The Letter I: Uniquely Ours

Rye Regular

I’m not sure there’s another language where the I is pronounced like we English pronounce ours. (Though we must make allowances for the Cockney OY.) There are some dialects that pronounce AYE like our I, but I don’t know of any other language where it stands alone.

However, most of our words that start with I come from Latin, carried across the English Cannel by Roman soldiers, or coming into English via the French adaptation of a Latin word.

Even our simple word INK comes from the French encre, adapted from the Latin encaustum, meaning burned in. The Romans in turn borrowed it from the Greek word encaustos, which is where we get our word CAUSTIC

Actually, many of our IMPORTANT, INTERESTING, INFORMATIVE, and INTRIGUING words start with an I. Im- heads off a number, Imm- some more, and In- starts off a host of words.

Some of these are combos, while others maybe once were, but have become detached from their roots:
We have INERT, but no ERT; INVITE but no VITE.
INVOKE still shows its roots; the –voke comes from vocation.
INVESTIGATE comes from In + vestige, or trace. So you’re looking for traces of the facts when you investigate something.

Rye Regular

Awhile back I started reading a book about the history of Europe from the fall of the Roman Empire, through the Middle Ages, up until the Enlightenment. It was heavy slogging but one thing was clear: the history of Europe has been a long stream of invasion and bloody conquest.

Constant waves of invaders came from the east, the steppes, the Ural mountains: the Franks, the Goths, the Gauls, the Vandals, and a host of others. A lot of these had their turn sacking poor Rome, and then moved on to various other conquests, including the British Isles. Plus there was the era when a good part of Europe was overrun by Muslim armies. Land grab, power grab: this is the history of mankind.

The news this past year has been disturbing to many of us, and leads us to wonder if INSIDIOUS INVADERS are at work behind the scenes. Not wielding swords and charging forth, but playing from the shadows, slinging ink and using social media, hacking, spying. Fueling discord, attacking authority, wishing to bring down the society we have now and replace it with something “better.” But who is really behind the turmoil and mud-slinging we’re seeing today? People may not be such willing puppets if they could see who’s really pulling the strings.

I believe it would be a good thing for us all to read George Orwell’s book, Animal Farm, and refresh our minds as to the possible consequences of “throwing off the yoke of oppression and bringing in a new social order.” If we lose our guiding star in these chaotic times, some power will step in and take control – and they may not be so nice to live under, either.

Get Out the Saw, Pa

Contemplating A World Without Sparks

Our temperature has risen! In Saskatoon right now it’s 10 F or -12 C and the thermometer is supposed to climb all the way up to -1 C / 30 F. Balmy breezes, almost! Our cats are enjoying the great outdoors this morning.

Texas residents won’t be nodding at that. I’ve been reading about the dire weather conditions and suffering of the poor Southern folks and they do have my sympathy because I realize they aren’t at all prepared. With our well insulated houses, furnaces and insulated water lines buried deep, we’re prepared for extremes of -50 whereas -0 F is a disaster down there.

No power is a game changer anywhere, though. I appreciate what the folks in Texas are going through on that score. (Assuming you have a furnace) heating fans and water pumps need electricity. Baseboard heaters and stoves are useless. We lived in Quebec during “the ice storm of the century” and know what it’s like to have no power for days with the temp hovering at freezing point.

The only way to operate anything – like the pump that pumped water out of our basement – was with a gas generator. Farmers especially were bringing these in from the US as fast as they could find them. For our dairy farmer neighbours with their bulk milk cooling tanks, a generator’s a must. We did have a wood stove in the basement, thanks be, and waded through ankle-deep water to stoke it. Generally speaking, this is not where modern man wants to go.

A friend and I had a discussion one day; she asked, “What if our power supply was cut off permanently.” I said most of us would die. She said, “If we needed to, we’d just have to find other ways to survive.”

I said, “Ha! We can’t live without power for an extended time. In winter, how would you heat?” She thought we’d have to cut wood.

I asked her to imagine the seniors in her building, in all the apartments on all the floors, trying to burn wood. Someone might burn the place down! “And think the million people in your city all trying to find enough firewood and wood stoves. Or get water – or food? Or drive on completely blacked-out streets? What would happen to stores if the city was blacked out every night? All the factories shut down, people out of work? No, I’m afraid if power was permanently cut, most Canadians living in cities would soon perish.”

