Books I must seek out: The Haunted Bookshop

haunted bookshop

“Like everything else, (Truth) was rationed by the governments. I taught myself to disbelieve half of what I read in the papers. I saw the world clawing itself to shreds in blind rage. I saw hardly any one brave enough to face the brutalizing absurdity as it really was, and describe it. I saw the glutton, the idler, and the fool applauding, while brave and simple men walked in the horrors of hell. The stay-at-home poets turned it to pretty lyrics of glory and sacrifice. Perhaps half a dozen of them have told the truth. Have you read Sassoon? Or Latzko’s Men in War, which was so damned true that the government suppressed it? Humph! Putting Truth on rations!”

“You see those children going down the street to school? Peace lies in their hands. When they are taught in school that war is the most loathsome scourge humanity is subject to, that it smirches and fouls every lovely occupation of the mortal spirit, then there may be some hope for the future. But I’d like to bet they are having it drilled into them that war is a glorious and noble sacrifice.”

Those are two excerpts from a book called The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley, which was not written last year but in 1919, just after the Great War to End All Wars. We’ve seen how that turned out.

Read more about Morley and an extended excerpt at this link:

Roger Mifflin reflects on the Great War

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So this is how liberty dies: With thunderous applause

so this is how liberty dies crop

Senator Padme Amidala’s line during Emperor Palpatine’s speech, above, is the most chillingly effective moment in all of the Star Wars prequel movies. It’s also as true an observation as in any 21st century work of art.

Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 around the same concept: Tyranny often happens by popular demand. Bradbury’s society that banned and burned books evolved because books made people uncomfortable enough to want them gone. The government didn’t impose book burning; the public demanded it.

It’s fascinating to watch, whenever Something Happens, as discussion emerges around what laws could be instituted to prevent a similar Something from Happening again. These proposed new laws are always even more restrictive than the laws that failed to prevent the Something that Happened. The underlying proposition is that the solution to evil acts is further shrinking freedom for those who are not inclined to commit evil acts.

Talking heads with nothing to say repeat the mantras that have accomplished nothing to date, in an endless insane kabuki dance. The laws are enacted to thunderous applause, which ends the next time Something Happens, and then the dance begins again.

One day, people stop talking about liberty altogether. Freedom is just too uncomfortable, too dangerous to be allowed.

And soon, Something Happens anyway.

The beauty of freedom

national puppy day (crop)

“Tell me what to do,” the young one said.

“Whatever you wish,” replied the mentor. “That’s the beauty of freedom. You do whatever you think you need to do.”

“What if I don’t know?”

“Then do anything. Do something, and see if it fits you.”

“And if it doesn’t? Fit, that is?” the young one fidgeted.

“Then do something else, and something else again, until you find a fit,” the mentor said, patiently. “It’s your choice.”

“I don’t know how to choose.”

“Incorrect. You know how to choose, but you worry that you won’t make the right choice, and so you hesitate.” A pause. “Nothing is difficult about choosing, except working through the hesitation.”

Still inconsolate: “What if I run out of choices and am still unsatisfied?”

Now the mentor smiled, gently. “It is impossible to run out of choices.”

“And what if I refuse to choose?”

“Then you will have chosen nothing,” said the mentor, kindly. “Which will change the mix of choices when you return to a place of choosing.”

“Maybe it will be a better mix,” said the young one, hopefully.

“Maybe it will be,” said the mentor. “But you will have lost what may have been, had you chosen now.”

Living free is harder than anything, except for not

Writing

There are folks out there who believe they know better than you what would make your life complete – not even that, they believer they know better than you about everything, and so they set themselves up as your ruler.

“No, no,” you say, “in America we choose our rulers.”

Actually, that’s not true: The system was set up so that we would choose the people who oversee the institutions created to serve us. They just decided that made them our rulers. Some folks never did quite understand the paradigm shift of 1776.

We rule ourselves here. We are responsible for ourselves. It’s harder that way – but hard has its rewards. It’s how freedom works – hard, but ultimately satisfying. Not necessarily comfortable – sometimes not comfortable at all – but satisfying.

Exorcising the bogeyman

exorcising-the-bogeyman

My experience is that people just want to carve out a niche, to make a living, to enjoy this life, to to seek a better live, to live and let live. Everything goes fine until it doesn’t, and it’s usually the bogeyman’s fault – except it isn’t.

Who is this bogeyman? He comes in different shapes and sizes. Once upon a time he was an evil villain or monster used to scare children into staying in bed where it was safe (more or less – also to be avoided was under the bed!) – and as time went on, we find that politicians and less subtle warlords use bogeymen to create fear and anger. We also use bogeymen of our own making to scare ourselves into not venturing forth into new territory.

Sometimes, though, we take steps despite the fear of the bogeymen. We actually go off to fight the bogeyman and discover he is really a creature much like ourselves, as the fighters in World War I discovered when they had a spontaneous Christmas Truce and interacted in comfort and joy until the holiday ended and they went back to the butchery.

One person’s bogeyman, carefully examined, is usually just some other person trying to carve out their niche – if you look without fear and hate, you find not bogeymen but just folks trying to live and let live.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we all looked around and discovered that the bogeyman never existed? Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t blame anyone for our troubles (except maybe ourselves) and instead took those troubles and just worked through them?