“There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, and we must take the current when it serves or lose our ventures.” Shakespeare’s Brutus
A Hot August “Night”
By Donald Hughes, 2017
It was a hot August night, on the 21st day,
About 1:00 in the afternoon, Central Standard Time;
The world became crazy! What else can I say?
The traffic and crowds! Without reason or rhyme!
Everyone was in motion, looking to the skies,
To find the perfect spot, be it a field or a park;
We all bought dark shades, (we looked like spies),
Waiting to catch a glimpse, to see the sun go dark!
After months of planning, after many an anxious day,
We all went crazy! We all were like sheep!
We couldn’t wait to see what? The wonderful sun go away?
The poor birds didn’t know, should they wake or go to sleep?
Yet in the heat of the day, we indeed saw night,
And the moon crept up, and the street lights came on;
It was weird and odd, but it was a wondrous sight,
When day became night, and there broke a second dawn!
It was a hot August night, on the 21st day,
About 1:00 in the afternoon, Central Standard Time;
You can only see it once, or so they say,
So you better spend lots of money now! The ultimate crime
It’s Ok If You Don’t Look Up
Written by Donald Hughes 2017
While watching the recent Star Wars spin-off movie, Rouge One, a certain line really caught my attention. When the daughter of the scientist that creates the “death star” Jyn is confronted with Saw Gerrera and is reluctant to join the rebel cause, she is asked if she is ok with seeing the flag of the Empire waiving over the galaxy. She snidely responds with, “It’s ok if you don’t look up.” My ears perked up. How profound a response is that in our present day and age? My mind began to conjure up images and examples of that very attitude ever circling my personal galaxy, let alone one far, far away!
For example, in the present climate and world of politics, I know so many close friends and family who go about their day totally ignoring what is going on in the country and the world. I use “ignoring” rather than “ignorant of” because surely they must feel the burden of too many taxes, the difficulty of finding affordable health care, the weight of over-reaching government regulations? They must feel the shrinkage of their purchasing power, the wasteful spending of tax-dollars, and the rapid decline of our social culture? Yet they continue on, going about their day and choosing not to look up. Most do not know who their elected leaders are. They don’t know what is being debated in the capital. Many don’t bother to vote. Perhaps they’ll be concerned and aware once the death star zooms in close on their own little world and it suddenly becomes personal. Perhaps they just think the fight for freedom will be won by a few rebels, whomever they are, and all will turn out well. Whatever the case is, the fight to keep our society well and whole has to have everyone engaged. Our very survival depends on informed, active, and involved participants. The country’s founders understood the challenge when they gave the power of self-government to the people, human nature being what it is.
Another example is found in the world of religion and faith. I know people that go about their daily lives totally ignoring what is happening to religious rights and freedoms. Once again I use “ignoring” because surely they must see the struggles between good and evil today? Do they not recognize that certain religious beliefs and cultures are being smothered all over the world, if not in our own backyard? Once the individual right to express one’s faith, or the right to make choices based on one’s beliefs is eroded and replaced by secularism, the world will not be so tolerant and kind. Yet, many do not attend or support a church, don’t exercise their own spiritual growth and find little use for faith-based activities like prayer and service. The secular empire deems these things as archaic, as weak and illogical. Most secular scientists make a point that communal religious practices, first created tens of thousands of years ago, were merely advantageous for social reason only. But a recent study by Pew Research Center indicates that 84% of the 7.3 Billion people on earth are affiliated with a religion. Once their faith, or freedom to worship is gone, than the secular society has won and their flags will be waiving high and proud, ala’ Germany in the 1930’s. Once those bright red and black flags were waiving, the German people thought it would be ok if they just didn’t look up. The Jews learned otherwise.
I find myself thinking about so many other applications to that age-old philosophy that “it’s ok if you just don’t look up.” History is full of examples of the consequence of that belief. However, it is also full of examples of a few rebels, if not a single voice, that stood up, looked up, and said, “this is NOT ok, this is NOT acceptable!” I continue to be educated and engaged. I still have many personal “death stars” aimed at my way of life, my way of thinking and at my little world. And each of those has the enormous potential to weaken me, to distract me and discourage me, but each one also has a gaping hole that can be penetrated, broken apart and even completely destroyed. And so too with the national or global death stars. But, we have to look up and see them.
