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Monday
Apr142014

Ambler, No. 7 [On Free-thinking]

For my part, I have ever beleeved, and doe now know, that there are Witches. -- Sir T. Browne

[Written moments after a nightly walk. Apologies in advance for the melodrama.]

There is great thinking in walking. And when I say "great," I do not necessarily refer to it in the sense of quality but in the sense of quantity; though, I do admit that, on occasion, walking does generate a fine thought or two. Whether or not this was the case this evening--as I departed from my crumbling apartment and proceeded away from the bar district which has unfortunately become my home--I will leave you, dear reader, to judge. Feeling antsy, I decided this evening to pick up on a tradition I had started last summer and had, since moving in August, not continued. So I set out this evening under a dark and cloudy sky that featured only a shy moon and what I believe we designate as Venus. Though I strolled under the waxing moon and the goddess of love, I found little love on my walk for I was alone. Yet I thought to myself how odd it is that I find myself feeling more alone in crowds of people than when among a few friends, or even by myself.

I thought about how much more content I was walking by myself in the perfect temperature of the night than I would be had I proceeded toward the bar district.

I thought about how little I allow myself to get away from the world and its troubles.

I thought about how if anyone who happened to know who I was saw me, that they may be surprised to see me undergoing such an activity. And I thought about how few people truly know me. And I thought about how little I know myself.

So I walked with quickened pace to the east, and though the sky was not completely black, its darkness contrasted quite nicely with the glow of the town around it. I thought about how walking in the suburb was so much different. It is ironic that an urban setting can seem more peaceful at night than a rural town. For the suburb has no glow around it, only the lights from the houses and street lights lining the roads. Few cars will be heard and hardly any voices, if any, will be noticed. There is a peace in a suburban neighborhood  in the evening that is hard to match, and my neighborhood differed significantly as I listened to the random house parties begging to be heard. Nevertheless, as I proceeded further away from my house and the bars, the noised dimmed in due proportion, and I began to feel at home.

*****

About a quarter of the way through my walk, I passed by an old stone house, perceiving it at first glance to be a church. I thought to myself how incredibly quaint the house looked and how I wished I lived there.

I thought about how much I despise my current place of residence.

I thought about how I struggle to define where my home really is.

I thought about how badly I longed to settle down and how incredibly restless my heart of stone was at the same time.

Turning eastward again I came upon another quaint house, what will be my new home in a few months. I thought for a second about knocking on the door and asking the residents how they liked living there. I thought again and decided a more productive route, passing and conceding that it could not be worse than my current place. My plan all along had been to walk to this part of town and head back, but I felt somewhat invigorated and decided to head downtown.

*****

The lights seemed to beckon my presence, and I recognized that as I headed toward the lights, I headed toward the silence. A downtown area in a small town dies at dusk. It is, perhaps, similar to the suburb in its uncouth quietness. So I found comfort in its emptiness and descending down a main avenue, I recognized a large, beautiful building, what was the courthouse. I thought to myself how grand the building was. I thought to myself how sad it was that we often reserve the beautiful buildings for secular activities.

I continued through the courtyard of the courthouse and was surprised to see it lit up as if expecting company. The area was filled with benches and tables, inviting young couples to sit and chat under the lights and in the cool breeze. The area filled me with an odd mixture of loneliness and hope, for I perceived it to be such a grand area of town, yet recognized it to be such because it was so quiet. I perceived that if the benches and tables had been full, the area would have lost its romance. This being true in my mind, I decided to make the courtyard my own secret in hopes of sharing it with others someday.

My path that evening led me past a tiny liquor store and a closed supermarket. The supermarket reminded me of past jobs I had worked and how I would have loved closing up shop by this time of night.

As I continued on, I proceeded back in the direction of my apartment and the bar district, and my legs began to explain to me it was nearing closing time for my weary bones. Along the way I came upon a Presbyterian church. It was a beautiful building, even at this time of night with its doors shut and lights off. I thought about how uninviting it looked and thought that ironic.

I thought it ironic how the house parties would seem more inviting to a sinner on a Saturday evening than a church.

