by the same token, we may save a life. At least we can help save someone the burden of his or her own hatred. Hate begins as a bad idea and it festers. Taking the fire from it allows it to cool and dissipate into nothingness.

This is not a matter that is cured by forgiveness. The real cure is ending the hate.

I am reminded of a Norse myth in which a fierce Giant’s heart was described as “sharp, three sided and cuts all ways.” That is hate. It hurts all with no thought of its victims as it grows to massive proportions. The way the myth ended is with the God Thor smiting the Giant in the head with his hammer. And. allegorically, it symbolizes the fact that the way to curb hate is to change the mind of the hater. Stopping the hateful thinking will kill the fire on which hate thrives.

17
Jun

A Cautionary Tale: The Lady and the Inmates

Another cautionary tale is playing out in the news. The woman who helped two inmates escape from the Clinton correctional facility in Dannemora, NY, has lost the support of her husband. He found out there might have been a plot to have the two escapees murder him. Just as upsetting is the fact that his wife had been having sex with the inmates while at work. The 51 year old woman is in jail and faces a trial and a sentence of up to 8 years.

Obviously, she lost sight of WHAT the inmates were and focused on WHO she wanted them to be. It brings up something I posted in 2008 that bears repeating. Here is the 2008 article:
***
This is a very old story. A version of it was made into a popular song some time during the 1950s. In that version, the main character was a woman. There is an earlier prose version where the main person is an Indian. That is the one I heard first.
The story:

An Indian was climbing down a mountain. It was cold atop the mountain. Along the way, he saw a snake on one of the ledges. The snake was dying of cold. The Indian was going to pass the snake, but the serpent heard him and weakly called for help.

“Please! I am dying of cold. Please carry me down the mountain and place me in the warm sun.”

“ I cannot do that! You are a snake ! You will bite me!” replied the Indian.

The snake cried, “Please! I will not bite you! Please help me! I am dying of cold!”

“You say that, but you are a snake. I will not carry you!” the Indian said.

The snake sighed. “Please help me. I will not bite you. No reasonable creature would harm someone who helped him. “

The Indian thought for a moment. “Certainly, this snake sounds reasonable. I think it is be safe to help him.”

The Indian picked up the snake and put it under his coat to keep it warm. He carefully climbed down the mountain. The Indian could feel the snake getting better as it became warmer.

Finally they reached the bottom of the mountain. It was warm there.

“Please put me on the rocks in the sun,” said the snake.

The Indian placed the revived reptile on a warm, sub-bathed stone. As soon as he set the snake down, it bit him. The Indian could feel it inject his venom into him as it bit.

“Why did you bite me? You promised not to do that. You deceived me! You are poisonous and now I am going to die!” the Indian exclaimed.

“Why are you so surprised, foolish man! You knew what I was before you picked me up,” said the snake.

It is said that the snake is the animal that bites the hand that feeds it.

The moral of the story is evident. A thing is just what it is. No pleading, excuses or promises will change that. If you know it is dangerous, then it is your fault if you ignore that fact.

Once again, we find the Mannar Rune in all its glory. Here was a case of the What – the thing – and what it claims to be. The snake wanted it Indian to forget it was a snake, and instead treat it as a fellow creature in need of help. By overlooking the animal’s identity on favor of its promises, he fell victim to its true nature.
This is a useful tale that teaches a powerful lesson to those who listen.
***

And therein lies the rub! The woman was an employee at a correctional facility with a notorious reputation for holding some of the most dangerous and violent criminals. The two with whom she became cozy were both murderers. One shot a deputy numerous times and then ran him over with a car. The other tortured and murdered his employer, and then hacked up the body. Did she think this was some kind of adventure or a forbidden romance? The plain fact remained that these men are career criminals with a particularly violent past.

It is important that you know the WHO and the WHAT of the people with whom you deal. You have to remember that as much as the individual, the WHO, may be a nice fellow or gal, there is still the WHAT. In my experience, most people do not change all that much. If the person had been a known criminal, there is a good chance he or she might do it again.

When you hear of a woman working in a prison getting all chummy with the residents, think of the story of the Indian and the Snake. Like the Indian in the story, that woman knew what she was looking at before she got warm and fuzzy for him. It is not just WHO a person is but WHAT he does and WHAT he has done in the past.

***

There are people who have overcome a bad past, be it crime, addiction or some other bad thing. It took a tremendous and sustained effort over a long time to do it. Such people are few and far between. Most career criminals and those with bad habits do not have the desire, the willingness nor the persistence to make that change. The few who do make it are an uncommon lot as there are not many who would give it the necessary commitment. I have been fortunate to know more than a few who have overcome their woes. What they had in common was the desire to be better and the willingness to go to any length to achieve it.

