Monday, March 31, 2008

Beauty vs. Sexiness vs. Attractiveness (An Anglo-Saxon American Male Heterosexual Perspective)


So, I've been cooking up this post for a long time. I've been trying to find a way to articulate the differences, without sounding creepy, between someone who is beautiful (like Audrey Hepburn)someone who is sexy but not all that beautiful (e.g. Peri Gilpin), and someone who is attractive (most people). There are some people who fall into the beautiful AND sexy category (e.g. Jennifer Connelly in The Rocketeer), and others who are beautiful and NOT sexy at all (e.g. Faye Dunaway, Alek Wek).

Beauty, attraction, and sexiness. I think we need to define what each of these mean, how they overlap, how they attract, what their signs are, etc. Given the massively successful reproductive rates of humankind, it's obvious that most people are attractive to at least someone. Attraction can be initial, but it can also be combinatory and chronological. If you're around another person long enough, eventually there will probably be at least some thing about that person you will find attractive; this is chronological attraction. Initial attraction happens when we see someone and immediately notice that essence of something about them that draws our gaze to them. Combinatory can be a partial initial attraction that becomes more of an intellectual or emotional attraction as we get to know that person over time (chronological). The other becomes more attractive as we are drawn to how we feel in their presence, how they make us feel, etc. We overlook any imperfections in the outer facade based off our feelings for the person. This is the beginning and basis of what we call love, or combinatory attraction, which I feel is the only kind of attraction that should be allowed to truly come to fruition; without the mental/emotional bond of combinatory attraction, any move to extinguish the desire that initial attraction creates is just our using each other's bodies to masturbate ourselves.

I don't want to confuse the terminology here so I need to elaborate a bit on the relationship between beauty, sexiness, and attraction.

Speaking from the male-hetero viewpoint, I will define beauty as the attractiveness of the face, in a sublime sense. Certainly you can have a "beautiful body," but this is more like saying that someone is a "fine specimen," an example of the Platonic ideal of a certain body part. I find the usage of the adjective "beautiful" when applied to any body part other than the face to be an expression of attraction and desire, whereas the beauty of the face can be something completely removed from sexiness or attraction. A beautiful face is one that captures our attention free from the encumberance of lust. Keep in mind that attraction and beauty have many areas that overlap, but I'm talking about the attraction-free side of beauty. When I look at certain models' faces I see some sort of beauty there. Alek Wek, a Sudanese model, has a beautiful face, but when I look at her, it's to marvel at her beauty. There is zero attraction present, not a hint of sexiness, the beauty comes from a sublime point of indescribable appreciation for the fineness of her features. I have this same feeling when I look at Audrey Hepburn or Faye Dunaway. Yes, they are beautiful; no, they are not sexy at all; no, I am not attracted to them.

Sexiness is that quality that a person can have in physical appearance, personal attitude and style, or some other maddeningly-difficult-to-define essence that makes other people desire them sexually. Sexy people need not be strikingly beautiful, rather, they use what attractive parts they have (sometimes subconciously) to make others around them desire them--this need not be a willful act by the sexy person. Certainly there are some people who are oblivious to how sexy they are, and what is sexy to one person might have no effect on someone else.
Now, obviously physical attraction is in the eye of the beholder. But, there are some universal signs of beauty which I shall attempt to define. We accumulate signs as we perceive others. These signs are the markers of our attraction to the Other. Some of the more common signs include: physical fitness (like the now infamous photo of the pole vaulter), a pretty face, long hair, curly hair, tan skin, large breasts, firm buttocks, hip indentations at the waist, long legs, wide hips, eye shape, eye color, etc. But, more powerful is emotional attraction, that pull we feel from someone else's presence, personality, sense of humor, or charisma. My wife forms a perfect combination of intense physical attraction (beauty + sexiness in my mind) plus the most perfect emotional attraction I've ever experienced; it's like I married my best friend. I love her and I lust after her; I'm so lucky, and she's got me wrapped around her finger (finger).

Thankfully, most people are attractive to someone else. This allows us to have fulfillment in life and love. But, sadly, attraction sometimes becomes the slave of desire, a desire that comes from an unreal and false place: pornography. Far too often, because of the internet, men wallow in porn and begin to think that that is the ideal, that women should look and act like the porn models.