I thought it unfortunate that our churches were not open and that I could not go in and pray or talk to someone.

I wondered if I too had closed up my heart to the outer world, if my zeal for holiness caused me to turn people away who needed truth and love and beauty.

*****

The noise of the house parties grew as I neared my apartment. I had a mind to check my phone and see what time it was but then checked myself.

I thought it nice that I had not touched my phone for the entire walk.

I thought it sad that taking walks had been replaced with televisions. I longed to live in a different time period, before the internet had come to destroy the world.

I thought about how the only thing that could have made this walk much better would be another soul to enjoy it with: that although I enjoyed the chance it gave me to reflect on life, it is yet better to share it with others.

Heading north I gazed upon the darkening sky once again and glanced at that shy, waxing moon and the planet which looked like such a lonely star. On cloudless nights during past walks, I remember how gallant that moon would look in comparison to its many children speckled across the blackness. I remember the first time in my life I had experienced the fullness of the sky at night. As I sat with friends in the mountains of Cameroon, we sat on our backs and gazed above us, counting shooting stars. There is a certain majesty which displays itself at night, a majesty which is softer and more silent than the glory of the sun. It is a softness much like the timid thoughts of my mind, which only come out upon a nightly walk. So as I walked this evening, I allowed those thoughts to have their voice for once, to have their freedom to roam.

And I thought about how modern man is anything but a freethinker.

 

 

Sam Snow (theficklefarce.com)
written on a chilly evening,
Manhattan, KS
April 5, 2014

Image:
"Man Thinking"
by Geoffrey Arthur Tibble
Oil on Canvas, N.d. 

Thursday
Apr032014

Ambler, No. 6 [On the Creative Spirit]

The world was made to be inhabited by beasts, but studied and contemplated by man. -- Sir Thomas Browne

 

The oldest of man's distinctions comes in the naming of things. Monkey's do not name things; they scratch themselves. It is man's prerogative to name; to cease doing so would be to give up his dominance over creation. It is a notable characteristic of a fallen world that has no confidence in our ability to define things. But evidence of this is seen often enough in innocent children who seem to intuitively know their rare ability to define their world. A child will tell you that a stick is a stick with more wonder and vigor than a modern man declaring he knows not whether the stick exists at all. The child sees reality and takes joy in his reality; the modern man sees nothing, and is depressed at the logical conclusion. He has devolved from man to monkey, for man alone can declare with vigor that he is picking up a stick.

Stepping out of my house this past week, I held on to the small hand attached to my small nephew as we descended the steps from the front door. The crisp air was complemented with a cool breeze that periodically picked up enough speed to make one cold. But children seem to have an odd ability to endure inclemate weather, and my old bones shivered and cowered at the slightest of breezes.

We reached the end of the driveway and purveyed the eastern and western coasts like two explorers surveying the countryside. I held my nephew's hand a bit harder, and after the obligatory question from me and necessary response of "no cars!" from him, we crossed the dry sea of cement which made the suburban road.

A typical trip to the park from my parent's home takes the average man approximately thirteen minutes. I have ambled that way dozens of times, often at night. But this early morning, it took us about thirteen minutes to reach the end of the block. My nephew would take a few steps, observe a crack, speak his mind, take a few more steps, observe a stick, and speak his mind again. Only a child will tell you with unending joy and vigor that he has found a stick. It is not a mere proclamation of fact; it is a human discovering his ability to name things. As my nephew and I continued our long trek to the park, he defined birds, and cars, and grass, and garages with more confidence than any living English major.

The naming process continued on the way to the park. My nephew discovered acorns; he then discovered the pleasure one gets from stepping on them. In futility, he attempted to smash every acorn in sight, and like two despairing giants we sought to rid the world of their existence fully aware that the multitude of acorns was too much for us to conquer that day. Thus, as we approached the park, we came to another crossing, and upon stopping heard a plane; a plane which my nephew properly identified as such. We also identified trash cans; I learned that the blue ones were possibly purple. We observed that some houses had two garages. Some driveways had trucks, some had cars, others even had what are "caboose cars."

