Bucharest - New York - Miami
¶. The higher you raise yourself, the farther you see. Everybody knows that. From the aeroplane, we can see further, . . . if there are no clouds. Unfortunately, they are! To my great disappointment, the Alps Mountains are hidden under a thick blanket of them. Instead, with our mind's eye we can see even farther, not only in space, but in time as well. And we needn't raise ourselves at all; we can do it as well sitting down. In this way, my thoughts have arrived now in India of olden days, where the word "Upanishad" means: "stay close by me and think together". This was the way of those times to teach and comment on the wisdom of Veda. I am surely staying! Despite my sore rear, I have to stay in the narrow armchair of the aeroplane. As for thinking, I have to think alone, because even my right hand neighbour has fallen asleep, maybe because of my chattering. In such conditions, making notes sounds like a good idea for filling in the time. I am not a novelist and do not want making literature at any price, so that my intention is only to note my sincere impressions during this trip, which has just begun with a flight from Bucharest to New York.
Still, do not expect this book to be one of travel notes, but more of some notes during the travel. There will not be descriptions of places, portrayals of characters, or exciting adventures. I know from previous travels how far the thoughts flies away while the plane, bus, or train carries us over miles and miles, so it is quite difficult to restrain yourself from not writing down such notes. Those long American roads through desert are excellent for putting down our thoughts. That's why this will be more a book of travel thoughts than one of travel adventures. I am not in the situation of a professional writer looking for ideas; on the contrary, I had too many ideas, but too little time and skill to write all of them.
¶. The express "Caesar crossed the Rubicon" has the power of a symbol because it forced the association of two far-fetched entities of very different sizes: Caesar's greatness and the smallness of Rubicon river. If the two entities had been of the same size, small or great, the statement would have been banal. But as it is, we must think at its metaphoric sense. If I am to use the same line of thought, I should associate my own modest name with a very large stream, but I am afraid that even the ocean was already crossed by too many people. It would be no more impressive. What remain to me is to use the well-known expression just for its symbolic value for a hard decision - not for mankind - but for myself. Yes, for me and for my financial limitations, crossing the Atlantic is an important decision. Very important! And there is one more difference. Crossing the Rubicon suggests the infringement of a peace treaty and beginning a war. I cannot declare war on anyone, but only to my savings and myself. Therefore, I have broken the peace treaty with myself. Anyway, I am thinking that it is much wiser to do it with myself, as I have often been at war with other people, particularly with my chiefs so far. Evidently, there is little chance to win such wars, but surely it is a great challenge.
England displays a flock of small clouds, looking like sheep, as though they want to remind us of the famous wool of Shetland. We could not see the Shetland Islands from here, but they are not far away. Times were changing! Former English people used to graze sheep; today they shepherd clouds. Toward the west, these small sheep turn themselves into dinosaurs and finally a milky mass makes the scenery uninteresting. (I would prefer to write “landscape”, but probably “water-scape” or “cloud-scape” would be more appropriate. My own brand of English frequently offers me more unusual possibilities than the common vocabulary would allow.)
Meanwhile we have passed beyond England. Above Ireland the clouds are so high that they nearly touch the wings of the plane, which is flying at 33,000 feet, according to the altitude just announced on the display. The Ireland also is behind us now. Surprise! Gulf Stream and the sun love each other. Odd thing! It would be expected that a warm-water current, which penetrates into a colder area, would form fog above it. But on this occasion that's not what happened. It is as clear as it possibly could be: not a single cloud! It seems the gods prefer water surfaces, as it can hardly be coincidence that almost always when I fly above seas or oceans the sky is cloudless. That surely proves the gods love water more than earth.
We are crossing the ocean. Nice but boring! The same scenery under the same plane wing... And the seat feels narrow and narrow... A good sleep would be the best for me, but I cannot fall asleep. I am too tired because my travel began earlier in the night from Brasov, and I am overexcited.
It is eight o’clock PM in the Romania now. On the television, a “tele-novela” has just finished and another one is going to start. They suit the Romanians' mentality and landscapes. Hill, valley, hill, valley, and so on toward the infinite. Nothing new! Why does one go to great aim, any longer, as more endeavours bring more pain too? The Romanian philosopher Lucian Blaga has noticed this characteristic of Romanian people. Let us see what “tele-novela” I shall do in the New World.
¶. Now and again, particularly when I am tired, I have a tendency to philosophise. Some more malicious fellows say that I am like this almost all the time. It would be good for me, but I think not for them. On the other hand, Jose Ortega y Gasset assures us that "philosophy keeps its virginity in spite of its repeated violations", so philosophy is in no danger. As for my inclinations toward such preoccupations, they exist only in the etymological sense of the word: love (philo) for wisdom (sophia). A philosopher involves a professional, namely someone who earns his living doing philosophy, or at least appearing to do it. As long as I have another profession, I could not be a philosopher at the same time, but I would love to be more sagacious, or at least to know more than I know. I do not think that, for such a little thing, one would agree to recognise me as a philosopher. The professionals certainly don't, but I have to assume that I am not suffering for it.
The adjectival sense of the word philosophy is still acceptable not only for me, but also for all people, because - to a certain extent - all of us are philosophers, that is to say lovers of wisdom. That does not mean that all of us are necessarily wise persons (which would be the most boring thing on earth), but we cannot deny we would like to be wise. But what is wisdom really? Napoleon said that stupid people deal with the past, wise men with the present day and madmen with the future (Les sots parlent du passe, les sages du présent, les fous de l’avenir). If he had been a little mad, his fate would have been better, maybe. One thing is certain: he used to have very unclear ideas about wisdom. So please allow me to consider myself, if not a philosopher, at least a fan of it. Napoleon also said: "Mind always beats sword". Paradoxical fellow this Napoleon!
Why have I said I should not want to be a professional philosopher? Because, since Socrates' day up until today, philosophy has been through the mill, from sublime toward ridiculous! First at all, from the large field of knowledge, smaller but more precise fields have spun off, one after another. They have built their means of investigation, and have definite themselves as more or less exact sciences. The reminded field for philosophy has become smaller and smaller, and more gravely, fewer and fewer people are willing to make philosophy their career, as long as scientific ones were much more pertinent and profitable. The remaining philosophers, following the example of the exact sciences, tried to create their own language but, unfortunately, not to make the expression clearer but, on the contrary, more esoteric and exclusive.
Veda means in Sanskrit language science, knowledge (Rig-Veda, Sama-Veda, etc.). This proves that, in the 3rd millennium B.C., a priest used to be scientist and scholar as well. The separation occurred later. The weakest of them remained philosophers and particularly priests.
Often, nowadays philosophers write on a rigorous, arid and sophisticated way what people knew long before. Often, in many scholarly writings, the author ends his expose with a folk saying, destined to confirm the truth of his logical demonstration, but which proves that popular wise knew for a long time what he had just discovered.
Socrates used to philosophise with all people, for all people, using language adequate to his interlocutors, but always approaching essential problems. Nowadays philosophy is only a parade of language, sometimes just to hide a lack of ideas and content. "Quand un philosophe nous répond, on ne comprend plus du tout ce qu’on lui avait demandé." (André Gide) The consequence is recorded by one of the last of common-sense Romanian philosopher: “the authors of philosophic texts are greater in number today in the world than their readers” (Gabriel Liiceanu).
As for the people, from the philosophy they wait for something that it cannot give, and afterwards - receiving nothing - they express their disappointment. Man wants to receive the truth, but the single way to accede to it is his own inner act of thinking. By all means, philosophy should be thought again and again, in every epoch, with the tools of thinking specific to that epoch.
As a reader, I prefer the essays of scientists who, willing or not, become more philosophical as the years go by. They, at least, passed some serious examinations and proved some superior brains. The first philosophers were the scientists of their time as well. Later on, most of the serious ones used to have hard studies. Probably such thoughts entered Schopenhauer's mind when he wrote "he who wants to make serious philosophy must study thoroughly at least on exact science". Therefore the idea is not a new one, but it is not convenient. Why? It is not difficult to see.
¶. Late in the day, Greenland appears on the display, to the right of our route. Green-Land what an irony! Perhaps it seemed green to those who, coming from the glaciers, baptised it so, even though 80% of the land is covered in ice. This may have been their point of view.
The ocean, seen from above, with some small clouds on it, seems to look exactly as the sky does from the earth. The same shapes, the same colours! Here is a case where two different objects seem to be similar. It is not the alone. I could find more examples. Particularly among us, many people seem to be what they are not.
My thoughts are interrupted. We have arrived. "Chacun a son défaut où toujours il revient", La Fontaine said it. I have my flaws too. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. What about the other side of the ocean? It must be very greener.
After three years, I am again on American soil, or to be more exact, not on the grass, but on the concrete of JFK airport, where a Chinese woman’s voice is announcing something that is hardly understandable if you do not know beforehand what she is saying. But more urgently is the need to shave myself and change my thick clothes for a T-shirt, because there are 87° here, as opposed to the 40°, as it was on the night I left Brasov.
¶. This time I avoided New York. I saw it three years ago and consider that was enough. From my previous trip, the memory of the first night comes to mind when, due to jetlag, I was not being able to sleep. It was whilst looking at the ceiling of my room in Gramercy Park Hotel the idea to note down my travel impressions came. As always happens, any marvel lasts three days. While getting used to local time, making travel notes was always seemed to be a job for later. This time, I proposed to be a more hardworking tourist.
Also, I remember well the first dinner in a small Indian restaurant, with the spiciest food that I ever ate. And of course the town, not only for its buildings, but especially for its breathing. Yes, New York, I mean Manhattan, has a peculiar breathing. It is not as polluted as it's supposed to be, thanks to the ocean, which sends a permanent breeze of fresh air, and has a particular buzzing.
There is not nightlife in the streets of New York. After six o'clock, lots of garbage-sacks appear in the front of the magazines. As for the Central Park, it would be right dangerous to walk through during the nights. It seems only towns with a hot climate are animated in the evenings. It is understandable if we think that people take shelter of buildings during the days, and go out after sunset.
There is one more reason I am not eager to see New York now: the rule of the five targets. According to this rule, a tourist should not exceed five objectives: five towns in a country, five monuments in any town, five paintings in a museum, etc. Otherwise, the multitude of detail will turn everything into a jumble without head and tail, and the time will be insufficient even for a single large object. This time, New York is not on my list.
¶. Another plane, much smaller, will carry me to Miami. While I wait, I have respite for looking at the people walking up and down. In Romania, some shoes with very thick soles are in woman's fashion, but almost nobody wears them here. The Americans are a more practical people. An easy sandal surely is more comfortable than a shoe like a caterpillar. To me, the fashion otherwise seems the same here, but I am far from a specialist.
Now and again, the Chinese voice from the loudspeaker seems to sing. I had better go to my gate. The song is not that of a mermaid and I am not Ulysses, but it could be just as dangerous to me, due to my tiredness. There are more than 24 hours since I have been awake.
¶. My wanderings in Florida did not go beyond a small area near the south-eastern littoral. What remained in my memory was a feeling: the pleasure of wonderful bathing in the warm waters of the ocean. It may seem trivial, but for me it is not. I will probably forget many things, but not the sensation that has remained in my soul. I must confess to a weakness for bathing as far back as from my childhood but forgotten meanwhile. I did not swim for many years, and this opportunity provoked in me a great satisfaction, amplified by the warm water. Here, swimming means not only the straining of the muscles, like a sporting contest, but to live the sensation that seizes you when you leave yourself at the mercy of the waves that round you up. Or you become their partner, considering yourself a part of the wave as you move up and down. Being more active, you may use the waves to increase your speed, not because of necessity but for pure pleasure of play. This is one of the few activities in which the whole body participates.
As young, our body is the engine that pushes us toward all kind of acts. As old, our head is the engine and the body is ballast, sometimes too hard to carry. And the change of weather makes it just more difficult. Of course it is warm in Florida, although we are now at the beginning of September. Warm and Humid! Threatening clouds often come in from the ocean, but they usually stop before the coast. Nobody takes account of them because, when they do succeed in coming in from the coast, the rains are short and warm. After several minutes, any trace of rain has disappeared. Anyway, the clouds move as fast that little can be done in our defence, so that it is simpler to ignore them. The sky, even when blue, is more light-grey blue than real azure, because of the watery vapours.
What annoyed me throughout USA, but particularly here, was the excessive cold air indoors, due to the air-conditioning, which is set at rather low temperature. Somewhere, it is so cold inside that, when you go out in the heat, your glasses steam up, rather as happens in the north on cold winter's days, when we suddenly enter a warm room, coming from the frost of outdoors. Shop assistants wear warm clothes and shoes with thick soles. In cars, the same air-conditioning, which fortunately I was being able to adjust for comfort, in spite of the owner's disapproval! The moral is, when going south, you take some warm clothes to wear inside buildings. And do not forget a cap or something like that. I remember what a headache I had one day, during my previous trip, because of the propeller of a great fan being used to direct a strong stream of cold air at us.
It is fashionable, particularly among young American people, to wear peaked caps. Bareheaded men were not to be seen before the World War II. After the war, at least in Europe, as people had begun to use cars on a large scale, hats were no longer practical, so uncovered heads came into fashion. People probably wanted to show that they did not need hats because they owned cars. But, when you are on foot and the temperature is very low, it is rather unwise to insist on being "á la mode" with any price. Unfortunately, this was the latest word in fashion during my youth, so that I fully caught up in it. Not one of us owned a car, but fashion takes no account of reason. I have become wiser later, and can say now that sometimes "later could be too later". Every old people cover his head in cold days - the question is how late did he make his mind up to do so.
I visited only the shoreline area, where everything is clean and nice. I was told that the landscape becomes less aestival the farther one moves away from the ocean coast and could be even dangerous in the areas with many Latino-American immigrants. I did not go there. From all that, one of my most pleasant recollection from Florida was a CD with Latino-American music. The world is filled with paradoxes.
¶. Talking with the Americans, the subject Dracula could not be absent. As soon they learn that I am from Romania, with a little shyness at the beginning, they approach the subject eventually. All of them give to understand they are clever people enough to not believe in stories with vampires, but maybe, maybe, there is a tiny something sensational at all, they hope. If my answer is rather short, they come to the conclusion that I avoid the subject. If it is too long, they no longer follow me, because it is supposed the sensational will not come, and serious explanations are not interesting. I think I never hit the optimum length.
Now, I will not try to give an explanation too - neither long nor short - but I can't help remarking the word Dracula make us to think not only at a dragon, but also at Draco, the Greek statesman. He codified and published in 621 BC the Athenian law, limiting thereby the judiciary power of the nobles, known later as 'Draconian code', with the mean 'sever law'. Consequently, it was not difficult for Bram Stoker to imagine a word like Dracula, and make the association with vampires, as almost every language have some expressions like "to suck the very marrow out of somebody" or more exactly "to suck the blood of people" speaking about governments or rulers. The word vampire was unknown to Romanian people till not long age. Instead, there is 'dracul' for devil, and just an old ruler with this name, known as well as a sever ruler.
What remains is so-called "Dracula's Castle", an old fortress perched on a crag, in a both strategic and picturesque position, 25 miles away from Brasov - the town where I live - and used today as an attraction for tourists.
¶. Sitting on the sands, I am looking at some dogs. Dogs from anywhere understand each other very well, whatever the breed they belong; we can say they "speak the same language". Men from ancestral times probably do the same way. Down through the ages, as speech developed, different languages come into being, more and more differentiated, firstly on large areas and without precise frontiers. In time, as some states come into existence, with sharper and sharper frontiers, the languages became more and more differentiated.
¶. One of the most important problems for my trip in USA is the transport. I will cross the continent from east to west and backwards, with as many stops as possible. Of course a car would be the best solution, particularly because I have got lots of painting materials to carry. Besides, I might stop here and there for painting on the spot, and a wet canvas is almost impossible to pack up. I do not own enough money for a new car, to hire one would be also rather expensive, but I could buy an old one. Florida is a good source for cheap old cars, much cheaper than Georgia, my next stop. I was definite to buy one, but all the people that I asked told me to renounce, because - for fear of robbers - nobody will stop to help me, if the car goes out of order in the middle of the route. And an old car surely will do. The single way is to call for service, but it may cost me more than another car. And the distances are of thousands of miles here. I followed their advice, but what a sad thought: nobody helps each other! What would be the happiness to live in a dehumanised society?
On the other hand, people become suspicious after some sly persons deceived them, but much more frequent because it is just they who usually try to deceive other people. The Americans are very suspicious people. Why?
Evil people are throughout the world. The difference consists in the way of their manifestations. Bank breakers can exist only in a town with banks. In a communist country, there were but a few thieves, as there was not much to steal. Evil people used to become political leaders.
¶. The gossip en vogue is the Clinton versus Monica Lewinsky scandal. No matter when or where, if a television set catches your eye, a passionate discusses on this topic is to be seen. All programmes have plenty of debates about Clinton’s wrongdoing. I do not have a special preoccupation with Clinton and I do not defend him, but I accuse the Republicans of using it as a campaign strategy, which is more pernicious for American democracy than for Clinton as person and for the Democratic Party, their true target. It is a political mistake. I said that it was the beginning of the end of American democracy. Certainly, I was exaggerating. American democracy will not end because of Clinton or his adversaries. Then, what is the matter? I must explain a few points!
1. Democracy is not so much a political system, as a state of affairs. A state of equilibrium, a balance of power, in which people express their opinions, and politicians take these opinions into account. There is some trust between them. Early in the life of every democracy, people are enthusiastic and the trust reaches the maximum level. Peoples' actions are convergent with the general interest, and the economy is prosperous. In time, trust grows weaker and democracy grows old owing to just such events as Clinton’s case. The Italians or Greeks are good examples of old nations. Nobody would succeed in persuading the common Italian that his efforts could bring back the lost glory of the Roman Empire. That’s why he acts in an individual way, in his own interest, or at the most in his family's interests.
2. USA is a young nation with a still young democracy. The common American still relies on his leaders, and the American flag - a symbol of the pride in being American - is to be found everywhere, even on the harlots' pants. (So I heard!)
3. This public debate on Clinton’s case is not a gain for democracy. On the contrary, it is a step toward its ageing, because people lose their trust in leaders. Clinton is not the first and surely will not be the last president who made a false step. After a few years, people will forget him and his actions, good or bad. What will remain in people's subconscious is the idea that American politicians are not necessarily perfect. That is why Clinton’s guilt is not what is really important. Much guiltier are the Republicans who, in their fury, inflamed this shameful scandal, evidently for momentary politic interests, with too little care for long-term consequences.
4. The Republicans do not win more, because people have the opportunity to see that they do care more for removing their political adversaries than for the nation's matters. The senators' vote, according to party allegiance rather than for the case, is illustrative for their real preoccupation. They do not destroy as much the trust in Clinton, as the trust in politicians generally, and Republicans especially.
5. Democracy disappears together with trust, and as democracy is the key to economical prosperity, this suffers too, because there is not democracy without a good economy. Democracy and poverty are incompatible each other.
¶. That's enough about the politics. No country seems to be free of stupid politicians. (The politician's good deeds are up if you put them on the dish of a balance, and his evil ones on the other.) Coming back to the common Americans, the preoccupation for a practical and comfortable life is so strong that it sometimes overlooks other criteria. One day, for example, someone showed me a dwelling looking like a warehouse or a factory. They surprised me by expressing: "Look, what a nice house!" It was very large and probably very comfortable inside, but there was nothing nice or remarkable from the architectural or esthetical point of view in its exterior appearance.
¶. As it was expected, few Americans know the expression "Cyrillic alphabet". They know only that the Russians use a different alphabet, belong of Christian Orthodox faith and, as a consequence, they think that Cyrillic and the Orthodoxy came from Moscow. A rougher error would be hard to find. In reality, Cyril was not Russian at all. He was born in Thessaloniki (Greece), then part of Byzantine Empire, and lived between 827 and 869. At that time Russia does not exist yet. The Byzantine Empire instead, used to be the most powerful Christian centre in the world and the single educated area from the Europe. It was the place where, during 1000 years, people preserved, next door to the darkness of the occidental Middle Edge, the value of the Hellenism and Roman civilisation, up till the dawn of the Renaissance. The Renaissance itself was in a great measure the creation of the Byzantium, as the intellectuals from Constantinople are those who, for fear of Turkish, took refuge in Italy, the ideal place for remaking antic traditions. Together with his brother, Methodius, Cyril preached Christianity in Moravia (now the eastern region of Czech Republic), among the people speaking a Slav language. For them he invented the alphabet with his name and translated the books of the New Testament. For Russian both Christianity and Cyrillic alphabet have come much later, from west toward the east. Even in Ukraine, much to west than Moscow, in Kiev, the famous Pecerskaia Monastery has become famous thanks to Petru Movila, a Romanian bishop. Russia's development started much later and it was the communist propaganda that exaggerated its role. Cyril died in Rome.
As for mythology, it is something people forgot about long ago, and many have never heard of Prometheus. Of course, they do not suffer for such a small thing, rather it was I wondering which was more important to know: how to make dollars, or to seek answers to questions with Prometheus. Making money is a necessity for living, but I think it is very important to ask questions. The truths could be as simple as far away, and we will know them, or won't. It is not the answer that is important so much as the path toward it. Not even Buddha, not to mention Jesus Christ, did not give solutions to life, but only ways to salvation. Ways, namely roads to cross through. Beyond faith, to be human means to ask questions. "Solely he who never thought enough, has clear ideas", said a poetess. Living without dilemmas seems to me the most useless possible thing. And some of the first dilemmas begin with Prometheus. "To bring to light the deep sense of these myths is the single way to understand the spirit of the civilisations born from them." (Adriano Tilgher)
No matter what our faith is, our ancestors' faith, including mythology, is part of out history, of our cultural background. We are the result of our own history and cannot deny our genesis, because it would mean denying ourselves. We are the consequence of our forefathers' deeds, good or bad. They say you must know where you come from, in order to know where you head for.
¶. Our salvation consists in the fact that we understand very little. Anaxagoras said: "In the world, there are order and laws. That's how the world can be understood". The disadvantage lies in the fact that man uses his knowledge in his advantage, modifying in this way the environment, without knowing how detrimental his acts are. Our luck consists in the fact that - at least till now - our understanding was extremely limited, and its influence was minor, but evidently things are going to be different soon. The imminence of a catastrophe makes us to think if the recommendation of the Bible "think and not search" would not has been a wiser advice. First, we wonder if the scholars of those times really were so good soothsayers, or simply preached something comfortable for their own profession and life. We easy notice they contradict themselves saying that God made the world after a plan, consequently there is order in the world, there is a logic in which it was built. If these exist, the world can be understood, so we can do it, and nobody will hamper man wanting to become like God. The hypothesis that order does not exist in nature fails, not matter of the point of view in which we approach the question. Not even God could not make the world without a plan, so there was some logic and order in his mind. What remains to us is the conclusion that order exists, but our fragmental understanding, or to be more exactly our lake of understanding of superior levels, makes us to wrongly extrapolate some rules valuable only at our level beyond the limits.
The wish of life proposed by Schopenhauer as source of vital energy - even if it is far away to be perfect and exhaustive - is the most intelligent approach so far, at least in my opinion. The man Schopenhauer was very disputed, due to his ironical style, but his ideas still deserve our attention.
I again philosophise too much. Philosophy, "...poor and useless philosophical truths, which does not disturb anyone, a few people read them, and even fewer..." (Voltaire).
Voltaire, what a fellow! I did not read much from his works, but I was captivated by his correspondence, and since the first reading I open this book occasionally. Speaking about Voltaire, I was surprised to learn that he had endeavoured to obtain "The Ottoman History" by D. Cantemir, the Romanian writer and prince.
Bye the way, there always is a problem in translating the title of the chiefs of Romanian countries from the past. The Romanian word is 'domnitor' or simple 'domn', which may be translated as master, but this says nothing to an English speaker. The natural translation would be king, but occidental historians kept this title for theirs, promoting instead the title of princes, which is not correctly, as princes are not chiefs of states, but their children. Why? Let's go a little in the past.
After the collapse of Western Roman Empire, the barbarian tribes, generally of German origin (Goths, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, etc.) invaded its former territory. In that vacuum of power, the military chiefs built small fortresses, from where they dominated the area. In time, the fortresses became citadels and castles, and the successors of former military chiefs considered to be the owners of the surrounding lands. We are in full feudal epoch. Several centuries, there were not great dangers for them; nobody threatened them, as toward the west the ocean was a natural border, and as far as the eastern barbarians there was a large distance, within other people, like the Romanians, had to fight against. Of curse, small fights existed as anywhere, but they looked more as some disputes inside of the family than real wars.
The feudal lords did not feel the need of wearing the title of king. It was Pepin the Short, who had the idea of crowning himself as King of the Franks. Why? Because, in the meantime, the first real danger appeared, under the form of Arabian expansion, and his father, Charles Martel, succeeded in persuade his neighbouring lords to fight together against a common threatening, and did it in the battles of Poitiers and Tours (732). Thanks to his father's merits, the son thought he deserves to wear the title of king. Of course, nobody paid attention at him then, but some years latter, the Martel's nephew is no one else but Charlemagne, which wanted to be emperor. But this is another story.
On the one hand, we must notice that the barbarians always wanted to remake the glory of former Roman Empire, but under their leadership, if possible. This idea persisted until recent years. (Let's not forget that some German central European countries kept the title of 'Holy Roman Empire' as far as the 19th century.) Even Odoacer, who became ruler after the dead of the last emperor in 476, declared himself to be the new Roman emperor, even if nobody recognised his as an emperor.
On the other hand, the barbarians were not pagans. On the contrary, they were Christians, even more than the Romans were. In Roman Empire, Christianity had spread slowly, particularly among the poor people (because it is a religion of poor people), starting from the east toward west. Few people were Christians in its western part before the collapse. Besides, there was not a chief of Christian churches at that time; every bishop used to be independent. Instead, thanks to Wulfila, who invented an alphabet and translated Christian writings into the Goths' language. It were the Goths those who have spread Christianity in western occupied territories; it is true by sword more than by conviction. Charlemagne, shaking hands with the bishop of Rome, reached two aims: he was recognised as emperor by the church, and the bishop, as Pope and chief of occidental church. Charlemagne was illiterate, and the empire disintegrated itself after his death, but the idea remained. It was the church that goes on it farther, made from Charlemagne a saint, a great emperor, etc. Soon, occidental church separated itself under the name of Catholic Church, in this way the Pope becoming the single chief of the occidental church, and that who may anoint kings. As for the kings, they were considered to be of divine origin. As a matter of fact, they bring again the ancient faith, more profitable for leaders, this time under the name of Christianity, even if Jesus' doctrine was quite opposite, proclaiming the equality of every person in face of God. But the real Christian doctrine could not be pleasant for kings and a hierarchical church. Their wish of power was as great as the Eastern Roman Empire used to be still alive under the name of Byzantine Empire, but weaker and weaker, while the occidental Europe became more and more powerful.
Coming back to Romanians rulers, it is understanding now why the occidental kings did not want to share the same title with other rulers: because they wanted to keep the title of king of divine origin, and it could not belong but to few families.
I am heading to Georgia.
