Sunday, August 14, 2016

LNC, We Have a Problem

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It just keeps on coming. During a conversation on a Facebook Page, I stated that I cannot give my sanction to the Johnson-Weld ticket. In response, someone wrote: "You can't say I am not a Libertarian." I responded with a discussion of reality and values. Really, what I ought to have said is this:

When did everything become about you? I never even knew you existed. Whether you are a Libertarian or not has absolutely zero influence on my voting decisions. What I am concerned about is whether or not the ticket nominated by the Convention is living up to the standards of the Libertarian Party.

It is not as if those standards are not well publicized. They are easy to find. Our vision (the goal) is:
Our goal is nothing more nor less than a world set free in our lifetime, and it is to this end that we take these stands.(Preamble of the Libertarian Party Platform)

Our purposes are:
The Party is organized to implement and give voice to the principles embodied in the Statement of Principles by: functioning as a libertarian political entity separate and distinct from all other political parties or movements; moving public policy in a libertarian direction by building a political party that elects Libertarians to public office; chartering affiliate parties throughout the United States and promoting their growth and activities; nominating candidates for President and Vice-President of the United States, and supporting Party and affiliate party candidates for political office; and, entering into public information activities.(From The LP By-Laws).

Even our governing body, the LNC is not required to carte blanche support candidates who do not promote the vision and mission of our party. Furthermore, if the party continues to support those who not only do not support them, but in fact, in their speech and actions promote and support the opposite of them, we have a problem.

The question the self-involved critic did not ask, but may have been attempting to imply is, how do we know know when a candidate or a ticket has crossed the line? After all, it is one thing to support a ticket that is aiming in the right direction--toward liberty--but that expresses differences of opinions about strategy and tactics. One may in fact support such a ticket because it has integrity and it does not compromise one's own integrity to do so.

Thus, I supported Gary Johnson even though I completely disagree with his stance on the Nazi Cake issue, and I will not obey nor ask anyone else to obey such an unconstitutional edict. I did so because it was my understanding at the time that Gary allowed that he might be wrong and he stated that he did not want to make this a prominent part of his legislative agenda. That is, he was not running on this issue. I believed that he was speaking in good faith, and that allowed me to support the campaign.
However, it is one thing to support a ticket that may be shaky on the goals, but still aiming in their direction, it is quite another to blindly support a ticket that is deliberately aiming in exact opposite direction of the goals. Such a ticket has no integrity, because a person running for office who can integrate principles would recognize that he or she should not be running on a platform that aims in the opposite direction of his or her goals. To continue to support such a ticket, means being out of integrity with one's own goals and principles. The means you are employing will not get you to the goals you say you want. At this point, to remain integrated, it is necessary for you to either recognize that you want different goals, or stop supporting the ticket.

Sometimes, if one has previously respected the candidate, one might give the situation some time and see if the candidate is really aiming in the wrong direction or if his aim is just shaky. If it is shaky then as he continues to practice on the campaign trail, it should firm up. However, when this candidate allies himself with another who consistently aims in the opposite direction of the goal, and also continues to insist on goals and objectives that will not lead to the goal, then that candidate cannot be a person of integrity. That is, his goals and objectives are different than the ones he has agreed to pursue on behalf of the party. A man of integrity in this position would separate himself from the party and admit that his goals are not ours.

Gary Johnson is out of integrity. It is clear that his goal is to be elected President of the United States. But for what purpose? He continues to support causes, legislation and positions that lead to more statism and less liberty, and some of them also violate the Bill of Rights, a Constitutional statement that requires our government to protect our liberty. Specifically, his goal to use government force and deny the freedom of association of certain citizens not only violates their right to freely practice the tenents of their faith, but will inevitably lead to silencing their freedom of speech, freedom of their press, and their right to petition the government for redress of grievances. We have already seen this happen with the abuses of power of the State of Oregon against an individual business.

Furthermore, he is a weak leader in that he refuses to control the ticket, and he continues to support a vice-presidential candidate who clearly has a vision and goal that is the opposite of liberty. Weld is a man who believes there is nothing that government cannot or should not do, and no value of the civil society that cannot be denied in order to fulfill the mission of the state. He has surprised television hosts in his absolute ignorance of libertarian values and positions. He is currently promoting the violation of the right to self-defense by supporting regulations that would deny citizens the ability to purchase arms without due process. That not only violates the Second Amendment, which is unconditional. But it also violates the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth.

Weld is clearly not a Libertarian. He promotes statism, not liberty. In fact, he is not even a Republican Constitutionalist or a Conservative Constitutionalist. He is a Progressive Statist. Little by little, his policies would make progress toward absolute tyranny over the several states by the federal government, and allow it to abuse the people and violate their rights.

 Worse, he outright lied to me in direct conversations, and to other members of the Covention as well, about his purposes and his beliefs. It is perfectly honest to have and state such beliefs as Bernie Sanders did, but it is completely out of integrity to hold them while simultaneously claiming to hold the opposite values and beliefs.

LNC, We have a problem.

Whatever reasons Gary Johnson and William Weld have to run for President and Vice President, promoting the goals of the Libertarian Party are not among them. If they wish to be in integrity with themselves, they ought to run as Independents and forthrightly promote their agendas. They ought to resign from the LP ticket, so that the LP can run candidates who aim for the goals and purposes of the LP. Otherwise, they are using the party dishonestly for purposes the party does not have in common with them.

I suspect that Johnson alone has a shaky aim, but could have represented the LP well enough, as he did in 2012. Not a great libertarian candidate, but one that might fulfill certain steps toward one of the LP's goals. But with Weld, the ticket is completely out of integrity with the LP's goals. More egregiously, Weld has lied about his goals to get the nomination and use the party for purposes with which it does not agree.And instead of asserting leadership if the ticket, Johnson has stood by and allowed that to happen.

