Montaillou – Life in a Medieval Village

I just finished Montaillou by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie.  This took me over half a year to finish not because it wasn’t great, but because I have two young boys and thus free time is non-existent.

I learned of this book in a Reddit post and quickly bought it as it is right up my alley.  Montaillou is simply a study of medieval life in a small mountain town (Montaillou) in southern France around the year 1300.  The records are drawn from the Inquisition which was very active in the region trying to put a stamp on the Cathar beliefs which were spreading.  The Inquisitor, Jacques Fournier kept excellent records and thus have given us a peek into the normal, everyday life of the residents of this small village.

What fascinates me about the book is it is not a history book but rather, as Michael Ratcliffee of The Times” puts it, “A classic adventure in eavesdropping across time.”

Here are my favorite entries:

Escaunier of Arques, elaborated as if it were and article of faith his hatred for tithes, mingled with other heretical propositions:  The priests and the clerks, he cried, because they are wicked, extort and receive from the people the first-fruits and the titles of products for which they have not done the smallest stroke of work.

A really rich man was not a wage-earner like himself but a farmer and landowner with enough wealth to be able to use others to work for him.

– It looks like not much has changed in how to become really rich.  Although we’ve moved from an agrarian society to an information/technology one the basics are the same.  You must own the product and have people do the work for you.  However, in this age it is the CEO who must guide the ship to keep the enterprise from smashing on the rocks.

‘With the riches Satan shall give you will never be satisfied, however much you possess.  He who has will always want more.  And you will have neither pause nor end, for this world is not the realm of stability; and all that is of Satan is only passing and doomed to destruction.’

– This is as true today as it was back then and was quoted in Game of Thrones which I’m watching.  People will always want more and never be satisfied.  Should that cease to occur our Capitalist society would no longer function.  We are ‘consumers’ which in this age of greed is like a bacteria which consumes and devours until nothing is left at all, our society cannot stop.  The best solution I’ve found to this comes from Buddhism and meditation.  You have to stop the “grasping mind.”  The mind is always grasping for something else but through meditation one can control it, let those thoughts simply pass through and then you will be at peace.

‘Three times the house of my father and mother were destroyed for heresy; and I myself cannot cure myself of heresy, for I must hold the faith my father held.’

  • This is also very true today:  people will follow the religions of their fathers and that is why we call entire countries either Muslim, Catholic, Buddhist, Jewish and so on.  If humans were an intelligent species you would imagine these beliefs would change over time but they do not.  Technology and knowledge may increase but the stubborn persistence of religion, of beliefs thousands of years old stay strong.  For me I was raised Catholic and it was only until I left the Church but came for a Mass that I really listened and understood how bizarre it all was.  Here are people living in an age of technology and science yet they believe that bread and wine change into a living God and consume it.  The priest tells God what we know, what to do and when to do it.  “We know, You are, We ask…..”  We don’t know as much as we think we do about the universe, we’re completely lost and have made up religion in order to stomp out that fear of the unknown, of what this reality actually is.

Pierre Maury’s sense of fate was thus not vulgarly magical but loftily philosophical.  In him as in others it is simply a very old peasant idea quite natural in societies where there is no growth and, where people literally have no choice.

Fate, which underlies this phrase as it does so many others, is thus seen as the shepherd’s vocation; and mountain liberty is the happy counterpart of the migrant’s destiny, even if he has to sleep under the trees, to freeze almost to death in winter and be soaked to the skin by autumn showers.

  • Complete freedom, this is a dream for the entire human race.  Here in America we believe we are ‘free,’ yet we are living in a system in which we must get into our cars, drive to an office and work the vast majority of our lives so as not to starve and die.  True freedom would be the ability to live life exactly as you wish.  However, we are programmed from birth to believe in certain ideas, to work within the system, to follow the rules.  This is also portrayed in Game of Thrones by the ‘Wildlings’ who live north of the wall, separate from the various kings in the south who rule over their subjects and make them behave in a certain way.

Behind the commonplace idea that a man is the product of his education lies the more complex notion of a physical link with the bread which built the body, and, through the bread, with the land which produced the grain and to which the man will one day return.  The soul of man is bread. 