¶. Hearing the word “Georgia”, my mind immediately leaps to the well-known Ray Charles’ song, novel and movie "Gone with the Wind", and Savannah. Savannah is the brand of soap with a strong odour, my wife's favourite. Here, it is the name of a town, not far away from which is Cherokee Rose, also known as "the state of flowers". This seems to be the connection. As for Ray Charles, honestly, I do not like this song very much, but - since I do not forget it - I must accept it is a good one. Instead, "Gone with the Wind" has more power to impress me. Visiting Georgia, I see this is a real symbol. It is not only a good novel, but it brings the memory of Civil War into the world of literature and art.
It was a short flight to Atlanta. My only memory is of a young girl who kept the air vent open at maximum above her head all the way. Her hair was floating, as if she walked through a strong storm. I remarked on her resistance but not her ignorance. Here, I must confess that, in my youth, I used to be ignorant enough to walk bareheaded during the frosty days. It was not without consequences, and now I must be very careful with my head. Youth is sick of grownups and their "wisdom". Only after they will have to take their own responsive decisions will feel the need of others' advice. Till then, the single way is to let them live for the moment.
¶. I found Georgia a delightful place twice over: it is a pleasant state in itself, but particularly because it is there where I met Bill and his wife Alma, two wonderful people. They were both waiting for me at the airport, and they were with me all during my stay, especially Bill, wondering what more they could do for me. Alma, a silent woman, (unthinkable but true) from time to time used to bring me things she had picked up, demonstrating her attentiveness to making my stay more pleasurable. Both of them are ample people, but surprisingly agile. They are equally active and amiable.
Georgia is a nice and rich area. We may suppose these two qualities amplify each other. The beauty of the nature attracts those who have the freedom of choice where to live, namely those who are wealthy. They have built nice houses and take care of the natural environment, making the area still nicer and more attractive for other people, and so on. There are lots and lots of splendid houses, particularly near Atlanta. Houses surrounded by trees on large domains. Tennis courts or golf courses testify to their owners’ wealth. Bill has kindly taken me for a drive among such properties.
The top of the hill from which we now admire the landscape seems to be surrounded by a forest. Beyond several stylish houses nearby, there is nothing to be seen but trees, which appear secular. Going downhill, more houses appear and the expected forest recedes. Actually, the houses are surrounded with so much vegetation than gradually the mystery turns itself into admiration for an area really residential. I had the chance to see it thanks to Bill, who likes to look on it with pride himself. Over the course of the two weeks I stayed here, we drove hundreds of miles in such areas, each nicer than the one before.
Maybe I am biased but - as any European - I appreciate houses made of bricks, but I appreciate also the Americans’ predisposition to practical and useful, hence their pleasant wooden houses. I can’t help remarking that the most of valuable houses in the USA are made of bricks too.
I never knew if Atlanta is the feminine of Atlant, Atlantic, or something else. Anyway, it is a nice town that does not aim to impress in the usual American gigantism. The downtown area is not very large. Even its buildings are not very tall. Good taste has replaced the race towards “the most” at any price. Maybe the comparison is a little exaggerated, but I dare to say that Atlanta succeeded in architecture what the European Renaissance did: to replace the 'gothic' of the first skyscrapers with a genuine modern style, searching for new technology in order to make buildings more comfortable but beautiful as well. The word 'gothic' has only recently gained positive connotations. In the language of Renaissance architects, gothic used to mean barbarian. The Italians invented it, with a pejorative meaning, for mocking the old style of the Middle Age. The Goths, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, etc, were barbarians. Europe belongs to the old Greek culture, where "man is the measure of all things" (Protagoras). The sense of measure and proportion is characteristics of Greek culture, while the dominant feature of Gothic style is tallness, in order to impress tinny believers with the grandeur of the church. It belongs to the barbarity of Middle Age, when Europe's impetuosity seemed to be without limits. It was the Renaissance that brought things to their normal matrix and Europe has become really civilised. And Renaissance itself is in a great measure a result of the exodus of Greek intellectuals from the former Byzantine Empire, occupied in 1435 by Turks. Today, Atlanta tries to attain the same amount of aesthetic criteria after the first explosion of skyscrapers.
Huge posters of Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh leave no chance to forget them. They risk becoming trivial by being seen on so many product advertisements, but instead just prove their value as a symbol.
¶. Today Bill and Alma have gone to the dentist, so I am alone. It is raining, the reason why I have moved to the porch. It looks out on what could be either woods or parkland; it is hard to say which. Whatever it is, it is very nice. Old trees stand next to young ones, each of them with a different essence giving an effect similar to a painting composed with much art. Hares wander around like domestic animals. There are also squirrels, which Alma gives food to. The porch is great, especially for me. It is large enough for four lounge chairs, two swings, and above all my easel. I forgot to say that I am a painter now (my second profession). On the wooded walls, I can hang my canvasses, which is very useful for making small corrections. The warm, clean air makes the rain seem like momentary accident, almost amusing. A little hare has sheltered himself from the rain under an old tree, not more than thirty feet away. He looks at me and, oddly enough, he does not seem to be afraid at all. Now and then, he nibbles a few blades of grass and then ruminates a long time. Meanwhile, the rain has stopped. I am almost sorry. Even the hare has left. Instead, dozens of little birds sing as if they want to make up for lost time. It is interesting that I heard even the cuckoo's song, which belongs to the spring season. In Romania, birds do not sing past the end of July. Now, here it is the end of September and the bird's song is to be heard everywhere.
¶. Both Romanians and Americans are tempted to make comparisons between the prices of different products or services. It is a useless exercise, and the results can be only aberrant. I am not talking about trade prices, which are of interest only to merchants, but about retail prices, which we see in common shops. The error lies in directly comparing the prices of single products, because any product is only one element of our way of live. What can be compared are just our ways of life as a whole, and not the separated elements. Because our ways of life are very different, the direct comparison of a single element is ineffective. How much more different the ways of life are how wishy-washy the comparison of some items is. Here is an example. The price of gasoline is lower in the United States than in Romania. Advantage point USA! But their cars consume four or five times more gasoline per 100 miles than Europeans cars. Advantage point Europe! Of course, one may suggest that the Americans could make and use smaller cars, but at this point a psychological problem appears, just because the two ways of life are very different. In Europe, due to agglomeration, commercial life is concentrated in downtown, while in the US it spreads along the highways. In Brasov, the town where I live, people drive only to the perimeter of downtown, and then walk to the city centre, because cars are forbidden. Within a small distance one can find everything one needs to buy. To reach downtown by cars are not a necessity; we can as well use buses or trolley busses. From one town to another, it is easy to travel, as there is a dense network of good trains. In United States, there are literally miles between shops. Trains are almost non-existent. Life centres around the car, which is integral to daily living. Cars are more than a means of transport. They are part of peoples' life. The Americans love cars. For this reason, they are willing to pay a great part from their income for gasoline, and you cannot get them to share your opinion about the matter, without risking denting their amour.
¶. Today, Bill and Alma took me along with them to a party-dance at 11 AM. At first I wondered what it could be, as they told me that I do not have to dance. I soon understood. The party took place in a home for old women, and one of its purposes was to offer the residents several pleasant hours. It happens every fortnight. I must confess that I was much impressed with this gesture. I uttered in my mind a “bravo!” to a society who does not forget its old persons. It is a charitable gesture, fun and useful as well. Charitable because the target is the residents of the home! Fun for everyone! Participants are people of the third age too, or nearly all, who come to dance. It is useful because most dances are actually dancing lessons. Dance classes for the elderly - here is an idea that deserves deeper reflections. One of the participants is the provider of music and dance teacher. Instead of lyrics, many songs have instructions for dance: two steps forward, three to the right, etc. Most of them are ensemble dances. The participants come in two by two, but partners are changed frequently during the dance, according to its rules. During the changes, participants salute each other with joy when they meet, as if they have just met each another accidentally. As soon as one change is finished, another one begins. Collective exultation is an obvious target. The aim of the lessons is to inure the 'students' with a style cheerful yet peaceful enough for persons who are no longer young. Everything in a very pleasant atmosphere! Only the most active residents took part in the dance. Others, some in wheelchairs, were only looking. I was curious to learn what may hide in the soul of those who are looking at people able to dance, while they are spiked into wheelchairs. I watched their faces very attentively, but noticed not a single sign of envy. On the contrary, they were smiling, probably remembering their own moments of happiness. I am not so naïve as to think that envy is absent in this part of the world. The explanation is that those predisposed to such feelings preferred not to come at all.
I have learnt an expression: men perspire, women shine. In this case, any woman rushes to the ladies room before sweat pierces her makeup and tries to repair it. (In the meantime, a friend said me another saying: "Horses sweat, men perspire, women glow.")
¶. Rosewell is the name of a small township, not far away from Atlanta. I went there to see an art exhibition. They organise it once a year, in tents or just in the open air, on a square in the middle of the town. There are all kinds of artists displaying their works. Professional or dilettantes, good or bad, painters, sculptors, artisans, florists, portrait makers and whatnot; everything could be found. Most of them are not so good, and flowers overflow the whole square, but I saw also two painters who were very good. In other square there are some busts, among which Rosewell's statue is dominant. I have learnt that Rosewell was a distinguished citizen of the town who lived 100 years and his posterity still keeps awake their appreciation for his good deeds for the town. My esteem for today's inhabitants who know to honour their forerunners! Such things are seldom seen in Romania.
¶. Bill lives together with his invalid mother, and it is him who brings the food in her room, where she stays all the day long in a wheel chair. Only seldom she comes in the living room for special days. In spite of her sedentary life, she is a pleasant old lady, and I am sorry that time was too short for chatting more with her. Later on I made a portrait after a photo, and she looks like an intelligent, strong, resolute woman. Sometimes my portraits underline some characteristic features of which I was unconscious before. It was not the case, as I liked her for the first sight.
Bill's family is a good example of a harmony of contraries. His mother, as well as his wife, are very faithful persons, while Bill is an utterly atheist. I must notice that atheism is not just a religion but only a denying of the God (a + Theo.). There are bibles over all where she moves around, even in the bathroom. They love very much each other, respect each other and, consequently, accept each other, but keeping their own opinions. The best way for them is to not discuss religious topics.
As for me, “God, help me to believe in you!” might be my slogan. Science and religion do not contradict each other, because science offers a system of knowledge, while religion gives a way of salvation. Only the misunderstanding of one of them by the adepts of the other makes them to seem contradictory. In reality, science and religion are two different manners of thinking, and have different objectives. Only the exaggerated claims of some priests of controlling everything, together with their fright of not losing control, creates the dispute. They think there is something unique that cannot belong to both of them and consequently must be disputed. It explains their ridiculous pretension to be the single owners of the unique and absolute truth, which may be known only if you go to their particular church.
I do not know why, but I find that with every passing year, I am more and more absorbed in thoughts by religion. I will have to approach the topic here as well. That's why, I need to specify at the beginning my point of view generally. Shortly, I have three remarks about the religion:
a. Recovering self-confidence in low-spirited moments;
b. Avoid exaggerations in moments of too much self-confidence;
c. Settling down the tradition, which is also the way of bringing about of the points a. and b.
Of course, the exaggerations of some priests are equally injurious. See nowadays Talibans or the Inquisition of Middle Age. Besides, the faith is a personal question for each of us. Even those who declare to belong to the same church are different and think differently using the same words.
¶. During my adolescence, two opposite trends influenced my education: that classic of my parents together with the entire old educated generation, and that of the "new wave" of Soviet propagandists.
1 + 1 + Soviet help = 2
Jokes like this were in fashion in Romania of 50's. As the Soviet help was equal to zero, the equality was always true. There are two morals:
- There is a truth in everything;
- You need to remove the ballast for getting clear ideas.
We used to say that one must be able to know how to read between the lines. My mind has formed in such conditions, so that I still think there is something true in almost everything but not entirely, and it is up to me to find out that truth.
The first trend was a religious one, while the second was aggressively atheist. Of course, I used to be inclined to adopt my parents' attitude but the rationalist arguments of the others claim to be explained. How could I solve this dilemma?
On the one hand, the atheists, at the end of their demonstration, found out nothing important. Their arguments against the Bible had in view minor considerations, and their way leads nowhere. Besides, God is not precisely defined. Many religions forbid any representation of Him. How could the atheists fight with defined arms against to something that is not defined at all? They do not have any chance.
On the other hand, how could I trust in a simple statement like "think and not search"? For one adept at scientist methods as I am, any statement must be proved. I needed some reasons. An argument in the balance of my thoughts was the declarations of some scientists that they were faithful. Some of them like Pascal turned themselves into the faith after they had been professionals in precise sciences. How could I learn about their reasons? They were clever men.
These used to be the thoughts of a 15-16 years old boy. Now, as an old man, I am much advanced but I cannot say that I have definitely solved the dilemma, but I have a way at least. As much as I have read - and I did it from authors of all kind of orientations - my interest in the topic has increased. The matter has become more and more complex and tinted. The truth seems to be still far away but I realised that searching for the way is more captivating than the aim itself, as far as the aim is an ideal.
One thing is clear: the atheism is good for nothing. It leads nowhere. I knew lots of atheists and every of them invoked the help of a divine force during difficult situations. People need to believe in something. Even the word 'atheist' (a Theo = without God) proves that they are not able to define themselves on an independent way. They recognise the God but stand with their back to Him.
Yes, people need to believe in something. The problem is in what, as long as there are more religions, more cults inside Christianity itself, and lots of sects that fight against each other.
There is the idea that scientists are some atheists. It's a false idea. The priests say that, when they do not understand what the scientists are speaking about. The scientists may really be quite faithful, but for a real dialog, the priests should be able to talk in an intelligent way, and to renounce to their "wooden tongue".
¶. Some time ago, a friend of mine asked me whether I believe in Jesus but Jesus is the God's son so that the final question was the same: whether I believe in God. Probably the question would be better expressed "if I believe in the Bible". Yes, I do! The disputes among the Christian cults and sects are not against the Bible but against each other, particularly among the priests. Priests are important because they have to interpret the Bible to the common people. Unfortunately, during the history, many of them made many mistakes, particularly entering politics. In spite of their statements and pacifist slogans, nowadays they still do the same; they serve themselves by the faith instead of serve it. In their disputes, they use, without knowing the same argument one other, no matter what sect they belong to. Besides, there are too few priests able to understand deep understanding if the Bible. The most of them know only how to preach a sermon.
Even Dalai Lama, in his Autobiography, writes, "Every religion has its potential to make evil. This is not the guilt of the religion, but of the people promoting it".
Yes, I believe in the Bible but not in priests. That's why I always wanted to read more and more, from authors of different faiths, books being my single serious source of information and the real society was the place where the ideas are proved. What have I learnt from these books and my meditation? The great truths become truisms when we try to express them shortly. (This is a truism as well.) We cannot suddenly discover the whole truth but we find it out again and again, more full and rich, just searching for it. God does not need my sacrifices. He wants me to be happy. In this order it is satisfying whether I am myself: honest and having a loving face to all those surrounding me. That is simple, very simple, but I have to do it every time and this is not always easy but it deserves a try.
¶. Everywhere I wandered, my main purpose was fine art, particularly painting. Exhibitions were not my only targets, but also art distributors, because I wanted to make connections in order to export art works from Romania. In this respect I was somewhat disillusioned. Firstly, few American houses are decorated with original paintings. Those that are, exhibit some of poor quality. As a consequence, distributors are interested only in large orders made by offices, to decorating large rooms. They want impressive frames and non-valuable paintings. Sometimes, instead of a painting, there is a poster. Many paintings are only copies of the great masters, especially Monet. Other subjects are commercially, serially manufactured (often by Chinese, Korean, or Vietnamese people), and can be purchased for about 20 dollars. Instead, frames could be of 100, even 200 dollars. Real art galleries are extremely few. There are many towns without any gallery at all. This is natural; what would be the use of a gallery without buyers? Often, owners of art galleries, even art critics, are the spokesmen of a group of local fine artists, and then they represent those artists' interests.
Only the most pretentious rich persons buy real paintings. But they, because of a lack of confidence in their own appreciative criteria, appeal to art-critics. Art critics? These are people unable to speak more than the content of Desdemona's handkerchief. (Sorry, this remark is not my own, but I could not help repeating it.) What are their interests? I am better not to waist time on them. Not particularly on the American ones! They are the same everywhere. In short, they are recruited from failed artists, from those who had wanted to become artists but, due to the scarcity of their gift, did not succeed. Instead, in their bitterness, they hate anything around, real painters especially. Honestly, they are not worth the smallest attention. It is not a surprise when an art critic recommends a bad painter and his works. Common taste usually brings better results.
Art supposes communication with specific means. Therefore, firstly communication and secondly the means! If the artist's message does not arrive to the receiver, or the receiver does not understand it, that art does not exist, no matter how sophisticated its means are.
At its origin, the term aesthetis points the purely sensorial perception of extern qualities of bodies and the impressions produced to us by them. Therefore, we cannot talk about aesthetic in the lack of perception. If someone still does it, he is a liar.
"The painting containing the richest and nobles ideas, no matter how clumsy it is expressed, is a painting better and greater than that having poorer and less noble ideas, no matter how nice they would been expressed." It is not I who said this, but one of the greatest authorities: John Ruskin.
Besides, arts for conveying something need to be understandable. What would be a novel written in an unknown language? That's why a "not-understood" artist is a liar, except if he is mad. Anyway, he is not a realised artist, as long he does not succeed in conveying his message, if he has one. An artist is as good as well he says us something on an artistic way. You do not need to be an expert for understanding him. It is the artist who must be persuading.
A good poem is that you learn willing or not. Voltaire said it. In painting it is the same.
¶. All in all, my stay in Georgia was too nice for ending without flaw. This time, I left Atlanta by bus. Greyhound will be from now on my travelling companion. But before leaving, after I had bought my ticket and checked the luggage in, while waiting for the buss, I misplaced the ticket. Realising my mistake, I rushed to the ticket counter - perhaps somebody had found it. Nobody had. I rummaged through all the nearby wastebaskets, but no tickets were to be found. I came to the conclusion that whoever found it would use it, not to travel, but to misappropriate the luggage. I had two very large suitcases and their loss could compromise my whole trip. Although I like to think of myself as a man with self-control, this time I was panic stricken. I had to buy another ticket, but the risk of losing my luggage was still a real one.
Bad luck never comes alone; the bus run late, so that in Memphis, where I was to change buses, there was the risk of not making my connection toward Harrison, my destination, where Shela, my next hostess, would be waiting for me. To miss my meeting with her would be a catastrophe, as I did not know her address and anybody else in the whole state of Arkansas. Harrison is a very small locality among the mountains and probably there is not even a hotel there. As for my luggage, it would have to travel for a long time, as no one would take it out from the luggage compartment of the bus without me. A nightmare was beginning for me when, at last, the bus started from the pleasant Atlanta.
¶. Travelling during the night is boring no matter where you are. I should have slept but events before leaving kept me wide awake. Fortunately in Memphis, where the bus arrived in the morning, two of my worries were dispelled. I was able to see my luggage, therefore nobody stolen it, and the bus for Harrison waited for us. But, before learning all these, was a long time, I had felt a lot of anxiety so that I was exhausted by early in the first hours of the morning.
Memphis, seen in full speed from the bus and with mind stressed by worry, did not appear to me interesting at all. Surely it is a false impression. Memphis is not only Elvis Presley's town but also a great and important town, at least from the economical point of view. Surely, it deserves much more attention, but right now I am not in the mood for such considerations. Maybe I will have the opportunity to do it later. Memphis is the entrance gate in Mississippi delta and this is enough to think about its importance. Its suburbs draw the attention to the fact that it is an agricultural centre as well. After a ring of depots and enterprises, an area of elegant dwellings appears, with much orderly land around. The high life lives here. Yes, Memphis is a large town.
I am travelling on towards Harrison. That means that, immediately after Memphis, comes Arkansas, name with ample resonance in my ears, I do not know why. Probable from the movies! For the beginning, we are crossing a plate area, dull, in which one could hardly note something of interest without becoming boring. With due consideration to people who live on plains, it is boring not to have something on which you can prop your view up. Now it is autumn and the harvest is already gathered, so the field is a perfectly uniform grey plane. Very occasionally, small groups of houses appear, some poorer, other wealthy, but both alike without nothing more around than is necessary for work, namely cars and farming machinery. Extremely seldom, there are two or three trees, almost without shadow. Four trees together are already a luxury. Beside some of the poor houses one can see oil burner cars and old, rusting machinery. The beauty and elegance of Georgia remained away.
¶. Bill's mother comes in my mind with her strong faith. Nowadays European civilisation is considered to be a result of Christian doctrine. Is this assertion quit so true? Europe was under the full Christian doctrine during the Middle Age. The subsequent development started at the same time with the Renaissance, and one of the main aims of the Renaissance was just to diminish the role played by the church. This aim was necessary due to the mistakes that Christian Church had made during the Middle Age. Among the most important ones, there are the edification of a rigid hierarchy of a pyramidal type and its implications in politics. That's why European people are no longer believers but in a small measure.
On the other hand, we could not ignore the role of the religion in our culture and morality. Almost all old paintings and musical works have topics from the Bible and religious topics still inspire nowadays creators. At the time being more than in the past, due to the lack of a morale motivation, more and more people come back to the old faith. That's interesting and proves people's need to have a sense for their life. Most of them find it in the faith particularly because the faith is not linked by politics any longer.
Christianity brings an innovation. Unlike oriental faiths, where the Universe is stable and life is conceived in an endless cycle, in Christianity a being's life is unique. He has and beginning and of course an end. The idea of singleness has great moral implications. All people will go in front of the God for a final judgement. He will weigh everybody's deeds and will give him a new life in the heaven accordingly to his deeds. In this way, people's life gets a sense. They are no longer convict to have a miserable life forever. From some passive, apathetic persons, they have become active people. It could explain the progress of the Europe in the good sense but their bad deeds too (wars, colonial conquest, etc.). Is the Christian morale a good one? We will never know.
Pray or meditation? The word 'meditation' does not have sense in Christian doctrine. It is peculiar for oriental faiths where people meditate for to purifying himself for a future life. A Christian does not meditate but prays. During his prayer, he implores God to help him. People without much will, lazybones, or dishearten implore more often God's help. Trustworthy people instead usually forget the God, thinking that they succeed by themselves. They remember him only before an important but uncertain trial. Then, they ask for God's help to overcome the moment, or to conquer an enemy, even if this battle is contrary to the Christian doctrine. It makes me to think that our emotional mood needs the faith.
In oriental faith, the salvation is individual. Consequently, a good believer insulates himself from the society; he lives in seclusion. Its religion tells him to not make bad acts, but not to make good ones. Christianity did it. From this reason, Christian believers live together, as one could not be good to himself. He needs a receiver for his kindness.
Judaism and Christianity introduced the history: there was a beginning, and will be an end. Everything we do happens within this period of time, and we do it together. We are not some individuals living temporary in an infinite Universe, like in Hinduism. We live together in a limited period of time. Maybe we should think more about it. Man becomes man but by the community's virtues (Socrates).
As the Bible is unique, there is the impression that it is for all the people. Today, every book has an address: books of chemistry, books of geography, books for children, for grownups, etc. Nobody read a book that is supposed to not be addressed exactly to him. No one write a book without address. Just during an author is writing a book, he has in mind someone who will read his book.
Was God wrong thinking that Bible could be for all the people? No, God was not wrong, but when the Bible was written the number of those who were able to read was very small. They used to be the scholars of that time. Consequently, Bible had an exact address, just a very narrow one. They, those wise people, who were scholars, scientists and priests as well, should to read the Bible and convey its philosophy to common people, according to their understanding, using some reasons and parables for children, other ones for adults, some for ignorance and other ones for those with some knowledge. Even Jesus chose ordinary men as disciples, as he wanted to convey his teaching toward even more simple people. (The reciprocal statement is not true at all. Stupid people will never convey something to the others, not even religious ideas, despite of some neo-Protestant missionaries' pretensions.)
Unfortunately, in the meantime, the wise priests disappeared and only simple ones have remained. This happened particularly during the Middle Age, when the clergy join with the political power and caught the test of power and richness. What happened afterwards has nothing in common with the genuine wisdom of Bible.
What is the situation today?
Nowadays, almost all people are able to read and write. But are they all prepared to understand the wisdom of the Bible? Is it enough to read the Bible? Surely, not! A tutor is necessary. Bible will always be the tutor's "manual of reference". The tutors first have to understand its spirit, because Bible must be understand in his spirit, not in its letter.
Yes, it is true that the apostles were illiterate. Just from this reason, they were the best for conveying Jesus' message inside the society where they came from. Literacy would of no use. On the contrary! Nobody would listen to them. But nowadays most people are able to read. Someone similar of an apostle would need to have some master degrees in several fields, probably.
Bible appeared in a certain historical period, when people used to have a certain mentality, some conceptions specific for that time, and were educated according to the doctrines of older religions. In order to make the new ideas understandable, the Bible had to use the language of that time, and needed to combat the bad customs of those times. Today, mankind is different. Not better, but different. The church ought to refer to our customs - good or bad - and to select from the Bible those parables that are still of nowadays interest, or match with our life's questions.
There are many reasons to read the Bible now. Here is one of them. The great masters painted mainly biblical scenes. As the most numerous old paintings feature biblical subjects, it is almost impossible to understand the history of the art, without knowing something about the Bible. But there are many deeper reasons. It is true, the Bible seems to be obsolete now, but this is not true. The priest did it putting the science against the faith. Science and faith may stay together, if we wisely interpret the Bible according to our real life.
Some things are easy understandable. For example, the Bible said that Jesus would come to the Earth and rule as a king. Why "as a king"? Because kings used to be the maximum that a man could be at that time, the maximum, which men could imagine. How would it sound if it had been said "as a president"? Ridiculous, of course! We say king, but understand the maximum of power and - maybe - wise. And so it happens with almost everything from the Bible. Consequently, let's speak about the signification and not about the story!
In ancient Greece, as people used to believe in gods, they were saying that Olympus is the place where gods live. But Olympus is a mountain not so high, and soon people climbed on its top. Then, the priests changed the expression and said that gods live somewhere far away, in a place like a mountain.
Such things happened many times, and the priests have to adapt the ideas to new discoveries, otherwise they lose their credibility. The first Christians believed that God is in Heaven, and the Heaven is in the sky. It was all right as long as the earth was thought to be a platter in the middle of the Universe. Now, the sky is vague definite and nobody is curious to know where the Heaven is. Unfortunately, the priests only in the 15th century hardly understood and accept to change their old ideas. Much too late! Their credibility had been already lost
Of course, nobody believes now in Mythology. But our ancestors did it. We must know the way in which they thought in order to understand them and their works. Also, we must know the most important fairy tales of people from wide world; they are filled with life philosophy.
Some major themes are to be found in any religion, like the deluge. They are the same, but with small differences. Just in those differences we could find deeper philosophical meanings of the religions. By understanding Mythology and Christianity we understand the development of our civilisation.
The human nature is described to be sinful. It is not only the Bible and Judaism that do it. Oriental faiths do the same. I often asked myself why? The single explanation that I found is the feeling of guiltiness of the parents, which know better when and how they conceived their children.
Fortunately, Christianity does not emphasize this idea, and say that Jesus sacrificed himself for it, so that we are responsible only for our mistakes, not for some imaginary ones. It would make us more responsible.
Jesus wanted to show to the people that we are able to fight against to our bad temptations. The Catholic churches are full with images of Jesus' sufferings, but they lost the message. The Orthodox Church was less influenced by occidental doctrine. Here, the Ascension is the central image. This is a more optimistic message: there is a future, therefore there is chance, Jesus will come again, but not a possessed, to massacre most people, as most neo-Protestants threaten us, but as the son of a well-intentioned God. Jesus gave us dignity to stand right, but responsibly.
