I wrote about Bill Russell in the wrong place, so I think this is the only way to publish it without laboriously recopying. Hope you anyone reading it will excuse me.
By this time a lot of people know of the trilogy by Stieg Larsson beginning with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. If I’m not mistaken, at least one movie has been made. But it still may be worth commenting on. The trilogy is extremely well put together, thrillers tightly plotted, and with things to say. Maybe it’s especially worth commenting on because of the increased popularity of mistreating people who are different.
And the main character of the series is a young woman who has been drastically mistreated. Many people who get badly mistreated remain victims for the rest of their lives: Lisbeth Salander is different. When she’s bullied she strikes back, and she gets drastically mistreated. When she strikes back, she often strikes back violently, as that’s the only language her tormentors seem to understand. As often happens in sports, the authorities notice her retaliation, not what led up to it. The result is that she has no trust in authorities (Libertarians should be able to relate to that), and simply wants people to leave her in peace. But many are unwilling. Still, she has character, which people she comes in contact with notice, and respect, even though she’s extremely shy about telling people anything about herself. Understandably so, with that kind of background.
The other theme of the book is men who do violence to women, ranging through “ordinary” abuse to sexual murder. That’s another thing that’s either become quite popular or always has been. It’s hard to see that kind of behavior as anything but bullying: women are not as physically strong as men, are therefore more vulnerable (especially when pregnant), and are generally safe targets. Most bullies tend to get upset when they become targets rather than the intiators of violence. Not exactly the most inspiring aspect of human nature.
Salander has some advantages in life, though: she’s extremely bright, though not given to boasting. She’s a world-class computer hacker, which makes her an extremely competent researcher for a security company, which is how she makes her living, and she fears no one. Despite being less than five feet tall and weighing less than 90 pounds, she’ll take on anyone. During the series she takes on a serial killer, thereby rescuing a friend, and later manages to beat up a couple of Hells Angels types, with the help of Mace and a Taser. Apparently they have those in Sweden too, where most of this story is set.
I’m not going to try to explain all the twists and turns of the plot. It runs over 3 long books, employs many characters, and is complicated. Let’s just say that it’s also a very satisfying read, if you like to see justice done and bullies get their just desserts. There are quite a few such bullies in this book, including bullies in the government. Salander is frequently accused of having no empathy, but it’s really the bullies who can’t seem to leave her alone that have none. It would be nice to think that some bullies would read these books, see themselves, and begin to reform, but that seems unlikely. If bullies had empathy, they wouldn’t be bullies in the first place. Unfortunately, bullies are a commodity we never seem to run out of.
Among other things, Larsson’s novels are an ode to friendship. Friends are the people willing to put it on the line for you. Lisbeth Salander demonstrates that quality and evokes it in others, even though she doesn’t want to be dependent on anyone. Another theme of the book is her unwillingness to depend on anyone, and her increasing realization that she can, and sometimes must, depend on others, and that this isn’t a terrible thing. She finds that not everyone is a bully, that there are people who respect her and are willing to stand up for her, to repair the injustice that has been done her, but also to encourage her to be responsible in ways she’s unused to. Odd though she is (she reads mathematics books for fun), she’s also an admirable character. The books are deservedly popular. It would be nice if many people could take the appropriate lessons from them.
I had been vaguely aware of Sigrid Undset as an author for quite a long time, but hadn’t read any of her work. Some years ago I bought a collection of 5 novels entitled The Master of Hestviken, and read it early this year.
The novels are set in Norway in the 13th and 14th centuries, but are less historical novels than a psychological study. Olav and Ingunn first meet when 5 and 4 years old respectively. Olav’s father has brought him to Ingunn’s because he knows he’s going to die and wants Ingunn’s father to raise Olav, who has an inheritance of a fairly large farm. The two men spend some time drinking and say that Olav and Ingunn should marry when they’re old enough. In the meantime they’re brought up as brother and sister.
