Tag Archives: the twilight zone

The Window to My Soul and How I understand Others


The Late Burgess Meredith in the Twilight Zone Episode “Time at Last” 

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

George R.R. Martin wrote in his book A Dance With Dragons:  “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”

I constantly read and because I try to imagine what I am reading so that in a way I live it. I have been to places that have never traveled to before and on entering them I know exactly where everything is and what happened there. I remember leading a group from my Army chapel in Wurzburg Germany to Wittenberg, where Martin Luther began the Protestant Reformation. As I led the group through the town a couple of people asked me how many times I had been there. I told them, “physically, never until today, but I have been here a thousand times before because of books. I saw Wittenberg in my minds eye before I ever saw the city.” They were surprised and both said that it seemed like I had been there many times.

I have had the same thing happen other places that I have visited, and again, it is because I read, and as I read, I imagine and occasionally dream. I do not need virtual reality to take me places I have never been. For me it is enough to read, look at pictures or paintings, and study maps. Those actions allow me to see and imagine people, places, and things more than any virtual reality program can do, because the mind is so much more powerful in imagining what was simply by reading, studying, and closing our eyes. Then when we actually get to the place we know it, we know the people who were there, we know where they lived, and what they thought. It really is quite amazing which is why I love readying history and biography so much. The late astronomer Carl Sagan wrote: “One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage through time.”

I have a huge number of my books in my office most dealing with the history, especially the American Civil War and Reconstruction, the World Wars, and the insurgencies and counter-insurgency wars of the past seventy or so years. I have a lot of biographies, books on American history, military theory, sociology, philosophy, psychology related to war and PTSD, and a few theological works, of which most are in my home library which doubles as a guest room.

When I had an office outside the house long with mementos of my military career, other militaria, artwork, and baseball memorabilia the sight and smell can be both overwhelming and comforting at the same time. I hear that a lot from my visitors, including those who come in for counseling, consolation, or just to know someone cares. They tell my visitors volumes about me without them ever asking a question or me telling them, and occasionally someone will ask to borrow a book, and most of the time I will lend them the book, or if I have multiple copies even one to them.

In a sense my books are kind of a window to my soul, the topics, and even how I have them organized, and they are not for decoration. Many times while I am reflecting on a topic, a conversation, or something that I read in the news I peruse my books and pull one or more out to help me better understand it, or relate it to history. sometimes when in conversation something will come up and I can pull out a book. A Chaplain who once served with me said that he should “apply for graduate credit” for what he learns in our often off the cuff talks. But, for me that is because I read so much and absorb it. Joyce Carol Oates wrote: “Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.” That is something I have come to understand over the decades.

Likewise my memorabilia is there to remind me of all the people in my past who I have served with. I don’t have all my medals, honors, and diplomas up for everyone to see, instead I have pictures and collages, many signed by people who made a difference in my life. When I see the signatures and often all too kind words on them I am humbled, and in some cases a tear will come to my eye, but I digress…

I always try to read a decent amount everyday. I in the past couple of weeks I have finished reading a number of very good books dealing with different historical dramas. I have mentioned a number of my recent reads. Last year I read a very good book called Hidden Horrors: Japanese War Crimes In World War II, by Yuki Tanaka. The book is primarily focused on Japanese War Crimes In the Southwest Pacific against Allied POWs, civilians, including German missionaries, and indigenous peoples. I will be referring to it in future articles as I deal with Japanese War Crimes In the Second World War. I am well versed in the Nazi War crimes and only somewhat familiar with Japanese war crimes, but the the takeaway from the book was that both the German War Crimes and Japanese War Crimes committed during the Second World War were committed by men who placed unconditional loyalty to a supreme leader, in the case of the Germans, Hitler’s Fuhrer cult, and in the case of the Japanese, Emperor worship, much like the present day Trump Cult. But I digress, I will go into that in a future article. This week I completed Dr Timothy Snyder’s latest book “Our Malady: Lessons in Liberty from a Hospital Diary, and I am working on the second volume of Volker Ullrich’s biography of Hitler. Due to spending so much time on my book before having my own medical-dental crisis I am behind in much of the ready I plan to do.

