On Reading, Higher Education, and the News.

There is a firm movement under the guise of ‘anti-cultism’ to make religion a decided subset of the state—with all its policies to be reviewable by the state. How strongly Rulf plays into this I cannot say, but I’ll bet it leans that way. You have probably hit the nail on the head.

“Could it be a matter of politics?” someone asked.

Yes. I think so. Someone asked Rush Limbaugh his reaction to the Boy Scout bankruptcy. In answer, he spoke to a radical leftist move to destroy anything standing for traditional family, using their own occasional failures to bring them down. I hadn’t thought of that before, I but think there is a common theme—that JWs are part of, but by no means the whole target of a movement that would remold anything of traditional family or God.

And, no—I don’t listen to Rush 24/7. Unless I am driving somewhere with the radio on, I don’t listen at all. But I did, 30 years ago, record the show and listen each night. I also, before that, listened to Larry King each night—and he is of the opposite politics. In his heyday he had the most interesting show of all. Each night he interviewed an author, each one of a different field of interest. One hour of his own Q & A, followed by 2 hours of call-in questions from the audience. He was so good. He would not let callers ramble on with long-winded speech-making questions—he forced the windbags to be succinct. He kept focus on the guest and made his own comments few. Unfortunately, his show got bought out by some network and they changed the format completely, putting him on only interviews with puff celebrities, and his newsworthy relevance fell off a cliff. 

Before that I would zip through Books on Tape from the library during my mundane work, and only stopped when the library ran out of books other than the bestsellers of the day. “Stupid janitor forgot to leave an extra roll of toilet paper—I’m screwed,” someone tweeted. I tweeted back, “I read 50 of the BBC’s top 100 books of all time via Books on Tape, far more than anyone else on the thread, while working as a janitor. Sorry about the toilet paper.”

Larry King famously did not read the books beforehand of the authors he would interview. He said he did it that way so that he could approach each book with a layman’s curiosity and not his own pre-formed opinion. He was probably just being lazy, but that does not mean that what he said was not true—he could more easily approach topics with honest curiosity and without bias. I find myself doing something similar with books such as Rulf’s, which I may someday read but I am in no hurry. It is in my area of expertise—why should I drop everything to wolf it down? It is someone’s takeaway from their own experiences. I have my own experiences and my own reactions to things he responds to. Why should I assume his are better? Did he go to a fancy-pants school? So did I. I don’t make a big deal over it because it has never done me any good (my fault, not theirs) but if he starts slobbering over ‘higher education’—well, I know that world well. 

None of us are Jesus, of course, but I like the response to his Sermon on the Mount of how people were astounded. “When Jesus finished these sayings, the effect was that the crowds were astounded at his way of teaching. for he was teaching as one having authority and not as their scribes”—the scribes that had nothing original to say but would just expound upon the opinions of each other. Jesus ignored it all to contribute his own (actually God’s) take on things. 

Everybody has a few books in them and if they do not have the wherewithal to write them, that does not make their stories any the less valid or interesting. I may get around to Rulf, but he’ll have to wait his turn. My story is as good. As it is, there is a certain idiot here (he will not have read down this far because he cries foul at any sentence longer than a dozen words) who crows about all that Rulf has “proven” the moment he is aware of the book, without even reading it. I’ll know that I have arrived when I release a book and Billy gushes on about how I have knocked the ball out of the park without having read it.

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Elder-care During the Windstorm

Windy mornings like we just had, and I think of the huge tree that came crashing down on the home of some friends in southern tier, pinning them in their bed. “This room is original, this one is new,” my pal later told me on a tour of his house that the friends had rebuilt. The upstairs bedroom—brand spanking new? His wife will not sleep in it. The tree no longer threatens—it came crashing down upon her already during that storm. But she will not sleep in that room again.

