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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Regrets

I am now sixty years of age and fast on the downhill slide to sixty-one.  Looking back on my life I have regrets.  I have regrets for things I have done and for things I did not have the courage to do.  Some things I regret are known to others and some are things I'll take with me to my grave untold.  I think anyone beyond their teen years who is honest would admit to having regrets.  And, the older we become the more regrets we have since we will have many more opportunities to make mistakes.

I have an old friend who is my age and tells me she has no regrets because she will not "allow" herself to have them.  I'm to polite to say "bullshit" but I do think it.  She is big time into books filled with psycho-babble and selecting how she feels rather than just facing herself in the mirror and giving herself an honest assessment of her actions or lack thereof.

I am not going to list my regrets here for the entire world to see as that is not the purpose of this article.  I am merely admitting I have them and they are for many things I have done and many things I did not do.  Not all of them are G-rated.  Not even PG or M.

I read two quotes by someone whom I don't recall the name but who had a great impact on me after the colossal eff-up that was my childhood.  Both of these are paraphrased but I think I can capture the gist of the meaning.  The first one is, "When you are old have all your regrets for things you have done and not for the things you did  not have the courage to do."   The second was, "The most futile regrets are those of temptations resisted."   I think I have done a pretty fair job on both of those AFTER a certain period of my life.

I do think the regrets I have are heavily biased toward things I have done with things I did not do  relegated to my earlier years with a couple of notable exceptions.  And, as far as temptations go, I do  not think I really ever turned my back on one.  Of course, some of those, lead to later regrets.

I can clearly recall thinking (when I was younger and the time was well off in an unreal future) , "When I am old and unable to do anything I want to look back on my life and regret only things I have done and not things I never had the courage to do."  Perhaps I took that to an extreme from time to time but...

I suppose, were I to have any one thing to pass on to my children, their children and those on down the line long after I am gone and forgotten is, "Go For IT!!!"   You can settle for other people's opinions, other people's standards, other people's limitations and goals.  Or, you can take a look in the mirror and see just who you ARE and see just what you WANT and what you NEED and go for it.  Never let someone ELSE live your life for you.  Never let someone ELSE place limitations on your dreams and your goals.  You may do it wrong but, at least, you will have done it chasing your own dreams and not those of someone else.  No matter who they may be and no matter how much you might respect or even love them.  It is YOUR life.  Live it.

There are just too many negative and self-righteous people in this world who are all too willing to tell you where you are wrong, where you should limit yourself, what you CAN'T do.  Eff them.  (Figuratively, of course, since most of them are so hideous you wonder how they have children.) and go for your OWN goals.  Strive for your OWN happiness.  When you try and fail it is not the end of the world.  When you fail to try it can be.  Take my word for it.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Why is God a 'HE"?

I wonder how many people have considered the subtle, sociological conditioning we've all gone through by always referring to "god" as "he"?  Have you really thought about it?

It is my belief referring to "god" as "he" is a reflection of our male dominated social structures from the beginning of  time.

Throughout history, with a few exceptions. our civilizations have been completely male dominated.  Men rule and women are subservient.  I remember my mother, as independent as she was, always the only reason a female could lead a prayer or conduct a service was if there was no qualified man present.

Religion is not the only part of society which demands the supremacy of the male over the female.  Men rule, women do as they are told.  As the Appalachian stereotype says, "Keep them barefoot and pregnant".  I grew up in an area that still believed in ways like that.  Men were the head of the house and women did what the man said or suffered the consequences.

When and where I grew up a man beating his wife was mildly frowned upon but considered his "right".  It has been like that throughout history.  Every ethnic and religious group moans about the times they were enslaved, disenfranchised, and forced to submit to a humiliating existence.  OK, that happened.  But, what about women as a group?  They have been enslaved and disenfranchised throughout recorded history and, I'd wager the whole time before.

This is my own theory and outlook on gender relationships through the ages.   It derives from a great deal of reading of histories and common sense thoughts as to why things were and are as they are.  I profess no high degrees or published works of learning.  I'm just putting things in my own perspective as a reasonably intelligent human being who has escaped the tyranny of the belief women are, somehow, inferior.