It is therefore the obligation of the LNC to either insist that Johnson and Weld run on the goals and platform of the LNC, or to disqualify them so that the LNC can choose candidates who's aim is in the direction of Liberty. I recognize that this would mean that this election will not get us the fame and fortune we all want for the party. We would lose this battle. However, if we continue in this state of disintegration, then the purposes we have will be lost. There is at present no voice for liberty in the presidential election. And we are lying to ourselves if we claim otherwise. We might end up with easy ballot access, but how long will we keep it? And who else will come along to use us to even more nefarious purposes?

Better to lose the battle and win the war. Better to remain in integrity in order to fight another day.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Thoughts on the 2016 Election and the Regeneracy of the Fourth Turning

On June 5, 2009, I posted a blog entry here entitled: Of an Ominous Financial Crash, An Ordinary National Election, A Trivial Tea Party. That entry celebrated how I found a book I had been looking for, Strauss and Howe's The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy: What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America's Next Rendezvous with Destiny. I wrote:

As the strange and apparently ominous events of the past half-year have been accruing, I have wanted to re-read The Fourth Turning, but all my rooting in the accessible boxes in the garage came up wanting. So I was anxiously on the lookout for the book as I began the task of making my library as planned in the Chem Geek Princess's old room (now the Guest Room/Library). Thus I was amazed when finally, I found the book and read the page that fell open, and that last, pregnant sentence:

" . . . the spark might seem as ominous as a financial crash, as ordinary as a national election, as trivial as a Tea Party."
The context Strauss and Howe were referring to is the spark that sets off the transition into the Fourth Turning, the Crisis period of our time.

In the summer of 2014, while writing my Ph.D. Comprehensive Exam Paper, I checked in on the Fourth Turning Discussion Groups that I have been a part of since 2002. There, I saw a link to a Neil Howe blog post ( in which he stated that he and Strauss had decided that the Fourth Turning of our era, the Millennial Saeculum, had likely begun with the Global Financial Crash in the fall of 2008. I believe that this timing may well prove to be right. The ages of the generations was right, with the Millennials fully occupying young adulthood, Generation X fully in mid-life, the Boomers fully occupying elderhood, and the very elder GIs leaving the planet. The generational archetypes were also aligned: the Prophets in elderhood, the Nomads in middle-age, the Heroes in young adulthood, and the young Artists arriving as children.

Recently, I have noticed that people are beginning to talk about the dire nature of the current election. I have also heard forebodings about another economic shock to the system from people I am talking to for my dissertation research and from those involved in other projects with me. These premonitions of dire events to come are not directly a part of my research, but the Strauss and Howe theory may explain some of what I am finding. This was unexpected.

 I have also been anxious and upset about this election, and I have had to take a short break from Facebook in order to keep my focus on my dissertation work. I have been thinking about the election as part of a linear trend toward some totalitarian future, a fascist or socialist dystopia. So I pulled out The Fourth Turning and read it again, paying attention to the cyclical nature of Awakenings and Crises it describes. This gave me hope for the future despite the stresses to the current system that seem to be reaching a saecular maximum.

In the Strauss and Howe Generational Theory, a saeculum is a cycle in time that "spans the length of a long human life, roughly eighty to one hundred years. Each cycle is comprised of four Turnings which are eras that come in the same order, saeculum after saeculum since the end of the Middle Ages. Strauss and Howe define the turnings as:

  • The First Turning is a High, an upbeat era of strengthening institutions and weakening individualism, when a new civic order implants and the old values regime decays.
  • The Second Turning is an Awakening, a passionate era of spiritual upheaval, when the civic order comes under attack from a new values regime.
  •  The Third Turning is an Unraveling, a downcast era of strengthening individualism and weakening institutions, when an old civic order decays and the new values regime implants.
  • The Fourth Turning is a Crisis, a decisive era of secular upheaval, when the values regime propels the replacement of the old civic order with a new one. (Strauss & Howe, 1997, p. 3)

In my re-reading, I noticed that some of what I remembered from the book was not quite right. I had expected the Fourth Turning Crisis to erupt as the-end-of-the world-as-we-know-it (TEOTWAWKI). But the Strauss and Howe Generational Theory posits a Crisis as a "great gate in history" when civic order reaches its nadir and is rebuilt based on values developed during the Second Turning Awakening. The conclusion of the Crisis and the change in the social mood that follows, marks the beginning of the First Turning High of a new saeculum. Strauss and Howe state that a Crisis begins with some random event that causes a sudden change of the social mood. This happens when the generational archetypes are aligned in a certain order, as I noted above. At that point, members of a society stop drifting along and begin to take responsibility for problems they had ignored during the 3rd Turning Unraveling. The order of the generational archetypes is important, because each one has a particular character marked by their age and place in history.

In the Fourth Turning, Strauss and Howe looked at other Crises in the Anglo-American Saecular history. They identified patterns common to each Fourth Turning, even though the particulars of each were different in their timing and events. They wrote that a Crisis has an identifiable morphology. From the Fourth Turning:

Fourth Turnings have provided the great pivot points of the Anglo-American legacy. dating back to the fifteenth century, there have been six. Each produced its own Crisis and its own facsimile of the halcyon spirit today's World War II veterans remember so vividly. From the similarities of these eras, a morphology can be constructed:
  • A Crisis era begins with a catalyst--a startling event (or sequence of events) that produces a sudden shift in mood.
  • Once catalyzed, a society achieves a regeneracy--a new counterentropy that reunifies and reenergizes civic life.
  • The regenerated society propels toward a climax--a crucial moment that confirms the death of the old order and the birth of the new.
  • The climax culminates in a resolution--a triumphant or tragic conclusion that separates winners from losers, resolves the big, public questions, and establishes the new order. (Strauss & Howe, 1997, p. 256). 
According to Strauss and Howe, the regeneracy is a process. It's beginning is marked by the nadir of social order that has been decaying through the Unraveling and into the crisis. The regeneration is complete when "out of the debris of the Unraveling, a new civic ethos arises. One set of post-Awakening ideals prevails over the others" (p. 257). At this point, people use the new synergy to strengthen their communities and instruct their government officials on how to reinforce it.

