Random Conjectures

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More Notes from the First Circle of Hell

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I’ve recently read something that has stirred up something vaguely resembling thought in me, and I’ve decided to put down those thoughts. Bad thoughts! Bad!

Seriously, though, the first of the writings in question is this one entitled Hikikomore and the Politics of Despair. The writer examines the lives of a growing sector of people in Japan who are described with the name in the above title. The name means ‘shut-in’, and refers to a large and growing group in Japan who have pretty much given up on Japanese society, and are living in their parents’ homes, or alone. They seldom go out of their rooms, and are pretty much bound to their computers, their televisions, or their video games.

The ultimate result of this way of life is called kodoyushi. It means lonely death, which is being experienced by more and more of the hikikomore, either as they age, or as they decide to give up. It is indeed a lonely death, because what often happens is that these people die alone, and their bodies are not found until days to weeks later.

The writer suggests that these hikikomore are the inevitable result of our modern society, that they are canaries in the coal mine: outliers who are showing the way that more and more people in the U.S. will be living in the not-too-distant future.

I hate to be the one to tell the writer, but it is unlikely to be as good in the U.S. as in Japan. It seems that in Japan, there is a much better social support network, in which people who can no longer cope are still taken care of. Not so in the U.S.

No, we have had our hikikomore for a long time now. We call them the homeless.

I see them every day in my little corner of the First Circle of Hell, here in LaLa Land.

I see them panhandling on the street around the corner from my little apartment, or sitting on the bus stops as I walk or ride the bus.

I see them on the freeway stop which connects the Silver Line with the Green Line, at the interchange of the 110 and 105 Freeways.  There, I see a small town of tents that huddle under the bridges and underpasses there.

I see larger tent cities on some freeway overpasses, or along deserted stretches of the land abutting freeways, or near Alvera Street in downtown L.A. Tens to hundreds of shabby tents filled with the remnants of what the people there once owned, or shopping carts filled with the last of their belongings.

But perhaps worst of all, as I walk down the streets of my little town, I see piles of clothing, or sleeping bags, or shopping carts filled with junk.

At first I did not realize what they were, and what those piles meant. But I soon found out that what was happening was that there was a crack-down by the police, and the police were conducting mass arrests of the local homeless.

And the police were leaving the belongings of the arrested homeless abandoned there on the streets.

So, what is happening is that the homeless here are being stripped of the last of their belongings, to be left with nothing after they are released from the local jail or county prison.

I can think of no crueler, nor more final, sentence of death for them.

Perhaps the worst thing that I had seen, though, was nearly a year ago, when I was walking from the bus to the small supermarket where I could buy my food. On the corner of First and Gaffey I saw a cheerful young black man with dreads, who had a shopping cart and, of all things, a beat up Irish harp with him. We struck up a conversation, and I found that he was vagabonding, and supporting himself by playing the harp and singing. He even said that he was on YouTube, and that HuffPo had recounted his story, calling him ‘the beat-box harpist’.

I gave him what little money I had, and went to the store, partly to get my food, and partly to get more money so I could give him a larger donation.

When I got back, however, the young man was gone, as was his harp. But his shopping cart lay there, abandoned, and a couple of other homeless guys were going through it to take what they could.

I could go on about any number of things that I’ve seen here. But I don’t think that you would believe them.

⊕     ⊕     ⊕

I suppose that I could say that I am in fact one of the ‘shut-ins’ that the article mentioned at the beginning of this little scribbling of mine. But actually, I’m writing this not to bemoan and decry my fate, but to point out how privileged I am.

I have a clean, separate duplex with a garden and trees in front of it, and a charcoal grill in back, which is large enough to hold me, and another person whom I have helped to keep, for the time being, from homelessness.

I have a family who loves me, and which for the most part has helped me during the time that I have been paralyzed inside, after the death of my first wife, Carolyn, and my second wife, Elizabeth.

I have both been given, and have garnered for myself, an education which has enabled me to make the most of my surroundings, including cooking some really good food for both myself and others.

And finally, I have been given the leisure to both further my education, and to make better use of both it and my life.

Yes, I am greatly blessed. And yes, I am richly privileged.

This does not mean, however, that I am going to listen to some social justice peacock preening its feathers, and displaying its virtue signaling, when it tries to tell me to ‘check my privilege’. I consider that to be a part of the ‘politics of envy’, that I have seen far too much of, and I both contemn and despise it.

Well, I’ve ‘checked my privilege’. It’s still here, and I intend on making the most of it.

I prefer the counsel of Christ, who, in the Gospel of Luke, said basically, those to whom much is given, much is expected in return.

I do not intend on letting my Lord and Savior down on this one.