I believe the subjugation of the female gender started in very early prehistory.Women, as child bearers, were the key to the survival and, therefore, the continuation of the family and/or clan.  So, women should be protected.  Especially, pregnant females.

This is understandable and logical and should not bother anyone.  It is just an evolutionary imperative.  We are driven to pass on our genes and protect the carriers of those genes.  So, women did not hunt, did not go to war, just waited in the place where the family/clan was camped and did not endanger the progeny of the males of the tribe.

Next the evolutionary imperative of passing on one's own genes led to the sequestering of women.  The only way a male could guarantee it was HIS genes being passed down was to isolate the females to the point where there was no possibility of any child born could be no other than the husband/owner of the female.

This was a step on the transition of protecting the mothers of your children to enslaving the mothers of your children.  Until quite recently, historically speaking, women were considered property of their fathers until they were married then were the property of their husband.  Unfortunately, this view continues into our own times.

That, in my opinion, is the origin of the idea of marriage.  It is a formal transition of ownership of the woman from father to husband.  Then the woman would be isolated with other women to ensure the only sperm to find an egg was that of the husband (owner) of that woman.  Women were placed under societal,religious, and real demands to have no life except that allowed by the husband.

This also, in my opinion, is the basis in the long held views on adultery.  An adulteress woman was subject to death at her husband's whim but an adulteress husband was just an expected norm.  Women were killed for daring to have sex with someone other than their owner while men were lionized for the number of women they bedded.  How much more clearly do you need slavery defined?

Today, we have evolved societally to the point where we try to ensure gender equality, yet, those old ideas and mores' continue and women are still considered inferior to men.  In some parts of the world women are still pretty much slaves to men of their own families or their husband and his family.

Women, doing the same job, are still paid less than men in general.  Women are still beaten while the man is only mildly chastised. Women are still murdered by husbands and boyfriends who look at them as their own property with no rights of their own.  After all, "all MEN were created equal".  All women were created to be subjugated  by men for their pleasure and the bearing of what was guaranteed to be their own children.

Of course female children were never of much value.  A man wanted sons.  Women were interchangeable and unimportant.  Even the much revered christian bible displays this attitude.  After "god" destroyed the whole life of Job on a bet with satan he gave Job a new wife and children and everything was hunky-dory.  Kind of shows you who and what was important doesn't it?

So, you see, "god" has to be a "he" even though even the bible explains there are no men and no women in spiritual realm.  It would be disrespectful to call "god"  and "it" wouldn't it?  And, even worse, to call "god" a "she".

Although, most religions view their own "god" to be the being who birthed the world we live on (and are trying to destroy).  So, if "god" gave birth to the world  (universe?) why not refer to "god" as she?

Gay Marriage

When it comes to gay marriage I have "no dog in this fight" (which in, and of itself, is a pretty disgusting cliche') other than the belief in freedom and equality.

I have heard so much rhetoric from both sides and so little willingness to see it objectively.  As I can see most, if not all, of the objections to gay marriage is based on religious beliefs.  I can understand that.  Both the proponents and opponents of gay marriage cite the bible to support their views.  I find religion to be completely immaterial in this question.

You see, there are two entirely separate components of marriage.  One is religious and one is civil.  I have no problem with religions and those who believe  in those religions refusing to recognize gay marriage or have gay marriages performed in their church.  That is part of religious freedom.  The problem I have with religion and religious people is they are trying to enforce their own religious beliefs on the civil component of marriage.  That is a violation of the separation of church and state and is the most underrated and one of the most important components of our constitution.

Religion should play no part whatsoever in the exercise of a person's civil rights. That is what the civil portion of marriage is.  It is a civil right.  It should not be impacted by anyone's religious beliefs who is not a part of the proposed marriage.

Civil marriage is no more than a legal contract between two people outlining the rights and responsibilities of each partner in a merger of two individuals into one.  Legally speaking, of course.  I see no constitutional basis to deny people of the same gender the same rights that are implicit in people of different genders.  

