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Comments on “A letter from a Union soldier, 1861 . . .”

I recently received an e-mail from my nephew in Mississippi that included a copy of a letter written by a Union soldier on the eve of a battle early in the War Between the States. Click here to read that soldier’s final written words, beautifully written in a fashion that is largely lost to us in this day and age. My posting of the letter garnered a comment from a reader, a comment to which I responded at some length.

This is the reader’s comment:

I was educated in the British system and for a long time, the Civil war meant either the War of the Roses or Cromwell’s war. It was as an adult that I started to understand our own Civil War. It is a sad thing the young man did not survive, consigning his small children to the very horrors of an orphaned existence. That said, I have always been struck by how beautifully young men wrote 150 years ago.

My response to that comment follows:

Thanks for visiting and thanks for the comment. Your observation that the written word was beautifully constructed 150 years ago necessarily invites comparison with today’s pitifully penned letters. Cursive writing is a lost art, soon to be consigned to the graves of history, along with Egyptian hieroglyphics and prehistoric cave drawings.

Our children are not learning penmanship. At best, they learn the art of printing letters, then graduate from there to thumbing letters and numbers on digital devices and clicking on an infinitesimally huge host of pictorial characters that represent thoughts, locations, ideas and emotions, expressing themselves silently without leaving any sort of footprints for the future, other than those captured and held in digital form.

Should the unthinkable occur—nuclear war with the resulting loss worldwide of the atomic movement of electrons, neutrons and protons through electrical circuits, whether land based or hand held—without access to that method of communication mankind will eventually regress to its original system of grunts, groans, hand signals and facial contortions to communicate, and millenniums later will probably advance from there to crudely drawn pictorial representations on rocks and on cliff sides and in various caves around the globe—that is, of course, if anyone remains after the holocaust of nuclear war. Civilization is by far the worst for the deficiency in communication wrought by binary bits.

And finally, just to wrap up this response to your comment, I will quote an unknown contributor to our language:

What goes around, comes around.

That astute observation, obscured in the ancient mists of time, may be reversed without any loss of its meaning, namely, What comes around, goes around, a truism equal to another obscure saying:

There is nothing new under the sun.

It’s useless to Google that affirmation—there are endless variations that effectively say the same thing, whether or not shown on the Internet. Somewhere on our planet, probably penned on a cave wall or on a stone buried in the rubble of some ancient civilization, there is undoubtedly a series of identical crude pictures or symbols. That series ends and continues with unrelated pictures or symbols, and then centuries later, perhaps millenniums later, the original series is repeated.

And even that is not the origin of that contribution to our language. It was undoubtedly expressed in the grunts, groans, hand signals and facial contortions that were used to communicate with others of the human species, and even before humans appeared was expressed by the physical appearance and the sounds and poses adopted by non-humans, the so-called lower orders of animals.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2011 in civil war, death, Family

 

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How to win friends and influence people . . .

No, I’m not Dale Carnegie (1888-1955), the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, nor am I a reincarnation of Dale Carnegie, nor am I promoting the book or attempting to sell copies. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I have never read the book, but over a period of time approaching eight decades, I’ve developed my own system of winning friends and influencing people. My system is absurdly simple—one needs only to show a genuine interest in another person and the  system—my system—will begin to work its magic.

For quite a few years now I have spent considerable time in the waiting rooms of chemotherapy units at two major hospitals here in San Antonio, Texas, namely the Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston and the Wilford Hall Medical Center at Lackland Air Force Base. In my experience, most of the people in those waiting rooms tend to draw inward, to retreat into themselves. It’s an understandable characteristic—they are filled with concern for those for whom they wait and their thoughts are of that person, whether for a spouse, a child, a close friend or a casual acquaintance. Most deliberately avoid making eye contact with others in order to maintain their solitude and their thoughts—if eye contact is inadvertently made, most break the contact immediately and return to that solitude, or at best acknowledge the eye contact with a nod—rarely do they speak unless the other person speaks first. They seemingly prefer to read, knit, crochet, write, spend time on cell phones or laptop computers or, in the case of younger persons, hand-held digital games. They sleep or attempt to sleep, or stare at the floor, a wall or the ceiling, and if a window is available they stare at the outside world.

Over the years I have initiated conversations with men and women of all ages, and in virtually every instance those people have opened up in varying degrees. Yes, I intrude on their thoughts and on their knitting, their reading, their gazing at something or nothing, and even their attempt to sleep if the opportunity presents itself. By initiating conversations with others I have met some interesting and lovely people, both men and women—young, middle-aged and advanced in years, and I have never been rebuffed.

I watched a young woman constructing greeting cards a few weeks before Christmas of last year, apparently oblivious of her surroundings. She had the components in a voluminous handbag, including colored pencils, small black-and-white prints, pre-cut cards and glue. She was coloring the prints and attaching them to the cards. After I observed her actions for awhile, I expressed an interest in her work and we became friends. We shared our stories of family members undergoing chemo treatments, and discussed chemotherapy in some detail—between the two of us we had gleaned at least a conversational knowledge of the process and its successes and failures. She said that she was making Christmas cards for family and friends, something she did every year, and promised to send my family a card. The one pictured below arrived at my home shortly after Christmas of 2009—the cardinal is hand colored, the snowflake is jewel mounted, and the card is layered in six different levels with ribbons and other decorations. It’s a beautiful piece of art, original in almost every respect—I have matted and framed it and will always cherish it—that gift is a beautiful keepsake and a reminder of how to win friends and influence people.