It is precisely because of this over-stressing of the accumulation of signs that men indulge in pornography and visit strip clubs. They idealize the signs and begin to look for them all in one place. The combination of extreme beauty coupled with extreme sexiness exist in precious few people in the world. If you look at the women of pornography you can see the grotesque display of signs, over-exaggerated signs, on display. The women are not beautiful, they are an accumulation of signs and airbrushing: the gigantic lips and breasts, the corseted waists, but most importantly, the willingness to display, to perform, and to not mind the gaze of the Other. That's why people use pornography. It fossilizes their sex fantasies; it allows them to gaze without the fear of being caught looking; it permits entry into a world where the male ego is unrestrained, and it is a gross and absolute lie--as Baudrillard put it, "a culture of irredeemable monstrosity."

For my previous jeremiads on the subject, see:

http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2006/06/deconstructing-beyonc-what-looks-good.html
http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2007/01/tyra-banks-is-phat.html
http://wuapinmon.blogspot.com/2007/03/bistec-y-mam-da-me-un-beso.html

Beijing 2008: The Chinese Don't Play Well with Others

So, this article mentions that several European heads of state are going to boycott the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in protest of China's heavy-handed crackdown on Tibetan freedom demonstrations.

http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2008/03/merkel_to_boycott_olympic_cere.html

Our president remains committed to go, caught in a pickle of brinkmanship that he, and most of the current candidates, is (are) ill-suited to play. If he does not go, he sends a message that America stands for freedom, supports Tibetan independence (or at least semi-autonomy), and has the courage to act. He also runs the great risk of really really pissing off the Chinese, causing them to react in that oh-so-not-subtle way that the Chinese do (a couple of years down the road). The Russians, concerned about their own separatists problems might also take umbrage at the President's support should he not go.

If he goes, he is cowtowing to trade, business, and Chinese interests. We (not just he) will be seen as weak and nervous about maintaining good relations with our most-favored trading partner.

My question is this, knowing what it does about Chinese human rights violations, TIANANMEN SQUARE (1989), and their craving to be seen as a world power, how in the hell did the Olympic Committee award the Games to China? Seriously! The Olympic Games are about peace, not jingoism. We've set ourselves up for a repeat of the '36 Games; I bet there were as many bribes as the Salt Lake Games.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

This is English Courage (for Norman)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/west_midlands/7321647.stm

When this soldier passes through airport security, his balls set off the metal detector.


My Mom Is an Awesome Mom

So, with Mickelle and the kids out visiting her family in Utah, normally I would be a heap of misery as I pine for their companionship. In Genesis 2:18, where most Bibles say "It is not good that man should be alone," I have crossed out "man" and inserted "Mac." But this time I haven't gotten all mopey because my mom was here with me.

It was just great to have her around. We worked in the yard together, went out to dinner a couple of times, talked about her future plans, and just had a really good time, even watching TV. It's been too many years since my mom was a part of my daily life. Some people might resist that, but I'd like nothing better than to have my mom living here in Hartsville with us and being a part of all of our lives. I'm so lucky to have her.

Cherish your parents, even if they are insane now and made mistakes when you were a kid. Like it or not, our parents are complex and emotional people, just like we are. When they're gone, you won't care; I promise.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Attention Media: Mahdi Means Messiah

I would ask the media to please stop calling Muqtada al-Sadr's band of brigands the Mahdi or Mehdi Army. This implies that the redeemer of Islam, the long awaited "last mullah" or messiah is on their side, that they are fighting for him. It would be akin to a Christian militant group calling themselves the Jesus Christ Army. Using that term over and over again gives some sort of legitimacy to their brand of violence and terror. Please look up the meanings of words before using them to describe a group. That is all.

http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/meast/03/26/iraq.main/index.html?iref=topnews

Can't You Me Standin' Here I Got My Back Against the Wreckin' Machiiiiiiine

So, Mickelle's in Utah, and apparently Kid Icarus has learned that jumping off things doesn't mean you can fly! Yes, those are stitches--earned the right way. Boys will be boys; I'm certain these won't be the last.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Desperate Plea to My Wife

Whenever Mickelle goes to Utah, she gets her haird colored, "styled," and "trimmed." By "styled" and "trimmed" she means having at least three inches sheared off, looking, in my mind's eye, like Sinead O'Connor in the "Nothing Compares 2 U" video. She has always worn her hair short, like 20-year-old-college-student-not-a-girl-anymore short. Her hair right now is the longest it's been since we were married ten years ago this June. As my anniversary gift, baby, I beg you, please let it grow out. Don't cut it off. Long hair is super sexy, and the fantasy center of my brain can't quite envision you with long hair. Just do it this once, and then I'll never beg again. I know it's gonna be Summer, and you're pregnant, but please, oh please, consider it.

