Author Archives: stephen.hammock1

Simanolanoki

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[refrain]:

Simanolanoki Flow Away

Our love is broken on your shoals

The sacred fire that burned within my heart

Like you it ebbs and flows away

 

The hawk has flown away upon the wind

The breezes carry him away

The love I gave to you in heart and song

Like the hawk has flown away

[refrain]

Now like the empty field where once we roamed

Where only broken sherds remain

My heart is empty too, unworthy muse

My love for you has flown away

[refrain]

I’ve closed the book of love I wrote for you

Odshisi carries it away

My heart is mine again to give or break

Flow, Wild River, flow away

[refrain 2x]

Categories: Archaeology, Artifacts, Exploration, History, Indian Trails, Literature, Love, Nature, Poetry | Leave a comment

10,000 Years

 The Reader cannot read
The sleeper cannot sleep
The singer cannot sing
For love of you

The dreamer cannot dream

The diver cannot dive

Except into your eyes

Ageless and green

But the poet writes your soul

And the painter paints my heart

While 10,000 years of time

Smile through the ice

And 10,000 more may come

Before such souls may meet

And I would spend them all

O muse with you

 

Categories: Archaeology, Artifacts, Exploration, History, Literature, Love, Nature, Poetry, Primitive Skills | Leave a comment

Flow into Me

Minds afire, Hearts as one

Dreams descend when Day is done,

Deep in your Soul broad rivers run

Dark is my Night, bright is your Sun;

Shadows flee when I look in your eyes,

Stars grow weak and fall from the skies,

From Fires in our Souls sparks arise,

Love makes the Magic that never dies;

You are the River, I am the Sea,

You are the Earth, I am a Tree,

My roots run deep, your Spirit flows free,

Run into You, Flow into Me.

Categories: Literature, Love, Nature, Poetry | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Silent Tombs of Despair

Let yesteryear’s kisses lay hidden in the shadows of time,

For the ghosts who haunt time’s halls are silent and sad,

Though still they remember the fires and desires of love,

And they envy the fire in my heart and the flowers in your eyes;

Listen, o muse, to the song they would sing to your heart – 

Of death, who strangled their hopes, silenced their songs,

And buried their love in silent tombs of despair;

Their bones now rest ‘neath the Earth, though their shades remain, 

Chained to the places they haunted when their lips were warm;

Perhaps these spirits will awaken when you fling wide your soul,

Full of winter and storms, of springtime and sassafras tea – 

Perhaps even yesteryear’s sighs may meet with today’s

When we are the ghosts who sigh and long for one kiss,

And the poems and songs of tomorrow are sung o’er our graves.

 

Categories: Cemeteries, Exploration, Literature, Love, Nature, Poetry | Leave a comment

When You’re White with Age

When you’re white with Age, and I’m asleep in my Grave,
Buried and awaiting my final excavation,
Think back on your youth, and smile, and raise me a glass.
When Time has shortened your breath and flowed away,
And those twin suns you have for eyes are setting
Beyond the River of Night, and you long to sleep,
Remember – and our shadows will rise up like ghosts in your Mind,
Trooping onto Memory’s stage while salt tears flow.
Then the very words we spoke will be spoken again,
And the very hearts we broke will be broken again,
And the Visions you inspired in my Heart and in my Mind
With your lovely dark eyes will burst through our Souls
Like a Supernova, or your magical smile in the fall.
And we will be One, if only for that instant in Time
While you recite the words of the Poet to his Muse,
When you’re white with Age, and I’m asleep in my Grave.

 

Categories: Archaeology, Cemeteries, Literature, Love, Poetry | Leave a comment

One with Night

Until my Muse bids me from bed to rise

I will remain cocooned in Night’s embrace;

Though Day himself demand I open these eyes,

I’m deaf to Day when Night’s kisses fall on my face.

Dressed all in black lace, her pale shoulder’s bare,

Luscious her lips, ghostly her secretive smile,

Loose and disheveled her ebony moonlit hair

In which I’ll be entangled for but a while.

For awhile I’ll dream of the stars in her dark, dark eyes;

For but awhile may I be one with Sweetest Night;

‘Til My Muse bids me again from bed to rise –

Reborn on the wings of Day, Night’s songs take flight.

