Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The War Prayer, by Mark Twain

Mark Twain first submitted this short story to the women’s magazine Harper's Bazaar in March 1905. It reflected his opinions of U.S. intervention in the Phillipines. Harper’s wouldn’t publish it, considering it too radical. It was published after Mark Twain's death, during World War I, when the subject matter was once again appropriate to current events. Harper's Monthly printed this in November 1916.

The War Prayer (1905)

By Mark Twain

It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener. It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety's sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came -- next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams -- visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation

God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest!
Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!

Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory --

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood there waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, "Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside -- which the startled minister did -- and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

"I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause and think.

"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this -- keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory -- must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!"

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

Source: Jim Zwick ed., Mark Twain's Weapons of Satire (Syracuse University Press, 1992)

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Bugs and Bunnita

Here is the happy couple, just weeks before Bugs was abruptly widowed. Bugs is the gray one rolling happily in the cool soil. Bunnita is cleaning his ears, as she didn't often do. Usually she burrowed her head under his chin, encouraging him to wash her ears. He loved to oblige.

Eulogy for a Bunny

My little Bunnita, a "dwarf bunny", died yesterday. We don't know why. Rabbits are fragile beings with delicate constitutions. She had an upset digestive system, that the vet said could be serious, so maybe that was all it took to end her life. Maybe the heat added too much physical stress.

I'd like to take a few lines to appreciate the life she had. For a year and a half, she made one other rabbit, Bugs, a very happy rabbit. He snuggled with her and washed her ears all throughout every day. He dug a nice deep burrow for her to enjoy. He let her eat the first bites of the food all the time.

For a year and a half, she delighted us humans. She had a demeanor of "little girl", always a little shy, hiding behind her big brave Bugs, but coming out to be petted or to be inquisitive. She hid her face in my hair when I held her at my shoulder. Cuddling with her was like cuddling with purity. She brought out my capacity for tenderness and careful attentiveness and love, because that's what she required. Her personality was funny and quirky and gentle and sometimes bold. And she was so cute: front half brown, back half white, with tiny brown ears.

She led a good, if short, life. Fare well, sweet little Bunnita.
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Monday, July 18, 2005

My Life With Books

This is a list of my relationship with books, based on a questionnaire at my other blog.

1. TOTAL NUMBER OF BOOKS I’VE OWNED: It’s in the thousands. Each time I’ve moved during my adult life, I manage to thin out my collection and get rid of some. Then I get more. Main topics: Art, psychology, writing, spirituality, philosophy, science fiction. I pass them along to others, loan the really good ones out, and keep the ones I refer to often. There are a few classics that I always keep: The Complete Pelican Shakespeare, The Phantom Tollbooth and A Wrinkle In Time (wonderful adult books disguised as childrens books), The People’s Almanac by David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace, Womens Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Dr. Christiane Northrop, Writing Well by Donald Hall, The Joy of Signing (basic sign language textbook), The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell, Hands of Light by Barbara Brennan, The I-Ching.

2. LAST BOOK I BOUGHT: CranioSacral Biodynamics by Franklyn Sills. This is a text book for students of CranioSacral Therapy, but has some excellent reading on awareness. My husband just bought two great books, a few days ago, and they are next on my list. They are: The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the power of Consciousness, Matter and Miracles by Bruce Lipton, and also God Without Religion: Questioning Centuries of Accepted Truths by Sankara Saranam.

3. LAST BOOK I COMPLETED: I re-read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkein. They are so much fun!


Book 1. The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People are Changing The World by Paul H. Ray, Ph.D. and Sherry Ruth Anderson, Ph.D. The website: For 13 years this couple of psychologists interviewed 100,000 Americans and conducted 100 focus groups to determine the types of people in this country. The Traditionals and The Moderns are easily seen, but the Cultural Creatives are not so obvious. Here is a summary of what they discovered about this hidden category: “The Cultural Creatives care deeply about ecology and saving the planet, about relationships, peace, social justice, and about self actualization, spirituality and self-expression. Surprisingly, they are both inner-directed and socially concerned, they're activists, volunteers and contributors to good causes more than other Americans. However, because they've been so invisible in American life, Cultural Creatives themselves are astonished to find out how many share both their values and their way of life. Once they realize their numbers, their impact on American life promises to be enormous, shaping a new agenda for the twenty-first century.” This book can give hope to people who feel alone in this society.