My wife is lovely.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Grieving

My Dad's dead, my grandpa just died, and Mickelle and the kids are going to Utah today for 10 days. The careful reader will detect a more morose, sarcastic, indignant, and edgy Mac over the next few days. I feel like Kermit Ruffins here.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Children Need Fathers

According to this data from the CDC, 38.5% of all children born in the United States last year were born to single mothers. 38.5%! That's a staggering total. Children need their fathers.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/62c45126-dc1f-11dc-bc82-0000779fd2ac.html?nclick_check=1
http://www.brookings.edu/testimony/1999/0629poverty_sawhill.aspx?p=1
http://www.slate.com/id/2185944/ (really good article)
http://www.fragilefamilies.princeton.edu/
http://thepage.time.com/transcript-of-romneys-speech-withdrawing-from-the-race/
http://www.slate.com/id/2182089/entry/2182090/



If you read through all of the above data, it becomes clear that this is a complicated issue, but I can say that my personal opinion is that children DESERVE a father. Premarital sex, that leads to procreation, is selfish if there is no lasting commitment (e.g. marriage) between the two people. Separated parents are not the same thing as having a father in the home, and shame on any man who runs away from his parental responsibilities. This is the standard, I believe the Lord has set:

Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. "Children are an heritage of the Lord" (Psalms 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. (Gordon B. Hinckley, 9-23-1995)

This is the goal we should all aspire to. I am not saying that any two people who conceive a child should rush into marrying, rather I am saying that if you conceive a child out of wedlock, with no hope of ever marrying the object of your lust, you should have the personal fortitude to give the infant up for adoption to parents who are willing to love the child in ideal conditions. Furthermore, I make no claim that growing up in a house with both parents present is a guarantee of success, just as being raised by a single parent doesn't doom you to a life of poverty and unhappiness; there are countless successful single parents. What I am saying is that you are far more likely to see this outcome if you try and raise a child by yourself.

But, ultimately, we must somehow show all these young women the risks and consequences (besides diseases) of having children out of wedlock. Raising kids is hard work, and doing it by yourself is never easy. I want the freedom to be able to tell someone that their choices about conception, rearing, and mating partners is wrong and not have it be me who seems out of place. I'm not doing it to judge that person, no, not at all. Rather, I am thinking about the consequences facing the wee bairn. We've lost the old tag of "bastard" child, but poverty, neglect, and feeling unloved are far worse to a kid's psyche than having someone call you a bastard. I will not give up encouraging people who conceive out of wedlock to give their child up for adoption, just like I won't give up striving to help people see that kids need fathers. We can't just give up because the ideal has been beaten down by modernity.

The Media Knows How to Stay Classy

I am not a fan of Hillary Clinton. Not one bit. But, I think the media's coverage of this mundane story is despicable:

http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/03/20/clinton.documents/index.html

Instead of reporting on the news, they choose the juiciest thing they can find, "Clinton was at the White House" when the Lewinsky encounters happened. Now we're all thinking about how stupid Bill Clinton really was, sticking cigars in vaginas and getting blowjobs while his wife was in the White House. All it does it remind us of a bad time in America, of the lasciviousness of his actions, of her suffering, and frankly it just seems wrong. The woman suffered the indignity of infidelity (probably more than once), to have to bear it again ever time the media writes a story about her, even if the article is only tangentially related to the headline is wrong.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

In Defense of Academic Integrity

This article speaks to the woeful state of personal honesty among certain segments of college students:

http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/03/19/facebook.cheating.ap/index.html?iref=mpstoryview

The two instances of personal integrity in academia that speak to me most are:

1) Karl G. Maeser
2) The University of Virginia's Honor System

Professor Maeser was born and raised in Saxony and essential in the nascent stages of BYU's existence. On the southwest corner of campus you'll find a statue in his honor based on this quote:

"I have been asked what I mean by my word of honor. I will tell you. Place me behind prison walls-- ever so high, ever so thick, reaching ever so far into the ground - there is a possibility that in some way or another I will escape; but stand me on a floor and draw a chalk line around me and have me give my word of honor never to cross it. Can I get out of the Circle? No. Never! I would die first." {{reference}}