On another day in the waiting room at Wilford Hall, I sat next to a lady that was reading a Robert Ludlum novel. The book was a paperback, printed in large type, and the way she held it allowed me to read most of the synopsis on the rear cover. It dealt with a man that was searching desperately for something that did not exist, at least not outwardly—he was searching for himself. I excused myself and told her that she appeared engrossed in the novel, and I asked her if she was a fan of the author. She tilted the book to show me the front cover and said that Ludlum was one of her favorite authors. I asked her if the story involved a man searching for something without knowing that he was searching for himself.

She naturally assumed that I had read the book but I told her, truthfully, that I had never even heard of the title. She then asked me how I could know the story without having read the book, and I told her that I had psychic powers and had read her thoughts. Her jaw dropped, her eyes widened and I heard a sharp intake of breath, and I hastened to tell her that I was just joking, that I had read the synopsis on the rear cover of the book. In the long conversation that followed, I learned that she was Hispanic, a native of Mexico and that she believed in mediums and their psychic powers. We parted as newfound friends—I promised that I would not read her thoughts if we should meet again, and she gave me the traditional Spanish blessing of Vaya con Dios, a blessing I have tried to follow since our meeting—and for some years before that, of course.

I could ramble on for several reams of paper describing other times that my system of How to win friends and influence people has yielded benefits, but I won’t—I’ll be merciful and close this posting with a word of caution: If you decide to use the psychic powers approach, gauge your audience carefully, tread lightly and be prepared to beat a hasty retreat—as I did with that lady.

Try my system—you’ll like it!

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Meet the family . . .

The purpose of this posting is to continue to record events in my life that my children may have heard about but don’t have many of the details, and to make a matter of record other events of which they have no knowledge—of course it is a given that there are events in my life that I will not discuss. Hey, I’m no different than everyone else—some things are better kept to one’s self, right up to and including the instant that the last breath is exhaled.

I have told my children to never give all of one’s self to another or to anything else, not to work and not to play and perhaps not even to You Know Who—I have told them to always hold something in reserve, something to build on in case everything else collapses. I taught them that if that advice seems like nonsense, disregard the advice—just forget it. And as for giving or not giving your all to You Know Who, I believe that each of us should hold back a bit there also. There will always be time to settle up at the final reckoning.

Come to think of it, I know I gave that advice to one of my daughters, but I’m not sure I rewarded the other two with such sage stuff. Hey, maybe I felt that the one I told was the only one that needed such advice, or perhaps I felt that she was the only one that needed and would heed such advice—oh, well, no matter—I suppose it’s not too late—I can still give that advice to the other two daughters.

How about that such sage stuff I mentioned? I really love alliteration!

One of my three princesses—the second born of my three daughters—the one that lives, loves and works in Virginia—has for many years urged me to submit to a recorded interview that she would conduct and create a digital video recording for her and her two sisters, and I suppose she would insist that it would also to be a record for posterity. Frankly, I can’t imagine why anyone other than my daughters would want such a document. I fact I can’t imagine why they would subject themselves to the torture of seeing me on film—a little bit of me goes a long way!

If I were to make the video and produce 50 copies—one each for my daughters and the additional 47 copies for friends and relatives—I’m sure that most or all of the extra 47 copies would stay on the shelf or wind up in a thrift store. I can count my friends on the fingers of one hand, and most of my relatives are neither in condition nor position to view a DVD. There may be machines and electric receptacles up there—or down there, as the case may be—but I harbor considerable doubt. Besides, I don’t even know 50 people.

My parents and my siblings and all my aunts and uncles on both sides of the family have all departed for greener pastures. At one time I was aware of a gaggle of cousins, likable people of both sexes, but I have no knowledge as to whether even one has survived. Considering the ages of their parents when my cousins were born, the odds are that many, perhaps most, and possibly all have departed, and at least a couple of them departed for warmer climes. My nieces and nephews numbered thirteen at one time. I can account for seven of them, but I have no knowledge of the others as to how many and which ones may be extant.

I begged out of the interview, but I agreed to blog on Word Press in lieu of submitting to a video interview. I began blogging 15 months ago in March of 2009, and as of this date I’ve posted 168 stories, most of which deal with me, my immediate family, my parents and my siblings.

I have only slightly touched on my siblings and their families, and my daughter asked specifically for postings relating to them. My children have only a limited knowledge of my relatives, and according to that busybody in Virginia, all three of them would like to learn more.

This posting is merely an advance notice of my intention to bore—oops, I mean regale—my viewers with stories about my parents, my siblings and other relatives—aunts, uncles and cousins by the dozen. And be warned and beware—I intend to be brutally accurate in my stories—after all, why not? Virtually all—perhaps all—of those I will introduce have already departed this vale of fears and tears for Elysian fields, those fields that in Greek mythology were the final resting place of the souls of the heroic and the virtuous. And as this point, I will state that some of my relatives were heroic and some were virtuous, but very few qualified on both counts, as you will see when I begin posting them.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


 
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Posted by on May 2, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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