You can’t stop what’s comin’. It ain’t all waitin’ on you. That’s vanity.
– “No Country for Old Men”, 2007, Miramax Films
It’s a new year and time for new beginnings. But what does it mean exactly? Of course, it’s about time. I mean, that’s the answer. It is, truly, about time. Think about it. Time has a beginning, middle, and an end. You were born, a bunch of stuff happened, a lot of stuff is going on now, and, soon, more things will occur. Right up to the end. The very end, that is.
In the macro sense, we don’t need devices to tell time because these were recent inventions in the long march of man. Prior to mechanical measurements, countdowns, and glowing orbs in New York City, our ancestors simply divided their days via light and dark, the sun, moon, and the seasons. In fact, the world’s bestselling book of all time, the Bible, advises us to discern the “times” as “seasons” and says in its very first chapter:
While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.
– Genesis 8:22
It’s a nice thought. Even if the same book says we flourish like flowers and our days are like grass.
All of this came to mind when the topic of my retirement was broached recently. In not so many words, someone asked if I planned to keep slacking off until I was old enough to draw social security. I scoffed and then realized they were serious. In response I told them, in the not-so-distant future, I fully expected to die a violent death at the whim of an Orwellian state.
Happy New Year.
But, if it’s a new beginning, what time is it, really? In my estimation, it’s the end of the beginning of the end for America. Next, comes the middle of theend, until, finally, the end of the end.
It takes very little to govern good people. Very little. And bad people cant be governed at all.
― McCarthy, Cormac. (2005). “No Country for Old Men”
It’s become clear justice is dead in the United States. The respect for law is gone. If President Trump was ever going to drain the swamp, the Clintons, and even former president Obama, would have been dressed in orange by now. It didn’t happen. Instead, it is Trump who now stands accused:
There is nothing Trump or any member of his administration has done that is comparable to Hillary Clinton’s use of her own email server while U.S. secretary of state, or her destroying tens of thousands of emails after they were subpoenaed by Congress, or foreign governments’ and corporations’ paying vast sums of money to Bill Clinton and The Clinton Foundation while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. Nor is there anything Trump or anyone in his administration has done comparable to the Obama administration’s use of the IRS to suppress conservative nonprofits; its selling guns to Mexican drug cartels, at least one of which was later found at the scene where a Border Patrol officer was killed; or the lies it told about the cause of the murder of a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi. Yet any suggestion by Republicans that these activities be investigated is effectively shouted down by the Democrats and the media. And let’s not talk about the real collusion in 2016 – between the FBI, the State Department, the Clinton campaign and the Obama White House, using material sourced in part from the Russian government – to undermine the Republican candidate for president and his presidency.
Even worse, it appears the investigations into government corruption by Inspector General Michael Horowitz and Utah U.S. attorney John Huber, were, in fact, the cover-up:
At this point, there is every reason to believe that the purpose of Huber’s investigation is to hide the truth, not to find it; to protect the criminals, not to charge them. The key witnesses in each of the matters under investigation have not even been contacted. It appears that no grand juries have been empaneled. Tom Fitton, of Judicial Watch says, “Huber wasn’t tapped to investigate anything”, he was just “a distraction”.
Doom. It’s over. Lights out. Can’t run. Can’t hide. Nothing left for Americans besides debt, bankruptcy, illiteracy, porn, and suicide. We’re a dead nation walking; a ghost of what once was. Is it any wonder why addiction is burgeoning in the United States?
We’ve become a country filled with T.S. Eliot’s hollow men; stuffed men.
Not long ago, in trying to acquire some gently pre-owned furniture for one of my kids, I ended up in front of a guy with a nice-looking bedroom set. In response to my questions, he told me it once belonged to his son who had recently died of a heroin overdose at age twenty-six.
I think if you were Satan and you were settin around tryin to think up somethin that would just bring the human race to its knees what you would probably come up with is narcotics.
― McCarthy, Cormac. (2005). “No Country for Old Men”
Which reminded me of a business associate who was wiped out by Hurricane Katrina. She moved and started a new life. But, before doing so, she called me a month after the headlines subsided and said something like:
“It’s worse down here than anyone up north can understand. Out of sight, out of mind.
Just because it’s not making news anymore, everyone thinks it’s OK. It’s not.
