Sunday’s Wisdom #288: Remember the Fallen

“You may be lost, but you are not forgotten.”
– Jack Durrance, The Four Feathers

I suppose there are not many quotes better suited for Memorial Day weekend, when we remember the fallen soldiers, than one which is uttered by a soldier at a fellow soldier’s funeral.

The story of The Four Feathers, at least the 2002 version, follows a handful of friends, comrades in the British army at the very height of their empire. One became cowardly when he was given time to think about an impending deployment, but then, later on, went on his own, across the world, for the sake of his friends. A second was a stalwart leader of his troops, but suffered an injury which blinded him for life, and was only saved by the intervention of his “cowardly” friend. Another made disastrous mistakes born of pride, and lost many of his men as a result, but still pulled as many as he could back home. Yet another was unable to make that escape with the rest, and was thrown into a hellish prison, until his “cowardly” friend came and got him out. One more was cut down in battle, having lost his wits in the moment and being caught in friendly fire.

That last one was the soldier whose funeral Jack Durrance, the blinded soldier, was speaking at, with all of their surviving comrades present, honoring all of their fallen.

To say this group of soldiers has been through a great deal for their country, and for each other, would be a pretty accurate understatement. They have sacrificed, and lost, and made mistakes, and suffered. And they have died, for king, and country, and the comrades fighting by their side.

The least that those who remain can do is to remember those are lost.

Remember their names, and their stories.

Remember the best parts of them, and of the time they were together.

Remember the cause for which they fought and died.

Even if much is forgotten anyway, we must still remember what we can.

So, I, who have never gone off to battle in foreign lands, never set foot in an army barrack, never signed up to give everything I have for my country, and never died for it, I say thank you to all those who have.

I say thank you to all who have served, and all who have sacrificed. I do not know all of your names, or your faces, or your stories, but for the pains you have endured, and the friends you have lost, I say, for what it’s worth, thank you.

For everything I have, and everything you have given, thank you.

Thank you, fallen soldier, for everything.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #287: Blinding Anger

“You get so furious with them that you wind up climbing onto your high moral horse so you can ride them under the hooves of your righteous fury. But when you close your knight errant’s helmet, the visibility through that visor is just a little limited, isn’t it?”
– Lady Emily Alexander, War of Honor
Honor
 Harrington series, by David Weber

I seem to have a lot of favorite characters in this series, and there are a lot of great moments for them to shine. Among those many moments are times where humility is brought forth as the shining virtue it is, along with self-control. The exact circumstance of this quote involve Emily advising her husband as he tries to deal with the ramifications of his political enemies’ underhanded, shortsighted, dirty-minded tactics. He’s a military man, accustomed to tactics, strategy, and logistics, so he seems unable to wrestle with the malicious, prideful stupidity of it all with any degree of success. Actually, as his wife points out, it’s simply because his well-justified anger towards them gets the better of him, and his fury limits his perspective, so he can’t function as well as he usually does.

I find that particular observation particularly relevant these days. Everywhere you look, it seems, people are clashing over every possible subject, great and small. Every one of us seems to think that we hold the absolute moral high ground, and so anyone who’s not actively standing exactly where we are must be somehow immoral. Yet even when that’s true – which, it isn’t always – our anger, our righteous fury, seems only to limit us. Severely.

Take, for instance, when the nephew I am helping to raise does something which violates our rules and puts himself at greater risk of some sort of harm. I get angry, yes, as does his mother. But we try – we do not always succeed, but we try – to communicate with him, and help him, instead of simply punishing him. If we simply blew our tops at him, we wouldn’t be able to listen to him, which means we’d be unable to help him as well as we otherwise could.

Anger, even well-founded, blocks the path of communication and understanding. Righteous fury clouds our eyes, makes it so we can’t see another person’s perspective. Holy wrath focuses our vision on our target, yet we lose sight of what’s around us.

Hatred blinds us.

That’s what happens when my nephew gets so angry that he stops listening to us, or when we get so angry that we stop listening to him. That’s what happens when we shut down opinions and perspectives that disagree with our own, resorting to shouting, screaming, insults, etc. That’s what happens when we let our tempers rule us, and stand on our own moral superiority. That’s what happens when we judge.