The exasperating thing about a power outage is that you keep forgetting. Flip a switch, nothing happens—continual aggravation. Well, I have my Go Kit ready in the event of a really huge natural disaster. Many think that the Witness organization dreamed up the idea, but it is actually the government, and the Witnesses said, “Yeah! Let’s get on that one!” I tend to put things like that off and for the longest time my Go Kit consisted of a bag of pretzels and whatever else I could scrounge up in 2 minutes. But now it’s in pretty good shape and I am preparation in search of a disaster.

Not every little thing is fully cared for. “Oh, did I tell you about my dog?” I will say to my temporary hosts as Samson tracks mud across their kitchen floor. That’s not Sampson of Bible fame, who pushes apart the pillars. That’s Samson the dog, who pees on them. Confused by the change, maybe he will even pee in the new residence.

I was staying with my dad, attending him in his old age, when another wind storm hit 3 or 4 years ago—wow-whee can wind ever do damage! “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail [or the wind], which I have reserved for the time of distress?” Job 38:22 says. Yeah, I have seen them at medium throttle. I can only imagine what might happen when the pedal is to the metal.

Going back almost 30 years, my parents stayed with us for over a week. Ice storms paralyzed the entire region. Our electric line was laying right there on the ground—we didn’t come prop it up—but it was still delivering the juice. In one of those rare reverses of how this system usually works, the people with money, living out in heavily-treed areas, lost their power, but the people living within city limits did not!

Power went out to my dad’s during that windstorm 3 or 4 years ago, too, but not to me, and he again stayed with us until it was restored. By that time he had dementia. “I think we should swing by the house and see if the power has come back on,” he would say every 30 seconds.

Surprisingly, there is a time to lie. The elder-care people recommend it in the case of seniors with dementia. “How’s Jill doing these days?” he wants to know again and again. Why should I tell him again and again about the divorce in the family that will trouble him, yet he can do nothing about it? “Fine, Pop, she’s just fine. All of them are.”

Why should I tell him every day that his wife died 20 years ago—stabbing him each time? “She’s fine, Pop. She’s away to visit her cousin, remember? She’ll be back soon.”

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A Lot of Work to Syphon Out the Liars

As much as I hate "conspiracy" theories”

As near as I can tell, Jehovah’s Witnesses buy into conspiracy theories in no greater proportion than the general population. It is a little surprising, since they have become privy to the greatest conspiracy theory of all—that involving religion having deviated so far from its source

As for me, I find myself nibbling at the edges, and in some cases accepting them. If I follow anything on Twitter, I make a point also of following its polar opposite. Sometimes I find the polar opposite point of view to be represented much more persuasively than the common wisdom.

 

“...After a while, one can develop an entire framework of areas (and players) where such admissions happen more often than others. When the pattern of 1)position, 2)slip-up, and 3)method of backtracking to regain the original position becomes very predictable, then you are probably onto something trending toward truth.”

That’s a lot of work to syphon out the liars. 

That’s not to say it is not a good idea, nor that it is any more time-consuming than what I do. It is just that few people have that kind of time. Most people take news from one or two sources, often the evening TV news for people our age, and pretty well accept that they are being told the truth. Usually they are, but it is not “the whole truth and nothing but the truth”—which can completely turn things around.

At one pioneer meeting the elder conducting it was highlighting the importance of neutrality, and never to give the impression of taking sides. “Now we all know that Trump is crazy,” he said, “but.......” I would stake my life on it that his only source of news is the evening news of one of the three networks. 

I was relatively up in years before I discovered to my surprise that my (non-Witness) Dad cared hardly at all about politics. Many were the political discussions swirling around the dining room table, as I was growing up, when the extended family was gathered. However, it turned out that my Mom’s father was very much a GOP person and would crank on about it endlessly, and my Dad was just too gracious to tell him to zip it—it was his father-in-law, after all, who his wife liked.

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Photo: Evening News, by Vasilennka
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“I Saw Tears Well up in the Eyes of One Elder”

That sentence from yesterday’s Watchtower study called to mind an experience:

From paragraph 17: “A brother recalls appreciatively: ‘I saw tears well up in the eyes of one elder as he contemplated my situation. That image will always remain in my mind.’”