Before a Crisis begins, say Strauss and Howe, people can foresee the fault lines along which a spark may ignite, but they cannot predict its regeneracy, climax or resolution. However, they say that a regeneracy can be expected 1-5 years into a Crisis. But not all Fourth Turnings are the same. If Strauss and Howe are right about the beginning of this Crisis, we are more than seven years into it, and still the fragmentation from the Unraveling continues. We can see the splintering of our politics continuing among and within the major political parties, and most of the people have not yet united around a particular vision of civic order. In his blog posts on the topic, Howe also stated that the regeneracy is bumped into being by a spark or series of sparks that are more serious than the initial catalyst for the Fourth Turning. However, from the Crash of 2008 until now, the Great Recession has continued, with no marked repair and no sudden change. Although the Obama administration calls it a "recovery," many Americans point out bitterly that it is a "jobless recovery," if a recovery it is.

But this year, people are facing a presidential election that is unique in American history. There is no incumbent candidate. Obama is term-limited out. His party controls the executive branch, but does not control the Congress. The Court is divided, and could lean toward constitutional anarchy with the appointment of the president's nominee. Garland is opposed to the Second Amendment, causing Second Amendment groups and gun-owners to consider their response should the Court try to violate their right to keep and bear arms.

One major party, the Democrats, is running a corrupt criminal who may yet be indicted for mishandling government property. She is also responsible for the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, and yet cannot remember that any people were "lost" there under her watch. Their only other declared candidate is an aging "democratic" socialist who promises to continue the trend of taxation and deficit spending that has thus far enslaved our grandchildren to unprecedented debt.

The other major party has gone against the wishes of its conservative base over the course of the last three elections. The Republican front-runner is a Boomer, an inside trader who calls himself an outsider, and he cannot articulate a single policy. But he is popular among true-believers because they think he can, with his pen and phone, make the budding executive branch tyranny stop. But he has unfavorable polls approaching 70% and he is unlikely to be able to win the election. His only serious challenger is a Gen-X outsider, a constitutionalist, who is hated by the party establishment. In fact, the Republican establishment wonks have proposed inserting their own preferred insiders into the process through a brokered convention, which is not the same as a contested convention in which the existing candidates duke it out for the nomination. This would be unique in history. Many observers think this would destroy the credibility of the Republican Party, causing its voters to stay home or vote third party in unprecedented numbers.

The largest "third party," the Libertarian Party, will likely run a popular former governor of New Mexico, who has considerable executive experience and was known for his promotion of individuals rights and liberty, and his use of veto power to keep the budget balanced and stop the state government from violating the liberty of the people. Some Republican wonks are threatening to try to take over the Libertarian Party, should an unwanted candidate be nominated in their own party. Although the threat is unlikely to be successful, because the Libertarian Party National Convention will take place in May, which is before the Republicans have finished their primaries, it is an indicator of the instability within the GOP.

When faced with such an election, many people I know personally or on social media resort to bitter humor, anger, and a sense of impending doom. That sense of doom is only increased by the predictions of further shocks to the economy that may occur as early as this summer. Some economists say that it could result in The Great Devaluation of the American dollar. This would render our money worthless and stop commerce.

These are things that I have had nightmares about.
However, if these are the things of which a regeneracy may be made, so that the old, decaying civic habits are replaced with something new--a new economy, a new political outlook, a new liberty--then the nightmares might be worth it. After the Great Depression and World War II, some people thought that the piper of the old order would still have to be paid, and that the Depression would re-establish itself. Instead, as Americans worked through the war, they developed a new economy, new industry, and a new social ethos. When the war was over, people moved on. They did not go back. They had reset their systems, remitted their debts and established the beginning of new social habits through the regeneracy of that Great Power Crisis.

I posit that this year and this election will mark the regeneracy of the Millennial Crisis. The faults in the old order that the election and the economy are revealing are similar to other saecula. They are also directly related to the values changes precipitated in the 2nd Turning Awkaening and the problems revealed in the 3rd Turning Unraveling. We still cannot foresee what great and perilous events will mark the climax of our passage through this "great gate" in history, and what future will be built out of its resolution. However, we can know that the Fourth Turning is proceeding in a familiar pattern, and that we are not stuck in some nightmare Crisis without end.

My re-reading has given me hope. A good outcome is not a sure thing. Of the ten crises that the Anglo-American generations have passed through, some have had the best possible resolution, some have had good resolutions, and some have had mixed results. However, none so far have ended the civilization that sustains these cycles, and TEOTWAWKI has not happened. It could happen. But I think it is more likely that if we stay the course, fight for our values, restore the power of the civil society and take control of our government, we will see a good resolution to this Fourth Turning. If we work for it, the generations now living can become "repairers of the breech."

OK. Now I can go back to my dissertation with some equanimity.
And yes, I am back to blogging. In late 2013, I had my own crisis, which caused me to reorder my priorities, write and defend my Comps (November 2014), form a dissertation committee, write and successfully defend my dissertation proposal (November 2015). I am now in the "valley of confusion" that is part and parcel of qualitative research. Yes, it is fun! Yes, I will tell you all about it in another post.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sukkot: Fragile Dwelling Place


“The land of Israel is not rich in water
resources. . . For this reason, a special
prayer for rain was inserted into the
[Sukkot] service. Since the rainy season
starts approximately at Sukkot, it was
the appropriate time to pray for rain.
Jews are realists. One prays for rain
during the rainy season, not during
the dry summers. One walks across
water by stepping on rocks . . .”