When he’s 16, and she’s 15, hormones suddenly kick in. He sees how pretty she is, the attraction is mutual, they think they’re supposed to get married anyway, and initiate a physical relationship. Of course matters quickly become more complicated. Ingunn’s father dies before they can talk to him about the possibilities of marriage, and her uncle, who takes over for her father, has other ideas. Olav tries, through a prominent priest, to get permission for the marriage, but just before this seems to be accomplished, gets into an argument, kills someone, and has to leave the country. Ingunn, her reputation damaged by no longer being a virgin, is placed with a couple of older women, one of them her grandmother, whom she helps take care of, and waits for Olav to return.
Up to this point the narrative has been focused on Olav. From here, through the end of the first novel, the focus is on Ingunn. She’s pretty, but not extremely smart (though she sometimes has insights), and is neither physically nor emotionally strong. Olav has taken service as a soldier with a relative in Denmark, and stays away almost 10 years. Ingunn is left alone with limited resources, and this takes a great toll on her. Olav comes to visit after some years, and she begs him to take her with him, but he’s not ready, though he’s still determined to marry her. After that she meets a young man she finds attractive, encourages him, though she hardly means to, and finds herself in bed with him. Worse than that, she finds herself pregnant.
This is the final blow to her self-esteem. She tries to commit suicide, but is rescued. When the baby is born she has him sent to a foster family, but remains depressed. Finally Olav comes back to Norway, having paid a fine for the killing, and still determined to marry her, but is devastated to hear that she’s been unfaithful and had a child. He fins the young man who impregnated Ingunn, and who wants to marry her, goes with him on a journey, fights with him, and kills him. He leaves the body in the isolated cabin where they had spent the night, and sets fire to the building, hoping the body will be entirely destroyed.
Then he marries Ingunn, obtains his inheritance, the estate called Hestviken, and takes her there to settle in as a farmer. This is where the second novel, The Snakepit, begins. A footnote explains that the title is a reference to the Volsung saga, on which Wagner’s Ring cycle of operas was based, in which a man is thrown into a pit full of poisonous snakes. His wife throws his harp down to him, and he’s able to charm the snakes so they don’t bite him, except for one, which bites him in the heart. That’s a powerful image, and one that well describes the second novel in the series.
At first everything seems to go well. Ingunn is happy to be at the farm, though she’s not strong enough to do the work that a farmer’s wife would be expected to do, so Olav hires a young woman to help her, one who has been orphaned and is supporting her younger brothers and sisters. Besides not being strong, Ingunn doesn’t have a lot of skills that farmer’s wives should have. She isn’t really happy, and there seems to be nothing Olav can do to help her, even though he tracks down her illegitimate son, takes him from the foster family, and acknowledges him as his heir. Ingunn, meanwhile, has been getting pregnant with some regularity, but repeatedly having miscarriages. As that process continues, her health gets worse. Neither is really happy. Nothing Olav tries can make Ingunn happy, and her unhappiness exacerbates his. At one point, in despair, Olav has an affair with the housekeeper he’s hired, she gets pregnant, and he gives her property that she can work to support herself, her son by him, and any other family. This story gets out, of course, and doesn’t do Olav’s reputation any good. He’s known by his neighbors as being honest, just and charitable, but nobody really likes him. The unconfessed killing weighs on his mind, and he finally confesses to an older man who has helped him considerably in the past. The man urges him to make public confession, but Olav doesn’t feel he can.
Meanwhile, Ingunn finally has a son, but he’s not healthy, and dies before his first year, which doesn’t help her state of mind or body. A couple of years later she finally gives birth to a healthy daughter, who survives, but her health is now ruined. She loses the ability to walk, spendes most of her time in bed, eventually developing bedsores, and after a long time, finally passes away. Olav goes off to England as a trader, and while there has time to reflect on his behavior.
He had had some idea of Ingunn’s situation when he was out of the country, and could have come back sooner, but was enjoying his independence, travel in other countries, and his life as a soldier. He still feels guilty about his unconfessed killing, and wants to reach out to God, but again feel unable. He returns from his trip to find that some of his neighbors have suggestions about whom he ought to marry to replace Ingunn, but he feels it’s fitting for him to remain unmarried, which doesn’t help his relationship with his neighbors.