She was using the idealistic “We’d all go back to the land” mentality. Everyone would get a little chunk of land to live on (which would denude the countryside.) Big farmers would have to share their land. We’d all survive on raising our own veggies, hauling our water (from where?) and sawing our own firewood. Our lifestyle would keep us healthy. It worked once. Why not again?

Recently I read that President Biden is taking measures to wean the US off oil and gas; I tried to imagine how that will work in the long run. Kind of like Texas now, but nationally? Softie that I am, I hate the idea of wind power because those big turbine blades kill so many birds; perhaps that could be fixed somehow? Giant bird nets? But in Texas now we hear the turbines are all iced up. How would they manage at -30F like we get?

Solar panels may make enough electricity for a home, but for a city water and sewage system? For factories and hospitals? Time will tell, but I foresee The train they call the City of New Orleans coming to a grinding halt with its fifteen cars and twenty-five sacks of mail.

Without oil to run factories, I can picture a time when the US will go back to a farming economy, minus the big equipment. Maybe, like my friend suggested for us, each city family will be given a chunk of land and go with subsistence farming, but I fear those beautiful national forests will go for firewood.

I’d thought Canada could benefit: we could sell our oil to the US if they wouldn’t produce their own. But I see the new President has cancelled the Keystone Pipeline project, meant to carry Alberta oil to Louisiana. Eastern Canada would breathe easier if all those dreadful coal-burning factories in IL & OH were shut down, ending the acid rain now polluting Ontario & Quebec waters.

Oil is currently a necessity to our lifestyle, but bringing in oil from overseas runs the risk of more oil spills and pollution. Building hydro-electric dams costs the environment, too. Ontario found nuclear power an unreliable, expensive, waste-producing alternative. Every solution has side-effects that must be calculated. Or, as someone tersely put it, “The cause of problems is solutions.”

In reality we can’t just go back. Not unless you eliminate 70% of the population and their demands on fuel supply and the power grid. Transportation, international trade, heating, cooling, sewer & water, manufacture, agriculture, construction, health care and more: these depend on a steady stream of power/oil & gas.

Idealism is the luxury of folks who are financially secure or retired in their little estate with a nice nest egg. They can dither to their hearts’ content over solutions for environmental concerns. And we should certainly all do our part to stop consuming, wasting, and polluting. READ: Stop buying CHEAP JUNK. Be willing to pay more for things made in your own country, where pollution controls are in effect.

But the poor senior on pension, the welfare family, or the average Joe/Jill who lives in a big city and has to work for a living – especially in a factory – may have a whole different perspective on the importance of saving the environment. Running out of food before payday weighs more heavily on their minds than thoughts of the world running out of oil in the year 2525.

Another Wintry Tale

The Ragtag Daily Prompt for today is CHILLY. You might guess that word will bring some frosty responses from those of us in northern climes.

This has been a chilly week for us. On Sunday we here in SK recorded the lowest temperature on the planet. A nice conversation piece to share as we huddle around the fireplace. 🙂

Monday morning was seriously cold, school buses didn’t run so rural schools were closed. In the afternoon the wind came up. I had a meeting to go to and stopped at the mail boxes on my way home. Exposed to the bitter wind, I believe the warning the weather man often gives: “Exposed flesh can freeze in one minute.” Coming from the cooks’ + management meeting at the Villa, I wasn’t dressed for -40!

Someone asked how we dress for this cold weather. Bundled up warmly, with gloves, fuzzy scarves around our noses and foreheads, and thickly lined coats and boots. People who must be outdoors much may wear balaclavas to keep their faces from freezing. But vehicles have improved very much over the years, with heating vents and wires through the glass. You must have a block heater if you live in this country and plug your car in on nights this cold. Below -30 your chances of starting a vehicle without one are pretty slim.

That NW wind carried on all night and most of Tuesday, blowing snow across the north south highway and stranding vehicles in ditches. Blowing in from the fields NW of us, snow filled in our driveway with hard-packed knee- to waist-deep drifts. Looking out into the garden I estimated the snow peaks at 1.5 m or 60″ and an average depth of a metre/40″ all across. I see the “whatever” is still snuggled under the garage with its breathing hole open.