Like the holiest of tombs that was empty the third day, the playground was deserted for us. The day has taught me the depths of a two-year old's excitement for life. It may be a fallacy that children need playgrounds, for my nephew was more concerned with everything but the playground. He picked up pebbles and made what he identified as "snow piles." Eventually, the playground won his attention, and snow piles found there way on the bottom of the slides.

*****

It is true that one must become a child to taste heaven; it is also true that a child is the nearest thing to heaven on earth. It is but all too true that the public education system in our country takes the wonder, joy, and imagination out of children and creates little drones. But that they create drones is no new mystery. The problem with the new education is not merely that the educators stifle creativity; the problem with the new education is that they demand creativity. And in demanding creativity, the one thing they will not get is creativity. If you place ten children in a room with legos, and demand they make something creative, you might get a building or a boat; if you place ten children in a room with legos and leave them alone, you may get a griffon or a god.

The whole farce of it all is that in destroying creativity by taking away boundaries, morality, and God, we have set up new boundaries which do nothing but destroy creativity. It used to be that children were taught morality, and within that morality, a young boy could have an adventure; he could save a princess from a dragon because the dragon is evil; he could save a village from a tyrant or a evil magician; he could save a friend from hell. But the new creative genius is not told to create a story in which there are moral boundaries; he is told he doesn't need boundaries; he is he told he should think outside the box; he is told that the box does not exist. The only boundaries he is to have is to have no boundaries at all whether he likes it or not.

*****

The mid-morning temperature slowly rose as we headed back from the park. My nephew, weary from the earlier quest, climbed atop my shoulders, and like a multi-headed monster, we terrorized the neighborhood -- my nephew pointed and identifying everything which he had previously identified on the way to the park. I concurred with many of his claims, though I questioned other more outlandish. My old, failing eyes could not see the purple trashcans, and I am to this moment unsure what the child meant by "caboose car."

The new education assumes that children need help to be creative. But the only help children need to be creative is for adults to get out of the way, for in the creative process, children will be create their own boundaries and story. All games made up by children have rules. Though many of these rules are made up as they go along, it does not take a genius to discover that breaking one of these rules is liable grounds for the next world war. So as I sat at the park and watched my nephew create snow piles with rocks, I observed how little he needed me to be creative. I watched as he climbed around the playground as if I was not around. He played with vigor and acted as if I was not there, as if the playground were the world he could conquer and claim. I thought to myself, that though I too roam around this world and play, thinking my Father is not around and there are no boundaries, that all the while, He is watching from above.

Sam Snow (theficklefarce.com)
Written over a period of time,
Manhattan, KS

Painting:
"A Group of Children Playing at 'Tug of War' in a Domestic Interior
By Harry Brooker
Oil on Canvas, 1891

Wednesday
Apr022014

On the Killjoy's Achievement of the All-Nighter 

It has recently come to my attention that an emerging sector of aspiring academics have taken to the unthinkable: balancing their workloads with careful allocation of daylight hours so as to free themselves for evenings of leisure, loved ones, and all other variety of foolish endeavors unbecoming of the postmodern scholar. I take it upon myself to pen an essay that attempts to redirect these confused thinkers away from their road to the capitalist pig perdition of the 8 to 5 regimented work day and instead toward the higher haven of those who deal in the business of lofty, legitimate ideas rather than the petty squabble of dollars-and-cents economic meanderings. 

This, friends, is the often sought, yet rarely captured achievement of the all-nighter, when all the hours of the day make themselves available to you as indentured servants in a monarchic, castle-bound existence. Such metaphors of servitude direct the scholarly mind to attentiveness in those subjects worthy of our contemplative energies—the continued servitude of women to men, the unjust servitude of all non-Caucasians to the heavy, patriarchal yolk of white males that forever rests squarely upon the backs of the oppressed, and of course, the servitude of the lower class to fill the slop-troughs of the capitalist swine that march their dirtied hooves across America’s terrain. 