Even if any of it is for very good reason, which is another question entirely.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #286: What Mothers Do

“She had half-convinced herself that through love, and care, and unending vigilance, she could keep all harm from the fat, fretful child, this tiny inarticulate being that meant more to her than her own heart.”
– from The Last Mortal Bond, by Brian Stavely

This comes from a moment where an empress whose dominion is beset on all sides is having to come to terms with the limits of her power, as it applies to her ability to protect her son, barely a few months old. She has a great deal of influence and power, and the entire purpose she has bent that power to has been to protect her empire and the people within it. None of these is as dear to her as her own son, barely a few months old, and she must protect her empire in order to protect him. But what she’s been doing isn’t working, so she has to do something else, and that involves admitting that all her “love, care, and unending vigilance” just is not enough to ward everything away.

But she is a mother, so she will do what she needs to, even if it means changing her ways, altering her stance, and making some compromises, to situation, and the threat, at hand.

That is what mothers do. Even when they realize that they can’t do everything, which they very much yearn to, they do all they can, the best that they can.

My mother certain did, and still tries to. I am very thankful for – if also occasionally exasperated with – her love, her care, and her unending vigilance. She has bent all her heart to her the welfare of her children and grandchildren, to spending every possible moment with us, to helping us however she may and whenever we need. There is no greater pleasure for her, I think, than to see her offspring happy and comfortable.

Perhaps, as an uncle helping to raise a nephew, I am a little more keenly aware of everything she did for me and my sisters, and everything she does now. She worked hard, took care of us when we were sick, got us to keep the place clean (and stepped up when we failed to meet her expectation there), put up with us, disciplined us, rewarded us, fought for us, cooked our food, cleaned our clothes, taught us how to behave, encouraged us to be ourselves, and so much more.

And when she’s come up against things she can’t protect us from, she has built us up to protect ourselves and each other.

In short, she wasn’t just a female parent. She was a mom.

And now she’s a grandma, fully keen on using all of her previous experience to help her grandkids grow and develop as well. …while, of course, spoiling them rotten for the moment. 😉

I am exceptionally blessed with my mother, and, again, I am thankful to have her.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #285: The Way Out

“The only way out is up.”
– Tigress, Kung Fu Panda 2

At this exact moment in the movie, Tigress is referring to how she and her friends are being barraged from all sides by numbers and weapons far too great and formidable for them to match. To survive, they must escape, and to escape, they have to climb up the outside of a collapsing tower they just descended the interior of. It gets them close enough to the walls to jump over, while their enemies scatter out of the falling tower’s path.

I really like the moment for how Tigress clearly sees what they need to do, and leads her friends in doing it. She does so somewhat bodily, because there’s no time to explain, but they trust her and follow. And it bears mentioning, they are going up what they just went down, now in clear view of the enemy and under heavy fire. It seems crazy at first, but it’s the only way.

The only way out was to go straight through the danger, and straight through the madness.

The only way out is through.

It takes a lot of nerve, and a lot of trust, and a lot of effort to do that. Whether it be going straight through a physical danger, or pushing through one’s emotional pain, or working out one’s mental and spiritual issues, getting through anything takes a lot. But what choice is there? To try to dodge, evade, hide? People have tried to use alcohol, drugs, and lies, and even violent behavior, to do exactly that, but it doesn’t work out so well, does it?

Without getting through what besets it, anything else we can do will still leave us trapped by it.

Sooner or later, we must go through.

And we must go up.

We must go towards something better, especially within ourselves, no matter what we must go through in order to get there.

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Some REAL Quarantine Binge Material

A lot of us are staying home these days, for an extended period of time which has already dragged on for far too long, certainly longer than we were told it would when we went meekly into self-isolation, and which has no end in sight (not that I have any strong feelings about that, or anything). It’s a terrible time, full of uncertainty and fear. In such times, it’s only natural to try and keep ourselves entertained, or occupied in some way, at least, if only so we can take a breath, relax, and try to deal with what’s going on from a fresh perspective.

