Which Way To The Front … ?

We’re beginning to think of having folks over for dinner once again, and aren’t sure how to begin. All of our friends are of the fully vaccinated variety, but each of us also knows that this is not 100% protective, and that we could conceivably bring the virus into a room unaware that we are carrying it. Small chances each time of that happening, but there is no zero-risk option.

And yet, when will there be a zero-risk time for us? This year, next year … ever? And how long do we put this part of our lives as social beings on hold, as Covid seems to be making its slow transition from pandemic to endemic?

And when we issue those first invitations, how do we word them?

You are cordially invited to our home for dinner and conversation on February 30 , at 6 PM. We hope that you will accept, but you must recognize that we are still in a moderately perilous situation regarding Covid 19, and that there are no assurances that you will survive the evening should you choose to attend.

If you do accept and show up, you reckless devils you, please stay at least six feet away from one another at all times, do not hug anyone or shake their hand, and practice eating through your mask just to be on the safe side. To make this easier, we are serving only broth and tea.

I guess that this would meet the definition of full disclosure and everything, but it lacks a certain je ne sais quoi, don’t you think? If someone sent it to me, I don’t know if I’d accept it. I think that I might answer “Sorry, buddy, but I have done a risk/benefit analysis and your invitation did not survive it.”

Well, we’ll think about it some more before we do anything as rash as actually acting upon this impulse. (BTW, dining al fresco here at BaseCamp is not an option when the temperature is below 40 degrees. We might bundle up our bodies like crazy but the food would still chill too fast and the gravy would surely clot.)

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A Dick Guindon cartoon

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Just finished yet another book whose subject matter was the confrontation between the U.S. Seventh Cavalry and a large force of Native Americans that took place at the Little Big Horn in 1876. A battle commonly called Custer’s Last Stand. The title of the book is .

Over a lifetime I don’t know how many books I have read about the battle, which was the last major one for the plains Indians, and of course for Col. Custer as well. The drama is just too intriguing. The struggles between a duplicitous white United States and the indigenous inhabitants of the Great Plains culminating in what turns out to be a complete victory for the natives, one which was never to be repeated.

After Little Big Horn, the tribes were broken up and forced onto reservations. Their children were taken from them and placed into a disgraceful residential school system. To read the history of the United States vis a vis its treatment of indigenous peoples is to become angry, depressed, horrified, or a combination of all three.

When Robin and I visited the Little Bighorn battleground which is now a National Monument, I was affected deeply by standing where that chunk of history took place. The hills, ravines, river, and valley are much the same as they were in 1876. Scattered everywhere are markers where participants had fallen, making it very easy to replay the desperation of those soldiers when they realized that they had gotten themselves into a situation from which there was no way out.

BTW, did you know that one of Custer’s major worries was that the Indians would break camp and escape before he could get to them? Ay ay ay, but didn’t the man get his wish?

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From The New Yorker

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One of the problems that we have discussing political and economic systems is that we are always looking backward. In the US if we don’t like what someone is saying we call them a communist, or socialist. If on the other “side,” the word hurled at one’s opponent is capitalist. The assumption implicitly made is that all of our options are carved in stone, when really what we are headed for may be none of those. Something for which we don’t even have a name as yet. And when we reach that point … well, we’ll likely keep on going past that.

It’s thinking like this, of course, that has helped me to acquire a well-earned reputation as an airheaded dimwit. While I admit that this may be true, it doesn’t make me wrong. You know the old saw about even a stopped clock is right twice a day?

At the end of Joseph Campbell’s excellent 4-volume series The Masks of God, he says that there is a future coming at us the shape and nature of which he cannot predict, but that we will have a bloody and dangerous time getting there as proponents of new ways of thinking are vigorously and physically attacked by the defenders of the old ways.

As a result of having all of this liberal nonsense ricocheting around within my cranial vault, I have decided to look backward as well, and have picked up a new/old nighttime read – Charles Reich’s The Greening of America. For those of you who are of tender years, this book was a major best seller when it was published in 1970. So when I first read it I was a callow 32 year-old version of the prat that I am now, and I am eager to see whether the book was only a bit of fluff that doesn’t hold up at all.

REFLECTIONS about U.S. society & its new generation. There is a revolution under way–not like revolutions of the past. This is the revolution of the new generation. It has originated with the individual & with culture, & if it succeeds it will change the political structure only as its final act. It will not require violence to succeed & it cannot be successfully resisted by violence. It is now spreading rapidly, & already our laws, institutions, & social structure are changing in consequence. Its ultimate creation could be a higher reason, a more human community, & a new & liberated individual. It is a transformation that seems both necessary & inevitable, & in time it may turn out to include not only youth but the entire American people. The logic of the new generation’s rebellion must be understood in light of the rise of the corporate state under which we live & the way in which the state dominates, exploits, & ultimately destroys both nature & man. Americans have lost control of the machinery of their society, & only new values & a new culture can restore control. At the heart of everything is what must be called a change of consciousness. This means a new way of living–almost a new man. This is what the new generation has been searching for, & what it has started to achieve. Industrialism produced a new man, too–one adapted to the demands of the machine. In contrast, today’s emerging consciousness seeks a new knowledge of what it means to be human, in order that the machine, having been built, may now be turned to human ends.

Charles Reich, New Yorker Magazine, September 26, 1970

Be warned that signs that this trip back into time is affecting me may include that my present L.L. Bean-style wardrobe will be replaced by tie-dyed everything. And that I can’t utter a complete sentence without inserting the word “groovy” into it.

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One of my favorite people on the planet passed away on Friday. The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh had been ill for years and was 95 when he died. Robin and I had been fortunate several years ago to attend a three-day mindfulnesss retreat at the Shambala Mountain Center at which he was the principal speaker. The good impressions he left on us are as fresh today as they were then.

This body is not me; I am not caught in this body, I am life without boundaries, I have never been born and I have never died. Over there the wide ocean and the sky with many galaxies. All manifests from the basis of consciousness. Since beginningless time I have always been free. Birth and death are only a door through which we go in and out. Birth and death are only a game of hide-and-seek. So smile to me and take my hand and wave good-bye. 

Thich Nhat Hanh

I learned more from his writings and the example of his life than from any other single individual. There was no gentler soul, no braver man. The New York Times published a thoughtful obituary on Saturday.

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