Travel By The Book

I subscribe to BookBub so this morning I received my daily list of suggestions for possibilities that might interest me. Frank Zappa once said, “So many books; so little time!” I can definitely identify.

The book suggestions completely crossed the planet, going from Fatal North by Bruce Henderson–about the 1871 Polaris expedition–clear down to Antarctica by Gabrielle Walker. Everything you ever wanted to know about the South Pole explorations. Then we have The Art of the Compliment by Christie Matheson. probably something everyone should read. 🙂 And Peter Singer writes about The Most Good You Can Do.

The Unfinished Odyssey of Robert Kennedy by David Halberstam would be a book for US political history buffs. The blurb says: “An in-depth examination of the political career, personal life, and untimely demise of Robert Kennedy.” Like most everyone during those years, I heard & read about the Kennedy family tragedies but now it’s “water under the bridge” and not high priority reading for me.

One writer has decided to time-travel, literally, to Victorian England. The Victorian Life by Sarah A Chrisman. Blurb: “Fascinated by the 19th century, one couple decided to fully commit to a Victorian way of life. From tending oil lamps to wrestling with corset laces, this charming and insightful read chronicles a modern exploration of a bygone era.”

Have these folks chosen an upper class lifestyle or do they give glimpses of life for the rest of society in that era? I have a book of written records made by various people back in Victorian England, describing the living conditions they observed among the working class and the destitute. The average George Brown, victim of the Industrial revolution, who had only a cup of tea yesterday, nothing today. Homeless men spending nights in a poor-house. Women doing men’s jobs–cheaper labour costs, you know–working hard in a factory for twelve hours a day, with a nursing baby strapped to their chest and a toddler or two beside them. Or a family in London’s East end in a slum where landlords rented by the day and if you couldn’t pay, your belongings–what few you had–were thrown out in the street so your apartment could be rented to someone who could. Corset laces were the least of their worries.

I’ve noticed that people who claim to be reincarnated weren’t, in their former life, an average Joe, Pedro the galley slave, Lizzy the overworked scullery maid, or Piers the crippled soldier. History is full of unknowns barely surviving, but the folks who claim to remember a past life were usually a famous/notorious SOMEONE. Biblical character, prophet, Rajah, Prince or Princess, doctor or scientist. I don’t know as anyone’s ever claimed a past life as a writer. 🙂

Time travel books work the same. The traveler’s dropped into an intriguing time in history and accepted by the locals. These from-the-future visitors always have the means to keep from fatal accident, starvation, or execution as a heretic or witch, until they head home again. Well, I suppose that’s fiction for you: writers have complete control of their character’s fate.

I believe that now and then we all need an accurate picture of life as it was way back when. Last night I was listening to the audio-book about Nicholas Nickleby and his life at Dotheboys Hall. Kudos to Charles Dickens, an author who gives us a realistic view of life for the lower classes of his day — and through his novels actually managed to change society’s attitude toward the poor. If we only knew it, we still benefit very much from what he accomplished.

BookBub, Book Cave, Reading Deals and various other outlets are ways for writers to advertise and get their books out to readers. There are lots more book deals but I have a very restricted list of interest. Subscribers can tailor their selections to their own interests when they sign up.

“The Cause of Problems Is Solutions”

In this post I’m sharing a few more thoughts on Idealism

Ideals are wonderful things as long as they are securely linked to reality.

One day a speaker mentioned that in Ireland, a Catholic country, divorce is illegal. (He didn’t mention annulments.) Afterwards another lady commented, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it were that way here?”

I said, “The murder rate would go up.” Perhaps I’m too much of a realist, but…

My sister Donna was married at fifteen, with a baby on the way, and suffered a number of beatings from her drunken husband. Six years and three children later she left him. He’d come home drunk, they’d fight and he’d start choking her until she passed out. True, there was fault on both sides but she had good reason to fear.

Though she’d divorced him, being a Catholic he had their marriage annulled later so he could marry again.

“The cause of problems is solutions,” some sage once said.

The price of gas here in SK shot up last month. (Shall we attribute that to Biden or Putin?) Last week a friend commented, “Well, we’ll all have to go back to a horse and buggy.”