Someone said we don’t have much runoff this year because the dry sandy land will soak in all the melting snow, but our yard will have extra, I’m sure. Our son-in-law came with his big loader Tuesday evening, blasted through those packed drifts in our driveway, and built us a snow hill higher than our garage, to the west of it. Now we have our own toboggan run! The highest drifts he cut through in our driveway were a metre deep. (Just measured. 🙂 )

Wednesday morning the power flicked off as I was working on the computer; it went off about 7:45 am and was out until 10:05. When it’s -35 or -36 you want power, heat, and water. (The electric pump won’t deliver water when the power’s off.) Bob lit the wood stove, which is a smokey old thing, but heats the living room to keep us from freezing. Though we weren’t in any danger for that short a time and the power company were on the ball with getting it fixed again.

The temp yesterday, Thursday, was -38C with a wind chill of -50. Schools have been closed all week. It’s been sunny, though, so we’re not dreary sitting indoors. Good skating weather for hardy souls, I suppose. And today we’re glad the thermometer has climbed to a high of -23C, so a warmer day but still on the chilly side.

Our little Tuffy made a trip to the vet today, to have some of his male aggressiveness removed. Sadly, it’s necessary to neuter even such an attractive cat, who’d give such lovely kittens, but it must be done if we want to have him in the house and peaceful. He’s got a plastic cone around his head now to keep him from licking his incision; he’s not very happy about it, but making the best of the situation with his electronic toy mouse to amuse him.

I haven’t posted much this week, wanting to share brilliant, inspiring thoughts, but not knowing how to start. I’d like to organize and condense the ideas generated from reading several articles earlier last weekend. I prefer to write upbeat things, but my heart has been heavy as I’ve read about the different Christian and political perspectives in the US. I think a lot of people, even internationally, are bewildered and/or fearful where this is all heading.

We have a “Made in USA” calendar that tells me it’s Abraham Lincoln’s birthday today. I guess he could tell us a few things about political discord. The US has survived a lot already, but when I hear about extreme elements, radically right and radically left, fired up and ready to ignite a civil war at the neighbours’, I am troubled.

Mainly I wish with all my heart that the Gospel according to Jesus Christ could be shared in its purity. I’m sure our Father in Heaven grieves over the multiplicity of confusing, contradicting, and all supposedly Christian, theologies people have come up with. I think we’re all agreed on that — but who’s ready to toss out all the embellishments and dig right down to the foundation laid by Jesus and the apostles?

Something for a future post. Keep safe and warm everyone.

Behind the Scenes Schemes

I wrote in this morning’s post that I’d thought of another angle to the Ragtag Daily Prompt, which is WHAT THE EYES DON’T SEE. This is a longer tale, but I hope you find it interesting.

In an unmarked room deep in secret service HQ, Chief Agent Bodkins meets with his top agents and lays the problem before them:
“This situation with the Tritonians is getting away from us. They’re gaining international support; next thing they’ll be demanding a say in how we run the country. We can’t have that. I trust you have some ideas on how to deal with this problem?”

“We could just obliterate them,” Agent Grey suggests.

“And good riddance,” says Agent Lime. “But we’d be accused of genocide; there may be embargoes; even UN peacekeeping troops, yada yada. No, we need good PR with the UN.”

“Agreed.” CA Bodkins spreads out his hands. “We have many agents working around the globe and so far they’ve done a great job to portray the Tritonians as malcontents and us as a peace-loving and charitable bunch. We need to maintain that image and still find a way to crush the dissidents.”

“That may be tough,” says Agent Grey.

“Let me give you an object lesson.” Bodkins pulls a box of dominoes from his desk drawer. As he lines them up, he explains. “If you arrange the dominoes in a straight line, and then knock them over, everyone can see whose finger gave the first tap.” He demonstrates.

Now he picks the dominoes up and sets them in a long S-curve. “If we make the trail so winding, the world will have a harder time tracing the beginning back to us. It could even look like another finger gave the row its initial tap.”

Agent Orange catches the drift and smiles grimly. “So we should find a way to tap the Tritonians, provoke them to violence without anyone knowing it. Then we can suppress them and let it be known internationally that we only acted in self-defense. Halos intact.”

