by Andy Weddington
Tuesday, 04 June 2013
"Just to paint is great fun." Winston Churchill
It's been an interesting couple of weeks. Rather than a dedicated topic this morning, I decided to capture some of the events and thoughts - in no particular order. As usual, some things to think about and some humor. Here we go...
President Obama and Governor Chris Christie have been in the news a lot the past few weeks - looking like old pals as they revisit the destruction, and recovery efforts, of hurricane Sandy. Has the thought 'Fat Man' and 'Little Boy' occurred to anyone else?
Speaking of presidents, Bill Clinton gave America a language lesson when he focused on the definition of "is" while under oath answering uncomfortable questions about a young White House intern and other escapades. The other day, for giggles, I looked up the word "lie". In a dictionary of significance you have to go pretty far into the definitions before coming to the verb (transitive or intransitive) that means an untrue statement or intent to deceive. Therefore, I recommend to all congressional panels conducting investigations and hearing testimony to strike the word "lie" from all work. For the first definition in Webster's good book refers to the horizontal position - favored by President Clinton. So let's not make it easy for the current criminals to sneak around behind language. Falsehood and untruth will do just fine. I like things simple.
Now approaching writing this forum for five years (never intended such), last Saturday I received one of the kindest, most flattering notes yet - in response to Friday's post, 'The Expectations of a President.' Their note simply said my acronym PRESIDENT should be indoctrinated into our Constitution. As it turns out, the author is a retired Marine colonel. And unbeknownst to me, a reader of this forum for some time. Most surprisingly, he was my regimental commander when I was a second lieutenant with 6th Marines. We'd had no communication for 32 years (there was no call for him to remember me - unless the XO told him about my little hiccup the morning I checked in [the CO was not in that day]) - it was an email (commenting on another post) from his younger brother (not a Marine) a few days earlier who made the unsuspecting, serendipitous connection. I recognized the last name. A copy of "Making Marines" will soon be on the way to the good colonel - on his terms; with which he asked we not quarrel. Agreed - I may disagree with seniors but never quarrel and in the end comply, salute, and carry on. Thank you, Sir!
For the past couple of weeks, every couple few days, I've been visiting a retired Marine colonel friend who's not doing so well - battle mortar wounds to his lower legs giving him troubles - and is being nursed back to health in a facility near our home. On the first visit, I noticed there was nothing so indicating a Marine was on deck. That bothered me and simply cannot be. So, on my next visit I placed a small USMC decal aside his name on the plate on the wall just outside the room. Visiting Sunday past, he told me someone on staff threatened to remove it as it was "not authorized." Need I tell you what he told them?! The decal is still there. Don't mess with Big Mac - a hero of our Corps. And don't mess with Marines. Here's one of his stories - remarkable combat heroism - worth reading (and rereading):
Speaking of colonels, yesterday morning a longtime friend, still on active duty, called to talk about his nearing retirement plans and life thereafter. He's leaving on his own terms and has thought it through - great to hear (as some go kicking and screaming and bitter). But I offered a few insights on retired life nonetheless. A smart guy - he listened, if only to humor me. What surprised me as we were wrapping up the conversation, he mentioned a book - Winston Churchill's 'Painting as a Pastime'. I told him, "I have the book. I've had the book for a long time." And then went to the shelf and pulled it - reading it twice yesterday. Anyway, again to my surprise, he mentioned he might take up painting. I welcomed him to my annual 'philosophy' course in the Bahamas - where the cultural elite rally to learn about painting and more. A cerebral sort of gent, I expect to see him, to teach him a little about painting but more so about truly seeing our visual world. For all I know, Churchill - who did learn to paint later in life and was rather accomplished - may be in his lineage.
Last week I also received a query from an old Marine friend (and others, too), likewise retired, asking what I thought about the breaking news of an investigation into the attack on Camp Bastion (Afghanistan) last fall that resulted in the death of two Marines and the destruction of six harriers. Would I be commenting? I'll not comment. The commander, the general, party to the investigation is a fellow Tarheel and a friend - and a fine Marine. There's plenty on his mind. As to the investigation - it's the right thing to do.
Years ago I read that man is the only creature capable of contemplating its own death. I don't remember who wrote it, why, or how they came to believe that - for who really knows what goes on in the minds of creatures? A few years later I saw a William Faulkner quote noting that man would not merely endure but prevail. I am not so sure about Faulkner's prediction. For as I read more and more articles about man's efforts to save this species and that species from extinction, and observe the nutty human world, it has occurred to me, "Who's going to save us - from us?" Conclusion - we're screwed!
Finally, to end with some humor...
An early riser, well before sun up, a couple of mornings ago just as it was getting light I went out to retrieve the paper. Stepping out, with walking stick, I startled a coyote just off to my right - not more than five or six yards away. Who scared who the most? There was evidence - the coyote crapped (maybe contemplating own death). I did not. Don't mess with Marines!
Have a great week! I start teaching a three-day 'philosophy' course on Friday - and can hardly wait to turn the world upside down for folks; teaching them a lot about 'seeing' and a little about painting. Too bad Sir Winston will not be in the audience - I suspect he'd rather enjoy it.