Wednesday, August 29, 2007


We went to Parris Island, South Carolina, this past Friday to watch a friend of ours graduate from Marine Corps boot camp. We didn't spend as much time on the Island as I wanted, because we met up with friends and went to eat lunch with them. After lunch we drove past the Beaufort, South Carolina, Marine Corps Air Station, where I was stationed for several months while I was training to become an avionics technician.

Being in Beaufort brought back many memories, but one set of memories in particular -- memories of drawing. It was while I was stationed in Beafort that I became fascinated with drawing cartoons. I bought dozens upon dozens of comic books, everything from Spiderman to Richie Rich to Disney comics, because I was determined to study the characters and practice drawing them. Sitting in my barracks on my lunch break one day, I drew my very first picture of spiderman, and I was hooked.

For a brief time, I decided I wanted to become of cartoonist, even though I had no formal art training at all. It was a dream I toted seriously for a while, then rather loosely in my back pocket for a longer while, and eventually gave up altogether. But I've still enjoyed phases of drawing. When I began substitute teaching in local schools in the late 90's, I started drawing again. I would draw pictures on the board -- Scooby Doo, Tweety Bird, Winnie the Pooh (those seemed to be the most popular). With elementary school classes, I would draw a picture based on a story we'd read, and all the students would gather around utterly fascinated, then they'd retreat anxious to try their own drawing.

Sometimes I still long to draw again, but so many other things intrude to occupy the time. My determination to be a cartoonist has long since waned into the obscurity of distant memory, but I still love cartoon characters, and I guess (hope) I'll never outgrow this pleasant, mild obsession.

[A sampling of my various doodles through the years -- Groo the Wanderer, Pebbles Flintstone with her teddy bear, Underdog, an unnamed alligator character of my own creation, and Snoops the cat .]

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Parris Island Bound

Tomorrow afternoon, our plans are to head to the Days Inn in Ridgeland, South Carolina, where we will spend the night in anticipation of a visit to Parris Island on Friday morning. For anyone who may not know, Parris Island is the home of Marine Corps boot camp (there's another in San Diego, California, but Parris Island is where I graduated on September 22, 1976).

A friend of ours, Chris Redding, will be graduating Friday morning, and we plan to be there. We are very proud of this young man -- becoming a Marine has been a dream of his for a long time, and now it's about to happen.

It was on June 28, 1976, that I rode onto Parris Island on a chartered Greyhound bus full of nervous young men not knowing what to expect. Six of us had left Atlanta earlier in the day and met up with the rest of the group from around the country at the airport in Charleston. We hit the Island about 9:30 that night, and we were promtply greeted by a nice gentleman who began shouting in a deep raspy voice that if we had tobacco or gum, we'd better swallow it, and directed us to get off the bus and get on the infamous yellow footprints. Thus began my 13 week ordeal of being broken down from a soft civilian and re-built as a lean, mean fighting machine -- a United States Marine, and I wouldn't take anything for the experience.

This will be my first trip back to Parris Island in 30 years, and I'm very excited. I've been looking at the web site, the Google Map, and other associated web sites, and the memories have left me teary-eyed more than once. Parris Island is where I was born as a Marine, and this is like a homecoming. And I'm looking forward to meeting Christopher Redding, fellow United States Marine!


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Information Indigestion

In David Denby’s Great Books on page 36 he writes about following stories on CNN, watching updates even when awakened in the middle of the night. He concludes “the business of being ‘informed’ could be nightmarish...” He compares it to feeling like “a ball rolling over and over, or the hands of a clock coming back to the same point.” This is a fair representation, I think, of being so saturated and bombarded with information all the time that there is little genuine reflection. We have come to mistake information for knowledge -- and worse yet, for wisdom. Undigested information is neither, and too much information can give one a severe case of indigestion. That is one problem with the Internet. It is a wonderful source of information, but it’s too easy to become infatuated with the frantic flow of information and neglect reflection.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Rain...Beautiful Rain

We are sweltering away in 100 + degree heat and have been for days on end. Cris and I worked in the house doing a lot of cleaning, getting rid of lots of junk, and trying to get the house back to normal -- or as close to it as we can hope to get. Even working inside is hot. I've been covered in sweat most of the day and have taken two showers. I'm longing for cool weather -- and for rain; it's incredibly dry as well as hot. Even the kudzu that covers acres of Georgia roadside is turning brown and dying.