Meanwhile, his children are growing up. Ingunn’s son Olav doesn’t really like, considering him frivolous and talking too much. He spends some time with the boy, but not a lot, and finally, in his later teens, the boy runs off and enters the service of a nobleman as a soldier. This Olav can respect, and it makes him feel better about him. After several years the boy comes back home, uncertain of what he wants to do. One of his friends, whom he’s known since childhood, and with whom he served the nobleman, comes to visit, and the young man urges Olav to let him marry his sister, who is now of age. Olav has some misgivings, but agrees. Unfortunately, the friend turns out not to be good for much: he doesn’t do anything useful, runs around on his wife, and gets involved with illegal activities.
Meanwhile, Ingunn’s son has decided to opt for the religious life, and enters training to become a monk. This seems unlikely because of his previous frivolity, but he feels pretty comfortable with the life. Not comfortable enough to follow through and become a monk, though. So he comes back home to decide what else to do. His father suggests marriage, and he likes that idea, and the young woman his father has picked out, but he’s gotten involved with his brother-in-law’s illegal activity–to prevent them, but it looks otherwise–and that ends that marriage possibility. Instead, he finds a woman who has a particularly bad reputation, falls in love with her, and marries her. She had been married young to a much older man who mistreated her, so in revenge she had affairs with others. After her husband suffered a stroke and was paralyzed, she conducted the affairs in front of him. She has somehow managed to survive, and is sorry for her earlier behavior.
Subsequently the young man’s brother-in-law is murdered. At first it looks like his wife did it, but she is exonerated. Olav suffers a stroke and is partially paralyzed, unable to communicate much, and has time to consider his whole life and the mistakes he made. After his death, his son and his wife enter a monastery and convent respectively, which seems like a way for him to do what his father felt unable to do.
What I’ve written here seems incoherent, with the basic story extended to great length for reasons difficult to understand. It does extend to great length, and I think the reason is to study a whole human life, and how it can go wrong. Olav has been a strong man, but he’s applied his strength in the wrong places, and refused to do what he knows he should. He’s gotten lost, and his behavior has grievously hurt the woman he most loves. His family survives in pretty good shape, but Olav never regains his happiness.
Undset describes his unexpressed feelings clearly and passionately. A blurb on the cover says she began writing this series when she was in the midst of annulling a marriage of 13 years, and converting to Catholicism. Much of the passion in the book must be related to her feelings at that time, however disguised. She doesn’t absolutely condemn Olav, but makes it clear where he failed, and what he should have done instead. These particular novels won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but whatever their shortcomings, they are profound, the author is an extremely good writer, and the books are worth the time for anyone attracted to good writing about deep subjects.
A friend recently sent me a couple of articles about science by scientistss. One says that what we don’t know remains much greater and more significant than what we do, even though we’ve learned a tremendous amount in the last 250 years. And even much of what we actually DO know is both amazing and mysterious to an extent that we rarely seem to notice. Thinking about some of the things mentioned triggered associations for me with various things that have impressed me.
One such thing was a TV program I happened to see between 25 and 30 years ago, probably either on the Discovery Channel or PBS. It was about, of all things, elephant shit, and the role it plays in supporting a variety of plants and animals. That role strikes me as truly elegant (despite what we might call its pedestrian nature) way of fitting into the vast mosaic of nature. But the use of the word elegant reminds me of another reflection: menstruation strikes me as being an inelegant part of reproduction, and I would have thought that a God presumed to be both all-powerful and benevolent could have come up with something better. It’s one of several handicaps a female body has: menstruation keeps many women anemic for most of their adult lives, and when that portion of their lives ends, they’re liable to hormonal discomforts, as well as osteoporosos more frequently than males. The construction of the female body also makes women more vulnerable to urinary tract infections, simply because bacteria have a much shorter bath to travel from their urethras to their bladders than is true in male bodies. This reminds me of what Leonard Mlodonow said, in his debate with Deepak Chopra, about evolution not always finding the BEST solution to a problem, but one that would work “well enough.” Sexual reproduction on this world obviously works “well enough.”
Which reminds me of a question in one of the articles: why did life change from exclusively asexual reproduction to sexuality, especially when asexual reproduction guarantees that all of an organism’s DNA will be projected into the future? One obvious reason is that sexual reproduction guarantees mixtures and changes that have the possibility of being positive, just as they do of being negative.