-- Rabbi Irving Greenberg, The Jewish Way


Hail and Rain just before Sukkot I saw the full moon of Sukkot, Season of Our Joy, rising over the mesa in the east, into the white and misty clouds of hail that had just fallen over Freedom Ridge Ranch and was now falling out toward the Red Hill and Cimarron Mesa.  On the ground by the roses, on the porch, and over on the cabin and barn roofs, drifts of pellet-sized hail lay, melting slowly into the waters running off of the hills and mesas, downcutting into rills, rapids and even falls, as they sang their way down to Red Hill Draw.


There will be no Sukkah at Freedom Ridge Ranch tonight.Double Rainbow Between Storms Rain was still falling intermittently as Tippy and I picked our way across to check the chickens, jumping across a stream and its smaller tributary, both coming down from the dirt tank west of the barn. The other dogs were not the least bit interested in leaving the shelter of the living room. They were shell shocked from lightning, thunder, downpour and then hail. A sudden appearance of the setting sun lit up a rainbow over Freedom Ridge, and then curtains of rains covered it again, until the clouds passed to the east and the moon rose into them.


In the pattern of the Holy Days this year, building a Sukkah was called due to rain. The damage to the landscape, the flooding, the car bottoming out in standing water in Red Hill Draw by the shipping pens, all these things together made the typical Sukkot not only difficult, but unimaginable. Sukkot celebrates not only the Ingathering Harvest, the last of the Israeli year, but it also commemorates the years of wandering in the desert. It is a reminder of the fragility and impermanence of life.  

For so many people in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, this impermanence is very real, as they realize what the floodwaters took, and clean up what is left, much of the stuff of their lives washed away like the stuff of our hillsides, roads and driveways. Normal life will not come for weeks or even months for friends of ours who live in Coal Creek Canyon. There house is high and soggy, but they will not see a return of drinking water and natural gas for a long while. They know the fragility of their dwelling place on real terms this Sukkot.

For us, the damage is in a bottomed out car, washed out roads and rilling and gullying in our harsh but fragile landscape. We’ve come through lightly, really. But on another level, we are also confronting impermanence without the need to build a Sukkah this year. Although this is now our permanent dwelling here at Freedom Ridge Ranch, we are in the midst of completing repairs requested by the buyers of the house up in Sedillo, the beautiful house we both thought would be our last. And we are buying a casita, a small and comparatively inexpensive house on a hill north of the Sedillo house a good ten miles by road.

The casita will be a place for the Cowboy to live while he finishes his degree and certifications in welding and metal technology. It will be a place for me to stay this fall and next spring, as I focus intensively on finishing my coursework so I can take my comprehensive exams. It will be a place for the Engineering Geek to land when he comes up to Albuquerque and Sandia Labs on business, for he has contracts that require his intermittent presence. It will not be home. But we will be back and forth between home and not-home a lot, all of us. And while this is the case, we hope to be completing the additions and renovations that will make the ranch house uniquely ours.

Our dwelling place will be most fragile and impermanent this year. Like our ancestors, who had to wander in the wilderness until they understood what freedom really requires. 

“As Jews moved into exile, they understood
what the Sukkah had always taught them: G-d
is not fixed; G-d is everywhere. After the
Exodus, Israel went into the desert to meet
its lord. Later, the favor was returned by
G-d, who went with them into exile, into
the travail of history. Jews learned that the
Shekhinah (Indwelling Presence) was with them
in times of exile and wandering.”

    --Rabbi Irving Greenberg, The Jewish Way

I miss the Sukkah already. The fragrant fall odors of Etrog and s’chach; the moonlit nights in the Sukkah, and the warm Shabbat afternoons. All the delights for the senses, the celebration of the harvest. But this year, with all of our life so impermanent, with our family scattered hither and yon, the reminder of the fragility of life, the shaky nature of shelter in the autumn wind is being delivered another way. Like so many of our friends and neighbors, undone by the Great Southwest Flood of 2013, we don’t need the Sukkah to remind us of these things. Our life is fragile enough. As Rabbi Greenberg reminds us:

“Until the world is redeemed from slavery,
Jews are on an Exodus journey; perforce
they are in, but not really of,the society
and culture they inhabit. Jews can con-
tribute without really accepting the
system. The tremendous effort to parti-
cipate led to Jewish integration into the 
host culture. Then the Sukkah reminded
them to push on. There were miles to go,
on the Exodus way . . .”

-- The Jewish Way

Mother Nature has completed the traditional Water-Pouring, Tevillah, that used to take place on the first night of Sukkot during the days of the Second Temple. She even through in some ice to go with the fiery lighting. And now life itself, and the way it works, is bringing us to a new understanding of impermanence.

Life is a fragile thing, and we shake like a Sukkah in the autumn winds. Yet like the Sukkah, we generally manage to remain standing. Through fire. And water. And ice.
There is a toughness to us as well. It gets us through hard times and makes us too stiff-necked to bow down to what our hands have made.

That is the point of the Exodus journey. Freedom isn’t free. It takes time and an understanding that idolatry is not compatible with our liberty. The adventure has been worth the cost, as we are reminded again each Sukkot what is important and what is not.

Our spirits have a fragile dwelling place, a body that bends and sometimes breaks. But we also have Shekhinah, reminding us that beyond all the fragility, something of us is strong and mighty.

Chag Sameach. Happy harvest!


Monday, September 16, 2013

High Holy Days 5774:Who Causes the Wind to Blow and the Rain to Fall

Ordinarily, on Shemini Atzeret--the eighth day of lingering--at the end of Sukkot, we add t'filat ha-geshem--the prayer for rain--to the Amidah, which is the standing prayer in the daily services.  It is considered bad luck when the rains come early, and make it difficult to dwell in the Sukkah--the harvest booth--as is commanded during the Feast of Ingathering Harvest.

 Geshem continues to be said across the winter until the spring Festival of Pesach is celebrated, when the summer blessing for Tal--Dew--is added and Geshem is retired until the next Sukkot Holiday. This corresponds to the seasons of Israel, wet in the winter and dry in the summer. 