So, it’s no surprise that I’ve seen several of my fellow bloggers publish lists of anime and such that they recommend watching, in binges, during the extended time at home. I don’t particularly disagree with any of the suggestions I’ve seen, except for one little detail: how much, or, rather, how little, time they would really consume.

I don’t have to stay at home, myself. At least, not yet. I’m a janitor, I keep a place clean and healthy to work in, so I’ve been able to go to work and keep my paycheck coming. For that, I am extremely grateful. I am particularly grateful because, in all honesty, I have had – often involuntarily – very long periods of time to kill at home. As such, I am well-acquainted with bingeing, often in my attempt to stave off insanity, and I know that when you have literally nothing else to do, the length, the run-time, of what one is bingeing can very much influence how favorable of an impression it leaves.

In other words: the longer it is, the better it is, for present purposes. 😉

So, while I have great respect for my fellow bloggers and their taste for enjoyable shows we can watch all at once to kill some time, I humbly offer that shows which can be binged within a few hours are not quite adequate in the face of weeks or even months of enforced down-time.

Thus, a few suggestions of my own, in no particular order, because they’re long enough that they might actually see you through to the end of the quarantines:

1) One Piece

If you want an enjoyable anime that can eat up your time, one could certainly do worse than a show of adventures out across the open horizon, with a colorful cast exploring zany curiosities, facing down vile villains, and challenging the corruption and evil in all the powers that be, worldwide… oh, and it has something like nine hundred and thirty episodes, and still counting. That makes it the longest anime I can readily recall, and not even counting the specials and movies and such! 😉

I actually remember the first time I sat down and watched the show. It was something like five or six hundred episodes long at the time, but I had a good month-and-a-half to kill at the time. I went straight through it, couldn’t get enough, and it was a fantastic balm to my soul! So, I literally speak from firsthand experience, here. 😀

In my opinion, this is the moment in which the longer anime can truly shine, for just how much of our time they can eat up for us, and One Piece is the longest I know of, and still fun for every minute. 🙂

2) The NCIS Franchise

Departing from anime, we have a live-action police procedural drama, one of the most popular and long running of all time. Seriously, you start from the beginning, and it’s amazing how you see the world has changed just within the time frame of when this show began to air. Following colorful, slowly-changing casts as they solve murder mysteries and safeguard our country, even as they slowly grow and develop as people do, for such a long time is actually pretty deeply satisfying. I love it. 🙂

With three shows that, between them, have quite nearly three dozen seasons, this is a shoo-in for something that can help you eat up a lot of empty time. It utterly dwarfs the run-time of almost every other franchise I can think of, including a number of other binge-worthy crime dramas (Castle, Bones, even CSI, etc.), long-running shows (Big Bang TheorySmallville, Supernatural), shared universe franchises filled with spin-offs, prequels, and sequels (Star TrekStar Wars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Vampire Diaries), and even full-fledged cinematic universes (the MCU, the Arrowverse, etc.).

(all of those others, by the way, are also excellent for long-term bingeing)

Seriously, just sit back, relax, and let the hours tick by! 🙂

3) Critical Role

Critical RoleIt’s not an anime, or a movie series, or a TV show. It’s exactly what it says, when they say, “Where a bunch of us nerdy-ass voice actors sit around and play Dungeons & Dragons!” Now, that might be something of an acquired taste, but I, personally, am loving it! The cast, the characters, the stories, the way those stories can simply zoom off in unexpected directions based on what anyone manages to do at any given moment, and all the flair with which it’s presented by these professionals who are making it up as they go along… it’s hilarious, heart-warming, tense, thrilling, so exciting, and so much fun!

