Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ordinary field stones. A poem

It's a lost world. Which world? The world of Catholic Church priests. Really? Yes, I think so ... rapidly losing it's battle to win the hearts and minds of their flock in the Western World.

At the same time I always realize I could have been a priest or monk too. If I would be one - I know I never will - I would try to be someone like Jan Twardowski (1915 – 2006). I like his poems, his images and the way he treats the world around him. This is one of his poems I like best. See how pure.


One by one all the trees non-believers,
birds refuse to study religion
the dogs rarely goes to church
they really don't know anything
and see how odedient

insects under the tree bark know nothing of the gospels
even the white caraway so meek in the pasture
ordinary field stones
tears plowing the skin
have never heard of Saint Francis
and see how poor

the stars refuse to hear my sermons
so does the humble lily of the valley, all too familiar, alone
the peaceful mountains that, like faith, keep on
love with a heart condition
and see how pure

Poem 'Faithless Trees' (polish 'Drzewa Niewierzace') is written by Jan Twardowski. Translation by A. Mioduchowska and M. Garanis

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Fighter pilot Robin Olds. Bookreview

I love to fly. I love the sensation of high up in the sky, hand on the stick and be in control of the aircraft. Clouds up. Mixture of green and brown colours down. And in between? Empty sky!

For 1 year I joined a glider club. Just the kind of family, group, nerds I like to share my life with.  Unfortunately I had to stop because it was too time consuming next to my kids and old house but ... one day I'll join them again.

I love reading about flying. Books. Magazines. Or whatever. When I was around 18 years old (before Top Gun) I wanted to become a fighter pilot myself. Dogfights - the real thing. 

Flying is not a job it's a way of life. Next to that it's something you do and not read about.  You can't capture flying in a picture - ever noticed that you always see the same kind of pictures? Nothing beats the real thing. I realised it once again when I read Robin Olds' book 'Fighter Pilot: The Memoirs of Legendary Ace Robin Olds'. If you want to read a good review on Olds' life check out wikipedia on this. It tells it all.

Olds memoirs are interesting and fun. Read them. He has flown aircrafts between 1942 and 1967. He shot down a couple of Germans in England and France during World War II and 4 MiGs in Vietnam. He was one of the leading officers who ensured that the Americans gained air superiority in Vietnam. By gaining that  the American bombers were able to drop their bombs undisturbingly. Only novelty I've read was that the Allied convoys during D-Day were covered from the air by aircraft. Olds was one of them. Nor Olds nor one of his fellow pilots saw one single German fighter during those days.

Olds for managers (3th section):

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

River crossing

Yesterday I finished reading for the second time Tom Holland's book 'Rubicon: The Last Years of the Roman Republic'. I wanted to find out why Julius Caesar (100 - 44 BC) crossed the Rubicon in 49 BC. The river Rubicon marked the boundary between the Roman province of Cisalpine Gaul to the north and Italy proper to the south.  Any Roman general was by law of the Roman Republic (509 - 44 BC) obliged to disband his army before crossing the Rubicon. Otherwise both he and his men were guilty of high treason and automatically condemned to death. This law was set to protect the Roman Republic from internal military threat. In 50 BC the Senate ordered Caesar to disband his army and return to Rome because his term as proconsul had finished. He did not disband his army. Instead he used the power of his succesful army to stay in power. In retrospect we know that he defeated Pompey the Great and became Rome's (perpetual) dictator. It was generally accepted that the dictatorship ("one who dictates") was limited to 6 months. Julius Ceasar used (some say 'abused') this office to stay in power year after year. Unprecedented!

The precise event which signalled the end of the Roman Republic and the transition into the Roman Empire is a matter of interpretation. Some say Sulla's (138 – 78 BC) route to power  paved the way for Julius Ceasar. Some say it's Julius Ceasar's crossing of the Rubicon or his appointment as perpetual dictator in 44 BC. Others point at the defeat of Mark Antony at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC or the grant of extraordinary powers to Augustus in 27 BC.

According to me Julius Ceasar holds the key by crossing the Rubicon. Sulla misused his army too for staying in power but  in the end he resigned for the office of dictator, retiring to private life. Julius Ceasar gave the deathblow to the Roman Republic by crossing the Rubicon, defeat his "enemies" and stay in power through the office as dictator for year after year and finally as perpetual dictator.

Why did Julius Caesar cross the Rubicon?  
Tom Holland's book does not give a direct answer to my question. In a bookreview Holland says "Caesar of course had the option and the moral duty as a citizen not to cross the river. But for the ambitious Roman who he was his own  honour (dignitas) weighed heavier than the ancestral tradition (dignitas maiorum)." 
Wikipedia's answer: "In 50 BC, the Senate, led by Pompey, ordered Caesar to disband his army and return to Rome because his term as Proconsul had finished.  Caesar thought he would be prosecuted and politically marginalised if he entered Rome without the immunity enjoyed by a Consul or without the power of his army."
Suetonius (69/75 – 130 AD) attributes the crossing to a supernatural ghost (source english and latin): "As he stood in doubt, this sign was given him. On a sudden there appeared hard by a being of wondrous stature and beauty, who sat and played upon a reed; and when not only the shepherds flocked to hear him, but many of the soldiers left their posts, and among them some of the trumpeters, the apparition snatched a trumpet from one of them, rushed to the river, and sounding the war-note with mighty blast, strode to the opposite bank."

To be honest I still don't know why Julius Ceasar crossed the Rubicon. I guess we will never really know. For me it feels like a mix of personal and group survival and being afraid of losing his personal honour. Above all I think he was an ape fighting for his personal survival and clinged to his power as general. It's vanity if you think about his whole project/ life in retrospect. Everything blown away with the wind of time. The kid of Julius & Cleopatra was murdered. He never became a grandpa.

Why is all this so important to me? What's my point? It's important because in all of us there is a part of  Julius Ceasar too. We as species 'Homo sapiens' are apes fighting for our own personal survival. Fighting for the survival of our family and the groups we live in. We all are citizens and we all are dictators. We all are Roman Republicans and at the same time Perpetual Dictators. We all are a mixture of vanity, honesty, dishonesty, cruelty, forgiveness, lust for power, need of affirmation, law abiding and law infidel. All of us are very able to kill and murder. And if you don't recognise all this is yourselves ... look better. Look!