Occasions of Doughnuts

Spring Fundraiser 2015, Day Three

Here we are at Day Three of the Fundraiser and I’ve said nary a word. I’ve been sitting here wringing my hands, trying to come up with an acceptable story — upbeat and amusing — so our readers might enjoy the experience, thus feeling energized, which would make y’all more inclined to climb over that procrastination hurdle this week, thereby donating to the worthy cause of keeping the Gates open for the coming quarter.

I find the project on which we’ve embarked fascinating — I feel privileged, and the sense of wonderment never grows stale. Imagine being able to chronicle some of the depredations we’re all facing! What is being done to our country and our culture is outrageous. To end up as one of the chroniclers of the injustices we all face is such an unexpected path to be traveling that this experience is beyond words. I never quite get over it: we serve as an outlet and a conduit at the same time. That’s so strange, and yet nevertheless it has come to be. Gates of Vienna is a portal and a crossroads, and here we stand. Amazing.

Tip jarBut that brings me to the crux of the problem here. I know intellectually the need to remain upbeat for the space of a few fundraiser posts, and I don’t know how. For some reason, I think of our commenter, Babs, keeping her coat on in the house during the winter, trying to stay warm in an increasingly expensive environment. With that vivid description of winter reality in the north, I felt an immediate connection.

But I still stand here wringing my hands, trying to figure how to enter from stage left, swinging my cane and doing a soft shoe routine to raise everyone’s spirits for the nonce. After all, our news posts are dysphoric enough. And I recognize the need for optimistic messages in this octave of asking for money: during the fundraiser posts, keep it light, Dymphna. No one will be inclined to give to the cause if you make them feel like pouring a stiff drink after a dysphoric encounter with your experience. So I really do “get” the part about cheer and optimism, but end up with a split in my thinking/feeling. Look at it this way: I enjoy reading the newsletter from Sderot; it’s full of all the good things they’re doing, and it makes me want to be a part of that. But I also hear the reality from MC’s daily life there. As he said, in Sderot even the dogs have PTSD — as well they should, given the “rockets’ red glare”.

Before I met the Baron there was a good deal of umm… red glare… in my life. [Or is it “flare”? A little Freudian slip there, but if dogs could talk they’d agree: glare fits.] Some of those experiences were no one’s fault; I just happened to be one of the kids who fell through the cracks, and there was no soft landing. “Children are hostages to fortune,” after all. As a result, the stories I know would appall (some) others, but having lived them, I find some of my experiences entertaining. So I’m going to go with the flow here. I present my tale — something I haven’t shared before except with one correspondent who assured me it was amusing and not downbeat. Since it’s my life, I can’t tell any more, so blame Bill if it makes you feel bad. If it makes you realize how wonderfully adaptive kids can be, then I’ve achieved what I set out to do.

I call this Occasions of Doughnuts (but there’s a long preface of context before we get to the sweets).

During the years I spent in St. Mary’s Home (note: yes, it was an orphanage of sorts, but I had a lovely mother, so I wasn’t technically an orphan. However, my mother was convinced that if she tried to get welfare assistance, even if she’d negotiated the shame of it, applying would lead to her deportation, since she wasn’t a citizen. And her daughter/American citizen would have to live in a foreign land. So her solution was to work instead, and attempt to find adequate day care. Let’s skip that part; all of those foster homes or day-care people were not good places.

In the end, the doctor told my mother I needed the stability of St. Mary’s, at least until it was legal for me to be a latchkey kid. I was aware even back then that the rules in the black community were different: a lot of mothers went to work cleaning houses and had bigger kids taking care of littlers, but black mothers didn’t have to put up with the same scrutiny as my foreign white mother. I used to wish we were black instead of being in a Catholic ghetto. But there you are. Or rather, there I was: sentenced to St. Mary’s until I turned ten. The magic year of my release.

Except for missing my mother desperately, I liked St. Mary’s. The routine was calming, predictable. The rules were clear and fair and unvarying. I used to think that my mother ought to be in there with me. After all, her own mother had died after she left home, and all she had of her passing was a telegram. Now she was an orphan in a strange country — I thought then, and I still believe, they should have taken her in. She was always a very good girl, unlike her daughter, who found it impossible to maintain silence. Lord help me, I couldn’t have kept quiet even for ice cream.