It won’t be the same.
For many folks, addiction is like that too. Powerful forces and devastation. I wrote about some of it last January; including how I overcame my own hopelessness and paralysis. But now it’s that time again: A new year and wanting to stay hopeful but, for the most part, remaining helpless.
Two decades ago there was an ace reporter by the name of Gary Webb whose story was made into a 2014 film entitled “Kill the Messenger”. In the mid-nineteen-nineties, Webb exposed how the CIA allegedly aided and abetted deliveries of crack cocaine into Los Angeles to finance illegal undercover operations for the U.S. Government. Immediately, the mainstream media, at the behest of the CIA, took action to discredit and slander Webb, until seven years (to the day) after being fired as a reporter, he committed suicide with not one, but two bullets to the head.
More recently, Bre Payton, the journalist who, on December 13, 2018, broke the story of Robert Mueller’s illegal deletion of text messages, mysteriously dies two weeks later, on Friday December 28, 2018.
It appears whistleblowers don’t fare too well in modern America. Not anymore.
So I ask you: Who has the power? Who has the momentum?
… the Democratic Party and the media will do to American political life what it has done to the arts; the universities; the high schools; the Boy Scouts; race relations; religion; the happiness of so many women (misled by feminism regarding marriage and career); the moral fabric of American life (morality reduced to feelings); late-night television; mainstream Judaism, Catholicism and Protestantism; pro football; and the sexual innocence of the young: It will poison it.
Everything has been poisoned, torn asunder, and laid to waste. Even dairy farming:
We survived the 1980s, when debt loads became impossible for many farmers and merely incredibly onerous for the lucky ones. Interest rates went up , export markets plummeted after a wheat embargo against the Soviet Union, oil prices soared, inflation skyrocketed and land prices began to collapse. More than 250,000 farms died that decade, and more than 900 farmers committed suicide in the upper Midwest alone.
So what will happen when the real fecal waste matter collides with the proverbial whirling blades? What will happen when people can’t sustain themselves; when this nation becomes, truly, no country for old men?
There is no harsher verdict in most men’s lives than someone else’s judgment that they are no longer worth their keep…. It is then, when the answer at the hiring gate is ‘You’re too old,’ that a man turns away … finding nothing to look backwards to with pride [or] forward to with hope.
In the forthcoming and inevitable financial collapse, what will people do when their jobs disappear, swept away by Category 5 economic hurricanes? It is a fact the proverbial winds and storm surges are coming and with most Americans now camping on the beach. If economic hardships are enough to drive even well-weathered, mentally-tough, and self-reliant farmers to end their own lives, do the math and consider what will happen within the average populations of insatiably dependent consumers.
If history is any indicator, the trends don’t look positive. Exactly one week after America’s 2018 Thanksgiving holiday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the nation’s suicide rate had increased a massive 33 percent since 1999. That’s the ultimate surrender and likely not even the worst kind. Others will take flight into third-world countries, communist nations, or domestic FEMA camps. And there are many others who plan to stand their ground and fight.
In any scenario, just as throughout all of history, the only things remaining certain will be death and taxes. According to a December, 2018 reportpublished by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO):
The Internal Revenue Service had in its weapons inventory 4,487 guns and 5,062,006 rounds of ammunition as of late 2017…
The 20 federal law enforcement agencies in GAO’s review reported spending at least $38.8 million on firearms, $325.9 million on ammunition, and $1.14 billion on tactical equipment—at least $1.5 billion in total—from fiscal years 2010 through 2017…
Great. The U.S. government is not only now criminally corrupt, but it’s loaded for bear too.
It means we’re on the brink.
Which reminds me of a 1997 film, starring Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin, called “The Edge”. In the story, the two men were trying to survive in the Alaskan wilderness after a plane crash. Therein, Hopkin’s character told Baldwin’s character the following:
Most people lost in the wild die of shame. They didn’t do the one thing that could save their lives–thinking.
Which, in turn, brought to my recollection a piece I posted last July, called “Pessimism, Fatalism, Realism, Optimism, Hope”, where the author David Foster Wallace was quoted thusly:
….learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think.
It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience…
Think of the old cliché quote about the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master…
It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in the head.