But this brings up further questions. One is, how and why did nonflowering vegetation change to flowering varieties? The how is especially problematic. Darwin’s theory proposes that evolution works through mutation, and that successful mutations persist, eventually differentiating into new species. But how could flowering vegetation survive initially without bees, their symbiotic parters? Or how could bees survive without flowering plants? We have no fossil evidence to suggest how this could have happened. At some point flowering plants appear, and there are no intermediate forms recorded. Though there are some clear examples of evolution working, not all of Darwin’s theory seems tenable.
This further suggests the mystery of the role of sexuality in life. There are a lot of views about sex: some think it’s good, some thing it’s evil, but most of the time we seem to assume that we understand it. I think nothing could be further from the truth, particularly when it comes to our species. Consider that unlike all (I think) other animals, humans have sex at any time of the year, and that among other mammals the male is always more impessive than the female. In humans, just the opposite. One thing that can be said for certain of sexuality is that it’s a powerful drive, not just in humans, but in most of the rest of life on this world. Males fight for the right to copulate in the animal kingdom, just as they do among humans. It’s obvious that sexuality and reproduction play a central role in most of the life we know of, including our own, but exactly what its role is really isn’t that clear. Because the drive is so powerful, it can be combined with other human passions, like rage and pain, which produces a whole range of behaviors from devotion and responsibility to jealousy, rape and murder.
And if sex were essentially evil, as some seem to think, one could imagine that God could have arranged that it was indulged in only for reproduction, and that women would get pregnant each time. Since that is obviously not the case, what can we infer? My own inference that there is some further function for sexuality beyond reproduction, which we may not even suspect. The discussion can continue to the cellular level, where it’s difficult to see how the DNA molecule came into existence by accident, it being such a complex construction. Besides that, someone estimated that only about 8% of the molecule is for reproduction. What’s the rest of it for? The rest of it is commonly called “junk DNA” precisely because we DON’T know what it’s for. No doubt it’s possible to speculate, but as far as I know, no one has a clear idea about it. But the DNA molecule is the basis for most of the life on this world.
Energy pours into this world daily, first from the sun, which might be considered as the tangible representative of God in this solar system, but also from a variety of other sources among the stars. And in response, we, and the rest of life here on earth all radiate back at them, as well as to each other. It all is energy, most of it invisible to us, though it may influence us. Matter is energy, energy is matter, and we’re part of that constant cosmic dance. It’s all mysterious, even the parts we think we know. Our view is always limited, and there’s always another that will turn the most common object or phenomenon into something amazing, when we have the chance to see it from a new perspective. Science and religion, when they’re alive, can provide those perspectives, but what was once liberating, when it becomes too old, becomes imprisoning. One of my teachers used to speak of being on the growing edge of life, because it’s constantly growing, from the most primitive forms that existed precariously to an ever more complex panorama covering the whole earth and biosphere, even places where few would think life could sustain itself. Many think it’s all conscious, even the objects most inanimate, and we can choose to grow in consciousness or not. And even those who do are often not consistent about it. But what an amazing universe we’re part of and reflect.
A friend sent me an article about Melvin Morse, who has spent much time investigating Near Death Experiences (NDE’s). These aren’t entirely unfamiliar in public discourse. I remember seeing a TV program about them some years ago, and finding it pretty interesting. Morse focused primarily on children who had had NDE’s, but the stories don’t come only from children. Adults have them too. They may or may not be a universal experience, perhaps conditioned by various psychological atitudes. Morse mentions that some come from children old enough to describe their experiences, but not so old as to have acquired fears about death that an older person might have. Not that his conclusions are uncontroversial. One scientist is quoted as saying that the experiences come from brains that are disintegrating into death, and don’t prove life after death. A good many scientists, though, now tend to believe that the whole universe is conscious, and is set up to produce consciousness. There are still scientists who believe that the production of life, on this planet or any other, is accidental. While their evidence may not be entirely wrong, I’m inclined to think there are too many things that such a mechanistic view fails to explain. I’ve mentioned some of them in a previous post.
Morse’s primary interest in NDE’s, he said was to be able to heal families grief at death of a family member, especially a child, though his data seems to have a lot of other implications. That certainly seems like a worthwhile goal, so it’s surprising to discover that he and his wife had been arrested for allegedly “waterboarding” their 11 year old daughter. What could have induced a man with his apparent inight to behave in such a way?