It’s certainly time-consuming, though, but that’s only a disadvantage when one doesn’t have copious amounts of time to fill. Between two campaigns, the first over a hundred sessions long (and that’s with a mid-campaign premiere of the series), the second having just reached ninety-nine sessions before this crisis put everything on pause… plus a few dozen one-shots, the follow-up interviews in their studio, and various other things… yeah, we’re looking at well over eleven hundred hours (twice that of the NCIS franchise, if I calculated correctly), and counting! That’s pretty remarkable, no? 🙂

I only discovered this fairly recently, so I am still playing catch-up, and I will be for awhile. And I do not mind that in the slightest! 🙂

And on that note, I hope that you can manage to enjoy your time at home, somehow or other, for as long as possible.

Good luck! 🙂

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Sunday’s Wisdom #284: Our Choices Are Ours

“I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I require any slave to be that heroic, that self-sacrificing. But I have, by God, known slaves who were that heroic, and I know the tales of the ones who were that self-sacrificing.”
– Cathy Montaigne, War of Honor
Honor Harrington
Series, by David Weber

You know something I notice?

Villains and traitors say, “You would have done the same.”

Heroes and martyrs say, “Anyone would have done the same.”

And everyone in between says, “It’s what anyone would do.”

It’s interesting how we all say it, and we’re all wrong.

It’s been on my mind lately, since I made a point to my young nephew, so full of promise, that our choices and our attitudes are always ours, no matter our situation.

Cathy Montaigne is a relatively minor character, at least as far as I’ve thus far read, but I absolutely love her. She is fierce and principled and firm in her resolve to hold true to those principles. This precise quote comes from a scene where she is speaking to an escaped slave… or, rather, a slave who bought her way to freedom by way of betrayal. She sold hundreds of escaped slaves back to the people they escaped from, just for her own freedom and a bit of money, and the fate of those people does not bear thinking on.

Thus, when Cathy says this, she is framing her judgment of this individual, and stripping away the most common excuse, because she has seen both ends of the spectrum. She knows heroism can be far too much to expect, especially when one’s life is practically Hell itself, but she also understands that there are heroes, and, even more, that there is a wide difference between “failing to be a hero” and “actively being a traitor.” Thus, the traitor really has no excuse.

Heroes are the proof that heroism is possible, and it is always a matter of choice. That’s why villains hate heroes so much, for stripping away their excuses. Their cloak is ripped from them, their hiding place laid bare. They can’t hide behind the idea that anyone would have done the same in their place, because others have already done differently in similar situations.

And, really, doing exactly the same thing as someone else just isn’t a part of human nature, is it? Not that we can’t act similarly – we often do – but we are not identical, and never will be.

If you put two people, or three, or however many, in exactly the same situation, odds are none of them will react in exactly the same way. Some will act sooner, some will act smarter, some will act bolder, or any number of things. Some will look after themselves first, some will help others first, some will lead, some will follow, some will disrupt, and so on. The differences multiply practically without limit.

Simply put, the fact that we are all different is proof that our choices are not dictated by our circumstances, and therefore we cannot use our circumstances as an excuse.

So, as much as one might say, “Anyone would have done the same,” that’s not really true, is it?

A hero’s heroism really is their own doing, and they should let themselves feel good for it every once in awhile. That said, of course, there are those who – again, a difference in choices and attitude – either let their egos boil over, or remain humble. Myself, I think a hero should accept credit for their deeds, and use it to motivate themselves to further excellence. Not that they have to change their lives or keep doing spectacular things, but that they should always strive to be their best selves… like everyone else ought to. 🙂

And a villain’s villainy, no matter their tragic backstories or misguided goals, is also theirs. They can’t escape the truth that somewhere in their actions, a decision was made. Now, I believe very much in redemption, but that does not happen without accepting responsibility, and making a different choice.

We don’t always fall into either category so easily, of course, filling out the distance between. For the most part, I’d say we shouldn’t let ourselves feel bad if we don’t think we’re as good as others… though, conversely, we really should not linger in that place where all we can say is that we’re “not as bad” as someone else. I would simply say that we ought to do the best we can… and maybe we’ll surprise ourselves with how much good we can do.

Whoever we choose to be, though, we do make that choice on our own, and we are responsible for it.