 

 

 

Categories: Literature, Love, Poetry | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Musings on and Maxims for Maintaining Liberty on Extraterrestrial Colonies

Still from Star Trek episode Pattterns of Force

Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, & Dr. McCoy Disguised as Nazis in “Patterns of Force” (1968)

A while back a friend shared a link to an article regarding a group devising a bill of rights for the future colonization of the planet Mars (http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140709-why-mars-needs-a-bill-of-rights). Thinking of this entertained and distracted me much when I began this essay on a wintry morning in the former British colony of Georgia while watching the free-flying birds at the feeders outside my windows.   And while there are definite comparisons to be made to the concepts of freedom on some of the more interesting colonies depicted in the Star Trek universe, I will attempt to limit myself primarily to more mundane terrestrial and historical musings at first.

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Southeastern North America, 1732 (cartographer unknown)

While individual freedoms are the key to any post-1776 civilization (and many that came before), and I strongly admire the way the folks at the 2nd International Extraterrestrial Liberty Conference (ELC) are thinking about such things at the outset, it is clear from a reading of American history alone that personal liberty is NOT what initially made colonies successful in the past.  In fact, Spanish Florida, French Louisiana, and British Virginia, Carolina, & Georgia – as well as most other successful colonies in North America – had decidedly military, and some might say totalitarian, aspects to them. In fact, all colonists had very specific duties to perform if there was to be any hope of initial survival and later success. “No work, no food” was how John Smith was supposed to have phrased his expectations of the earliest Virginia colonists.

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“A Map of Virginia With a Description of the Country, the Commodities, People, Government and Religion” by John Smith, 1624

Exploration has followed the same disrespect for individual freedoms. The Kingdom of Spain, the British Admiralty, the U.S. space program NASA, and Hollywood’s “The Company” all had a chain of command when Hernando de Soto was exploring the American South for Spain, when Sir John Franklin was seeking the Northwest Passage for Britain, when Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and the other American astronauts were exploring the Moon, and when Captain Dallas and the crew of the Nostromo went to investigate the distress signal on Acheron (LV-426) in the original Alien movie.

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Kane (played by John Hurt) discovers a new life form on Acheron in Alien (1979)

But since ELC 2 is considering freedom, liberty, and colonization together, I will share the initial thoughts of an historical archaeologist who studies colonies, their impacts on indigenous peoples, and the traces both groups have left behind in the dirty old earth and in dusty old archives.  First of all, I am pleased that they are using the American Constitution’s Bill of Rights as a starting point.  I can think of no better place to begin.  However, it is clear from American history that Americans themselves have had varying ideas of liberty over time. It is also clear that checks and balances on all branches of government down to the lowest of local levels are a necessity for liberty to continue after it is initially won and/or established. Lord Acton’s historical axiom as laid out in his famous Letter to Mandell Creighton on April 5, 1887 clearly supports such suspicion towards authority: “If there is any presumption it is…against the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

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Lord John Dahlberg Acton (1834-1902)

Because of the manner in which the onerous taxes that gave rise to the American proclamation of independence were instituted, and also because of the way the British government chose to prosecute the subsequent war against self-determination and against American independence, the Founding Fathers of the United States of America simply did not trust any government instituted by men.  And this wisely included their own government as instituted by themselves!  They had read deeply in Greek, Roman, European, British, and Irish history, and had learned from the past how short-lived republics can be.  The American Constitution of 1789 may have been a very imperfect 18th century political compromise between competing regions, but it was amazingly farsighted and gleamed of eruditic statesmanship when we consider how ignorantly shortsighted and poorly-read practically all modern party politicians across the planet appear to be in the 21st century.

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George Washington (1732-1799) by Rembrandt Peale, ca. 1850

For some reason endemic to humans and other animals, tribes and factions develop in all times and in all places – even in nations designed ro eschew them, like the U. S. For this reason the ELC should acknowledge that since human beings are human, factions will develop even on extraterrestrial colonies, and will devolve into established political parties if and when they gain enough followers. Subsequent American history bears out George Washington’s fears concerning factionalism, as explained in his Farewell Address. Standing political parties are much more dangerous than standing armies, since they wield much more power, even if it is only indirectly based on force. In fact, I would assert that political parties are probably the most dangerous threats to human liberty since the Sumerians created the concept of ama-gi, or freedom, in the 2300s BC. If “war is the continuation of politics by other means,” as von Clauswitz stated whilst attempting to explain the rise and fall of Napoleon, then political factionalism has been the primary if not sole factor behind every major war on Earth since at least the early 18th century’s War of the Spanish Succession.

Unfortunately, few listened to Washington in 1796, and even fewer heed him now. Humans seem to have a natural instinct to choose sides based on emotion and self interest, and only a very few make decisions based on reason, philosophy, and what is best for the commonweal as opposed to their own narrow interests. And of those who are capable of putting the commonwealth first, some of these “general secretaries” and “leaders” and “chairmen” have coldly and cruelly put into operation their “final solutions” to forever silence millions of their political opponents or their nation’s “undesirables” – as defined by themselves and their faction, of course. Stalin, Hitler, and Mao are only the most well-known of many heinous examples from Earth’s sordid history, and all are examples of the top-down approach of trusting in governments to solve our problems for us.