Waterboarding, if what he did was anything like the controversial method used in interrogation of terrorists some years ago, is an extremely severe sort of discipline to practice. It suggests an element of sadism in his personality, to say the least. But the friend who sent me the article pointed out the other aspect of what he had done, which I hadn’t be astute enough to notice. Beginning with Morse’s conviction that NDE’s are valuable experiences, that people who have had them enjoy life, are much less frightened by death, and are able to live in more balanced ways than they previously had, one cam understand that he wanted his daughter to experience this. As the article about him pointed out, stories may be impressive, but the real benefits come from experience. So trying to get her to experience an NDE was the next logical step. Logical, but not ethical.
For one thing, the method used (waterboarding) seems a particularly cruel way to induce an NDE, especially for one’s own daughter. Besides that, his daughter was still a child, and a child is incapable of informed consent. If an adult wished to undergo that sort of experience, in hopes of experiencing an NDE, one might question his or her sanity, but not that they had the right to make that choice. There are a whole range of examples of people who have had a spiritual experience or insight who attempt to convert others to their point of view. Some manage to do so responsibly, others don’t. Jim Jones is an example of someone with a peculiar power over people, and perhaps much insight, whose attempt at building a movement went tragically wrong. As the friend who sent me the article pointed out, that’s the effect of ego. Wanting to save the world is all very well, but if ends and means don’t harmonize, the results are rarely good.
The same has been true of larger movements as well. No less a figure than Saint Augustine of Hippo justified forcible conversion to Christianity. The general Christian perception at the time was that paganism was demonic, while Christianity was the truth with a capital T. Given that assumption, all kinds of behavior can be justified. Christianity still remembers pagan persecution of Christianity; what is less well-remembered is that Christians, once they got political power, persecuted pagans even more, to say nothing of heretics, Jews and witches later on.
The same was true of Communism and Nazism, which notoriously persecuted people for their beliefs. I’m sure the list doesn’t end there. In the case of religion, as well as other forms of understanding, there are different levels, and very few can truthfully claim to completely understand any phenomenon in totality. Unfortunately, that kind of claim can be very tempting, as well as the actions that kind of belief can provoke.
The friend who sent me the article gave, I think, a very good perspective on it. “The scientific w0rk being done in this area can never be more than a statistical analysis of those who experience NDE’s. Thus, the views of Huxley, Heard and Gurdjieff is just their perspective of the experience. I grant you that the experience of some is expressed more beautifully than others, yet the truth is in the individual experience.” I certainly can’t disagree with that. Some accounts of spiritual experiences that I’ve read have really resonated with me, but that’s no guarantee of their truth, since I haven’t had such experiences myself. Anti-black and anti-Jewish sentiments resonate with others, which is no guarantee of their truth either.
One possible test of the truth of such views is the ability of the person who becomes a teacher to lead his students into similar experiences. There’s a good deal of testimony that George Gurdjieff, mentioned in some of my previous posts, was able to do this. One of his students, recounting such an experience (which I wouldn’t characterize as an NDE), said he had always thought (as a writer) that it was ridiculous to say that such experiences couldn’t be described, but that he found this to be the case with his own experience. He said it was deeply personal, and that he suspected that such an experience must always be so. That seems to validate my friend’s view. The experience is always personal, but the teacher with sufficient understanding of how humans work can lead people into making the efforts that will produce experiences beyond ordinary experience. This gives the teacher a great deal of power over the student, though, and he or she must be careful not to misuse that power. The point is not the teacher’s fame or power, but the student learning to become what he or she is capable of being. Teachers seduced by power or fame will be unable to be honest enough with themselves to avoid damaging students or others around them.
Another student of Gurdjieff’s recounted a number of unusual experience he’d had, which one might charcterize as spiritual. How much of them he was able to describe remains questionable, though. He said that in one, he suddenly thought, This is why God hides himself from us, but was later unable to remember why this had occurred to him. Gurdjieff called what he taught “the science of being born again, the greatest in the world”. His own experiences would have been crucial to the teaching, and the means he used to teach, but what would ultimately count would be the ability of his students to go beyond their usual boundaries, experience for themselves whatever they could find there, and then make good use of their experience. From the outside, it would appear that he never succeeded in succeeded on the scale he would have liked to, but quite a number of people have written books about his positive influence on their lives, and it may well be that his teaching continues under the radar, with what effect it’s difficult to say.