If nothing else, I intend to always own up to that much, at least.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #283: Life Goes On

“Yet life went on. People still needed to work, to eat.”
– from Promise of Blood, by Brian McClellan

This little observation is made by Inspector Adamat as he sees his city and his nation caught in a massive upheaval, including a showdown between two magnificent military commanders and their respective followers. And yet, despite the chaos and conflict, the rest of the nation, indeed, the rest of the city directly surrounding the bloodshed, just keeps going on as per usual. There are changes, of course, but people adapt quite well as they go about their normal, daily lives.

The world can be coming apart, but until the ground directly beneath us cracks open, we humans tend to just keep going, don’t we? We get up, we work, we earn our way, we pay our bills, we make ends meet as best we can, and we go to bed. And then we do it all again. And again. And again. There’s a certain strength in that, isn’t there?

No matter how bad things get, or how bad they’ve been, we just keep going. We keep living. We keep doing the best we know how to do.

In these trying times, that gives me a bit of hope.

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Sunday’s Wisdom #282: Honesty is the Best Policy

“I don’t like lies… Not even lies of omission. Hard truths can be dealt with, triumphed over, but lies will destroy your soul.”
– Bran Cornick, Moon Called
Mercy Thompson
series, by Patricia Briggs

The first book in the Mercy Thompson series wastes no time introducing the audience to the local supernatural powers that be, including a vampire mistress on one hand and, on the other, the alpha of all werewolves on the continent. Bran is the latter. He has lived for at least a thousand years, easy, and he has the experience and strength of will to go with it. That is certainly ample opportunity to see the truth of what he says in action.

There have been, and continue to be, countless times where people have tried to live their lives completely independent of uncomfortable truths. To that end, they build a web of lies told to others, and often to themselves as well. The details of what happens next may vary, but it never works out well.

Most obviously, if the truth behind the lie is ever discovered, it can ruin you. To that end, in a mad effort to keep the truth buried under, greater and greater lies, and greater crimes, are piled on top of what might have been a small mistake at first, but which has become so much worse now. One can look to the Biblical story of King David and Bathsheba, or the mythical fantasy story of King Rhitta in Lloyd Alexander’s short story, The Sword, or the fictitious story of Teddy Conrad in Nashville, or the real-life debacle of Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal, or countless other examples, to show how devastating a single lie can become.

Everything we do in life adds to the foundation of what we build on top of it, what we do next. Truth is eternal, impossible to break, but a lie cracks that foundation, and it can all come crashing down without any warning whatsoever.

On the other hand, if it works, if whatever objective is achieved by use of a lie, then, in the eyes of the world, it is a success. But there remains something… wrong. Something lost. Some drop of poison added to the soul, and, without some thorough cleansing with the truth, that single drop can fester and spread like a cancer. Just as good, kind, honest deeds make our souls more beautiful, so do our sins, our crimes, and our lies twist and disfigure them, and there are some truly ugly souls out there. Such dishonest souls can have all the success they want, but without the lasting happiness which lies rob them of, what good does it really do them?

Mind you, I do make some exceptions, but even those come with qualifiers. To say to an SS officer, “No, I am not hiding any Jews,” may be a noble, life-saving lie, but it also puts one in immediate danger, which is why it is so noble and heroic. So, it’s a “good” lie, for why it’s being told, but still completely dangerous to the liar.

And while all war is deception, and one must fight wars as effectively as possible, even those lies which are told for all the best reasons can twist us into something we weren’t before.

Even relatively small, benign lies (which, we usually of our lies in such a way) can prove disastrous in some way. I will always remember how one older gentleman taught us, when I was a boy, about honesty being the best policy. He recounted how he joined the navy, and they asked the new recruits if they could swim. It is obvious why that would be important, and why one should answer that question with complete honesty. Thus, while those who said no were taken off to learn how to swim, the rest were tested in how well they swam, and it soon became obvious who had lied about it. They, too, were taken to learn, and the officer overseeing them called after them, with serene pleasure, “That’ll teach you to tell the truth.” We all laughed at that. 🙂

In short, honesty is the best policy, for a multitude of reasons.