But, no matter, back to the nirvana-like state that awaits those who deny themselves that even more potent opiate of the masses—sleep. For one to properly consider the more significant notions of the world (and daresay pen them into proper reading), one must exhaust the mind to all other possible outlets of stimuli, including technological socializing and television and film entertainment. Once a brain has been properly filled to the brim with the likes of Netflix, Pinterest, Facebook, and other energy-worthy causes that can’t help but give back as much as one invests in them, the scholar is properly prepared to allow academic responsibilities to enter their field of vision. 

Now, there are myriad strategies to implement in order to successfully bring oneself into this state of being. First—take absolute care to NOT write any sort of to-do lists, planner entries, post-it reminders, or any of the other disgraceful memory triggers that litter the offices and workspaces of the scholar. With these meaningless scraps of paper excised from one’s working life, one affords oneself the opportunity to completely forget about any obligations (preferably until the night before they’re due). This simple exercise is a way to recreate the urgency that will necessitate the coveted all-nighter. Next—ensure that any preparatory work is left, similarly, to the last minute. Not only will this preserve the freshness in one’s mind, but the sheer volume of work will cause the coward’s cloak (sleep) to be cast off, leaving only the raw truth only sleeplessness can render.

To the business of editing: anybody who considers himself or herself intellectually capable knows that this coddling practice serves only to distract the scholar from production of the best possible ideas in the moment. Best to eliminate any possibility of fallback onto the despicable crutch that has made far more noteworthy writers of the world than should have ever been allowed to display their meager talents before the masses. No writer should edit, and therefore no writer should be given privilege above any other. It is a disgrace that the ivory tower-encased white male academes be allowed to seek one another’s counsel for enhancement, therefore perpetuating theirs as the pinnacle of written work. In long: editing is despicable, and the all-nighter, in all its untamed glory, yields that which all should aspire to produce—work untainted by the putrid poison that is editing time.

A fantastic reward for pushing oneself to this wondrous brink is, of course, the right to share the story with colleagues the following morning. Not only will each and every colleague, professor, or other individual share your affinity for the all-nighter, but they will also bestow upon you heaping piles of respect for your achievement. Be sure to spread the word as far and as widely as possible, so as to alert those other minds occupying your academic space. In this pursuit, the esteem you incur will be so enormous; your academic reputation will expand beyond comprehension. 

To close, I say: delay, delay, delay! Any time saved for the societal constructs of love, family, or the like will serve only to drive one’s cognitive processes away from enlightenment and instead entrench them in those things you have been told to value. Seek a new path, rest not, and think so deeply that you ascend to a level far beyond the construct of the attainable—for only you control YOUR destiny.

Bryn Homuth
Somewhere in the air between Newark and Kansas City
March 23, 2014

Image:
"Tired"
Oil on Canvas - Unknown Date
Joseph Woodhouse Stubs

Wednesday
Mar192014

Ambler, No. 5 [On Finding a Place to Smoke a Pipe]

All things are artificial, for nature is the art of God. -- Sir T. Browne

There is an ocean in the land where I live. When man casts his heavy eyes heavenward, he sees the equally vast seas of the skies, and little white islands appear as he watches what appears to be a bright yellow life-raft floating through the waves. That raft was in full form on the day I headed to the zoo to see the many interesting creatures of God's Kingdom. It is an undeniable fact that when the sun and God's sons are at their best, his lower creatures are at their laziest. My companion and I studied the wild habitat of God, (a habitat so utterly oppressed and mistreated by humans!) The cheetah lay on her back in the small bit of shade she could find; the maned wolves, wallabies, swift foxes, sloth bears, Amur Tiger, Amur Leopard, spotted hyenas, and Chacoan Peccaries all followed suit. The prairie dogs stayed underground, the bobcat and raccoon refused to be disturbed, and the federal government kept us from petting the sheep.