– “Man is the product of his education.”  We are not born with inherent knowledge and thus taught what to believe, that is ‘programmed’ to use technological terminology.  I just spoke of this in my previous comment so nothing further to add.  But in this quote I like the relationship between the land, the body and the importance of bread.  Perhaps this is the link in why bread is featured so prominently in the Bible.  Bread gives us life in the physical sense since it provides nourishment and so religion has given it a spiritual link as well since without it we would die in both the literal physical sense as well as in the spiritual sense.

So Maury chose instead to desire few objects, and to transfer his wants to other kinds of wealth, which for him took the place of family:  temporary unions with mistresses in the pastures or the taverns; a full network of human relationships based on both artificial and natural fraternity, on compaternity, on pure friendship or friendship through association  He liked this life-style, based on fate freely accepted – but is this not the very definition of Grace?  His destiny was a destination.  For him, sheep meant liberty.  And he would not trade that liberty for the plate of gritty lentils often held out to him by friends, employers or parasites, offering to marry him, to help him settle down, to have him adopted into a rich family.  But he saw his destiny as travelling over hill and dale, with friends everywhere and temporary sweethearts.  Material wealth would have been literally a burden to him.  Maury had few possessions, but he was not destitute.  And when he lost those few possessions he lost them with a smile, for he knew that by working he could easily get them back again.  Well shod for his long journeys in a pair of good shoes of Spanish leather – the only luxury he allowed himself – detached from the goods of this world, careless of the almost inevitable certainty of being arrested at some time by the Inquisition, leading a life that was both passionate and passionately interesting, Pierre Maury was a happy shepherd.

  • Maury is free and he lives in grace.  To me living in grace is to not ‘try’ or perhaps a better word is ‘fight.’  He glides through life shaping it to his wants and desires all without much effort.  I feel that the same is true for my life:  once I stop fighting and just let life run its course while remaining positive I find that things start to go my way, that I’m successful.  Yes, I do work but instead of always pushing I just find that perfect current that takes me where I want to go.  Should I wish to change the direction of my life I climb out of the river and find a new one that is going where I wish to go.  There is some effort required in changing streams but once it is done life becomes easy again.  The stream of course is a metaphor for my mental state and provided I’m in the right one, life is grand and things in the physical realm begin to go my way.

As late as the eighteenth century, many people considered that to emit an odor of unwashed body was a sign of personal virility, at least in men.

– They still do in Europe!  Here we are, a conscious organic organism which is comprised mostly of bacterial cells!  We perspire, emit odors, excrete waste, shed all while applying chemicals to make us smell and look better.  Aside from the occasional bath isn’t all of this just a fight against our natural state?

Many people were of the opinion that pleasure in itself was without sin, and if it was agreeable to the couples concerned it was not disagreeable to God either.  As for the idea that to pay for one’s pleasure was to be without sin, it was long to remain widespread in this region.  Detailed records of the Inquisition have revealed this attitude unaltered among many Spanish peasants in modern times.

– And then came the Christians which taught that humans are inherently bad through original sin.  We must live a life of misery, abstaining from many of the pleasures of life to atone for this made up ‘sin.’ Through reading this book and the thoughts and ideas of adherents centuries ago we learn that religion has been shaped and transformed through the ideas of men, not necessarily of God.  There are many ways to interpret ancient texts and is the reason we have so many religions and sects today.

Towards a lover ‘patient, complimentary and discreet’, offering both respect and temptation.

  • This quote helps me expound on my previous point; is it a sin to have a lover in our society today?  Of course it is, that is the legacy our puritan fore-bearers have given us.  I think this quote is referring to a mistress instead of a wife since it says ‘discreet.’  You’re in trouble with the law should it be a financial transaction and with religion as well due to their rules on adultery.  To take on other lovers seems to be a normal, human inclination which is suppressed by religious ideas which always make their way into laws of the state.

But in the institution of marriage as it then was, the woman was regarded as an object – an object loved or an object beaten, as the case might be.

Like the troubadours, they regarded real love as something outside legal marriage.

  • Marriage is a societal contract which helps keep things stable.  Our ideas are unlike those of the ‘savages’ which roam in tribes and many of which had no such ideas to stick with one lover throughout their lives. Marriage is mostly a religious idea.

Every married woman could expect a fair amount of beating some time or other.

  • This is unfortunate and I’m glad no longer the case with most relationships and laws against this practice in place.  At least we’ve made some progress as a species.

