Heaven is more than merely not being Hell. Heaven is our return to The Garden from whence we came. Our brother Keith, Cathedral Latin School Class 1970, has now crossed over the plain wooden bridge from the past to the perpetual present time.

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The Cathedral Latin School, 1966-1970, home and Catholic seminary to myself, Keith C. Bruce and a few dozen other humble lads thinking then to wear God’s Cloth.  Keith has today gone home from this, our frenetic past, across the wooden bridge to perpetual present to be with God forever in His Garden.  Brother Keith, beyond dispute, is now at peace, as, in that Garden, there is only peace to be found.  Amen.  Requiescat in pace.

The Wanderer

By

Johnny Cash

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3YFmpSFJ40

I went out walking through streets paved with gold
Lifted some stones, saw the skin and bones
Of a city without a soul
I went out walking under an atomic sky
Where the ground won’t turn and the rain it burns
Like the tears when I said goodbye.

Yeah, I went with nothing, nothing but the thought of you.
I went wandering.

I went drifting through the capitals of tin
Where men can’t walk or freely talk
And sons turn their fathers in.
I stopped outside a church house
Where the citizens like to sit.
They say they want the kingdom
But they don’t want God in it.

I went out riding down that old eight-lane
I passed a thousand signs looking for my own name.
I went with nothing but the thought you’d be there too,
Looking for you.

I went out there in search of experience
To taste and to touch and to feel as much
As a man can before he repents.

I went out searching, looking for one good man
A spirit who would not bend or break
Who would sit at his father’s right hand.
I went out walking with a bible and a gun
The word of God lay heavy on my heart
I was sure I was the one.

Now Jesus, don’t you wait up, Jesus I’ll be home soon.
Yeah, I went out for the papers, told her I’d be back by noon.
Yeah, I left with nothing but the thought you’d be there too
Looking for you.

Yeah, I went with nothing, nothing but the thought of you.
I went wandering.

 

 

Today, in daydream, I returned to The Cathedral Latin School of 1966.  This dream, I am quite certain, occasioned in the unconscious by remembrance of a seminary classmate, Keith, who last night crossed his final wooden bridge in the transitory past of this life into the perpetual present of The Garden.

There are those, I think especially those who become, what is called sometimes today, accomplished at some level in life, who shed memories of their upbringing and schooling in their later years as a snake does his skin.  At Washington, this self-re-invention is the city’s principal pastime.  On the other hand, there are those, I think especially those who accomplish nothing in later life, who elevate their schooling and early upbringing to a level of sentimentalism and romance that it can’t possibly deserve.

I belong to that second set.

The Cathedral Latin School, viewed with an eye unclouded, was simply a school which, when I attended it appeared, to myself, my faculty, my contemporaries and my classmates, as holding no discernible interest or meaning to me at all. Now, in my gray years, my school has taken on the luster of the most important and formative time and memory of my life.

I have long thought that obituaries ought to be far longer than they are.  After all, they are the summing up of a life and are, usually, disrespectfully terse.  I can’t think why the news of Keith’s death made me reflect back to those much more simpler times.  Not, more innocent; simpler.  Perhaps the passage of years has made me more acute to the coming end of all of us.  It is far more likely that I am simply an old fool.  I suppose everyone remembers his formative years as having been somewhat important and looks back upon them in a manner sentimental.  I am perhaps more taken up by such sentimental memories of fresh-faced youth than are others of my class.  Or, then, maybe I am not.  Time plays clever tricks on us all.

Ours was a class of thirty boys of many sorts of backgrounds.  Some of us were orphan lads and charity cases made wards of the Church, others sons of policemen, postmen, government men of various levels, a few sons of lawyers and medical men, a fewer still of, comparatively rich, businessmen, all again of varying levels but set most in the middle social rankings.  In the main, we were of American middle class backgrounds of no particular consequence.

The concept of Cathedral Schools is an ancient and, arguably, antique, vanity of Mother Church. The great Cathedrals of Europe, and her later colonies, all had schools appending to train young lads to be priests for the Diocese.  Many still do.  In keeping with that practice, the idea and purpose of our Cathedral Latin School was to produce priests for the Archdiocese of Washington.