This year. even as the Holy Days came early in the solar year, Rosh Hashanah starting on the evening of the 4th of September, so too did the rains come early. Or in our case, the monsoon stayed late, making holiday travel as difficult for Jews in Catron County, New Mexico, as it was for the Jews of Judea in the days of old when farmers were expected to build their Sukkot on the hills surrounding Jerusalem.

We had planned to attend High Holy Day Services in Flagstaff, at the little Heichal ba-Oranim synagogue, where we had gone last year. I was looking forward to finally being able to join that congregation, now that the house in Sedillo is under contract, and we are able to make the necessary contributions. We have been without a home synagogue for more than a year, and we were looking forward to making a commitment and enjoying a pleasant holiday in a very haimish shul

Alas, it was not to be. As September came, a new and very wet monsoon plume settled over the Southwest. Predictions of thunderstorms and flash floods became a daily reminder that our roads could become impassible in no time at all.

 Rosh Hashanah itself was partly cloudy, but the threat of rain made us decide to stay home lest we not be able to get back should the rains come.  We had a festive meal with all of the traditional foods on Erev Rosh Hashanah, and we prayed the evening service on the porch.
 The next morning, we again prayed on the porch, the sun dancing with the clouds as I proclaimed: Ha-yom harat olam!  This is the day of the world's birth! And the Engineering Geek blew the intricate set of Shofar calls three times: once for Creation, once for Memory, and once for Revelation. The sound of the Shofar rang out across Freedom Ridge, and the horses raised their heads, the dogs barked, and the cows began lowing. The hawk soared and circled on the wind, unconcerned. 

In the afternoon, we did leave for a drive around Big Lake, where the EG and my nephew skipped stones on the water after we cast our bread upon them in the ancient and fanciful ceremony of Tashlich, a casting away of the old and inviting in of the New Year. I have always thought that Tashlich is simply an excuse to take a walk on Rosh Hashanah afternoon, after a long morning service. It began to rain as we drove back along the county road to the ranch. Second day, and thunderstorms near candle-lighting for Shabbat. We missed the Sacred Assembly on the first and second days of the Seventh Month entirely. 

On Sunday after a day of rain, I drove out with the EG behind me in the Dodge Ram in case he had to pull me out. After slipping and sliding down the county road,  I went to Albuquerque for class, and to take care of some business. And on Tuesday, the rain set in there. It rained all day. ALL DAY. A record rainfall. I came home Wednesday, between storms. The road was soft, and there was water in the arroyo, and I drove on the high spots between ruts. Thursday, the rain began in our part of the state, and we knew that there would be no travel to Flagstaff for us. Friday, as I prepared the pre-fast meal, I read about the flooding in Colorado on the internet.

Just before sunset, we invited Yitzak Pearlman to perform Kol Nidre via YouTube.
All vows that we make between this Yom Kippur and the next . . .
Then candle lighting, and the evening service. I sang the parts of the service we could do without a minyan.

 Lightning played across Freedom Ridge as we let the dogs in and began the Al Chet. 
 V'al kulam eloah s'lichot . . . for all these, O G-d of Forgiveness. . . 
and the electric lights flickered along with the candles. A bolt of lighting. Almost simultaneous thunder. And the lights went out, leaving only the flickering candles.  
Lev tahor b'ra-li, elohim . . .create in me a clean heart, O G-d . . . our shadows large upon the eastern wall in the candle light. Sometime in the night, the candles went out and the electricity was restored, but we were sleeping and the next light we saw was a pearly, gray dawn and ragged clouds scudding across the sky, driven by a wet wind. 

We dressed again in white. No leather, no grooming. For the first Yom Kippur day of my marriage, I did not see my husband--Reform Princeling that he is--in a dark suit, starched white shirt and somber tie. As we sat on the couch and read aloud from Climbing Jacob's Ladder: One Man's Journey to Rediscover a Jewish Spiritual Tradition the clouds gathered in the south. "Wind from the South has water in its mouth'\," chanted the EG, as the sky darkened and the rains began.
All that day, as we prayed in the cool, shadowy living room in stocking feet, our tallitot wrapped for warmth and the feeling of being enfolded by Shechinah--the Indwelling Presence--the rains came in sprinkles and soft curtains, now and again hiding the Red Hill.

Morning Service.
"Let us proclaim the sacred power of this day:

It is awesome and full of dread . . .
On Rosh Hashanah it is written, on Yom Kippur it is sealed. . . 
Who by fire, and who by water, who by sword and who by beast . . ."

Additional Service. And a short walk in the sprinkling rain.
Resting on the porch, still well wrapped.
Memorial Service.

Afternoon Service. The Ten Martyrs.
Eili tzion v'areha . . . For Zion and her cities I mourn 
like a mother in her anguish,
 like a woman who mourns the husband of her youth.  
I mourn the exile of the servants of G-d,
makers of sweet melodies,
v'al dama asher shufach . . . their blood poured out like Zion's streams

And all that day the rains fell, weeping like Rachel for her children . . .
For we did not know, cut off in the sacred silence of that day, that in Colorado, in New Mexico, in Catron County, the flood waters were rising, and in the Blue River Canyon on Catron's border with Arizona, people were lifted out by helicopter and brought out on bulldozers. And it rained. And rained.

Neilah. The Closing of the Gates. 

"This is the house of G-d.
This is the gate of heaven . . . 

El norah alila . . . G-d of awesome deeds, 
grant us pardon . . . b'sh-at neilah . . . as the gates begin to close.
Avinu malkenu . . . let the gates of heaven be open to our prayer . . .
let the new year be a good year for us . . . make an end to all oppression
upon us . . .be our help. 

And the rain stopped. And we stopped to say the blessing for the Rainbow
 as the last rays of the setting sun shone across our valley.
". . . zocher ha-brit . . . who remembers the covenant . . .

Seu Sha-arim roshechem . . . Lift up your heads, O Gates!
Ha-shem, hu ha-elohim. . . 
Seven times and the last long blast of the Shofar.
We thought of it happening hour after hour as the world turned from day to night.
All those at the Wall.


