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Friday, January 25, 2013

A Little Church In North Carolina--My Favorite Places In Appalachia

For the past several years, I have put a great deal of thought into what I am about to write here.  Although I have written more than fifty pages of a first draft of a book about this place, these people, and the various myths, beliefs, and lies that surround them, I have chosen to never complete that book or to publish a single page about them.  But the people involved in this piece, the place I speak of, and the events I have seen there and, sometimes, participated in will forever remain a part of my psyche and served to change me and make me a better human being.  Several months ago, a blogger friend of mine whose wonderful blog can be found at Wayfarin' Stranger wrote a brief piece about these people which prompted several e-mail exchanges between us.  He also suggested that I consider writing about this place and these people on this blog and that we could cross link our pieces about them.  I never gave him a definitive answer and in my busy life never got around to making a final decision about this piece.  I have finally decided to write about them and it is my sincere hope that it is the correct decision. 

The place to which I refer is a little serpent handling church located somewhere in North Carolina.  The writing will also be influenced by nearly a dozen other such churches I have attended in Tennessee, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Indiana.  I will not give any specifics about the location of this church, the names of its people, or directions on how to find such churches. I will not post any photographs of any of these people or their churches.  I have not attended this church in several years and may well never attend it again.  But it will always be in my heart and on my mind. I want to make absolutely clear that this is written with deep, heartfelt love and respect for these people.  It is my hope that this writing can help dispel some of the misunderstandings, myths, and lies which have been propagated about them.  It is my even greater hope that they will not be harmed by this writing and will understand my motives in writing it. 

In 2004, I read Dennis Covington's self-serving and defamatory book "Salvation On Sand Mountain" which is generally the first book anyone finds in a Google search about serpent handlers.  I knew enough about my homeland and its people to know that the book was highly inaccurate at best and a conglomeration of deliberate lies at worst.  But it did prompt me to do further reading on the subject and the next book I found was "The Serpent Handlers: Three Families And Their Faith" by Fred Brown and Jeanne McDonald.  Ever since that day, it has been the book I recommend to anyone who requests information about these people.  It is everything that the Covington book is not.  The Brown/McDonald book is a masterpiece.  It is honest, accurate, caring, informative and well worth reading by anyone who considers herself to be a student of either Appalachia, culture, or religion.  From that time forward, I sought out every written word I could find on the topic and began to seek contacts among the serpent handlers of Appalachia. 

I was eventually lucky enough to make contact with a large number of serpent handling believers and attended my first serpent handling service in September of 2004 at this little church in North Carolina.  It was their annual homecoming service and was attended by more than a hundred people from a dozen or so states all over Appalachia and the area of the Great Migration.  I was able to see serpents handled, fire handled, speaking in tongues, and many other practices which generally occur only in Holiness or Pentecostal churches.  I learned a great deal on that trip, met several believers who became my friends, and attended services at another church in Tennessee.  What I have always said to the uninitiated about that first weekend among serpent handlers is that I believe that no one can see serpent handling practiced for the first time without having their beliefs about the subject change in some way.  Not everyone who sees a service comes away with a positive impression.  Not everyone comes away believing it is a legitimate religious practice. Most importantly, not everyone comes away with the same negative opinions with which they arrived.  But everyone who actually sees a serpent handling service comes away with more accurate information and some easily discernible change in their previously held concepts.  I was better informed, somewhat enlightened and most importantly knew that I had been correct in my first impressions of Dennis Covington's book. I came away with absolutely no doubt that serpent handling is a legitimate religious practice.   I also came away with understanding and respect for these often maligned people and their beliefs. 