I love reading and writing about complex characters, people who may be heroes and at the same time scoundrels. I like the contradictions and the feet of clay of people, because I am filled with my own, and truthfully saints are pretty boring. Unfortunately, until Ullrich’s haven’t read any biographies of late although I have several waiting in my stack of books.  Much of my reading deals a lot with biography as the characters weave their way through history. By reading about them I often feel that I get to know them better than some of the people they actually associated because most people only reveal select aspects of themselves and their thoughts, even to close friends.

Two years ago  we observed the Centenary of the end of World War One. As a result I re-read Edmond Taylor’s The Fall of the Dynasties: The Collapse of the Old Order, 1905-1922 and Richard Watt’s The Kings Depart: The Tragedy of Germany: Versailles and the German Revolution. Both of these are very important reads which should help us to reflect reflect on what is happening in our world today. There are many similarities and reading them causes me to wonder if world leaders will allow hubris, arrogance, greed, and pride to drag the world into another catastrophic war. Sadly President Trump, doesn’t read, and doesn’t learn from history. Unfortunately, his ignorance is very much a reflection of our twenty-first century media culture.

But to me, books are important, far more important than anything that is shouted at me on television. Unfortunately, the latter is how most people get information today. I often sit at the bar and on quiet days simply listen to those near me repeat ad-nauseam the bullshit echoed by badly educated and historically ignorant conservative pundits, usually from Fox News. Historian Timothy Snyder wrote in his little but profound book, On Tyranny:

“Staring at screens is perhaps unavoidable, but the two-dimensional world makes little sense unless we can draw upon a mental armory that we have developed somewhere else. When we repeat the same words and phrases that appear in the daily media, we accept the absence of a larger framework. To have such a framework requires more concepts, and having more concepts requires reading. So get the screens out of your room and surround yourself with books. The characters in Orwell’s and Bradbury’s books could not do this—but we still can.”

Likewise, Barbara Tuchman wrote:

“Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books, the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are engines of change (as the poet said), windows on the world and lighthouses erected in the sea of time. They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print.”

But anyway, I retire from the Navy soon and writing, reading, and teaching will become more and more part of my life. I am happy about that. Carl Sagan wrote:

“What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”

I hope that the books I write do what Sagan wrote about, and that by teaching I can encourage others to break away from the two dimensional screens that hold them captive and return to books where imagination can flourish and take us places we only hope to go. 

Have a great day and better tomorrow tomorrow, stay safe and pick up a book and read.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Truth and the Twilight Zone in the Age Of Trump: “Logic is an Enemy, and the Truth is a Menace”

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Judy and I have been binge watching the classic television series The Twilight Zone. The show, written by Rod Sterling first aired before either of us was born. If you have never watched it, suppose you were born too late, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to take some time to do.

But I should preface this with the words of the great historian, Barbara Tuchman:

Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. Without books, the development of civilization would have been impossible. They are engines of change (as the poet said), windows on the world and lighthouses erected in the sea of time. They are companions, teachers, magicians, bankers of the treasures of the mind. Books are humanity in print.

There are a lot of truths buried in the various episodes, truths about reality and fantasy; religion and ethics; science and technology; human nature and yes, government too. The Twilight Zone is a strange place, you never know when you might end up there, in fact in Trump’s America every day feels like an experience in the Twilight Zone, in this case Season Two, episode 29, The Obsolete Man. In the episode the state determines who is obsolete and therefore condemned to death.

In the episode, Burgess Meredith plays a character named Romney Wordsworth, a librarian who has been declared obsolete by the state. Books have been banned as well as belief in a God that is not the no-God of the state. He is brought before the Chancellor, played by Fritz Weaver, and condemned to a death of his choosing.

The opening narration, spoken by Sterling sets the stage for the story:

You walk into this room at your own risk, because it leads to the future, not a future that will be but one that might be. This is not a new world, it is simply an extension of what began in the old one. It has patterned itself after every dictator who has ever planted the ripping imprint of a boot on the pages of history since the beginning of time. It has refinements, technological advances, and a more sophisticated approach to the destruction of human freedom. But like every one of the super-states that preceded it, it has one iron rule: logic is an enemy and truth is a menace. This is Mr. Romney Wordsworth, in his last forty-eight hours on Earth. He’s a citizen of the State but will soon have to be eliminated, because he’s built out of flesh and because he has a mind. Mr. Romney Wordsworth, who will draw his last breaths in The Twilight Zone

I won’t play the spoiler but I will end this brief article with the warning spoken by Sterling at the end of the episode. The episode can be found on Netflix. But, actually, this is unedited ending of that episode.