Of course, everything can and will go wrong in even the most well-thought-out colony – just look at all the numerous failed European attempts during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries in the Americas. I will point to the Scottish colony at Darien in Central America as the perfect example. But even successful colonies like the English colony at Jamestowne (1607) had times when all was lost until the mother country sent assistance. In fact, the few survivors among the initial wave of colonists were once in the process of abandoning Virginia and heading home to England when supply ships suddenly arrived with necessities and more settlers. So the first maxim I would lay down for any extraterrestrial colony is routine shipments of supplies multiple times per year, and the continual replenishment of the population with young colonists in their child-bearing years.

Next, colonial planners on Earth and potential colonists must study Earth’s prehistoric and historic settlers and colonizers, from Neanderthal and other hunter-gatherer migrations, as well as the European colonization of the New World, Australasia, & Africa. It is vital that they grasp how migrations and emigrations have played out in Earth’s past, but this must not be mere book knowledge. As potential astronauts train for years before they even get the chance to be chosen for space missions, potential colonists need to go through several years of psychological and emotional vetting and practical training in basic medical techniques, primitive skills, agriculture, and animal husbandry to name but a few. Humans have constantly moved into new and unfamiliar environments throughout the prehistoric and historic eras, and studying and understanding the traces and records they left behind are crucial to successful colonists of tomorrow.

 

Successful colonists need to learn every primitive skill they can – especially flint-knapping to make their own stone tools, making cordage from plants and plant fibers in order to bind things together, and making pottery for cooking and storage purposes in case things go badly wrong and fresh supplies are late or not forthcoming.  They should also be experienced in the care and raising of livestock – especially chickens and cows, since they not only provide protein when harvested, but also provide eggs and milk. Successful colonists need to be omnivores who are able to eat anything, so I will add that I don’t see food snobs, vegetarians, vegans, or anyone with any kind of food hang-up at all surviving long in an extraterrestrial landscape. For example, European settlers in America had to learn from the Native Americans how to eat plants and animals they had never even heard of or seen before, and if they hadn’t learned to hunt and gather them, they would not have survived, pure and simple.

This is of course one of the best reasons not to colonize or settle a place, land, continent, or planet: if there is no water, no plants to gather, and no animal life to hunt and harvest. If there are no other life forms living there already, there might be a good reason for this, so I would also encourage our planners to  consider the difficulties of planting colonies on barren worlds like Mars, and to look for “Class M” planets instead.  Despite the utopian ideas of some space enthusiasts for inhabiting barren worlds and until we develop an actual Genesis Device as seen in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, abundant natural resources and breathable air must remain the most important variables for establishing extraterrestrial colonies just as they have been for all terrestrial ones.  Eadem sunt omnia semper.

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The Genesis Cave, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

True liberty must begin in the hearts and minds of individuals habituated to thinking and living independently of others, while giving of themselves and partaking of the mutual benefits of the social contract binding us together with our families, neighbors, bands, clans, tribes, chiefdoms, nations, and yes, our future extra-terrestrial colonies.  Even at lunar bases, on starships exploring the galaxy, and on frontier outposts on different worlds as well as on Earth’s farthest flung colonies, we must constantly be on guard against both factionalism as well as “the man on the white horse” seeking to rescue us from those factions and the upheavals they always generate.  Furthermore, colonial Martians, Venusians, Europaeans, etc. should be prepared to fight for their freedom and independence just like the former European colonies all over the world have done since 1776.  And they must never forget the “tyranny of the majority,” as Alexis de Tocqueville so aptly described the concept of simple majority rule and the bullying of minority populations in his brilliant 1835 classic Democracy in America.  

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Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859)

There will be many challenges, failures, celebrations, tragedies,  wrongs, and beautiful success stories as the peoples of Earth spread themselves and their progeny across the universe.  The history of our own past colonial endeavors shows us this truth, and we would do well to learn these lessons well and never begin to think that we are wiser, stronger, smarter, or harder-working than our own frontier forebears.  In a word, we are not.  Anyone who believes that future human societies will evolve to be more morally advanced, more peaceful, and more generous, and less selfish, less rapacious, and less acquisitive has an exceedingly thin grasp on human history over the last 15,000 years, and practical examples from the past should be used to educate them out of their extreme idealistic ignorance.

