Saturday, March 21, 2020

Feeling Good: A Grab-Bag

     I think it was in Pet Sematary that Stephen King, arguably among the greatest of contemporary storytellers – hey, just because he’s politically naive and misinformed doesn’t mean he can’t tell a riveting tale – had a character say that you don’t pick your times for feeling good. I find this to be true. You can work at it, according to your notions of what would make you feel good, but there are no guarantees. Indeed, given how often people are somewhat deluded about what would make them feel good, I’d say the odds are against it.

     Much of the time, whether you will feel good depends more on the attitudes and actions of others than on your own.

     I held a giveaway yesterday, in case you failed to notice. Approximately 1500 people downloaded free copies of The Warm Lands, my first attempt at a traditional, magic-based fantasy novel. At this time, I have no idea how many of those persons have even “cracked the cover.” I’m hoping for some favorable reviews, but we shall see.

     Even so, that 1500 people have downloaded the book has raised my spirits considerably. Some will enjoy it. Some of those will be moved to purchase other of my books. And some of those will become loyal readers. How many? No way to know beforehand. But an indie writer’s greatest challenge is getting his stuff into circulation in the first place, and for the moment I’ve met that challenge. So I’m enjoying the glow while it lasts.

     In Eric Frank Russell’s classic novelette “Basic Right,” his character Gordon Fox, in announcing Earth’s unusual triumph over an invading force, tells that force’s leader a couple of things that everyone should know. The scenario is this: By dint of “judo tactics,” Terrans have seized control of four-fifths of the invaders’ ships and weapons. They intend to destroy the invaders’ homeworld, which seems to contradict what the invaders had assumed to be the core tenet of Earth’s worldwide peace: the “basic right” of every people to live in its own way. The exchange that follows:

     “Eight ships against Raidan’s thousands?” Zalumar indulged a hoarse laugh. “You haven’t a hope of victory.”
     “There will be no thousands from Raidan,” Fox said. “We’re going to send those ships hotfoot after Heisham. Even if they don’t overtake him, they’ll arrive so close behind that the Raidan authorities will have no time to react.”
     “And what then?”
     “A new binary will be born.”
     There was a brief silence, then Zalumar rasped with all the sarcasm he could muster, “So much for your well-beloved basic right.”
     “You’ve got hold of the correct stick—but at the wrong end,” said Fox. “The right we recognize is that of every species to go to hell after its own fashion.
     “So when you arrived we were willing to help. It was a cinch. One naturally expects the greedy and ruthless to behave greedily and ruthlessly. You ran true to type.”

     The insight packed into that passage is simply stunning. You claim the right to live your life in your own way? Certainly – but don’t imagine that you can ever be free of the consequences of your decisions and actions. No one is obliged to bail you out, pick you up, or clean you off. No matter how you squirm, the laws of this universe will hold you to account.

     But wait: there’s more! Ponder Fox’s last statement, which is the sort of “of course” matter that far too many persons are inclined to dismiss:

“One naturally expects the greedy and ruthless to behave greedily and ruthlessly.”

     At any rate, one should. The application to politics – the pursuit and employment of power over others by quasi-legitimate means – is left as an exercise for the reader.

     While we’re on the subject of politics – we are, aren’t we? – consider a recent, ultra-foolish statement by Andrew Cuomo, one of the greediest and most ruthless of all state governors:

     Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday ordered the Empire State to shut down and asked local businesses and manufactures to step up as officials mounted a desperate struggle to slow the corona­virus pandemic.

     “I want to be able to say to the people of New York — I did everything we could do,” Cuomo told reporters at the state Capitol. “And if everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy.”

     Incredibly stupid – and incredibly greedy and ruthless (see the previous segment). Cuomo does not have the authority to do what he seeks to do: i.e., to command a mass closure of New York’s businesses. The Fourth and Fifth Amendments forbid it. Beyond that, even if there were no Constitutional barrier, New York lacks the enforcement power to effectuate such a closure against significant resistance. As icing on the cake, should New York business owners do as he’s ordered, New York’s economy will collapse – and Cuomo will be remembered as the man who caused it. Quite a legacy, that.

     But the greedy and ruthless will seize upon whatever opportunities to behave greedily and ruthlessly present themselves. This power-grab, like that of Gavin Newsom in California, expresses the highest of any left-wing politician’s aspirations. Remember also that Andrew “You don’t need ten bullets to kill a deer” Cuomo does not consider gun shops “essential.” Get what you can while you can.

