say that Mothers' Day is today, but yours, my Mother, should be every
day of the year.
you were lucky too.
You, my lucky Mom.
In one of the last meetings of our writing group you asked each of us to sketch our own vision of God. I had a problem with that: I did not know how to reconcile the notion of an omnipotent and a benevolent Father with the rampant cruelty of men to men in the world.
I solved it at the time by deciding that God did not create our physical world, nor the creatures inhabiting it; instead He created what we might call the Laws of Nature. Thus, He does not control our daily life; we are facing Nature, where the strong win, not the meek. Therefore God had a perfect alibi, and I avoided a blasphemy of doubting His benevolence, or His omnipotence, or both.
But this explanation has been bothering me; more and more a different picture was flashing before my eyes. Frequently I would wake up at night and could not easily wipe these pictures off my mind.
Your simple question stirred thoughts in me which half a century laid down to rest; and I use here the word "stirred" advisedly. I think, perhaps, if I put those thoughts on paper, they would stop haunting me.
The scene that I see is of a powerful spirit towering over a group of several pictures:
I believe that the only difference between Dante's Inferno and the Holocaust is that the Inferno was inhabited by sinners.
I am sorry, Carol; I know, this is not easy to read (nor was it easy to write), but I thought that you may want to know the true answer to the Question you posed at our last meeting.
The death of his wife two years ago hit him hard; he stopped his professional work and curtailed personal contacts, but he is in good health and still lives in Oslo.
(Since this writing, Johan Richter has passed away.)
It is a well publicized fact that there is an alcohol abuse in Scandinavian countries; however, of all the Scandinavian cities I know, the most striking example of it I saw in Oslo, Norway.
Oslo is a beautiful and interesting city, and while I was busy working with my fellow engineers, Lydia never missed a minute exploring the city's musea, historic sites and parks. On a weekend she would be my tour guide, and was so good in that that there was a standing joke that she was making some money on the side by explaining Oslo's features to the local citizens. However, let's go back to the problem.
Everywhere on the streets we saw drunken people reeling and tottering, or sleeping on the benches, on grass, or simply lying on the sidewalks. Nobody seemed to pay any attention, let alone take care of them. We were told that any interference with their peaceful activity, or position would constitute violation of their civil rights. Lydia saw a man lying on the sidewalk with his head and upper torso extending onto the traffic lane. He was lying so for a while, until a couple of young men moved his head to the sidewalk and left him there.
One day, waiting for Lydia to meet me I was standing in front of a large building. A shabbily dressed man staggered towards the building, leaned against a column and started talking to me. Soon he switched to English; he was not obnoxious and asked questions about me and America. While we were talking, another one approached.
This one was in much worse shape, hardly could keep his balance. They exchanged few words upon which my new acquaintance pulled out of his coat pocket a can of beer and offered it to the newcomer.
"Why did you do that?" I asked. "Don't you see that he had enough, he hardly can stand?" The man was obviously surprised. "He is my friend," he said with emphasis.
took me a while to understand his reaction: if craving for a drink is
even stronger than hunger, then what is a friend for, if not to relieve
While Norwegians are displaying benign neglect towards their street roaming drunks, their attitude toward drunk drivers is just the opposite. The legal limit of alcohol concentration in blood is low, and there is mandatory jail sentence and suspension of driver's license for first offenders.
were invited by company management to a dinner. Before the dinner we had
a drink in a private house of one of the engineers. When time to leave
came, our host phoned for a taxi. "I don't want to take risk driving
after the drink I had," he explained. "Besides I expect to have
some wine with my dinner and wouldn't like then to drive home either."
Some months later, at home, I came across a certain letter to the editor in the Wall Street Journal. I never wrote a letter to the editor in my life, but this time I could not resist to write one in rebuke. Here is the exchange:
Judy Shireman from San Francisco wrote:
fact is that there are no tough dr1nking laws in Norway - only tough laws
against driving while intoxicated. And the reason Ms. Shireman never saw
so many drunks in the streets is that while in Norway the tough laws force
them to walk, in the U.S. they are driving cars.
There was never a tree big enough to build a tree house in the rented apartments where I and my family lived in my youth. When finally I owned a backyard, I was over thirty years old, hardly a tree climbing age.
This is not to say that I did not manage occasionally to find solitude. When I was building my den, for example, and had to put in the wiring for the light and the baseboard heater, I had to work in the attic. In my toolbox, which accompanied me, there, among the nails, wires, pliers, cotton and electric tape, was also a good book, which somewhat foisted itself on me. Attic successfully substituted for a tree house.
My good wife was often concerned about the time and effort this project cost me, as well as she was anxious to see this room finished; however I insisted that for any work to be a hobby it should not have a deadline, otherwise it becomes a chore.
It took two years to finish the den.
At the present time, in my old age, I am experiencing a different type of solitude. With my hearing problem I have to shut myself off from a group carrying an animated, if not sometimes a chaotic discussion, lest somebody would ask for my opinion on the subject. Equally impossible for me is to participate in a conversation in a place with a general din, like in a crowded restaurant. I am left then with my own thoughts; sometime I keep on repeating my mantra:
In keeping with the principle of sour grapes, I often assume that the talk is not worth listening to, anyway.
like fixing things
shun the obvious,