So it seems to me that Morse’s scientific work was valuable, but that in “waterboarding” his young daugher, he took it too far, which is why my friend entitled the letter about his activities, Prometheus. He quotes, “In the Western classical tradition Prometheus became a figure that represented human striving, particularly the quest for scientific knowlege, and the risk of overreaching or unintended consequences. In particular, he was regarded in the Romantic era as the lone genisus whose efforts to improve human existence could also end in tragedy: Mary Shelley, for instance, gave The Modern Prometheus as the subtitle to her novel Frankenstein (1818).” We have plenty of examples of scientists and others pursuing knowledge that might turn out to be useful, but could also easily be misused. Morse, unfortunately, is one of the scientists who went too far.
Let me give my friend the last word here. “The point of this glorious existence and the mystery of it is: each of us must continually fight to be ourselves, and understanding that is both the meaning and mystery of all.” I can’t improve on that.
Almost 40 years ago I spent several months working in a restaurant in Switzerland. It wasn’t a fancy place, but a restaurant in a train station. Western Europe, at least, has (or had at that time) a very extensive rail system, easy to travel on, and with a restaurant in most, if not all stations. This particular one was in the small city of Zug, about halfway betwen Zurich and Luzerne. If interested, you can doubtless find it on a map. It was a very pretty place, right on the Zugersee, a fairly large lake, only two or three blocks from the station, and there were swans in the lake, which I’d never seen up very close before. Most of the city was on the eastern shore, tucked up against a mountain, but not one of the spectacular mountains of Switzerland. It was closer to the size of the mountains here in the Roanoke Valley in Virginia. There was a movie theater downtown, to which I often went, and even closer was a confiserie, where I would go and order several kinds of fruit pastries. That was, once I got established there.
I had come across an ad for a company that would arrange summer jobs in Europe for students, and I wanted to do that. I had just finished a year at Akron University before I left, and landed first in Luxembourg, where the company had a sort of tour, party and orientation for about a week before sending us all to our respective jobs.
. Since I had just finished taking a year of German in college, I was made a waiter. I wasn’t at all fluent, to begin with, but being a waiter, and constantly interacting with people helped me to become so in a relatively short time, but on a low level. I could have simple conversations with people, but couldn’t understand what people said on radio, TV, or in movies. Nor could I read very well. I never made the effort to acquire the vocaublary and knowledge of grammar that would have made me an accomplished German speaker, but I could get along in ordinary simple situations. Even this limited accomplishment gave me great self-confidence. Unfortunately, I didn’t extend my skills or apply the lessons I learned there to the extent I could have later on.
Several of us Americans arrived at the same time, and were housed in the second storey of the railroad station, along with some other workers. There were a number of Spanish people there, a Swiss guy, a Maylaysian guy, and later an Egyptian. A lot of us used to congregate in one of the rooms upstairs in the evenings when we were done working. We’d drink, talk, play chess, listen to records, and so on. Through the window you could see the mountain off to the left, and the lake right in front of you. Of course I listened to what music there was. There weren’t a lot of records, but I listened to them all, though I can’t remember the names of many songs or artists. I do remember three full-length LP’s (this was in the days before CDs, you know): one by Deep Purple, which I didn’t care much for; Meddle, by Pink Floyd, which remains my favorite of their albums; and Seventh Sojourn, by the Moody Blues.
I was reminded of this recently when I got a sudden yearning to listen to the Moody Blues again. It was generally considered unhip to like them back then, but I always kind of did. Some years after Switzerland, I bought a collection of some of their best songs, thinking that was quite enough for me, but then I remembered a song from Seventh Sojourn that I liked, and bought the album so I could add it to the cassette copy I’d made of the LP. This was in the 80’s, way before I finally made the transition to CDs.
Nowadays, instead of a fullblown stereo system (although I still have some very good speakers), I have a combination record player, CD player, cassette player, and radio, which I got for about $100. My appetite for music has declined since the 70’s, so that’s quite adequate for me.
