Monthly Archives: October 2014

Putin’s Valdai Conference Speech

Go here: Club Orlov and scroll down to read the speech, then back up to read Dmitri Orlov’s analysis. This is a very important speech. It defines the threat posed by the USA to the rest of the world as clearly as Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech drew out the perils of the USSR. Russia today is not the USSR of old: and, the Cold War over, the USA’s empire building has become progressively more apparent and violent.

I do not admire Mr. Putin, but I respect what he has to say, which itself can be interpreted on many levels. He’s a hardliner, no question about it: there is not a shred of idealism in what he has to say. On the other hand, his honesty is refreshing. His strategy is such that it can play out successfully even if his opponents are aware of it.

This, then, points out the danger to the USA, particularly a danger from within. The USA is acting as if it were the sole superpower in a world that is no longer unipolar. China and Russia have no intention of running their nations to the benefit of Wall Street bankers, and they are enabling other nations to break free of entanglements with American financial and power structures. When the USA “steps on the same rake” over and over again by using extremists to topple democratically-elected governments that won’t dance to the tune playing from Washington DC, it further antagonizes the rest of the world, which is by now tired of seeing US-sponsored “freedom fighters” turn out to actually be al-Qaeda affiliates, neo-Nazis, and Islamic State soldiers. Remember all those Baathists that the USA ejected from power in Iraq in 2003? They’re turning up in IS forces.

Putin’s speech is very important, and it points to how the USA must now behave as it did in the Cold War: taking measures carefully, so as not to make mistakes that would destroy nations.


It finally arrived, and none too soon… I love fall rains and listening to sparse acoustic guqin or koto music. I like to smell the earth, as the microbes in the ground release their water-activated scents… are they giving thanks? Not in a scientific sense, no… but spiritually, the music tells me that there is a harmony involved, that in the harmony, there is a love, and where there is love, there is gratitude.

The plants, the soil, the rains, the winds, the clouds, the vines, the rocks, the insects, the worms, the mushrooms, the grasses, the birds, the squirrels, the bushes, the unity of all these things and more, such is life. Such is the stuff of life. And here, I take pleasure in the way it is all brought together in the world of the shower.

Periodically, the leaves bend to let the water fall closer to the earth. The leaves take a rest from eating sunlight to drink their fill from the water as it returns to the earth. And there is harmony, the likes of which it takes a great stillness to see.

I love the rain, because it causes me to pray without realizing it.

The Spirit of Thanksgiving

Last year, I started listening to Christmas music the day after Halloween. Truth be told, I received some rightly deserved criticism for slighting Thanksgiving in such a fashion. In my defense, there is not much music about Thanksgiving in an outright way like there is about Christmas. So, this year, I took on a challenge to find the music of Thanksgiving, and, in the process, find the Spirit of Thanksgiving, which I expected to be every bit as vital and life-affirming as the Spirit of Christmas, which I have grown to love over the years.

My journey started with Johnny Cash. He has two songs about Thanksgiving, and both brought warmth to my heart and tears to my eyes. Johnny Cash knew what it was like to be a tree shorn of its leaves, to not have much, but to be thankful for what it still had… to be thankful for intangible, spiritual things such as love and hope and peace.

There were the novelty songs about Thanksgiving, sure, just like Christmas, but not in as great a number. Thanksgiving is not a worldwide holiday. It is a holiday of the United States of America when we observe it in November. No one else is a co-celebrant with our nation on our day of Thanksgiving. It is a holiday of North America, with its climatologic particulars that bring a grey, drear weather to much of the nation for much of the month as the leaves fall to the ground after the brilliant, fiery beauty of October that is the equal of April’s grand blossoming. The harvest is in: there is no more planting or growing until springtime. Winter comes soon, and we must pass through its trials if we are to survive. The Pilgrims of old chose this time of year to offer thanks for their survival thus far and to look forward to their anticipated future in their New World, where, more than anywhere else they had been, they felt as if they were in God’s hands.

Eventually, I arrived upon this song: David Johansen singing “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief”

It’s my favorite rendition of the hymn/folk tune, however you want to see it. It is what Thanksgiving means to me: the sound stripped-down like the trees, leaving one with little to cover the truth beneath. The reflection on life’s essentials goes well with the coming starkness of the season. It provides fuel for the coming winter, a reminder that the light will come again to our lives.

I’ve discovered that often, autumn songs are used to sing about loss, breakups, or other misfortunes. But they can also be about digging deep into the soul to find that inner strength to carry on, knowing that things must yet still get worse before they can get better. They can be songs about brave dignity, simple victories, and lingering hopes that will one day bear fruit.

After all, the trees lose their leaves, but they are not dead. The animals burrow in the ground to hibernate, but they are not dead. The land and air turn colder and whiter, but they are not dead. Life goes on. Life perseveres. But, in order to do so, life must shed nearly all of its summer glory and return to its fundamentals.

What are we truly thankful for at Thanksgiving? A roof above our heads. Heat in the home. Food on the table. Family gathered together. We are thankful for a catalog of the essentials. Music that is bereft of ornamentation, with an honest voice and quiet accompaniment, that to me is a pure expression of the spirit of our American Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a time to look upon our essentials and to give thanks for their presence and for our own endurance.

Even if those essentials are present in our lives in a diminished capacity, they still remain. There is a way to be thankful, even if those essentials are all but eliminated in our lives. The fact that they are not totally gone means that we are not totally gone. The fact that they are not totally gone means that, though a rough and cruel winter may lie ahead, we will survive it, even barely survive it, but we survive it to find the springtime on the other side.

And that is what I hear in this song. I hear the Spirit of Thanksgiving.