If you’ve ever lived in a town with a Children’s Home in it, you know that people like to feel good by doing things for the orphans. And some of the things they did were indeed wonderful. For instance, The Knights of Columbus built a swimming pool for us: in the Florida heat that was a lasting act of mercy. And at Christmas the Naval Base always threw a big, exciting party with live Christmas music and tables of food as far as the eye could see… as far as mine could, at any rate. We’d have a long bus ride out to the base in the grey December Sunday afternoon, just before Christmas. All the way out, we sang Christmas carols. Later in the aftermath we rode home in the sleepy dark, for once stuffed up to the tippy top, and laden each with a box of candy and a bag of fruit. Far too groggy and full to sing, we leaned against one another and slept to the rhythm of that macadam road until the lights of the city’s stop-and-start traffic woke us.

But once the holidays were over orphans sank out of sight as regular old life took over. Sometimes, though, we’d get some wonderful surprise — say a box of oranges so big that we each got two. And yes, we ate them, peels and all. Nowadays I know all about that oil in the skins being limonene, but back then I simply ate all the pith (the white part) and then let the scraped peels dry in a bag. They tasted wonderful when put in a glass of water, shaken and let sit for a while on the radiator. Orange juice was unknown until I was much older, but when I was small, orange peel water was mighty fine. We all thought so.

Then there were Occasions of Doughnuts. These were moveable feasts, appearing unexpectedly. I was too young to understand their origins (unlike the oranges — we were in Florida, after all) but I had no burning desire to comprehend where they came from; it was enough to know they were here in all their sweety, gooshy goodness. We (“we” being the Little Girls, aged five to nine. The Big Girls were ten and up and lived in a separate universe — though we all ate in the dining hall and the Big Girls would teach us their music) knew the gooshy part wouldn’t last, but that was okay with me. Fresh or stale, I loved those doughnuts.

They would arrive in two large bags, much bigger than grocery bags and quite heavy. The tops were taped. The Big Girls would haul them into the kitchen and dole out the first batch: two each. But that didn’t even begin to finish the first bag; as I would learn and re-learn, there were miles of doughnuts to go before the end of the first bag.

In St. Mary’s, after school let out we’d have a period of physical activity — which mainly consisted of games of tag, just letting off steam. Then we had our Afternoon Snack, followed by Study Hall for an hour before dinner. Our usual snack at 4:00 p.m. was Honey Buns. These were two hamburger halves smeared with — yes — honey, and distributed with a napkin. But the only thing the napkin was good for was dampening in the water fountain and trying to wipe off the sticky from our hands and face. You learned quickly not to get the napkin too wet or all you’d have left is a miniscule ball of soggy paper. If Sister Fabian wasn’t looking, we’d use the hem of our dress dipped in the fountain. You always used the front so when you went to Study Hall you weren’t sitting on the cold part.

Honey buns were in abeyance as long as the doughnuts were still extant. Nothing went to waste. Some of the girls complained as the doughnuts became “doughnuts” and then morphed into rocks in the shape of doughnuts. Not Dymphna. I loved those things in all their permutations. If we were sitting in the pavilion I could put mine on the table and use a ruler to break them in half. This made them easier to “eat”, since we were essentially sucking on sandy brick lollipops. As the doughnuts aged, they lost their sugary taste (I would say “flavor” but that would be stretching it a bit). I have no idea why I liked the rocky texture, but it appealed to me. Years later when eating crispy baguette circles, I regretted not knowing about those during my doughnut days. But then again, I’d have had no means to cut the circles. Even if I’d had a knife, they’d have crumbled.

That’s what I liked: the crumbles. The way the rocks could dissolve in my mouth much more satisfactorily than those gooey pieces of pasty white bread served with supper. They were good for making small round balls that you could pierce with a pencil and leave to dry. Then you could color them, kind of, with crayons. Dark colors worked best. Strung on pieces of string or cord, they made bracelets, though the ants often ate our jewelry.