Simplistic. Idealistic. Nostalgic, maybe even romantic? But how feasible?

From her perspective this might be, seeing she lives in a farmyard with barns and sheds that could accommodate a horse and buggy. They’d have some pasture for a horse and hay-making equipment wouldn’t be hard to come by. But can you imagine the folks in ten- or fifteen-storey apartment buildings in the city, thousands of families trying to feed and house horses? Can you imagine all the horse manure on the city streets!

City-dwellers might just walk or use public transport (which also uses fuel) but my friend’s brothers use gas, oil and diesel in their farming operation and seed cleaning plant. Farm production – and consequently food supply – would be limited if crops need to be seeded and harvested by horses.( Being soft-heated myself, I’m so thankful farmers don’t use horses anymore. Some of those poor animals were horribly mistreated.)

Some of our electricity comes from hydro turbines, a bit from wind-power, but most of our businesses, factories, greenhouses, power-generating plants – indirectly all our utilities – depend mainly on gas, propane, and/or oil. We’ve built ourselves a society dependent on gas + oil. This is our reality. If we suddenly found ourselves low on gas and power, I can see some folks starving and/or freezing to death. We can find ways to cut back on consumption but there’s no going back to the good old days.

A Simple Solution?

One way to cut back on fuel consumption would be to ground all airplanes. Jets use a terrific amount of fuel, right? And for sure, dry-dock those diesel-guzzling, pollution-generating behemoths that lumber across the oceans taking rich people on completely unnecessary exotic cruises. People don’t need all this virus-spreading international travel. Stay home. That’s what we do. Er…unless we want to go some distance…and we’re in a hurry. 😉

What do you think…are my solutions feasible? What if pilots, stewards, various traffic controllers and business people all over the world start protesting the loss of their jobs? Try taking away people’s income and the lifestyle they’ve come to rely on and you have a huge problem.

True, people who call themselves “realistic” can be downright pessimistic. However, the reality of a situation or of human behavior in general – our fondness for money in particular – can scuttle the best ideals. Idealists don’t always get this.

Idealism Takes A Hit

Occasionally I read an article posted on POCKET, historical articles or some journalist’s take on a recent news story. I’ve read about the newest wave of CENSORSHIP, an issue that often boils down to an idealistic approach versus a realistic one. I read about one young man who responded to the many PROTESTS and CONSPIRACY THEORIES by starting his own. Others said, “Hey, why not?” and the crazy thing went viral.

I’ve heard about the social upheaval massive immigration has caused in Texas. Last night I started reading J D Vance’s HILLBILLY ELEGY, describing the “hollowing out” and desperate poverty in the US Midwest — “the Rust Belt.” All this input rattling around in my mind, plus my own experience, has produced cogitations I’m going to share in several upcoming posts. Starting with…

Idealism In a Real World

A few years after we were married we were discussing a politician of our day and my husband commented, “He’s too much of an idealist. I’d rather see a crook elected to run the country than an idealist.”

I understood where he was coming from. A crook usually has a good handle on how things really work. A dreamer who isn’t facing reality can be dangerous when handed the reins. Now, with almost fifty years of practical observations as well as a keen interest in history, I understand that sentiment so much better. Especially after I read a number of accounts of how the ultimate idealism, PROHIBITION, worked, especially in the US.

An elderly friend once told me about Nellie McClung’s sad observation on being hit by reality. McClung (1873-1951) was one of Canada’s original suffragettes and women writers. She worked hard to get the vote for women; once women had the vote she was elected to the Alberta Legislature. Being all for home and family, and opposed to the demon drink that destroyed homes and left wives and families destitute, she was totally in support of Prohibition.

The sad remark she made in her old age, according to my friend, was: “We thought when women got the vote, we’d outlaw liquor. But we never thought we’d see the day when women would take to drinking!”

I could have told her that. When I was young most of the women I knew drank. My own mother, according to my sisters, “spent half her life in the beer parlour.” My younger sister, Donna, unsuccessfully fought a lifelong battle with alcohol, though it was finally a drug overdose that took her out. Always a feisty kid, I think she would have loved a swig of bootleg booze.