But at that moment of the day when that floating life-raft was in full force above our heads, the white-handed gibbons awoke. Their cage was such that two long pole-like devices were erected, and at the top of each, the majestic creatures were perched with a dignity no judge, pastor, or politician can match from his own perch. From our vantage point, one of those white handed gibbons was perched so majestically facing the wall that we perceived he was either meditating or had been placed in timeout as his arms dangled by his side, indicating either shame or reverence. The other white-handed gibbon was in the meantime playing up the crowd on the other pole. The humans stared, pointed, and gawked at the monkey, and as we watched a mother arrived with her young daughter and even younger son. There is nothing more refreshing than seeing a child observe an animal for the first time. As the mother explained to the child where the gibbon was located, the daughter put her face up to the glass. With a joy unmatched by many, she observed with fascinating wonder as the white-handed gibbon gracefully balanced atop the pole. Observing this, a smile overcame my face as I contemplated how wonder and curiosity had slowly left me through the years; how children may possess the only true key to joy in our crumbling world; how modernity had sucked the life out of the liveliest of beings.

It was at this moment that the gibbon who had been entertaining everyone left his perched like a world-class gymnast. He descended in such an elegant fashion that we all let out our surprise and satisfaction. The mother pointed out the action to the daughter; the daughter filled with laughter; I mused more; I beamed brighter. And like a mighty warrior of old, the gibbon headed toward the glass and put his face right up next to that poor princess. In one fell swoop, the young girl fell down and produced a plethora of tears, terrified for her life. The gibbon scratched himself in triumph.

*****

As the yellow life-raft continued on its way, it was met with more of the white islands; the islands likewise seemed to float to each other, connect, and disperse. But the yellow raft continued on its way, not heeding the tempting islands but pressing on to its final destination.

We traveled north from the zoo in my yellow car, our own yellow life-raft. We arrived at a local park and were amused at the many fishermen who were out that day. The temperature was perfect and included a slight breeze. Without thinking twice, we parked and left our yellow raft, and I second-guessed whether or not I should grab my pipe as we began our trek, but I left it behind and we began. That area of the spillway consisted of two major bodies of water. To our right we saw men out in their canoes and kayaks fishing and enjoying the afternoon. To the left we noticed many more fisherman gathered around the banks more content with the weather than worried about their catch.

An army of black bugs swarmed our heads as we made our way to a wooded area. Staving off the tiny nuisances, we eventually left the path and headed to the banks of the spillway. The secluded area was incredibly peaceful, with only a canoe or two out in the distance, and as men are wont to do, we climbed a branch which overhang the water, sat down, and gazed at the goodness before us. After musing over love, life, and whether or not the branch would continue to hold us, we set out for our return, for I longed for my pipe and was second-guessing my initial decision to forego its company.

We hurried back with eager vigor to reach our life-raft, unsure of what was going on with the one above us at the moment. It was just as we were leaving the forest that we noticed an important-looking man wearing an ominous-looking hat, leaving an ominous-looking vehicle, and approaching our lovely life-raft. We watched as this wretched individual pulled out an even more ominous-looking notepad and headed toward our raft. We watched as he checked my plate and began scribbling furiously on the pad; we watched in horror, and our feet picked up speed with a furry equal to that of the man's scribbling.

*****

The yellow life-raft in the skies was picking up speed as we sped north in my yellow car. The lake was to our right and our goal was to reach its northern border. Not knowing exactly where we were headed nor what we were going to do when we arrived at this unknown destination, we drove quite aimlessly, and the regular inhabitants of that particular highway showed us their rage. But like true pilgrims we were not deterred and pressed on, eager to reach our destination before the raft in the skies reached his. As we drew closer, our anticipation grew with each passing moment, and then we saw it: the bridge. The glorious bridge which crossed that northern portion of the lake was in our sights, but the closer we approached the more dismayed we became. For the northern portion of that lake was nearly completely dry.

Dismayed and discouraged, we decided in some fashion to follow the lake's western banks on our drive home. Instead of taking the main highway, we turned off on a side street, making sure that Beauty to our left was always in sight. The first road we took weaved around and picked up dust like Pig-Pen or the Tasmanian Devil. At once, the dust cleared and the road turned in a southerly direction, and as we went with it, we saw that it ended with nothing but a house, a man waving, and three very large dogs. The dogs treated us like the true trespassers we were, and my slick driving abilities were barely enough to dodge their rage. Utilizing one of the world's swiftest u-turns in the history of driving, I maneuvered my little yellow car in the opposite direction, and we quickly pursued another route.