Civil marriage is a legal contract between two people.  Gender should  not matter.  Why should you deny two people of the same gender the right to totally screw up their lives when you allow people of different genders to do the same.  Even the most religious should be able to see the difference in the two components of marriage.

Freedom of religion demands religious organizations can believe whatever they wish and gay marriage cannot be forced on them if it violates their beliefs.  But, freedom FROM religion also demands other person's religious beliefs cannot be allowed to violate another person's civil rights.

That is the problem as I see it.  Religious people who's religion does not accept the idea of gay marriage are trying to force their own religious beliefs on everyone by denying two people the right to enter into a civil contract of marriage.  No matter what your religious beliefs say the civil side of marriage is the important one.

If you don't believe that just ask a divorce lawyer.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Time's Winds (A Poem)

I don't feel like writing anything very often these days.  Poetry especially seems to come hard for me and I'm not quite the tormented soul I used to be.  Perhaps today was nostalgic or perhaps....



Time’s winds
Blow from dreams to memories
Then back to dreams again.

Billowing sails
Whisk us across an isle filled sea
As what was and what might be become one.

Beautiful beach
And rocky shoal both call to us
Serene voiced and thunder’s roar.

Siren’s Song
Always before us leads us onward
Beneath this clouded sky of longing.

Precious day
Pressed by night on either side
As we swiftly fly before those winds .

June 19, 2014
Frank Van Hoose



Tuesday, June 17, 2014

My Brother and the Possum

I wrote this in Word as I did  not have access to the blog at the time.  I won't vouch for the formatting but I hope the story is still there.


 My Brother and the Possum
I tell this from memory of the last time my brother related the tale to me. I cannot recall whether or not I have posted it here. So, if I have, forgive me as I’m getting older and us older people love to repeat our stories. Sometimes with alterations as our memories become more subjective.
From about early 1958 until September 7 of 1961 our family lived at a place called Spring Knob in (very) rural Southeastern Kentucky. We lived in a small log cabin which was the home of whomever was keeping watch in the forestry tower there. I have many memories of that place for sure. A lot of things happened there which were formative to my childhood.
This particular story is one I do not personally recall happening but was related to me by my elder brother. Not sure what year it was but I do remember my brother quit high school so he could complete vocational school prior to turning eighteen. He is twelve years older than I so this would have had to have been between 1957 and 1959 as those were the years for him being between sixteen and eighteen.
Spring Knob tower was on the top of a hill four and one tenth miles from Route forty. I will never forget this measurement as my Dad often quoted it in his stories. And, repetition is the key to learning, as we have all heard. There was a rutted out dirt road which lead from the blacktop out that way. They have built a lot of homes out in that direction now but then it was mostly deserted. I really can remember only one house that sat near the road and that house figures prominently into this story.
The reason I recall my brother’s age is because at the beginning of this tale is his habit of running from Route 40 to the cabin at Spring Knob after his ride from the vocational school dropped him off so he would have time to do some afternoon squirrel hunting.
It was during one of these runs this story begins. Recall that one house I said sat near the road. Best I can recall it was about half way so about two miles from the road and the same from our house. The occupant of this house was a well known moonshiner. I forget the name and that is not important to the story at any rate.
This particular man was very good at making whiskey. In fact, he bought used bourbon barrels from distilleries in central Kentucky and aged his home made liquor in them. Aging liquor in charred barrels is where the dark color and much of the smoky flavor originates.
On this particular late afternoon he hailed my brother on his way home from school and asked if he’s like some “char whiskey”. Being a member of my family (who never turned down a drink in our lives) he stopped in and sat drinking and talking with this man for some time. When he was ready to leave the man asked him if he wanted some apples and gave him a larger, brown, paper grocery bag full of them to take home with him.
What with the bag of apples and the skin full of whiskey I expect he no longer felt like running so he was walking on homeward when he saw a possum (OK, for the picky, O’possum) cross the road in front of him and climb up a nearby tree. He sat down the bag of apples and gathered rocks to throw at the possum to try and knock it out of the tree. He did not succeed (wonder why his aim was so bad?) and when it got too dark to find rocks he began throwing apples at the critter. Finally he connected and knocked the possum out of the tree. When it hit the ground, instead of running, it ‘sulled’ up. A trick of the possum to ‘play dead’ hoping to fool whatever is messing with it.
So, my brother picked up the possum by the tail and the remaining apples in the bag and headed on home. He said it was well after dark when he got home and everyone was in bed already. (One must remember we had no electricity at that cabin so dark mostly meant bedtime.) So, he sat the, much diminished, bag of apples and the possum down on the floor and went to bed on the sofa where he always slept.
He said he was awakened the next morning by our mother screaming and the possum sitting in the middle of our kitchen table.
As I recall he has not related to me what happened after this or I have just forgotten. Of the many things we could say about our childhoods in Kentucky the one thing we can never say is it was boring.