The idea of an ancestral sin is an ancestral one itself. Most old religions contain it. The abandon of this idea is just one of the most important news that Christianity brought. Jesus died for it, consequently the problem is solved, and the topic is closed. To insist on this point means not to understand what Christianity really is. We are not indebted to make sacrifice for imaginary reasons. Instead, we are responsible for our mistakes. Peter says: "... your sins may be forgiven" (Acts 2:38). Yours and not some ancestral ones! Following Christ's way, we propose to ourselves not to make other mistakes. Jesus Christ gave us the dignity to stand right, but responsible.
Yes, God is forgiving; he always gives us a second chance, but, for it, we must repent and promise (to ourselves firstly) not to fall again in the mistakes, but to follow God's way.
¶. I am a man of the mountains. This explains my lack of understanding for the plain. But this is my problem, and not the lowland people's one. Octavian Paler, a Romanian writer, wrote a very nice essay about the role of the mountains in the development of characters. The mountain is the Romanians' Parthenon, he says. That does not mean that people of land do not have character; they do and, interestingly, just working the dust of the field moulds it. I appreciate it but notice they are different. In the mountain, people rise every day but they take care to return home at night. In the plain, people need patience to sow in spring and wait till the autumn for harvest, if the weather has been kind. A mountain man is a fighter with many difficulties, even with wild animals sometimes. A farmer is a hard worker too, but he is more of a fatalist, because his harvest depends on the weather. Somebody said that with the mountains the earth raises to the sky and, by means of the people, sky (God or gods) descends onto the earth. I quote this from memory, perhaps it is not an exact quote, but that's the general idea.
¶. Jonesboro is the single more important locality on my way. Gradually, we draw near the mountains. That's the other life! The road is narrow and the vegetation abundant. The bus is almost empty. The area become increasingly picturesque, and shows to good account from the tourist point of view. There are numerous lakes with dozens of boats and villas for leisure. One can hire a boat, but it seems to be almost cheaper to buy one. I understand now why I saw many boats beside houses in areas without a lake nearby, even sometimes in the desert. People bought their boats while on vacation and brought them home, hoping to have another opportunity to use them later. Mostly, it remained just a wish, while the boats corroded.
As we advance into the mountains, the resorts occur less frequently. Instead, small mountain localities appear, smaller and smaller, and progressively poorer. Some of them are so disadvantaged that I am wondering how such a thing is possible in the midst of the United States. Beside the road there are some stalls selling second-hand items, maybe even third-hand. At first I thought the sellers were Indians, but they were white people and do not sell handicrafts, but worn out things. As a matter of fact, handicrafts could not be sold, because the tourist area remained far behind. We are now on a secondary road, without tourist traffic. The buyers could not be tourists, but other natives, still poorer than the vendors.
At last, I got to Harrison. The bus station is only a room in a wasteland, where the bus stops for a few minutes. Despite being in the mountains, it is warm and pleasant. The last of my uncertainty is over. Shela is waiting for me in the station. I am saved!
A unique experience: The Bionic Woman.
If you ask Shela about her age, she answers that she has forgotten it. After her appearance, she seems to be about 90 years of age. Actually she is much younger, probably around 70, according to my estimate. By the liveliness of her gestures, she is without age. She talks all the time, even to herself, waves her hands for more eloquence, and smokes a cigarette every fifteen miles, while drives her old Datsun at about 70 miles an hour on a narrow route that winds between mountains. No seat belt of course! Shakes the cigarette ash out through the opened window because fresh air is better than air-conditioning in her opinion. She does not know if air-conditioning unit in her car ever works.
She does not live in Harrison itself, but 25 miles deeper into the mountains, where all fellow citizens know her and she greets them. She has no teeth left, and this seems to be one of her greatest regrets. From this reason she did not allow me to take her photograph, although it would have made a good portrait. Fortunately, her diction is pretty good, more understandable than that of many other people with complete teeth, but she speaks in jargon. Her face has some Asiatic traits, even if she does not admit to such ancestors in her genealogical tree. But in the USA nothing is impossible; maybe she herself does not know.
Her most recent hobby is the Internet, which is how we became acquainted. She knows a lot of things and thirsts to know more and more. When she learns something new, she enjoys herself as much as someone with the gift of a new car.
In the courtyard, a lot of poultry and some animals wait for Shela to feed them in exchange for some conversation. This also provides her with a small income, as the pension - if there is one - seems to be rather little for living.
She regrets the death of her mother many years ago, which she still loves in Shela's mind. I guess there are moments when she thinks her mom is still alive upstairs. During our talks on that first day, she mentioned her twice, each time with tears in her eyes. She finds consolation with a nice Bengalis cat, which sleeps ceaseless, but to whom she talks almost continually. When you caress the cat, it opens one eye, but just for a second, to show that it is alive. Otherwise, only a small red tongue pokes from a mass of grey-beige fur. As with almost any old and lonely woman, Shela is afraid of a lot of things and forgets many things. When the fear and oblivion work together, you could expect surprises. I had a great one.
When she invited me, I did not realise she was so senile and lonely. When I learnt that, it was too late: I was there, with no possibility of leaving before the next day. She had written to me that she has two daughters and mentioned her mother, as she still does, even though the latter does not exist any longer. As for her daughters, they both had left home to work in other places.
We talked about many things. She admired my paintings and I showed her how to use the Internet more efficiently. Things went along in perfect harmony and we continued until late in the evening, although I was very tired from my long journey. It was a pleasant evening. Her desire to know more is still alive for many fields of knowledge, but the Internet is her passion thanks to its novelty. Besides, it gives her a feeling that she is not alone. We went our separate ways to bed eager to resume the conversation next day. After such an exhausting day, I slept like a log. Me, not she!
In the morning, the SURPRISE! I woke up to find a policeman looking at me. Detached, Shela proclaimed that my presence worried her and she thought it best to call a policeman to verify me. The night had been a bad advisor for her. Probably she had telephoned one of her daughters, who scared her more: "Who is that man? Why did you bring him into our house? Get him out immediately!" "Call a policeman!" This particular policeman checked my luggage, for form's shake, but right to the bottom, as if I was some Bolshevik spy. He seemed to be an understandable man, however, and did so more for her satisfaction. At one time he said to her "You must be a detective, madam." Anyway, I could not reproach him anything. Rummaging among my documents he discovered my identity card as a journalist, which I had taken with me by chance, for all contingencies. I do not know if it impressed him, but after no long he left. After the policeman's departure, I repacked my belongings, and she started to apologise. Until noon, when the bus would again pass by, she showed me some of the nicest spots in the region, treated me with some local delicacies, and we talked a lot together. As a matter of fact, initially, she invited me there to see and paint some of the landscapes around. Saying good-bye, we hugged each other and she kissed me on the neck. Her eyes held traces of tears. I find her to be a good-hearted woman, but age had made her fearful and inconsequential. In fact she is good, very cleaver and uncommonly nimble. I will keep a pleasant memory of her, in spite of the trouble that she provoked.
¶. "A fiasco is the place where you rise from, for going on." C. Noica, a Romanian philosopher, said this. I do not know if it is quite so, but it works for me. Maybe Noica is wrong! Then, here is another one: William Arthur Ward.
- The pessimist complains about the wind.
- The optimist expects it to change.
- The realist adjusts the sails.
I. Swalwood is the name of the first driver who put his emblem in the special dwelling where it is written: "Your operator … safe, reliable, courteous". In my previous trip, three years ago, all the bus drivers abided by this rule. I do not know if it is a decline, or just the area that we travel through. Back then I travelled in the north, now we are in the south. Certainly, the north is more "English" than the south in all respects, particularly when it comes to observing the rules. In the south, to arrive late at a rendezvous is almost the norm, whilst in the north it would be an unforgettable impoliteness. Besides being safe, reliable and courteous, I may add that the driver has a passion for baseball, as he keeps asking some boys with headphones to keep him up to date on the evolution of one particular game. Instead, he does not bother himself too much with observing the traffic rules. Running late, he speeds on the mountain road, narrow and sinuous. But he drives very well. I enjoy it, but it is so unusual for the American style.
However, one virtue for which he is being paid is distinctly missing: courteous. During a short stop, I asked him to repeat a phrase, which I had not understood. He did so, but even faster. I did not ask him to word again the phrase. It is the privilege of intellectuals to express the same idea with different words. Common people more usually just repeat the first expression, even if it contains unknown words for the interlocutor. That is why it is much easier to talk with educated people. On this occasion, I felt it was not the cultural level guilty, but unwillingness.
As we travel west, the road descends, as we leave the mountains behind, and finally leave Arkansas. The localities are closer to one another. Cattle's breeding seems to be the main business here, and there are very many buffaloes to be seen. The farms become better organised, more ordered and tidy. Some ranches with breeding horses of noble race appear. It seems we have again entered the United States, after a raid in another world. Even the driver became more likeable. Now, he uses the microphone as a tourist guide and gives information about the places we are going through. He is the first driver who has done this.
Tulsa (Oklahoma) is the name of the first important town. There is still a long distance to go to Albuquerque, New Mexico, my destination. Very long! Tulsa is a nice town with a small downtown area with four tall buildings and several others of moderate size. It seems agreeable just because it has tried to proportion modernism with tradition.
Although I swept through the state of Arkansas through its northern part, it is only now, in Oklahoma, that I cross the Arkansas River. It is an important river, coming over a long and sometimes furious route from the mountains. I found a brochure publishing some trips where tourists can jetboat through its waters, passing whirling waterfalls, cliffs, canyons and all kinds of rocky outcrops. It is true that, before flowing through the plain, the river passed over rock beds and through deep canyons such as the Royal Gorge. What catches my attention is the multitude of collocations for "white water". I met some indicators with this expression for swimming pools in Georgia. The water is not white there as such, yet it suggests that the place is clean, secure, and safe. There are many meanings of the word “white” in Romanian language as well and probably in lots of other ones. The American language is even more dynamic. For example "cool" instead of "hot" for exciting (not inciting) deeds. Coming back to white water, in the brochure on the Arkansas River, one can imagine white foam washing over rocks. "But the trip will be secure if you do it with xxx, which is the best company in this field. A hazardous adventure becomes a joyful but secure escapade thanks to our experience. With only $200 you can spend two unforgettable days, blah, blah, blah…" It might be "cool", but not for me right here and now. So far everything is all right, but there is a nuance: if the white is so good, in contrast black becomes the opposite idea of clean, secure, etc. I am afraid we will never know if this nuance is just accidental.
¶. Life can be intricate but man has the capacity to pass over its tribulations by more than one means. One of them is the forgetfulness. He forgets unpleasant episodes and goes on. The predilection of men for soldier's jokes has just this explanation. Only small amusing events remain in the memory, as if military service had been nothing else but a continuous entertainment. Big mistake! All the same, I have to commit the same error as well, because the episode with Shela is best forgotten at least for psychological reasons. I think that from this point of view I have already surpassed the critical moment. It remains to see how I will succeed in getting over the palpable effect on the trip schedule. I had been planning to stay there, among the mountains, where I could paint and put my notes in order. Painting was necessary, because I had left six of my best large paintings in a gallery in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Those that remained are too few for an exhibition, even for showing to art dealers. From now on, it will be more and more difficult to paint, as friends accommodate me a short time (The traveller fits in with the travel, doesn't it?) and hotels are too expensive for me. I shall see! Tomorrow is another day. Do you remember Scarlet O'Hara? Atlanta is far away now. For the moment I am best to forget what could be ballast, namely worthless and pernicious.
Speaking of forgetfulness, I have always found interesting the proximity of meanings between the verbs to forget and to look back. It does not work in English but it obviously did in Romanian and, probably, in old Greek. I do not know for sure, but Orpheus' legend makes me think so. Let me explain. In Romanian language, to forget and to look back are homonyms: "a uita". As far as the legend goes, it is nice. Thanks to his special qualities, Orpheus had got the privilege to bring back to life Eurydice, his wife, who had just died. Persephone, Hades' wife, who granted him this unexpected favour, asked him not to look behind on his homeward journey until they reached the upper world. Everything goes well but, when they were about to get out, he looked back for assuring of Eurydice really was walking behind him. At that moment, Eurydice vanished back into the darkness of the underworld. In a moment of wandering, Orpheus forgot (a uitat) his engagement, and looked back (s-a uitat inapoi). Later, a fierce band of women killed him and threw his head into the Hebrus River. The head continued to sing for Eurydice and was carried as far as Lesbos, where the muses buried it. Let's remind that his mother, Calliope, was a muse too. In Greek philosophy everything takes part in a cycle, and comes back to where it departed from. Also, singing means to obey the memory.
Perpetual return is the fundamental principle in most old faiths, which even the Greeks could not elude. The Jews broke the cycle and the Christians perfected it. They created history, namely something that has a beginning and will have an end. Wow! The Greeks, at the height of their advanced conception, had the notion of infinite only for the time, not for the materiel. According to their conception, atoms were of a finite number. It results from this theory that, however great the possible number of combinations would be, as time is infinite, the atoms will return to identical configurations already seen in the past. Consequently, every shape of life will return somewhere at the same stage after a while. From here, it comes the idea of the cycle, reaffirmed in nature in an infinite number of forms and confirming the idea of perpetual return.
Oriental faiths start from the idea that, removing wish, we get rid off the sufferings. But pain is a sign that something goes wrong. It is only a symptom. Removing it we do not remove the cause. Consequently, we must correct our wrong way, behaviour, or convictions. This is the only way. We cannot make a perfect thing for the first time. Not even God did not succeed. He still works for improving his creation. As for the Bible, it needs many up-to-dates.
Happiness is everybody's major aim. Any man seeks for his own happiness. That's why all serious religion tried to give a way to its parishioners. Usually, they are persuaded to do nothing but follow a pre-established way. Doing it, they are happy being are sure they are on the right way.
As for me, I must confess that I love to learn as much as possible; I split hair for it. Maybe this is a flaw and not a quality, as I am happy only for the moment, when I have just learnt something, but I am not happy generally.
¶. But I philosophise too much for a tired traveller, and in the meantime night has fallen. Oklahoma Ci ty, Amarillo - the names sound fine but for now they are only bus stations in the night. I am used to sleeping in the bus by now. In Amarillo I make brief contact with Texas. Brief because the bus route crosses Texas only on a short sector of its northern part. Short, but powerful! At least in the bus station there are plenty of specific products and publicity materials. Texas is a well-known name and everyone loves to see it. Maybe I will have the opportunity to see the real Texas later. For the time being, my travel continues toward New Mexico.
¶. I took a good nap, albeit the bus is not the ideal place for sleeping. On the one hand I am feeling refreshed but, on the other hand, looking through the bus window, I think I have hallucinations. Tens of multicolour balloons float in the sky as one's eye can see. They are not small balloons, but some very large ones, with nacelles. Some of them are very high, while others pass among the buildings to which we are just coming around. I pinch myself to see whether I am awake, look again, look to my next-chair neighbours and try to understand. Yes, they are real balloons, and we are entering Albuquerque, New Mexico. It is five minutes to seven in the morning of the 27th September and the Balloon Fiesta has started here.
What the Americans do not make for a play! Everything has begun 25 years ago with 13 balloons and 10,000 spectators. (It is a folding publicity prospectus that says this.) Today, they are hundreds and the spectators unnumbered. Some balloons have odd shapes; the more original the better. The mornings are for the flights properly. They leave very early, in order to catch the favourable air currents. With some money, anyone may have a soaring. How much? I do not know. Try to 01-800-351-9588, if they did not change the number, in the meantime! In the evenings, performances of sound and lights are organised, when they launch thousands and thousands of small balloons. For free! (For spectators) Lots of fans bring them from great distances, on their money, only for the beauty of the spectacle.
The Americans' soul is to be seen here clearer as anywhere. It is easy to say about such spectacles that they are childish. Too easy, simplistic and effortless! Maybe just preserving a bit from this childish exultation is a part of the explanations of their success. Unfortunately, in Romania rather few people know to enjoy themselves.
Johan Huizinga wrote a book about the play: Homo Ludens. Huizinga is a very serious savant, and the sub-title of his book is "Essay of determination of the ludic element of the culture". He says the play is performed in the fullest seriousness. It has its rules. It is the play that teaches the man to keep the rules. Firstly, he does it with good humour, without stress and on his own initiative. Huizinga persuades us that everything that man does, no matter how serious, is what he learnt playing, during his childhood. In the whole his life, he will put into practice the methods learnt then, and will be respectful of those rules. Even the most cruel war, is a play too. (Not for all! I remember a maxim of a Greek, I think: when children throw with stones in frogs, just for the fun, the frogs do not die for the fun, but in reality.)
On the other hand, the play is exaltation and ecstasy. By means of play, the man isolates himself in time and space from usual life. For a moment, he lives in another world. The main role of the play is to stimulate the imagination. Yes, this is the key! The new ideas come by playing, when we let our brains to frisk. One's intellectual value seems to be directly proportional to his availability to enjoy himself.
The Americans have balloons. Some of them have big ones, but others only small ones. Each of them according to his possibilities! I do not know whose joy is greater but incline the think that small balloons do it better. When I was a beginner as a skier, my joy was maxim; later on, as I used to learn better, my joy became smaller and smaller, because my exigencies were greater and greater.
¶. Elaine and James are the name of my friends in Albuquerque. They are not at home just now, so that I have checked in at a motel belonging to the net of Motel 6 motels. I have chosen such a motel because I was told the prices are less and they are clean and safety enough. This one proved that the information was true. Besides, there are not lorry drivers at such motels, only motorists.
Till tomorrow, when James will come to pick me up, I have time for visiting the town. Of course I begun with downtown but this is not very interesting. It is new, clean but it has not the air of the great metropolis. Instead, there is the "Old Town". Here, they preserved the old buildings, so that one can see how the town looked like, but only as exterior aspect, because the indoors, except the church, were turned into shops full of handicrafts. What is surprisingly is the contrast between the Spanish style of the buildings, proving their Mexican origin, and the local Indian origin of all the things for sale. There is nothing Mexican here. As for this kind of handicrafts, it is very interesting and I can't help admiring most of the things but, what is attractive for the beginning, become tiresome and boring after a while. Fascinating for the beginning thanks to the variety of forms and ideas, proving an amazing imagination, become unbearable in short time. It is too much.
Between the "Old Town" and the new downtown, I have just discovered a very and original - for me - area. At the first sight, the dwellings look like some extremely modest ones, made by disdained materials, but here most of them are real residences of rich people. Houses of the adobe style! For the beginning, I hardly realised the difference between a poor house and a rich one. I needed some time. If the exterior aspect is not very imposing, the inward surely is. This may show a feature of people's character. They do not want to display what they really are. It could be modesty, decency, but demureness, or falsity as well. Or maybe they think that this style would be noble. Is it snobbery? Snob is a word coming from French, as an abbreviation for "sans noblesse" (without nobility), for featuring the parvenus seeking for an old but false tradition and pretensions. Is here the case? I do not know, but anything is possible in the country of the all possibilities. On the other hand, here is very hot and these houses are cooler. I noticed also the unthinkable great number of lawyers, most of them specialised in divorces, sharing, and others of this kind. This seems to be a searchable and profitable profession.
But Albuquerque is a town of contrasts. It had a weak economic development in the past, due to the inhospitable, semi-deserting, climate of the area, and a bloom of the economic prosperity after the WW 2nd, which took advantage of the same dry and warm climate, but with water brought from the mountains and modern systems of air-conditioning. Of course, the climate was not the single cause. It is here where "atomic era" begun in 1945 with the first successful experience of the first bomb in Jornada del Muerto and, after it, lots of scientific institutes of research and high-technology factories appeared. Once again, the desert is an advantage for this kind of activities, because it is easier to watch an area where there is nothing moving and you have large visibility. Jornada del Muerto, which means "the journey of the dead", was life for New Mexico.
I am wondering who knows not that Romania turned the arms at 23 August 1944, which brought the end of the war at least 200 days earlier? The military historians said it! Among the consequences is that the first atomic bombs would were German, not American, and first aims in London, not in Japan. The world would be different now. But it did not happened. Unfortunately, the after-war politicians ignored Romania's sacrifices in the second part of the war, and left it under Soviet hard occupation, who tried to destroy everything of Latin and European tradition, in order to impose a Slav domination.
¶. Elaine and James proved to be good friends. She is a teacher and he is an engineer. They live at about 20 miles north, in a nice mountain area. As both of them work, I spent alone some mornings of working days, visiting Albuquerque or painting. Instead, we had nice evenings speaking a lot. In spite of my tiresome - speaking English is not easy for me - I keep a nice remembering of those nights. Doing painting was necessary because I had to repair some spoiled paintings, and making others, as I left six of my best paintings in Florida, and what remained were too few or a good offer. As a matter of fact, painting was one of my aims in Arkansas, but I missed this opportunity. But did I ever write that I am a painter as well? I am not remembering! If not, I write now. Yes, in time I have turned this hobby into a second profession, so that I may say now that I am a painter. Not a famous one (so far :)) but a professional enough.
Speaking about James, he is a very nice fellow, both physical and social. He is handsome, thin and with a remarkable sportive carriage for his 60 years. He is very careful of his family, and shares his thoughts between the very old mother living alone in west and the two daughters studying in New Your, in east. One day he had a great joy, as the smallest daughter called for saying she had passed the examination for admission as candidate for a doctor's degree. Naturally, the news made him particularly happy.
The next year he will retire and already wonder how to fill the time. I have the painting, he said, but what will he do? I am sure he will not have troubles with what to do. He is an active person, and such people are never bored. I often remarked that, after retiring, people who were busy become busier, because they propose to themselves to do more things than they can do. Only those without initiative, those who had an activity of routine and worked under other's direction, could not find something to do. It will not be James' case.
Remarkable is his wish to inform, and the way in which he knows how to put questions, and listen the answers. Few people know to put pertinent questions. We may say that one's intellectual qualities are easier to identify after the way in which he puts questions, than after his answers. He must know exactly the limits of his knowledge, and ask only for extending the limits. He also needs to make known him limits to the interlocutor, because only in this way he will receive good answers, suitable to his own understanding. It is not easy, and it is not just usual, but James knows how to do it. We talked almost every evening till late in night, which was very tiresome for me, as I had to answer in English at questions that sometimes were difficult even in Romanian. But he knows to talk in an opened and thrilling way, so that I would love to never stop our chat, even if I used to be deep sleepy and less and less able to concentrate myself.
In such an evening, we listened to a CD that I had brought from Romania, with folk songs, interpreted by Maria Tanase, a famous Romanian singer. I watched James' reactions. He was very attentive. I had had similar experiences with other friends, but their reactions were different. Of course, they were not obliged to love Romanian folk music. I do not it myself too much, but Maria Tanase has a special interpretation. There is a question that I have in my mind for long time ago. It is known that a large base is necessary for a high top. A country needs many small musicians and a good folk music from which high professionals may raise themselves. Romania has very many high professionals, but its folk music is not appreciated too much. Why? Probably I first need to prove that Romanian professionals really are some good ones. It is easy. There are numerous famous and acknowledged Romanian musicians in the World. The great percent of foreign musicians in Vienna of Romanian origin proves it. Iehudi Menuhin himself chose a Romanian teacher - George Enesco - for developing his skill. On the other hand, I must confess to a weakness for Spanish music, particularly for the Latino-American one. For all that, there are not so many great musicians from there. Anyway, we cannot take up the thesis that Romanian people are exceptional gifted for music. The explanation of some Romanian musicians’ success lies in the existence of a good music school moulding professionals of great value. The same is with the Romanian school of mathematics or gymnastics. Mathematics is a cheep science - it needs only some paper and a pencil - and it was a valve of way out from the isolation, for those wanting to do something important. The Romanian feminine gymnastics started in a very small town, where two ambitious teachers rallied the energy of some children. It is there where Nadia Comaneci trained. Later, those two teachers became the coaches of USA team. Later on, more schools with gymnastics profile settled up, but it does not mean that Romanian girls make more gymnastics. On the contrary, in my opinion they make a few sports. Consequently, the initial hypothesis was false. There is not need a large base for high top.
In the second visit in Albuquerque, I saw another part of the town, with new and large malls. I found here a shop with my name. The owner wrote it Georgiou; more simple and with the same pronunciation. It is amusing that shop assistants realise immediately that I am a foreigner, before opening my mouth. One of them has just addressed me with these words. I am wondering how is that, because my clothes are not specific at all. The shoes are Italians, the trousers American, the blouse without nation and ... oh, yes, the handbag from Austria drawn his attention. The shop has a large stand of bags, and mine is different. As a specialist he remarked it. Unfortunately, not only he remarks it, but also some people in streets, so that I need be careful in doubtful and crowded areas. But there is another thing for attracting the vendors' attention: my attitude of a person looking at everything but for nothing, betraying the visitor from me.
In a mall, a lady is jogging, even if outside is very nice and surely it would be more pleasant for her. Besides, she makes very odd and disgraceful movements. But this is the level at which some Americans perceive the freedom: to feel free to do what you want, including to show some old, fat and waved thighs, regardless of others' opinion.
Speaking about freedom, I am still wondering whether the Americans really are free, and what the freedom is. They are strongly indoctrinated, and feel free inside of the limits of their education. They never think beyond of these limits. Of course, it is convenient to do so in the most prosperous country in the world, under the remark that this is not freedom but opportunity. Their attitude is most visible abroad, where only their interests count.
Things that never existed, or no longer exist, incite our interest more than those easy reachable. The former Route 66, crossing America from a coast to the other, might be a dream for many fans of the tourism some years ago, but the new highways made it useless. It does not exist any longer, but people turned its name into a symbol good for marketing. A mile from the old route is enough for tens of magazines, restaurants and advertising. Route 66 creates nostalgia to the elder ones and some mister for youth. People age, objects disappear, and hardly remain a memory of them; only the trade is endless. Once again it is proved the Americans know how to do commerce.
¶. Unfortunately, in Albuquerque there are not art galleries, except those very modest ones from the Old Town. I was told that Santa Fe and Taos are the towns of art in New Mexico. Thanks to James kindness, we visited Santa Fe on Saturday. It was one of my great days. From a symbol of American railways, but where trains never pass, Santa Fe became a symbol of arts. All the houses of a street had been turned into art exhibitions. One-person exhibitions, group exhibitions, art galleries, and so on. Good or less good, small or large, all kinds of exhibitions were to be found there, on a single street. I loved it very much. Crews of tourist of all the nationalities come to visit them, but I did not see people to buy. It is practically impossible to see all, and it is a pity. They are much too many. The American style of greatness is disastrous here. We spent a day there and saw less than 10 %. The rest was lost for us. The quality is irrespective of the dimension of the buildings. Most good artists have chosen small houses, often in former outbuildings, accordingly to their financial possibilities. They have a few visitors, unfortunately. The large buildings generally belong to some dealers. Art works are of all qualities there. Good and very good works are not absent, but a great quantity of failed artists' products is, brought by histrionic dealers. You must stay there long time for selling something, and Santa Fe is an expensive town; it is the capital-city for New Mexico. Instead, in the centre of the town, there are several large and very nice galleries, where I would be able to exhibit. Besides, it is the place from which people buy. Unfortunately, paintings must be framed, and I had not time and money for it. Anyway, those are the kind of galleries what I search for. Maybe next time I will be better prepared. In Spanish, Santa Fe means "the holy faith", so that I have to believe it.