I was taking a look though old journals again and came across an entry that made me feel good. It's about rain.


Thursday, August 12, 2004 (around 10:20 a.m.)

There is rain today, lots of rain. The sky is an absolutely whitish-gray, and the trees across the street are muffled by a watery gray veil. I am sitting at the bedroom window facing the front yard with an open window before me. The sounds are wonderful – the loud continuous splash of water running off the house to my left, the lighter whir of rain on leaves and yard, and a backdrop of occasional distant muted bass crashes of thunder.

I left the lights off – I’m writing by the soft gray light slipping in through the window. I didn’t want the sharp white-yellow artificial incandescence to intrude. I need a little time with the rain and my memories. There is something about a solid rainy day that nudges gentle memories – memories of rainy days in other times and places.

Elizabeth is like me, she loves the rain. She is not here – she is in Howard with the Garcias. I wonder if she is enjoying the rain today.

Suddenly, I’m a little boy, standing on my knees on the settee, looking out through the rain across our little front yard, across the road, out across Mrs. Mamie Wynens property to the trees beyond. I am snug in a little gray-green world, nestled in the shadows in a secure place.

I am at Parris Island – Marine Corps boot camp. We are at the rifle range waiting to see if the rain will let up. It never does. We have on our green plastic ponchos, but we’re all pretty much soaked through. I’m snug in the rain. It makes the world almost sane again.

I lift my head and look out the window at one of the nandinas. I used to deplore these tacky bushes standing like stubborn guards in front of our house. Today, though, I look at the rain dancing with the leaves, the silvery light reflecting off the wet greenness, and I love this plant. It is suddenly beautiful.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

By the Numbers

It occurred to me a few weeks ago as I was talking with someone about some of my favorite movies that there was a common theme -- mathematics: A Beautiful Mind, about a brilliant mathematician dwelling in an imaginary world of spies and secret codes created by his paranoid schizophrenia; Proof, about the daughter of a renowned mathematician whose life and career succumbed to a cruel mental illness, and she appears to be the inheritor of his genius and, she fears, his craziness, as she reluctantly confesses that she is the author of one of the most elegant and phenomenal mathematical proofs in recent history; and Good Will Hunting, in which Matt Damon makes his stellar debut as a tough street kid working as a janitor at MIT who sneaks into the mathematics department at night to solve complicated equations that have stumped even the most brilliant students in the department.

There is something inherently and deeply fascinating to me about mathematics. This is amazing considering that in high school I barely squeaked by in my math courses. That, however, was more closely related to my attitude towards school in general, and math in particular, and my firm resistance to homework or studying. It was in college where my affinity for mathematics first shone like a light in the darkness of my math anxiety, and not only could I do math, but I could do it well; not only did I understand math, but I loved it.

With the bad taste of high school still fresh in my mouth, I dreaded the required college algebra course. When it became inevitable that I would have to take it, I called a buddy of mine who was a math major and got his assurance that he'd be standing by if I got into a jam. I never called him back. Over the course of the ensuing quarter, I consistently made A's on homework, quizzes, and exams; the lowest grade I earned was a 93.

Nobody could have been more stunned about this than I, but I listened in class, took notes, read and studied the textbook, and best of all -- I got it! I even liked it -- liked it so much, as a matter of fact, that I discussed with my professor the possibility of changing my major to math (which I never did). The final exam was an interdepartmental final, which meant the exam was created communally by the five professors teaching the course that quarter. Dr. Mayberry cautioned us that we might encounter unfamiliar material, but not to worry, since different professors had not covered all the same material, and that would be considered in assigning final grades.