We Used to Be Like You

We know how you see  us
Grey hair or none at all
Wrinkles and age spots
Full of aches and pains
Endless repetition
Of boring stories
Told a million times
But, we used to be like you
Young and vibrant
Whole life ahead
No idea of mortality
If not exactly the same
We had similar problems
Similar dreams and goals
We rebelled against our parents
We coped with peer pressure
We faced hormones
And all they brought us
We hated school
We were bullied
We loved to sleep late
Our music mystified our elders
We dressed like  tramps
Our hair was a disgrace
We know what you think
Since we thought the same
No, we've not forgotten
What it is  like to be young
We've just lived through it
To be what you see now
But we never forget
We used to be like you.

Frank VanHoose
June 17,2014

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Another One Bites the Dust

I don't really like Queen and I think "Bohemian Rhapsody" is the most overrated song of all time.  I do enjoy "Another One Bites the Dust/We Are the Champion".  But that is neither here nor there.

We received an email from our HR regarding the death of someone I knew.  I did not know him well but it came as somewhat of a shock as I had just been commenting at lunch with a friend about how many people I had worked with in my (coming) twenty-four years with the company.  For that reason, if for no other, it was shocking.

I can't say much about him as I did not know him well and had only worked with him for a few months several years ago.  But, at least, I knew who he was.

The fact he was some years younger than I played some role as well.  Looking back on it there are an inordinate number of folk I have worked with who have passed away (read "died") who are a few to several years younger than I.

There are many (all younger than I) who have died.  I know one cannot fathom the whys and wherefores because there is no rhyme or reason for these things.  Still, it kind of amazes me how someone like I who has tried to kill himself slowly over many years is still here while so many who loved life and embraced life-lengthening treatments are now long gone.

Possibly, just an observation on the general unfairness of the universe. (Were the universe truly fair I would not transpose so many letters.  I am so tired of typing "hte" for "the" or "ot" for "to".  Age I suppose.  A lot of word processors recognize this error and auto corrects.  I guess some day us old fart will just have to strike keys at random and the software will interpret it and   construct masterpieces of literature.

I suppose it is time for bed as I can no longer follow my own train of thought.

Black and White Make Magic...

I just saw an interesting commercial tonight.  It reminded me of the simple little Cheerios commercial where the racist element of our population made such a big deal of an interracial couple with a beautiful, light brown daughter being in a commercial.

Thank you racists.

Something seems to have struck a chord with advertisers.  Since that debacle I have noticed a plethora of TV commercials with interracial couples.  The one-armed veteran in the Swiper ad, and now an interracial commercial for GEICO.

While I am not delusional enough to believe this really reflects any dramatic change in the views of the racists (no matter what their race) in this country, it is refreshing to see advertisers and companies standing up to the haters and embracing diversity.

The times they are a' changing (Thanks Bob Dylan).  People who don't embrace diversity, no matter what their race or religion, are going to be left behind with some cold, empty arms.

I'm old.  I grew up when TV was lilly white.  But, I do remember the beginnings.  Dianne Carrol in Diane.  The very first prime time TV show with a black actress in the lead.  Maybe I missed one before that but I don't think so.  Bill Cosby who demonstrated people of color have the same problems people of all colors have with life and families.