The Rivers of Truth
Written by Donald Hughes, 2017
“He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water”
The source of a river is often difficult to find and to determine. One would think a mighty river, like the Nile, the Amazon, or the Mississippi would be easy to navigate to its source, but that has never been the case. Each of these flowing rivers are teaming with life, providing abundant resources and necessary nutrients to sustain existence along their winding path. But their respective sources remained a mystery, and not until determination, perseverance and with great difficulty were they finally discovered and named. And even then, often times disputed.
The source of the Nile was finally credited to John Hanning Speke in August of 1858. His trials and difficulties in the interior of Africa are legendary, but he fought on and found the great lake, Victoria, and so named it. Many disagreed with him, but it stands today as the official source of the mighty Nile.
The Amazon was equally difficult to trace, and as recently as 2014 the centuries old thought of the Apurimac River and Nevado River as the source has been changed to the Mantaro River in Peru by the famous kayak journey of James Contos and the use of modern GPS.
Like the Nile and the Amazon, the Mississippi River has many, many small waterways flowing in and out of it. The Native American Indians that lived along its basin were aware of its source in present day Clearwater County, Minnesota. It is a small lake, only about 1.8 miles in diameter called Lake Itasca (the natives knew it as “Elk Lake”). Henry Schoolcraft was credited with the determination in 1832 after a previous expedition with General Lewis Cass in 1820.
Tales, legends, news and opinions flow freely like these great rivers. They provide information, details and stories that we learn from, and experiences that make us who we are. But like these rivers, the source is hard to determine, and often not even explored or navigated. The details become murky, filled with silt and debris carried by too many sources and too many fingers. Truth is difficult to find, but like the 18th Century explorers forging upstream, the search must be done with incredible determination and resolve, energy and fortitude, drive and courage…
The truth is that the source of these grand rivers are many small streams and watersheds. They come together and form the strong currents that eventually become the mighty Nile, Amazon and Mississippi. And their source is the precious rain-fall and snowpack. And their source is the evaporation of the majestic oceans and seas, the precise delta of the mighty rivers’ flow. And the source of the oceans and seas? Well, you explore, navigate the tides and run the rapids, then decide for yourself. The journey will be well worth it.
Freedom is not defined by an absence of laws or commandments,
But by a quality of life obtained precisely by being obedient
To laws and commandments. Don Hughes, 2017
The Six Strings of Enlightenment
Written by Don Hughes, 2017
The modern guitar is a marvel of engineering. With only six strings, it provides an infinite variety of sound and rhythm. Each individual string is created to a specific diameter, each one crafted to create the pitch to which it is designed. When placed properly along its path from the bridge to the tuning key, it stretches along a neck of fine wood, itself engineered to resist the pressure of six, taunt strings wound up tight. Each one, when plucked, rings a tone that is amplified by a deep body of tempered wood and creates the desired pitch. A simple turn of a key fine-tunes it to perfection. When two or more strings are struck simultaneously, or strummed, they respond with chords of harmony, and when fingers are placed in their proper place along the neck, the notes of the chord respond with their intended change and can create an impressive array of major and minor musical keys. However, if a novice or un-trained person plucks or strums, the music is quick to change to noise and a displeasing cacophony of sound regardless of the precision of the instrument.
Each of us are marvels of engineering, both physically and spiritually. We have been created to a specific blueprint, with an infinite variety of thought and action. When we find our proper place in life and the purpose to which we are designed, our potential to create knows no bounds. When placed along those with similar ambitions, harmony is created and the path of life remains firm and stable under the pressure of our actions. When strung too tight, that path can snap. If too loose, than little music if produced, only a dull, lifeless vibration. And, if we remain alone, or without support and companionship, our life becomes limited to repetition and little variety. One can imagine a guitar string being plucked individually without the input of the other five. Pleasing at first, but limited to the amount of music the instrument could otherwise produce. Interacting with closeness, and with proper relationships, we create harmony in our lives, amplified by the tempered depth of rich experiences. However, no matter how well in-tune we are, no matter how successful and harmonious our lives, without the touch of the Master’s hand, the purpose can becomes less pleasing and perhaps even a cacophony of non fulfilment. Only when the Master’s hand is applied does the true joy of our lives ring out, with rich deep resonance.