If humans over the last 15 millennia have not changed their modus operandi – approaching every situation first and foremost from a position of self-interest – then they are not going to magically evolve into some kind of superior being in the next 15 millennia, either.  There are always willing fools who assist would-be dictators either actively, by marching in line with whatever might be the politically correct ideology of the day, whether it comes from the right or the left, while even more allow terrible events to transpire by passively sitting on their hands and doing nothing.  We must be constantly vigilant of our hard-won freedoms and cognizant of how they were won and lost and won again – whether our society is of this world or another.  Most importantly, our children must be historically-minded and educated in the principles of extreme skepticism towards every new faction and party that arises and promises to solve our problems if only we will trust them and be  willing to give up just a little bit more of our precious freedoms.

“These are the ones who, having good minds of their own, have further trained them by studying and learning. Even if liberty had entirely perished from the earth, such men would invent it.”

Etienne de la Boetie (1530-1563), The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude, 1577

Categories: Archaeology, Colonization, Exploration, History, Liberty, Primitive Skills | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

At the Twelve Pins

Twelve Pins Pub, Islington

Taxis and tourists, ice cream girl

waiting to cross with flowers in hand, crying,

while Daddy chases daughter in pink cap exploring, learning

Islington’s ways; working class guys and foreigners

walk with Irishmen, Arabs, and Africans; the quiet American

smoking his pipe at a table on the pub sidewalk –

first a Guinness then a Strongbow while he watches and waits – for what?

The Ginger Beauty? The Ice Cream Girl?  He exchanges

knowing looks with the daddy, baby daughter imprisoned

again in her pram; buses of red roaring down

Seven Sisters Road where Blackstock turns

downhill.  Just sit and watch and London

passes for the price of a pint or two at the Twelve Pins.

Categories: England, Exploration, Food & Drink, Poetry, Pubs, United Kingdom | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Historic Preservation, Community Identity, & the Gospel of Progress in Britain and America

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Washington Square Park in New York City

This excellent article from the National Trust for Historic Preservation came to my attention today: https://savingplaces.org/stories/a-tale-of-two-planners-jane-jacobs-and-robert-moses#.VyMoSjArKCg.  It describes the 1960’s struggle to save Greenwich Village and other parts of lower Manhattan from the threat brought about by a developer’s plan to build a massive elevated highway that would have destroyed Washington Square Park, as well as parts of Little Italy and SoHo.  Having attending NYU as an undergraduate, and having spent a lot of time in and around that park playing chess, eating lunch, spending time with other students, chatting to little old ladies, and listening many times in silent admiration to a talented homeless blues singer named Jimmy play the guitar and sing, I cannot imagine my time there without it.

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Looking up 5th Avenue through the Washington Arch

 

We clearly need more people like the amazing Jane Jacobs, the preservationist detailed in the article above. Having consulted and worked with architectural historians, developers, and planners on a number of archaeological and historical projects over the last couple decades, I can say that these kind of struggles have only intensified since the Jacobs v. Moses era. Savannah, Georgia is another wonderful example of how 7 determined ladies fought and saved it from being turned into just “another soulless city” (http://www.myhsf.org/about-us/the-story-of-preservation-in-savannah/). Thanks to them and their successors, Savannah is now one of the most beautiful historic cities in the U.S.

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Savannah, Georgia street scene

But it’s an unending battle to retain community and identity and hold off those with the money and the power, who are usually championed by the local Chamber of Commerce zombies and their monosyllabic grunts of “Jobs, Roads, Development!”  Since the 1950’s thousands of unique structures have been demolished across America so that developers could “pave paradise and [sometimes literally] put up a parking lot.”  And usually the long-term heritage and unique needs of the community (think centuries) are scoffed at in favor of the short-term benefits (think years or at best a couple decades) of the latest schemers, who are usually benefiting financially in the process somehow.

Unfortunately our European cousins are not exempt from the myth of “progress” either, though they generally have more respect for their surviving architectural heritage than Americans do for theirs. One major exception is beautiful Oxford, England, which has so many incredible examples of truly historic buildings.  It even has its own wonderful story of victory over the demolishers of tradition and history in the fight to preserve the quaint area called Jericho.  Unfortunately, Oxford also has a tremendous amount of the ugliest architecture anywhere.  Just walk the grounds of St. Johns College, for example, to see numerous dorms with giant glass windows looking out over 500 year old buildings.  There is even one that looks a bit like a bee hive.  And the Oxford County Council continually overrules the concerns of citizens and local preservationists, since the university almost always gets whatever it wants, from ugly buildings being plopped down onto beautiful college quads to disastrous student housing ideas that were never properly reviewed for environmental or visual impacts to historic green spaces (for more on Oxford’s complete lack of concern in preserving its unique architectural identity, take a look at this blog: https://timmyatt.com/tag/oxford-architecture/).