Even Sanford and Son (you want to hear some real raunch... just Google Redd Foxx) which was a remake of a British show called "Steppoe and Son" was a widely hailed success.

I am amazed on one hand how far we have come as a society when it comes to dealing with diversity.  Then I am appalled at how much of the old hatreds still thrive.  Not just in whites but in people of all skin tones.  

It is a constant we, as humans, have always found.  There is always a "they" for us to hate and feel superior to.  You want the next step in societal evolution?  It is looking beyond the past and toward the future when skin color means no more than eye or hair color does now.  The real "they" we should despise is the evil and intolerance in ourselves.  "They" can no more help who their parents are, what color their skin is, what country or religion they were born in to.

Religious, or not religious, it is on us to embrace everyone as brother/sister and live that kind of life.  Hatred suck and saying, "Haters gonna hate" does not cut it.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Just In Case Religion

There is a song by Tom T. Hall called "I Remember the Year That Clayton Delaney Died".  One of the lines goes, "They say at the end he got religion and I'm glad he did".  To me that is just a case of "Just in Case Religion" and that seems to be what far too many people have.

Just think, how many people you know who did just whatever the heck they wanted until they were around sixty or above and the fact of mortality came looking them in the face THEN they, all of a sudden, "got religion".  Just in case ....

I wonder just who they think they are fooling.  If there is a god such as the Christian Bible proposes then do we think he/she/it is so stupid as to believe after 60-70 years of doing as we damn well please we all of a sudden get enlightened?  Or, is it, we all of a sudden get scared of an eternity in hell and "Just In Case" we need to "get religion" before we die?  Hmmm...

I guess it is just human nature to  not worry about the future of our "immortal soul" when we are young and death seems so far away and not so believable.  Then, as we age, we come face to face with the fact that nobody yet has escaped this world alive and start thinking "just in case" we were wrong to deny the reality of religious beliefs. 

Personally, I believe "Just in Case" religion is worse than no religion at all.  At least no religion at all is honest.  IF there is a GOD and IF there is a judgment I think there will be a lot of surprised people who find that "Just in Case" is not good enough. 

I think I'll take my chances on dying by the values I've had to live by.  I do not believe in the stereotypical Christian God.  A God who is a demon with delusions.  A god who commands genocide, a god who demands torture and death for non-believers.  I do not believe in a God who would sentence anyone to an eternity in the Christian Hell for any reason.

If there is a God, I believe he/she/it would be more concerned with belief, intent and honesty that mere forms and public professions.  IF there is a God I will face him/her/it with my head held high and the knowledge I have done the best I could with what I was given.  I will NOT bow to "Just in Case" religion.  Because if there is one thing I do believe it is that hypocrisy will buy you nothing at all.  If I go down it will be standing on my own two feet and believing what I believe.  It will not be on a platform of "Just in Case" hypocrisy. 

People should understand, If your beliefs are good enough to live by they are good enough to die by.  And, if you are afraid to die by them, then, perhaps you should take another look at how you are living. 

I admit I despise conventional religion.  I think it is evil incarnate disguised as good.  No professed evil in this world has ever done as much harm as organized religion and most especially Christianity.  I believe that IF there is a GOD and IF he/she/it is just there are going to be a lot of surprised self-righteous hypocrites looking around for some excuse and not finding any. 

When it comes to life I believe, "If you can't die by it then don't live by it".  Morality is simple.  It is called the Golden Rule.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Nothing else is necessary.  If we would all just do that we would not need a bunch of religious hokum.

I've lived my life by what I believe and I'll die by what I believe.  There will be no "Just In Case" religion for me.  If God judges by the heart then the rest does not matter.  If there is no god then the rest does not matter.  Just in case hypocrisy is not for me, thank you.
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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Reflections on a Snowy Day

It is a snowy day  here in Columbia, SC.  February 12, 2014.  We have only a smattering or "real" winter here and when it does come it is by far the best to just stay home and avoid all the South Carolina drivers who think they CAN drive in the snow and all those who think they CAN'T.  Both are equally dangerous and sitting at home looking at the falling snow from my window is the best bet.