If you look closely at the statue you'll notice that the sculptor carved ivy growing up his leg, symbolizing that he stood in his chalk circle so long that the ivy found purchase on his person. That's the kind of integrity that we need in the world today. But what is integrity? It's not something that you can just pick up overnight. Having integrity means that you'll do the right thing even when no one is looking; it means that you will do what is right no matter what. How many of us can claim to have the same level of integrity? I've known a few men and women who had that kind of integrity, previous posts about my father might clue you in on where I got mine. At Brigham Young University, several times, I had students contact me a year or two after a class and confess to having cheated. I let them off the hook because they had the fortitude to come to me and confess their mistake, regardless of the consequences. They weren't caught, they came forward because their conscience troubled them and they knew they had to make amends. There was contrition, true contrition, which restores integrity lost, provided the behavior isn't repeated. I'm sure there are even more who never contacted me, but who cheated or didn't follow the rules, but then realized how wrong their behavior was, and turned from ever doing it again. That's just as good in my book. But, I still say that it's better to have never lost one's integrity in the first place.

And that's why I love the University of Virginia's Honor Code. According their website, it entails the following:

Each student is charged with the responsibility to refrain from dishonorable conduct. Accompanying this individual commitment to abide by the Honor System is an even more demanding commitment ­a responsibility to ask those who violate our standard of honor to leave the University. Accepting these responsibilities is vital to the successful maintenance of our student-run Honor System.

Virginia maintains a zero-tolerance Honor Code policy. All students pledge to keep it and to report those who do not. Check out this interesting video about the Code.

I've been through the honor code process as a professor. I caught a student red-handed. Rather than admit their malfeasance, they denied it to the bitter end. I hear this same thing time and time again from other professors; students will lie about lying. Since the law says that we can't call their parents anymore, they're on their own. So, I tire of having to tell my students constantly that they cannot use translation programs on their assignments. I'd like to be able to have them all sign an honor pledge, but that would fall outside the scope of my powers as a professor. What I'd love most is to just be able to trust people to do the right thing. But, in our ever-growing nanny culture, that's not to be.

Good Mormon Joke!

A man was being closely tailgated by a woman on Foothill Boulevard in Salt Lake City. Suddenly the light turned yellow just in front of him. He did the right thing, stopping at the intersection crosswalk even though he could have beaten the red light by accelerating through the intersection. The tailgating woman slammed on her brakes and then really leaned on the horn. She opened her window, stuck out her hand and proceeded to let the driver know that “he was number one” with the all too familiar gesture, screaming in frustration at her missed chance to get through the intersection before the light had turned red.

As she was still in mid-rant, she hear a tapping on her door and looked up into the very serious face of a SLC police officer. He ordered her to exit the vehicle with her hands in plain sight, which she did, whereupon she was taken to the police station to be searched, fingerprinted, photographed and placed in a cell. After several hours another policeman came and took her out of the cell and escorted her to the front desk, where the arresting officer was waiting with all of her personal effects. He said, “I’m very sorry for the mistake. You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping the other driver off and cussing up a blue streak. I also noticed the “Choose The Right” bumper sticker, the Families are Forever license plate holder, the “Follow Me to Sunday School” bumper sticker, the “RULDS2” bumper sticker and the chrome-plated Angel Moroni emblem on the trunk.

‘Naturally, I assumed the car was stolen’.

We Were There (in many ways)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Praise for the Veterans of Foreign Wars

So, VFW Post #5483 Mars Hill honored my grandfather today at his funeral. As a retired non-commissioned officer, he was entitled to full honors, including the playing of taps by a bugler and a 21-gun salute. The three seven-gun volleys brought us all to tears. The presentation of the flag to my mother "on behalf of a grateful nation" brought tears to my eyes. If you are a veteran, I suggest you consider asking to have military honors at your funeral; they lend a feeling of respect and reverence that I've not experienced in other ceremonies.

My grandfather is finally buried. The funeral home "only" charged my mom $9,000 for their services...the mongrels. He already owned his plot...can you imagine? Death is too expensive; cremate me....please, cremate me and scatter my ashes wherever, maybe in my yard; I really don't care.