Evangelical Christians have always leaned heavily toward idealism, thinking they know what’s good for the rest of the country. But there’s a whole ‘nother world in their midst – my own non-religious people – that Protestant Evangelicals haven’t really been able to acknowledge. And when those citizens rise up and start following their inclinations, idealism will crash.

Bootleg booze, rum-runners, organized crime: the Christian Women’s Temperance League never foresaw how these would flourish.

Now for a secular example…

Breast-feeding Is A Natural Act

Definitely it is. However, there’s a reason why North American women have been hesitant – some may say “inhibited” – from breast-feeding openly in public places. In fact, one weekend in Saskatoon a group of zealous women set up a display in the Midtown Mall promoting the natural act of breast-feeding. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of,” they claimed, “Nursing a baby should be allowed openly anywhere with no embarrassment or legal questions.”

In an ideal world, it would work. In this awfully real world…

In the course of shopping, I passed by their display several times. They’d set up a prominent booth and hung huge posters above it showing mothers nursing their babies. Lots of posters and pamphlets displayed around the booth. But reality lingered in the shadows. Each time I noticed a number of fascinated men strolling, or lingering by walls and in corners, so obviously drinking in the visual stimulation.

Yeah, it’s awful – but are you surprised? In a society where respect for women, consideration for motherhood, respect and decency in general, ran the show, this blatant display of lechery wouldn’t be. Pardon me, but I hope those ladies so inspired by their rosy ideals had their eyes opened to the reality of lust. Nursing openly may work in a different, more accustomed, less sex-focused society. But in ours, I believe this peeping is something nursing mothers in our society will deal with if they start to bare it all in public places.

Goals and ideals are great, but a person — especially a leader — needs a clear understanding of what will actually work in our imperfect world.

Inimitable

The Ragtag Daily Prompt word this morning is INIMITABLE.

And here are my thoughts on the matter.

Inimitable means matchless; unsurpassed; unequalled.

As far as the actual meaning of the word is concerned, few things in this world are inimitable. Most everything ever produced can be imitated. Forgers have proved this over and over. Is this a real Rembrandt or an imitation? Our countries spend millions of dollars trying to come up with currency that’s inimitable, but counterfeiters can be so clever.

Someone may laud a beautiful piece of architecture, but before long someone somewhere has imitated it. A work of art likewise. Trends are all about imitation. I can recall from back when I was a young teen how “curvy” gave way to “Twiggy” and before long most models appeared emaciated and young girls were dying to look like them.

Cheap knock-offs abound – which is why patents were invented. A competitor can imitate a product but they can’t sell it under the originator’s name, or company brand name. That’s why the Harley-Davidson company patented the unique roar of its motorbikes. No cheap imitation should sound like a Harley.

As to the greater sense of the word, beyond compare or unequaled, there are many things in nature that have no equal; they can’t be imitated by man. One night we watched a spectacular fireworks display, the likes of which I’d never seen before. Yet compared to the northern lights dancing across the heavens, or a night storm with lightning flashing and thunder cannons booming, fireworks look like a cheap imitation. Man may build an impressive dam across a river but it’ll never hold a candle to Niagara Falls.

The human body is a matchless engineering design, with its circulatory system, computer communication skills, self-healing and reproductive capacities, its memory storage, thought processing, emotional and external communications abilities. Medical science has learned a lot about repairing the various functions that break down, but they can’t construct anything like a facsimile.

As the wise Solomon once said:
“As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.”
–Ecclesiastes 11:5

And life once gone is gone forever. My sister gave birth to a perfectly healthy, fully formed little boy, but he’d strangled on the umbilical cord during the birth process and was born dead. Medicine could do nothing to re-ignite the spark of life. That spark of life is truly inimitable.