Since I had, in my own reading and studying, actually covered more material than we'd covered in class, I hoped I would be prepared. The students from all five classes gathered in Russell Auditorium to take the exam. Two hours later I walked out drained but exuberant. I was confident I had done well, but I was still shocked when the exam grades were posted: I had scored a perfect 100!

In my current vocation, I teach inmates in a state prison. For most of my Adult Basic Education and GED prep students, math is the subject they most often dread -- even fear -- but we have a great record of success. It is a source of continuous reward when working with these men, many who've been failures all their lives, when that light goes on and they get it. From time to time a student will even light up my heart by saying, "This is fun!"

Mathematics has become transformed in my judgment from a once mysterious and frightening subject to an avenue of tremendous beauty and delight. There is much that I don't understand, and I still study new areas of math, but I'm grateful that I see even the mystery of that which I don't yet understand as something of wonder and beauty. I'm reminded of the verse in the Bible, "Perfect love casteth out all fear." No longer do I fear math; I love it.

Friday, August 10, 2007

From the Writing Journal -- Assymetry and Pain

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Once I was a little boy playing barefoot on the clover beneath maple trees beside a sleepy small-town street, but that was so long ago and so far away. Sometimes, especially late at night, I try to reach out across the cosmos and grab that time again, to pull myself back toward it, but other times I just catch a glance back, like watching scenery sail away through a rear window.

The hog feeder lids tapped the night away in asymmetrical rhythms, and it made me regret living with a man [my father] who found joy in raising animals, and it made me feel sorry for the hogs, and I quit eating ham or bacon, because I never knew if this might be an animal I had known, or perhaps a distant offspring. So early on I decided the farm life was not for me, and I concluded Oliver Wendell Douglas was one deluded son-of-a-bitch wanting to leave a wealthy law firm for a dirt farm.


Asymmetry – the fusion of disparate shapes into an awkward montage that, nevertheless, was continuously leading the eye in all sorts of pleasing directions.

Monday, August 06, 2007

I should just pour my heart out while it is full – full of hurt and confusion, full of dismay – I am grieving, grieving because of those who withdraw their lives from me. They are not dead, but they have pulled out of my life, so I am heartbroken – I am grieving, I am in mourning, my heart hurts to badly it feels as if it might burst, it feels so heavy that it just might fall and never get up. That is how I feel. How do you describe a feeling of such utter pain in a way that someone else can feel it. That’s the gift I need as a writer, the gift to be able to take someone else by the hand and lead them into the place where I am. First of all, I suppose I need to explore the place myself, because exploration can perhaps lead to understanding and healing.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Wayback Machine -- "An old Beatle's Romance"

In the year 2000, just two years after the death of his beloved Linda, Paul McCartney found love again. Of course, we know how that relationship turned into a sour mess, and Sir Paul's name was dragged through the mud by the media, but there are many of us who believe he is a true gentleman, as well as a legend.

I grew up in the 60's feasting on each new Beatle album, and listening to their music today still transports me to a magical place. When Paul found a new love just a couple of years after Linda's death, some people were critical. My comment on March 18, 2000 (ironically my wife's birthday) was "I'm glad Paul has found somebody. I don't see a thing wrong with it either. Boy...I feel a story coming on..."

Here is the story -- replete with references to Beatles' song titles and lyrics. See if you can figure out the references. Hope you have fun with it!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

He saw her standing there -- Long Tall Sally. She was just seventeen. He wanted to say something, but the words wouldn't come. Finally he eased up beside her and whispered, "Listen...Do You Want to Know a you promise not to tell?" His heart melted. He stuttered, but got out the words, "I Wanna Hold Your Hand!" She smiled and offered him her dainty palm. It was instant love. With soft music it seemed always playing in the background they romped like school kids (well...she was a school kid) in Strawberry Fields for what seemed like forever.