They also liked our doughnuts. By the last half of the second bag, the ants were ascendant. But I was bigger. I’d break the doughnuts into pieces and bang them gently on the table in the pavilion until the ants fell out. I’d leave enough crumbs to divert them while I ate the now pristinely ant-free doughnut rocks. This was only a moral problem on Fridays. Were the ants, strictly speaking, meat? If so, then we had to be extra scrupulous about the doughnut prep. I was never sure I hadn’t ingested an ant or two so I diligently put that sin on my List for Saturday confession , right next to talking and disobedience. I used to yearn to be a grown-up. Then I could not only talk when I wanted, but I’d be the boss of me: voilà, no more sins.

When Saturday came, I always confessed my ant struggle until the priest finally told me to let it be. He said hunger was more important than no-meat-on-Friday. He asked me if I knew what a dispensation was and when I admitted I did, he explained further that he was making a permanent dispensation for ants. I could eat them on Fridays if and when I felt like it. Can you imagine? Come grown-up time, I’d be a saint!

Obviously I was relieved to have that burden lifted. But in my heart of hearts I wondered if the priest was playing favorites. He was from Dublin, like my mother, and sometimes he’d invite me to the rectory to have Waldorf Salad, my favorite dish. The housekeeper said I was a lucky girl. I agreed with her whole-heartedly, bobbing my head up and down because my mouth was full. The nuns told me it wasn’t right to have special friendships. The housekeeper told me Father Doyle was homesick for Ireland, and it was my freckles that earned me the Waldorf Salad.

No, he wasn’t “one of those”. The most Father Doyle ever did was ruffle my hair and threaten to count my freckles. When he died one January 18th, I thought my heart would break. And every January 18th since, I’ve said a prayer for/to him.

And no, that is not a sad ending. How many half-orphans get to have a Father Doyle and Waldorf Salad for even a little while? We were just fortunate to know each other.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

This was a glorious day for fundraising. Y’all swam in from every which where… and glad we were to see you!

Stateside: California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, Montana, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, S. Carolina, and W. Virginia

Near Abroad: Canada

Far Abroad: Australia, Denmark, Germany, Slovenia, and the UK

Tomorrow, may those who haven’t come by yet be sure to do so, or I daren’t tell another story.

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26 thoughts on “Occasions of Doughnuts

    • Yes, it was a ramble. My name should be Ramblin’ Rose since I can’t seem to write (or think) in straight lines. Being my interlocutor takes great patience.

      But social merit?? Is that the same as having redeeming social value? I’ll take that as a compliment, my Lady (yeah, I looked up the proper form of address in Debrett’s. I’m jes a Florida cracker. We don’t know those things).

  1. What a lovely story, Dymphna (from one demi-orphan to another ;)).

    I have always described the main difference between my late husband and myself being our very different approach to eating oranges: He, “the born-with-a-silverspoon-in-his-mouth” would consider Orange peel as poison, whereas I, to this day, just love to eat it to a point where the peel becomes transparant. Now you gave me a fright, mentioning a potentially dangerous oil and had me running to Google;)


    According to this info ^^^ it’s not all bad and so I will continue (without overdosing though) to indulge.

    Incidentally from the department of handy household hints: What is left over of the orange skin I usually dry it and it is an excellent guard against moths, when distributed in the cupboards.

    May many oranges and fresh doughnuts come your way via this fundraiser 🙂

    • Don’t you find that the normal people have a casual attitude in general towards food? The B came from – as he has learned to call it – a boringly normal family. There were no emergencies, dramas, or times of want. No one *struggled*…

      …sure, they had the ordinary problems that occur in every family: the old people die, the grown children clean up and clear things out and distribute them. People grieve and then they go on.

      I LOVE “boring”. The tedium of knowing you have enough – and everyone’s ‘enough’ is different. Having worked with the very rich and the very poor I well know that the economics of it isn’t crucial to happiness – whatever THAT is. When I was teaching myself French and came to the phrase “Je suis contentment” I was stopped dead in my tracks. Yes! “Contentment” is it. I re-learned the magic of words to clear a space for thinking anew.

      Anyway, the B finally decided he was going to stop apologizing for his boring childhood and just get on with picking up the pieces for the un-bored who populated his life. There is a great deal to be said for those who walk behind, offering support and bending over to pick up the things that get dropped.

      I like to make up Beatitudes as I go along – there ought to be more than just eight, surely? “Blessed are the patient; their tactlessness will be forgiven them.” You cannot live with someone who is ‘damaged’ and not learn great patience when your normal observations are seen as suspiciously skewed, eh?