Our boys themselves grew up to become men of different lines, in the main like their fathers and, like those fathers, of little particular note in the sense that society makes note of men’s lives.  Some of us have remained remarkably close-knit, a rare occurrence today.  Rarer still, when one reflects on the accidental connections that threw us together in the first place in summer of 1966.  The world was all afire but of course none of us fully understood what that meant.  There was a war on; there were racialist demonstrations, hippies, bohemians and still odder sorts right in our laps.

Cathedral Latin was but a few blocks from DuPont Circle, then all ablaze with the cries of sundry revolutions.  We spent our summer of 1966 at Georgetown University reading Latin grammar in preparation for reading the very same thing, all over again, in the fall, in our first semester.   I remember this with alacrity because I was the only one to ever fail Latin grammar in both venues.

Keith, in contrast, was a stand-out student who was at, or near, the top of our class throughout our time at school.  I remember his being quiet, studious, friendly, devout and helpful.  And never, noticeably, mean.  In all such he was my antithesis.  I used to joke that we balanced one another out in some odd, moral ledger.

The first day of seminary we were informed that “there is no new sin, so put aside pretense of invention.”  All sin, we were told, is either direct or derivative of acts committed just outside the gates of The Garden from which man was unceremoniously booted for having displeased Our Father.  That is likely the most memorable academic  admonition I took from school, as I have lived my life trying so very hard to disprove this maxim.  I have failed.  There is no new sin. I’ve searched high and low for it.

As it was the singular lesson I took from my years at school, learned very first day, very first hour, the notion of sin and the notion of the deprivation of The Garden, has been the only persistent, lasting, intellectual interest of my life.

From that first lesson, I have taken simply this: all of what is called our temporal life, is a hurried past.  In that past, all our stumbling, rambling, strident searching for power, rapacious grasping for gold and glory are merely misguided, invariably errant, attempts to enter once again into The Garden.

Throughout our lives, we cross many bridges.  These lead us to those things we like to imagine will be The Garden, but of course they never are.  We are told when young “do not burn your bridges.”  But of course, we must burn them and I, having learned the only lesson of consequence my very first day at school, have deliberately set afire and burnt down every bridge I have walked across.  This I have done not simply to be naughty, but to remind myself and to caution my contemporaries that the bridges we cross in life, with their gaudy advertisements of fame, gold, power, social prestige and happiness, are all futile illusions.

After crossing over the bridges of temporal temptation which always leave us dissatisfied, we come in the end to a very simple, wooden bridge, devoid of gold and glitter and harmless of appearance.  This we walk across, quietly, without trumpets or illusion of any triumph or glory.  When we have crossed over this simple wooden bridge at the end of the turbulent past of our temporal life, we have entered The Garden and the perpetual present.  There awaits Our Father and His perfect peace.

It is over that simple wooden bridge from our earthly past to the perpetual present of life with Our Father in His Garden that our Brother Keith has now crossed.  We not only wish him well, we cannot but envy him his happiness in that perfect place.

 

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I say, have you ever met a man who was a gentleman where women are concerned?

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Inspired by both the sculpture of Étienne Maurice Falconet, Pygmalion et Galatée(1763) and the earlier mythology of the perfect woman, Galatea, Professor Higgins taught Miss Doolittle to speak properly and not to vex–as today so often do the screeching girls of estate fourth who torture young Danny with their ceaseless pronouncements of the elections in Ohio, 2012.  Higgins also taught his Galatea to fold her legs properly, another etiquette today abandoned, Danny tell us, by the girls of estate fourth.

Young Daniel is always an earnest inspiration.  But I don’t quite know what we are going to do about him as he is sorely burdened by affairs of state—and it wears on him—it does.

Our young Daniel, man of the Department, finds himself peevish these days contemplating the fate of the nation as delivered to him, hour on hour unceasing, on the television by the fetching little girls of estate fourth.  These girls, I am told, are, generally, pretty enough, but have absolutely no shelf-life and are discarded as tissues when first wrinkle even hints itself.  I wonder where they go after that, poor things.

Moreover, Dan says their Nanas must have neglected their manners as these girls on the television wear their skirts about 8 inches above the knee and do not know how to cross their legs properly—I know, a gingerly exercise that, girls–to avoid camera angles–that take the viewer on a tour that causes mixed messages when the viewer is supposed to be concentrating on the chirpy girls’ searing pronouncements about election developments in Ohio, 2012, or some such awful place as that, and, instead rivets the eye on other points of interest far to the south.