Although I will probably outlive anyone reading this blogpost, in case Fortuna has other plans for me, be it known that:

I want to be cremated.
I do not want a viewing.
I want a funeral held AFTER any ash scattering ceremony.
My wake is informal clothing only, no one with a suit should be admitted.
Within a year of my death, I would like a gigantic bonfire where everyone sits around drinking Coca-Colas and trying to remember funny stories about me.
If I can't be cremated, bury me within 25 miles of where I die.
I don't want to be embalmed unless the law specifically says I have to be.
Instead of flowers, please send donations to whichever scholarship I mention in my will.
If I am brain dead, pull the damned plug!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Sex Unknown, PVCs, and Death Sucks

We don't know if it's a boy or a girl yet. We do know that Jack is the only son, of the only son, of the only son, of the only son. My family's sperm tend to make more women than men. But I was speaking in the abstract in that last blog post title.

We're off to bury grandpa, the most wonderful grandpa of all. He was a wiz a wiz of a wiz, if ever a grandpa there was.

Man, over the last two days I had some PVC (premature ventricular contractions) episodes that were maddening. No known cause, no know cure, no known danger to a healthy person--which I am. I first got diagnosed with them in 1999, so no one worry. We Williams live long lives plagued by minor infirmities; that is unless you get a one-in-a-farking-million rare brain disease.

I am not a big fan of death, not even if she looks like La Peregrina.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Why I'll Let My Daughters Get the HPV Vaccination

According to this CNN article:
http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/conditions/03/11/teen.std.ap/index.html

One in four teenaged girls in the United States has a venereal disease. While I will teach my children correct principles about pre-marital sexual contact, nonetheless, eventually, I will have to let them govern themselves. They may make moral mistakes, and if they do, I want some measure of protection in place. Originally, I was opposed to this idea, that my children would never do such a thing and there would be no reason to get an unnecessary vaccination, that they would be above yielding to lust, that I would have taught them better standards.

But, then I think about how tough the world is these days. I think about how badly my loins burned when I was a teenager and twenty-something. There were times in my life, when, even with religion, had the wrong moment come along, I would've had sex. Indeed, I've often said that it's a good thing that I've always been overweight, because if more girls had found me attractive, I would've nailed anything that moved. We Williams are a lusty breed.

So, in thinking about the ideal outcome for my children, I would rather them have some sort of protection from a ghastly disease, than hold them to an ideal that I achieved, but of which they might fall short. Therefore, if my child ever comes to me and says that they're having sex, I will ask them to stop and take sane measures to prevent them from being with their sexual partner. I will also offer them birth control and condoms if they persist. For while it might break my heart that they have loose morals, the parent in me wants to make sure that they come out of their sins without lasting reminders of their wrongdoing. Do not mistake my statements as laxness, permissiveness, or tacit approval of their actions; it is not. I condemn sex outside of marriage on moral grounds. I was a virgin when I got married, if I could do it, they can too. But, as I've stated before, the ideal should be aspired to and contingencies should always be in place when the ideal fails. I hope I'm right, for their sake.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Deus memor meus avus

ATTENTION:

THIS IS A WORK OF FICTION. I AM NOT THE NARRATOR. WHILE THE NAMES MIGHT BELONG TO MY RELATIVES, THIS STORY IS A CREATION OF MY MIND, AND NOT HOW THINGS ACTUALLY WENT DOWN.
...

“Forgotten”
By Vollick Meiele


I believe in God. Yeah, the Biblical God, though I must say I prefer His New Testament incarnation to His Old Testament grumpiness. Maybe sheathing Himself in the flesh made Him realize just how hard it is to be human. Of course, that line of thinking is problematic because it might mean that God wasn’t omniscient, or that He could risk, or even learn things. Anyway, it’s germane to what I want to tell you, so here goes: I think God forgot about my grandfather.

Let that sink in for a second. I really think God forgot about my grandfather. Now, you might ask, if I believe in the Biblical God, with his lists of omnis—presence, potence, cience, how can I even consider that God forgot about grandpa....well, I can’t really just say it in a few words...it needs some explaining.

My grandpa was born on September 28, 1912 in Buncombe County, North Carolina. To rob a line from H.I. McDonnough, my great-grandmother’s womb was a lush and fertile field whereupon my great-grandfather’s seed all-too-frequently found ample purchase. In spite of his otherwise feeble body, his virility enabled him to sire a slew of sons with my great-grandmother—sons (7) that he could not maintain physically or emotionally after she died giving birth to yet another son, less than a year after my grandfather’s birth. So, John Agleston Buckner (1870-1928), did what any ailing widower did in that day and age, he put all of his sons that couldn’t work in the poor house...in this case, the Baptist Children’s Home in Weaverville, North Carolina.