      • “The tedium of knowing you have enough”

        You must copyright this ^^^ 😉

        I think having enough is sooooooo much more dangerous than not having enough – the former can easily lead to the deadly “having too much” while the latter can often put wings on you.

    • Thank you. Orange oils are very useful for all sorts of things. It took me so long to work my way through a peel that it didn’t do any harm and actually might have been a benefit.

      On the rare occasions when I make granola now – grains are a no-no – I add finely ground orange peel AFTER baking. For those who eat grains, minced dried orange peel is a great flavor enhancer. I used to make and sell cranberry-orange scones. Actually I made a number of kinds but those o/c kind seemed to go the fastest.

  2. Your story took me back to my own childhood. I was incarcerated in a home called Little Flower in Pennsylvania because my mother worked in a factory and had to take all 3 shifts (2 weeks on each) — my younger sister was less than 5 when we arrived there. The nuns were mostly good, although a war refugee nun was somewhat crazy and should not have been around youngsters at all. We survived, needless to say. On Sunday nights, we had bologna, jello, and all the buttered bread we wanted — we looked forward to Sundays. The Knights of Columbus gave us Christmas presents. . . ah what memories!

  3. We, my brothers and I, were spared the orphanage; my Father, an Engineering Officer in the Royal Navy, was rarely at home, and then died of radiation induced cancer at the age of 41 when I was in my early teens. so we were effectively raised by a single mother. I think the most damaging aspect of the situation was growing up with the instability, anxiety and my mother’s chronic depression.

    Would the stability of an orphanage, as Dymph describes, have been cathartic? or would one just have been fodder for sexual predators and politicians? probably the latter in 1960’s UK judging by recent revelations.

    My education certainly suffered, but being high IQ anyway, it was not considered important if I underachieved. I was a psychological mess, but a very clever psychological mess, so I ‘sailored’ on, trying to survive and adapt in the ‘living coffin’ that the bereaved family became. Most get over it and life goes on, but not always.

    Result: Three months in the loony bin and then to be cast jobless out into the world.

    My fractured and unstable upbringing denied me the opportunity to become ‘me’ and that is the orphan’s dilemma. Middle class poverty is not nice, it is very lonely and the doughnuts don’t ever arrive either……

    • My psychiatrist once told me that based on my “social history” I ought not to be able to tie my own shoes, much less function. He accounted for my surviving – and sometimes transcending – those situations because of my IQ, and a quality he called “resiliency”.

      Needless to say, when someone gives me a clue, I add it to my clue bag and begin limning the outlines of the new treasure. “Resilience”?? What a strange, evocative word…a word that is now all over the ‘tubes, but back then was just beginning to be discussed as people tried to figure out the mystery of not only the survival but the transcendence of children born into less-than-optimal circumstances. So I spent a lot of time in the library.

      What are the characteristics that are found in children who are resilient? These can be divided into characteristics that can be influenced and characteristics that cannot be influenced. It is important for the CASA to be able to identify and distinguish types of resilience in children.

      Characteristics that can be influenced:

      • Strong relationship with a competent adult
      • Feelings of hope and meaning in life
      • Faith or religious affiliations
      • Good schools
      • Connection to Positive Role Models
      • Feelings of self-worth and self-efficacy

      Characteristics that cannot be influenced:

      • Normal intelligence
      • Attractiveness to others
      • Good Fortune
      • Knack for seeking out people in environment that are good for a child’s development

      A knack ?? Indeed it is. I’ve spent some time tracing that word back to its origins. The more you know about words, the more your resilience increases.

      From: https://thecasaexperience.wordpress.com/characteristics-found-in-resilient-children/

      Ironic that the CASA page popped up when I searched for resilient children. At one time I’d considered volunteering with them. However, before that idea went very far I was offered a traveling job: going to small communities in our state to teach leaders how to facilitate their own groups of people who were interested in helping local families who’d been identified by the courts as being “at-risk” for abusing their children. It was also part of my job to help them learn to discern which children were, in fact, abusers of their parents.

      In case you’re wondering, the answer is NO – I was not and never have been a “community [spit!] organizer”.

