Friday, November 21, 2014

Day is Done

The music to "Taps," from Wikipedia, fair use claimed, full cite below

Greetings All:

I'm aware that I owe you a post on the home improvement project (full of self-deprecating humor) and it's coming.  However, a couple of recent current events compel me to offer this post.

The first is the incredibly tragic tale of the murder of Peter Kassig.  Kassig, an American combat veteran was beheaded at the hands of the cowards that are ISIS.  Kassig, an Army Veteran and Ranger, was delivering medical supplies when he was kidnapped.  His murder was reported by ISIS.  Unlike other videos, Kassig is not shown prior to his death.  My guess is he fought back, and hard.  It was a final act of defiance.  If any soul suffered a more undeserving death, it was Peter Kassig.  As for those responsible, well, I firmly believe justice is this world or the next. 

Photo of Peter Kassig, in front of a vehicle loaded with medical supplies, photo credit to the Kassig family and AP, public domain/fair use claimed, full cite listed below.

How we honor those we've lost is something that matters to us.  One of the reasons I thought the Supreme Court decision in the Westboro Baptist Church (Synder v. Phelps) case was flat-out terrible wrong is that funerals should be a special place where the rights of the dead's family trump others. I have the link to the decision below and encourage you to read it.  Feel free to start with Justice Alito's dissent.  I did.

But enough about this, I do not want to tarnish the memory of such a fine man as Peter Kassig with my rants.  So let's move on.

Earlier this week,  I was driving  to meet a friend for coffee.  It was about 6:15 and the sun was flirting with rising.  It was the time of early day I'll call, "clouded light."  As I was heading up a side road, a deer darted across my car, like right in front of it.  It was a young buck, with horns not yet fully grown.  It scampered away and I counted my good fortune that I was not eating an air bag for breakfast.

This was the second time I've had a surprise encounter with a deer.  More on that in a moment. 

But first- I began this post with the sheet music to "Taps."  There is something wonderfully, uniquely and yes, hauntingly American about this song.  It is played by a solitary bugle.  I was surprised to learn a few years back that there even were lyrics to it.  Here they are:

"Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky All is well, safely rest God is nigh.
Fading light dims the sight And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright From afar, drawing near Falls the night.
Thanks and praise for our days Neath the sun, neath the stars, neath the sky As we go, this we know
God is nigh."

Taps is played at funerals and remembrance ceremonies.  I was at a Dining In (military dinner) a few years back and when "Taps" was played, a chill ran up my spine.  Taps also makes a daily appearance.  If you're ever been near a military base at 10:00 p.m. (or 2200 in military time) you've heard it.  Where I live there are times I can catch the faint sounds of the notes being played from across the way at the Rock Island Arsenal.  The fact you have to focus on the sound makes it that more meaningful, at least to me.

"Taps" acknowledges an ending.  It could be for a life lived or a day over.  It is up to us to do with what remains.  In the case of Peter Kassig, let us all endeavor to continue his work in our own way on our own terms.  By doing so, we not only honor the life of a courageous, gentle man but defy those who wronged him.  Peter's days are done but not ours.

As I've mentioned in previous blog posts, I am a fan of Tim Ferriss.  He, in turn, is a fan of Lucius Annaeus Seneca.  Seneca, arguably the world's most famous stoic, lived thousands of years ago.  

"On The Shortness of Life,”  (or for you Latin purists out there, "De Brevitate Vitae." is one of Seneca's better known works.  Ferriss recently profiled it on his blog (the link is below) and here's one passage that stuck with me:

"They lose the day in expectation of the night and the night in the fear of the dawn." 

I'm no philosophy major, but I take from that the importance of neither squandering nor fearing the opportunities of the day.  After all, we've only got so many left.

So back to the deer.  (I almost forgot :))  When it ran in front of my car (and after uttering a few choice words) I recalled another encounter with a deer.  It was about a decade ago.

I spent some time at Ft. Dix and during the week, lived on post.  One evening, I had some work to do back at the office and for some inexplicable reason, I thought it would be a good idea to walk to the office.  It was winter and it was cold.  Dumb, dumb move, or so I thought at the time on the way back.

So I'm walking back, tromping through the snow, cursing the pathetically bad decision to "enjoy" a solitary walk in the cold and really, really wanting to get back inside.  Still, there was a unique beauty to the night.  Because I had putzed around at the office on other stuff, I left later than planned.  So I was surprised when I heard "Taps" played.  Keep in mind, I was cold and I don't like cold (or most discomforts, for that matter.)  Yet, I stopped.  I stopped and stood there, listening to it.  It was played over the PA system and it was clear, yet not overly loud.  The notes hung in the air, like my breath.  I didn't remember being cold anymore.

Then I looked up.

Not more than fifteen feet from me was a deer.  She must have wandered out from the nearby woods.  We looked at each other, equally surprised at what we saw.  Under other circumstances, the deer might have shortly been dead and dinner.  But not this night.  We were simply two creatures contemplating seeing each other on that cold winter night.  

And yes, the contemplation of yet another day being done.

R.I.P. Peter, thanks for your service.  All of it.
Be well my friends,


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