I was sure that the kid at the tire repair show had lost my specialty tool when I had my tires switched. The dopey mounted snowtires (that somebody talked me into buying) require a unique socket—it is not standard and it is not metric. I have two of them so it is not that big of a deal, but when it was not in its designated place after I picked up the car from the shop (it could only be there and nowhere else because I always put it there) I drove back to the shop and let them hear about it at the front counter. “He’s got it in his toolbox, somewhere,” I said, “just absentminded, not theft—he is just careless. Make him check for it.”

When I returned home I found the socket.

I know how companies bully their employees. I figured they must have leaned into him pretty heavily. I drove back to apologize—not to the front counter, but to him personally. Nah—they said it wasn’t necessary. I said it was. No, it was nothing, they said, don’t worry about it. Look, I know that “the customer is always right,” I responded—he probably was made to feel some heat. They said no—not a problem. (what’s the big deal? They just didn’t want to pull him out of the shop and interrupt his work flow.)

Did I tell you that when I get something in my head I am not easily put off? I said that I could probably just walk right in there and say it quick—which bay is he in, anyway? and made for the door. When they saw that I would not be dissuaded—what were they going to do? toss me out on my ear with a showroom full of customers looking on? they fetched him for me.

He looked defensive, as though I was going to yell at him. Instead, I apologized. I said that I was sure that he had lost the tool, but when I got home I found it. Very likely someone had made him sweat about it. He was a Spanish speaking kid and he looked like someone who doesn’t get apologized to that often.

A little to my embarrassment, I felt some tears welling up, just like the elder in the paragraph. I mean, several were looking on. I probably made a fool of myself. And maybe it was completely unnecessary. Maybe they had all had a good laugh over the jerk who griped over his “lost” tool. Dunno.

But it didn’t matter. It is not a bad thing to show empathy. The elder in that Watchtower paragraph not only benefited the congregation member by tears welling up—unless I am very mistaken, he benefited himself as well.

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Offering my Sacrifice to the Gods

Volkswagen is ending production of the New Beetle, first begun in 1997. That beetle was the reincarnation of the original Beetle, which was itself ended in 1978. Every hippie on earth drove a Beetle back in the day.

It’s time. It is a smart move on Volkswagen’s part, for reasons beyond mere sales. With people routinely screaming that their opponents on anything are ‘like Hitler,’ you know it is only a matter of time before a company offering a car that actually was inspired by Hitler is subject to wrath itself.

I never owned a Beetle, but a friend did. My car was a 64 Rambler Classic station wagon. I decaled a bumblebee stripe around the rear end, wagon and all.  Sometimes we took my car and sometimes his as we explored the old logging roads in the Adirondacks during college days. Many of those roads would disintegrate into pure forest when they reached back far enough.

Emerging from a quasi-road onto a dirt road only slightly more real, my friend, who was driving, asked: “Anything coming your way?” “Just a school bus,” I said, and he laughed, for we were in the middle of nowhere. He pulled out and a school bus took off his front bumper.

I did have a Kharmann Ghia afterwards, which was a sportier Volkswagen offering, and I have two memories of it. The first is when I was alone with it performing the same house-to-house ministry I do now, decades ago when I was much dumber than I am now. Now, VWs barely heated at all. So I had gotten it into my head that maybe a portable kerosene heater would be a good idea; I could roll the windows down a bit for the fumes. As I do even today, I waited till I actually needed it, on one frigid suburban street, to try it out. I didn’t want to fire it up right there in the car. At least credit me with not being that dumb. I lit it outside, and a two-foot high flame shot into the air because I had not done it right. What would any homeowner glancing out the window have thought? “Oh, man, another religious nut, this one offering sacrifice to the gods!”