    • Middle class poverty is a special hell in a milieu where class is everything. omg. What a hell. It makes me shiver to think what shaming you must’ve endured.

      I have often yearned for the loony bin, though not since I met the Baron. As a matter of coincidence, when I met him I was attempting to get the insurance company to okay my admission to one. I was dead certain I needed rest, sweet blessed relief from being scared. The Baron even came with me to one of those last meetings where I pleaded with the doctor, though I don’t remember much about it. By then I was past all caring about what anyone thought; I just needed a keeper and I knew it deep in my bones. So when the doctor turned me down again, the B became My Keeper. The contract was, he would help and I would do whatever he advised. These began with getting up and taking his – now my – Vitamin B. Then make the bed. Then eat. If he had said “now walk on the ceiling for five minutes bec it’s good for your circulation” I certainly would have tried.

      My prayer for so long had been “HELP! In return, Lord, I’ll do whatever you say. Or do whatever the person who shows up says.” It was that simple/that hard but my prayer was answered. This unsuspecting hippie showed up and the Karma Dude hit him in the head with a shovel. I have no other explanation for why he didn’t run from the room and move to an undisclosed location…Instead, we were married six months later.

      I know what I got out of it: stability and respect. I found out later that what he got was

      (1) I knew why “Wallace Stevens Wallace” was a joke. [NOTE to non-poets: William Carlos Williams was a well-known poet. Those readers and/or writers of poetry attracted to the work of Wallace Stevens didn’t think Dr. Williams’ poetry was all that interesting. Thus, they were likely to find the name “Wallace Stevens Wallace” amusing. I guess you had to be there].
      (2) I was socially nimble.
      (3) I loved monogamy.
      (4) Poverty was inconvenient but not a deal-breaker.
      (5) My religious/spiritual bent was fine with him, even if he was a WASP.

      He got to introduce me to science fiction and the Grateful Dead. I liked hearing him read Walt Whitman aloud. I loved his paintings and considered his work a vocation since it was obvious he had a deep and abiding gift. Being a Catholic, my belief in the idea of one’s “vocation” was a focal point for me.

      How communications go awry:
      HE: I’m an artist. [Meaning: “Lady, be prepared bec I’m poor]
      SHE: I’d like to see your work [Meaning: “Uh oh, this guy likes to brag. He’s trying to impress me. Hmm…”]

    • “…Middle class poverty is not nice, it is very lonely and the doughnuts don’t ever arrive either……

      A sentence that goes into my quotes box. But I think, the real villain in this constellation is hypocrisy of the “what will people think” kind.

      • You are right, but as a child one does not have much choice in the matter, one lives by a set of rules defined by circumstance.

  4. MCin Sderot, please finish your story and tell me (or us) how you ended up in Israel, having grown up in England in such circumstances.

    The home or orphanage might have been more stable (in the 1950’s), but you wouldn’t have received much love, other than the love of God that was preached to us.

    • Hi MariaDee – here goes:

      Lt. Royal Navy Retired, 27 years old medically discharged, ME syndrome and 3 months doing the “long basket making course” at Netley, the armed forces mental hospital.

      Its 1977, I’m bored but I am scared as well. I get a temporary job with IBM just down the road. After 6 month there is a programming manual on my desk, the boss asks me if I can do this, I did it, I wrote my first computer programmes straight out of the manual in the APL language.

      At the same time I meet my wife to be, and stability arrives, I have a trade and my own family and a few bob in my pocket. Within a few years my salary has increased by a factor of 5 and I am on my way.

      My wife is 100% Jewish and I am very aware that, although brought up as a Christian, and a believer since the age of 10, that Judaism held some significance that we were missing, why was Satan still hunting and exterminating Jews?

      We first thought of making Aliyah (emigrating to Israel) in 1980, but we also got pregnant and decided that the two were incompatible.

      I woke up one morning about 10 years ago suddenly understanding that Jehovah does not change, and that Torah (the first 5 books of the bible only) still applies. Yah has not discarded it, even if Christianity has (see Matthew 5). “In the beginning was Torah (Gr: Logos see LXX) and Torah was with Yah and Torah was Yah” ….. and Torah was made flesh and dwelt among us.

      Yahushua (Jesus) preached Torah, He was Torah and the scales fell from my eyes.