The chancellor, the late chancellor, was only partly correct. He was obsolete. But so is the State, the entity he worshiped. Any state, entity, or ideology becomes obsolete when it stockpiles the wrong weapons: when it captures territories, but not minds; when it enslaves millions, but convinces nobody. When it is naked, yet puts on armor and calls it faith, while in the Eyes of God it has no faith at all. Any state, any entity, any ideology which fails to recognize the worth, the dignity, the rights of Man…that state is obsolete. A case to be filed under “M” for “Mankind” – in The Twilight Zone.

So consider this a warning, especially for the followers of the authoritarians, fascists, and real or would be dictators, including the American President and his cult like supporters; a warning from the Twilight Zone.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Creepy Television Shows: Padre Steve Loves Bates Motel and Those Who Kill

BatesMotel

Well my friends after a coupled of weeks of seriousness something a little less serious, unless you take creepy things more seriously than you should. Yes I could be writing more about Gettysburg or other military History tonight. Likewise I could be writing about pressing social issues or world events, faith and religion, politics or baseball. I do promise that I will do some of that soon.

However, I don’t do a lot of television. I am not a fan of a lot of the new shows on today. I can watch Seinfeld, Boston Legal, MASH, any of the Star Trek series, The X-Files, Cheers, House MD or any number of older television series for hours on end. I also love The Simpson’s, Family Guy, Southpark and American Dad and the same is true with many other series.

However, I do not enjoy what is referred to as “reality TV.” The fake nature of this artificial reality bugs the shit out of me. Truthfully I deal with enough real reality every day not to want to deal with the contrived reality of Duck Dynasty or anything else of the genre.

Tftd2

Neither am I a fan of soap operas, even those of the horror genre. Unfortunately between reality TV and various soap operas it seems that much of television has become a wasteland of prepackaged formulas designed to keep non-thinking people coming back.

Likewise I refuse to watch any supposedly “Christian” television. I cannot think of much more that is less Christian than I see on most Christian networks. The fact that most extol the voices or pride, avarice, greed, and even violence all baptized with carefully selected verses of scripture and done in the name of God makes me think that they are the tools of the Devil himself.

The-xfiles-facts

It is hard to believe that in an era where there are hundreds of television shows to watch on any given night that I have nothing to watch unless I put in a DVD or BlueRay disc of something that is now off the air.

Rod

However, that being said I have always loved creepy and suspenseful shows. I loved The X-Files, which I already mentioned. Likewise always I loved The Twilight Zone, Tales From the Crypt, Tales from the Dark Side and the long running Criminal Minds. I love the creepy, suspenseful and the sometimes somewhat twisted humor and irony of these shows.

However, it is been a while since I have seen any really creepy and suspenseful new shows. I am sure that there are some out there but it has taken me time to find a couple new shows that I really like. That search my friends ended last week when my wife Judy insisted that I watch Bates Motel. I loved it.

Following it there was another show, Those Who Kill. I loved it as well. Very suspenseful, creepy and well done. You cannot ask for much more in two shows that run back to back.

batesbathroom

Bates Motel is basically the prequel to the legendary Hitchcock film Psycho. Last year Judy realized that her decoration of our master bathroom in a Rubber Ducky pattern was not interesting to me. So for my birthday when I was still stationed in Camp LeJeune she redecorated that bathroom in a Psycho theme. I loved it. When I cam home and saw it I laughed myself sick. That being said there are some nights that when I have to get up to do my business that I am taken aback.

Bates Motel is really well done, as is Those Who Kill. I think that the former is really creepy because of the whole story and the fact that we meet Norma Bates, an overprotective mother who happens to be kind of hot.  The latter is about a detective and a professor of forensic psychology who track down serial killers. Both shows are creepy, very well done and very suspenseful. In other words they appeal to me.

I think a big part of the reason I like these shows is because they demonstrate the human condition in a manner not seen in other places. We live in a beautiful but at times scary world.

With that I have to take my attention back to the new Bates Motel followed by Those Who Kill.

Peace and Suspense,

Padre Steve+

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