Tag Archives: writing

The Past Isn’t Quaint: A Pause to Reflect


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I mentioned that I will be continuing my article on the Confederate Statue Controversy when I posted my last two articles. I will be doing that but the date has been pushed back as I have paused to read and reflect a bit more before I publish them here. I have my drafts of what look like another two articles in that series, but I want to do a bit more reading, and reflection before I go final with them. The same goes for my article on General Robert E. Lee. That being said it is interesting to have three drafts in different stages of readiness but not being ready to go with any of them just yet mainly because I want to do my best to cover the subjects as truthfully as possible. 

This is the problem of history. It requires critical thinking and also an argument that is accountable to evidence, as Jill Lapore noted: 

“History is the art of making an argument about the past by telling a story accountable to evidence. In the writing of history, a story without an argument fades into antiquarianism; an argument without a story risks pedantry. Writing history requires empathy, inquiry, and debate. It requires forswearing condescension, cant, and nostalgia. The past isn’t quaint. Much of it, in fact, is bleak.”

The fact is that many of the subjects that I write about are rather bleak, and often exist in places where to be fair one has to be empathetic, inquire, and even seek debate with people who disagree. I believe that what I write must be relatable today, even if it occurred hundreds of years ago. 

Later today I will be watching the solar eclipse and polishing up an article for tomorrow, probably one dealing with the Confederate Statue Controversy. That being said I have much on my mind; friends who have contacted me for guidance or encouragement, the illness of one of the people who work for me, and concern about the sailors injured and missing following the collision of the USS John S. McCain with a civilian tanker near Singapore. If you haven’t served at sea you might not understand that last concern. 

So anyway, until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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“Read a Lot and Write a Lot” How I Avoid Misery 


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

British historian Sir Max Hastings, whose book Catastrophe 1914, Europe Goes to War I am re-reading since I just completed another trip through Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, once made the comment: “I would be miserable if I went to bed without having written 1,000 words about something.” I am much the same way and hopefully one day I might be one tenth as good, and as successful writer as him or Tuchman. 

I do most of my writing before I go to bed at night and usually set my articles to post at 6:30 in the morning. I have a hard time going to sleep without writing be it for this website or for one of the books that I am working on. I read voraciously whenever I get the chance sometimes going to a bar just to read a book while enjoying a good craft beer or Germanor Irish import. Likewise once I am done with whatever I am writing I go right back to reading, sometimes keeping whatever Papillon is sleeping with me from getting the sleep that they want. That’s what I will be doing tonight when I finish this article which you will be reading tomorrow when it posts. In a sense my writings are kind of like Schroedinger’s cat, they are written yet unwritten at the same time, but I digress…

Today while on vacation in Huntington, West Virginia, I have been doing a lot of my own reading, as well as keeping up with the latest news about the building crisis regarding North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missiles and President Trump’s unrelenting bellicose tweets and statements. Likewise today I’ve walked about seven and a half miles, much of it around the campus of Marshall University and walking my dogs around the neighborhood that we are staying. As I walk I tend to take in everything I see and because of my PTSD I am still somewhat hyper vigilant which causes me to be a bit more observant about my surroundings than a lot of other people. But I also muse about things going on in the world as well as things that I am writing or plan on writing about. I did a lot of today and over the past few days. The next couple of days won’t be as free because Judy has scheduled us for some social activities, but I will still find a way to in get my reading, writing, and walking. 

But going back to writing and reading I have to say that I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t do either, I think I would be in some sort of hell if I couldn’t write every night or read. Doing these things helps me keep my perspective and to more fully appreciate the events of the day. Honestly, if I had not consciously immersed myself in history from the time that I was a child, including the many days that I cut 10th grade Geometry class to read the history reference books that I couldn’t check out of the school library I wouldn’t be who I am today. 

I like writing history because I become immersed in the people, the places, and the intricacies and complexity of the events. I like to incorporate the little known back stories of people help understand their actions at a given point. Likewise think that the lives of the individuals involved in the events I write about, both before, and after the event should they have lived through it, give my readers a more human connection to the events, as well as understanding of the people involved. I find that the stories of people allow readers to make those connections, maybe even inspiring in them a bit of sympathy for scoundrels or suspicion of supposed saints. 