Additionally, I came away from that first weekend with them with a deep seated desire to know more about them and a hope to write a book about them which could counter the many misconceptions and myths.  I began to spend a great deal of time visiting serpent handling churches in several states.  Yes, there are serpent handlers in several states.  They are not as widespread as they were thirty or forty years ago; but, there are serpent handling believers who actively practice their faith in every state in Central or Southern Appalachia and most of the Midwestern states which were affected by the Great Migration. I have personally attended services in the five states I mentioned earlier.  I have seen several dozen believers take up serpents, handle fire, speak in tongues, lay hands on the sick, and fall out in the spirit.  The one practice which is often spoken of with regard to these people that I have not seen is drinking poison.  But I have met several people who have drunk poison in the past and know even more who are related to those who have done this.  All these practices have a Biblical basis, primarily from the sixteenth chapter of the Gospel of Mark.  Some of them are also seen in the Book of Acts and the other Gospels.  Serpent handling is mentioned in one other place, the 28th Chapter of the Book of Acts.  It is my belief that the Biblical basis for these practices is at least as solidly founded as many other more conventional religious practices such as the washing of feet by believers.  It is also my belief that the handling of serpents, as it is practiced in most of these churches, constitutes a sacrament just as legitimate as baptism or the administration of last rites. 

At this point, I think it is appropriate that I should state that I am not a particularly religious person.  I definitely believe in a benevolent God and I am intelligent enough to know that I have no idea what that God thinks, believes, prefers, or wants me to do other than a common sense list of do's and don'ts such as 1) do practice charity; and 2) don't harm others.  I also have strongly held beliefs about the separation of church and state and I quickly shake the dust of any place off my feet when its inhabitants begin telling me they have absolute answers about right and wrong.  I have never felt the need to shake the dust of any serpent handling church off my feet.  I have never felt that these people wanted to control me, demean me, or protect me from the error of my ways.  I have universally received respect, non-judgmental love, and acceptance from these people.  I will firmly state that no such church I have ever attended was a cult or cult-like.  The great majority of serpent handling believers I have known have simply been good, honest, hard working, God fearing Appalachians just like their non-serpent handling neighbors with that one exception of practicing a minority interpretation of the Bible.  At no time have I ever felt endangered while I was in their presence.  They absolutely will not force or try to coerce anyone into handling serpents.  As funny as the well known Windy Bagwell comedy routine is, it does not represent any of these people accurately and it has done a great deal of harm to them over the years just as has the Covington book. 

It seems appropriate to list several of the contradictions to the common myths about these people which I found in their presence:
  1. They are not members of a cult.
  2. The serpents they handle are real and, to my knowledge, never have their fangs removed.
  3. These people are Christians just as much as any other Methodist, Baptist, or Episcopalian in their vicinity.
  4. They will not force anyone to handle a serpent nor will they try to force any other belief or practice on anyone.
  5. They are rational, intelligent members of their community.  They are not mentally ill.
  6. They are not exhibitionists and do not seek publicity with a few individual exceptions.
  7. They are practicing what they believe to be a directive from the God they worship and they are not the children of Satan.
 At times in this little church in North Carolina, I have heard stories of the deaths of friends and family members due to serpent bite or the ingestion of poison.  I have seen the walls literally vibrate from the music, dancing, and enthusiastic worship.  I have heard personal stories from believers who have survived untreated serpent bites. I have seen cynics and doubters changer their minds in the presence of these people.  I have sat in that church on one occasion and counted 28 attendees and more than 20 of those people I knew to have lost at least one relative due to the practice.  And in the face of all this, I have never seen doubt in these people's eyes about the correctness of their beliefs and practices.  I often ask people who believe the common myths about serpent handlers if they can name five of their acquaintances who are willing to die for any particular belief they may hold.  Rarely are any of these people able to give me five such names.  I always respond that I have known dozens of serpent handling believers who have clearly demonstrated in my presence a willingness to die, if that should be their fate, for their particular interpretation of the scriptures. 

They are a unique, honest, God-loving and God-fearing group of people.  Whether they are absolutely right or wrong matters little to me.  My respect for their unshakeable beliefs keeps them in my mind at times when I am nowhere near them.  I think of them often and I am often reminded of an e-mail I received from a college professor who had studied them at length in which he said "I wish I could be in a spirit filled service with them again."  I know at least a half dozen doctoral level professionals who have attended such services and hold the same feelings for these people.  That little church in North Carolina will always be one of my favorite places in Appalachia. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Relocated Cemeteries In Appalachia

A recent posting by my blogging friend the Wayfarin' Stranger on his blog which was actually about an old one room school prompted this post. The post and his wonderful blog can be found at:  I responded to his discussion of the movement of the school for the creation of Cave Run Lake near his native Morehead, KY,  with an e-mail about the need for both of us to examine and blog about the movement of family cemeteries to facilitate the construction of these flood control projects all over Appalachia.  He responded with the idea that we both write about it and cross link our articles which was his way to get me reactivated in blogging since I had done nothing since the March 2, 2011, tornado devastated my home town of West Liberty, KY.  That is a topic which I will approach sometime soon.  It is still a bit too fresh in most of our minds.