I have heard commitment explained thus: “I had bacon and eggs this morning. The chicken took part in my breakfast. But that pig, he was committed!”

17
Jun

Rage and Reality

In a custody dispute, people can become enraged and irrational. Sometimes people who ought to know better take it too far. Tuesday saw an extreme case play out in Asbury Park. A Neptune police lieutenant chased his ex-wife’s car into Asbury Park. She hit a parked car and he rammed hers, then emerged with pistol in hand. He fired a dozen shots into her. Their seven-year-old daughter was in the back seat. She is one of nine children.

The Neptune officer raised his pistol to his head several times but could not pull the trigger. He finally gave up to the police. The man was heard to complain that he was tired of going to court and did not want to be kept from seeing his children. Tonight, his own actions made his worst fears come true.

Nine children had two parents, albeit estranged, when the awoke Tuesday morning. By nightfall, they had none. One was dead and the other was on his way into the justice system, charged with murder. Undoubtedly, the children are hurt and are confused and the one who witnessed it all is terribly shaken. By this time, the father / shooter probably knows all too well the outcome of his uncontrolled rage. He is an experienced police officer and is well familiar with the way cases like his play out in the criminal justice system.

I was told this particular officer was well-liked. He was involved with the community and did many things for his town. A family loses two parents and a community loses an asset.

Rage has to be controlled. The failure to control it can lead to irreparable harm and the most dire of consequences. Jails are full of people who did not put the brakes to their anger. Instead, they let it fester and then allowed it to do their thinking. The ironic part of it is that for all the damage they may do to the object of their anger, they often hurt themselves at least as much, if not more.

Tuesday, June 16 brought us another example of the futility of unbridled rage. We need to be vigilant of our own extreme emotions. Anger is an emotion that has fire to it. Anger can plug into raw instinct if we do not keep a lid on it. A person’s anger does not justify an outburst nor any more extreme action. It does not excuse a rash of badly-chosen words and it certainly does not mitigate any acts of harm done from rage.

Tonight, nine children are without the company of their parents. All this because a man who should have known better let his anger rule his thinking. If you find this all sad, all the more reason to make sure you keep your anger out of the driver’s seat of your mind.

26
May

Blame It or Fix it: Responsibility

I am in a lot of pain. I managed to do the Point Ceremony at Elk’s point for Memorial Day. However, that was all. And even that required endurance. I could not march in the parade. We got back to the Post, and after a few minutes I had to call it a day. The past 12 months have been a series of episodes where I find myself fighting for my life.

Nobody asks for heart disease or diabetes or any other ailment. Nobody wants to be sick. Despite our wishes, these things may come upon us. Sure, some folks will whine and bemoan fate or blame their God or Devil or Karma. That is superstitious thinking and accomplishes nothing. For instance, some may think that their God is punishing them for something. That is ridiculous. No deity is going to spank you as if you are an overgrown brat. That is not how it works. Whatever had befallen you is a just a natural consequence of living. It may fall on some and never come near anyone else. This is not a Divine thing. It is just the working out of. unrelated causes and things. Consider this: when you were a child, do you think a God or Devil singled you out and gave you the mumps or the chickenpox? Did it also single out some of your classmates who also got it? It is more reasonable that a contagious germ was getting around and you were vulnerable. That is all.

Getting ill or having misfortune is probably not your fault. I say probably because there are a few misguided people who are the authors of their own woes. These are the same people who blame God, Goddess, Gods, Devils, Spirits or Karma. Most people are not the authors of their problems. That does not exempt you from your responsibility. Here is how it works, folks:

You are likely not responsible for your troubles, but if they befall you, you are responsible for seeking a remedy. You are the one who is responsible for finding and implementing a solution to the problem.. If you are sick, see a doctor. If your house gets hit by a landslide, seek shelter and work on finding a new place to live. You are responsible for dealing with it.

You need not do it all alone. Get the right kind of help. Instead of seeking advice from the local windbag gossip, avail yourself of the help you need. Maybe you need to speak to a trusted friend to help clarify things first. Maybe you need professional help. For ailments, a doctor. For legal trouble, a lawyer. For leaky faucets, call a plumber. Take the focus away from the problem and put it on discovering and implementing the right solution.

Life is unfair. So what? It is unfair for everyone. That is just the way it is.

For me, there was another trip to the doctor this morning. Hopefully we can nail this thing. More tests, more things to do. Doing gets things done. And keep this in mind: It might not be your fault if it – whatever it is – befalls you. If it does befall you, however, it is your responsibility to do something about it.