     Everyone here at the Fortress is healthy, including the animals. That’s a pleasant bit of news. The C.S.O. and I are in our late sixties, and our animals are mostly in the second halves of their lives as well. We don’t have an active social life – I can’t remember the last time we got together with another family for any reason, the dogs just run back and forth along the fence barking at the neighbors, and the cats don't go out at all – so this “social distancing” business is no great displacement from the way we live normally.

     It’s a fortunate time to be retired from wage employment. Nothing about the way I go about my daily affairs needs to change. However, the C.S.O. is still working. Moreover, she works with populations even older, on average, than are we: Catholic nuns. She worries, both for them and about them. They’re required to cluster in ways that non-clerical people seldom experience. Some of them have already done some foolish (from a health perspective) things, and must await the consequences.

     Mind you, they consider my Jewish wife, who keeps their accounts straight and their administrative apparatus functioning, “essential personnel.” Many of them routinely address her as “Sister Beth.” A couple have even asked when she plans to take her final vows. There’s a moral in there, somewhere.

     I think that’s all for today, Gentle Reader. I plan to give the rest of the day to fiction, chores, and prayer. Whatever the use to which you put your Saturday, I hope it leaves you feeling good. I’ll probably be back tomorrow.


JWM said...

Mood here in So Cal is very roller coastery. To the good, many folks on the local Next Door & Facebook are posting prayers, and encouragement. They're starting "Post a pic of your pet" threads, "Let's come together and be strong",and the like.
To the bad, there is no lack of brainwashed twaddle from the ignoratti: "It's all Trump's fault, and I know because I saw it on TV"
This scares me.
I do not know how The President manages. It is beyond my imagination that any one man can handle the level of stress he is under. He is trying to captain this ship when the passengers are terrified, and half the crew is in open mutiny.
I pray for him.
I do what little I can on social media.
I am grateful for the good, and trying to avoid depression and fear. I've been a praying man for years, although I am a feral believer with no ties to church. Faith seems to come like manna. It arrives each day after prayer, but there is enough only for the day ahead. I have to renew with each passing day.
Be well.


Drake's Place said...

Very insightful writing, Francis. You're a voice of reason and clam in tumultuous times. Take care & stay well.
- Dave Drake

ontoiran said...

“And if everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy.”
unless of course we're talking about keeping illegal alien criminals out of the country or aiding the good folks who are trying to remove them after your policies abet their criminality

Bill said...

Hi Fran read your new book guess I am old fashioned not really a book, read it on Kindle I liked it got it on unlimited so it was seen by one more than you thought

HoundOfDoom said...

Hey JWM, we might be neighbors. I second your insights on NExt door. None so blind as those who cannot see. We're in the midst of prepping our home for sale. Loved it here, but it's past time to go. Newsome's latest stunt galvanized my wife into a frenzy of action. We had excpected to pick our new home in mid-April, and the minute this situation eases up, we're outta here. Nothing to do for our hate-blinded 'neighbors' except to keep your distance and keep one eye on them. They are mostly harmless, but their idiocy may prod them into a truly stupid act.

Francis, do stay safe in the Hell of NY. Too bad you could not convince the wifey to move some time ago, but she is doing the Lord's work in truth. I pray your parish stays strong and true to teachings of the bible and bastion against the evil which now surrounds us.

I promise to get to your book one day.

Emmett Fitz-Hume said...

Here in the Adirondacks, people are doing alright. We’re technically New Yorkers but not in the sense most people not from New York think of them. For instance, in my mom’s family, most of the men were (and many still are) lumberjacks. And before trucks, they were log drivers too.

So we live in a fairly mountainous, rural region. So, like I said, We’re doing fine and many here, due to frequent blizzards and ice storms, are more prepared for shortages than other places in the state.

I’ve been getting a lot done and trying to avoid Instapundit, which about a month ago started to switch to All Panic, All the Time. He was just ahead of the MSM’s curve. It’s sad because it’s typically a great place for information exchange but now the vitriol is off the charts at times, compares to their pre-panic days.

Emmett Fitz-Hume said...

And while I’m thinking of it, regarding Stephan King, even before I knew his politics, I just didn’t see the appeal. His books always start out pretty good but the man can’t end a story to save his life, with the possible exception of Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.

I nearly through The Stand at the wall. I did throw Needless Things at the wall.

Linda Fox said...

I'm still trying - unsuccessfully, so far - to persuade my husband to get off the TV habit. He sucks in a lot of the anti-Trump nonsense (not that Trump is perfect - far from it - but he does not deserve the level of abuse he gets). After 2-3 hours of that, is it a wonder that he hates Trump?