I think it was sometime around this time, say late 1913, that God forgot about my grandpa; I can’t be sure exactly when it was, but that’s my best guess.

In the orphanage, my grandpa still had family with him—all of his brothers were there: John, Henry, Claude, and I can’t remember the rest...their names are unimportant to my readers, because God did not forget about them; they are all dead. When he turned sixteen in 1928, my great-grandfather came and got him out of the orphanage (no one ever adopted him), and they had a two hour conversation; John Agleston Buckner never visited his children in the home. In spite of his ailments, he did marry his dead wife’s sister (from photographs I’ve seen, she was so dog-ugly that it’s no wonder all she could get was an invalid for a lover) because he knocked her up out-of-wedlock, though I guess he was still too ill to get his boys out of the poor house (please note the bitterness of my tone). Evidently, Mother Nature compensated my great-grandfather for his weak body by giving him some of the most agile ovum-seeking sperm in the history of Western North Carolina. That very same night he came home from the poor house, when their two hour chat was over, my great-grandfather went to bed and promptly died of an aneurysm in his sleep. My grandpa only ever spoke to his biological father once, for two hours. He never knew his mother. Even though his step-mother was also his aunt, she would not let him live with her. Not wanting to return to the orphanage, he went to live with his aged grandfather. About two months later, 2nd Lieutenant Nineveh Taylor Buckner (1840-1928), 25th North Carolina Regiment, Infantry, CSA, died of a heart attack. Raymond’s elderly step-grandmother had only a widow’s Civil War pension to live off, so he decided to leave.

So, he left the only world he had ever known, the hills of Western North Carolina, hitchhiking all the way across the country to Monterrey Bay, California. Upon arrival, he lied about his age to an army recruiter, and enlisted in the regular Army in September of 1929, a couple of weeks before the Black Friday stock market crash. He fought his way across Asia in the Philippines, China, and Burma. In spite of having served, in combat, under arms, during the duration of World War Two (he was in China when Japan attacked us), he was never wounded. He never had a scratch, in fact, you can’t find a scar on his body--save one. In 1952, while stationed in Germany, with my grandmother holding my mom and worrying about whether he was going to be sent to fight in Korea, the blood flow to grandpa’s heart was occluded and he suffered his first myocardial infarction. While this saved him from the horrors of Korea, it did consign an old soldier to the horrors of motorpool maintenance in Fort McPherson, Georgia. When he had another heart attack in 1954, the Army told Master Sgt. Raymond V. Buckner, USA-retired, that his services were no longer needed. Suddenly without a job, with a family to feed, and aged 42, he enrolled in a course to become a medical technician. He found employment with the Department of Agriculture, and spent the next 20 years criss-crossing the Southeastern United States taking soil samples from farms and telling people what kinds of fertilizer to apply to get better crop yields from their fields, slowed only by his third attack in 1967. In 1974, at age 62, a year after my birth, my grandfather retired from his government job and gained employment as the parking lot security guard at the Hadley’s department store in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. He worked at this sinecure until 1981, when at age 69, he finally retired, drawing the maximum Social Security amount one can earn, along with a full military pension, and a twenty year federal government pension.

As his body aged and his health declined, it appeared to anyone who saw him that most men of his size, brawn, and stature do not live long lives—especially not men whose chests had exploded in searing pain three times before. When the Saudi irhabists crashed their planes into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, the veteran in my grandfather became enraged. He had fought an enemy once before who had attacked his country, and he had defeated them with his own sweat and tears, notice I didn't say blood. As he sat stewing that night, watching the news, his old ticker decided to breathe fire into his chest yet again, fulminating into an agony that few men survive once, let alone four times. It should come as no surprise to you, my readers, that his fifth, and most recent heart attack barely caused him any turmoil when it tried to rip him from this world in early February 2003, near the second anniversary of his wife’s death.

So, to say the same thing over again, at some point in his toddler years, God forgot about little Raymond Vines Buckner. Now, before you accuse me of blasphemy, let me state how exactly God did His forgetting. If God is truly omni-potent, then He has, conceivably, the power to do whatever He wishes, inside of the laws of Physics, and the laws that He set down when He created the world. So, I think God chose to forget about my grandpa. God saw that little Vines was getting a raw deal, and chose to grant him the gift of long life by forgetting about him. By all rights, my grandfather should be dead and buried. Five heart attacks, diabetes (after age 90), vascular disease, dropsy, repeated thrombosis, a botched circumcision (his only scar) at 85, and any other number of afflictions that Mother Nature and Father Time could throw at my grandfather have all been thwarted by the simple act that God willfully and purposefully chose to forget about him. Where other men should have and would have died, the act of God leaving off thinking of my grandfather, has allowed him to remain, to persist in this world far longer than anyone else would have. The Angel of Death hasn't been sent by God to reclaim Raymond, because he doesn't appear in the Book of Life.