      We emigrated to Israel after I discovered a family skeleton at my eldest son’s wedding, My grandfather, I was told, was a Joel, from a very old UK Jewish family. I am Jewish enough for Hitler to have done for me, but I would not pass muster with most Rabbis (now there is an irony)….. I was once called an impostor by a reader on this site, and there is some merit in that, I do not keep the Jewish traditions, but I keep the Sabbath (Saturday) and the feasts as Torah requires of me.

      Much has been added to, and taken away from Torah by various ‘religious’ people, Rabbis, Vicars and Pastors etc. But I have a person to person relationship with my Creator, I don’t need a 3rd party to shoulder the responsibility for my salvation. If you are still on board at this stage, have a look at my website at http://www.mike93c.com

  5. Dymphna, the Baron puts me to shame. Probably due to being raised by decent and caring parents, so not insecure, I’ve attracted more than one “bird with one wing down”, psychologically speaking, but had to duck out when it became too much of a drain. One, still a good friend, told me I was the only lover who treated her decently, but she was compelled to seek out men who abused her emotionally (and worse) like her family.

    • Not I. Those people need help. I definitely had a wing down, but the Baron thought I was worth saving. It depends, I guess, if one’s goal is to find someone to build a life with. For that, each person makes sacrifices.

  6. “Don’t you find that the normal people have a casual attitude in general towards food?”

    Yes! Food is fuel. It can be delicious fuel or comforting fuel but it is not an end in itself. To avoid writing a long rant I’ll just say that a sure marker that someone is “not right” is his food idolatry.

    • Well, I’ve learned long since that a surer sign that someone is “not right” is being condemned to life on this planet. There is something to be said for the idea of regarding our attitude towards food as of greater importance as a signifier of willingness to sacrifice our basic biological needs to our higher needs for, among other things, love, respect, social bonding, and so forth. I don’t have any need for love, respect or social bonding. Or at least not any such needs that can be filled by human contact. But I try to recognize and appreciate when people try to fill those needs by giving me food that is prepared with those higher needs in view.

      After all, I don’t have any felt need for personal survival either, but I still respond to people taking thought and care for my life…and those who do the opposite.

      I used to believe that, if I went ahead and put up with life, good things would happen to me eventually. I still have faith in this proposition…but it is no longer based on any sort of material evidence. I put up with life simply because the enemy has failed to kill me, and I have no interest in helping them in any way. I exist as a material asset for purposes of a battle in which I have no personal stake. As though I could be interested in a forgone conclusion anyway.

      Still, life is, in itself, good. Not enough so to inspire in me any definite preference for the good of life over the evil of death. In truth, not enough for the good of life to even reach anywhere near parity with the evil of death in my view. But I’m not selfish enough to keep death to myself, if anyone cares to give it to me, I’ll share it with them in abundance.

      • You are a wonderful admixture of contradictions, sir. Your observations have a quality Walt Whitman would have admired.

        Meanwhile, “food” is indelibly imprinted on our psyche/soma – probably in the neuro-biological space where they connect.

        Hunger is one of our first experiences, and being fed to the point of satisfying that neediness is a close second. It is no accident that “feeding problems” arise in some children very early on. The Tavistock Clinic in London (or it was there) has decades of research and experience in attempting to resolve the issues that infants and children present. The old diagnosis, “Failure to Thrive”, covered a multitude of problems, all the way from a physical malfunction in the child’s body to some internal “decision” by a neglected infant to refuse food. The latter accounts for the high death rate in some over-crowded orphanages in Romania – and no doubt elsewhere. One of the things the Tavistock Clinic discovered (or rather RE-covered) was the folk wisdom of sufficient connection between the infant and the caregiver. There must be phsyical, skin to skin contact in all mammals or the otherwise healthy infant will die. The ideal for infants is whole frontal contact as he is held against his mother’s skin – or fur, in the case of monkeys.

        Remember Bowlby and his pioneer work in attachment?


        His years of research and experience make my point that food is more than “fuel” and it always has been.

        • It’s an inevitable effect of being my own evil opposite.

