Monthly Archives: October 2012

Part 2- Ranching: The Basis of Sorrow

I ran down the driveway toward the road as my 7 yr old son gave me the intelligence. The “breed cow” had run from the pen on the northeast corner toward the southcentral part of the land, then ran back northeast and onto the county road. The steer- Brownie- was still in the pen. When I arrived at the road, puffing like a somewhat overweight man in his thirties, I saw the cow, black against the early fall scenery. Actually, she was quite scenic: head alert and held high; muscles tense; partially hidden among the tall grass in the low ditch. Surrounded by green fields hemmed in by colorful oaks, she looked regal.

I inspected the fence for breaches, and quickly discovered a large one. The cow would stay put in the grass, I knew, so I took my time, opened the gates and lumbered back to the house for the truck.

Upon arriving at the house, I gave quick orders to the children to stay on the porch. Three of the five were with me while my wife was shopping in town, so I felt a little overextended in my responsibilities. “stay,” I directed. “Stay on the porch. I’m going to get Blackie.”

As I entered the road, the cow heard the diesel motor and began running away, down the road, away from the house. I accelerated, passed her, circled back and intimidated her along the fence line until she found the open gates to her pen and took refuge right back into her little 2 acre paradise.

I hopped out of the truck, closed the gates, and went to the cow shelter to find Brownie the Steer.

But there was no Brownie. I waved Benjamin over to me. “Was the steer out with the bred cow?”

“Yes, she [the steer] was by the chicken pen.”

To Be continued.

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If not me, who? If not now, when?

I come to bury Facebook, not to praise it. Herein I offer sundry reasons for our separation.
1. My children. I don’t want my five children spending much time in digital social networks. It is harder to retract than it is to abstain from FB.

2. The entrenchment of uncommunication. When I was a lad, my parents and their friends would tell us that we should turn off the video games and “rediscover the art of conversation”. Facebook seems to provide the ingredients for just this thing, but somehow the alchemy does just the opposite. Instead of the art of conversation, there turns up a certain artless series of comments. Conversation is reduced to poorly devised thoughts buttressed by an eternal regression of informative web links.

It doesn’t have to be so. For a number of years I’ve enjoyed the company of a dozen or so friends in an email forum. (Two of them are actually FB friends). Via simple email, mostly in a lo-tech “dial up” digital connection, sturdy conversation is created, bringing friends together from as disparate locations as Texas, Costa Rica, Pennsyvania, Ontario, Guatemala and Florida. We call this forum “The Campfire” because digitally we are able to do what campfires enable: thoughtful social interchange, otherwise known as the art of
Conversation.

The promise of connecting that Facebook usage portends simply becomes a facile surrogate for genuine communion. I would drive hundreds of miles to visit with my FB friends, just so long as they don’t show me funny pictures of kittens, politicians or food. But FB connections have rarely resulted in in-the-flesh table talk, unfortunately.

3. Lack of personal control of the distribution of my content. This is a long way to say “censorship and surveillance”. FB controls the flow of information that appears on your screen. Not everything you write gets sent to your friends, and that is after taking the various restrictions and tiered lines of communication set up by users into consideration. Further, your communication is monitored; FB also encourages other users to monitor your communication. Your comments are subject to scrutiny based on key word usage, inclusion of certain persons within your social network, etc. by your comments (which might not see the light of day) you are categorized by FB and marketed to businesses and governments.

4. Facebook profits from your enrollment. They set advertising rates by the number of users and the details of their comments and personal info. I don’t really like that.

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Ranching: The Basis of Sorrow

It’s no wonder that country music is sterotypically melancholy.

On Saturday, I broke my 7 year hiatus and again took up the art of ranching. Right now, we are running approximately one head, to use rancher parlance. That’s down from Saturday’s seven-year high of 2 head. Yes, within hours of beginning ranching anew, one head of cattle had already died.

We live on 28 acres, most of which is open fields of coastal grass. Over the summer, we partitioned off a 2 acre lot with barbed wire, gates, animal stalls and water tanks. I still have plans to reinvigorate the old shallow water well near the pens, but as of now, we are going to limp along with the 150 ft garden hose. We are prepared for winter with lots of hay from the field and a minimal amount of cattle knowledge from years past.

So, down to the auction (auwshkin, according to the 3 yr old) we went- “we” being me and four young children. That’s an adventure in itself, but suffice it to say that we came home much poorer with a 4 yr old bred beef cow and a 500 pound steer. The steer we planned to eat in a few months, after it doubled in size; the cow we plan to keep as a calf producer. The cow is scheduled to calve in late March, which is perfect for beginner ranchers: fresh grass and warm weather in abundance.

An hour after penning the creatures, my son came inside with news that the cows were out of their pen. Acute buyer’s remorse exploded within me, only to quickly give way to the more natural machismo of my inner cowboy. To be continued…

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It Goes Without Saying

I offer two perspectives on great writers. One man thinks that some writers have taken for granted some of their subject and that without knowing it, they have crafted a line of thought that doesn’t literally reflect all that they have in mind. Thus, for example, Josef Pieper writes, “In this seemingly innocent situation, which in its turn is largely taken for granted, there lies the most important and the peculiar difficulty of all textual interpretations: namely, that in a passage to be elucidated certain notions remain unexpressed because they were self-evident to the author, whereas they are in no way self-evident to the man who is interpreting the text.”

The second perspective on great writers is that, far from having gaps in the track, the writer actually has constructed two tracks of thought within his text. Leo Strauss wrote about this in ‘Persecution and the Art of Writing’. In it, he teaches that all the great philosophers since Plato have written a text that the masses will accept in a straightforward manner- the exoteric track- while the greatest of minds will find the intentional glitches within the text. They will search deeper and find what ony the bright ones were supposed to find, namely the esoteric, or hidden, meaning.

Two views. One view describes man as always reaching for intellectual communion, for sharing what one knows as best as he is able, and still finding inherent obstacles. (Pieper’s view can be further read about in ‘The Silence of St. Thomas’.) The other view describes man as intentionally veiling his knowledge, and thus (if knowledge is power) limiting the persons of power to only the select few. This view also suggests a cynical view of truth and of humanity.

Consider this. The truth will set you free. So don’t bear false witness about that truth. Rather, do what you can to elucidate it. Try to say it faithfully as best as you know, even if in your trying, because of an inadequate grasp on the truth or on communication skills, some of what you see goes without saying.

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The Uncertainty of Setting Forth

You see it from time to time: people wondering on Facebook if they should cancel their Facebook account. “Friends” then leave two different kinds of comments. One kind expresses sympathy with the interest in canceling the account. “Yeah, I know what u mean. It’s so vapid sometimes. And I think I can get through life without knowing what your breakfast looks like. LOL!” Another kind reveals a dependence on the person’s important place in the Facebook world. “Awwww, don’t leave! I love your posts! I print them out and disperse them at work…. Uh, let me know if that’s ok.”

Ominously absent are the voices of the Facebookless. These people would add a third opinion, if they only had opportunity to share it. “Yeah, you might be able to get by. LOL!! Stay disconnected for a few weeks and see the world open up. If you don’t like it, you can always jump back into the stream of ads, likes and surveiled dialogue.”

Anyway, I’m canceling my account. Like the American colonists in 1776, I sense that I should give a declaration for the reasons of this action. I’m just not sure which should be my top concerns. Any suggestions? And what about suggestions of what to do with myself now?

 

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