I think that the character of people, good, bad, or wherever it falls on the spectrum, and their basic humanity; their strengths, weaknesses, contradictions, and their feet of clay, matter immensely and need to be part a of the story. I hate it when I read a history where a given character’s actions during a given event are examined in detail, but who they are as a person never comes through because the authors didn’t give their readers the courtesy of introducing them as people because they included little or no biographical details to make them interesting. Instead they become one dimensional caricatures of who they were in life, which in my view does them, the story, and the reader a grave injustice. So when I write I try to find interesting parts of a person’s life that is not directly related to the event to paint the picture. Walter Lord, who wrote prolific books on some of the key events of the Twentieth Century including books about the Titanic, Pearl Harbor, Midway, Dunkirk, the desegregation of the University of Mississippi, and many more noted something that I have taken to heart, I look for something that is highly unusual, involving ordinary people caught in extraordinary situations.”

That’s one reason I like the writings of both Tuchman and Hastings, they bring life to to the events they write about, they allow your imagination to run and to want discover more about the people and the events. The late Walter Lord, who I also mentioned was also excellent at doing that, and I think that is how I would like my writings be remembered. But in order to do that I have to read and write, as Stephen King said “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” So back to Hastings’ Catastrophe 1914.

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Margaritaville a Time Out from Trump All the Time


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Despite the continued bombardment of news about the Trump administration and the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to oversee the investigation I am going to take a breather from what is beginning to feel like “all Trump all the time,” not that there is not more to write about but unless something even bigger blows up in regard to the investigation of what appears to be the most incompetent, most inept, and possibly the most criminal and treasonous Presidential administration in American history, I’m going to take at least a few days to write about other things.

It is possible to become so enmeshed in breaking news without end that one loses perspective and forgets about other things, important things such as family, friends, pets, travel, hobbies, and life in general. I like reading, writing, building model airplanes and ships, hanging out with my wife, traveling, playing with and snuggling my dogs, going for walks, going to baseball games, and hanging out with friends over a couple of beers at my local watering hole.

But last night I scored tickets at the last minute to see Jimmy Buffet in concert. Great time. I like Margaritaville a lot better than Trumpland and I made use of my license to chill. 

So until tomorrow, have a good day and if you can remember who you are and what you enjoy, we’ll have plenty to deal with regarding Trump in the coming weeks and months and after effects that like the half-life of Plutonium may linger for years. But that being said, it’s five o’clock somewhere. 

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

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Celebrating an Achievement 


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Things have been very busy, I have been putting the finishing touches on the draft of what used to be the first chapter of my Gettysburg Staff Ride text. The chapter grew to be about 260 pages, far more than a chapter should be. For at least six months I have been planning on splitting it off into its own book, and yes it is a book; but I did not get around to it, instead I kept working on it. 

So about two weeks ago I made the decision to turn all this work into a book. So I spent my time the last two weeks, day and night, at work and at home working on getting it exactly the way I want it to be. I still need to go back and re-read it a number of times to catch mistakes that might have slipped through, as well as re-checking my sources, but when I finished it up this afternoon and sent the draft to m students I was elated. I will have some other people look at it to see if they think I need to do anything differently, but I am pretty sure that this is at least the 90% solution before seeking a publisher. 

One thing I had been stuck on was an appropriate title. For the longest time I was stuck with the rather boring Foundations of the First Modern War. It is accurate in some ways,nut it never really got me. But while working on turning this into a book was just how revolutionary the Civil War really was, and just how many times I had written about the revolutionary nature of the entire era, not just the war. So today I came up with the title: A Great War in a Revolutionary Age of Change. I think that it works as the text deals with change, military, political, social, economic, informational, and diplomatic. In fact if you want to understand who we are as Americans you have to understand the Civil War era. Of course this book is just a small part of understanding it, and I am indebted to so many historians who have worked to unravel, sorting fact from fiction, truth from myth. For so many of these men and women this has been a life’s work, and many of them have been accused of being “revisionists”  especially those who contradicted the myths of the Lost Cause and the Noble South  which were for two many decades the accepted “history”  of the Civil War era. Like them I have taken my share of heat from unrepentant secessionists and Lost Causers, and I don’t care so long as what I write is as truthful and unbiased as possible. 