          Then again, reality itself must seem full of contradictions from any limited viewpoint. I think foremost among these is the conceptualization of things that ‘exist’ by virtue of something else not existing. Darkness, cold, vacuum…the universe is mostly made of what isn’t there. And yet, one can be a billion light-years distant from any source of light and still see the glint of galaxies…presuming one has eyes to see and doesn’t need oxygen.

          Conversely, without that infinite canvas of darkness, the stars in the galaxies couldn’t be seen…can’t be seen, in the case of day-lit sky. More profoundly, perhaps, without all that empty space, where would one put all the galaxies? But such things are no concern. Darkness doesn’t need a justification for its existence, it doesn’t need to exist anyway, even to exist.

          It is light that must have significance in order to exist, that cannot exist without existing. Darkness of itself has no meaning, only as the context in which light exists does it have any importance. To see light requires understanding the concept of darkness, that which has no positive existence of itself, but only is the absence or diminution of light.

          But do I apprehend darkness so I may contemplate the light, or see light because I am in darkness?

          • Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty only because there is ugliness.
            All can know good as good only because there is evil.
            Therefore having and not having arise together.
            Difficult and easy complement each other.
            Long and short contrast each other:
            High and low rest upon each other;
            Voice and sound harmonize each other;
            Front and back follow one another.

            Therefore the sage goes about doing nothing, teaching no-talking.
            The ten thousand things rise and fall without cease,
            Creating, yet not.
            Working, yet not taking credit.
            Work is done, then forgotten.
            Therefore it lasts forever.

            from “The Tao Te Ching” by Lao Tzu, Chapter 2

          • Very closet, if at all. I think that all rational examinations of the ‘problem of evil’ must eventually come to some of the same conclusions. But of course I approach it from the opposite side. For me, there is no problem of evil to examine in the first place. It is the problem of good which requires study instead.

            To turn Lao Tzu about, we can only see ugliness because there is beauty, only know evil because there is good. But despite this, beauty and goodness are still worth more than remaining ignorant of ugliness and evil, if only because remaining ignorant has no worth…and returning to a state of ignorance by oblivion of experienced beauty and goodness rationally has negative value.

            Not that you’d still have rationality or the concept of worth after obliterating goodness. But the light would still glimmer through the deepest abyss of darkness.

  7. No one will be inclined to give to the cause if you make them feel like pouring a stiff drink after a dysphoric encounter with your experience.

    Au contraire! Some of us are congenital optimists*! We depend on the born-and-bred Scandinavian pessimists and their fellow-travelers to keep us in balance, ok???

    *I like to describe myself as one of the founder members of the Order of St. Alfred of Neumann… our scripture verse: “What? Me worry??”

    • Oh my! I am def. a member, then! OSAN it is.

      When I was in high school, one of the nuns caught me reading the Spy Vs. Spy stuff. She hauled me to the office and our beetle-browed principal, Sister Marie, called mother to come in and get me but wouldn’t say what my offense was. Poor mother had to take hours off work, ride two buses, and then listen to The Lecture.

      Mother kept her cool until she saw the contents of my offense. At which point, Sister Marie got an earful – Sister was American, not the usual Irish version of our teaching nuns. So when she was treated to one of those high dudgeon lectures only generations of Irish anger can produce…if the good sister hadn’t been so sure of her victory over me she’d never have allowed me to hear the full monty ream out delivered in dulcet tones with bass notes of fury.

      When she was done, Mother asked the good sister if she’d ever read Mad magazine and if so, why not since her more intelligent students enjoyed it very much. She also said she read it herself and if Sister’s faith was so fragile that she couldn’t take a bit of Marilyn Monroe’s cartoon cleavage then perhaps she should “see” Father D___________.

      We left the school, flags flying and walked down to wait for the city bus – I’d long since missed the special school bus which ferried us across the river. Those city buses didn’t run often, so as the nuns drove by on their way back to the convent (in the other direction) mother gave a big wave and smiled, sotto voce telling me to join her. So I did. She’d won her moral victory, and was so utterly relieved I’d done nothing wrong – my ‘intellectual rebellion’ did worry her – that we even sang a bit waiting for the bus to take us back over the river.

      When I asked her later what went through her head as she make the long trek to school, she said she was sure it must be some atheist tract. I asked her where I’d get such a thing and why I’d even be interested. She didn’t know but it was indicative of her thinking. Were she still here, she’d join the Order happily.

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