However these kind of days bring on a mood of reflection.  Well, I often get those moods no matter what the weather.  So, I'm going to bore everyone with some of them.

I'm sitting here watching the movie "Ender's Game".  Not so much because I like it but because my wife wanted me to order it from DirecTV.  I've not read the books but I've always heard of them and my daughter enjoys them.  There is just not enough time in the world to read all the books I would probably like so I exercise a great deal of "editing" in my reading list.

Snow, bad movies, a little vodka and, "voila", here come memories and reflections.  This is nothing like an organized sequence of thoughts and feelings.  Just some reflections and observations of myself as well as others.

I'm not an easy person to get to know.  I'm not simple, I'm not open, I'm hidden to most including myself at times.  I don't like to have people too close.  Only the people you love can hurt you.  I've had entirely enough of that so  it is much simpler to just never allow people inside.  Keep them at arm's length.  Keep yourself at arm's length.  Never show anyone what you think, what you feel, anything.  That is the only safe way.


I just recently turned sixty years of age.  Lord knows (that is just a figure of speech) I never expected to reach one third that age and that expectation has played hell with my life beyond my expectations.  I did many things thinking I would be dead at age twenty-one.  Seems like a silly belief now I am sixty and might even make it to the next decade though I am far from convinced it will  happen.

People have called and still call me various things.  I'm sure I do not know all of them but the ones I do know are "pessimist", "smart ass", "arrogant", "uncaring",  many other things.  But, what am I?  Really?  What am I?  Who's opinion matters?  How clearly does anyone see others or themselves? 

These are questions I can provide no clear answers to.  I don't even know if I want to.  I think that might be the greatest error people my have is thinking they see anything clearly.  The world, up and down, right and wrong, love and hate is never clear.  There is a great fog that covers everything but no one can see it.    It is an invisible fog that obscures everything yet at the same time appears to reveal everything.  It is our own perceptions.   We blind ourselves with a fog of mistaken understanding and seek to deny anything that does not fit, cozily, into our own cookie-cutters. 

I have these questions, doubts, flights of fancy where I question everything including my own existence.  For, logically, none of us and nothing external can exist.  From nothing comes nothing yet by both religion and secularism we are asked to believe just this.  Neither offers a cogent explanation for our very existence yet demand we believe in their explanations for everything else.    Neither have any satisfactory explanations for anything at all. 

So, why is this a reflection?  Mostly because of what other people's beliefs have done to my life, my world, my past and my future.  It would seem beliefs have nothing to do with any reality but within our minds they direct all of our actions.  They guide us to do or not do things and those things we do or do not do shapes our lives.  Most times in ways we do not even recognize.  Not until far after and far too late.

I would have been far better off had I been a non-believer far earlier in my life.  Yet the tie of belief and obedience is strong and though our own observations contradict all we have been taught we continue to cling to belief as "a drowning man clutches at straws".   Even when we know the straw is not real and, even if it were, we would still drown.  That is childhood.  I think we never really outgrow that.  We  have ideas, thoughts, dreams, even epiphanies but those "lessons" of childhood are hard to shake.  No matter how many times they are proven to be untrue.  Just what do we as parents do to our children?  How much damage do we do while wholly convinced we are doing right?  Only time will tell but we won't live to see it all as all our mistakes flow downtime to our grandchildren and great grandchildren and beyond.  Just how much damage does our good intentions do? 

If I have anything in this life I am proud of it is two things.  First and foremost I think my children will think for themselves and make decisions in their lives based on their own beliefs and not on mine.  Second is that they read.  Reading will open one's eyes and mind like nothing else.  I cannot judge what might be right or wrong for my kids but with, I hope, little "pre-programming" from me they will  not one day look back on their lives and crucify me for their beliefs but will realize no matter what they have come to believe it is something they have arrived at on their own. 

In reflection, I think the greatest gift one can five one's children is the right and ability to choose their own future as guided by their own beliefs.  Unlike me.  I sincerely hope they have lives unlike me.  Lives of their own choosing.  And I hope they pass that on to my grandchildren and then to my great grandchildren and then.... on and on down the line.