The other memory that lasts of my Karmann Ghia is when I pulled into my folk’s drive right behind their station wagon. No sooner had I shut the engine off than the backup lights of wagon ahead came on and my brother launched out and into my headlights like a rocket for Saturn. This is the same brother who took my stamp collection and who cheats at Scrabble. I didn’t have a lot of dough back then, so I fiber-glassed over the two gaping holes and bought two truck-mounted headlights and mounted them between front side fenders and hood. The car looked like a frog. I drove it in field service afterwards until I got rid of it, but I was always careful to avoid the street in which I had sacrificed to the gods.

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In new New York You Can do Fireworks

Fireworks are legal in New York State. Not always, just a week or so around the fourth of July. Makeshift sales tents pop up everywhere hawking the goods.

It never used to be that way. I worked so hard with my boy when he, long ago, started pestering me about the stuff, harassing me night and day. Do you think I could convince him, my own child, that fireworks were not legal in New York State? Not just dynamite, but also cherry bombs and even ladyfingers. They are illegal. You can’t blow them off in New York. Yes, they are legal in some states, but New York is not one of them. Tired of arguing with a kid who dressed head to toe in Goth black to parade around in the mall with friends dressed the same way and didn’t stop until I threatened to dress head to toe in white and follow him everywhere, it suddenly dawned upon me how to solve the problem.Talk to a cop! What a brilliant idea! I drove to the area police station. Were fireworks legal in New York State? No, they were not. What about ladyfingers? No they were not. What about on holidays and special events? No, that made no difference! What about…..LOOK, said the cop, you got a listening problem?! NO means NO.!! Now if you want to break THE LAW, go right ahead, but we’ll be coming after you!! All that Download

as missing was for him to draw his gun.

Elated, I skipped home to grab my son and return. Yeah! Tell the kid what you just told me! Scare the everloving daylights out of him!

But Joe Friday wasn’t there!! Instead, it was jolly Officer O’Mallahan! Well….he patted my boy on the head, with a twinkle in his eye, just be careful, and don’t shoot them off too much!! Thanks a lot, copper!!! If this kid grows up to be a pirate, I’ll know who to blame!

And now it turns out that it was all for nothing! Fireworks are okay, now. And no, he has not become a pirate. He does do a lot of traveling, though.

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I Can Hear the Charges of 'Stealing From God' Now

When Gene was transferred to an Assembly Hall in Virginia, he said that Bethel likes to do that. If a given overseer remains too long at an Assmbly Hall, it gets to be known as 'Gene's Assembly Hall.' I told him the only reason I change from my pajamas is BECAUSE it is his Assembly Hall. He said I would like the new guy. I said I don't like him already if he is going to replace him. But, in fact, the new guy turns out to be fine, too.

Last year Gene was at the house Galileo-2813231_960_720
 and he was admiring the Galileo thermometer on the mantleplace - you know, those ones with the bobbing balls? A week later I called him and asked if he was at the Assembly Hall. He said he was and I told him to stay there. I drove over and gave him the Galileo thermometer as a gift (which is how I ended up with the dust-collecting thing myself). He said he couldn't accept it and I said he could. So he did.

But don't you know that my wife did some work at the Assembly Hall the other day and went into the office and what do you suppose is there? MY (alright - 'his') GALILEO THERMOMETER!!!!

HE LEFT IT! He went to Virginia and left it! I hope he fries or freezes because he couldn't dress properly because he didn't have a Galilio thermometer to tell him what the weather will be!

Moreover, I have no idea if the new guy will appreciate it or not. For all I know, he has a bowling ball on his mantleplace that he admires and wonders what the stupid thing is with the bobbling ornaments! But do you think he will let me take it back? I can hear the charges of 'stealing from God' already if I try it! 

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She Slammed Me Through a Supporting Wall and the House Caved In

They have jack-hammered the basement to install perimeter drainage. A cement truck backed in to cover up the new piping with cement. There was a backhoe in the front yard tying in the house gutters to the storm sewer.

The pipe delivery truck took down the phone line so I switched to cable internet and the cable truck came the next day. They had to string a new wire from a nearby pole.