Ending my narration about Santa Fe, I can't help writing a simple conclusion, probably obvious without saying: it was an unforgettable day. Unforgettable and pleasant! Not a cloudless sky, a mild autumnal sun and a breeze just for air us for feeling well between two exhibitions. I did not conclude any business, only some promises for the future, but I liked the day. I feel myself now more fulfilled with a day, with such a day about which you may say that it deserves to be lived.
¶. Sunday we visited an "Indian pueblo": a lot of dust, strong wind and a fat Indian speaking how Spaniards victimised them. Nothing about what the Americans did. "To the praised Christmas tree do not go with a large bag" is a Romanian saying, suitable for the huge advertisements inviting us to visit such see-sighting spots. There is nothing from the promised Indian dances, costumes, ceremonies, and generally from Indian culture and customs. The most natives have left long time ago. Those few that we can find are here only for money from tourists, and they are very concerned with this. Claim for money for everything! The visit lasted an hour and half, not because the village would be so large, but the guide spoke all this time. He was an Indian with 200 pounds over his normal weight, and a droll cap. And the dust... It is unthinkable from where could come so much dust! And this strong wing that thrusts it not only in the nose and eyes, but also in drawers! Of course, the most important building is the church: a monster from the architectural point of view. I never saw something more ugly. (Inside, there is a large panel full of icons, which is very surprising for a Catholic Church.)
It is interesting that, in spite of the Spaniards' efforts to Catholicise the natives, they kept their traditional faiths.
As anything in excess, the commerce with Indian goods has become wearisome.
¶. The bus is full up. The air-conditioning is a boon in such condition. What worries me is the great number of children. Two rows in front of me, there is a boy, about six years old, who is difficult to be restrained.
Generally, on tours, we are usually in a hurry to see as many sightseeing spots as we can. Unhappily, we are tired and there is not enough time. There is no space for deep thoughts. Some ideas cross our minds like flashes, but we put them on the back burner until oblivion covers them definitively. But on these long American roads, there is time enough, too much... For me there is just the time for noting all kind of thoughts.
In the meantime, all children have fallen asleep, except for that one in front of me, but - surprisingly - he is a good boy. His parents are blameable, not him. They did not care of the child, did not want to, and they are sleeping now. Instead, the little boy has found comfort in playing alone. It is just remarkable how a child could play so quietly in less than one square yard. Now I understand his restlessness from the beginning: he knew his parents, and was trying to keep them awake; unfortunately all his endeavours were in vain
In a Greyhound station, I heard someone asking for a ticket at reduced price as far as Santa Fe. As Santa Fe means "The Holy Faith", we may amuse ourselves thinking which one is better: a whole faith at half price, or a half faith at full price?
As I already mentioned, the Americans assure us that almost everything that might be "the biggest" is to be found in the USA, starting with the greatest dwarf and finishing with the greatest pit in the world. Sometimes, they are right! The pit is the crater made by a meteorite dropped not far away by our route, about 35 miles east of Flagstaff. The leaflet that I have in my hand informs us about "The Planet's Most Penetrating Natural Attraction". (After such a natural penetration, we may violate everything much more quietly.)
¶. This meteorite reminds me of other meteorites, much smaller, but from which people obtained the first samples of pure iron. At that time, they used iron for making jewellery. What a time!!! Iron Age came later, when people learnt how to extract iron from ore, but nobody tells us about an age of steel. It is amazing how superficial the books of history are, and even what we consider to be general education. We learn the exact data when some events occurred, but rather less about why they happened, and which were their causes. Of course, the events are important, because they are landmarks in the line-time, helping us to fix in our memory the real exploits in history. Still they are not "the history"; they are only some of its landmarks. For example, it is usual to consider 1492, the year when the America was discovered, as finishing the Middle Age and the beginning of the Renaissance, even if they do not have any connection, or maybe just because of it. Taking an independent event, we do not have to choose among the real ones, and to arouse useless contests in this way.
Let's return to the iron, meteoric or not. How many historians know how small the difference is between the composition of iron, cast iron and steel, and when the scholars found out it? Those whom I asked replied that they are not engineers, and do not care about this subject. It is not surprising that we see in some movies people using objects made by materials that were still not known at that time. The history of 18 and 19 centuries without the details of the most important inventions concerning the production of steel and its derivates looks like a story for children. So how does someone speak about steel, if he does not really know what it is?
Here is another example: we learn that Louis XIV was one of the greatest kings of France. In fact he was only the beneficiary of the monarchic system, which had arrived at his zenith. He did not realise that the monarchic system was coming to an end, and pushed the system beyond its admissible limits. He is the one who destroyed it. Due to his great mistakes, he brought its end sooner, hastening its death. He was on the top of the monarchy, but he did not create it, and was not at all the wisest king. Quite the opposite, he was its gravedigger. The fact that he was a top monarch was not due to his merits, but of his ancestors. If the historians speak about him as being a great king, it is because they saw him on the top. Besides, they show his mistakes as great events of that epoch, and glorify his exaggerations, though they led to the collapse of the monarchic system.
The historians always use simplified schemes, according to their conception, sometimes just with political interests. The history that my parents learnt in school was wholly different from what the communists tried to teach us during the communist regime. A history written by a French historian is different from one written by an English historian. An economist and a religious preacher look the history from some very different points of view. I can understand it, but I cannot accept a smatter as historians. That's why there is not a real, correct, complete and thorough history, and each of us have our own history, a synthesis of what we have read and understood, according to our own conception. “History often is the painting of stupidities and crimes”. (Voltaire)
The steel is only an example that comes in my mind, due to "Meteor Crater", but there are many others. It was a humanist, Victor Hugo, who said, "You admire especially what you understand". The statement is correct. Odd is that nowadays "humanists" understand very little from scientific and technical fields. For not enter in such subjects, they often are in a hurry to say that they are not skilled in such fields, but with arrogance consider that what they know is "The Culture". I think this is "The Imposture": to consider having important ideas with little knowledge. Mathematics teaches us to think rigorously, with method, sequential and without gaps. To have a good head for mathematics proves to have a good head for thinking. The student who abandons it proves his inability of thinking. But it does not hamper him to follow a humanist carrier and, after it, to teach us how to think. (There is an exception: the one who taught me to think systematically was my teacher of Romanian Literature, probably because the topic is not systematic, but the teacher was.)
In Romania of '50 years, for example, under the Russian's supervision, they wrote a new textbook of history, full with "class struggle of exploited people against to the exploiter one" and of course the "huge role of Russian communists". The history classes became for several years classes of political propaganda. From my classmates, not a single one chose history as profession, as it would be immoral. And still some people did it. Are they real historians? Are they searchers seeking for the truth? Are they at least honest? Not at all! Several years later, things changed, but in the meantime those "historians" became teachers. Things like that occurred not only in Romania, but also in most countries and times. Now, if you want to learn something about a certain historical event, you must read at least three authors of different origin.
At the other extremity, the scientists are. They want to know as much as they can, devote themselves entirely to their work and, as a consequence, the field of their activity become more and more narrow.
In the United States, I had the opportunity to look into a book of history for high schools. There are lots of mistakes concerning the south-east part of the Europe, with or without tendency. On its maps, Romania does not appear. Of course, it is a small country, but the word “Bulgaria” appears instead of it, even if Bulgaria, from the geographic point of view is a state at Romania’s south border, three times smaller. As from the historical point of view, it played a smaller role, as most part of time it was under Ottoman Turkish Empire’s occupation.
In such conditions, it is not surprising that, between the two extremities, some sly boots, skilful in manipulating people, become leaders and make as local as world's politics.
To not disdain what you do not understand is a matter of common sense. But common sense is a matter of morale, and morale keeps by the philosophy. In the antiquity, the philosopher used to be the scientists of their time in all fields of knowledge. It is not accidentally that Schopenhauer said that he who wants to make serious philosophy ought first to study deeply an exact science.
As for Marx, a joking fellow said that if Marx had been an authentic scientist, he would have tested his system at the animals firstly. Anyway, George Orwell's "Animal's Farm" was on the literary plan much a successful experiment than Lenin's Russia on the plan of reality. I do not know if Orwell knew something about steel, but he surely had genius.
Erasmus from Rotterdam called such fellows "lettered fools". The morale: if you do not own genius, learn something about steel.
In this point I lost many readers, I think. But I do not write this book for stupid people. Let's go on with the others.
¶. In the meantime, the little boy passed beyond the limits of his place. The first who accepted him was a single man in front of me who did what child’s parents refused: to play with him. The next "victim" was myself. As my English is not so good for a chat with a child, I preferred to ask him questions, instead of answer at his unforeseeable ones. As this was not what he was wanting, he abandoned me soon, which I must recognise was very comfortable to me. He is overall now, and gained the liking of the other passengers, just because they remarked his parents' behaviour. The little boy proved to be a nice and intelligent guy, starting with the fact that he knew how to play alone more then an hour in a tiny space and without toys.
¶. In animals, it is the female that selects. The male only courts her delicately, and bedizens him to be remarked. Therefore, the female is the chief. The male is only the owner of the ground, its guardian, and fight with other males for it. It is amusing and amazing to watch how a small lady-dog sands away a big male-dog with a simple and short barking, sometimes only a snarling, and he will leave humbled and quietly. I never saw a male to treat rudely or force a female. In mankind's world it is upside down. Women titivated and men chose. This difference between people and animals surely is true. The others are less for sure.
¶. On this very long route, I remembered the advice to not buy an old car. It is true: how could I have broken a deadlock without help. But why without help? What kind of society is this where people do not help each other? I think that the percentage of the highwaymen is not greater here than in Romania, where people still help. It does not mean that Romania is a country to covet. Quite the contrary! The same process is going on there too. The matter is the direction toward which the society goes. And why it goes there? For the Americans there is an answer: too much propaganda. They are educated in this way. Why? Please, do not ask me!
¶. Easy, easy, we are approaching to Flagstaff. I do not understand why the Americans have a flagstaff (the staff (stick) of the flag) here but spread their flag everywhere.
Before leaving Albuquerque, I had planned to visit Grand Canyon, but I changed my mind. It would be expensive enough and without utility for me. I thought that the whole canyon is scattered with chalets, cottages, villas and hotels, that it may be visited going along to the river from one end to the other, and people move free like in Romanian mountains. Now I learnt that the great part of the canyon is wild and tourists may not visit it. There are only several places from where one may admire the scenery, and where only buses arrive, starting mostly from Flagstaff. This is not for me. Natural scenarios do not impress me very much, and I was told there are not art galleries there. I had hoped to be able to stay there some days, to wander up and down and painting. Going by bus to some fixed points for seeing the sceneries that I already saw in numberless photos would be a trip rather expensive for my budget, smaller and smaller with every passing day. That’s why I took the bus toward Las Vegas. Maybe the grapes are too sour for me. Now I take myself off Flagstaff, even if I leave behind some small regrets.
Leaving Flagstaff, the bus crosses a forest. I did not see one for more than two weeks. That is possible now, because the road ascended on a higher mountain. The bus passengers are quite different now. There are a few of them, most being well dressed. This time the destination is Las Vegas. The most elegant is an elderly couple, with a princely air, typical for southeastern Asia, maybe India. A real prince probably does not travel with buses, but maybe they are some went down ones. If they hope to remake their fortune in Las Vegas, I complain them. They could be also some quacks, pretending to be princes, but I do not think so. They seem to be honest. Anyway, I like them at distance of several yards.
After a while, the road lowered and the same vegetation of the semi-desert appeared, if the word vegetation is not too much for several shrubs, a grass burned by sun and, of course, the cactuses. The sun is on the point of setting down. Its slanting rays lighten the shrubs and the grass, which become so much brilliant as dry they are. This is a small paradox that reminds me a Montaigne's maxim (I think): man is like wheaten; as empty he is, as haughty he is. But we can imagine other less malicious maxims as well:
With or without maxims, the sunset is beautiful. The light has a different colour. The reddish soil, the dry vegetation, I do not know what the exact cause is, but the landscape really is nice.
Yes, light is not visible directly, but only through its effects. It needs an object able to reflect light and prove in this way that light exists. In the inter-stars space it is dark because there are not objects to reflect light.
Consequently, I cannot hope that people will remark my cleverness (J), only exposing my body walking along the streets. I must speak to someone hearing and understanding me.
The road rises again, this time on much higher mountains. The slopes are extremely steep and long. The vegetation lacks, as for the localities, they disappeared totally. There is nothing to view except the lights of cars coming from the other sense. I do not know why the sleep does not seize me, although I am already tired, and the journey became as boring as possible.
¶. I am thinking again to several professions like historians, teachers, and even writers. Many parents encourage - sometimes guide - their children to follow a profession in according to what is supposed to be children's vocation. Theoretically it is right, but practically not always. Here are two kinds of mistakes:
Now I am thinking to writers. There is the idea that a writer is someone able to handle words easily. Exaggerating a little, this conception is similar with someone saying that a writer must be a good calligrapher. In my opinion, a true writer must have something to say. Unfortunately, we are not able do discern such talent in a child. He needs first to live some experiences of life, to learn a lot, to understand something, and put to himself some questions. The genial writers have the intuition of the future; the more modest ones can relate events from their epoch. But those who have nothing to say do not exist as writers, not matter what they print on their visit-card, no matter how many books they published, with or without help of some cultural societies. The form in which they write certainly is important. But, as a form without content is of nobody's interest, their books will have the same fate as any packing, if they do not say anything.
Theoretically, the literature may seize all the fields of knowledge. Consequently, the ensemble of all writings might means culture, but a single writer is not necessary a man of culture, especially if his writings are only some superficial, sometimes romantic, descriptions of feelings or facts. Then the difference between literature and culture might be immense.
¶. Meanwhile, I dozen and now I have awaked in a very lighted area. Certainly, it is Las Vegas. Finally we arrived!
As everyone, I knew that Las Vegas must be shocking, particularly thanks to the illuminated signs. Surprisingly, they are not as strident as I had imagined before. The cause is their number. It is similar with what in nature it occurs. Nobody projected it, but it is nice just because of its infinite variety. The lights are strong, of different colours and as many as possible. Every square yard is used. The general effect is not strident, but just harmonious.
A good intentioned taxi driver carried me to a very closed and cheap hotel. I came here for seeing the art market, not to gamble, so that my intention is to stay only a short time. Tomorrow a new day will be for me, even if I am not Scarlet, Atlanta is far away behind me, and the times are different.
¶. In the morning, I found out that what I saw from the bus station was the "Old Town". The new one, "The Strip", is quite different. Between them, within several miles, only those small wedding chapels are nice. Fremont, the main street from the Old Town is at least original. It has a cupola that blurs the light of days, and lightens in nights. Besides its utility, every night they make there a spectacle of sound and light. It is magnificent. In the middle of the street, you are in the middle of the show, feeling the strong sound with whole your body, and seeing the colourful images around.
With their looks focused toward nowhere, seeming deeply plunged in their thoughts - but probably without any - some players are still here for nobody knows when, as time has not days or nights here. They are odd now, in the morning, for us who are fresh after a good sleep. But they are not many. Most of the visitors are only tourists come here by curiosity. Of course, they will gamble, but not much, just for curiosity too. Odd enough is the high percentage of women gamblers. It seems that women - unsatisfied with their financial income - are greater in number than men. Other supposition might be ambition, or to belief in fate.
The new Las Vegas consists in several huge hotels, each of them in a different architectural style. The bad taste often put in shade the beauty of some other nice buildings. Of course, grand floor of every hotel is full with table and automates for gambles. Some hotels are still being built. Everything is made to impress, but all these would be nothing without the human spectacle. Thousands of people moving up and down give life and sense to everything. Of course, only a few come here for gambling. My principle is to “not risqué more than you are ready to lose”, and I did not own money to lose. Most people come there from curiosity, just for the spectacle. They are the actors and the spectators in the same time. They look to one other and think ‘what interesting’! I did the same, and I am happy. It deserved this small detour that I made in the way toward California.
¶. Las Vegas is a town where art leaps from kitsch to the hotel's decoration. (The second is probably well paid.) With very small exceptions, there are not art galleries, or exhibitions, probably because the space is very expensive. I do not think that people would not buy paintings at all, but nobody offers them. There are not art dealers. Probably the business with art objects would be rather small in comparison with other products. There are huge quantities of trinkets and keepsakes. Commerce must take account by the visitors' demand. If customers ask for kitsch, the merchants will offer kitsch. If nobody guides people, the common sense will go more and more down. In the past, there were those "mecena" of arts, some sponsors, for using a nowadays term. Of course, they did not do that without reasons. On the contrary, they had great interests. Large and well-decorated houses were necessary for showing how powerful the owners are. Also, they used to organise spectacles for attracting other influential people. Those houses were the places where the great commercial and political acts occurred. But, for having an impressive house, the owner must take account not by his taste, good or bad, but the only the good taste. Finally, his art collection and generally everything he used to do became a standard for the good taste.
What do we do now? Most customers are common people, without much education. Their demands became the standard. In the lack of a guided action, any trend is negative. This is a non-disputable mathematics law. Consequently, we go down!
It would be sad to limit arts only at its decorative role, something that put a hatband, a small flounce to a dress or a building. It is the art that educates us. People are educated not as much thanks to Shakespeare's poems, or Einstein's formulas, but thanks to art, and not only by any kind of art, but art which people are able to perceive. Therefore, art must communicate.
I hardly discovered an art gallery in a big mall. A singe one! For the moment I had become optimist. Two persons working there liked my paintings, so the business was about to be concluded, I thought. It was true: they used to own many and very nice statues, but few and not too good paintings. Mine was looking beautiful among theirs. But, they said there is a “buyer” who decided, and he is going to come after two days. They also said that I might stay calm because the buyer takes account of their opinion, and they have already decided. I stayed two days more for I knowing the great cad that I ever met. No trace of those two people whom I talked to two days ago. The "buyer" did not want to hear of me. He works only for a group of artists.
The small hotels are not expensive in Las Vegas. Also the food, but those two days were a useless expense for my budget. I remained with the remembrance of the Las Vegas itself.
¶. There are lots of buses between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. You need not plan the travel, or to buy tickets in advance. Simply go at the bus station and go with the following bus.
¶. I have a friend in Los Angeles, with which I correspond for seven or eight years, but this time he could not house me, because of his landlord. Eric, my friend, is a bachelor living in lodging. In my previous trip, I stayed a week with him, but then his landlords were gone off to a balloon fiesta, probably just like I saw in Albuquerque. Now it is Eric, who will visit me in the hotel. He is as tall as thin, with red hair, driving an old car as small that I always wonder how he goes in. I know he had bought another car, also old and small. He says that it is cheaper to drive a small car, and the risk of be plundered by thieves is minimum with an old car. The car is only a means of transport for him. He is a mathematician, but he would love to be an artist. I tried to explain that mathematics could be an art too, but without success.
Last time, three years ago, to my surprise, Eric informed me that one of the most important things for him is his church, where he goes every Thursday and Saturday afternoon, and Sunday mornings. First I was afraid of those new small and aberrant "one-man-churches", created by a man and that disappears together with its creator. I was calm down, learning that it is not the case. Surprisingly for me was how is that an intelligent and educated man, like Eric, could be so attached to a church, which certainly was not a traditional one. In Romania, the most people are of the Christian Greek Orthodox Church, but it keeps by the tradition. In reality people are not bigoted at all; on the contrary, too few Romanians are really faithful. Anyway everybody - faithful or not - goes to the church for some definite events, just because the tradition claims this: marriages, burials, etc. To change the traditional church for another one is mainly a proof of ignorance. A real faithful person may pray in any church, and our churches are open every day, for morning till night, not only during the religious services or ceremonies.
Things are different in the USA, where people came from throughout the world and brought with them all the world's religions. It is natural for them to choose a church after other criterions. I knew persons saying they go to a certainly church because that one happens to be close to their house.
Some people need religion and it as a pity that churches are no longer able to do their duty. Generally speaking, people perceive the religion in different ways, according to their nature. At the extremities, there are:
- Those with weak will. They need help and implore the divinity's support for this. They do not want to understand but to believe, because the belief absolves them to make any effort, and gives them a reason for life. Such a religion looks like a narcotic that yields dreams of happy man.
- Those with too much will, usually avid of the power. They take advantage of the religion in order to handle those from the first category. The one, who thinks he is above the God, soon will think he is above the rules and the other people.
Between the two extremes, there are those more or less balanced trying to understand and take from the religion as much matches with their understanding.
As for Eric, he explained to me that he became a faithful person after his brother died, and this church seemed to fit his feelings. This tragedy really affected him a lot, as more as his brother was a young man, as Erich himself. Everything was all right and understandable so far, including Eric's desire to make me to accompany him at the church. Generally he wanted to show me to every important person in his life. I was just to his office to see his bosses and his workfellows, to his teachers and, of course, his friends.
I became entirely calm seeing the building of the church: a large one, looking more like a theatre as a chapel. The religious service was also agreeable, excepting the servility of the parishioners: they used to underline with clapping and all kind of exclamations the "brilliant" ideas from their leader's speech. They seemed to feel themselves obliged to have a long practice in this. Instead, the leader seemed to be a very practical-minded person, maybe too practical. What disappointed me most was the final act, when they gather close one another and, in hierarchical tidiness, in order to receive the divine message from the leaders, which were raising one hand to the sky and the other over the head of a smaller member of the leadership, and from them to the others, as far till the newcomers. Some of them, even Eric, declared that they feel how the Holy Spirit traverses their body. Of course, I cannot believe it. Eric is a mathematician, young enough, and his attitude looked as exaggerate as false. (Mathematics, as symbol for the reasoning, invented irrational numbers too.)
In the last day with Eric, before leaving Los Angeles, he asked me whether I believe that Jesus is alive. Then, I avoid the answer, but the question must be analysed before answering. We first need to know if he imagines a Jesus like a man who lives somewhere and looks at us, or Jesus is a symbol for the entire Christian theology. In the first hypothesis, I am not the man chatting over this topic, but in the second the subject is quite inciting. For those who look the religion as a myth - true or false - the question is an essential one, maybe the most. It is not my case. I remember some years ago it was in fashion the question whether Shakespeare was a man, or an enterprise dealing with books, a publisher house in our terms. As I am not a historian, the question is not interesting for my point of view. I am interested in Shakespeare's works and not in his life. It was Schumann he wrote that only stupid musical critics speak about the composer, instead of his works. Another example, maybe just clearer, is the Marxism. There is not important at all if Marx was a great scholar, a tiny one, or just he would not existed at all. Instead, the Marxism marked the social and political life almost the whole XX century. It is the same with writers and, generally, with the creators from any other field, including Christianity. Yes, I am interested in Christianity and not whether Jesus is alive or not.
Maybe he is alive, or maybe not. Anyway, what is important is what he said to us. His message matters! Speaking about his life, it counts as a message too, because he used it as an example, as a way to convey his message to us.
Consequently, the question of the most importance is: what Christianity is? Or, more exactly, what the Christian theology is? It is difficult to answer seriously at this question, and probably people will never write enough books on this topic. Instead, they wrote lots of books with propagandistic purposes, for induce among the common people a convenient behaviour accordingly to priests' interests. Bible was intensely used and misinterpreted, which makes things more complicated, because any different idea is immediately rejected, just because it is different. Any religion is conservative.
Many times, maybe most times, the priests themselves did not understand the Christian message, or more probably did not want to understand. Why? Because their interest was not to guide people, to teach them, but to keep them at their disposal! That's why their recommendations sometimes were just in opposition with those of the Christian teaching. Often they embraced the older ideas, the pre-Christian ones, because such ideas are more useful and accordingly to priest's interests. Fear and humility are among their spurs. They changed the word 'idols' with 'God' but kept the same attitude in front of them.
Christianity gave us the humanism and the dignity, not the lack of them. As for the Apocalypse, this is a monument of non-Christianity.
Much part of the Old Testament is history: the history of Jewish people. The modern historians and archaeological diggings have come to light that many facts reported in the book were true. As a matter of fact, the most part of the Old Testament, particularly its beginning, was written during the exile of Jewish in Babylon, when - feeling that they are lost - thought that it would be a pity if nobody learn about their history and life. Many times, the authors exaggerated some facts, flourished or described them in the form of fiction, as they, the authors, were writers and mostly priests. The Bible is a book of wisdom as well. Wisdom, what a great word! The all of us want to be wise persons, but nobody knows whether he really is. Whatever their opinion about themselves would have been, the authors of the Bible were some scholars of those times, and involved themselves as spiritual leaders. Some paragraphs were entirely written in a metaphoric style, just for sending a message. These ones made possible the freest interpretations.
The Bible itself is not homogenous. Some ideas are in contradiction with other ideas, if you read different chapters. We may have understanding for its authors. They had to change some old ideas with other new ones. As it usually happens, they could not do it suddenly and with accuracy. Not even we can do it. Some reminiscences from older mentality remain. Besides, the Bible was written by more than one authors, in different periods of time. We can remark the way in which some ideas progressed in the authors' conception.
This remark is true as well in case you want to believe that Bible was written under the divine inspiration. You may accept then, either that God changed his ideas, or he has a plan and, from time to time, gives us lessons, accordingly to our evolution, or better both of them.
Also, you must remark that people from throughout the world are God's children, and - if they are of different religions - this is so because God wants so. Consequently, there are not bad or right religions, but some different God's projects.
If we are as we are, there are two variants:
- This is God's will. (Consequently wee do not worry; if he wants us nitwits, we are on the right way.)
- We are out of God's control. (It would be dangerously. No matter what or who God would be, if we look our world as a part of a whole organism, any part does not exist independently; it rapidly decays.
Anyway, if God has put a curtain between he and us, we should keep respectful his will, and not try to imagine all kind of things occurring beyond the curtain. God shows himself to every of us accordingly to our imagination and understanding.
Coming back to the Bible, for me, it is an important book, maybe the most important, but I read it permanently wondering myself what was the genuine message of the authors, either under the divine inspiration or not.
But, what Christianity is? For understanding it, we have to look around and especially in the past. Thinking to the past, we must begin with the Old Testament, whence we learn about God in opposition with idols. It was a good step, but it was not the first at all. Before it, Jewish people conceived a God only for their nation, and made from Judaism a national religion. This was good for them, but not for the others. Why they did this way it is accountable, we can infer it, but this is their problem, and maybe their mistake. Christianity extended the concept of a God for all the nations and turned the attitude face to divinity from fear to love. The idols used to be pitiless and pretending immolation in order to gain their goodwill, while God is benevolent, benefactor and does not want immolation. He wants for us only to have a decent behaviour, because we are his children, and he is the Father.
Changing the God of Israel people into a universal divinity, the Christians turned the God into a new idol. The only difference is that God is not materialised into an object or a being. As for God's kindliness, even if it is frequently asserted, the Bible contains much more paragraphs destined to terrify the man, to implant in his soul the fear of a merciless final judgement of God. Guilty for all these are the priests. It is understandable too, as they preferred the old and verified method of fear in order to keep the people under their control. That's why we must discern between the genuine good intentions and the result, marked by some people's subsequent interest.
But the priests are not guilty only for these, and their mistakes provoked all kind of schisms, ending with all the sects that appeared in our time like the mushrooms after the rain. Almost all the people I talked with - belonging to no matter which sect - used to be ignorant enough not only concerning the religion, but also in history and all-round education, generally.
