Monday, September 19, 2016

Is Les Deplorables the Mark of the Regeneracy?

As those who read my blog and Facebook know, I am a student of the Strauss and Howe generational theory. I find it useful in thinking about what is happening with our beloved America and with us in this last turning of the Millennial Saeculum. 

Today I opened up my Facebook and saw an image of the street urchin with the flag from the French Revolution. Except that the flag was the American flag. And under the image the caption read: Les Deplorables. And I realized two things immediately. The first is that election 2016 is the regeneration of the Fourth Turning Crisis. And, secondly, Trump has won the election. 

Continuing Obama’s penchant for lecturing the American people about how terrible we are, Hillary made a serious mistake. In her screechy, scolding tone, she called Trump supporters “deplorable.” In other times, Trump supporters might have gotten angry, called names back or complained about Hillary. Not this time. This time, the Trump supporters picked up the gauntlet, and waved it in Hillary’s face. They started to call themselves “The Deplorables.” 

            The Trump Campaign picked up on this, and over the weekend just past, an artist created a backdrop that looked like this: 

At a rally in Miami, Trump came on stage in front of this image, as music from Les Mis' was played. The audience heard these lyrics: 

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes. 

With this performance, Trump has effectively won the election, barring any tragedy or serious misstep. First instead of calling names as Hillary did, his followers labeled themselves as Les Deplorables. By using this set from the French Revolution, Trump and his followers cast Hillary Clinton as Queen Marie Antoinette, the elitist who placed herself above her people, scolding them, and calling them names. Like the French queen, Hillary is unable to relate to the people she would like to rule, to the point of calling them “deplorable.”

Following Strauss and Howe’s Generational Theory, what we are seeing here is the regeneration of the present Crisis period, and it looks like it will be revolutionary in nature. At the end of the last Crisis (the Great Depression and WWII), the GI Generation brought in a restorative order, implanting the values regime of the Third Great Awakening period that “began with the Haymarket Riot and the student missionary movement, rose with agrarian protest and labor violence, and climaxed in Bryan’s revivalist candidacy” in 1896. If all goes well, the Millennial generation will implant a revolutionary values regime based on the values of the Consciousness Revolution, 1964-1984, which Strauss and Howe say: 
Began with urban riots and campus fury, swpointelled alongside Vietnam War protests and a rebellious “counterculture.” It gave rise to feminist,
environmental, and black power movements—and to a steep rise in violent crime and family breakup. After the fury peaked with Watergate (in 1974), passions turned inward toward New Age lifestyles and spiritual rebirth (LifeCourse Associates, Website Resource Library, retrieved from:

 In their generational theory, Strauss and Howe describe the course of a Crisis Period. A crisis period begins with a catalyst—some spark, an accident or event in history that changes the general mood of a society and increases its desire for social order. In our case, Strauss and Howe believe the catylist was the global financial crisis of 2008. Once provoked, the change in mood pushes the society toward regeneracy in which events cause members to draw together around some symbol or event and develop purposeful plans to overcome the emergency. This regeneracy creates a mood of resolve which results in actions leading toward the climax of the crisis, which is the moment of maximum danger to the society’s people and their shared values. How the climax is negotiated determines the resolution of the crisis, and the value of the experience—good or bad—determines how the generations who lived out the crisis together will be marked in the future. In our case, Trump’s French revolutionary imagery does not necessarily promise a good resolution. In fact, it may contain a warning.

 How a crisis resolves—for good or for ill—predicts the future course of a society and the happiness of its people going forward. For example, the resolution of the American Revolutionary Crisis with victory at war and the Constitutional Convention, created a strong social order and the values of the Great Awakening—individual responsibility and liberty—were successfully implanted.  This created the Era of Good Feelings, a high period that resulted in an energetic westward expansion, inventive industry, and prosperity for the children who had been "rocked in the cradle of the revolution." 

Conversely, the Civil War Crisis did not have such a good ending. And so the post-crisis high was not as deep nor as enduring as the Transcendental values regime did not implant well. Strauss and Howe warn that a bad resolution can hurt the generation who came of age in a crisis, depriving them of the characteristics of a hero generation, which leads to an uneasy high. And if a crisis is catastrophic, Strauss and Howe suggest that it could lead to a medieval-like period in which there is no generational change at all, but rather a fixed order and little innovation or industry. 

In the case of the French Revolution itself, the climax of the crisis led to Robespierre and the Reign of Terror, complete with a government that murdered its own people at the behest of the mob, an exercise in democide. Choosing the imagery of the French Revolution during the regeneracy of our current, Millennial Saecular Crisis, could be a warning that all is not well with America. 

The generation gap between the Boomers and Generation X, and their Millennial children is very wide. The Millennials did not grow up in the free America that there elders experienced. From public school uniforms in their childhood to the social control exerted over them via the drug war, this generation has experienced an increasingly fascistic society (See Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism, 2009). They are now raising the new Homeland Generation in a surveillance state where a missed doctor’s appointment, too many school absences, a freak accident, an unfortunate social media entry, or even a disputed medical diagnosis may result in the government stealing their children into state custody and jailing them as abusive parents. 

As we have seen through the messy beginning stages of this crisis, our government has instituted a police state. We have many people in prison for victimless situations such as recreational and even medical use of cannabis, and we have witnessed police shootings of unarmed adults and even children, who do not obey fast enough. Furthermore, we are witnessing the rapid institution of a Surveillance State, and we have seen what has happened to whistle-blowers within government agencies who have tried to warn us about it. These events and institutions have created the beginnings of a revolutionary impulse within the hearts and minds of some Boomers, Generation X-ers, and Millennials.  
Should there arise a leader who uses the Millennial impulse to camaraderie and order by instituting populist or even fascist politics that results in revolution, this crisis could climax with our own reign of terror, as the surveillance state is used to create total control over the population. The maximum danger that America may face at the climax of this crisis could be a rebellion gone wrong, resulting in chaos and suppression. However, if that leader is restrained through a revolution in the hearts and minds of the people-- one that successfully implants the values of the Consciousness Revolution Awakening--America would transit the crisis successfully, bringing about still a newer birth of liberty and happiness in a high period that few of us can even imagine. 

What will this crisis regeneracy look like? I think it depends on how well we have taught the Millennials about their American heritage and its enduring values. It depends on how much our Boomer elders and we X-ers can discipline ourselves to do what is right and not count the cost to ourselves. Then the values regime internalized during the last awakening period, the Consciouness Revolution (1967-1984), will be successfully implanted in the culture and create the new high period of prosperity and peace following our present crisis. I hope we make it so! 


Sunday, August 14, 2016

LNC, We Have a Problem

News Feed

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!