Over the past couple of weeks I have taken the time to turn the massive chapter into a book. I was able to divide it up into an introduction and twelve chapters in which I try to connect the dots between the development of the Army and developments in society in the years before the war, during the war, and following the war during Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights movement. I explore the continuum of history and war, war in an age of change, and the context of war. Then I move to talk about how war is more than fighting, and the development of American military culture and theory. Then I shift to technology how technology matters, building armies from scratch, the changing character of armies and society, looking at the effect of conscription on Northern and Southern society. Then I move to the social change regarding Emancipation and Black soldiers, and the beginnings of the Women’s Rights movement, before I move back to discussing how technology pioneered before and during the Civil War set the stage for many things we know today. Then I think I go on to discuss a topic that many people fail to remember, the importance of what happens when the fighting stops, before finishing up talking about the timeless importance of this era today, and how so often we fail to learn the lessons of war. 

Tomorrow I will begin taking my second chapter, another book in its own right and separate it from the bulk of the text that deals with the strategic situation at the beginning of 1863, the Gettysburg campaign, and the Battle of Gettysburg. My regular readers have seen much of this develop from a very embryonic form in 2012 to what it is becoming now, over 1100 pages of text. There is still more work to be done and I am totally motivated to push forward and complete the rest of this work before I move on to other things that I want to write about, some topics that I have written about on this site. 

But tonight is a time to rest and watch the MLB All-Star Game, one of my favorite mid-summer things to do, an event that takes me back to childhood when things were so much simpler. I’ll write about that tomorrow before I move on to other subjects. 

Have a great night,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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So Much to Write About and Too Wiped Out to Do It



Somehow I feel a bit like Danny the Donkey now. I am wiped out and I wouldn’t mind sitting around in my underwear drinking beer. sadly I am not a pretty sight in my tights whities, but then there are times when I think that I am ahead of my time. 

Today I had a day long series of tests to see how my brain is working at the Neuro-Psychology clinic at the local Naval Medical Center. If you ever have cause to go through such a series, please know, even if you don’t drink you will want to when complete them. Thankfully, this was the last battery of tests of this sort that I will need to do. On the 23rd I get my special sleep study  which in addition to checking for possible sleep apnea also studies all of my crazy dreams and night terrors. 

Last night I had a pretty bad night for sleep, lots of weird dreams and nightmares. I woke up exhausted and then went to my testing. So now I am even more wiped out. Thankfully tonight should be easy. Go home and spend time with Judy and the dogs. I think our new Papillon puppy, Izzy, is good for me. It looks like she is going to be daddy’s girl. I love playing with her and having her hang out with us. She is funny, smarter I think than any of our previous girls, and none of them were dumb dogs, very sweet, playful but totally laid back. It is like this little girl is an old soul. 

Like I said, there is a lot that I want to write about. One thing is the latest GOP outrage with their letter to Iran. As a career military officer and former Republican I could never imagine any group of American politicians doing something so stupid and ultimately undermining of of our country. Not only was a it a lame attempt to sabotage the discussions that we and our allies are involved with before any deal is finalized, in a sense they added to the legitimacy of the Iranian clerics. If the Democrats had written a letter like this to Saddam Hussein in 2002 they would have been rightfully condemned, but evidently Senator Tom Cotton and 46 others thought this was a good idea, simply because they hate all things Obama. Instead they seem to be pushing for new, unfunded wars against not only Iran, but Iran’s mortal enemy the Islamic State. Guess what, if they get there way, these new wars will end badly. But the people are less rational than the Iranian Mullahs, so what can we expect?

There is yet another shit storm brewing between the religious right and the Navy Chaplain Corps. I promise that as I sort through the facts I will give you the fairest and most comprehensive report you will see on it. But for now I will simply say that from what I am reading this appears to be another incident involving a chaplain who might have overstepped his bounds but who’s cause is now all over the conservative blogosphere. From what I read there appears to be much more to the story than what is being reported on the Daily Caller, World Net Daily, the Blaze, Fox News, tons of other Right Wing Christian “news” sites and blogs or the website of lawyers supporting the agrieved chaplain are saying. Give me some time and you will get as truthful report as you will see on this.

I do have a number of Gettysburg related articles in process. Expect one one the cavalry actions of July 3rd and one on the suprises that George Meade and Robert E Lee experienced on June 28th 1863 within the week. I have some other ideas floating around and have much more to do on my Gettysburg text, so there will be more. 

Finally there are a number of other subjects that I want to address, some dealing with history, some baseball, some military, and some current events and controversies. So my friends, please stay tuned and spread the word. 