Is Jesus alive or not? The question comes again in my mind, even if I said that it is not so important. Some people ask if Jesus really existed as a human being. Roman documents do not mention him at all, or we know that in Roman Empire they used to record in official reports every remarkable event. Even this question is not so important, because what followed was what really matters - namely Christianity - with it priest as well. Jesus was not the Messiah expected by Jesus people (although Christos means messiah in Greek language) but surely he was the prophet of Christianity, which begins with him and find in his life its philosophy and morale. What it really counts is just this philosophy and morale.
The idea of a good divinity was not just new. The Greeks advanced it long time ago, and it would have been impossible for Jewish to not knowing it. The Apostle Paul himself was a Jew from Greece of that time (Tars of nowadays Turkey), and it was him who first made great efforts in his epistles to the Romans in showing that God is for all the people, not only for Jews. As for a good-hearted divinity, the Greek philosophers prepared people for it. If we study attentively the Mythology, beyond the stories, we shall find a humanist doctrine. Gods used to be like people, with human qualities and defects. They were only some more powerful ones. In the meantime, some Greek philosophers had risen against the gods' exaggerate power, wanting a more kind-hearted divinity. So was Aeschylus in his "Prometheus (Bound, Unbound and Fire-Bringer" and "Oresteia", and many others, long before Jesus Christ. The idea of a loving-people divinity used to be already present. "For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom". It is not me who say this. It is written in 1 Corinthians 1:22.
Jesus was a prophet because he conveyed ideas from the philosophers to the common people. In this purpose he gave his life. This is generally a prophet: someone able to understand philosophy, and able as well to communicate with people, which common philosophers cannot. Socrates had already made the supreme sacrifice for his ideas. He was aware that only through his dead, his ideas will survive; and he accepted to drink the cup with hemlock.
It is true, Jesus Christ was a Jew from Palestine, but it was only the spark that arouses the fire. Christianity appears as a religion of poor people giving them a hope. Not far from the Palestine, Greece used to be under the Romans occupation too. It is not accidental that the apostle Paul was from Greece. Later on, the Jews kept the Judaic faith, while the Greeks adopted Christ's religion immediately. After Jesus, Christianity developed in wide world, firstly in Roman Empire, less in Palestine.
The first useless story assumed from the Old Testament is Genesis. I suppose that it was not conceived as a cosmogony, but a metaphor full of teachings, of moral consequences, being in this way a useful educational guide. Metaphor of what? Of an early period from their history! From it, the priests made a cosmogony, which - due to its naivety - has compromised the Christian religion entirely. Of course, God could not be like us. He should help us more if he is almighty. Then who was he for the Jewish people? Let's read the Bible!
In Genesis 27, it is said that "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground...". Not from mud, clay, or simple earth? It is not mentioned that he would use water. I think it had to be difficult to mould in dust. Is this a mistake, or an accidental expression? Not at all! From the next paragraph we learn that "And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed." So Eden has points of the compass. Interesting! From the paragraphs 10 to 14 we learn that "a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads". Their names are Pison, Gihon, Hiddekel (Tigris) and Euphrates. We can't help thinking that Eden is the old Sumer and what the Sumerian civilisation means for old times. Yes, Summer used to be a pleasing and charming place in comparison with the surrounding areas, namely exact what this word means in their language. God probably was a Sumerian king, who accepted a Jewish tribe on his territory for different works. This one seems to have been the best period from the Jews history. It was that king was God for them, their father, because he made them men. They were like dust and became like the Sumerians. This is the correct meaning when one says that God made man like him, and not that a divinity could look like us. As the Jews did not keep the arrangement and aimed upper than it had been allowed to them (testing from the tree of knowledge), the king expulsed them. More than it, God observing the sin committed by Adam and Eve, declared "… the man is become as one of us . . ." (Genesis 322). Consequently, God was not alone. He did not speak that man would be “like me”, but “like us”. He spoke in the name of the leadership of Sumer and accuses the Jews that exceeded their rights as employees, infiltrating themselves among the employers. We see now why in the whole history recorded in Bible, with all its details, Sumer does not appear at all. That's so because it was the beginning. It was the heaven. In the whole their history, the Jews do anything else but beg God's pardon, hopping to be accepted again in Eden's garden.
Also, archaeological proves shown Sumer to be the place where biblical deluge occurred. Sam, hence the adjective Semite, was the elder son of Noah. It is clear that old history of Jewish people crossed through Sumer, and it could not avoid it, but gave it a metaphoric sense.
Consequently, the Bible has not a cosmogony, and this is commendable for their authors. Priest’s stupidity has done one from this passage of history. Do you need a cosmogony? I can imagine a pseudo-cosmogony, but it will not be religious at all. Still it is not without morale. I shall write it, and so you will find it later.
¶. Do you want to know what Christianity is? You must start from the older faiths and find out what is new. For example, unlike older faiths, where the divinities were menacing and revengeful, God is mild and forgiving. This is one of the most important characteristic features of the Christian theology. Doing such comparisons, you will understand more. Only on this way you will be able to understand what the Christian theology really is.
Maybe a part of the Bible was written under the divine inspirations, but surely not entirely. It is full of priests' wishes and ideas - some of them belonging to the Jews'. There were also many other writings. What was accepted to be "The Bible" is a selection of what some priests considered being opportune. As any human deed, it could be non-perfect. This is one more reason to read the Bible in an intelligent way.
Children know a lot about the Bible. But, in time, as they grow up, their faith diminishes. First, a child learns that Father Christmas, he who - after a thrilling waiting - gives him presents, and fills his soul with joy, he, Father Christmas himself was not a fabulous personage, but a well-known individual, and everything was only a little theatre, specially staged for children. After such a deception, it is almost a logical consequence to come to the conclusion that the whole religion is a story for children, in which he stops to believe when he no longer consider to be a child. Later on, when he learns at school that, in the name of Christianity, people made the greatest atrocities (Inquisition, crusades, etc.), and when he find by himself that some priests are not the most educated persons to be his masters, his faith is completely wiped off. The endeavour to preach the Bible to a grown-up only with some biblical stories and its threatening has no more chances.
For all that, the religion is still necessary. Where is the mistake? I think it is in the weak quality of the priests. They do only their duty of keeping the religious service. They ceased to be people's confessors, and most times have not the necessary intellectual level. They are not able to respond to the matters of the real life. The parishioners frequently are more educated.
Coming back to the children, the priests do not know how to preserve the contact with children when they learn that Father Christmas is not real, and to explain that any story has morale, and the morale is that which count. "God has established a moral code, which he wishes his children to adopt." It is Aeschylus who wrote this, five centuries before Jesus.
¶. In Los Angeles, thanks to a cute taxi-driver, I found a cheap hotel, just in the vicinity of the downtown.
Today I went by bus to Santa Monica, where the addresses of the most Los Angeles’ art galleries are. I found them from the Internet, and there was one where I was to discuss a project for an exhibition of myself. I do not intend to describe the route, or to relate the trip, but I can't help writing about a couple, which got up before Hollywood. She, although fat, was dressed in white, and wears tens of ornaments of the most intense and unfit possible colours. The very tight knitted-trousers rendered evident her back like a balloon at the point to burst, and two horrible legs. Her hair was painted in many colours, all of them as violent as possible. It is more difficult to describe what he was wearing, because they are anything else except clothes. They were something good for a science-fiction movie for children. Anyway, something very coloured. Both of them were trying to seem unembarrassed. Surely their minds were not sound. After they changed some places, chose to sit just behind me, so I could hear them. They were speaking Russian. How small is the world!
Santa Monica! I do not know who was and what she, that Monica, did to become a saint. As for Santa Barbara, I hope she was not a saint-woman of barbarians. What is sure is that Sank Petersburg is not the place where Saint Peter was born or died. Yes, it was in fashions to baptise towns with such names. It was also an epoch, which still go on, to baptise towns and streets with politicians' name. What always puzzled me was why names of highly cultivated men are not used. Sometimes it is just irritating to see how towns like Kõnigsberg, the Kant's town, still wears the name of a politician, and what a politician: Kalinin, one of the first communist leaders, the father and chief of the former KGB.
I found that almost all the galleries are in the same place. Among three streets, probably in a former depot, there are seven or eight buildings, with large doors for big trucks. They divided those buildings in smaller rooms with panels; every room an exhibition. It would cost me 750 dollars a week to have an exhibition there. The owners are not interested in what the artists expose there, if they pay the rent. Not a single visitor were there whilst my visit; only artists who look to each other. This kind of exhibition could be useful for American artists, because they need to have now and again an exhibition in order to improve their Curriculum Vitae, but it would be useless for me.
This idea to concentrate arts in some places like Santa Fe or here, in Los Angeles, in these former depots, is as stupid as under-cultural. Art, before being a commercial good, is a creation; it marks the society way, up or down. It marks our feelings. We become better or worse through arts. Our souls are in arts. We are nothing without arts, but some animals. To organise arts like a stock exchange, or a simple market, is beyond of my imagination.
There were many people in the bus station for the downtown. Most of them are going home after work. Many women! Getting on the bus, I gave priority to a woman with Chinese features. My old-fashioned gesture impressed her so much that, after several stops, she offered me her place, even if there were many women, just some old ones, standing around. She was happy for a moment. It was clear that such occurrences had not been frequent in her life. How easy one can make happy someone!
A droll scene happened later. A lady, carrying two little girls, got up in a hurry. Interesting was her 'technical endowment', her 'logistic'. Try to imagine: a pram for the smallest girl, who is in her mother's arms, in a harness; a large knapsack on her back; a huge shopping bag and the handbag in an hand, while with the other she pulls the other girl over the staircases of the bus. She probably is a tormented woman, but I can't help smiling at what she looks like: a combination between a mountaineer and Santa Claus.
Some men wear caps with the inscription VIP, in an obvious disaccord with their real social position. Have people so much humour? Maybe! Anyway, not a single real VIP wears clothes with such inscriptions, perhaps inversely. I saw someone who wrote ‘redneck’ only thinking to become a (very) important person.
¶. I was surprised to see there are a few art galleries in LA, even in Santa Monica. Three years ago I saw some in Long Beach and other small spas. I thought there are more in Santa Monica. I was wrong!
I renounced to offer my paintings, because, as I already said, leaving best of them in Florida - and some others to the friends - the remaining ones were too few and non-convincing. Instead, I tried to make contacts for exporting Romanian art. I looked for art contacts in order to contact them later, from Romania, through mail. Here is a new postponement. Anyway, for the moment, my harvest of "business connections" was rather weak.
The single being who postpones is the man. Plants and animals do everything immediately. Postponement is an attribute of the intelligence. The idea of waiting is the essence of any religion. For Christianity, there is the belief in a future life in Heaven, the Second Coming of Christ, etc. Even communist propaganda built such a promise too: communism would be a final aim; till then, we must sacrifice ourselves in a socialist society. It is not different now. Romania is said to be in a period of transition, from a dictatorial-communist country toward a market-orientated one. As a mater of fact, nobody does something in this purpose. On the contrary, we are going from a bad organised society to a completely disorganised one, in which some chiefs will do as they wish.
¶. Eric, my friend in Los Angeles came to visit me at the hotel. He is unchanged. He owns another car. It is an old and small one, like that he used three years ago. In the meantime, he started to learn arts. To be more exactly, he learns how to draw. He often has odd ideas. This one is odd, because I do not think he has even a bit of gift. I pray to be wrong, but it is unlikely. We succeeded in not discussing religion. For all that, my mind started again to think of it.
Yes, the religion is necessary. Firstly, for the weak ones, who need a support to keep themselves in psychological equilibrium! Most of them already are believers in not mater that church, like Eric. At the other extremity, the too strong ones are. Those thinking to be their own Gods, they have theoretical just more need of religion, for moderating their ambitions, but they do not know it. The threatening with Apocalypse and God's punishments sounds ridiculous in their ears. From the nowadays churches, they are lost for long time. There needs to be other means for persuading them. But how to do it with the nowadays ministers of the religion? They are not able to understand their own words. With them, the religion has not the smallest chance. They would bury definitive any religion.
For about 500 years ago, the Protestantism appeared in Europe, trying to surpass the mistakes of Catholic Church. After about 500 years, people's faith in priests did not increase. Consequently, they did nothing, so they are not better. What is the worst, after the first Protestants' model, lots of new ones appear permanently without any religious idea. They say the same slogans and do not see they all are similar one another, or do not want to see. If it is proved that religion was inefficient from this point of view, why it insists? That means it was and is efficient in a different way. Which one? Well, it was certainly useful in politics as an instrument for manipulating people. It is useful today yet as an instrument for separation and split people and spread hatred among them, according to the principle: "Divide et Impera".
Most part of the success of the Reform is due to the invention of the printing. People used to be eager to print anything, and religious topics were being in fashion then.
Anyway, the first Protestants had a doctrine, logic and reasoning. They even believed in their thoughts. The neo-Protestants instead have nothing but hate to each other. As for their doctrine, it is limited to the idea that Jesus will come again and will punish all the people, except those belonging to their particular sect.
Using the Bible like a scarecrow, hoping that, frightening the people, they will become more religious is not a productive way in our years. We are not in the Middle Age. ("Odd is this grimness with which some people keep obstinately us to be sinners. I do not like the quacks wanting by all means to make me think that I would be ill for selling their remedies". Voltaire said it.) The key of Christianity is goodness, not fear, rational reasoning, not that "believe and don't search". A church apart from the science does not live. Many scientists are believers, but most priests do not understand how that is possible, because they understand nothing.
Where the mistake lies? From the beginning, we must discern between the two ways of the propagation of Christianity:
· Step by step, by conviction, among the poor people, starting with the apostles and the following missionaries. This was the characteristic way in the first four centuries, inside the Roman Empire. The biblical message used to be optimistic: there is a future life, therefore a hope. It depends by our will to make it happy. God is kind and forgiving. (In Byzantine churches Jesus Christ is featured during the Ascension, giving an optimist message, as he promised to come again in a happy kingdom.) This was the genuine message of Christianity.
· With sword, by imposing and constraints, starting with Goths' invasions and, afterwards, by Catholic Church. Besides sword, their arguments were the frightening and intimidation. God ceased to be kind hearted. On the contrary, people were threatened with the Apocalypse and all kinds of punishments. Because kings were considered to be God's representatives on the earth, people have to glorify the God, but the kings too and obliged to raise hymns. (In Catholic churches, Jesus is featured mostly during his passions. The only message is that, if he suffered, we have to suffer too. The penitence would be the only way.) The priests have lost the main Christian ideas, lost Jesus' message of love, and the religion became a mean in the politician's hands. Priests serve no longer the religion, but use the religion for their own interests.
It would seem that the old Greek Orthodox Church is better. I do not think so! It only did not have the same opportunities. Let’s do a little history!
For the beginning, there was not a chief of Christian Churches. There were several great bishoprics, and their chiefs met several times in the so-named "ecumenical councils", but they never chose a leader. It would not be on their line of thoughts at that time. Christianity was spreading from Palestine firstly in Greece and easy, easy in the whole Roman Empire. There were lots of religions in that huge Empire, and no one was dominant. After the splint of Roman Empire in Western Roman Empire and Eastern Roman Empire (known as Byzantine Empire), and the collapse few years latter of the Western Roman Empire, the things changed. In the Byzantine Empire, Christianity became the official religion. Of course, the role of the bishops from Constantinople (the capital) became more and more important, but he was not a chief, yet. On the other hand, thanks to the bishop Wulfila, Christianity was spread among the Goth tribes. Goths, Ostrogoths, Vizigoths and the other tribes, conquering the western part of the former Roman Empire, carried Christianity directly in the western part of the Europe.
In time, while the Byzantine Empire was decreasing more and more under the stress of the eastern barbarians, the western part of the Europe was developing. In the year 800, Charlemaine gave hand with the bishop of Rome, accepting to be crown as emperor by the bishop. His empire was a fiction; after his death the empire disappeared, but he marked the idea of the alliance between king and the bishop of Rome, who was recognised as chief: the Pope. From this moment on, Catholic Church became a centralised, hierarchical organisation, where the interests of the leaders, and the rules imposed by them, smother the genuine faith. (This explains the future apparition of the protesting cults and sects.) Catholic Church and politics are inseparable. As for the balance of the power between East and West, it changed in favour of West. The Occident became more and more powerful, so that Byzantine emperor and his bishop became obstacles in their ambitious way. In the year 1054, the Great Schism occurred. As the Occident had a chief, the Pope, the Orient needed one, so that the bishop of Constantinople became the Patriarch, but he never had the same role.
In time, Orthodox Church has spread toward the East (including Russia), while the Catholic one has spread throughout the world, thanks to the colonial conquering. After the WW2, the former USSR persecuted the religion, so that the Orthodox Church hardly survived officially, but just from this cause, it is still strong in people's souls.
Now, as the church – any church - has no power, the genuine way is possible again. People ask themselves what Christianity is. By the way, what it is? Let's see, shortly!
¶. It is Monday 12 October today, when they celebrate "Columbus Day". The festivities are not remarkable at all: some flags and very few and listless people, much fewer than usual, as main estate's offices do not work, which disturb me a lot, as I was going to send some messages via e-mail, from the Public Library. Yes, in the USA, everyone may access the Internet for free from some cultural institutes, like public libraries. The advantage of being in a rich country! In Romania we must pay for it, because we are poor. Is it a paradox? Not at all! It explains why we are poor.
Wandering in the streets is the only thing that I can do now. Life in downtown is like usual for a workday, as banks, insurance and international companies do not take account of such holidays.
Thanks to the hill on the top of which the downtown lies, the urban architects built here a very nice area, with flight of steps, escalators and just little vegetation, among high buildings. It is one of the beautiful areas in a large American city. I discovered it in my previous trip. I liked it then, and I like it now as well, even if I am a little sad now. Then, it was the joy of discovering; now it is the moment of taking leave of, and any departure is sad. Mine particularly, as I do not know if I will see these staircases again, due to the distance.
Not far away from the downtown, I met across a very small workshop for repairing worn-out footwear. I had not seen another before in the US, not even in small localities - where I suppose they exist, but not in the centre - so that it was much surprisingly to see one just here, in a main street, near to the downtown of a very rich city. Of course, large towns need poor people more then small towns for unpleasant works, but their shops are not to be found in the centre. Los Angeles is a town with many contrasts!
It is interesting that Spain discovered America, it had more colonies than anything else did, but the successors of the first conquistadors are among the poorest people in the world. Of course we could not avoid asking why? The conquistadors were in king's service. When some of them were dissatisfied with their position, a local arrangement might be very tempting. They did it, and mixed themselves with the natives. But king's army used to be stronger. In this way, the society divided itself in two opposite category: the government and people. This division still exists. In the nowadays USA, besides king's men, lots of poor and even outlaw persons arrived, and soon king control become weaker and weaker. These free men built a new country, with their own law.
There are very few pubs in Los Angeles, and generally in large cities. As the Americans must be able to drive any time, the pubs would be without clients. The images with men drinking whisky unceasingly are totally false, or at least non-topical. Instead, the word 'wiskyyy..' is a topical substitute for the older 'cheese', when a cameraman wants to make us to mime a smile. And it is more convincing as well.
¶. For the homeward route I chose to go by bus, via Dallas, because I had not seen it so far, and - travelling through the south - I could prolong the warm days before the coming of winter. By the way, why do we keep in mind only titles like "The Long Hot Summer", or "The Green Grass of Home", and not something like "Our sweetheart Sleet" or "Waltzing on the Glazed Frost of Road"? It would seem wonderful for those who had never known frost. People's trend to escape from reality is well known (Even religion is an escape from reality). As for the travelling by bus, with all its disadvantages, it is the best solution for a tourist like me. And it is not only because it is the cheapest way. From a bus you can see places and meet people. Not the best of them but some real ones! I experienced train travel three years ago, from Los Angeles to New York. The Americans do not use trains. For small distances, there are cars, and few of them travel beyond journeys of one day. Those who must go farther away prefer to fly. A few of them take trains. From Los Angeles to Chicago, my travel was civilised but extremely boring and tiring. It was like in planes, with the difference that, instead of some hours, a train journey lasts some days. The worst is that, because of lack of long stops, you cannot walk, moving your feet. Between Chicago and New York, the travel was not in the least civilised. A lot of noisy and unpleasant-smelling people got in. Even the toilet, usually clean, became hard to use.
So, I am leaving Los Angeles on the highway in a Greyhound bus toward Dallas. I think the bus is leaving on time for the first time. In the beginning there are few passengers. The town looks to be varied. Modest houses alternate with rich ones, commercial and industrial areas, and above all many depots. One may say that USA is a country of depots and car parks. After an hour and five minutes, the first non-built-up area appears, and not for long, as another locality arises. And what a locality! Almost endless!
The farther we go away from the ocean, the more evident the pollution becomes. The eastern part of Los Angeles is quite unpleasant from this reason. After more than two hours we definitely leave the urban area, entering among the mountains. Here, several forests of pillars with propellers in top turn the aeolian energy into an electric one. Their number is really impressive. I do not know how profitable they are but it is obviously that when the Americans decide to do something, they do it definitely.
¶. As usually during the travels, my mind flies free.
· Some species of animals and birds are particularly lover inside of their group and family. Love is not a discovery of Christianity, not only of mankind. On the contrary, mankind is going to banish love from its bosom.
· Trust is essential for surviving. I remember of one of my wife's patients. (My wife is a doctor.) That patient used to say that, as long as the doctor takes care of her health, she has nothing else to do than crochet and joke, which she really did all day long. She still lives in spite of her extremely difficult disease.
· For 'yes' almost every language has its own expression: 'yes', 'oui', 'da', 'si', etc. 'Not', or at least 'N' as the first letter, is almost universal. People are more homogeneously in saying NOT!
· "Nothing takes the past away, like future". Madonna says this, or more correctly sings it. Even if I like Madonna's lyrics and just this song, which I am listening to on my walkman (Nothing Really Matters), I do not agree with this verse. Correctly would be "nothing takes your past away, not even the future". You close your eyes, and see the past. It is there, and there is nothing to be done, no matter if you like it or do not. Instead, the future will become past soon. This is much more important, and useful to know, as the future is in our hands, at least in a certain measure. "Le hasard ne favorise pas que les esprits prépare - Pasteur.) And the past begins today.
It reminds me of a Thomas Nagel's essay about the death, (Mortal Questions, Cambridge University Press, 1979) discussing times before and after one's death, wanting to establish if death is a good or a bad event. His ingenious approach to the topic makes the discussion not only interesting, but also inciting. His analyse would still follow another way if we first define the concept of time.
The debates about time always seem odd and apparently senseless because we have got into the habit of using of it before to define it. Even so, it is necessary to define the concept we use to make clear enough its subsequent utilisation. I shall not deeply develop here this concept, but some specifics are necessary to approach our initial topic. This is what I am trying to do in the following paragraph.
We accept the conception according to time as a sum of the events happened in an interval. If between two successive events a third one does not exist, we would not have any reason to consider the two events not to be consecutive. The length of such interval is nil. Instead, some intermediate events between the initial two make the interval to seem longer. The more they are, the longer the interval is. Therefore we can look at time as a warehouse of events, a collection, a history of them. The length is a contouring of the events that occur in an interval. The length may seem different to different observers, depending on the events that each of them observes. And so it is. Each observer has his own imagine about the world, his history, his time. Universal time is a wrapper of all individual times. The usual physical time is nothing else but a bringing to the same denominator, a common value scale, useful for communication among us. Shortly, we conceive the time in its essence like a succession of events and not as a pre-established, existing, and everlasting matrix, in which some events could happen or not.
Let us return to our topic. Death is not a deed, strictly speaking. Life is a deed, an activity; death is nothing but the end of life. Death is an event only in the sense that it can be recorded in history. An analogy for life is a liquid flowing from a reservoir. Death is the moment when the liquid has finished itself and nothing more flows. (Whether a person's life ended suddenly, by a fatal accident for instance, or slowly at old age, it does not matter. One of our subjective estimation is that the first case is tragic and unfortunate, and the second one is natural. But we actually never knew how much liquid had been in the reservoir. It is only in our imagination the thought that all reservoirs of life are equal each other. To extend the life/reservoir analogy, considering how fast or slow the liquid flows, would go beyond of our purpose. Therefore death is only the end of life and we should not assign it an exaggerate role.)
If death is not worth speaking about, and life is, then the initial question must be changed a little: is there a significant difference between the time before someone's birth and after his death? In both situations, the person's life does not exist. Therefore the two times seem to be equivalent: times in which he does not exist. We see now, after the concept of time has been defined as such, that the answer to the first question is definitely NO. That is because the first time, looked as history of the previous events, does not contain the person's life, while the history of after his death does it. History has been enriched with another life, another deed.
Maybe just the awareness of the idea that our life becomes history, our history, makes death seem important to each of us, because we ourselves become responsible for the trace we leave behind. Maybe if our life were longer, just a bit, we would succeed in giving our traces more consistency, or making it seem at least honourable. It is from here probably that the fear of death comes, like of the final judgement, such as death leaves us undressed by what we sometimes try to put on to seem more beautiful.
Surely, such a deep topic could be approached in many ways and the conclusions would be equally different. This approach was only a way. A definitive solution would be the most awkward thing in the world.
¶. Life, in old philosophic thought, has a cyclic character. Even the Greeks did not go far away from this conception. They invented a beginning of mankind, but not an end. Judaism did that, but they invented also the messianic idea, according to which somebody will come to make them masters of the world. In this way, Judaism is more a national creed than a universal religion. Besides, from the philosophical point of view, its morale is not much different: the same blind obedience in the face of fate, the same lack of will to change something by one's own effort. That which has carried the idea up till its last consequences was Christianity: The God is for all the people, and the future is in our hands. It has given to men a chance, and man has become dignified. He is a fighter for his own future. The Arthurian Legends were fundamental for European education. In a symbolic way, Lancelot turns his life from a careless one (Live the moment!) into a man able to make the supreme sacrifice for a noble dream. I do not know if it was a good idea, (maybe yes) but this was the theoretic education of any knight. Besides, man does not fight alone, but together with God's other children, like a family. The searching for the Holy Grail symbolises the endeavour of putting questions about the sense of life, of seeking the truth.
Judaism was the moral support of Jewish people in his fight against the invaders, from the Babylonians to the Romans. Many of their wishes are for understanding for that time, but they are no longer actually.
Before making known his ideas, Jesus had to persuade his contemporaries that he was God's son. For this purpose, he needed to perform some miracles, and he did so. If he were to come in our time, when nobody believes in wonders, he should do things according to the mentality of the people today. That’s why, priests using Jesus' arguments now, are similar to those pretending to be his adepts only by wearing sandals through snow under -20 Celsius degrees, because Jesus used to wear sandals. What is important is Jesus' message, not his sandals.
¶. It was Plato who deals with the relations between man and divinity. Speaking about divinity, he does not have in view a being of cult, but the idea of well. Plato syllogism is Well equal to Supreme Virtue. I did not mention Plato accidentally; he is considered to be the first systematic theologian, with the mention that he does not invite us to belief but to enter into dialogue.
Hellenism did not disappeared yet. We, the Europeans, are its products. Greek culture separated the humanist Europe from tyrannical Asia. (Only the Russian communism tried to mix them, without success.) Asia was tyrannical in politics, while Europe humanist in culture. Unfortunately, politics rarely had anything in common with culture, so that there is not so much difference between East and West.