Book 2. The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell. This is one of the treasures in my book collection. Joseph Campbell pours his heart and soul into describing the religions and philosophies of the world, and how they all fit together. His life’s work comes together into an enlightening tapestry, during this series of Bill Moyers interviews conducted over the last year of Campbell’s life. His passion brings history to life in a new and inspiring and personal way.

Book 3. Seven Arrows by Hyemeyohsts Storm These are American Indian teaching stories that speak to the reader on many levels at once. There is an endless stream of wisdom flowing throughout this book. No matter how many times I read the stories, I get some new understanding each time. The stories are utterly unlike anything our non-native society is accustomed to.

Book 4. Ishmael and My Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. I can’t express strongly enough how much I think these two books hold the power to turn a person inside out and come to know their place in the world in a different way. Daniel Quinn brings together cutting-edge ideas from a wide spectrum of sciences, and suddenly the history of humanity has new meaning. Amazing.

Book 5. Siddhartha and Journey To The East by Hermann Hesse. When I was 17 I read these two books, and was blasted into a new awareness of my ability to transform myself into a more worthwhile person, based on my own values.

5.WHAT I AM CURRENTLY READING: Power vs. Force : The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior by David Hawkins, MD, PhD. Almost done with it!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Bonnie and Clyde

This is a test post, to see whether or not I can really write from on the road. That is the primary reason for getting this alternate blog.

I am in Oklahoma, and have been here for a few days. We are visiting my sister's Comanche / Kiowa relatives. I enjoy being Aunt Bonnie; my sister's kids as well as their Oklahoma cousins call me Aunt Bonnie. We have been frolicking in the swimming pool, eating tons of food, laughing a lot, and playing games around the dining room table in their spacious, high-ceilinged strawbale adobe house on a small ranch.

This is my first meeting with Clyde, my ...uh... nehpew-in-law once removed? My excellent nephew. He is 14, and is tired of hearing how much he resembles my sister's son, his cousin John. Sorry, Clyde, but you're both totally wonderful guys. The fact that we've finally met in person solidifies an important relationship: Bonnie and Clyde are back!

We spent the day in Medicine Park - a historic preserve, with a wildlife preserve that shelters buffalo, longhorn cattle, elks, etc. In one little town, we discovered an amazing coincidence. The little cabins near the lake were where the original Bonnie and Clyde holed up after their infamous bank robberies. The town even had wooden cutouts of Bonnie and Clyde, where you stick your head through the hole and have your picture taken looking like them. Of course, Clyde and I did that, and did a couple of other poses too. I'll post the best of the photos as soon as my sister gets her film developed. Stay tuned!

Friday, July 08, 2005

Boulder Interlude

I wrote this while visiting Boulder, Colorado. A friend lined up two days of clients for me to see. It’s fun to be a traveling expert! Spending time in a totally different setting is utterly refreshing, and having hours to myself is soooo relaxing. I’d really love to write stories about my adventures with the clients, but that just isn’t cool. Confidentiality, you know. Suffice it to say that each of us is a universe unto ourselves, with a history and habit and interpretation of events unique to us. I am in awe of the wisdom and the pain hidden within every person. We are an awe-inspiring species.

June 29, 2005

For 12 hours, my home is an old schoolbus named Quicksilver. A more apt name might be “Parked Silver”. Quicksilver waits patiently in the side yard, offering refuge for guests and kids on college breaks. I see my clients in the treatment room in the house, then retire to the bus for sleep.

I’m delighted with my quaint, quiet lodgings. The bed is cozy. The table is adorned with a vase of glistening red roses for my benefit. To my surprise, the bookshelf holds the same anatomy book I’m studying at home! Tonight I studied the many layers of skin. The little illustrations of layered skin cross-sections look like drawings of layer cakes. Weird.