Agent Lime nods. “Great idea! If they attack us, we can send in riot police, execute the leaders for insurrection, and throw the followers into prison, where they may conveniently disappear. Voila, mission accomplished.”

“Precisely,” says Bodkin. “And since we are able to feed details to the international Press via our own agents, we can make the report look like our action has narrowly averted a bloodbath for both sides. The Tritonians will lose all international sympathy and be forced to go along meekly with their subservient role.”

“But we don’t want them attacking us,” Agent Grey protests. “Our own people may be killed.”

“Collateral damage,” says Agent Orange. “You win a few; you lose a few. We need to consider the bigger picture. The more Tritonians we can get rid of now, the less damage they’ll do in future.”

“I like your thinking, Orange.” Bodkin stacks his dominoes. “And if we set this up carefully, our own casualties will be minimal.”

“So how do we provoke this attack?”

Agent Orange smirks. “Every year they have their Old King Trillion Parade. This year we’ll call it a threat to national security. Send troops to block the parade route. Hotheads that they are, they’ll be livid. No one needs to know who fired the first shot.”

“Excellent plan!” Bodkin beams at him. “You’ll go far, young man.”

Agent Grey scowls. “International opinion is such a pain. It’d be a lot simpler to obliterate them.”

CA Bodkins shakes his head. “You can’t wipe people out and still look good. You need a behind-the-scenes scheme.”

The “seed” behind this sad tale:

Years ago I read Carol O’Connor’s autobiography, I’M OUTTA HERE. He lived and worked in Ireland for some years so he gives his opinion on the religious turmoil and violence in Northern Ireland during that time.

O’Connor asked the question: How does a majority keep a minority in suppression or even wipe them out? His answer: The majority attacks the minority. And what justification do they have in the eyes of the world if they do? You make the minority look guilty of firing the first shot. The majority does something repulsive to the minority, provoking reaction. As soon as there’s some resistance they send in the troops.

His opinion made a lot of sense to me – and still does in our own troubled times. When I hear of uprisings and violence, I often wonder, who’s really behind all this? What is the real motivation? As with the “Boston Tea Party,” situations and the people involved are not always what they seem to be.

The Path of a Storm

Fandango’s One-Word Challenge today is OMINOUS

Which brings me to a sobering question:
Who Can Direct the Path of a Storm?

On June 30, 1912 the city of Regina, Saskatchewan, was swathed in a sultry heat, over 100̊F by mid-afternoon. People sweated; some women at a public meeting were fainting; flags posted specially for Dominion Day celebrations the next day hung limp. At 4:30 pm folks outdoors noted a strange phenomenon: two cloud systems, accompanied by ominous rumblings, were headed their way. One was coming in from the southeast and the other from the southwest. The sky turned and eerie green; weird purplish flashes of lightening streaked across the land.

These cloud banks met right over the Legislative Building in the center of the city. There was a terrific boom as they collided and a huge grey funnel dropped from the boiling mass. Screaming and zigzagging, the twister cut a six-block wide swath northward through the heart of Regina, mowing down entire blocks of prosperous homes and rows of businesses, sucking up trees. It hit the rail-yards, bounced loaded freight cars across the tracks like tumbleweeds and later picked up the Winnipeg Grain Company elevators at the edge of town and tossed them across the prairie like they were sticks.

The citizens of Regina hadn’t seen a tornado before, had no idea what was about to hit them when the sky turned a lurid green. And no one could have predicted the tornado’s erratic path of destruction.

Who can direct the path of a storm in the affairs of men?

Reading history, I see where storm systems have arisen in human affairs. Two or more groups or movements, unhappy about the status quo and determined to upset it, move toward each other. Though they are naturally not aligned in purpose, they come together to accomplish a common goal, with each side thinking they can direct the changes that are going to be made. But there are secret agendas and other voices that factor in. These unforeseen radicals can change the course of the whole scheme – to the dismay of the initial participants.