Indeed. In the approaching days, our minds will be excellent servants or terrible masters. Our ideas will either improve our prospects, and those around us, or bad thoughts will make us sick; possibly even unto an early death.
But how does one control their own thoughts? Because even the biggest fans of the aforementioned Best Selling Book in the World, are advised, therein, to “take captive every thought” so they might “endure to the end and be saved”.
In the meantime, so many folks keep falling through the cracks and sinking beneath the waves.
Following the death of my college roommate from alcoholism, I became a mentor for my county where I’ve since come into contact with many alcoholics and addicts. In fact, I’ve even set up meetings (both open and closed) where they can talk to one another. While engaging in such, I’ve heard multiple coined phrases and acronyms which are quite interesting; and, perhaps unsurprisingly, containing actual survival applications. For example, it’s been said that EGO is an acronym for Edging God Out and, for some, “G.O.D.” simply represents Good Orderly Direction.
Personally, I initially found the mutual exclusiveness of those two acronyms concerning. Mainly because I wanted to believe my ego paid for all of my cool stuff. Was that prideful? Materialistic? Maybe so, but reconciling the two conceptions of ego and good orderly direction (next right thing) is something I now attempt on a daily basis. It’s a good exercise for me because if I’m conflated to my stuff, then what will I do if, or when, I lose it all one day? Or what if I only lost half? Would I then become half of a person, torn in two? Would I regret the dedication I gave to acquiring those things, or just experience shame and regret for losing them?
Out here in the random universe, I live not far from an area where old railroad tracks were converted into bike and walking trails. I read about painted rocks appearing along the trails with messages written on them and, this fall, I found one on an old wooden trestle bridge. Painted onto the medium-sized stone, it said something like:
“Your past can’t stop you from being in the present. But regret can.”
Then, just a few weeks ago, during an online conversation with a fellow blogger, I told them about the rock and shared this photo from that day, from near where the rock was found:
Around the same time, another friend texted me a similar, more expansive, quote that was attributed to an author by the name of Eckhart Tolle. After some online searching, I found more quotes and even a video of Tolle on YouTube. Not only were his initials E.T., but he actually sort of looked and talked like a cross between E.T. the Extraterrestrial and Yoda as he addressed “ego” and the mad voices in our heads.
When I watched the first 22 minutes (of two hours), I was hooked to the point where I wanted to hear his solution – which was, (I believe) placing awareness over erroneous, fearful thoughts centered around who we THINK we are; as opposed to appreciating how things REALLY are. For those who may be interested, here is the video where E.T. discusses utilizing spiritualawareness in life to overcome bad thoughts:
Being somewhat cynical of course, my red flags are always raised against new-age mysticism, world-consciousness, and those who quote Buddha and Jesus in the same breath. But I definitely agreed with how Tolle parsed the differences between past, present, and future, as well as his identification of “wrong perspectives” as the source of our mental anguish at any given time.
“you fix what you can fix and you let the rest go. If there ain’t nothin to be done about it it aint even a problem. It’s just a aggravation.”
― McCarthy, Cormac. (2005). “No Country for Old Men”
Obviously, I don’t have all the answers. Not even close. But I do know this is happening.
There’s a story I think of often. It’s about a guy blasted into orbit for a year-long research mission. No matter what transpired, he couldn’t return to earth for one year. He was fine with that prospect until a few months after take-off when he started hearing loud clanging noises coming from somewhere outside of his ship. He tried everything to find and fix the problem to no avail. He could not stop whatever was making the noise. Then, after a few more months, he realized, with great sadness, he would not complete his mission. He was losing his mind.
Except he did finally make it back home to plant his feet firmly once again on solid ground, and he did it while remaining level-headed and with his sanity intact.
When he told his story years later, people would ask him: “How did you stay sane and complete your mission with those loud-clanging noises ringing in your head day and night”?
He replied: “I did the only thing I could do to survive. I came to appreciate that noise as the most beautiful music I ever heard”.
To be sure, the next year and beyond will have a lot of aggravations. Things we can’t control. If only we could focus, instead, on what we can do in any given moment while letting go of any expected outcomes. Certainly, to do otherwise is vanity. Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst. Embrace unexpected pleasant surprises and aggravations in equal measure; as separate notes of the same song.
Happy New Year.