Next I dove into a book that set off a chain reaction of explosions in my psyche. It’s called “Maps to Ecstasy” by Gabrielle Roth. Wow. In a nutshell - a paltry, deficient nutshell – she describes archetypal movement and dance as one way to leave behind all hurts, habits, patterns and concepts, and find freedom in the stillpoint within the center of the soul. Her stories of discovering Life in the pure moment, primarily through dance, are enrapturing. The exercises she suggests are intriguing, and FUN!

How can I lie in a schoolbus and read about dancing?!? I just wanna get up and dance til I lose my poise, dance til I forget who I am, dance til I remember who I am, and then dance as an expression of my soul! Quicksilver the bus would probably tumble over, though, if I started that kind of action. It’ll have to wait.

Sleep eludes me so far. In this metal shelter, even the rustle of windfallen leaves on the roof is audible. Every so often “thud-scamper-scamper” a squirrel leaps from a tree to the bus roof. Then “scurry-scurry-scamper” it does whatever squirrels do on top of buses in the night, and leaps back to the tree.

Endless muted traffic flow on the nearby freeway reminds me of the ocean, minus the rhythmic organization. I close my eyes, relax, and breathe audibly in the back of my throat, breathing like the ocean waves. I’m dancing inwardly, slowly, like an ocean wave. Dancing to sleep in a schoolbus.
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Thursday, July 07, 2005

Premonitions of Skunks

Yes, I have an unusual life. This is another true story. I hope you all will remind me of this, if some catastrophe befalls me. ~ W.W. ~

July 7, 2005

Sometime in the darkness last night, I was awakened by an unseen companion. I was too sleepy to tell who/what it was. A sweet silent voice, possibly from within the dream (although I was fully awake) spoke to me. It said “A skunk scent is going to come in that bedroom window in a few minutes. When it does, you should understand it as a metaphor for life.”

I sniffed. No smell. What was this all about? What kind of metaphor for life could this be? And why did I need to be awakened for this? I lay there and wondered why I would dream this… only I was awake…. so what was going on… and why talk to me about skunk scent in the middle of the night…. metaphor for life?? I couldn’t get back to sleep.

Several minutes later, a horrible acrid stench began wafting through the window. I almost gagged from the potency that accumulated quickly. That skunk must have been right under our window. It was suffocatingly intense.

The gentle, kind voice was back, speaking silently into my awareness again. “This skunk smell is unpleasant, but you did nothing to bring it on yourself. You are not to blame. The skunk is not aiming the scent at you on purpose. You are just a witness.”

I thought about this. Yes, it’s true. Not really profound, but true.

The voice said “Sometimes in life, you receive a warning in advance that something unpleasant is going to happen to you. Remember the skunk smell. That is the metaphor for life that you should remember. If you receive a warning in advance that something unpleasant is going to happen to you, when it happens remember that you are just a witness. You did not bring it on yourself, and it is not aimed personally at you. Be the witness.”

Now this bizarre mid-night meeting was starting to form a coherent picture. Yes, I did receive a warning several minutes before the skunk sprayed. From the blinding, nauseating impact of the smell, it was clear that the skunk must have been right near the window. That also meant that the skunk had not yet sprayed when I was woken up and told about it, or I would have already smelled it.


As the pieces jostled together into the coherent picture, I began to wonder. Was THIS the warning? Is something unpleasant about to happen to me? Something so bad that I required a visit from a guardian angel to advise me to not take it personally? I have received other warnings before this, when something stressful is about to fall my way. I usually have a day to gather all my strength and wisdom, to pray and expand myself and connect with the cycles of nature, after a warning; thus I can handle it without collapse.
My brain thinks I should be getting pretty worried right about now, but I’m not. I feel peaceful, knowing that I am watched over with benevolence. Once I’ve written this story, to get it out of my system, I won’t fret. Either it will turn out to be a random nugget of wisdom handed to me in the night, or else something unpleasant will happen soon. If something nasty happens, I will stand back and witness it and feel grateful for the advice. I’ll remember the skunk.
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