Unlike the myth of perpetual returning of the Greeks, Christianity brings history, and gives it a sense: salvation. (Mircea Eliade analyses these ideas very well in one of his books, entitled "The Myth of the Eternal Return".) Unhappily, Christianity cancels any evolution after the Final Judgement that will put it at an end. "When the Messiah will come, mankind will be saved once for ever, and history will cease to exist". This seems to come back to the condition of primitive man, for which time does not exist, without speaking about the evolution, or history. Primitive man, like animals, lives for the moment in a perpetual continuum. Christianity seems to suggest a returning to the "lost paradise of the animal".
Oriental faiths, looked at from Europe, seem to be more inclined to philosophy, while Christianity pays much attention to small stories. And still, the great modern philosophies belong to Europe. Yes, but only after Rationalism overcame Christianity. Or maybe just Christianity stimulated the birth of Rationalism, due to its exaggerations.
Socrates was the one who discovered the Rationalism. People from the old times used to have many gods, half-gods, heroes, etc. From this reason, they were more responsive, more ready to accept alternative possibilities. They had larger conception. After several centuries of the black religious Middle Age, the whole European cultural evolution was under the Rationalism sign, culminating with Descartes, Leibnitz, Newton, etc. But Rationalism has its limits. I am not the first to say it. Jose Ortega y Gasset has shown it repeatedly. Communism is also an exaggeration of democratic ideas, as democracy has its limits too.
Rationalism holds history, with its way to the progress, but ignores the end of Christian theology. Progress seems to be infinite. Unhappily, between a previous future and a later one, we seem to be a tiny infinite. And still something remains: the hope. The ancient people named it better: soul, which is going to be up-to-dated as spirit. Man never accepted that he is only a decaying body, so always sought for something transcendental, surviving him, so all our aspirations have in view something eternal, if possible.
¶. The basic law of nature is the struggle for existence. As an alternative, civilised society recommend moral norms, mostly theoretical, often unrealisable, sometimes idealist and usually naive. The wisdom of reconciliation of the two extremes belongs to common people, whose real life occurs in a dialectical equilibrium of the contraries. Due to their position, priests are speakers of the moral extremity. They cannot say to the parishioners they should be 1/2 believer, but only repeat endless the same small stories. The question is what happens when they take it all seriously. In the first stage, some maladjusted, unhappy people result. In the second stage, such easy-manipulating people are turned into robots, among which suicide-terrorists are only examples.
Unfortunately, mankind went even beyond the limits, and through democracy and socialism invented communism too. Yes, communism before to be a political system, was a religion, or at least wanted to be. As a matter of fact, this was the reason why the first Russian communist leaders forbade any other religion, except Marxism-Leninism doctrine as their single new bible.
From the "Man is nothing more than a shadow of a smoke: (Aeschylus) to the "Man as creator", mankind crossed the entirely spectrum.
¶. Willing or not, any religion has implications in morale. For those who are not quite bigots, the morale is just the main purpose of any religion. Thinking in this way, Christianity is that which gave us dignity. We are no more some offal fall from the Universe, as it happens in oriental faiths, a kind of wrecks, but God's children. Besides, we are equal in front of God, therefore equal to one another. This is the beginning of the real democracy.
It is true that the ancient Greeks invented this word, democracy, with the meaning of the government by the people, and they really did it, but not for all the people. Their society was a slave-owning one; people were divided in social classes, with different rights. Democracy used to be for the upper classes. This mentality was in a perfect accord with their mythology, where gods, like people, had different powers, according to their position in the genealogical tree, starting with Uranus and Gaea, the first ones, and Zeus, the almighty one (but not in front of women. Smile!).
As every religion has its Deluge, Greek Mythology has one as well, but its final is a little different. Zeus, being angry with people, decides to kill them, so that he unleashed the waters. But Prometheus, even chained on Mount Elbrus, used to have the gift of foreseeing, and he advised his son, Deucalion, to make a boat and row as far as the mount Parnassus, the highest. Deucalion took his wife, and did what his father had taught him. After water' withdrawal, they were the only people on earth, exactly like Noah from the Bible. Hence, all people have them as ancestors. The difference is that, in the Greek Mythology, besides Deucalion's heirs, there is another kind of people: accordingly to a dream, going down from the mountain, they threw back in their trace all the stones they met in the way; from every stone, immediately, a man rose. Consequently, there are two categories of people: the natural heirs of Deucalion and those born from the stones.
As for the general idea of classifying in gods, heroes and people, this could be seen as a motivation for monarchies.
Coming back to equality between people, it is clear now that Christianity is that which does it for all the people, and Jesus' sacrifice has born fruit, even after centuries. A joke says “the proof that faith is from God is that it resists against the priests”. The President Lincoln's "The Gettysburg Address" proved that the idea of democracy is now part of our conscience. He began by saying "... all the men are created equally" and ended with the words "... this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people..."
There are two trends in religion.
God's promise is an optimistic one: if we follow his guidance, our future will be a happy one. And his promise is approachable because he is kind and not capricious. People are his children, and he, as every parent, loves his children. Consequently, our task does not consist any longer of invoking the mercy and help, but to follow the guidance. As the sportsman does not implore his coach to bring him a great performance on the plateau, but works under his guidance, in the same way, we do not ask God to give us something for which we did not work. That's why it is demagogical to ask God to fulfil our wishes, and as a reward, to raise to him glorifying hymns. First, we should ask ourselves if our wishes are quite correct. This is what church should give us: some criterions to judge our purpose and acts.
A bird coming to peck from our palm is not mild, as we are tempted to think, but cheeky. Also, when we ask God to help us too frequently, we are not his obedient children; we are cheeky. The God's glory is ensured without our everyday hymns. Coming from our part, the glorifying hymn sounds like flattery, as disgusting as, afterwards, an appeal follows. God, help me please! And we ask his help for anything, even if our demands are not always just some Christian ones.
I have just remembered a joke. Two Jews at the Wailing Wall, in their characteristic style, were beseeching God to help them. One of them, poorer, was content with some food for his children. The other, a rich man, was asking help in the succeeding of a large business, which he was going to start. Disturbed by the first one, the rich proposed him: "Look here! Here is some money, go and buy some food for your children, and leave God to think quietly about important things.
¶. We are traversing Arizona's southern part. Some weeks ago I did it in opposite sense through the north, and I remember now the Meteor Crater and that I wrote something about the historians. What else do they teach us? For example, King Louis IV of France is shown as one of the greatest kings in the world; almost all his acts are mentioned in the top of civilisation. In reality, they were all more mistakes than intelligent acts. As a consequence, he was the last important king of France, as after him the monarchy felt. He was the gravedigger of the monarchy, not its star.
In time, the vegetation of the desert, as little as it is, begins to be enjoying, just because it is scarce. Each plant has its charm, and when you find a new one, you rejoice at it as for a great discovery.
The sunset is different in the desert. If there is a veil of clouds, it gets an outline more and more well-marked and coloured till almost red. The whole air gets a hue pink, especially in Arizona and New Mexico, where the soil is reddish.
In a car park, from a huge truck, instead of a pitiless "macho" - as I was imagining the driver would be - a woman of 30 years and no more than 50 Kg. got down, bought a sandwich, got up and left alone.
¶. There are lots of books and especially films about the conquest of America by the English people, and nothing remarkable about the Spanish or even French, even if the French are known to be very prolific with regard to words. It is surprising they are dumb on this topic. For example, there is not much difference to make between Napoleon and Hitler. But, while Hitler is rightly put at the infamy wall, Napoleon is praised up to the skies, just because he belongs to French history, and French people knew to speak about it. Tolstoi was right to protest against such a partiality. For proving that the distance between sublime and ridicule is rather smaller that a step (pas in French, which make an allusion to a famous reply with Pas de Calais), Chateaubriand asked himself in his travel notes through Italy what was the utility of so many bathrooms. It is known that French people were using more perfume than water in Chateaubriand's time. That's why their discretion regarding their colonial conquers surprise me. Only Voltaire makes exception and recognises the superiority of Latin and Greek civilisation.
¶. In the bus station, where we have just stopped, I can see six different restaurants, and other ones are to be just a little further away. It is a large car park. Curiously, all the bus passengers went to McDonald's, even if it is not the nearest, cheapest, most modest, elegant, or anything else. Nobody granted any attention to the others, no matter what they offered. Why? McDonald's is not the best, but also its offer is limited and boring. And just because of this you know exactly what food is to be found, and their prices. When you have neither time nor desire to try something different, go to something well known before and without risk. Here is how the uniformity - so boring and blasphemed generally - could be preferred. And it is advantageous not only for the consumers, but also for the merchants. It is the same for all kind of chain of motels, restaurants, busses, shops and so on. Besides, they are organised industrially, with the smallest expenses and prices. It is hard, if not impossible, for the modest investors to succeed with such competition. In Greyhound bus system - I am in such a bus now - it is the same: drivers, mechanics and all the employees are different, but they keep the same rules, and so the system works. The free is in details; the ensemble is ordered. When it is good! And it is good if it is a result of a natural process of evolution, or it was well projected.
There is a paradox: such nets of busses, motels, restaurants, etc., work well in the US, and did not in the former "socialist" East European countries. In a dispersed economy people succeeded in centralising some activities, but in a centralised economy the small systems did not work properly. The cause is simple, but difficult to accept by arrogant people: the human system is too complex to be conceived and achieved by someone. The socialist government is a great stupidity, proof of a great ignorance. We cannot build a cell, not a plant or an animal, but we want to build a human system with millions of people living in a nature almost unknown in its details. Nonsense! Such a huge and complex system could not be conceived but wrongly. It is wrong from the beginning. The government elaborates wrong rules, but impose them to the people. In exchange, the people dislike the rules and hate the government. Nothing works harmoniously, and soon the system collapses.
The US is a young country, where people have just adopted their rules, natural rules, generalised by the government. People trust in rules. They know that things could be better, but at McDonald's it is more trustworthy.
I have often thought the Americans do not know how close they are to the communist system. Mainly their propaganda is still awkwardly similar to the Soviet one of the 50's years. And now there are these nets of services, organised at national level. Fortunately, unlike the Russians, the Americans know to avoid the precipice in the last moment, before becoming ridiculous or provoking a disaster. They renounced in time the McCarthy doctrine. Another example is anti-trust laws in economy. This confirms the idea that the key of the art of government is the equilibrium. Monarchy, democracy, or anything else is not as important as the equilibrium.
¶. El Paso is near Mexico. Three years ago I persuaded Eric to make a short visit in this country. Even shortly, for me it would be a new country visited. We entered Tijuana, and with his little car took a round as far as we could in a one-day trip. Now, the vicinity of Mexico brings again to my mind the different evolutions of Latin America and USA. There are not so much the political arguments able to convince me, but the psychological ones, because they are different due to their mentality. In the north, people feel to be conquerors, while in the south they feel like conquered people, even if they were "los conquistadors".
Spain send there its army and catholic missionaries. Concerning their mission, this was immoral from the beginning, and people used to know it. Besides plundering, they introduced the slave system - abolished in Europe 1000 year ago - and preached the religion of Europe's Middle Age, when Europe itself was passing into the New Era of Rationalism and Encyclopaedist's, without the church, even against it. But Spain itself was lagging behind England, where some democratic acts had already been history, from Magna Charta up till Cromwell's time.
In such conditions, many soldiers deserted from the army all right and passed on the other side, joining with the natives. That's why the South American population is mixed. English soldiers probably were not braver, but England sent on the new continent not only soldiers, but also free people. It is true that England did this in order to get rid of them, but it does not change much, on the contrary, these men felt to really free. Besides, the army helps then when needed. Conquering the West, the first were the pioneers. The army came later and supported them. That's why people still trust in authorities. Instead, in Latin America the army came first and nothing good happened afterwards for the common people. Between authorities and population there is a precipice.
Another explanation of American economical development is that they need not remove a feudal class. Instead, the Spaniards first installed a feudal regime, and people still endeavour to remove its traces. The Americans definitely solved this problem with their War of Secession.
¶. In El Paso, a couple of nice Asian youths got on the bus. What draws attention are their clothes and language, or to be more exactly their languages. I learnt he was from Vietnam. His father, a former American soldier, succeeded in bringing the child in USA, five years after the war. The wish to be as American as possible could explain the exaggerations concerning his clothes. His wife is from Hong Kong, where he was visiting as a tourist not long ago. She does not speak English almost at all. Instead, he speaks Vietnamese, Cambodian, Tagalog, Chinese and many other languages about the existence of which I never heard. In their conversation, each of them speaks in his mother tongue. In this way, they express themselves correctly and understand each other. After my test, her Chinese is much more melodious than his Vietnamese. Surprisingly his English is very bad. Maybe his coming in US is more recent then he said, or the whole his story was a fabrication.
From El Paso we are in Texas.
¶. This Asian young couple makes me to think at their faiths. There are some differences between religions in Chinese and Russian communism. The Chinese faith has been mainly unchanged for almost three thousand years and, most important, their religions (Zen, Buddhism, Confucianism) were never state religions. In other words, the political power and the people's faith are two different things. Zen is the people's faith, without priests.
None of their religions are hierarchical, that is, organised in an official structure so that it would be nothing to abolish on an official way. It is not surprising that Chinese communists did not forbid religious fetes.
And there is one more difference. Buddhism is an aristocratic religion, Buddha himself was an aristocrat, and his teaching was assimilated by the people as wisdom, as salvation by the means of knowing, of meditation, of understanding. One might not ask people to renounce wisdom, as the religion for a Buddhist believer is the wisdom itself. Buddhism does not offer a stern system, in which the believer must be integrated, but only a way of meditation. At the opposite pole, Judaism and Christianity appear as religions of poor people from countries occupied by foreigners, and/or oppressed by their own leaders. These religions offer a hope in the future, and facile solutions for the moment, frequently limited at prayers and hosannas. That's why those in power used the Christian religion as a boomerang for handling the people. Religion was often similar to the doctrine of the single party in authoritative regimes, particularly the monarchic ones. As for the communists, removing the religion was strictly necessary in their opinion, as they wanted to replace it with their communist doctrine. And it was not difficult at all, as people no longer believe in old stories, anyway. For the Europeans, religion and wisdom is not similar.
Mao Zedong, who was a clever man, probably thought that mixing politics and faith would be a mistake. Lenin instead did it, but it is not surprising. Why? He had a European education. Most Europeans are Christians. Lenin was too, but not entirely. Marx and Engels, his ideological mentors, were not at all. In Europe, as soon as Carol the Great accepted the crown from the Pope in the year 800, all the countries had Christianity as state religion till 1789 when France removed the monarchy and religion at the same time. (It is not the French that invented democracy but they made the most noise around it.) The mentors of Communism thought to replace the Christian doctrine with the communist one. That's why they saw in church their ideological adversary. As Christianity was the single doctrine of Middle Age, Marxism-Leninist doctrine was to be the religion of the new epoch.
For those who lived under the soviet influence it was clear that the communist party, as the single party, and Inquisition of 14-15 centuries are more similar than different. The communists had one more reasons to be afraid of the church. They started from the idea that, in any democracy, the politicians come to power thanks to the people's vote. We want universal vote, don't we? Most people are uneducated and easy to handle with simple and lying arguments.
This is the essence of the communist doctrine: handling people with simple ideas. Consequently, the intellectuals and priests were the communists' enemies. That's why the first thing that the Russians did in Romania after the WW2 was to get rid off them. And they did it. Mostly by killing.
¶. What a devilish trick our mind is! There is not a single Romanian person in the bus, and I did not hear a Romanian word for several good weeks, about two months, and now it seems to me that people around utter Romanian words, even those two Chinese youngsters. It has never happened so far, but now, when I am on my way home, this thought is more and more present in my mind.
The approach of a great town is announced from a distance. Officially, Forth Worth is an independent town, but it is stuck with Dallas. With or without Forth Worth, Dallas is a very large town.
¶. Availing himself of my wish to check in at a cheap hotel or motel like Motel 6, the taxi-driver carried me at the border of the town, so far that transport will cost me more than the hotel. And not only for one time, but also in every day while I will stay here. For proving his callousness, he was the first taxi-driver who did not help me lifting the suitcases. I thought that in Las Vegas and Los Angeles I was lucky finding kind drivers, but I realize soon that Dallas is a different town.
The receptionist from the motel was not polite too, but at least her education (or the absence of it) did not cost me more. Surprisingly were the precautionary measures! The office looks like a very safe bank, or a well-guarded prison. Bars were doubling both doors and windows. She appeared behind the bars of a window at the left of the counter, and only after made sure herself that I do not want anything else but a room for rest, she closed that window, came at the counter, and lifted its windows, endowed with bars as well.
The room is good, similar with other rooms of Motel 6’s net, proving that the system works even in Dallas.
¶. The first morning in Dallas announced itself to be cold and windy, but it was a false alarm. About noon, it got warm, even nice.
The downtown has several high and imposing buildings. In USA, only New York has a huge centre, if we think to Manhattan. The others have only several high buildings. Among them, Dallas could be considered to have a relative large downtown. But its characteristic feature is not the size, but the originality. It is just beautiful. A beauty by glass and aluminium! It is hard to say if it has a real aesthetic value, or it is only an effect of the novelty, but I like it. It is visible the town has a strong financial force. Nothing Texan can see with tourist's eyes; everything is only modern. The originality and modernity give the beauty of Dallas.
From the towns that I saw so far, Dallas has the most modern centre. Its architects knew how to join vegetation among the concrete, glass and aluminium.
As one could not take photos of high buildings closely, the glass used here on large scale is useful, because it reflects the neighbouring buildings. I took such photos, aiming at the image of the building on the glass of the opposite ones.
A surprising thing! I am drinking a good coffee. It is for the first time in USA, where coffee is a long soup, usually drank like water, or instead of water, sometimes with a cup of 1/4 litre or even a pint. The name of the café is Renaissance Town, like the building. I cannot say I am feeling as fresh as a "burned-again" (as an advertising says), but surely I am more hearten up, not as much due to the caffeine, but thanks to remembering the taste of a good coffee.
In Dallas, like in other large towns, the activity in downtown occurs inside of buildings and underground, where everything one wants is to be found. The visible people are almost exclusively of second class, much inferior those from Los Angeles, for example. And it is so, not only regarding the aspect, but also concerning people's behaviour. Many Afro-American persons, just very many, self-confident, showing that it is them who make the rule here. It is clear that their adaptation in civilised world is difficult and when the necessary will is absent, the Fronde is a more comfortable attitude.
High class is not to be seen on the streets. They live separate. As for the middle class, I am wondering if it exists.
The South certainly it is much more indiscipline than the North. From the cleanliness to the correctness and uprightness, everything is only approximately done in South.
Being in Dallas, no one could ignore the name of Kennedy. I do not know where the other presidents were killed (Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley), but Dallas is associate with this assassinate probably forever. There are two monuments in Kennedy's memory. One of them is ugly and without sense, made seemingly to furnish a waste ground. Instead, the other one is nice and close the place where the tragedy happened.
The couple Dallas-Kennedy inspire lots of more or less philosophical thoughts, but for not falling is such a mood now, here are some amusing similarities with Lincoln, which I received via Internet:
And now, the kicker:
A week before Lincoln was shot, he was at Monroe, Maryland;
A week before Kennedy was shot, he was at Marilyn Monroe.
Beyond the joke, Kennedy remains a sad character in the history, despite his important role in the assimilation of Afro-American population. For the moment, the South still keeps segregationist sentiments. I remarked them in Georgia, the Martin Luther King's fief, in the aristocratic distance of white people face to the others, and it is strong visible in Dallas, where the lack of aristocratic elegance does not hamper them to keep the distance. The effect is the expected one: the Afro-Americans are refractory.
About Kennedy's decision, supposed to be one of the probably causes of his death, I remember a study that I read at the end of the 60's years in a French publication. I keep in mind the moment, because then, trying to improve my French, I was looking for French publications, which used to be difficult enough to get in Romania of those communist years. The topic of the study was just an analysis of the ways in which the American politics could solve for long term the Afro-American's matter. From those three possibilities - it is always nice to have three ways - the middle one was preferred, namely the assimilation. In fact, it was the single reasonable one, as the other two ones were inadmissible. This option seems natural today, but it was not the same forty years ago.
Coming back to my motel, the traffic is difficult. The car goes extremely slow. Yes, Dallas is a large and busy town, very active.
I remember something: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country". Kennedy said it in his inaugural address.
¶. Apparently, most people want money. As they never have enough, they spend almost entirely their life trying to earn more and more money. In this purpose, they often fight against each other with all means, more or less admissible. The goodness is forgotten. Becoming old-aged persons, they come to the conclusion that money is not too important. Why?
Actually, they have in view not money but certain concrete objectives. People want money for buying something: objects, services, power, etc. The objectives are not the same. A young person might want a bicycle, a motorbike, later on a car, another car, a house, a larger house, and so on. During his life, he frequently changes the criterion. As an old person, he wonders what was the utility of his efforts to reach those objectives, because his actual ones are much different. After a life of fight, sprinkled with lots of enemies, triumphant or defeated, he comes to the conclusion that goodness deserves a greater appreciation. Sometimes it is too later.
Education can make us to understand this truth sooner. That's why justifying goodness is an everlasting topic.
¶. The Greyhound station is small and very crowded. Most travellers are of low condition and seem to travel on short distance. Very many are Afro-Americans, some of them looking rather few civilised! I try even a sentiment of uncertainty. Maybe I am wrong, but for more safety I keep tightly the bag.
There are many busses leaving Dallas toward New York on different routes. They carry the luggage independently from the passengers, so that only by coincidence they could be in the same bus. It did not happened to me, as there is very little luggage in my bus.
We left. It is clouded. The desert is far away now. Still before reaching Dallas the humidity has risen, and cultivated fields appeared. Texas is, at least in this part, an agricultural and zoo technical strong area. Livestock breeding seems to be an important occupation. The images seen from the bus are convincing. Unfortunately, the farms are not as well managed as those from Georgia, for example, without speaking about those from North. Some of them are nice, but others show a household wit little rigorous. Even the prosperity is not at all general.
The highway is very large. Along and parallel with it, there are other two roads for local traffic. Here and there, some bridges traverse the highway, but the distance between them is similar with that between two customhouses in Europe. There are farms, ranches and just small localities on the both sides of the highway, but the "social distance" between two neighbours living at 100 yards each other, but on the opposite sides of the road, could be more than 100 miles. One may passes the frontier between two European countries easier than this highway.
The forests are more and more frequent. For a while, we are crossing a long one, even more boring than the desert. Maybe the bad weather influences me negatively. The rheumatism makes me sensitive to the weather. Meanwhile, a black and threatening cloud appeared just in our right.
One of the characteristic features of the Latino-Americans is their verbal appetite. Especially women speak much, fast and heartily.
¶. Sometimes, civilisation makes good things, and the religion could have an essential role. An example is the eradication of the slave system, which could be considerate to be an effect of Christianity, as Christianity promoted the idea that all men are equal in face of God. Another example is the cannibalism. Beings do not eat other beings from the some species, or their remains, avoiding in this way to convey their own diseases to the following generations. It is extremely unusual in animals, and impossible at plants. Only human beings, due to their imagination, exercise acts contrary to nature, with uncontrollable consequences. The cannibalism was been abandoned eventually, but sex for pleasure is in full ascension, with unknown consequences for the natural reproduction. Maybe in the future, sex will be exercised only for pleasure, and reproduction will be achieved in specialised laboratories and industrial unities, where an well-organised trade-union movement, or a technological error could be fatally for human species.
¶. That bad cloud did not renounce and it is raining in torrents. By all means, in the clearings of the forest, cows graze quietly.
¶. An atheist is not necessarily an idiot. The statistics may prove the contrary. On the other hand, any intelligent person uses intelligent arguments. As priests do not like intelligent reasoning, they prefer to consider any intelligent person to be atheist.
I can admit the message of God's word is timeless, but its expression is necessarily a subject to refinement as things move on. That's what the priests do not understand.
Any philosophic, moral, ethic, or economic doctrine can be defined only face to the others, showing what is different, what it brings as new. The communist propagandist used to preach their doctrine, saying that all the others are wrong, so that we should not learn but the Marxist-Leninist doctrine. In religion, it is the same: the priests are like the communist propagandists. They have too few ideas and are not able to discuss anything else but some slogans and small stories. As we, the Romanians, did not used to believe the communists, people do not believe the priests.
Blaise Pascal, mathematician and physicist, considered to be one of the great minds in intellectual history, became a good and fervent Catholic believer. He entered the Jansenism community and led a rigorously ascetic life until his death. Of course, most of us wonder how was that possible? A more attentively reading of his works shows us that his change was not an abrupt one, and it was not accidentally at all. As a matter of fact, it was not a change, but a process. Here is one of his declarations: … "I spent many days studying abstract sciences, but the rather small number of people what one can communicate with on the scientific field had disgusted me by them. When I started the study of man, I saw that these abstract sciences are not specific to him and that, penetrating in them, I was deviating from my condition more than those who were ignoring them." It seems that the idea of communication was in fashion at those times. Spinoza said: "My aim is to reach a high nature and endeavour that many others to get it together with me. I cannot be happy if I do not endeavour that many other people to know, exactly like me, so that, their intellect and wish to correspond to my intellect and wish." But Spinoza was neither Christian nor believer, but an excommunicated Jew. Coming back to Pascal, he understood that, by means of religion, his life would be more complete. Obviously, he perceived the religion at higher level than he could do it before studying abstract science. The same thing happens nowadays with more and more people, as they learn abstract sciences as early as in school. Due to its high scientific position, Pascal had become more and more alone. He found out that church might be for him a better way of communication with as much people as possible.
In priests' opinion, people are now less faithful than in the past. I do not think so. People are faithful, they want to believe, but priests ceased to be their guides. The American Indians still keep their old religion, in spite of Catholic missionaries' efforts.
¶. The rain stopped. It seems the sky will clear up, but it is too late to see the sun today. Before the clouds to disappear, the sun will be set.
Here is an example of Latino-American psychic. A fellow-lady pulled on some white socks of cotton over her thin stockings. It is natural before the coming night. Not natural was the manner in which she did it. Instead to roll the socks in hand first, and to unroll them on the leg, she caught the sock from the cuff, and tried to pull on it with a single one movement. Of course, she did not succeed, and many other movements for adjustment followed, which made her nervous. I thought she would not repeat the mistake with the second sock. Bah! Not in the least! She repeated the same scheme without changing a bit. Finally she breathed freely, as if she had done a very hard work. Her gesture was especially relevant as it was for an unimportant thing. She is not a young lady, or a person who seen socks for the first time in her life. On the contrary, she is a 35-40 years old lady of good appearance and well dressed. But she is Latino-American from head to foot. On the one hand, she lacks the patience, and - on the other hand - too much upsurge and trust in her own forces make her to think in a facile success.
Finally, after many hours, a locality appears: Little Rock. It is getting dark. Close to me, an old woman took a seat. She is deaf-and-dumb. I thought my quiet is sure. What an idea! She is snoring.
¶. In Memphis (Tennessee) my homeward journey crosses the one toward the West. My route in USA will describe an 8: New York, Miami, Atlanta, Memphis, Tulsa (Oklahoma), Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, El Paso, Dallas, Memphis, Cleveland, New York. An 8 a little lengthened, but an 8. Eight is a symbol for the perfection. I cannot say that my journey was perfect. I only hope to finish it all right. As for the 8, it was a little rumpled.