Heading south again we came to a small town. We made our way through the village and headed east on a gravel road, continuing to dirty my car. We met a few other drivers on the road that late afternoon, but after traveling through the thick dust which was kicked up by three different cars, we came to a secluded area overlooking the dried-up portion of the lake and parked our life-raft. Majestic white horses watched us view the area with pleasure, for though the lake was nothing much to look at that day, we spotted that moving life-raft and gloried in the scene to our west: A row of dark-green firs lined a hill which curved in a north-westerly direction, and the row of firs turned into a small cluster of firs glistening as the last lights of the sun bounced off of them. Eventually some clouds covered the sun, and looking behind us we perceived the early indication of a coming storm. But the clouds were not to last long that evening, and the sun showed herself one final time.

So I lit my pipe and had a smoke as we gazed at the splendid scene before us. And when that bowl met its end, we hopped back in our life-raft and headed home. Sure of where we were going this time, we proceeded due west. But the blinding light of that glorious life-raft in the beautiful blue sky completely obscured our view.

 

Sam Snow (theficklefarce.com)
In a state of wonder,
Manhattan, KS
March 15, 2014

Image:
The view, referenced in the post
Taken via iphone
By Jason Rodriguez, 2014 

Monday
Mar172014

Phenomenon

I walked last night under the dark of a starless night. A front was moving through which turned our morning white after a lovely glimpse of spring.  

All of a sudden, upon my way, I was arrested by a noise. A quite natural noise really, yet without its natural cause. To my right, just off the walk, was a seasonal hybiscus bed covered with the leaf-fall from last autum and the later fall from a winter's beating. This patch was also roofed by low hanging branches of a redbud and hackberry trees. Now what I heard, I tell you with utmost sincerety, was the patter of tiny raindrops upon these leaves and the ground around, a pittering and crackling of the daintiest variety yet unmistakable and quiet clear in the still evening air. 

Of course, my first inclination was that the rain had already begun yet with the fury of mice feet. I, most likely, had not been favored with a drop. I turned my face skyward and waited my turn. My turn did not come. No, precipitous moisture was in my future but not in my present. 

Thus, the primary cause guessed at, questioned, and found wanting, my mind harkened back to the previous weekend. While parked, our auto had been the recipient of clear sticky sap drops from a soft maple feeling its oats. This dripping took place in the folds of the flint hills, paying no heed to decorum. For, I have knowledge that our friends in Iowa have yet to tap their sugar maples. This soft maple, however, was not waiting. "Now," I thought to myself, “could a sap letting have commenced on this warm spring night in our own neighborhood?" I stepped off my path to reach for the branches. Running my hand along various lengths, all felt dry to my touch giving no sign of the wooden rain. And still, the sound of rain continued.

As the ghost would be heard at Chesney Wold in Dicken's Bleak House, this sound was not abating at my movements and continued unabashed at my inquisitions. It would be heard! 

Ah, but had I exhausted all avenues of discovery? I had not. What if I were to move on to the next yard to test the breadth of phenomenon? Could I distance myself far enough from the canopy to completely rule out arborous motives? These tests were easily accomplished, and what do you think I found? The grass and leaves gave the sound of falling rain in yards all along the block whether away from or near to trees, regardless of the buffalo or fescue grass varieties, and, as with rain, louder with leaves present, yet present without. 

What a mystery! what a phenomenon! So rarely do I stumble upon phenomenons that, I must say, I am treasuring this one. Either I walked unseen and the grass felt free to grow at a remarkable leaf-moving clip or we are experiencing a great (and possibly epic) hatching of something in the soil. Don't tell me if you know. I rather like my phenomenon.

 

Phillip Tippin
In the reasonable light of day
Roeland Park, KS

Image:
Headlingley, Leeds
John Atkinson Grimshaw