Until tomorrow, 

Peace, love and beer,

Padre Steve+ 

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Padre Steve’s World at Five Years: Writing My Way to Freedom as a Passionate Moderate

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“If you want to be a writer, you have to write every day… You don’t go to a well once but daily. You don’t skip a child’s breakfast or forget to wake up in the morning…” Walter Moseley

Friends of Padre Steve’s World. Five years ago I began to write on Padre Steve’s World…Musings of Passionate Moderate.

The name was chosen for a number of reasons. Padre Steve’s World hearkened back to one of my favorite Saturday Night Live skits and later films, Wayne’s World. The idea of musings is fairly self explanatory, these are, regardless of the subject my musings, inspired by whatever muse inhabits me. Finally the idea of a “Passionate Moderate” hearkened back to my days in seminary. Passionate and moderate are not terms that one generally links together, in fact when I was in seminary the term moderate was a term of distain used by some Christian Conservatives and Fundamentalists to vilify those that did not match their definition of a conservative. I chose the two ideas because to many people, on the right and the left cannot imagine a “Moderate” being passionate.

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However that moderation does not mean that I do not have strong ideas, beliefs and convictions, even when I can see truth in what others who do not agree with me have to say. Over the past five years my identity has become more established. I am a moderate, but in some ways I am a progressive liberal, in others a conservative. Regardless of where I fall in the religious, social and political continuum I am passionate about what I believe, I do seek the truth, but at the same time I attempt to maintain a moderate view that allows me to hear what others say and believe with an open heart.

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Padre Steve’s World began as a place to share my struggles with faith, PTSD and its effects on my life and coming home from war changed. It was something that was born out of pain, but also born out of love, love for writing, love for truth, love for justice and love of knowledge.

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As I began to write my life was coming apart, and writing became a place where could express my inner angst, find community and begin to heal. Engaging my creative muse enabled me to share those things that it was hard to do anywhere else. Many times those were the hardest things to say, the hardest things to put down in pen and ink, the things that were the secrets of my heart. Sometimes, just trying to write them was gut wrenching and filled my eyes with tears. But as I wrote, I discovered myself, discovered people for whom what I wrote resinated, and others that Stephen King said something that finds an echo in my life and heart:

“The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them — words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they’re brought out. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you’ve said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That’s the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear.”

That being said when I began much of what I wrote about was either dealing with my struggles or about things I knew a lot about. Those subjects included history, military subjects, theology and the Christian life and baseball. As I began to expand my writings the topics broadened to include political commentary, music, civil rights and the role of religion in public life.

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When I did this I decided not to shy away from controversial topics and to risk the rejection of some. The consequences of this his became quite real in September of 2010 when I was told to leave a church that I had served for 14 years as a Priest. Since then I still write about topics that are controversial, though I do try my best to be fair when I do so.

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Mark Twain advised writers to “write what they know.” Fortunately for me that was not hard, I know a lot about a lot of subjects. That is not a boast, but merely a recognition that between a lot of academic study, a lot of reading and a lot of life experience I have a pretty good repository of knowledge, including a lot of odd knowledge. That would make me a Keeper Of Odd Knowledge, or KOOK. I can live with that too.

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That being said I am not one to think that I know it all, I follow the advice of the late manager of the Baltimore Orioles, Earl Weaver that “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” Since PTSD and the Moral Injury that I had suffered in Iraq was kicking my ass when I began to write, and I was finding that I really didn’t know much of anything that I thought I knew about life I did take this advice to heart.

Stephen King noted that “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”  The fact is I have always been an avid reader, mostly of history, military history and theory, church history, theology, biography and other more academic writings from the social and political sciences. I do not read a lot of fiction, however that being said there are some books as well as book series that I like. I love fiction that deals with history, as well as mysteries and science fiction, the latter because both lure me into the realm of possibility and mystery, subjects that fascinate me.

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The fact that I read a lot inspires me to write on a wide variety of subjects. Likewise the more I write the more I become conscious of life as well as a desire to seek out truth, and when I write, whether it is something to do with history, faith, baseball or even my occasional forays into fiction and fantasy. As I do this it makes me appreciate the other writers even more, because I no longer see them just in light of what they write, but how they struggle with the same things I struggle with, I can appreciate the truth and beauty in what they write, and it decreases my sense of isolation, which since Iraq has often been crushing. I can agree with Annie Lamott wrote:

“Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious. When you’re conscious and writing from a place of insight and simplicity and real caring about the truth, you have the ability to throw the lights on for your reader. He or she will recognize his or her life and truth in what you say, in the pictures you have painted, and this decreases the terrible sense of isolation that we have all had too much of.”