They say people want money. Generally it is true. Yet there is confusion. Thinking to money, people think to different things. Someone wants a house, another a new car, or maybe just a beer. In fact, thinking to money, people think to some particular objects or services. Besides, our happiness is not always so material. For instance, I want to write and publish this book. It will be good for me whether I will earn money, but this is not my reason. I will be happy to finish the book, and I am already happy now, writing it for nothing. I am glad at the idea that someone will read what I wrote.
More than it, writing the book, I do not think how many readers will be, but who will read it. I have in my mind a certain category of people, and try to write for them. The others do not exist for me in this moment. As for stupid people, I repeat Schumann's saying: the worst thing for a musician is stupid people's praise. Of course, I will earn less money for it, and this is the price of my gladness.
¶. The whole our society is built on lie:
- Lovers promise moon and stars; we all know it to be absurd, but lovers want to be lay as nice as possible;
- Politicians, in their electoral campaigns promise wonders, do nothing, but we elect them again;
- Religions are lies from head to foot, but we need it for our morality and psychological equilibrium.
- We deceive ourselves thinking to be what we are not, and proposing to go toward an aim the way of which we never start.
The discounted appears seeing that we did not reach a target. Of course, the other people were guilty, and the final conclusion is that the mankind is bad.
¶. Nashville is the town of music. It is nice and has even a small church in early Gothic style, namely the style that Europe had abandoned before to discover America. (They said that Europe did not discover America earlier, because it did not need it. I wondered why? Probably for give them Gothic cathedrals, which was no longer useful in Europe. I am joking! This church is just nice.)
Jesus' message was resumed in the recent times, because nowadays people understand deeper his message, beyond the ritual and legend, maybe even in the philosophical plan. It is said that Middle Age was a religious period, but it succeeded more in estranging people from the church. Instead now, people come around the church from their own initiative, and - most important - with or without church, they assimilate the Christian morale. How is that? Well, the democracy is a Christian idea. I know it seems odd, and many people would say that it is a Greek word, but it is not in contradiction with my "theory". Maybe I will write about it one day, but now I think how church arrived in this deplorable situation, to lose its believers.
The faiths are responsibly not only for their direct issues, but also for the secondary ones. Thus, Christianity is directly guilty for the alienation of the man from the nature, but also because, trying to make man better, it made him worse. God asks man to be good with each other. Everyone can be good to another man, but not to himself. The Final Judgement will put in the balance what everyone did to the others. In this way, people are linked each other, interested one another. Christianity joins people together, but - being together - they reach to do wrongdoing faster than good deeds. People seldom join themselves for good deeds. Much frequently the malefactors does common "business". Meantime, they have built a competitive society, where people could not live without a little wickedness. The society built on the competition is the Europe's invention, consequently an outcome of Christianity. Maybe a secondary, unexpected one, but it clearly is one of its effects.
But the most dramatic effect is the communism. I know this statement is more than shocking. Let's see! I already showed that democracy is an outcome of Christian theology. It is a small step to see that communism is an exaggeration of the idea of democracy. It is a degenerated democracy. Consequently, the communism is a secondary effect of Christianity.
¶. It is dawning when we leave Louisville. Sun is not to be seen still, but it announces its soon coming by reddening the few clouds in the sky. A nice day will be, probably. As any American town that has respect for itself, Louisville has several high buildings as well. Only they are visible now from the town remaining behind us.
On a route so long as mine, you meet people speaking all kind of dialects, some of them easy understandable, but other almost impossible. The literary language is the same, and every American knows it, at least from the TV. But some of them can speak only in their dialect. A long time, I did not understand it. I thought they do not want to speak literary with me, but they were not able to do it. As they realise their precarious intellectual level, when I was asking them to speak clearer, their adrenaline use to rise up suddenly.
The sun is rising, but - more hardworking - cattle are grazing. Probably the grass with dew is tastier. I never tasted it.
¶. At the first sight, namely seen from the Greyhound station, Cincinnati seems to be at 8 o'clock in the morning an old and small town. Old as much as an American town could be! Small is an impression in continuous changing, as the bus traverses the town. As long as we go toward what is supposed to be its border, the border moves itself farer and farer away. Other and other factories, depots, or shops - more and more modern - appear, and among the tries I guess elegant residences and golf and tennis grounds. The final impression is that of a nice and large town. Statistically, Cincinnati has the same number of inhabitants as Brasov. Only their financial power is very different. But what a difference!
Along the road, there are small pines of an intense dark-green contrast with the forest with leafs already turned yellow. The proportion between forests and cultivated ground are certainly in the favour of forests. I could say the forest that begun yesterday before Little Rock keeps up today, and the cultivable grounds are only some more or less glades inside of the same forest. We already are in the middle of a populated area, and it is obvious that the Americans know how to keep entirely their forests.
Yes, the North is much different face to the South. Not only the vegetation is more abundant; the farms, ranches, and generally everything is much more spick and span. You hardly can find something in disorder here. Everything is at its place. What impresses you keeps from the order, tidy, inventiveness, prosperity, shortly, from the life of good householder.
From the fields, the harvest was already gathered in. Now and them, some fields of maize are still upright. There is so much tidy in all what men do, so that the order itself becomes beautiful. It has artistic valences. I almost do not know what to admire more: the colour with infinite shades of the forest caressed by rays of a tired sun of October, or the discipline in which people turned common activities in sample for things well done. Yes, the feeling of the thing well done! Maybe this is the most important. It would be expected the painter from me to say the contrary, but the reason is stronger.
¶. Of course, I can't help thinking to Romanian economy, and making comparisons. Religions create archetypes not only in theological plans, but also in people's behaviour. The morale is based on tradition; people do a thing because their ancestors did the same. The ration has destroyed the myth, the archetypes. The risk is to create disorder, indiscipline, chaos; anyone could think that he is cleverer that the others, maybe just God. Civilised societies replaced the tradition with the norms. Every civilised man keeps respectful for norms. The communism destroyed the myth, but was not able to create norms worthy of credit.
We make the apology of the state of law, a state governed by law. But it supposes that we have a perfect juridical system, which is impossible. The mistake is the same with that made by the communists: they wanted to build a perfect system governed by themselves.
There is an aphorism often wrong interpreted: "The exception strengthen the rule". The mistake consists in the fact that we use it as a justification when we do not want to take seriously a rule, either because we do not understand it or we do not like it. The philosophy of this aphorism refers a very different thing. It starts from the idea that any rule has a limited field, within of which the rule is valuable, and an exception says us that we passed beyond the limits. Knowing the exceptions, the limits become more and more precise, and the rule stronger inside of its field. In physics, for example, there are so-named 'laws of flowing of fluids' (Sorry, I do not know the English for it). It goes without saying these laws are not valuable for materials unable to flow. But is still fluid a liquid that becomes more and more viscous at low temperature? How far the laws are still valuable? The beans of wheat, grains generally, are solids, but their ensemble flows like a perfect liquid. A well judgement depends on the accuracy with which we have defined its limits.
It is clear that, for using correct a law, we must make sure firstly if we are inside of the field where that law is valuable. And it is clearer that we no not keep this idea of common sense just when we do major judgements in fields much beyond of our possibilities of understanding.
¶. Cleveland, 3 PM o'clock. Finally, one of my suitcases appeared from another bus, I hope the second one will appear as well.
A nice young lady with much energy carries a one-year child, and is visibly pregnant. She says that the second child will be for her elder sterile sister. Their judgement is simple: why to adopt an unknown child? Better order one with the same blood, from a safe source. Her spirit of sacrifice is remarkable.
Two young Sough-Americans got up in the bus. They do not know a bit English and are utterly illiterate, but soon they will become American citizens, or hope to.
My neighbour next seat is now a Chinese saying that he studies something in New York. He does not know what, because he had come to study one subject, but in the meantime he changed his mind, and now wants to study something different, but still did not decided what exactly. It is more than odd. He said that he is not here a stipendiary of Chinese government. He came on his own account. Nice account! Otherwise he is a clever fellow and the conversation with him is attractive and interesting. Anyway, I learnt a lot of things about China.
¶. New York, 1.30 o'clock! I arrived and my suitcases as well, but not all right. They had been violated. The violator opened a pocket and cut inside to introduce the hand. I said violator, because he does not seem to be a thief, a pickpocket. At the first sight, I do not find important things to be absent. It seems that he was disappointed by the content. I do not know what he was looking for. As for me, I am disappointed anyway.
¶. I thought that I do not need to check into a hotel just for several hours. On the other hand, it is not much to do at such an hour, so that, if I linger a while, morning will be around the corner. Unfortunately, everything is closed in Greyhound Station (even if it is a large one which joins with Railways), except a snack bar, where some people are sleeping, and three waiters listening a Bob Marlay's CD. There is very little said they are listening. They have fallen into trance. Soon after the CD came to an end, they closed the bar for cleaning. I was bored myself and made my mind to go out into the streets to wander around, even though they were almost empty.
Not after long, I found that I had arrived into a street that was a little livelier, but its "fauna" was odd enough! Even thought it was very cold and windy at six o’clock in the morning, some prostitutes were still at work and a lot of men with doubtful appearance were wandering up and down. I realised that I was on Westside, after a lady made her way toward me, offering her specific service. I was surprised to see prostitutes at daybreak. Only later did I realise that today was Sunday for most of us, but still Saturday night for them. I was wrong in thinking there is nothing to do in New York. There is..... But not for me, and for my safety I changed the street. A cold wind soon finished my enthusiasm for walking, so I entered a store, which had a snack bar.
Sleepless and after a long journey, I was now tired. Drinking a coffee and trying to get warmer, I am writing to fill the time and keep myself awake. Through the window I can see a car parking lot.... 5 dollars an hour.... the minimum salary for an hour, accordingly to American law. In Manhattan they are not allowed to park cars in the streets, hence results that the minimum wage is just enough for parking cars. It is a mercy they have the Metro subway.
After 1/2 hour, I was bored again, so decided to go over to Central Park. When I got there the sun was rising. It is a little haze because the humidity, but it looks beautiful. It is still cold, but the wind has dropped. I think that it will be a nice day. All the park benches have been used as beds, and now their users fold up the "bed clothes". Most of them are white (people not clothes). It seems that white people, when sink, sink lower than the African American, or maybe they are more visible, because nobody helps them. "Civilised" people do not help one another. Sad!
In the place where the horse and carriages wait for clients, there is a characteristic smell, which is strange as horses are not here now, and the place is absolutely clean. Maybe the fresh air of the morning makes my sense of smell more sensitive.
Fifty metres further on, several artists are setting up in a hurry, even with feverishness, some tents, improvised from all sorts of materials. Before appreciating their art, I must praise their inventiveness in making tents. As for their works, there are paintings, small sculptures, pottery and what not. There is kitsch, but there are also works of finest quality, made by still unknown artists, but certainly gifted. It is depressing for me to see the way in which these artists try to earn their living in a big city. I admire them...... still I could not do it!
At a corner of the park, there is a statue of Simon Bolivar. Odd thing! I knew that there are only three equestrian statues supported only by two points: the back feet of the horse. This one was not among them, maybe because it is rather small.
Meanwhile, the sun started to warm up, the beggars have all disappeared, so I may go into the park. On the lake, there are geese, ducks, or something like that. A new nice morning has begun.
Some hours later, I came back in the some ill-famed street. Now, everything seems normal. All the indecent adverts have disappeared. They were painted on movable panels, and I can see some of them have been hided away in gangs. Some foreign tourists come down from a small hotel, and two elegant coaches are waiting for them. No one knows what had been happening here a few hours ago, maybe.
Three years ago, when leaving New York, I had some trouble with the traffic. Now, as I am going to fly tomorrow, I thought to look for a hotel near the airport. I was not sure if this was a good idea or not, so that I tried to take counsel of the dispatcher in taxi rank. The fellow was kind, but uninformed. Instead, I involuntarily generated an argument between him and a cab-driver. The driver did not want the dispatcher talking to me, to the clients generally. It was ridiculous, as the dispatcher's duty is to note the destination of all cabs leaving there. To finish the dispute, I decided there and then to go to the airport, taking that same cab. On the route, I asked the driver about the dispatcher ... where he was from, as his English had an odd accent. His answer was not clear at first, but I understood that it was not the real reason that the driver disliked the dispatcher. The real reason was driver's aversion to him, as a representative of all Caucasian immigrants, because they take American jobs. I then realised that the cab driver was an African American. I asked about the dispatcher's mother tongue. The driver answered: "What language? He does not know any language. He is from Greece". Consequently, Greek language does not exist in driver's mind. For the beginning, it amused me, but later I quaked myself.
¶. The first Romanian words I heard in imagination, soon after my homeward had begun. Now, they are real. The aeroplane is full of Romanian passengers.
Thinking to the structure of different languages, we may observe some differences. In English, they say: "I love you". The subject is the first word. The predicate follows immediately, as English people are men of action. Lastly, they say to whom their action is directed, and other details, if it is the case. In Latin languages, people say: "Je t'aime", "Io ti amo", etc. They first specify the relationship (me and you), and afterwards what happens with us. The sentiment is the first. As for German People, they gather all the words - as any careful man - and only at the end of the phrase utter the verb. They do this way probably because usually wait a command before acting, and up till then they make all the necessary preparations. Do you think it? Do not! It was only a joke.
And still, serious studies show that speaking and thinking are two things developing together, in a close relation with each other. I should add the writing, as people - learning how to write and read - learn the discursive thinking and logic. But this is a very large topic, so that let's come back to the languages, as I have another example. When we say "club", we think to an aristocratic, elegant place, where English high-life come every evening. I was surprised to find that club is a verb too, with the meaning of to cudgel, pommel, etc. The actual sense comes from the idea of join together. Yes, in a club, people join together, but the first sense seems to have been to join a stick with a knob giving a bludgeon (club). The aristocracy came later, after the bludgeon fulfilled its role. Smile! It is a joke too!
¶. In United States, as all over the world, people are different: some good, some bad, educated or less educated, etc. Nothing misses! Even American states are different. One could not compare for example Georgia with New Mexico, even though they are at same latitude and not so far each other. The diversity may be interesting, sometimes even amusing, but for me, as Romanian tourist, more important was to notice not the diversity but the unity. Not what is different, of slight value, or frivolous, but what is worthy! Not what separates, but what unifies and gives them that common, special feature that makes us to say: “this is American”, in other words, what can be identified under the label 'American'. Also, I must confess such a curiosity to the causes of the American success, some of its explanation, in the opposite with Romanian lack of success.
Here are some remarks in this respect:
I could make many remarks like these. Most of them lead to the conclusion that the common cause is the education: not toward the classical culture but to the American values and their norms of life. They are proud to be Americans. The word “nationalism” has negative connotations only for small countries. In a top of most nationalist countries, USA would be on the highest position. The American hero is triumphant in every movie. The American propaganda is surprisingly similar to the Soviet one of 50’s years, but, unlike that, the Americans know to avoid the extremely exaggerations and keep the equilibrium. While in Romania nobody used to believe in communist propaganda, in the United States people still trust in official slogans. American flag is present almost everywhere, even on the prostitute’s underpants (I have heard so). If I have put a Romanian flag on the front of my house, I would be accused to be jingoistic. The Americans respect the rules, while the Romanians try to avoid the rules just because they do not think in their efficacy. The Americans, even poor or disappointed, are proud to be Americans, while the Romanians denigrate their country and its history. The Americans trust in their administration, while the Romanians are mistrustful. The Americans know their leaders are wise persons, watch them to be like this, and consequently accept the rules imposed by the government. The Romanians know the rules work against their own interests because the leaders are some opportunist, timeserving persons. "Avoiding rules is our national sport", said a friend of mine from Belgium. It is still well. Sports are for free time and entertainment. I in Romania we do it professionally.
¶. The pure democracy does not yield prosperity, but chaos. Occidental countries are prosperous; consequently, they are not quite democratic. It sounds like a paradox. Is it one? Is USA really a democratic country? Not at all! Otherwise, it would be impossible. (In a hundred per cent democratic system, people will elect Barabbas, not Jesus) About the meetings in the old Greece - country where the word democracy was born - Cyrus (mentioned by Herodotus) said that agora is the place where the Greeks come for cheat one another. (How small is the difference between chat and cheat!) The nowadays democracy is not more than a word efficiently used by politicians in order to lead the people, common people especially. (If voting could really change things, it would be illegal, said a wit) What could be a real democracy? A country where stupid but many people elect their "clever men" to lead the country? Let's be serious! It would be such a great ineptitude that even the electors would not accept it. What really happens? The idea of democracy leads to the universal vote. Every people have the right to vote. But people are not organised, so that the first initiative come from some active persons, the politicians, who build the necessary organism for attracting as many electors as they can. They will develop propaganda adequate to their political conviction, in order to make them known. But a few people understand politics. Much more people are ignorant. And then, the sly politicians develop a demagogic propaganda, particularly adequate at stupid people. This is the way of the communism. Russian experience proved that this way is wrong. A clever man learns from other's mistakes. Occidental counties know that it is more important to keep the equilibrium. And people understand that it is not so wise to impose your own opinions. Sometimes it is good to listen what others say; maybe they know better. And the equilibrium is possible if those in power do not stay too long in power. This is what East European democracies did not do: Stalin, Brezhnev, Ceausescu stayed a lot. USA succeeded in keeping the equilibrium.
During the communist years, Russian official propaganda used to say that the former USSR and occupied countries were being democratic countries, while the occidental ones were some capitalist ones, namely bad. Now, we are democratic again, but of capitalist inspiration, even if the capital lacks us.
What I am remarking in USA - the symbol of the democracy - is the similarity of its nowadays propaganda with that of the Russians in 50's years. What makes the difference is the USA is a prosperous country, while the East European countries still have precarious economies, in a fragrant contradiction with the communist propaganda.
Yes, the democracy is conditioned by prosperity. We may speak about democracy only in a prosperous country. Instead, only an authority well intentioned could produce prosperity, which is the necessary background for democracy. Without prosperity, democracy yields only chaos.
A nation does not rise from nothing. Not even USA! It started from Europe. Its people, the Americans, renounced at some things and added the others, by borrowing from other continents or by their own contribution. Not all they removed was wrong, and not all they added was good, but the result is positive, and this is what matters. The exact balance sheet will be known latter!!!
¶. Many American friends asked me how is life in nowadays Romania. What is interesting is that all of them have the same lack of understanding about what happens in the real life, because they are victims of the system in which they live. All of us are like this. I must confess that, in my turn, I am not different. I would like to know more about the life in some central African areas, for instance, but I have not enough patience to read about them, even if I realised that I could learn many interesting things. In the same way, why other people from more developed countries would be interested in the Romanian's life? That explains why people ask questions, but does not listen the answers. (And still I try to give answers!) We all think in archetypes, in patterns, previously done in our education. From this reason, often we cannot understand some different situations, and put our patterns on other life.
It is true, I had the opportunity of being present to the ascension, decline and collapse of the communist system. I know how worked the wheels of all its gearings. And still, it is very difficult to explain shortly what really happens.
Unfortunately, Romania is poorer and poorer. The communism is much worse than it seems to be. The society will need at least two generations for recovering by it. That's so because it marks people's mentality. The communism became real here only after the old education people were removed, and it will be removed after people educated by communism will disappear. This is the most difficult period, because instead of communist leaders some false ones appeared. Corruption and incompetence are the first words. Unfortunately, the occidental countries "help" us to increase only the corruption (there are not corruption without corrupters).
Frequently, Romania and the other East European countries are put together with the Russia. This is a great mistake. We were as communist as capitalist were the former colonies, occupied by capitalist countries. After the WW II, Russia was the occupant, while the other countries were occupied. The communism was authentic only in Russia, where they did it by themselves. In occupied countries some traitors sold the country, while the rest of people beard the consequences. The Russians destroyed our economy, but they built in Russia. (Do not forget that Moscow was built in 1156 by Iuri Dolgoruki, which means long arm (hand), namely Iuri "the thief". The Russians did not forget.) The hierarchy of the values was normal in Russia, but inverted in occupied counties. Good professionals were appreciated in Russia, but persecuted in Romania. Only corruption was the same, as an authentic product of the communism.
A nowadays historian said that there were more than 540,000 political trials in Romania in the first years of Russians occupation. The most of the accused were intellectuals from urban medium. I took a statistical annual, and did a little calculation. The Romanian population in 1948 was of about 15 millions. At that time, 78% live in rural, 51.7% were women and 25% children under 19 years. The result is the number of men living in urban: a few over 1 million. As not all of them were intellectuals, and the communists did not condemn the workers, we may come to the conclusion that almost whole intellectual class was destroyed.
Now, the collapse of communism caused not only a vacuum of power, but a vacuum of education too. As communism destroyed all the other system of values, when the system itself disappeared, most people remained without guide marks. Now, young enough go abroad if the are a little skilled, or even without it. The others are not able to break the deadlock where Romania is now, either they are rich but swindler, or poor from whatever reason. Only the new generation will put to themselves the question what to do. Anyway, for a while, Romania will not be just a part of United Europe, but something similar with Mexico next to the USA.
In these days, taxes are so high in Romania, as if we have been the richest businesspersons in the world. As for the Romanian government, it seems to have a program in two stages for decreasing the income tax. In the first stage the income is to be decreased. The social situation is going from worse to evil. More and more people are cracking down. The gap between rich and poor will grow. This is not too bad; the worse is that between them - namely the middle class - is smaller and smaller, and just middle class gives the power of any country.
It remind me that in Iasi, the town of the years spent at the University, the tramway number 3 used to ply between the rail-station and graveyard, These seem to be the two alternative for most nowadays Romanians.
¶. I know that most of us dislike politics, but it exists. Removing the mirror, the image reflected in it disappears, but the real object remains. We do not solve problems by ignoring them.
During the communist times, Romania and the other East European countries had all the necessary democratic laws, but not the democracy itself. There were parliament, elections, etc, but everything was perfunctorily, for sake of the affirmation the country is democratic. (If voting could really change things, it would be illegal, said somebody.) In fact, there was not the political will for a real democracy. On the contrary, after the Russians installed at the top of the country a team of politicians, that team installed its dictatorship. It is a stupidity to think that, in the same time, suddenly appeared dictators like Bismarck, in all these countries. The communist system yields "dictators" as symbols, but behind them there was a group of individuals joined by the will to be at power. Shortly, we had democratic laws, but not the democracy, because of the lack of political will.
Dictators are not always what they seem to be: authoritative, dour, definite people, with forward-looking conceptions. On the contrary, such people would not succeed to come in power. The other politicians would eliminate them from start. With several exceptions, particularly from old monarchies, in democratic countries, politicians without a strong personality succeed sooner, because the others do not consider them to be difficult adversaries, but some ones easy removable. A strong man is first eliminated, because he is uncomfortable. A weak man leaves the impression that he will be easy manipulated. Any politician thinks: "if I cannot be elected, x is preferable, because I can make him to play on my song".
This is the first step, and this was the way on which Ceausescu came in power in Romania. There were several much stronger politicians then, but a fight among them would have been dangerous for each of them. Consequently, they proposed and accepted the young and 'inoffensive' Ceausescu.
In the second stage, in time, he eliminated the old leaders one after another. As any stupid man, he removed also every capable person, and rally around himself only with flattering people. On the one hand, with every passing day, he thinks more and more to be a genius. On the other part, those around him "raise balls at net" accordingly to their interest. Apparently, he decides, so he is guilty for any mistake. In reality, there is an oligarchy behind, which prepares the chief's decisions. All the former communist East European countries were governed by oligarchies.
¶. When I first visited occidental countries after 1989, what impressed me most was people's preoccupation for well-done things. Every thing is to be found where you need it; there are not useless things; everything works correctly. It was my impression. This is not only a result of the high economic level but a people's characteristic feature, their morality and conscientiousness. I remembered then that we had been the same before the WW2. People from the generation of my parents were more conscientious than my generation, and much more than nowadays youngsters. This transformation has made by the communism. I am remembering some of my old political chiefs urging us to make worse things but in large quantities, since only the quantity is what that counts in political reports. I am remembering also a political militant ordering to pick up only the yellow weeds from a cultivated field, because only they could be seen from the presidential helicopter. The communism has changed the scale of values. They removed valuable people and promote swindlers instead. This is the real nowadays difference between eastern and western European countries: people's outlook.
¶. I am just inventing a definition of the communism: the hell where a society arrives when the socialist ideas are out of control.
The communist structures act on a similar way with some underground galleries, useful for people of the house, but unknown for the others. In other words, such governs are organised like Mafia. It is not surprisingly that today the same men are at power.
The struggle of people for social ideas is good, but with limits. Too many socialist ideas are like a virus. Unfortunately, people usually do not know where to put the limits. Socialism is a right way for ants, but not for mankind. "Ant colony" would be a caricature of the ideal socialist community.
As early as the antique times, one knew that people need bread and circus. They are the ingredients of any sure and quietly government. The communists gave only circus. With less and less bread, the circus itself become poorer and poorer and the performance clumsy. Finally, people got rid off the single actor, trainer and animal in the same time. Up till now, nobody offered bread without circus.
Coming back to the democracy, the question is if in western countries there is a real democracy, or it is as perfunctory as ours? In my opinion, it is not perfect, but is better then nothing. On the other hand, the absolute democracy means chaos. That's why equilibrium is necessary, and western countries know how to do it.
As for people, they are equal in front of the law, but not behind it.
¶. There were many great empires during the history, but we judge them now after what they left us. Sometimes, some small countries, like the ancient Greek, are better-known thanks to their cultural role. An opposite example is Turkish Empire. Even if there are flying fishes, they never become eagles. I am not eager to know what the former USSR or USA will become. Maybe other people are!
For the moment, the Americans are like poker gamblers, who - even if they have bad cards - take the liberty of overbidding beyond the adversaries' possibilities, in order to eliminate them in this way. I want to say that American politicians' solutions are not always the best, but they always win. That is the power! There are spots even in sun,
¶. Before leaving Romania, my head was full with lots of questions. Meanwhile, I received some answers. Not for all the questions, and besides other more difficult questions appeared. It is true that our ways are paved with more questions than answers, and there are more wrong questions than wrong answers. It is clear that I have to tidy among the questions before seeking for other answers. But more urgently is to sleep. This is the most pressing desire now, and just that I cannot do. Thinking to something, I remark that I only float over the thought. Maybe after a slip I will be able to sail.
¶. "On the highest throne of the word, we sit on our backs". Montaigne said that. In the airplane it is the same, and after a while it become painful and wearisome too.
¶. I am listening a song about New York. Nice, but melancholic, a mixture of homesickness and lack of satisfaction! An Afro-American group sings it. After visiting New York I understand better their feelings. It is about the town where their lives spent, but not always successfully. It is almost a reproach to New York, as it disappointed then, but for all that, it is their town, where they spent their life.
¶. Before falling asleep, there is a first conclusion: the American civilisation is the same with the European one; the not-civilised aspects are different.
¶. "Tomorrow another day will be". I said it almost every day in USA, after a well-known pattern. And every morning is the down of a new error, I could add now. It is well when there is an alternative possibility. Even the water is an alternative for wine, but not daily. (Too much water could harm you.) I am at home now, beginning a new life.
At home again, after my "US-capades", I am eager to put in order my travel notices, even if I am a little shocked by the contact with the realities from here, beginning with replacing T-shirts with flannels and overcoat. So I shall pass beyond my everyday remarks, and try to synthesise global impressions picked up during the trip.