E A D G B E These are the typical tunings of the six strings on a modern guitar. Perhaps they are an acronym for: Each Achievement Deepens Greatly By Enlightenment. I know mine do.
Prisoners – Wearing the Chains We Forge
Written by Donald Hughes, 2017
We have all become prisoners, bound by the strength or weakness of a signal, limited by the distance between posted towers. The amount of bars determines our boundaries, is it 1, 2, 3…. bars of signal strength? Can I survive the day should the bars go away? We are bound by the sudden ringtone, bursting into a sudden sense of urgency to respond, even to the most mundane call or text. Speeding down the road at 60, or sitting at the office, it doesn’t respect either, but demands an immediate response lest we miss a new post or pin. Our thumbs spring into action, our language reduced to acronyms and emojis, our voices silenced by a quick series of text messages lest we divulge our location. We are content to remain anonymous behind the pale blue glow, fearful that an incoming caller may prefer to actually speak rather than text! Heaven forbid! We are bound by feeling of security only if the device is within reach, or bound by the sudden despair only to find out it was left behind. We have created a world-wide prison for ourselves, without walls or boundaries, but not without bindings that would make jailers envious only a few decades ago. Ever wonder why they’re called “cell” phones?
Ideals Should Trump Everything
Written by Donald L Hughes, July 2016
“A better and more lasting patriotism can be inculcated by a frank and unabashed preaching of democratic ideals as a faith. Do you think any the less of Judaism because Moses killed a man; or of Catholicism because Augustine was a sinner in his younger days; or of Protestantism because Calvin had Servetus burned at the stake? If we hold with religious fervor to our democratic ideals of liberty of expression, equality of opportunity, and tolerance of others creeds and opinions, what difference will it make that some of democracy’s heroes were land grabbers, job hunters, and publicity hounds? Our ideals, not a series of frail mortals, ought to be held up to our school children as the foundation of our national creed.”
Louis Gottschalk, Understanding History (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1950), 9.
This bold statement was penned long before the shackles of “politically corrective-ness” quieted common sense, and before the ideals of the Founding Fathers were discarded in favor of focusing on their human frailties. The fervor needed to sustain this democratic Republic that the founders established (supported by their individual and collective faith), must be rooted in a religious-type commitment to such ideals. At the heart of the American experiment were unpleasant, unpolished and harsh individuals, with equally hard tactics that were needed to pay the price of liberty and freedom; any other way would not have met the challenges of building a new nation. The architects and builders had the stamina and determination to complete their vision of what the country should be, in spite of their personal, individual faults. And this determination came from a deep well of faith-based belief in democracy, and individual liberty as a God-given right.
Our country has found itself at a cross-roads of such fervor many times, and this year’s election is perhaps the most decisive yet: two complete belief systems of governing in stark contrast to each other. And perhaps, for the first time in a long time, both sides are more than surface political rhetoric, but actual “movements” that are not derailed by their respective candidate’s obvious human faults. The choice has boiled down to which of the two holds the true democratic ideals that our Constitution was founded on? Which of the two movements has the stamina to pass the test of time, to build and not tear down, to unite and not divide, to lift up and not suppress? History will show that the American people rose above the political fray, and voted for the ideals of democracy rather than a mere candidate, and elected the hope of true national liberty, not just a political party.
Imploding or Exploding? Pick your Poison
Written by Donald Hughes, 2016
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit a remarkable, historically significant site called Cahokia. It is a landmark that was the home to a pre-Columbian culture, most notably for building mounds within their village site, some reaching 100 feet in height and containing some 22 million feet of cubic dirt. And I use the term “village” loosely, because this particular site located just a few miles east of St. Louis, had a population at its peak of nearly 10,000 people. That was larger than any European city of its time, including London. The people who lived there, from around 400 BC to 800 AD, were a highly successful society. The mounds were used for a variety of purposes, including burial, religious, and social needs. They were well versed in architectural engineering, farming, and astronomy. They had abundant resources, including game, wood and timber, water and land. They flourished for hundreds of years along the Mississippi Delta, and the Ohio River Valley along with many of their mound-building cohorts, known today as the Hopewell Culture. Then they disappeared, leaving only the mounds and a few artifacts, and some of their bones.