 

 

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Some musings on the National Anthem

What with the fact that even a hermit like me, without newspapers, television, or cable, and with the radio permanently stuck on the local classical station, KUSC, has still heard of the fracas about footballers and others not standing for the American flag or the National Anthem, it is obvious that teh Interwebz has an inordinate effect on the weak-minded, such as yours truly.

That being said, and the fact that like most of my fellow weak-minded souls, I’m armed with a weblog, and I’m not afraid to use it, I might as well do so likewise to deliver my uninformed and cantankerous opinion upon an already weary world. Read the rest of this entry »

To Serve Man: An Interim Report

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ABSTRACT:  A report on recent developments in the feeding, care, and harvesting of human beings (hereafter, ‘cattle’).

HISTORY: Approximately 5,000 SPO (Standard Planetary Orbits) ago, an agent of our corporation discovered that the third planet orbiting Yellow Star 57429 was infested with a more or less intelligent mammalian primate species. Being rather hungry after a long period of induced hibernation, the agent harvested and consumed a member of this species. The agent thereby discovered the delicacy which is the primary product of our boutique corporation, with a niche market of five amphibian or reptilian customer species, including our own. Read the rest of this entry »

The Impressive Clergyman

I’m sure that most of my seven or eight readers will remember that most impressive scene within that classic motion picture, The Princess Bride, when Prince Humperdinck is about to enact his, er, ‘arranged’ marriage with Princess Buttercup. The court chapel is richly arrayed with tapestries and flowers. The Bride, groom, wedding party, and wedding guests are richly dressed. The altar is gorgeously arrayed. The Impressive Clergyman, who is even more gorgeously vested, turns from the altar to the people, while the organ plays the final cadence of its beautiful music. The Impressive Clergyman silently gestures for the congregation to rise.

And then the Impressive Clergyman opens his mouth. Read the rest of this entry »

Nightmare

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It started very suddenly. First, the computers stopped working, those that drove the screen that I tapped at, and those that ran the household appliances. Then the electricity stopped.

Then the nearby refineries started blowing up. The fires of their burning went up forever, veiled in the pillars of dark black smoke that thrust through the sky. Read the rest of this entry »

‘Sometimes I take a great notion…’

As one can perhaps tell from my choice of title and music, I’m a bit down right now. Now, where to start as to why…? Read the rest of this entry »

An episcopal apology I’d like to hear some day

When I was a child at a Roman Catholic grade school in Southern California, long ago, the practice of the nuns who taught there was to have the students of in each class room line up in their own line at the end of each recess. One morning, the kids in my class room, while in their line, were being particularly loud and unruly, so much so that they delayed the whole school from going in to their respective classrooms by at least ten minutes.

My teacher, a particularly tall and stout Carmelite nun, came up to me, and said, “I want you to apologize to the whole school for the behavior of our class.” I quietly protested to her, “But I didn’t take part in what they did!” And the nun quietly said to me, “I know that. Nonetheless, I would like you to apologize on behalf of your class. Could you do that for me?” I nodded, and in as loud a voice as I could muster, I apologized to the school on behalf of my class.

It seems that these days, I have heard tell of a number of bishops who are remonstrating with their unruly and disorderly flocks. I have remarked here and there about such bishops. I’m afraid that I have not been very charitable with these bishops, and for that, I apologize myself. Read the rest of this entry »

It is better to light one small stick of dynamite, than to curse the silence.

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This is a wake up call, for me and for my five or six readers now. I’ve mourned the death of my late wife, Beth, for long enough. I have also mourned the death of all that I have loved in the Church of my youth for long enough.

It is time to wake up to what we must become, rather than who we now are. Read the rest of this entry »

I feel much better, now that I’ve given up hope.

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Well, today is my 63rd birthday. It would be better if my late wife, Beth, were here to enjoy it (or for that matter, my first late wife, Carolyn, but as I often say, ‘If wishes were horses, we’d all be knee deep.’). Bur friends are posting greetings to me on my e-mail and my Facebook page. And Beth appeared to me in another dream last night, and we had a nice talk. One accepts one’s blessings with gratitude and humility, if one is wise. Read the rest of this entry »

Why, this is Hell, nor am I out of it.

I’ve been trying to put off this one for some time now. I’ve got my cheap brandies and sodas (abundances of them) and the quesadilla con carnitas (I know, I’m an incurable gringo) from the local food truck. It’s a warm spring night. I’ve helped to sing a beautiful Divine Liturgy at my church. I’ve spoken with my brother about having my 63rd birthday next Sunday at my mother’s place in Manhattan Beach. I’m planning on boeuf bourgignon and Caesar salad, rice and egg noodles, possibly a German chocolate cake with the classic frosting from a German bakery in South Gate (if it is still open) and a superb cheesecake from my nephew with the Cordon Bleu certificate and a true gift for baking. That should be enough, now. Shouldn’t it?

Apparently not. I appear to live my life in a number of layers. Read the rest of this entry »