Willing or not, I wrote about my thought during the travel, so that the result could seem to be something autobiographical. Still, do not forget: "Autobiography is an unrivalled vehicle for telling the truth about other people". (Philip Guedalla) That was not quite my intention, but some things could not be avoided. I hope my friends will not be angry with me for such a small thing, even if "It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend". William Blake said it.
I will continue to write as a journal. Don't worry! It will be not for long, just for putting down some conclusive ideas. The exact dates are not important.
¶. A rich man who enters politics could become richer or poorer. That's why he will not take much risk. A poor man has nothing to lose, so that he will definitely embark upon the path of corruption, because something will remain in his pocket even after will pay, if he will ever pay, for his unlawfulness. These are our politicians.
¶. Some days ago, I met some young Mormons who came in Romania to make proselytes. As a matter of fact, they stopped me in the street. Since then, I met them several times, as I am curious to know what they say, why they try to convert Romanian people - who are Christians for about 2000 years - and in which way they hope to do it. I am interested in religion generally, as part of the culture and civilisation. As a European I am particularly interested in Christianity, whatever would be the church that preach it.
I do not discuss now their cheekiness. Most of them have become missionaries as an alternative to the military service. That's why they come here for a period of two years. They proved to be incapable in their own life, but want to teach others. That reminds me of an old caricature featuring a beggar inviting people to buy a booklet for learning how to become a millionaire.
We can wonder why the American government absolve them of carrying out the military service, under the condition to go oversees for make proselytes, but everyone knows that politics is, and always was, perfidious and immoral. And even these young boys are not as so faithful as they do a job. Is this job a religious or apolitical one? It is almost the same, so that it is useless to know.
¶. I have just got rid off the Mormons, and another sect found me. The Christadelphians! I do not know how, from time to time, some booklets appeared in my mailbox, inviting me to contact them. By curiosity (they came from England), and for practising English, I did it. Their "doctrine" pretends to be a Christian one, but it is as simplistic as non-Christian. The main idea is that Jesus Christ will come back to massacre (this word is mine) all the heathens and make masters of the world, of course, the Christadelphians. First, this idea is not new at all. Besides, its "morale" is immoral. Even their booklets are written in perfect English, the authors did not understand a bit about what the Christian doctrine is, or do not want to. Instead they are extremely stubborn in preaching their slogans. In reply, I wrote several very hard letters. I thought they would abandon me. Bah! Without answering my subjects, they went on writing the same slogans. I came to the conclusion they are not believers at all. They have an aim, a target, and follow their way unscrupulously. As for their morale ... I think Hitler was more honest. He probably really believed in his idiot doctrine.
¶. There are lots of missionaries from all kinds of sects on the streets of Brasov, stopping you, and most of them come to our doors. All of them, and particularly the young Mormons, are like children wanting to teach their parents how to make children. Christianity was born here. Not just here, in Brasov, but in Jerusalem, not so far away from here. To be more exactly, at about 1500 Km, namely the distance between Seattle and Los Angeles. Thanks to the apostle Andrew and his followings, our ancestors became Christians as early as the first years. During the centuries, the Romanians had to fight against the pagans to keep the Europe Christian. The Romanians are born Christians as nation and are Christians as individuals, willingly or unwillingly, because they are educated in Christian spirit, in Christian morale. For the Romanians, religion is more poem and symbol. It is that "love your fellow man as yourself", which supposes the correction of our primary sentiments. What neo-Protestants propose instead? Scare and fright?
I talked with many religious propagandists, but none of them was able to say something about the essence of Christianity. Instead, all of them stoutly allege they are not only number 1, but also the single real Christian believers, and all the others are wrong.
Only the diseases are contagious, not the health. What we receive from the missionaries could not be soundness.
¶. Now, from the political point of view, Romania is wanted in United Europe and NATO, because they would become larger and stronger, but from the economic point of view many groups of interests put up resistance. That's why the Romanian economy is not really helped to develop. On the contrary, they destroyed most part of them, for eliminate a potential concurrent. Some Romanian leaders received huge commissions for that. (We have corrupted men and the occident has the bribers.) On the other hand, Romania receives funds for making our market similar with that of UE, preparing in this way our join. But this money arrived in the pockets of the same corrupted leaders. In this way, the Romanian's population is divided in two: those very rich paid in dollars or Euro, and those very poor paid in national money. As more and more products will have European prices, in several years, common people's incomes will be close to zero, as medium income is about 100 dollars a month. What we build now is don a new democracy, but a "Demon-cracy".
Many people say that politics does not interest them. Me too, but since I feel its effects on my skin and in my pocket I can't help seeing that it exist. It is not an honest way to hide ourselves behind the mask of innocence. Embarrassing is that people benefiting by politics of their country pose as innocents. Of course, I cannot claim them to renounce at their advantages, because politics of their country is malefic, but I am going to be sick of their false innocence. I am not a fighter - never was - so that in depressing moments, I find a refuge in reading. It is pleasant, but I realise that it is abandon. Less awkward, but ... Yet, I am not a hero. Also, I wish to meet the American who leaves his job, because he realised that the products he works for are used in a to blame war.
The politicians are like ingredients in culinary art. One takes a potato that is far to be perfect, but it is peeled, all the defective parts are removed, it is washed, and finally it is thrown in the pot. Then, one takes a carrot, maybe less perfect, and follows the same way. Afterwards an onion, and so on! It depends on the cook's talent whether the soup will be tasted or not. The ingredients are not perfect. The politicians not at least, but their ensemble may give good results, if the cook is skilled enough. The cook is the nation, which knows better or worse to clean and mix the politicians and to boil them at small but long fire.
For do not be too malicious, here is a more positive comparison: a politician is like a bus driver: he is not the nicest, stronger, clever, or most educated, but people accept him as he promised to drive them up till the destination. Unfortunately, we are not quite sure about the destination.
¶. I have pen pals from many countries with different political orientations. It is easy to remark that those from countries with former socialist regimes are of right orientation, while those from countries with market-driven economy have left orientation. There always is a problem to know how much to the right thinks someone coming from the left and how much to the left thinks someone coming from the right, and how far is their relative position. It seems that, in people's opinion, the best political system is anything else except that in which they are living. (The grass always is greener in another field) Is there an ideal political system? The question is not new at all. The ancients were very concerned in such topics, much more than we are, and we are often surprised how deep their concepts were. One of the most comprehensive one belonged to Aristotle, in his Politika. He identified three main theoretical types of political systems: aristocracy, monarchy and republic. None is perfect. Every one of them has good qualities and flaws. That's why the society usually turns from one type into another in a perpetual cycle: monarchy, democracy, aristocracy, monarchy and so on, passing through some degenerated forms. Dictatorships are degenerated forms of the democracy, before its fall. (Aristotle said.)
I had the misfortune to change three types of political systems in the same country. Despite this misfortune - in any evil there is something good-- I was lucky by having the opportunity to see for myself what really happened here, and how people behaved during those changes. Before the WW2, Romania was a monarchy in full development. Soviet Army suddenly broke its evolution. They imposed us their democracy in fact one already degenerated. In less than fifty years, this political system broken down in all the occupied countries, starting with USSR itself. All of these countries are now trying to adopt a market-driven economy.
It is in fashion nowadays to say communist instead of socialist when they speaking about Eastern Europe countries, in order to spare the feeling of the members of some occidental socialist parties. Do not allow the illusion to lead us! It is the same. Communism = Socialism. As a matter of fact, till 1989, we used to say socialist, not communist. I am sorry for those who think that the socialism is a possible solution, even after it failed has everywhere, not only in Europe. Those who think that we did not have democratic rules, universal vote, etc., are also wrong. On the contrary, theoretically, we had all of those rules. Officially we used to say that we were of the democratic system, while the occidental countries were belonging to some "capitalist", "imperialist" systems. They used to say that we were the good ones, and the occident the evil. The communist system would have been a perfect democratic one. All of the adults used to participate in the election. The right to vote was more than assured: it was compulsory. Unfortunately only theoretically! Reality was the opposite. The frontier guard kept us away from the border so that we could not go abroad, instead of keeping away the enemies of our country. The result of the elections was always the same: over 90% for the "beloved leaders". They inverted all the scales of values. Maybe Lenin really wanted to build a socialist system. Maybe! We saw the results. Aristotle was right. Democracy degenerates in dictatorship. How is that possible? Firstly, democracy causes corruption and hypocrisy. Then the leaders learn how to use democratic rules in order to handle people. From the corruption to the terror mentioned with the political policy, all the means are used. Dictatorship is the last stage. After that only the fall follows, due to economic decline. This is exactly what happened here. The main cause of the hypocrisy is simply the universal vote. It is a paradox to ask stupid people to choose clever representatives. In order to obtain their votes, the sly politicians make unrealistic promises. Politicians everywhere do it. Of course we do not want to renounce the universal vote as long as we do not have a better solution. People from some countries know to use it reasonably while those from other ones are easily deceived. It is a matter of how to use it. Our system was the most hypocrites that humanity has ever invented. I know some people will say that there is corruption, hypocrisy, et cetera in occidental countries too. Yes, but not to the same degree and not so widely spread. Italian Mafiosi are beginners in comparison with some communist leaders. We practised "State Mafia". The whole political system used to be of Mafia type.
Yes, the belief that communism is something promising is wrong. Both socialism and communism are words defining an ideal political system. In fact an Utopia! We may ask why the eastern democracies dropped so fast, what was wrong, or what were the differences face to the Occidental countries? The explanations to these questions only regard the past, but the morals are for the future because such perils are possible whenever there is a democracy. A common saying is: "The wise man learns from the other's experience; the fool not even from his own." An ideal is a theoretical notion. It does not exist in reality. Society belongs to nature, and nature is not perfect. It is contradictory, complex, uncertain, unforeseen, and in perpetual motion. Nobody could control it perfectly. Trying to suddenly build a perfect society was the mistake the Marx, Lenin, and their disciples did. It is an intellectual naiveté to think that someone could conceive a new society. We are unable to conceive of a simple blood corpuscle or human being, how could we conceive a whole society?
In my opinion, the system in which we live is not important. None is perfect. Our duty is to try to make things tolerable and to improve it continuously. The key to progress is not in politics but in morality and economy. Politics is a necessary evil. The economy must be efficient, because the more efficient it is the easier people succeed in annihilating the stupidity of the politicians and lead their acts. The occidental countries have different political systems. Some of them are monarchy and others republics, but all belong to the same community: the community of prosperous countries. People want to improve their lives only when they can trust their political system and respect its rule. That's why we can accept some small imperfections if the system is a prosperous one, and people really want to improve it step by step because they trust in their morality. What impressed me most when visiting occidental countries was people's preoccupation for well-done things. They know that working well is to their advantage. Our elder generations used to do the same but the younger ones have a "socialist education". This is what we need to change.
¶. It is clear that we do not know how a society could be like, but we know how it not must to be. That's why we should be concerned more on those social mechanisms, which would be able to prevent the society to go on dangerous paths. For example, the absolute majority in a parliament for a political party must be forbidden, in order to hinder some politicians to impose their will. Only a general accepted law is good for all people. Also, the algorithm for counting tax proportional to income comes from the times when great landlords were the leaders of the society in the same time. They really feel themselves to be responsible for their estates and people working and living on it. Of course, they were the ones whose contribution - directly proportional with their estates - used to make most part of the national budget. It was correct for those times, but it has nothing in common with the democracy. Why the one who works harder must pay more? Nonsense! Everyone is indebted a small amount, as he exists, and government spend money with his evidence, protection, etc. If he lives in a large town, his tax must be greater for sanitation services, and so on. Shortly, everyone should pay for what he consume, and not for how much and efficiently he works.
The deepest effect of the communism was the deterioration of the morale. That's why people need morale now more than ever.
¶. For attracting visitors to my studio, I have hung a banner under the windows of the first floor (the second, in the American English) of the building. Surprisingly, people do not observe it, because the Romanians walk bended, looking down.
¶. When win, you never now what you lost; when lost, you never know what you won. I said it! Anyway, an experience is a gain.
¶. I am glad now that I visited USA and met their people at their home. According to expectation, they are normal people, some good, some less good, as everywhere. I have now a more realist image, and can judge the Americans thinking of people that I met there. The true Americans are at their houses.
Instead of a cosmogony
When thinking of micro-cosmos, we have in view tiny lifeless particles having certain characteristic physical features. In macro-cosmos, the only difference is that the tiny particles become very large cosmic bodies. We wonder ourselves if life exists on other planets but any planet strictly speaking is conceived as something without life. Into this inanimate and simple medium, between micro and macro cosmos, life does exist at least on our planet on which we live with all of our faiths and fights. Odd, isn't it? The culprit is our imagination, or more specifically, our lack of imagination. We understand what occurs around us but our knowledge decreases substantially as our thinking moves farther away. In both micro-cosmos as well as macro-cosmos, our mind imagines simple particles whirling unceasingly around each other. Really? Is the world senseless? Unlikely! What would be the sense of a world without sense? We will never be able to provide answers to these questions but this does not prevent us from imagining other cosmogonies. But why? The reason for any cosmogony ever conceived was to make sense of our life and to serve as support of morality. Any religion does offer some moral norms based upon a particular cosmogony. The science, on the other hand, destroys any cosmogony, and implicitly the moral norms that had used that cosmogony as support, offering nothing as a replacement. If you are not a religious person at all, consider the following proposition. As science accepts the infinite as mathematical notion, then we may accept that Earth is a particle in the micro-cosmos of another superior system which, in turn, is a particle in other systems and so on. Perhaps we are somewhere in an infinite flight of stairs. Can Earth be a particle of the liver of an upper being? It seems we must accept that life could exist both in small and large infinite. There is a god for us and we are gods for our some smaller ones. But how could I speak something to those smaller beings from my body what I want they to do. How could I address to them? They do not know Romanian language, not even English. It must be another way, not to make them to understand me, but to oblige them to work properly. If don't, the inflicting punishment will be drastic and then... what, for example, a section of the liver becomes out of the body? A decaying material! Of course, it would be naive to think that God looks like us and he watches our individual existence. Is there a moral? From an individual point of view the answer is NO, but - from a collective one - it is YES. For example to keep Earth alive; otherwise the vital functions of the upper being will surely remove us as a decayed corpuscle! In which way? This would be the topic of the religion. This is not just a cosmogony but it deserves to think on it.
(It looks like such of pantheism. What a trump of a fellow this Spinoza was! He knew nothing about he structure of the atom, but thought better than many contemporaries. As we understand him now, I wonder when we will understand the ancient Greeks, although Hindu tradition is nearer by the pantheism.)
¶. If God made us, he did it for himself. Let's suppose that we, you or I, to make a machinery, let's say a "bio-machine". We do not want that machine to raise prayers to us, or to glorify our name every day and every hour, unless we are just some stupid people. What we want is that machine to work according to our project. God wants the same from us. Prayers are priests' inventions. The question is what God wants us to do? Maybe to preserve the planet entirely! Do not forget that he made the earth firstly, and only afterwards the man.
How could we possibly hope to discover something of the mind of God? How God views our life, and what he thinks? (If God made us like him, he is like us, so he has the same troubles. I would like to know when it is the better time for asking him about my problems, because I do not want to disturb him while in the bathroom. Fortunately, be sure that he is not like us.)
As a beginning is proved - both biblical and archaeological - an end must be as well. The idea of an imminent end gives birth to the salvation idea, evidently for those who will be alive then. How to save themselves? With prayers it is unlikely. Anyway, the solution is not to be found in a book written several thousands years ago. But, till then, it would be good for us to keep the planet entirely.
At the beginning, it is the word that was. The Bible says that. Of course, the God's word! "Word" has a deeper meaning here. It says that God had a plan, a project, before starting to make the world. He didn't play making earth, plants, animals and finally some little men, at random. First, he had had a project. All the nature was conceived as a whole. That's why we ought to preserve the nature as it is, with the mankind in it, if possible. This is our first duty. If we have too many "original" eccentric ideas, there is the risk of becoming non-functional inside of the upper-system and, consequently, the system will eliminate us, just because it was conceived as a whole.
Man is in his essence bad. Any object or being in nature is in a permanent interaction with the objects and beings around him. The struggle for existence is indispensable for life, is life itself. Man, as part of nature, cannot make exception. Thanks to the education, he learns how to live decently, as the medium will impose its limits anyway. The intelligence should improve his existence, but it did not happen so far. On the contrary, man used it destructively. In whole, our situation looks like that of pre-historical dinosaurs, which used to dominate the medium, but were the first to disappear. If you do not like my comparison, think to brontosaurs!
As for the education, it is an individual process. The society does not change itself in the same rhythm. As a result, educated people are victims of the less educated ones. And this is the smallest effect. More grave is that we firstly propose to educate man to be good, and then we think that men really are good. It is a non-realist premise to imagine man better than he is. This is why we conceive all kinds of utopias. People should be considered as they are, and conceive a society in according to their characteristic features.
¶. Do we are free? Without the pressure of the atmosphere our body would burst. (Schopenhauer said it.) The absolute liberty is not possible. In society, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said that it is the enemy who borders us, gives form and found us. Let us not say just enemy, but it is clear that our liberty come up against the others' liberty, so that we must not disregard them.
¶. I have just read the leaflet from a CD with music of American Indians, where the author insisted on the idea that, in Indian spiritualist faith, man is considered to be part of nature. It is here from his attachment to the nature arises. I am thinking the morale issued from the Christian faith is opposite. In Christianity, people are taught that their existence on the Earth is temporary; the eternity is in the Eden, likely in the Hell. From here the scorn to the earth and everything is on it, the neglecting of the medium. Even in Extreme Oriental faiths, although mankind's existence on the Earth is considered to be temporary too, caring plants and animals is extremely important. Only the Christians are inimical to the medium. This comparison deserves a deeper analyse. Maybe I will do it one day. For the moment, I keep in mind that native-Americans spiritualist faith seems to be better that ours. Their god has less political ambitions.
¶. With or without beard, alike us or, on the contrary, very different, a being or spontaneous nature, God surely exists, and we are his children, in the figurative sense, of course. The question is what he claims from us? Hosannas and glorifying hymns surely not! They are tricks invented by priests. Maybe God only wants us to behave on a normal way, as he made us. Consequently, any exaggeration is opposite to his will.
¶. In time, common people have understood better and better Christian philosophy. It is not true the atheism is generalised, but the profound Christian message is not to be found in most churches, and people see this. Consequently, they do not go to church, but they believe, everyone in his way. Now, it is surprisingly, at least for me, why neo-Protestant preachers insist on those anachronic ideas of Apocalypse and the Second Coming of Jesus, who will massacre all the people except those few adepts of exactly their church. Probably my wife is right saying that everybody believes in God according to his soul.
¶. In Romania, not even fifty years of communist propaganda changed the faith. On the contrary, this is just more obvious now, when the poverty reached unbearable limits; people thank to God as the only rescuer. We must not forget that Christianity is first the faith of poor people.
¶. Paradise has not representations in our world; we cannot imagine it. As for the hell, Dante imagined it as earthly as possible. I am afraid the modern times exceeded his fantasy.
¶. Now I know where we come from: from love.
As I have just read Marcus Aurelius, I am tending to see what would happen if I would apply the same algorithm. It is true, he had famous ancestors and was himself a celebrity, while my ancestors were much more modest ones, as myself too. Yet, one can do a suitable motion of translation so that the logic of the method will not be affected.
He begins by saying “From my grandfather Verus I have learnt the good manners and self-control”. This Verus was consul and prefect of Rome. I had two grandparents, the both businessmen in a town from Romania. I learnt nothing from them, as they had died before my birth. As a matter of fact, if they had not died, I should not have born, because they were being so grim rivals that they did not accept the marriage of their children, even if these ones used to love each other with a passion greater than their parents’ stubbornness. But the inevitable occurred, the children got married, and I came into being. I was not their first experience. From a previous attempt, my elder sister resulted. I had to accept her as my parent’s first experiment before “the great achievement”. (It is true that God made the man first and afterwards the woman, but nobody demonstrated that this would have been the best solution, and . . . he was alone.) It was expected that, after a success like this, they did not try anything else.
I would be ungrateful to keep on the idea that I would not have learnt anything from my grandfathers. Indirectly, they have taught my very many things.
My mother’s father was a poor fellow, but clever and ambitious. He got married with my grandmother, a woman very timid and lonely, but descending from a family with deep roots and assuring her an important dowry. This dowry was the base of a prosperous business, which the grandfather built alone. He has taught me by this example what a resolute man can do in his life.
About the other grandfather I know very little. Probably, he was the cause of the dispute with his post-mortem father of his daughter-in-law. He had inherited the profession of businessman - usual in his family from several generations - and considered to be from this reason “of a more noble race”. Sure is that all his children until my father, had followed some universities, while the other’s only two from five.
As I said, after the grandfathers’ died, the children were free to marry, so my father – over ears in love with my mother – followed the shortest way possible: the school of officers. In this way, after two or three years – I do not know exactly – he became a professional in a field for which he used to have not the least vocation or attraction, but free to marry, what he just done.
After Marcus Aurelius’ algorithm, I am to say now what I have learnt from my father. Well, he died when I was of four years, so that there was not much to learn from him on a direct way, but I leaned indirectly that in the life you must assume the events of the epoch in which you live, even if they did not depend on yourself, and to go with dignity through them. He died in the war, in a heroic gesture, though – as I already said – he had not any passion for military career. He has left to me as legacy the title of “Knight of Mihai Viteazul Order” the highest military award of Romania of that time. I may rejoice now of it, if I would not be too old, but it was a blemish in my biography during the communist years, as he fought against the former USSR.
As for my mother, in face of her self-abnegation, resistance and love for the family, I feel myself overwhelmed. I will never cease to admire her, and I am conscious that I would never have been able of her performances. I feel myself so insignificant that I do not dare to speak much on this topic. Still, some things must be mentioned. She remained widow with two children of 8 and 4 years in full war. Three years later, when the front came close to us, in 1944, we had to leave our house and take refuge in the other end of the country, in Oltenia. All officers’ families had to do it. All things were loaded in several railway-trucks, and we, the children, together we our grandmother, leaved the first. She remained a day more to supervise the loading the other trucks, and came up with us just at the destination, after several hours of waiting for us. As for the other trucks, her efforts were mostly vainly, as few of them were retrieved. In the mess and agitation of those days she was content for our regrouping. After refuge, we came back at home, where the ordeal of communist epoch began for a stigmatized family, too shy, inexperienced and unable for squeezing through the welters of real society.
But, let us start with the beginning. Like most famous people, after they are born, I yelled, ate and wet myself. Later on, we went on different ways. Some of us have studied philosophy; others devoted themselves to mathematics, medicine, physics, and even political sciences. One can never know what crosses people's mind. I am sure that I studied something but I do not remember exactly what it was. (Sometimes I forget the uninteresting things.) Still I remember that, when someone were asking me what I would want to be as adult, I answered: cab man. That was so, because I liked the smell of horses, or their harness, during my parents took me with them for shopping. Before to fulfil my ideal, cars had spread, so that, for the beginning I followed a technical university. Bad luck! In this way, I awaken philosopher among the engineers and painter among the philosophers. Yet I have palliating circumstances: in those years, in Romania, engineering used to be apolitical and a well-paid profession, so that any clever child went this way.
The inclination to engineering was evident since a child in the accurateness of my expressions. For example, when my sponsor asked me "what is going on with your belly", just when my stomach was being disturbed, I answered: "Belly is good, rump is bad". Still, engineering was a good school, as it moulded my thought, giving to it clarity and rigorously.
Generally, most children cry. I laughed! I was said that, whatever someone entered my room, I would laugh. I would point a finger at them and just laugh. If the person was unknown to me, the more resounding was the laughter. Thus, fewer and fewer people would enter my abode. It was said that I was a nice child. I do not believe it. The most outrageous fibs that I ever heard were about children "the little one looks like his mother or his grandmother, possibly he looks a bit like his father, and so on". The truth is that all children look like each other.
A later photograph (4-5 years) shows me as almost a cute little boy. What times and what a pity that beauty is of no use. People do not want to accept the idea that somebody can have more qualities than just beauty. Having only one quality is quite enough and rather too much at times. Consequently, I shall write on my defects and how they have increased with time, making me the think they are worthy to be mentioned.
To be sincere, I must confess that there was a spark of hope somewhere: maybe I was not very cute. Maybe I was not cute at all. Consequently, I should have the right to some qualities. It is true, they are not confirmed by the history yet, but I am an optimist. People often write and re-write histories. There are as many histories as many great interests are! And not only the good examples are worthy to be mentioned; the bad ones are much more instructive. I remember my grandmother, who was a great admirer of carrots, advising me to eat carrots to help my cheeks turn rosy red. Otherwise, I would look like brand "X" which was really not recommended at all. I did not look like brand "X" even though I did not eat carrots. Somehow I have avoided all the extremes that impacted my childhood.
As I already said, my second activity as a newborn was eating. In respect to the historical truth, I did not eat but drunk. Here is how the lie inoculates us early in our babyhood. And it is not the worse. It is true that at the beginning the word was (the Bible says), but the first word might not always the right one. It seems nobody understood my first word even though I said it very strongly. Later on, although I insisted, people persisted in their lack of interest for basic philosophical ideas. As for drinks, this has remained a matter that I am still studding and considering its depths. Some things are as uplifting as they are deep. That's why they have to be done thoroughly.
Later, I learnt that I was born under the sign of Taurus (2 May 1937), together with other good men like Lenin and Marx. Recently I have learnt that Saddam Hussein is only four days older than I. Hitler himself aspired to the same sign and a single day missed him. (Maybe this sentiment of dissatisfaction made him so ambitious.) It could have been Machiavelli's as well, but he was a clever fellow, despite to those who - more Machiavellian than him - defamed him.
The happiest year of my sign is going to be 2037. We will live to see it, though my sight is becoming weaker and weaker.
At the beginning, I was very disappointed with my sign because Taurus is a bull and a bull is however an ox: idiot and horned. But I was told that my sign is still a good one. As a matter of fact, in antiquity, Taurus used to be considered a symbol of masculine force and intelligence just thanks to its horns. Zeus himself, in his best days, used to disguise himself into a Taurus. (I think that women invented zodiac, because only they could idealise an ox in such a great measure.) I have heard that, according to other zodiacs, I should get rid of this obsession, but I do not know other ones and I am not eager to learn about them either. Why should I find out other flaws? I have enough with those already known.
There is about the same with the horoscope. Learning that I am to benefit by a good day, for example, I will be able to make mistakes due to rather much trust in my abilities. Instead, learning that I was going to have a bad day, I would be embarrassed and would make mistakes just because the lake of my usual horned enthusiasm. Learning about my horoscope at the end of a bad day would be the best. In this way I would receive an explanation for my failures during that day, and it would be a tonic for the following day when, surely, the horoscope will be more favourable, in virtue of statistic laws: after rain, bad weather! (I think it is a little different but it does not matter.)
I tried with biorhythms too. It seems more scientific but it gives me the sensation of a machine. I have the feeling that a rod-crank mechanism acts upon me in an obsessing and everlasting rhythm. Or, what a pity, some day it will stop to the disappointment of my biography's readers. (Every good thing has an end... But let's do not rush. I have only started writing it.
As the zodiac, horoscope, and even the biorhythms did not help me much, I have learnt to take things as they are. Nevertheless, honestly, on every 13th, I usually inform my acquaintances that they will probably have a bad day.
I do not know when I grow up. About what happened later on I have to write, but I am very busy now. Before I retired, I used to have much more free time. Wishing to hear good news, and do not forget: my glorious year will be 2037!