He now lives in an assisted living facility near my mom’s house. He sits at a table for four people for every meal. The other three people are always the same ones—they have to have assigned seats because of all the dietary restrictions the elderly have (individually)—and in his six years living there, sitting at his table is akin to a death sentence. Scores of people have dined with him and died. I used to joke that even the staff wouldn’t dare sit down to a meal with him out of mortal fear. Now, I don’t joke, because no one will sit with him. Even though the geriatric myths can’t take much root because of the constant deaths of those who know the stories, the newcomers hear the staff’s whispers. They don’t want to sit next to the man that God forgot. The mortal don’t like the immortal—no one likes to be reminded of the temporality of their own existence, that all glory is fleeting, that the world, and Raymond will go on without them.

And yet, I think now this gift of temporary immortality has morphed from a wondrous condition to a clear burden. I no longer see the light of life in my grandfather’s eyes; I can’t actually see his eyes anymore because his back is so crooked that he can’t raise his head up from the cane crook position it now rests in. I see a very very old man who wants God to remember him, to hear his prayers, to allow him to pass into the next life and be reunited with the mother that he never knew, and with the wife that he loved dearly in spite of her onerous personality and poison tongue.

The dream of immortality has no appeal to me, at least not in the flesh, because I’ve seen its consequence acted out over the body of my grandfather, and I do not like the result. Immortality is a burden, a boring odious burden. God, if You haven’t chosen to forget about me too, please hear my prayer and remember my grandfather. He loves You so much.

Post Script, March 7, 2008: It would appear that my assumption was wrong. Thomas Aquinas theorized that God has all moments past, present, and future as simultaneous to Him. Ergo, God didn't forget about my grandfather, rather, he granted him the gift of living as long as he wished. This morning, in an act of unmatched charity, my mother had the courage to look her father in the face and tell him, "Daddy, it's okay. You don't have to stay here anymore. I'll be alright." He told her understood and then, of his own volition, he went to sleep, never to awaken. Raymond's will be done.

Friday, March 07, 2008

RIP Raymond Vines Buckner (1912-2008)

So, not five minutes after I made my last post about missing my father, I got a call from my mom saying that my maternal grandfather had passed away; he was 95. He was in pain, couldn't walk, and had no quality of life. His passing alleviated his suffering, truly.

My mom has lost her husband and her father in the last five months.


Fly away home to Zion
fly away home
One bright morning
When my work is over, man
I'm gone fly away home

Missing Johnny Mac

So, I've not been posting much this week because I've been in St. Augustine, Florida with a group of students from Coker College. I am in the International Student Organization's advisor, and I'm here to make sure that they don't destroy the house, that they get a cultural experience outside of Hartsville, and to be a glorified chaffeur of the Coker 15 passenger bus.

Yesterday some of them asked to go to these outlet stores closeby. I went in the Tommy Bahama outlet to see if they had anything......nothing. We got home at around 9:30 at night to find that no one had cooked dinner; they expected me to do it. We had programmed taco salad for dinner, so I reluctantly began cooking it. They seem to expect me to cook for them, in that egotistical way that only young adults can master. These are children of privilege from a different generation than me, but I'm sure that I was the same way when I was younger. I can't get mad and stay mad at them, because I know that I did the same thing when I was younger.

I was a little miffed last night that not a one of them lifted a finger to help me. As I stood over the pan cooking about 10 pounds of ground beef, I began to think about how that cow used to walk around, and then it hit me that my dad had been in and called me from that Tommy Bahama store back in August, two months before he died. He was here one minute, and gone the next. I had trod where my dad had been, not too long ago. So, as I stirred the fleshy remains of some anonymnous cow around the pan, I began to really miss my dad, and I started sobbing, long hard sobs--the kind that make your whole body tremble. I was trying desperately not to have anyone notice, but that was just it; no one noticed. I cooked their dinner while bawling my eyes out, and no one even noticed.

Nuestras vidas son los ríos que van a dar hacia el mar, que es el morir.