So I listened to the collection, then listened again to Seventh Sojourn, and found its songs running somewhat obsessively through my head. I usually have music going through my head most of the time anyway, but not from this album, which I had largely forgotten about since the 70’s. I suppose there must be a reason why a particular song or group of songs becomes prominent in my consciousness at any particular time, but I usually haven’t managed to figure it out.
Such a thing happened to me not quite 12 years ago, when I woke up one day with a song from The Band in my head. That had been one of my all-time favorite albums for about 30 years, but I’d never listened that closely to this particular song: Whispering Pines, a very poingnant and regretful sort of love song. That day I listened to my tape of the album in my car, but that really wasn’t satisfactory, so I went to Burlington, Vermont (I lived in Vermont then, and worked in a small town 20 miles or so from the city), went to one of the big chain bookstores, and bought CDs of the first two Band albums. I listened more closely to that particular song, as well as to both albums, and noticed things about them I hadn’t before. Although the Band had three good singers, Richard Manuel, their piano player and occasional drummer, who had co-written Whispering Pines, was their primary lead singer, and an extremely good one. He had a somewhat troubled life, and committed suicide sometime in the 80’s. Just how good they were instrumentally jumped out much more clearly to me too. At any rate, I could no longer complain of the sound quality that I possessed.
The sequel to my sudden obsession with that song came only a couple of months later, when I met my future wife online, which turned my life onto a higher plane. I think perhaps this new obsession may have a similar significance for me too. The Moody Blues were a band who seemed to be oriented towards the mind and spirit, and while their lyrics may have been trite at times, their music had a certain power to it that I liked. I have recently undertaken something that I don’t care to get into now, but that I hope will be positive for my life and that of others. I think the Moody Blues music symbolizes that for me, and whether you enjoy their music or not, I hope you’ll be willing to wish me well in my endeavors. I certainly wish all of you well, especially in this time in which drastic change seems imminent. May we all face our futures in the best possible way for each of us and the people we care about. That’s my wish for anyone who cares to read this, as well as everyone else I care about…at the very least.
I thought yesterday that I hadn’t done Joseph P. Farrell’s book justice with my piece. It’s a lot richer than I felt able to convey. One of the areas it deals with is with a book by Morris K. Jessup, a scientist who thought that UFOs were not merely an illusion, but actual craft that were of a higher technoogy than possessed by any country in the world.He published a book on the subject, The Case for the UFOs, in 1955, and theorized that the motive power of these vessels was some form of anti-gravity, or gravity control. This theory is what may have caused the US Navy to become interested in him.
The Navy wasn’t the only party interested, though. He began to receive letters from someone about his book, but this person’s comments seemed bizarre to him. Then he received a copy of his book from the Navy which had been annotated heavily, apparently by three different people. Then he received an invitation from the Navy to discuss his book, and when he went to meet with the Navy’s representative, he was handed another copy of his book, again with the annotations. He had hardly any idea what to make of this, since the comments seemed delusional at best, but then he noted that some of the comments were about a ship that had disappeared, and that one of the annotators was someone who had previously sent him several letters. He had to conclude that there was something to the story of the disappearing ship, and that was the reason for the Navy’s interest.
Jessup was by no means a narrow-minded man. He believed that the human race had been in existence much longer than mainstream science believed, and that there had been previous high civilizations that we know little or nothing of now. This view wasn’t unprecedented, but was unusualy among scientists, maybe particularly of that time, but I wonder if that attitude has changed a great deal since. Certainly there are a lot of people interested in phenomena that mainstream science rarely if ever addresses, but that doesn’t mean general acceptance of the views of alternative science, which aren’t exactly uniform anyway.
One of Jessup’s beliefs, about ancient stone monuments, was that many of the stones were too big to be moved without levitation, which means some sort of gravity control. This seems only reasonable. Moving stones weighing hundreds of tons or more by means of cranes is impossible, or nearly so.