As Georges Duby has said, the Christ of the Roman age was the hero of the Parousia, ‘Jesus returning on the Last Day, in all his glory, to judge the living and dead.  In the thirteenth century there appeared the more learned figure… of Jesus the wise man.  But the preaching of St. Francis emphasized the Passion, and the theme of suffering developed throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, so that the royal crown was replaced by the Crown of Thorns.

– Again, religion is being transformed to the ideas of men who interpret the old texts in their own ways.

Paradoxically, one of the most striking examples of the general respect for the body of Christ is the attitude of Raymond de Laburat, an anti-clerical peasant of Sabarthes.  He said he would be glad to see all the clergy, from the Pope to ordinary priests, go ff to the Crusades to be destroyed by the Saracens.  He would be even more delighted to see the churches razed to the ground.  Then Mass would be celebrated on the land and in the fields, and the peasants who, like him, had been excommunicated and driven out of the churches, would at last have the great happiness of seeing the body of their divine Master in open air.

  • Take religion out of the stone buildings under control of the priests.  Get out into actual creation and appreciate what was created by God, not constructed by man.

Throughout the high Middle Ages, men of the Church, including St. Bernard and S. Dominic, had passionately promoted devotion to the Virgin Mary.  In 1254 the Council of Albi raised the Ave Maria to rank with the major prayers, the Credo and the Lord’s Prayer, which were theoretically taught to everyone over the age of seven.

  • Again more modification of religion by man.

Fertility cults both human and agricultural, which at first sight seem conspicuous by their absence, were unspoken rather than non-existent and, in fact, incorporated in the cult of the Virgin.

– I’ve learned that many of the customs and traditions in Christianity (of which I’m most familiar) have their origins in pagan beliefs and rituals.  These ideas were incorporated by the Church to convert these ‘pagans’ more easily to the Christian belief.

We have already seen the privileges a priest might enjoy with his female parishioners.  It may be that immoral priests were only a minority among the clergy of Sabarthes, but they were numerous enough, and very much in evidence.

  • The liaisons with females might have decreased in our day and age but as the news has shown illicit relationships with young boys has not.  What normal, healthy man would decide to take a vow of celibacy?  At age 41 the priests are now in my age group and I can easily see there is something wrong with them.  They are not the sort I’d associate nor have anything to do with.

The Pope devours the blood and sweat of the poor.  And the bishops and the priests, who are rich and honored and self-indulgent, behave in the same manner…whereas Saint Peter abandoned his wife, his children, his fields, his vineyards and his possessions to follow Christ. 

They call themselves little or ‘minor’, and they are big.  Instead of saving the souls of the dead and sending them to heaven, they gorge themselves at banquets after funerals.  And then they own too many silks.  And do you think that their great houses were built by the labor of their own hands?  No, these friars, they are wicked wolves!  They would like to devour us all, dead or alive.

  • An entry to show that a good majority of these priests are depraved.  Yes, there are some good ones who are truly trying to live a good and spiritual life but that is not the majority of them.

The people of Montaillou were fond of having a nap, of taking it easy, of delousing one another in the sun or by the fire. Whenever they could, they tended to shorten the working day into a half day.

  • This is another natural human inclination.  We should enjoy this creation we find ourselves in but the lords, CEOs, stockholders and so on wish to work us to death in order to increase their own personal wealth.  That is the system we are in.  In a perfect society and through the work of our ancestors in building cities, creating technology life should get easier for all of us.  But even with the clothes, cars and material wealth created we find ourselves with higher rates of mental illness, of drug addiction and overdose and of general discontent.  The system we live in is very bad in consideration of where it could be if love and mutual respect prevailed instead of greed.

Moreover, magic was especially a feminine province, and in the mountain villages of the early fourteenth century the cultural gap between men and women which was introduced by parish schools in the sixteenth century did not exist.  Later, segregation by schooling made some boys literate but left most girls completely ignorant.  They thus became, more than ever, the preservers of natural, non-scholastic culture, and also more and more suspect to the men.  And mistrust of women soon turned into suspicion of witchcraft.

– Excellent point and something I did not consider as to the origins of witchcraft.

So, after a certain time spent in penitential wandering from church to church, the dead prepared for their second death.  This meant their entry into the ‘place of rest’, which was also on earth, in a place which was agreeable but vague or even unknown.  This ‘second death’ took place at All Saints.