What happened? We can ask the same thing about some of the better known civilizations like the Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Persians, Aztecs, Incas, Mayan, and so many more. We see how they thrived, and what they accomplished, and what they left behinds: amazing art, architecture, science and culture. And yet, they are gone. Some covered by thousands of years of sand and earth. And we peer into the past and try to figure it all out. Of all the factors that resulted in their demise, one that is noticeably insignificant is outside, hostile influences. In other words, outside enemies or conquering forces were not the main reason for their downfall. Even with the Aztecs and Incas, the Spanish invasion was only aided by the fact that their respective cultures were already in significant decline. All of these once thriving, rich cultural centers imploded under their own weight, and as a result of their inability to keep balance with their resources, societal needs, and political agenda. As the ruling class tried to keep control of food growth and distribution, fuel needs, military and defense needs, health issues and population growth, the masses simply out- paced the resources.
Contrast that with societies that have been “exploded”, or attacked and wiped-out. They often times will completely rebuild. I think of Europe after World War II, how cities, countries, and even religious groups were destroyed and yet thrive today under new brick and mortar. Churches and synagogues completely rebuilt, cultures and traditions re-established, and new ones born out of the ashes. Or the Japanese after the atomic bomb. Or so many other peoples that have survived even the most brutal assaults from outside forces. Some emerge weaker or different, but none the less, they emerge and continue as a people.
My conclusion is that more often than not, an imploded culture has longer and more likely permanent damage than one that has been exploded or attacked. The resolve to continue is much stronger when the latter happens, but when a civilization gives up or gives in to internal pressures, it is likely to die a slow, agonizing death.
As I stood atop of the tall mound in Cahokia, I couldn’t help but feel a deep sadness for the vast emptiness of the once thriving metropolis below. If I could board a time machine and travel, not back but forward in time, would I witness the same desolation that was once us? Are we doomed to repeat the same scenario, of wasting natural resources, out spending our ability to repay, out taxing the working class, poor political decisions and lack of true leadership? Will future archeologists scratch their heads and wonder how such a culture, rich with everything they possibly could want or need just waste away? Are we on that long, sad path of imploding too? Only the winds of time will tell.
The X Files
Donald Hughes, Feb 2016
With the return on the popular television series, The X-Files, we are again faced with the question, “are we alone in the Universe”? Or, as Mulder would say, “the truth is still out there.” And, indeed, he is correct.
The split, split second we make contact with an otherly-world visitor, our world will be changed in an instant. Regardless of the alien life-form’s intent, capabilities, technology, characteristics, or communication skills, our world will never be the same from that nano-second on. Not because we might become food, or be a focus of intense study, or just a resource for fuels, but because we will no longer be classified as Americans, Europeans, Africans, Asians, etc.; but in that instant we make “first contact”, we all become humans. That is the real truth.
Astronauts that have had the opportunity to view this big blue planet from space often comment on the fact that they are looking down on a planet inhabited by humans, and don’t immediately classify anyone into race or geographic boundaries. That only happens when we look at a man-made map from down here. From up there, when viewed from the heavens, we are simply humans.
When we finally realize that our similarities far outweigh our differences, than we will have crossed over to a mind-set of being human. It may very well take a visit from another planet before that epiphany sets in, as we may suddenly be faced with a “we verses them” situation. But, it may not take that kind of cosmic event to realize the same opportunity already exists, to view one another “as equal humans” and not particular races or nationalities. It’s been the goal and effort for centuries by the minions of the heavens, otherwise known as religion.
Whatever the inspiration may have been, the world’s great religious movements began with the same vision of humanity: everyone is equal in the eyes of God (whom or whatever that may be defined as). It has been man’s foibles that has divided that view up into sects and movements, sometimes with peaceful results, sometimes not so peaceful. Either way, like the lines on a map, our limited “earthly vision” of things is too defined and narrow. When viewed from the heavens, there is little distinction between our peoples.
The salvation of the human race and the path to rise above our differences lies in the realization that we are all humans. The gods understand this, and envision our progress as a whole –race with each one individual soul rising to his or her potential regardless of physical boundaries and borders. Our limited human experience since the dawn of man has taught us that, with great souls rising from all walks of life, even from the most dire of conditions. And, we have all been humans much longer that we have been Americans, Europeans, Africans, Asians, Etc. And once the gods decide to have us visited again, either by themselves or others out there, we will all be humans again, instantly.
The truth is still out there, and it’s right where we are.