Well, the days grew into weeks, the weeks into months, and their love grew. One day he looked into her eyes and said, "I can't believe we have been together for all these months. It seems like we met just Yesterday!" He got on his knee and asked her to be his bride. The wedding day was wonderful. She had a gorgeous dress made by a talented seamstress named Eleanor Rigby who lived near the church. As she walked gracefully and elegantly down the aisle her heart was Free As a Bird.

The days afterward were very kind. He became a best-selling Paperback Writer and she had a very successful career in marine biology and explored the seas around the world in her Yellow Submarine. They made lots of money which they invested conservatively in CDs. Their accountant, Lew Beethoven suggested when the CDs matured next they might consider
investing in something that would have a better yield, but they felt things were just fine the way they were, so they said, "Money's fine, but Money Can't Buy Me Love. Just let the CDs Roll Over Beethoven."

One afternoon while sitting in a tiny bistro nestled snugly among the quaint shops along Penny Lane, they looked back over their lives together. Sally had never been one to show her emotions very openly, but it was clear she was touched by the romantic moment. He gazed into her eyes and said, "Sally...I Love You!" "Yeah, yeah, yeah!" she replied. In the passion of the moment he poured out his heart and shared the dream that had been sitting at the back of his mind for Eight Days a Week. "Darling, I know it'll be a Long and Winding Road, but I want to start a rock and roll band and move to America and make records and be on the Ed Sullivan Show. What do you think about that?!" Her face sunk, she shook her head and said, "No, Paul, just Let It Be."

There were stirrings of a Revolution in his heart. It must have been stirring in hers too, because the next morning he found a letter on the table saying she was leaving...she needed some space to think. He was confused and restless. He hardly slept that evening. It was a Hard Day's Night, and his mind was working like a dog. The next day he searched all over Kidneypool until he found her listening to Sergeant Pepper's band at the Lonely Heart's Club. He pushed his way to her side and shouted, "I found your Dear John letter. By George, I want my ring-o back!"

She said softly, “Did you read it all?” He stood there a moment before reaching into his pocket. He pulled out the tattered letter and read the last line: “P.S. I Love You!” He stood there and tears welled up in his eyes. He looked up and found tears in her eyes too. The place had grown completely silent until some bloke belted out, “Hey pal, can’t you see...She Loves You!” The chorus erupted, “Yeah, yeah, yeah!” He said, "Baby, without you my life would just be Helter Skelter. Can you take me back?" She grabbed him in a passionate embrace and said, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeeeeeaaaaahhhhhh!"

© 2000 Jim Bohannon

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Revelation – Christ Nature - vs - Antichrist

The book of Revelation is considered by many to be one of the main biblical texts of eschatology (the study of "last things"), or "end times" theology. In a later post I will talk about the various viewpoints, historical and contemporary, about how the last days are supposed to pan out according to Christian theology, namely views of the "millenium". First, however, I want to talk about one of the major topics of eschatology, that famous - yet confusing - character known as the antichrist, even though the concept of antichrist is not introduced in Revelation, but in other books:

Dear children, the last hour is here. You have heard that the Antichrist is coming, and already many such antichrists have appeared. From this we know that the last hour has come. (1 John 2:18, New Living Translation)

And who is a liar? Anyone who says that Jesus is not the Christ. Anyone who denies the Father and the Son is an antichrist. (1 John 2:18, New Living Translation)

He will exalt himself and defy everything that people call god and every object of worship. He will even sit in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God. 2 Thessalonians 2:4 (New Living Translation)

This man will come to do the work of Satan with counterfeit power and signs and miracles. He will use every kind of evil deception to fool those on their way to destruction, because they refuse to love and accept the truth that would save them. 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10 (New Living Translation)

Among historical and contemporary Bible scholars, theologians, and amateur eschatologians, there are various views about who, or what, the antichrist will be, whether antichrist is present, or whether the antichrist will come in the last days, before God's judgment and Christ's reign (if you're not familiar with these theological concepts, don't worry, they're not critical to an understanding of what I will talk about). Some believe antichrist referred to various Roman emperors. The number associated with the antichrist, 666, has been attributed to code meaning Nero, one of the most notorious persecutors of Christians. Nero allegedly blamed Christians for the burning of Rome, and as a result, Christians were burned alive on poles. Some reports claimed the road into rome was sometimes lighted by burning Christians. No doubt, this was an antichrist nature (which I will talk more about later) Others believed various Popes were the antichrist, and others believed antichrist to be certain governments (the Roman government being the first considered as a candidate for antichrist). Still others believe that antichrist is a general spirit that is present in every age. This is essentially my personal view.