  • The Chinese also have this idea and even a kanji for it.  I’ve written about this in the past and will place it here:
  • Not too many people know this, but I think it’s called 聻, an ancient character… Yes in Chinese culture, a ghost can die too, when a ghost dies, the form and spirit disappear 形神俱灭,never comes back to another life 永不超生。Chinese culture believe that after people die, they can become something/someone else in another life 投胎。But a 聻 wont. Of course those could be some kind of superstition 迷信 in the culture, not everyone believes it”

Ghosts!

Once they reached the place of rest, they were no longer in contact with the messenger of souls, and thus lost touch with the living.

Man had not only a soul, which most people believed to be immortal, but also a spirit.  When someone was asleep and dreaming, the spirit might escape from his body.

The soul, he told them, remains in the man’s body all the time; but a man’s spirit or mind goes in and out, just like the lizard which went from the sleeper’s mouth to the ass’s head and vice versa. 

in the 1970s there was still a Clergue in the local telephone directory.  Now its people are abandoning the fields up in the mountains, and so threatening the stability of an ancient habitat which neither repression nor contagion was able to destroy.

Not much to say on those last few quotes so I’ll leave them as they are.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book because in learning about the past I can better understand our present circumstances and why things are the way they are.  My main takeaway is that although we’ve progressed in science, economics, technology and many other areas we as human beings remain much unchanged.

The Ancient World, Middle Ages, Christianity and Modern Times

LTMD: I address this to you as there really aren’t many people with whom I could speak freely regarding this subject. So, as I do with many ‘difficult’ topics I’d rather write it to you.

I’ve recently become fascinated with the ‘ancient world,’ which is defined as the time before the fall of the Roman Empire in AD 476.  I was never taught much about it throughout my education and so I was intrigued by the amount of attention ‘ancient knowledge’ is gaining today.

It first caught my attention when I read “Reality Is Not What It Seems‘ about Quantum Gravity by Carlo Rovelli. (My post about this book here) In this book the majority of his praise goes to  Democritus and his formulation of the atomic theory of the universe way back in 460 BC.  He also attacks the Catholic Church for doing a pretty good job of systematically destroying any ancient teaching that was not in line with its own.

The closure of the ancient schools such as those of Athens and Alexandria, and the destruction of all the texts not in accordance with Christian ideas was vast and systematic, at the time of the  brutal anti-pagan repression following the edicts of Emperor Theodosius, which in 390-391 declared that Christianity was to be the only and obligatory religion of the empire.

His basic point here is that Democritus was a giant of his time in the scientific field, was on the right track and that the rise of the Catholic Church was a major setback for science, truth and the reality of all that is around us.

The next book which I’ve just finished is ‘Meditations‘ by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.  I’ve written a post which contain my favorite quotes here.  In it Marcus Aurelius talks about the universe being formed by atoms which must have come from the teachings of Democritus.  Marcus Aurelius also speaks of the universe as nature, of gods, and even a line mocking Christians.

“What a great soul is that which is ready, at any requisite moment, to be separated from the body and then to be extinguished or dispersed or continue to exist.  But this readiness must come from a man’s own judgement, not from mere obstinacy, as with the Christians, but considerately and with dignity and in a way to persuade another, without tragic show.”  

And so what is my point in all of this?  The point is that I feel I’ve just made an enormous discovery:  It is not a discovery that is unknown to humanity, but it is hidden in academic journals, in the minds of college professors and something that is lightly and delicately mentioned by our most famous scientists of today so as not to alienate the massive amount of religious people.

The fall of the Roman Empire was a complete disaster for science, for knowledge, for philosophy and for advancing mankind’s understanding of our universe.  This incredible knowledge was burned and destroyed by both marauding, wild hordes of uneducated savages and what was left destroyed by a cult of superstition called the Catholic Church.  The rise of the Church coincided with the dark ages, a time of ignorance where the only knowledge was that of a superstitious, quasi-historical book called The Bible.

And what really shocks me is that this superstition persists to our own modern times; times where the regular person has more education than at any other time in history.

Science and the knowledge of the Greeks were making inroads into the superstitions of the western world but it all collapsed with the fall of the Roman Empire.  Superstition through religion gained the upper hand and it hasn’t let go of its grip even now in the year 2017.

Somehow, even the very brightest scientists, Ph.D holders perform an enormous amount of mental gymnastics to believe in science while at the same time believing in the superstition of religion.  Religion has such an incredible grip on the human psyche that I doubt it will ever die away until perhaps thousands of years from now.  Christianity has lasted for two thousand years and even with new discoveries that directly contradict its teachings, many people can still find a way to look past the blatant errors and continue to believe.