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St. Cross College, Rear Quad, Oxford, 2013 – notice Pusey House, a 100 year old chapel and focus of the Anglican Church’s Oxford Movement, behind students

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St. Cross College, Plans for New Building, 2016 – notice dramatic visual impact to Pusey House

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St. Cross College, New Building under construction next to 100-year old Pusey House, 2016

Although I do not see the point of monarchy (bloody Americans and 1776 and all that), and I doubt I have anything remotely in common with him, I do think Prince Charles was very brave and spot on when he addressed post-World War II London architecture by asking: “When did we lose our sense of vision?  How could those in control become so out of step with so many Londoners who felt powerless to resist the destruction of their city…?”  (for a short video clip of his excellent critique of modern big box architecture, click this link – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/9502425.stm).

But for the best quote on British architecture over the last 70 years we must return to Matthew Arnold’s “sweet city with her dreaming spires” – Oxford – and put ourselves into the minds of those with the power and determination to say yea or nay:

“You know, we’ve been putting up handsome buildings since 1264; let’s have an ugly one for a change.’  Then the planning authorities had to say, “Well, why not?  Plenty worse in Basildon”….Then…the whole of the city -students, dons, shopkeepers, office workers, members of the Oxford Preservation Trust – had to acquiesce and not kick up a fuss. Multiply this by, say, 200 or 300 and 400 and you have modern Oxford.  And you tell me that it is one of the most beautiful, well-preserved cities in the world?  I’m afraid not.  It is a beautiful city that has been treated with gross indifference and lamentable incompetence for far too long, and every living person in Oxford should feel a little bit ashamed.”

Bill BrysonNotes from a Small Island, 1995

Categories: Architecture, Churches, England, Historic Preservation, United Kingdom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Real Meaning of Education

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The French essayist Montaigne’s words of wisdom regarding educating children cannot be lessened by the fact that it was intended as advice to a noble woman on making a gentleman of her son.  After all, he educated his own daughter so well that, unless her father was there, she invariably outshone everyone as the best educated person in any room.

For many years I have thought that cramming 20-30 children together inside our modern schoolrooms too easily leads them to overvalue the opinions of their peers and underappreciate the knowledge (and perhaps the wisdom) of their teachers.  We would do well to heed the advice of thinkers, particularly when they exhibit a singular amount of common sense as Montaigne always does, and jettison all of the fads, experimental cliques, and popular theories regarding something so vital as the education of our children.  Educating my own sons is not a game or a social experiment, nor is it anyone else’s responsibilty.  I have striven to live up to Montaigne’s ideals, and will continue to do so, for my boys’ sakes, for as long as I live.

“…the greatest and most important difficulty of human effort is the training and education of children….Upon the choice of a tutor you shall provide for your son depends the whole success of his education and bringing up.  A gentleman born of noble parentage and heir of a house which aims at true learning should be  disciplined not so much for the practical use he could make of it – so abject an end is unworthy the grace and favour of the Muses, and, besides, bids for the regard of others – not for external use and ornament, but to adorn and enrich his inward mind, desiring rather to form an able and efficient man than a learned man….I would have the tutor make the child examine and thoroughly sift all things,  and harbour nothing by mere authority or upon trust….Study should make us wiser….To know by heart only is not to know at all….A mere bookish knowledge is useless….the society of men, the visiting of foreign countries,  observing people and strange customs, are very necessary….they should be able to give an account of the ideas, manners, customs, and laws of nations they have visited….Let him examine every one’s talent – that of a herdsman,  a mason, a stranger,  or a traveller.  A man may learn something from every one of these which he can use at some time or another.  Even the folly and weakness of others will contribute to his instruction.   By observing the graces and manners of others,  he will acquire for himself the emulation of the good and a contempt for the bad.  Let an honest curiosity be awakened in him to search out the nature and design of all things.  Let him investigate whatever is singular and rare about him – a fine building, a fountain, an eminent man, the place where a battle was anciently fought, the passage of Caesar or of Charlemagne….In this acquaintance of men,  my purpose is that he should give his chief attention to those who live in the records of history.   He shall by the aid of books inform himself of the worthiest minds of the best ages.  History is an idle study to those who choose to make it so,  but of inestimable value to such as can make use of it….It is not the mind, it is not the body we are training: it is the man, and we must not divide him into two parts….”

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Michel de Montaigne, Of the Education of Children, 1575

Categories: Education, Literature, Palaces | Leave a comment

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