"Blessed is the One who separates the holy from the ordinary,
light from darkness, the House of Israel from among the peoples. . ."
And the candle is extinguished in the sweet wine, the taste of which is on our lips.
And the lamps are lighted.

". . . who brings forth bread from the earth . . ."

Sweet round challah with raisins. 
Cream cheese.

We broke the fast, and eating and drinking, we once again consider the goodness of the ordinary riches of our lives. 
"For I saw how good it is for [man], and beautiful, to eat and drink and know goodness for all his work that he does under the sun . . ."  

We had good holidays. It was still beautiful and filled with meaning that we made, though we missed the beauty of being in the midst of the holy congregation.
But the rains kept us off the roads and in our home. 

We made the best of it and we did well. 

We are soggy, and today I bottomed out the car in the arroyo, and had to have it towed because the box that monitors emissions and engine codes came loose. 
We have rutted roads, a few wash-outs, and full streams.
But no helicoptors or bulldozers.
We have electricity.
We are well.

It's raining again.

The water-pouring of Shemini Atzeret comes a little early.
Blessed is the One who causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall.

We wanted rain and we needed rain. 
Everything is green, even as the Aspens are beginning to turn gold.
But maybe, just maybe, it's time to build an ark? They need one in Colorado, Northern New Mexico, and on the Blue River.
What's a cubit . . . 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9-11: She Stands


9-11 Never Forget


I will never forget that day. It marked me just as surely as Pearl Harbor, Gettysburg and Valley Forge have marked previous generations of Americans.


9-11 Second PlaneI close my eyes and I see the images: 
A tower burning in a clear, blue September sky.
An airplane flying into a building.
People falling along the side of a building.
Towers falling, one floor into another.
People running through what were once streets.  
Papers falling from the clear blue September sky.
All in silence. Like a dream.


firefightersraiseamericanflagamidsrescueAnd out of the dust and ashes, I see the image: 
She stands.
“Just when you think it might be over
Just when you think the fight is gone
Someone will risk his life to raise her
There she stands  . . .”
I remember this as if I had been there.


Freedom Tower Spire Raised II Twelve years. And the tears still come. 
We are wounded in spirit. 
For a clear September sky still evokes
the frozen images as if no time had passed. 
But through the tears we see another rising
to a new and taller stand.
For Americans still rise to greatness, and there she stands. . .


Freedom Tower Under Construction There she stands.
It took longer than expected.
And we look back and count the cost.
1776 feet she rises,
There she stands. (2)
The greatest monument to American dead
is to rebuild the alabaster cities of their dreams.
Out of the rubble, we raise them up:
higher, prouder, stronger than before.
She stands.

9-11 Flag in Rubble When evil calls itself a martyr
When all your hopes come crashing down
Someone will pull her from the rubble
There she stands.
Both of them--
the flag and the Freedom Tower (3)
we raise to remind ourselves of
who we are
and to what we commit ourselves.



Freedom Tower Alabaster City

“Oh, beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years.
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
undimmed by human tears. . .” (4)

Click through to see a time-lapse video of the rise of the Freedom Tower. (3)

1. There She Stands by Michael W. Smith
2. My words in the spirit of There She Stands, with apologies to Michael W. Smith.
3. I know they changed the name, but for me, it is and will always be Freedom Tower.
4. America the Beautiful by Katherine Lee Bates.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Walking the Thin Line: Elul 5773



“I, I Am the One that comforts you; who are you, to be afraid of man that shall die, and of the son of man that shall be made as grass. . .?”

--Haftorah Shoftim, Isaiah 51:12


“Righteousness, righteousness shall you pursue . . .”

--Parashat Shoftim, Devarim 16:20


“Walking the thin line, between fear and the call; one learns to bend and finally depend on the Love of it all.”

--Noel Paul Stookey, For the Love of It All

The month of Elul started last Monday at sundown, on Rosh Chodesh, the sixth New Moon from the New Year for months.

My Elul dream this year came late, on Wednesday night, and without clarity or drama. In fact, I really don’t remember it at all, except that I dreamed of the current rabbi at our former synagogue, and of a neighbor in need of help finding a lost cat. I awoke to Tippy, my guardian Border Collie cross, pawing at my shoulder in the middle of the night. She feels it is important to awaken me when something unusual is going on. I went out to see an elk buck with eight points standing in the meadow in the deep darkness under a setting Big Dipper handle. Tippy did not bark at the elk this time; she seemed to think the elk belonged exactly in that place. She just wanted me to know he was there and awakened me to see him standing.


I don’t have a ready interpretation for the fragment of a dream or the meaning of seeing the elk standing in his place. Their significance escapes me, except that as I stood gazing at the elk in the starlight, I remembered that it was now Elul

This Shabbat, as the Engineering Geek and I sat down to study Torah, I was struck by two statements that jumped off the pages and into my mind, one from the beginning of the Parashat of the week, and one from its Haftorah. As I turned them over in my mind, I realized that the two of them together represent that place I have been for the last half-decade: I have been “walking the thin line between fear and the call” as Emmy Lou Harris sings in the Paul Stookey song, The Love of it All.


The Torah portion for the first Shabbat in Elul is Shoftim, which means “judges” or “chieftans” in Hebrew. In the first paragraph, which deals with how judgment must conform to justice, we read:

“You shall make for yourselves judges and officers in all your gates, which Adonai your G-d gives you, tribe by tribe; and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment: you shall not pervert justice; you shall not respect persons; neither shall you take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the  eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous. Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may live and possess the land that Adonai your G-d is giving to you.”