And so, today on April 21st, 2017 I’m shocked that scientists in the Ancient World were on to the truth and that it has been blatantly buried by religion, by Christianity until the twentieth century, a century which we’ve just left.  Humanity, through science has landed people on the moon and has machines exploring other planets and our galaxy.  Yet, a very large amount of humanity still clings to a cult started just 2000 years ago.

I’ve come across truth and I feel strange that there are very few people I can speak with about this.  How incredible is it that they would reject it due to superstitions taught to them since birth, or be a subject that doesn’t interest them even though it leads to the reason for their very existence!

This is a subject I’ll surely write more about.  It is shocking to me to realize that the Ancient World had such incredible knowledge and we’ve been thrown into the dark for 2000 years.  Perhaps if we were to look at it through the lens of seemingly infinite time, this is just a very small chapter:  protagonists, races, or even entire species have their ups and downs; they come and go, have triumphs and failures.  Perhaps one day the majority of humanity will dig itself out of the pit of superstition which began 2000 years ago with the tragedy of the fall of the Roman Empire.

 

Politics, Religion and getting into the holiday spirit

It is 3:45 AM and I’m feeling a little grumpy.  I did not want to feel grumpy, I wanted to be in a holiday mood!  So perhaps this post will let me release a bit of grumpiness and then perhaps if I concentrate I can switch my mood.

The reason I’m a bit sour is I opened up my phone and clicked on the NextDoor app.  One of the first posts was a neighbor – we’ll call him Frank – wishing everyone a happy Winter Solstice.  There were a few nice replies but then one from the old man down the road who insists on keeping a really junky spray painted sign that reads “Jesus is Lord.”  He tells his neighbors this:

Merry Christmas to all of my neighbors. And please remember the birth of Jesus is why we celebrate this blessed season. Happy new year also! I’m so glade we got a brand new president not made of the same old cloath.

Pacifica is known for its characters who have lived here their entire lives and perhaps never ventured any farther than Lodi and this guy is certainly one of them.  But on the overall Pacifica is a very liberal place and there was an excellent response from another longtime Pacifican.

OK. Let’s talk about this “taking the christ out of christmas” harrassment. Most of our late december festivities, including red peaked hats, gildedtrees, feasting, and the exchange of gifts come directly from both paganism and the roman saturnalia. Jesus was theoretically born most likely in summer.

Now, just as with marriage (which existed before the age of christ), christians are more than welcome to adopt the solstice festival and adapt it to their own beliefs. This is marvelous, actually. But as with marriage, there seems to be this desire to translate “adaptation” into a “mandate.” The solstice at the peak of winter has been celebrated by many cultures in many ways since the dawn of civilization. People should be allowed to recognize (or not) and celebrate in their own way. If one culture adopts the practices of another, how can they then turn around and tell everyone else that their new version is the only version, and scoff and complain and feel oppressed by any other practice?

The post wasn’t what made me grumpy.  What made me grumpy is the realization that a very large portion of Americans think the same way as Frank and these people have just elected Donald Trump.  Facts and logic do not matter for these people; Science is suspect and for the most part are fed a distorted view of reality from one single ‘news’ channel.

But they can be forgiven because Hillary was very unlikable and the Democratic party completely corrupted as was shown by Wikileaks.

What is worse than a President Trump is religion which has distorted humanities view of reality for millennia!  Christianity is what I’m most familiar with having grown up in it and it took a long time of traveling, reading, and thinking to realize that it isn’t true.  Religion on the whole are fairy tales made up for humanity to try and explain his existence, the universe which surrounds him and to comfort him from the extreme terror of not knowing.

As I have traveled, read, and thought even more as I grow older I’ve become completely astounded at how billions of people can believe these fairy tales and how strongly it holds them it its grasp.  Having grown up in a Catholic household I’ve come to understand that they believe it because it is what they’ve been taught their entire lives; it is what their neighbors believe and it is their heritage.  This is the same case for other religions as well as the bulk of adherents were taught to believe since birth.  It is rare for a believer of one faith to switch to another without some extreme reason for doing so.

I guess one of the reasons it really shocks me is because I had always believed in common knowledge, that truth will always prevail and that mainstream thinking would always remain on a true and correct course grounded in science, logic and reason.