22
May

ISIL: Opportunist State

The so-called ISIL caliphate is an opportunist government. It emerged initially in the power vacuum caused by the Syrian civil war. ISIL was able to expand rapidly by filling in another power vacuum in Iraq. The caliphate was welcomed by Sunnites seeking some kind of way to deal with the injustices of Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government.

In the grand scheme of things, ISIL is a place-holder. Nature abhors a vacuum. Just as with physics, so it is with politics and government. Its ability to stand has been augmented by the kind of leadership and technical expertise ISIL has been able to attract. Further acquisition of oilfields and money plundered from banks in conquered areas had provided the wealth to fuel its existence and its war machine. If there is any doubt that ISIL is a lucky opportunist, consider that it brought almost no military ordnance of its own except infantry weapons. All of ISIL’s tanks, artillery and other heavy weapons were captured from fleeing Syrian and Iraqi forces. And while there are some shady arms dealers who are doubtlessly selling their wares to the caliphate, none are significant enough to provide heavy weapons and armored fighting vehicles in quantities worth noting.

ISIL has been able to attract fighters from across the Muslim world, most of whom are Middle Eastern Arabs, Chechens, Dagestanis and Pakistanis. Many come with military training via the national armies of their home nations. Some even have prior combat experience. I do not know what percentage of enlistees have prior military experience, but these men can be integrated into existing ISIL units rather quickly. Among them are the men who have training to use the many weapons systems that ISIL captured. Tank crewmen, artillery gun crews, communications men and crewmen for heavy infantry weapons come already trained. Any tank, artillery piece or heavy weapon made from 1950 to the present can be put to almost immediate use.

ISIL’s leaders are not a bunch of ragged sand people. All evidence shows that they train their troops and provide good small-unit leadership. Their forces are disciplined enough to provide a credible threat to the Syrian factions and Iraq. It is no wonder that the force that has withstood them firmly, the Kurds, are also disciplined and trained fighters.

At the top, ISIL has people who can handle money and who can run oil operations. They also have people who can sell the oil in bulk on the black market. Just as they have done well with Internet media and recruitment, so they have been able to maintain a working economy.

For all they have, ISIL can only stand so long as the power vacuum continues. For all its bluster and noise, it is an aberration rather than a phenomenon. ISIL has almost no air power and no notable allies. Its shipping is not much different than smuggling. ISIL has neither a maritime nor an air cargo fleet. Military hardware is mostly what it has captured. Acquiring more via arms deals will yield little. The problem is not just buying it, but getting it to ISIL territory. One thing ISIL cannot survive is the war of attrition. The caliphate can be worn down by the slow and inexorable losses of military hardware, manpower and essentials for its economy.

ISIL can stand alone for the present. When the time comes that it needs allies and economic partners, its days are numbered. No stable government would ally with ISIL for a variety of reasons. Likewise, none will enter into an economic agreement with the caliphate. Ironically, ISIL has made enemies of nations that are inimical to one another. The Arab Gulf States and Iran both oppose it, even as they have their own cold war pitting Arabs against Persians. There seems to be some kind of non-aggression deal with Turkey, but that can unravel quickly. Without allies and a stable form of trade, ISIL will last only as long as its existing supplies of manpower, ordnance, food and fuel. Its survival depends on its ability to provide for itself with the means under its immediate control. That will also dwindle.

ISIL can fall apart in several ways. It may implode from within, splitting into hostile factions. It may be overcome from without by a stronger power, such as Turkey. And it may just crumble, its downfall accelerating as its infrastructure collapses. ISIL is a fierce dragon today, but once the region begins to stabilize, it will become a little sand lizard scurrying for cover.

19
May

Ramadi Plus 1

I said it last night: a big part of the current trouble in Iraq is based on sectarian strife. The Shiites who now control the Iraqi government are one faction, the others being Iraq’s Sunnite Muslims and the Kurds. While the Kurds are content to stand their ground for their own people, the dynamic between Shiite and Sunnite Iraqis is a major contributor to the current mess.

During the rule of the previous Iraqi prime minister, a Al Maliki, troubles began. Al Maliki was part of the Shiite majority. Two things happened on his watch. First, he let the Iraqi army deteriorate. Second, Al Maliki’s policies made the Sunnite minority feel oppressed and disenfranchised. Under his party’s rule, Iraq was becoming a Shiite state. Of course, he enjoyed the friendship of the neighbor to the East, Iran. Meanwhile, the Sunnites felt persecuted and cheated. That discontent led several Sunnite tribes to invite ISIL into the country.