But, to get back to the real topic of this article, there are several federally funded flood control lakes in every state in the Central Appalachian Region.  Within easy driving distance of me, there are Cave Run Lake, Paintsville Lake, Yatesville Lake, Dewey Lake, and Buckhorn Lake.  All were built after World War II, funded by federal dollars, and in whole or in part managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers.  There are actually 18 such lakes in the entire state of Kentucky, 10 throughout West Virginia, 5 in Tennessee, 6 in Virginia, 4 in North Carolina, and 10 in Georgia.  Each of these states may also have one or more river drainages which are overseen by the Corps of Engineers.  There are also several other lakes in each of the states which is partially contained in the greater Appalachian area but outside Central or Southern Appalachia.  I am concerned only with the cemeteries which have been affected by the construction of lakes in the Central Appalachian Region.  But within the states named, there are more than 50 such lakes. I also note for the record that all of the above states territory does not lie in Central Appalachia and neither do all of the 53 lakes. 

The Corps of Engineers actually controls more than 400 lakes in 43 states.  Nearly every one of these man made lakes required the movement of grave sites and cemeteries.  A few may have also affected or destroyed Native American archaeological sites including grave sites. A fairly good, but relatively non-disclosive and primarily tourism oriented page about the lakes can be found at:

Each of these lakes is entirely man made and their construction mandated the removal and relocation of several and perhaps dozens of small, family cemeteries.  In each case, the government purchased title to the land involved whenever possible and paid contractors to excavate and relocate all known graves which would be in the flood plain of the lakes. Whenever opposition to the individual purchases was encountered, the government began adverse legal proceedings under the legal doctrine known as eminent domain and seized the land.  In either case, the government paid for the purchase of land near the lake for the construction of a merged cemetery which would contain most or all of the relocated graves.  So far as I know, in each case, the cemeteries were also built large enough to allow for the burial of future dead in the locale.  Whenever descendants objected to relocation of graves to the merged cemetery, they were generally given the option of moving them to a site of their own choosing although this relocation may not have been at government expense. And one of the other real tragedies of this whole relocation effort lies in the fact that many of the older cemeteries would have also contained poorly marked or even totally unmarked graves which were never found and are flooded today.  In many of these cases, no living human remained who even remembered the exact location of these graves or the names of the individuals buried in them. 

Each of these merged cemeteries is operated by a manager under the laws of the state and federal governments. Most, if not all, of these cemeteries are managed in an efficient and ethical fashion.  This article is intended to be a non-biased look at the cultural issues involved in relocation of graves in Appalachia and not intended as any negative assessment of the processes involved in the management of the new cemeteries.  I will leave readers to draw their own conclusions about how this massive relocation of graves has affected the descendants of the dead in each case, both in and outside Central Appalachia. 

I have not visited most of the cemeteries involved in Central Appalachia.  But I have visited several in both Kentucky and West Virginia.  I am more concerned with the general cultural issues involved and limit specific references to those lakes and cemeteries with which I am most familiar.  I have also sought to gain first hand information from one or more of the managers involved in the process.  However, an initial attempt to gain previously publicly released information about the cemeteries from a Corps of Engineers employee was less than openly addressed.  I suspect that, in many cases, relocation of graves has been a touchy subject in Central Appalachia.  I can only vaguely remember the construction of Carr Fork Lake in my native Knott County Kentucky.  But I do recall that my neighbors who were often unemployed avoided applying for the jobs available as laborers in the relocation process.  Contractors were generally not local but did advertise and hire local people when they would accept the work.    However, most local males would not apply for and would not have accepted jobs whose sole purpose was the excavation of graves and relocation of the dead.