The constraints of life at the Department cause young Daniel to endure daily tasks and subjects boring unspeakable.  Despite his admirable capacity to endure such privations, Dan says he has about had it with the girls of estate fourth and their little pronouncements about “election stuff in Ohio.”

I’ve tried to settle him down.

Dan said to me: “John, these girls screech like jungle monkeys and never stop—all day—all night.  I know you never watch the television, but as a Washington man, I must attend to it and these trollops are, on my honor, screeching monkeys.” I said, “I see.”  Dan said “What is more, they dress like 7th Avenue hookers.”

I was jolted by this last.

I sat upright.

“Dan—I have to ask—I can’t think where you ever even encountered a term such as that—‘7th Avenue hookers?’”  That is an antique term, I think, as Gracie Mansion has long since moved those enterprising ladies to other parts in the Mansion’s ongoing efforts to clean up the city.  Dan conceded he was reflecting on a “misspent weekend from college.”  I said, “Oh, one of those weekends.”  Dan said, “well yes—one of them.”  Dan also said “If Gracie Mansion has moved them as you say, off 7th Avenue, it seems to me that they have moved them onto the television to talk about Ohio elections, 2012.”

I said “Oh, how awfully funny!”

Dan allowed that it’s not as though he isn’t always a gentleman of the Department and always on duty day and night also, but what with their screeching, their skirts raised 8 inches above knee—and—cattily—very few of them have the legs to bring that off—who does?—and not knowing how to fold their legs properly in camera angle—again, who does?–and their tiresome and endless screeching about Ohio elections, 2012—“well, John, I’m dammed—it’s these days often hard to be a gentleman where certain women are concerned.”

My mind cleared at this.

My eyes lit up at this.

I leapt to my feet at this.

Telling the waiter to tend to young Daniel’s every need, I rang for Joseph and sped home, there to read a rough draft of Mr. Shaw’s’ Pygmalion—a wonderful play, an even better movie starring the best movie man ever—himself—Mr. Leslie Howard—and introducing the fascinating young Miss Wendy Hiller, who knew quite well how to fold her legs properly.

I here commence to quote Mr. Shaw in raw Draft:

I say, Higgins,  are you a gentleman where women are concerned?

I say, Pickering, have you ever met a man who was a gentleman where women are concerned?”

I have—men of a sort.

Men of a sort—well don’t confuse me with that sort of men.

So, are you, then?

Am I what, then?

A gentleman where women are concerned?

I don’t care sixpence for women.

Oh?

I’ve taught hundreds—yes hundreds–of American millionheiresses to speak English properly.

Hundreds?

Many hundreds.

And you behaved a gentleman with all of them?

I treated them all the same.  They are as blocks of wood to me.

Were any of them, hummm,  pretty?

All of them!!  In America, they are not like here you know.

I don’t know.  Never been.

Well, rich Americans don’t marry girls for the proper reasons as we do here you know.

Oh?

They marry them solely on their looks—solely.

Oh?

I say Higgins—are you or are you not a gentleman where women are concerned?

I say, Pickering—Of course not!!

Can you give me a reason why?

Why what?

Why you are not a gentleman as to women.

A reason?

Yes.

I could give you hundreds of reasons.

Just give me one.

Alright, one.

Well?

Well, they don’t deserve it!!

 

I here cease to quote Mr. Shaw in raw draft.

Goodnight, Daniel.  Goodnight, Joseph.  Good night screeching monkey girls of estate fourth ever on and on about Ohio elections, 2012.  And, above all the others, goodnight, Galatea–perfect woman.

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Will President Romney and his second, young Ryan, listen carefully and attend diligently to these words of their predecessor and now bravely address the sacred cow of the Military-Industrial Complex as well as excessive federal spending in general?