Have we seen this before? Those of a certain age may remember the photo on the front page of the Daily News from the 1960s. A Vietnamese Buddhist monk had sat in the pose of meditation and set himself on fire. He was protesting the Catholic-dominated government’s unfair treatment of Buddhists. Some of the fellows stationed in Vietnam at the time felt that this was a sign that South Vietnam could not stand because of this division along sectarian lines. In any case, the rift between Catholic and Buddhist certainly eroded South Vietnam’s cohesiveness.

Buddhist and Catholics on one side, Sunnites and Shiites on the other. The current Iraqi government that promised to mend the rift between Shiite and Sunnite has decided to send in Shiite militias to re-take Ramadi. These are the same militias used to take Tikrit, another Sunnite city. These same militias were accused of atrocities against civilians. The militias are supported by Iran. You can be sure that the re-taking of Ramadi will be a horror show.

Perhaps the only solution to Iraq is to divide it into three countries: Kurdistan in the North, a Shiite state to the center and East, and Sunnite country to the West. You can be sure that in the midst of the split will be a lot of squabbling over oil.

18
May

Ramadi Again

The fall of Ramadi to ISIL further illustrates the quagmire that is Iraq. ISIL has shown that it has more resolve, initiative, cohesion and a sense of direction. Iraq is fractious and lacks the resolve necessary to successfully defend its territory. The only sturdy element is its autonomous Kurdish people. ISIL has learned to lessen its activities against the Kurds, who fight back hard, and aim at the Shiite-dominated parts of the country. Why risk the chance of more setbacks by attacking a hardened foe when you can make gains against a weaker one?

ISIL could never have emerged prior to the fall of Iraq and the civil war in Syria. Saddam provided unity and direction to the old Iraqi nation. Assad did the same for Syria. The new Iraqi government does neither. The various factions of Syria do not have the power to annihilate ISIL. It is the Kurds who have done best against the caliphate. The Kurds are united and willing to follow direction necessary to win.

The Iraqi forces in Ramadi had been told to hold their positions and that help was on the way. They were low on ammunition and isolated. “Help” was going to be too late, if it arrived at all. Nobody can blame the soldiers and policemen for retreating under those circumstances. The people to blame are the commanders of the Iraqi army and the political leadership.

What makes ISIL so difficult an adversary? For one thing ,they draw troops from all over the Muslim world. Most are Arab. A few are Russians: Chechens and Dagestanis. Some are Bosnian, or Pakistani. ISIL offers a good salary, by Middle Eastern standards. In a part of the world where the gulf between rich and poor is wide, and unemployment can be over 50%, the appeal is obvious. A young man can sign on and send home enough money for his extended family to live comfortably. These people are so poor that the risk to life and limb is worth it if it means helping the family. (We had a similar thing here during the Civil War. Several states offered hefty recruitment bonuses. New York, a major port of debarkation for Irish immigrants, offered $300. One or two of the oldest sons would enlist, giving the family enough money to buy a small farm. These people were so poor the risk was worth it.)

ISIL attracts fighters from various countries, Several have Universal Conscription, meaning all men must serve in the military for one to two years. A percentage of their recruits already have military training and experience. Some even have combat experience. From these, it is no problem to develop a cadre to train inexperienced fighters. ISIL’s experienced troops come from armies who may have had training based on Russian, British, French or American standards. They can easily find men trained to handle the full gamut of military equipment such as heavy weapons, artillery and tanks.

To be fair, most of the training was not up to Western standards. It can be considered a “lighter” form of training than Western armies give their own troops. This means that ISIL has good small-unit leadership because it gets its troops to perform well on the battlefield. (As General Pershing said, a good leader can get mediocre troops to perform well.)

Iraq has put its sectarian divisions and the goals of its political leadership ahead of the Iraqi nation as a whole. ISIL controls Sunnite territories. The majority Shiite government does not seem too alarmed about that. Perhaps they feel that if the Shiite areas were seriously threatened, Iran might join the fight. As for the US involvement in air strikes: is it really meant to preserve Iraq? Or are we striking in Iraq and Syria as a pre-emptive measure to keep ISIL away from our other allies such as Jordan and Israel?

05
May

Amusing Observations on Belief

Two stories sum up several of my observations about people and religion.

One of the people with whom I worked told me an amusing tale about a friend of his. The friend had gotten caught up in the self-help books. Back in the 1980s, there was a craze for this sort of thing. He would read a book and then tell all his friends that it was THE book that answered everything for him. Two weeks later, and he had found another book that had THE answers. This went on for a few months. One day, when the man came raving about the latest book, my co-worker asked him: ‘What about that book you told me about two weeks ago. You said that one had the answer.”