Well, with the election of Trump I and the rest of the world have been jolted into the realization that humanity will not always adhere to reason and may not follow the logical, well thought out path.  For me, the election of Trump is exciting in the fact that there will be some real change; it just might be absolutely terrible change but there is also the alternative that it might actually be good.  The world isn’t looking great right now and I’ve grown tired of all this ‘hope’ talk from the Obamas.

*Side tangent – I saw Michelle Obama speaking with Oprah about how we all need to have hope and frankly many do not have hope right now.  Well, my thought is we elected President Obama on the premise of hope and they had eight years to turn hope into reality.  Well, they failed pretty badly as we now have Trump and a Supreme Court that will veer America to the right for decades to come.  I would call that a massive failure.  But no, the media is giving them tearful goodbyes and saying how wonderful they were.  A successful coach not only does well in one season but lays the groundwork for another successful season to follow.  The Democrats have failed terribly in one of their main responsibilities which are to have further successful seasons.  What do you do with a coach who has a mediocre eight years and then never wins a game for the next four? I’m firing the Democrats and going elsewhere.

But politics isn’t my main target for this rant, it is religion.  Aside from putting blinders on the majority of humanity for almost as long as humans have been around I wouldn’t say I’m anti-religious.  Like I said I grew up in the Catholic faith and appreciate the quiet calm of an empty church or cathedral.  I like to walk in and take a seat on the creaky wooden bench which briefly breaks the silence and recognize the smell of incense burnt weeks ago.  Through the church’s stone walls pass currents of many life experiences: birth, marriage and joy, death and sorrow are all experienced here day after day, year after year through the generations and in an ever changing world.  If you sit and quiet the ruckus that is going on in your own mind you can feel traces of emotions, the energy of the souls who have experienced important, life changing events within the church’s walls.

Religion is quite useful in getting people to be still, reflect and pray.  Unfortunately I believe that ‘prayer’ as far as Christianity is concerned at least, has also been corrupted in that instead of turning inward towards your own divine nature it is aimed at the external, at God and at a human turned idol which is Jesus.  Modern prayer is always asking for this and that, give me this or that, do this or that for me.  In fact, even though I had gone to church thousands of times in my life it wasn’t until I attended after having been away for a decade that I was able to hear what the priest was saying with new ears.

The priest was telling God what to do, and to please do this and that and the congregation always repeats what they are to believe with the Nicene Creed and then the priest tells God/Jesus to do some more things.  Instead of just accepting all of this as I had been taught to do as a child I heard the mass with a rational, logical mind.  Through my extensive travels and studies and all that I had learned over the past two decades this mass no longer made any sense to me.  Yes, I agree that there is much that humans cannot understand with our very limited brains but there is also much we can understand and I understand Christianity to be based on falsehood.

Christianity is based on one major pillar and that is the divinity of Christ.  If that is not true then all of Christianity falls down.  I have come to think of Christianity as one enormous cult.  Christians today now scoff at the cult of Jupiter or Osiris little knowing that they themselves are now in a cult created from very similar cloth;  humans thousands of years from now will regard Christianity as a religion for primitive humanity, a time in which many professed to believe in peace and justice yet waged war and destroyed the planet.  Religions of peace and love fought and killed the other religions of peace and love.  Their school children will read about this in the history books and become quite confused.  In fact, they may become quite sad that they are descended from those who professed peace on Sunday yet advocated war on Monday and every other day of the week.

Well look at that, I’m now in a better mood!  It is 5:22 AM and I feel the need for another hour or so of sleep before the day begins.  I can get in the holiday spirit, I know I can!

Journal Entry – Tuesday 7.21.2015

I prefer to write in the morning.  As the day goes on my mind fills with the minutia of work, bills, life and it seems to make the mind somewhat numb.  The best time to write is when I awake in the middle of the night, around 2-3 AM.  There is an energy in the air, the sound of silence rings in my ears and it is as though I’ve stepped into an alternate, parallel world to the one I live in during the day.  I do not often awake at 2 AM however so the next best thing is to write in the morning when I have my deepest thoughts.  

It was an extremely busy morning and I worked like a banshee until now with only a few minutes to stuff a salad in my mouth.  Luckily I made a few notes before my thoughts evaporated as the sun climbed higher into the sky.  