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President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Farewell Address (1961).  A man who knew war all too well and desired to limit it as much as possible, as can be powerfully heard below in full version of his Farewell Address to the nation respecting the dangers of the “Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWiIYW_fBfY

It is my hope that President-Elect Romney and his second, young Ryan, who seem fine gentlemen fully capable to lead us out of the disaster of the past 4 years, will bravely address not simply government spending in general in all departments and ministries of government but more specifically the ever-escalating costs of the American war machine–a rapacious animal whose hunger for new killing fields is never satisfied and rarely tempered by the Party President Romney, young Ryan and I all share as our political home.

I am much taken with the compilation sent today to me that follows on, in which Craig J. Walenta makes direct and compelling reference to federal spending run wild in the generic and to the costs of the war machine in the particular.  I am thankful to young Walenta for his fine work as I am sure all readers will be as well.

In his farewell address to the nation in 1961, President Eisenhower gave a speech, a speech simply remembered as the “Military-Industrial Complex-Congressional Speech,” it’s a famous speech and it’s often cited by liberals who will typically be opposed to hawkish Republican defense budgets. The pertinent portion of the speech states:

“Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist”

Eisenhower’s speech is very prescient of course and while its focused on the private armaments industry getting Federal contracts, the military itself, which at the time had millions of service members on the payroll; in a broader sense it gives credence to economist Warren Nutter’s famous observation: “Government, it seems safe to say, is the one thing that has been growing rapidly in the West,. Wherever governments were once small they have become big, and wherever they were big they have become bigger. Nothing is so rare as a shrinking government.” – Economist Warren Nutter.

Indeed, government spending at all levels reached $6.05 trillion dollars in 2011 with a nominal GDP in 2011 of $15.09 trillion. This is slightly better than 40%. Trillions are ultimately meaningless numbers to most people, but what this means is that 40% of all the goods and services that are being produced in the United States move from the private sector to the public sector and then get spent by our public decision makers at the local, state and Federal levels. This is the effective aggregate tax rate faced by our society – 40%. It’s an obscene amount and frankly the only thing that makes it even more appalling is the fact that it’s not completely funded by honest to goodness taxation, its funded, in large part, by the sale of bonds, and massive amounts of them ($16 trillion and counting), government bonds of course being merely the promise of future taxation.

The Democrats will do everything in their power to convince you of the ‘fairness’ of their tax proposals, which require you to believe that  the rich really don’t pay as much as you do. They do. In 2009, the top 1 percent of tax returns paid 36.7 percent of all federal individual income taxes and the top 5 percent paid approximately 58.7 percent of federal individual income taxes. http://taxfoundation.org:81/article/summary-latest-federal-individual-income-tax-data-0 Which begs the question, just how much more progressive do they want to make the tax code? Ultimately when you convince the population that Mitt Romney’s personal rate of taxation is actually less than average by myopically focusing on his personal return and failing to note his share of the corporate tax return, after all corporate taxation is a ‘double taxation’ regime for a reason, I have to think that the government is making the case that its entitled to an even greater share of our national income.

One truism that needs to be taken from this article is that when the government decides to spend $6.05 trillion dollars, the government is spending these sums and we, the taxpayers, do not. Ultimately who do you think is better at spending these sums, the government, or yourself? The answer should be obvious, because if you truly believe the government is better at spending than your own personal decisions, then why not let the government allocate all of it? Well, we all know how that worked out in the former Communist nations of the Eastern bloc. This is the problem that Romney alludes to in his statement because at the end of the day, when the elephantine Federal government is making spending decisions that contribute to the majority of the 40% of GDP spent on government, employing millions of people – whether its welfare, defense, Medicaid or Medicare, sure enough there’s going to be substantial portions of the electorate with an interest in those expenditures.

This is how ‘creeping socialism’ creeps, this is why nothing is so rare as a shrinking government and no matter how you slice it, it just doesn’t work. Our society will not prosper with government spending at 40% of GDP.

I am very thankful to young Walenta for his compilation of data in this article.  I would be far more thankful to President-Elect Romney and his second, young Ryan, if they were to bravely tackle the excess of federal spending and the massive special interests that spending serves, most particularly with respect to reining in the war machine–a rapacious and meddlesome juggernaut that is ever hungry for new opportunities.

Let us all pray now that it be God’s Will to grant that these new leaders have the wisdom to carefully listen to the words of President Eisenhower in his Farewell Address to the nation in 1961 and, to take after doing so, a cold, hard, dispassionate look at the Leviathan of the American war machine.

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