Whether one is a Christian or not, Jesus Christ is still one of the amazing individuals of history, and his nature (the Christ nature, I will call it) was exemplified in the way he lived and the way he treated others. This Christ nature is still very present, but the antichrist nature is present as well.

Here are some distinctions that compare the Christ Nature and the Antichrist Nature, and I believe the application to some very contemporary events is clear:

Christ Nature:
Acceptance of all human beings and a desire to see them redeemed, reflected in his love and compassion for everyone.

Antichrist Nature:
Only select people – a certain group, clique, or tribe, are worthy of love or acceptance.
Christ Nature:
Sacrifices himself for others – even “sinners”, those who hate and abuse him.

Antichrist Nature:
Sacrifice themselves to win some heavenly reward – martyrdom becomes self-serving instead of sacrificial.
Christ Nature:
Sacrifices himself to save others.

Antichrist Nature:
Sacrifice themselves to kill and hurt others.
Christ Nature:
Brings peace.

Antichrist Nature:
Brings terror.

Whatever the theological differences about who or what antichrist may be, and whether we are Christians or members of other faiths or members of no faith group at all, it is clear to me that we all have a human duty to exemplify the spirit of Christ, and to overcome the spirit of antichrist.

~ Jim

NOTE: If you're interested in a more detailed historical analysis of antichrist, the Wikipedia article is a pretty good place to start.

[Pictures: Final showdown of Christ and Antichrist by Albrecht Durer, and Jesus Blessing the Children by Benjamin Robert Haydon.]

The Dickens, You Say!

Several years ago, the Book of the Month Club offered a 23 volume set of The Oxford Illustrated Dickens, which claims to contain all of the published works of Charles Dickens. The set was around $350.00, which wasn’t a bad price for 23 nicely produced hardcover books with dust jackets, but I didn’t have the money at the time, so I just dreamed about owning them. Eventually the price went down to $150.00, which was still a lot of money for me to spend at one time on books. Then it happened – a brochure came featuring the Dickens set at $100.00 with free shipping, and I couldn’t resist any longer. It’s a lovely set of books, each one slightly larger in dimension than a paperback, and at the price, I paid less than I would for a comparable set of paperbacks.

I have been intending for the longest time to start at one end of the bookshelf and read all the way across to the last volume, but I haven’t mustered up that kind of discipline yet – or maybe I have. I’ve picked up various volumes and begun reading, relishing Dickens’ delightful mastery of character development and meticulous detail, but now I’ve picked up David Copperfield and started reading it again, and this time I’m determined to go through all 23 volumes. These books are a gold mine chocked full of ore for anybody interested in writing.

For anyone interested in literature and what it can contribute toward an inwardly better, richer, and wiser life, and especially for anyone interested in creating literature of one’s own, there are three writers worthy of regular re-readings, each reading revealing something fresh and wonderful – William Shakespeare, Marcel Proust, and Charles Dickens. Shakespeare is a master of pure story whose plots have influenced countless stories over the past few centuries, Proust is the quintessential guide into the magical wonder of ordinary life, and Dickens excels in capturing humanity and helping us to love it. The advantage of Dickens lies in his accessibility. Shakespeare and Proust take a bit more work than the average reader cares to invest (although the investment carries rich rewards). Dickens, on the other hand, will take you by the hand and lead you like a caring friend into his remarkable world. His loveable characters become intimate friends, and his villains leave you fuming at injustice and unkindness, but you will not walk away from Dickens without being deeply moved – perhaps even changed.