Shakespeare, in his play Julius Caesar, gives a great example of this. Brutus and his fellow conspirators see Caesar as a ruthless tyrant and believe that doing away with him will solve their problems. Brutus, persuading his fellow senators to join in the scheme, utters the famous line, “There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flow, leads on to fortune…”

So they go ahead with their dastardly deed. At Caesar’s funeral Brutus gives Mark Anthony a chance to speak, not seeing him as a threat. Caesar was the problem; with him gone, things will go as planned. And Mark Anthony starts his discourse on a compliant note:
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears! I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” He says that Brutus has given him leave to speak, “For Brutus is an honorable man; So are they all, all honorable men…”

Then, through crafty use of eulogy and rhetoric, he manages to paint Caesar as, after all, a benevolent ruler. By the time he’s done, he’s completely turned the crowd against the murderers. The senators, who had pictured themselves floating down that tide toward fortune, rather end up being tossed into a turbulent and bloody sea.

Rhetoric is a marvelous thing. It can persuade, get people fired up for a cause. It can also turn plans upside down. In the long run it’s iffy. Fine speeches rarely take into account all the angles, and before you know it, one pops up that no one considered.

Many a participant in some past movement, in retrospect, has wished they’d not been so swayed by the noble rhetoric and taken an honest look at all the facets of the movement. Who all was involved and what the real objectives were. They wish they’d had a better idea of where the movement was actually heading before lending their support — because where the movement finally ended up is far, far from where they expected to be.

In my next post I’ll write about the two women’s movements that came together in the late 1800s, both unhappy with the status quo, both with definite goals, and the path that the resulting tornado actually took.

“Let’s You And Him Fight”

This post condenses the magnitude of my mulling this week. I hope my thoughts sound somewhat reasonable to you.

I’ll start with a comment I read by one US political campaign manager: “Far too many campaigns aren’t talking about governing but just telling you who to be mad at.”

Yes, election fervor is in the air. Voters in our province go to the polls Monday to elect our government for the next four years. We as a church body across North America received an encouragement recently to be prayerful and to speak respectfully about all candidates and the present or future government.

Earlier this week I read an article about one US political candidate. In her ads she blasted away with a military assault rifle to make her point that “socialism does not belong in America” and “we need to blow it away.” According to the article, the threats she was uttering against the opposition party caused her opponent to fear for his life and leave the state. Not exactly democratic.

But politics have always been volatile and speeches are always anti-the other guy. Also, the media presents its own version. However, I did take note of, and have been pondering a statement she apparently made on Facebook:
“We need strong conservative Christians to go on the offense against these socialists who want to rip our country apart.”

Since the Bible says, “the servant of the Lord shall not strive, but be gentle, apt to teach, in meekness instructing those who oppose them…” I do hope some believer will step up and explain to this woman that Bible-believing Christians are NOT all about blowing away their political opponents. Mention that there are strong conservative Christians on the other side, too.

Socialism isn’t the Enemy; it’s simply one of the systems we may happen to live under as we pass through this world. Historically, blind hatred is what really rip countries apart. Resentment of the existing government, selfishly wanting power or assets, unjustly targeting certain groups as STRANGE, as the ENEMY — these things lead to “Let’s you and him fight” hate speeches and violent actions. Then haters of those hate speeches make retaliatory hate speeches, calling for defensive action to combat all this hatred. The merry-go-round starts to spin furiously, throwing bodies off right and left, leaving the land in a shambles.

Mahatma Gandhi was right: “An eye for an eye leaves everybody blind.”
The Apostle James was right: “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” – Chapter 1:20.

James goes on to say, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” Chapter 3: 17-18

Later I spotted another article saying that these vociferous politicians and agitators are actually the minority, that most citizens are standing aside and watching all the hoopla, quietly making up their own minds. Now that’s a comfort!

Followers of Christ all over the world are praying for their governments and their fellow Christians. We especially remember Christians in the US at this time and pray that the peace of God will rule in their hearts and minds, come what may.

Christians have lived under Jewish rule, the Roman Empire, Constantine, the Holy Roman Empire, the Dark Ages, the Reformation. They’ve been governed by monarchies, democracies, fascism, socialism, communism. Some systems made life pretty hard for them because leaders and systems chose to persecute Christianity. With God’s help the Christians carried on living for the Lord and so will we, whatever the ruling government may be.

Ragtag Daily Prompt for today: STRANGE
Fandango’s FOWC: MAGNITUDE