צֶדֶק צֶדֶק תִּרְדּף Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof

The call at the beginning of the Month of Elul—the beginning of the season of our turning, is to pursue justice or righteousness. In Hebrew, the words are the same. Justice means to make a judgment according to honor, standards or the law, meting out to every individual what is right according to his or her rights and actions. Our rabbis taught that there is the justice of the streets—the righteousness with which we must treat every person—and the justice of the courts. If we fail to act with justice in all of our dealings on the streets, then justice must be adjudicated in the courts. In his commentary on the Torah, Joseph Hertz, Ph.D., who was the Chief Rabbi of Britain in the early 20th century, points out that in this sense, the Hebrew understanding of justice differs from the Greek. He wrote that in the Greek, justice implies:

“[A] harmonious arrangement of society, by which every human peg is put into its appropriate hole, so that those who perform humble functions shall be content to perform them in due subservience to their betters. It stresses the inequalities of human nature, whereas in the Hebrew conception of justice, the equality is stressed.”

--Soncino Press Pentateuch and Haftorahs: Hebrew Text, English Translation and Commentary, J.H. Hersch, Ed., p. 821

This is the case because in Hebrew thought, every human being is made in the image of the Eternal, and his life is unique and precious, possessing, as he does, a spark of Infinity. Therefore, as Hersch continues, every person has “the right to life, honor and all the fruits of his labor,” (p. 821). For this reason, Jewish Law demands that every human being be treated with honor in the streets, and with righteousness in the courts.

But if the call of Elul is to justice, then the burden of answering it is fearful, as the prophets show us. For to behave with righteousness towards everyone in the streets and to mete out equal justice in the courts, flies in the face of social conventions and political correctness. One must honor truth, consider the facts, and render judgment accordingly in all dealings. One may not condemn the rich man because he is rich nor excuse the poor man because he is poor (“you shall not respect persons”), and one may not base how one treats another on gifts or flattery (“you shall not take a bribe”). For this reason, acting with righteousness and justice is likely to get a person in trouble socially and legally in an unjust society. And as we currently live in a society that no longer makes judgments based on righteousness and law, but does so on the exigencies of political correctness and the whims of men, acting with justice is a difficult and dangerous thing.


And herein lies how I, among others, have been “walking the thin line between fear and the call” as we recognize the truth of what is being done to our civil society and to its values and law. For in my determination—made every Rosh Hashanah for the past four years—to honor the truth and act righteously, I have said and done things that have earned me the anger and contempt of friends and acquaintances. Sadly, this has ended many friendships that were based on my former habit of ignoring the reality of growing differences between our worldviews. Some of the ways in which those friendships were ended, and the accusations leveled against me, have cut me to the core of my being.

And in my weaker moments, I am afraid that in stepping out beyond the lines of political correctness and social  and legal convention, I will be harmed not only socially, but financially and/or physically. Because making a stand for plain old justice in a world of collectivist notions of “social justice” is no longer simply bad form, but with the oppression of the surveillance state and the police state being created and solidifying with terrifying rapidity, it is downright dangerous. Speech and action that now can cost one her dignity, property and perhaps, her liberty, may soon cost one her life.

And that fear causes me temporary confusion and wrong action. It creates doubt in my mind and silence in my mouth. And so the Haftorah Shoftim, the fourth in the seven Haftorot of Comfort, also comforts me:

“I, I Am the One that comforts you; who are you to be afraid . . ?

“. . . And where is the fury of the oppressor? He that is bent down shall speedily be loosed; and he shall not go down dying into the pit. Neither shall his bread fail.”

I know that I am one small person. I know that I can err in knowledge, and that I have indeed done so, espousing bad causes and supporting bad means in the name of what seemed to me at the time to be good ends. Moreover, I have obstinately continued in bad courses because I did not have the courage to admit that I was confused, or lacking in knowledge, or that I was downright wrong. And in so doing, I have excused the guilty and harmed the innocent. Of this, I am not proud. 

But to paraphrase Julian of Norwich:

He did not say “You shall not screw up.” He did not say “You shall not be discouraged.” He did not say:\ “You shall not be harmed.” But he said: “You shall not be overcome.”

I suppose what that means is open to interpretation. To me, it means that trials and troubles, and even harm are not the worst thing. The worst thing is to lose one’s honor and integrity; to lose one’s identity and one’s very soul. And if I persist in finding righteousness and doing justice, turning and returning again to walk the thin line, then despite any shame or harm done to me, I will remain who I am, and that is the greatest value to me.

The name of the month of Elul is an acronym in Hebrew that stands for Ani l’dodi, v’dodi li—I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine. Elul is the point of turning and returning again in the dance of Shekinah, She who dwells with Israel in our exile, in our eternal betrothal with the Master of the Universe. And here, in my own dwelling place, Elul is the point of turning and returning again in my dance as a Jew, longing all my life for that moment of loving kindness, that betrothal of righteousness and justice, that Place, that shelter in the rock, where I get a glimpse of all of G-d’s goodness passing before me.


“For the Love of it all, I would go anywhere; to the ends of the earth, Oh, what is it worth, if Love would be there?

Walking the thin line, between fear and the call; one learns to bend and finally depend on the Love of it all.”


It is the love of it all—of life and being—that unites the call to justice and righteousness with the will to overcome fear and fills my heart with strength for the journey. And year after year, I turn and return again to the call in the dance of Elul. I come again to Makom, the Dwelling Place of Israel, only to know that I have been here, walking the thin line, day after day, year after year.


So. Maybe I can construct the meaning of Tippy’s silence as she brought me to see the elk. He was standing within his place, his Makom. And so am I, walking the thin line. Here, in this place between fear and the call, is Makom, the Presence of the Eternal. As Israel learned in her exile, as Isaiah reminds Jews to this day in the first Haftorah of Comfort:

הִנֵּה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם

Hinei eloheichem

Here is your G-d.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Lie in August’s Welcome Corn!

     “Join in black December’s sadness, lie in August’s welcome corn, stir the cup that’s ever blending with the blood of all that’s born . . .”