By pure coincidence, the furnace truck also arrived for some scheduled maintenance.

The nosy neighbor is absolutely beside herself trying to figure out just what we are having done and how much it is costing us.

"Tell her we had a fight and you slammed me through a supporting wall, causing the house to collapse," I say to my wife. "That ought to satisfy her for awhile."

Collapsed house

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A Ferry, a Centrifuge, and a Toilet

Crossing the Adirondacks is a beautiful drive at any time of year. It was no less so as I was doing it at the end of winter. I would cross the mountains, take the ferry across Lake Champlain, and visit my friend who was doing graduate work at the University of Burlington.

Only when the sparkling, magnificent lake appeared in my sites did it dawn upon me that the ferry might not yet be opened for the season. It meant that I might have to drive around the stinking thing! But when I pulled into the ferry terminal, there was a car before me. It was the attendant. He was just opening for the season and if I waited 45 minutes, I would be the first car of the year. 

As I patiently waited, a TV truck pulled into the lot. Opening for the season might not register in your lofty town, but here it was an event. My 15 minutes of fame was about to begin. With camera upon me, I pulled onto the boat. Should I drive pompously, self-importantly? Or should I drive nonchalantly, nodding to the camera as I passed, as though such things happened to me daily and didn’t nonplus me even a little? I settled on a course in between.

My friend was working in the school’s science lab when I finally found him. He was patiently soldering together a piece for a centrifuge. But it wasn’t going well. He worked for a half hour, correcting this sad tendency and then that. Finally he looked at the mess and said: ‘Well, this might be okay for the toilet, but it doesn’t really cut it for a centrifuge.’

I advised that we watch the evening news. It is important to keep up with current events, I told him. Perhaps something truly great has happened. Adirondacks_in_May_2008

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Sir, can I interest you in some kitchenware?

You can listen In on the phone line when you miss a meeting, but I chose not to do it. I remembered my old man’s words from long ago: “let him go hungry if he can’t be bothered to show up for dinner – I guarantee it won’t happen twice.” Besides, I didn’t want to hear Sister Faithful comment: “So we must all remember our vow to Jehovah. We should not be like Brother Harley, sitting on his rear end at home, trading his birthright for a bowl of garage sale soup!”

Yeah, but it was a nice garage sale. For once in our lives, it was worth holding. Everyone knows I don’t do garage sales. By the time Harleys are done with something, there ain’t nothing left of it to sell. It’s different this time. We are seriously downsizing, so as to spare our kids some not so fine day the nightmare that my wife’s parents neglected to spare us. Plus, we have significant items from the home of the Great Forgetter to add. It’s a piece of cake to sneak them out before him, for he is also the All Unseeing One. Even if he should catch you red-handed, he immediately forgets what he has caught.

All Forgetting and All Unseeing. It’s a lethal combination. It reminds me of my words to a coworker about the public we both served. "Ican deal with a stupid person. I can deal with a belligerent person. But a stupid AND a belligerent person stops me in my tracks." "Yeah, that’s pretty unstoppable,” he agreed.

I was even ready for the pro who unfailingly appears at the crack of dawn to scoop up everything not junk. Sort of, anyway. “We’re not set up yet,” I told him, “you’re welcome to look around but I’m not dealing on anything.” One person later told me of an ad which read: “Prices doubled if you arrive early.”

Also later on that morning, someone grabbed a four dollar item and asked if I could throw in a 75 cents item for free. It’s not a big deal – usually I would, but we were just getting started. I said that, for now, I would hold firm. She got huffy and threw down both items! “I don’t want to deal with people like you!” she steamed. I almost told her I’d let her have them both for six dollars.

So it was a worthwhile garage sale. It justified missing a meeting. It was not like the garage sale decades ago in the poor neighborhood, in which the upstairs tenant held out a dented pot to a wandering derelict: “Sir, can I interest you in some kitchenware?”

 

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