Another belief was that a very ancient war had been fought between two planets of this solar system: one of these was this earth, the other remains in the form of the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, just where Bode’s Law (which successfully predicted where other planets in the outer solar system could be found) said a planet ought to be. If the asteroids were once part of a planet, perhaps the planet had been destroyed by some experiment gone dreadfully wrong, but it’s also possible that it was exploded deliberately during war. Annotators in Jessup’s book refer to this war, and say that aliens (presumably from the now-vanished fifth planet) used comets and asteroids as weapons, thus destroying both Lemuria (theorized by some to have been an ancient continent or island archipelago either in the Indian or Pacific ocean) and perhaps Atlantis as well. If a race did use asteroids and comets as weapons, this has to mean that they could manipulate gravity to aim and propel them where they wanted them to go.
More recent writers about alternative science have theorized that comets and asteroids have hit the earth in the bath (a view made more plausible a few years ago when portions of a comet hit the planet Jupiter, causing successive explosions large enough to be observed by astronomers), but this is the first book I’ve read to suggest that asteroids and comets were deliberately used as weapons. Robert Heinlein, in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, had rebels on a Lunar colony “throwing rocks” at earth. These would work quite well as weapons, since any rock big enough to get through the earth’s atmosphere without burning up and hit the ground would explode much like a bomb, except that high explosives would not be necessary. Was Heinlein aware of the previous speculations? I don’t know. His use of rocks in the story may simply have been a pragmatic extrapolation of what such a rebelling population could use for weapons.
The annotators commented that there are still some accounts of what they called The Great War, but these are so old that almost anyone even aware of them believes them to only be fantasies. Jessup was one person who did believe that ancient “myths” were accurate accounts of things that had actually happened, and that technology described in them had actually existed in the remote past as well.
Another suggestion made by Jessup is that UFOs that can be reasonably identified as craft exhibit a higher technology than we’re familiar with, but not high enough to mean interstellar flight. Just how one would determine this, I don’t know, but the implication is that the crafts come from within the solar system, from just where is unclear, though Jessup suggests they may have at least a base on the earth’s moon. He also suggests that those flying these crafts may be descendents of the now destroyed fifth planet.
The above are interesting speculations, but not of the sort one would expect the US military to take an interest in. What must have interested them, though, was a technology that could possibly provide extremely powerful weapons, a propulsion system far more efficient that rockety ships which would allow relatively simple space travel, and a more efficient power source than burning hydrocarbons.
The sequel to Dr. Jessup’s meeting with representatives of the Navy was unfortunate. He had been asked to work for the Navy, but had declined. According to a friend, he was very depressed before his death, at least partly because of professional scientific reactions to his books. He died in 1959, an apparent suicide, but his friend had doubts as to whether it actually was suicide, or possibly murder. If it was murder, the Navy could possibly have been involved with it, regarding Jessup as a potential security leak, since he was interested in the same subjects they were. Their attempt to recruit him to work for them may have been at least partly to keep him from making his views public, but Farrell suggests another possible reason. Perhaps the Navy had had the experiment and its results taken away from them, and wanted Jessup to find out about this form of technology they were so interested in. But if the project had been taken from them, who could have taken it?
This is where the book gets into post World War II politics. As mentioned in a previous post, Nazi scientists were deemed to important to allow their prosecution for war crimes. Essentially, the USA and USSR divided up Germany’s scientists, who subsequently kept in touch with each other, as well as a possible postwar organization which may have been headed by Martin Bormann, Heinrich Muller and Hans Kammler. Bormann had been personal assistant to Hitler, and reputedly as close to him as anyone. Muller was head of the Gestapo, and had reportedly covered up the death of Geli Rabaul for Hitler, to which he owed his position in the Gestapo. Hans Kammler was the head of the project of the Bell, mentioned in a previous post. Farrell says that a large transport plane that could travel long distances without refuelling had been loaded with the Bell and the documentation relating to it, as well as scientific personnel, and had then disappeared. That suggests that Nazis then had, and may continue to have, a center somewhere in the world, from which they’re able to influence world events. That’s not a particularly happy thought, though an interesting one.
The world continues to be mysterious. Some of the mysteries are cosmic, others are manmade, and it seems pretty clear that a lot of information is being withheld from ordinary people for the benefit of powerful people. Some information, like the above, may be scarcely believable to most of us. Other information is undoubtedly more pedestrian, though it might cause trouble if it were to become generally know. But I think it’s safe to say there’s a lot we don’t know, and it might be better for us if we knew it.