Worry Won’t Fix It

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today is RHETORIC

And the Sunday Whirl offers us following words:

Here’s my response, a tale of opposite reactions to current events:

Worry Won’t Fix it

“If you’d quit being a turtle and stick your neck out of the shell you’ve escaped into, you’d realize just how flash-point things have become. We can’t stay hidden away when the world explodes! But no. You want to play ostrich, bury your head in the sand and not see it coming,” Marc grumbled as he paced back and forth, stopping now and then to fiddle with the news magazines spread across the table.

“Listen, brother. I’ve got ten years on you and I’ve learned to ignore the drama drummers and all the panic rhetoric,” his brother Colton replied. “Noise-makers may spin their claims that we’re on the threshold of global disaster, but the world has been going to wrack and to ruin ever since Adam and Eve were evicted from the Garden of Eden. This old world has seen droughts, floods, volcanoes, economic crashes and countless wars, but we’re still here.”

Colton took another sip of his iced tea. “But our worrying won’t fix it. All you’re doing is wearing a hole in our carpet. Why don’t you just take a deep breath, relax, and get on with the general design of life – before your blood pressure takes you out.”

Image by Gerd Altmann — Pixabay

“Que sera sera” versus Heart Smart

The Ragtag Daily Prompt for today is MYOCARDITIS, which means inflammation of the heart muscle. Here are my thoughts on the subject of heart health, though not specifically inflammation of same.

Image by S. Hermann and F Richter — Pixabay

In August of 1929 my husband’s grandmother visited her doctor, possibly because of a stomach problem and the pain it was giving her. While she was in the office she had an attack of acute indigestion and passed away right there. Interestingly enough, her husband had also died of “acute indigestion” some years earlier.

Back in the late 1800s John Holdeman, one of the leaders in our church, died of “acute intestinal distress.” If you’d examine death certificates, you’d find that a lot of people prior to 1940 died of some variety of “indigestion” which caused increasingly sharp pains in the chest, followed by collapse and death. Today the diagnosis would be “heart attack,” or myocardial infarction.

Conversely, my long-lost great-great Aunt Henrietta died in 1907 at the age of 55, and her death was attributed to chronic heart disease.

Prior to 1800 doctors had only their ears to tell them what a patient’s heart was doing, or not doing. The first stethoscope, invented by Frenchman Rene Laennec in 1816, primitive though it was, amplified the heartbeat. Subsequent improvements, including the two ear-bud version developed in 1851 by Irish doctor Arthur Leared, have given doctors a much better idea of what’s going on inside us.

This device enabled Gr-gr-Aunt Henrietta’s doctors to tell that her heart beat was not as it should be. But only the last seventy years, give or take, have tests been developed to record the flow of blood through the arteries and reveal that some are blocked.

What we call a heart attack today is a circulation problem. When blood flow to the heart is blocked because of a buildup in the arteries carry blood through the heart, feelings of pressure and chest pains result. Today’s patient stands a good chance of surviving because of CPR and bypass surgeries.

Cardiac arrest, on the other hand, is when the heart suddenly stops beating for some reason. Some signal prompting the heart’s rhythm doesn’t get through – or an air bubble in the blood stream hits the heart and stops it. Medics call this an electrical problem, and bring out the shock paddles. If someone is nearby to do CPR, the heart can be restarted. A pacemakers is installed to kick in if the body’s signal gets lost in transit, and the person may live many more years.

Perhaps this article is long enough, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about health issues of various sorts, and about fatalistic ideas like “Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be.” Someone recently commented about the COVID threat, that, “If I get it, I do. When my time is up, it’s up.” I’m sure she’s taken every possible precaution, and once you have, you can rest in “What will be, will be.” I also hear people offer comfort when they hear of a death by saying, “It was his/her time to go.” I don’t disagree, but as a general rule we’ll do everything we can to extend our time on this earth.

Circa 1900 people probably had a more fatalistic approach to health. “We’ll live as long as God/ Allah/ the gods/ fate allows us to live.” But amazing medical advances have given a lot of us longer lives than we would have had if we’d just let nature take its course. These days, if you’d go to a doctor with severe chest pains, and he’d say, “You may live or you may die. Whatever will be, will be,” you’d soon be looking for another doctor. One who’d do bypass surgery so your time wouldn’t be up quite so soon.