-- Jethro Tull,  Cup of Wonder, from Songs from the Wood


Pesach took me by surprise and then there was a long silence on this blog. So many things happened in April and May and then summer was upon us, and now the Monsoon and the first hints of autumn are already showing themselves here in the high country. Elul is also upon us, early this year just as Pesach was. But in order to begin looking to the year ahead, I need to look back at least a bit to see what brought me from there to here.


April, Come She Will:

Northern Flicker Female III The post-Pesach Spring Term was divided between Freedom Ridge Ranch and the house in Sedillo. Both the Cowboy and I were taking classes, he at CNM and me at UNM. In April, we drove up to Albuquerque every Monday morning and returned late Thursday night. It was a hectic busy time, make more do-able by the increasing light and warmth, although it was a cool spring in New Mexico.

In April, I:

  •   Edited a dissertation for my Ruby Slipper friend, doing both APA Style formatting, grammar and spelling, and helping with writing style.
  • Worked on a literature review for a class I was taking, as well as a research proposal and presentation.
  •   Enjoyed down time hanging out at Barnes and Noble in Albuquerque, and began planning the summer work at the ranch.

May Days:DSC01283

The term ended for the Cowboy and I at the end of April,  and he returned to the ranch and stayed. However, I was still back and forth there, and on up to Aurora, Colorado, mostly on Libertarian Business.

In May, I:

  •   Helped plan and attended the LPNM annual convention, where I was termed out as Vice Chair and began a term as Secretary. There was a lot of politicking involved this time as we had a take-over threat and I really wanted our current Chair to remain Chair, although he wasn’t so sure.
  •   Continued final editing on the Ruby Slipper’s dissertation, which reported a kick-ass study he did.
  •   Drove up to Aurora one weekend for the Libertarian State Leadership Alliance meeting, held in conjunction with the Colorado State Convention. This was great—more relaxed than the bi-annual National Convention—there was plenty of time to talk to Libertarians. It always feels like coming home!
  •    With the pressures of committee and comps preparation over for the semester, I had a chance to spend time with Excel Manufacturing friends after a long hiatus.
  •   At the ranch, we welcomed our only baby calf of the spring (we had shipped some of the older cows and the bull earlier in the year). We also had water-pipe problems and had to work on the system, and install a new French drain in the irrigation system as well. We got the fencing complete for the greenhouse/garden area.

June is the Hottest Month:

DSC01337 June is hot and dry in New Mexico. Every living thing begins to long for water, and people slow down. We had several weeks of very hot weather, and late in June, temperatures climbed to a record 106 degrees. During late May and June, we had a number of serious wildfires in New Mexico and Arizona, and we saw some smoke at the ranch and in Albuquerque.

In June:

  • I picked up my nephew, the Illinois Boy, at the airport as his parents moved to Texas and he came to try out life at the ranch. Once he adjusted to the altitude, he took to it very well.
  • The day I picked up the IB, I had a long talk with my realtor, and we brought the price down for the Sedillo house, my beautiful Hobbit Hole. It was a painful decision, but important. We knew we needed to sell the house.
  • On the second Friday in June, I thought I saw lightning as I was setting the Shabbat table. Dry lightning is common in June, so I thought nothing of it. The next morning, I woke up with a floater in my eye. I called Eye-Doc Randi that afternoon, and the short of it is that I had a vitreous detachment, requiring numerous trips to Albuquerque and UNM Eye Clinic for monitoring.
  • We started fencing for a new horse pasture, and the Cowboy was really happy to have the IB’s help. The IB also learned to ride a horse, drive cattle and drive the tractor. We will make a cowboy of him yet!
  • I went riding every week with a friend, JL, another Jew in the Republic of Catron. She was a wrangler for years in Arizona, and passed on some of her riding expertise to me.
  • The Cowboy broke his hand while driving cows, and spent five weeks in a cast. Or he was supposed to, anyway!



Glorious July:  DSC01358

July was truly a wonderful month, because the Monsoon  came right on the Glorious Fourth and stayed through the month. We got 3.53 inches of precipitation for the month, several of them in cloudbursts that re-arranged the landscape.

In July:

  • We celebrated the Glorious 4th small-town style, with a parade and BBQ. Yours truly was honored to read the Declaration of Independence right after the choral presentation of patriotic music.
  • The IB settled in, helping me dig retention basins around the trees, and we started a garden.
  • The Cowboy spend several weeks working cattle at the York Ranch, but that ended in mid-July because the Monsoon had not yet hit the Continental Divide Country, and they shipped their cattle to a ranch in Texas for better grass.
  • I qualified for my Concealed Carry Weapon license, shooting the EG’s Glock .40!
  • The Cowboy removed his cast prematurely at the York Ranch, cutting it off himself, because it was getting gnarly. He’s definitely a Cowboy.
  • The IB had to return to Illinois to take care of some business late in July and we weren’t sure if he was coming back.
  • In the same week, Eye-Doc Randi found a small tear in the retina of my right eye—the one with the vitreous detachment—and I had a week in Albuquerque, playing appointment tag with an over-worked retina specialist.
  • In the same week, the IB decided to come back—with resome gentle pushing and bribery from his mother and grandparents, and I arranged the flight.
  • In the same week, we had a real gully-washer and frog-strangler, that washed away half the county. We have a new micro-topography here at the Ranch.


Lie in August’s Welcome Corn: 

Morning After Rain IIIAnd here we are at the end of the first full week of August. Time speeds when there is so much to accomplish and so many things happening.

The country looks like spring does elsewhere, all green and gold with water falling from the sky, running, trickling and making mud for the dogs to play in and trucks to get stuck in. The IB, gone barely two weeks, did not recognize the place.

And the day I picked him up at the airport, we got an offer on the house. Monday, that was. We dickered Monday evening to Tuesday afternoon. We came to agreement just after I had a good interview for a part-time staff position at CNM, a position I applied for in the Disability Center.

Whoo-hoo! The house is under contract. And, sniffle, we must now say good-bye to that era in our lives.

And just in time for Elul—the season of our turning . . .

But that’s another blog.