I read all the time and I try to write every day, if I cannot do that I feel that I have missed out on something. If I do not write it is almost if I have missed breathing. My mind is constantly musing on things to write about and sometimes it is only the fact that I have a day job that keeps me from writing even more than I do. Like Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman) in Blazing Saddles I have to admit that “My mind is aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening through a cosmic vapor of invention.” But I digress…

Admittedly I do write a lot and I do try to write every day. Not counting what I do for work, academic pursuits or teaching I have posted over 1700 articles on this website since I started it in February 2009. If I ever take the time to organize and edit what I have on this site there is probably enough for several books.

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For me writing has been part of my quest for healing, the discovery of truth and the desire to be part f a community of people that is bigger than me, or anything that I can do on my own.  It really is about life, and if as some would think that I am a fool for doing this, then that is their loss. I don’t mind being considered a fool in this quest. Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451 wrote:

“If you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life. You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads.”

I can agree with Bradbury’s thoughts on this. I do not know what the future holds. If I were God I would live to be one hundred years old and be active reading, writing, thinking and interacting with others who seek truth.

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So tonight I wish the writers, artists and thinkers who read this the best. To close I provide you the benediction of Bradbury:

“I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories — science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Comings and Goings on a Sunday Night

It has been a few days since I have published and for those that are regular readers I do apologize. It has been a busy week which included a not to be repeated for more 10 years medical exam that comes with being over 50. I will let the reader defer to their imagination but it was a real pain in the ass. That aside, no pun  intended…the week has included a change of command at the Naval Hospital that I serve at o Friday and a celebration of the 114th anniversary of the Navy Hospital Corps rating last night as well as the normal load of pastoral counseling cases and inpatient groups.

I have also when not otherwise occupied I have been catching up on reading as well as reading for a purpose.  The purpose of the purposeful reading will be a review of the book “Leak: Why Mark Felt Became Deep Throat” by Max Holland for the folks at TLC Book Tours that I will publish here on Tuesday.

Since I have either been too tired or not feeling well after the aforementioned procedure or busy I have been outlining a number of articles that I will post this week. Subjects will include the epidemic of suicide in the military which has exploded in 2012; an article on the Hospital Corps of the US Navy; thoughts on the state of the Church and despicable actions of some of those that claim to be “Christian leaders” in the past few weeks and months; some thoughts about how hateful language and the deliberate dehumanization of certain people based on their race, religion or sexual preference frequently leads to actual violence and even genocide.  I expect also to write one or more articles on specific topics dealing with the Holocaust and the subject of Crimes against Humanity over the next few weeks. Regarding baseball I expect to be doing an article about Washington Nationals rookie sensation Bryce Harper and why he should be in the All-Star Game at the behest of a reader. I may also play around a bit and do a short story in the historical-fiction genre.  I have some ideas for the short story but haven’t decided on a specific topic, but it will deal with something interesting with a current application.

I did enjoy writing about D-Day and Midway last week. Those are subjects that I have studied or read about since childhood and which I always find something interesting enough to write about. I’ll probably do some more articles on Navy ships in the near future. I haven’t completed my series on the Super-Battleships of World War II so maybe I will do some work on those. Fore the readers unfamiliar with the series I have done a lot of articles on specific classes of the Washington Treaty Battleships of the US, Britain, France, Italy and Germany which are available under the “Warship and Naval Battles” tab at the top of the site.

I have had a good number of people suggest writing a book or possibly doing a compilation of essays from this site and turn them into a book. I expect that I will actually begin spending more of my writing time doing this and hope that I can shop around and find a publisher and literary agent. I wouldn’t mind doing a book tour of my own someday.

As for today it has been a day of celebrating a home Eucharist, doing laundry, reading and hanging out with my little dog Molly.  We went through a Hardee’s drive through this afternoon following a drive around the local area. When I ordered she had to start barking, like she’s not going to get anything. She is an entitled little dog. But then why should she not be?

Peace

Padre Steve+

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