The man replied, “Oh, that? Ha! That’s nothing. THIS is THE book that says it all.” And so the man continued his drive through the self-help genre.

Several folks from the neighborhood used to talk at the coffee shop around the corner. (This was my old neighborhood from over 25 years ago.) Knowing I had a good understanding of various religions and philosophies, a fellow named Ray asked me about a few of them. He was a regular at the coffee shop. Satisfied that I would understand, he told me of a couple who had taken up with one of those New Age fads. Was it Eckankar or Mind Control or Og Mandino, I cannot be sure. Ray told me they went to regular classes and had gotten quite involved in the philosophy.

A year later, Ray noticed that it did make a difference in them. When they argued, they had a whole new set of words for the same old fight. Instead of saying “ You’re being stupid!” they now said things like , “Your consciousness is cloudy” or “You need to raise your awareness.”

Same fight, same intent, and all that study just to get different words for the same old thing. I am reminded of the phrase: “switching seats on the Titanic.”

Two stories. One is about a search to find the answers without having first asked the right questions. The second is a change in beliefs that is really not much of a change at all. Same old stuff, different words, different temple.

30
Apr

Vietnam + 40

The fall of Saigon was 40 years ago. When we left Vietnam in `73, we left behind a trained and well-equipped army. In `75, many of the South Vietnamese troops just dropped their weapons and ran. They did not fight to preserve their country.

When the US left Iraq, we left behind a trained and well-equipped army. Last year, ISIL attacked Iraq. The Iraqi army crumbled. The trained army had let itself atrophy under a divisive political system.

Saigon. Mosul. The only difference is that one segment of Iraq, the Kurds, put up a fight even when outgunned and outnumbered. The rest of Iraq cut and ran.

I am opposed to putting “boots on the ground.” The people who ought to be fighting on the ground are the Iraqis. If they cannot or will not do so, then their lack of resolve tells us how little they value their freedom. One thing is certain. We do not need to get caught up in another quagmire.

26
Apr

Runes Around You

No matter what fields of interest I pursue, connections to the Runes and other aspects of Heathenism are revealed. This is not some New Age mish-mosh, nor the old Hermetic thing of attributing everything to an Element or a thing symbolized by a Planet. It is there and evident: an outworking of a potency and its manifestation in the everyday, phenomenal world.

Among the things that interest me are railroads, military history and tactics, physics, geology, seismology & vulcanology, human nature, meteorology, oceanography, and so much more. This is a big world with many interesting things for us to enjoy. It all interests me. And in all these interests I find correlations to the Runes many times over.

It is easy to say, “Oh, yes, transportation is the Raido Rune, education is the Ken Rune and Thurs describes Vulcanology.” Those are facile descriptions. It is within them that we see so much more. Raido is a Rune of time and space. That includes scientific concepts like Relativity as well as measurements of time and distance. What is speed but the time it takes to traverse a given distance? The Runes are rich in meaning for those who pay attention.

Each Rune also has a “feel” to it. Actually, each has several of them. We can experience them if we take time to go to a place where the Rune’s manifestations are strongest. One can experience essences of the Fe Rune in places where animals are raised and sold as livestock. It is also felt in financial places, such as banks. Those places that deal with raw material also have a piece of Fe.

Raido can be felt in a busy train station or bus terminal. It is best if several routes and forms of transportation converge on that place. Go there when things are quiet. Visit again during peak times, like “rush hour.” Raido is being a passenger. How different it is to the Eh Rune, where one rides a horse or drives the car. Instead of being cargo as in Radio, the individual has freedom to choose and pursue a route to a destination.

The Naud Rune is one of pressure and compression. It crushes downward and inward. Opposite it is Jer ,which expands. Think of the clockwork spring in a wind-up toy that produces energy as it expands from a tight coil to an open one. Gyfu is like crossing a bridge from one side to the other. This is an exchange of places. Hagal is a burst that scatters randomly. Think of a shotgun’s blast or a hailstorm. Tyr is focused and aimed, and not random at all. Using advertising to illustrate the contrast, Hagal sends out mass numbers of flyers hoping a few fall into the hands of the right people. Tyr is an aimed campaign using data to send advertisements directly to the most likely customers. It would use specific criteria to determine who these customers are, and avoid sending to uninterested people.

The above are a few examples of places where Runes abide openly in the everyday world. You can find many more by purposeful observation. The connections are not secrets. They cannot be kept from you if you seek them. All you have to do is pay attention and be patient. Answers come as they will.

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