Most of all, because a lie will outright destroy you, always, but a truth, however uncomfortable, only does so when you go against it.

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So Much Sunshine! The Sunshine Blogger Award

Thanks to Lynn, the Otaku Author, for tagging me with this award! 🙂

Rules

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link to their blog so that other people can visit them
  2. Answer the 11 questions put to you by the nominator
  3. Nominate 11 bloggers of your choosing and provide them with a new set of 11 questions to answer
  4. Notify the nominees by commenting on one of their blog posts
  5. List the rules and display The Sunshine Blogger Award logo within your post or on your blog site

The Questions

If you could see one anime again for the first time, what would it be and why?

…no idea!

Honestly, I’ve never really been partial to that idea anyway, so I have absolutely no answer. Sorry!

If you had to teach a class on one thing, what would you teach?

Storytelling. 🙂

If you could be any supernatural creature, what would you be and why?

I would be an imp. Small, fast, devious, mischievous… my inner self unleashed! Mwahahah!

If you had a time machine, would go back in time or into the future?

“Hmmmm….”

Hm.

If I were to go back into the past, I could meet many great figures, learn so much, uncover lost and buried truths… but that’s if I survived long enough, and I’d also bring diseases that no one would be vaccinated against and probably destroy my ancestors in the process, so, no, thank you.

In the future, I could see wonders we haven’t dreamed of yet, study things that haven’t happened yet, and come back armed with the knowledge necessary to improve things… but, then again, I might just end up making things worse and stagnating our progress instead of actually helping.

Hm… a conundrum.

If you could add a word to the dictionary what would you add and what would it mean?

Cineverse. Noun. The shortened form of “cinematic universe,” consisting of deliberately interconnected cinematic franchises in the same fictional reality, creating an overall mega-franchise with some manner of shared narrative among its disparate parts.

If you could pick up a new skill in an instant what would it be?

How to deal with people. I suck at that, and it could easily open the door to other skills like management, leadership, romance, and all sorts of ways I could better help people.

If extraterrestrials landed on earth and offered to take you with them, would you go?

No. I like my life here and To Serve Man is a cookbook. 😉

Image result for to serve man is a cookbook

Not keen on being in this guy’s shoes, ya know?

If you could choose your age forever, what age would you choose and why?

In my mid-20’s, I think. At my strongest and most hale and hardy, without ever going bald.

What would the title of your autobiography be?

My Impish Life

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Oh, man, I have no idea where to  even begin with that! Be yourself? Control yourself? Listen properly? I don’t know!

The zombie apocalypse is coming, who are the three anime characters you want on your team?

…is there an anime version of Godzilla? No? Well, then, in similar vein, namely that of saving as many people (like myself) as possible, by annihilating all of the zombies as quickly and effectively as possible, I’ll take Vegeta, Saitama, and Alucard. Let the slaughter begin!

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An Invitation

A week ago, I joined the rest of my church in a worldwide fast and prayer for relief from the COVID-19 pandemic. Tonight, the President of same church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, called for another fast, this one on Friday, April 10 (Good Friday, heading into the Easter weekend).

“Let us unite in pleading for healing throughout the world,” the prophet said. “Good Friday would be the perfect day to have our Heavenly Father and His Son hear us!”

He also called for this fast to be not just by us in our church alone, but all of us, together, those who are willing and healthy enough for it. To that end, I am putting the word out, so to speak, and inviting all my friends and acquaintances to join us in this fasting and in this prayer.

“For all whose health may permit, let us fast, pray, and unite our faith once again. Let us prayerfully plead for relief from this global pandemic. I invite all, including those not of our faith, to fast and pray on Good Friday, April 10, that the present pandemic may be controlled, caregivers protected, the economy strengthened, and life normalized.”

“How do we fast? Two meals, or twenty-four hours, is customary. But you decide. What would constitute a sacrifice for you?”

No pressure, of course, and no preaching intended. I am not trying to shove anything of my religion down anyone’s throat. I merely extend this invitation, by the most effective means I have available, and urge you to accept it. Please, friends and neighbors, unite with us, with whatever faith is yours.

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