When we are young it seems that happiness and excitement come very easily.  Going to the pool during a hot day, ordering a pizza from the concession stand, taking a nap after becoming utterly exhausted from all the play are things that brought me much happiness.  Now that I’m 38 the excitement and happiness are much more muted.  I would very much like to rediscover this joy of my childhood .  

I think one of the main reasons is that as we get older we develop set routines that can run for years at a time.  We are breathing the same breath over and over again as Thoreau says in Walden.  The quote that we should gather experiences instead of material items is recommended as good advice and those that actively try to enjoy life are applauded.  

It cannot be said that I haven’t tried many new things but I’d just like to record with this post that the euphoria and excitement I once felt as a boy are an infrequent visitors here at 38 years of age and I wonder if these feelings will ever return?  

My mind doesn’t help with this task either.  We all run simulations in our head of how a new experience, or trip, might be and if we would enjoy it or not.  Unfortunately, when I run these simulations in my head I tend towards the negative such as it being a hassle, or something that takes too much effort.  It is at these times I need to realize that my thoughts are wrong and to go ahead with it.  Having two kids does add quite a bit of work and it is more of a hassle since the amount of stuff one must prepare for any outing is substantial, but in the end the memories it brings are priceless.  I already miss the baby/toddler days of my oldest boy and it saddens me greatly to think that those times are gone forever.  

I must snap out of it and really appreciate everyday, every moment.  But it is impossible to remain in such an appreciative state for more than a few moments.  Life continues on and our brains return to autopilot.  

My youngest is still a baby but he too is growing up too quickly.  He changes his behaviors on a week to week basis with his latest trick being that he points to where he wants to go.  I hold him and he has me running all over the place, to the fish tank, to that purple thing on the table, to Mom – pointing all the way as though I’m an incompetent cab driver.  

I think back to when he was first born and the children in the nursery.  This is a bit off track but I don’t care, its my journal.  I never wanted to put my kids in the nursery at the hospital after they were first born.  They do have a nice room and the nurses do a good job so Mom and Dad can have a little break.  But my question is why the hell would Dad need a break, he didn’t do anything, well nothing that requires a great amount of effort anyway!  Sure, I was a little sleep deprived but who cares, not when I’ve got a brand new life changing present to hold!  The thought of leaving my newborn boys in a nursery even for a few moments horrified me.  It’s not exactly comfortable with the lights on all the time and the certainty that at least one or two kids will be crying.  How could a newborn, or anyone for that matter, get any rest!?  

So whenever the nurses came in and had to take my babies, I went along and wasn’t going to let them out of my sight.  

But I do remember one baby who I felt very sorry for.  His name was Thomas and he was born around August 15th 2014.  He had a cleft lip and I gathered that his father was no longer around and he had a mother that needed a lot of help.  I heard one of the nurses mention needing a social worker and that “someone needs to feed that baby.”  I cannot be absolutely sure but I believe they were speaking about Thomas’s situation.  Now that my #2 is almost a year old I wonder what happened to Thomas and where he is now.  Lying there as a baby he was so innocent, ready to start life in this brand new world, with the only requirement being love, which he may not have received.  To think about this makes me feel very sad.  I think of Thomas from time to time and it hardens my belief that if there is a God, he pays absolutely no attention to us.  

At 38 I see many of my old acquaintances becoming more religious, certainly more-so than they ever were in their 20s.   The reason this is happening is because they were born into it and now that they are getting older they feel they should set a good example for their children; they are mirroring their own parents.  But to tell a secret, blithely throwing religion around on the social networks, or any type of missionary activity really, annoys me to no end, especially when I think of poor Thomas.  Of course I do not engage in religious debates, not unless they actually have a deep knowledge of the historical facts, have traveled and read a book or two outside their own belief systems that again, 99% were born into.  So I write it here, I get it off my chest.

I cannot imagine what Thomas has been through his first year.  Most likely endless crying without being consoled, visits from social workers, perhaps even removal from a time from his own mother.  And where can we place the blame on the mother, who more than likely went through the same experience herself as an infant?  Children grow up, become parents and mirror their own parents for the most part.  

If I linger on the thought for too long I become angry.  “Jesus/God/Allah loves everyone.”  Yea, a bunch of nonsense as they apparently paid no attention to Thomas from the moment he was born; oddly enough God helped Mr. Curry put the basketball in the basket many times the following year!  Religion is fantasy land and make believe for adults, now how do I make a hands clasped emote?