Culturally speaking, three major aspects and key values of Appalachian Culture collide with the process of relocating cemeteries. These values are Love of Place, Familism, and Religion.  These relocated graves and cemeteries were most often located on old family home places and considered sacred to the descendants.  The two most important institutions in Appalachian Culture are family and church.  The three most important physical locations to the average Appalachian are the old home place, the family cemetery, and the church which the family usually attended.  In many cases, the construction of these lakes and the relocation of graves would have destroyed all three of these important locations and dealt serious damage to the two institutions as well. In all cases of property transfers for these lakes, the property would have been appraised at actual market value if sold.  Many of these older churches, especially Old Regular Baptist, United Baptist, Holiness, and Pentecostal churches would have been simple wood frame buildings with little monetary value in relation to their religious and cultural value. These congregations would have often been tasked with buying land and building new buildings in an area where land was now more valuable both because of the tourism potential and the increased scarcity due to flooding. More often than not, these small congregations would have been placed in a position of great monetary stress due to the much larger cost of replacement compared to the market value of buildings that were small, cheaply built, and of advanced age.

Although I do not generally believe that feuding was as common an occurrence in Appalachia as various forms of media have described it, disagreements between neighboring families occur in all locales across the world as a part of normal daily life.  Relocating several small family cemeteries in a relatively constricted locale, usually one creek or river valley, would have often resulted in members of several families being buried in close proximity to people with whom they had disagreed in life.  Descendants would not have forgotten those disagreements and would have been upset by the idea of having family members buried in the same cemetery with "them Hicks'" for example. 

But the real opposition to moving graves lay in the idea that graves are sacred and the dead should remain in the original grave until the resurrection. This is a topic which I did not address adequately in my earlier posting about family cemeteries.  It was an idea I should have addressed more thoroughly at the time.  Most graves in Appalachia, especially if they are more than 40 or 50 years old, nearly always face the rising sun due to the belief that the resurrection will happen in the early morning at or near sunrise.  This positioning of the graves is intended to guarantee that the people interred will be oriented toward the coming Jesus in order to be one of the first to rise from the grave. The relocated cemeteries almost never made a point of facing graves toward the rising sun and usually located the orientation in the manner most likely to maximize the use of the land.  This point alone would be upsetting to descendants of the dead who had been raised to practice this religious based custom. 

Whenever I discuss the issues of death and burial in Appalachia, I generally refer to two books: "Death And Dying In Central Appalachia" by James K. Crissman and "Coal Camp Kids" by Barbara Ford Ritch.  "Faith And Meaning In The Southern Uplands" by Loyal Jones, whose work I often mention, also contains material pertinent to this discussion. The Crissman book is a somewhat dated but classic discussion of nearly every aspect of death and dying in Appalachia. It is in every way a masterpiece.  The Ritch book is a large oral history of the coal camps on Beaver Creek in Floyd County Kentucky which contains a large chapter on death, dying, and burial customs which contains many vintage photographs of graves, tomb stones, caskets, and dead bodies.  It is somewhat deficient in expository writing but the photos and first person transcriptions are quite informative.  For those readers who are interested in further information on the topic of death in Appalachia, I would also refer you to any or all available copies of "The Minutes" of any of the various associations of the Old Regular Baptist Church in Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, and several of the northern states affected by the Great Migration.  Individual obituaries are generally contained in most associations minutes and are written by either ministers or family members who knew the deceased individuals.  Although they may appear to follow a stock and rather staid format, individual obituaries may contain real gems of cultural information and these gems may often be found only by browsing dozens of "Minutes".  I refer to one such obituary in my post on "Visiting The Urban Appalachians In Kendallville Indiana".  Although I have never done research there, it is my understanding that the University of Pikeville library in Pikeville Kentucky has a nearly complete collection of these minutes from several of the associations.  Each of these "Minutes" is an annual report of events in a particular association of Old Regular Baptist Churches and, in addition to the obituaries, contains statistical reports of the churches.  They are a wealth of information for researchers and the simply curious in Appalachia.  In particular, the statistics are often far more complete than other enumerations of any kind at the same time in Appalachia. 

There have also been numerous cultural collisions between coal and other mineral extraction companies and the local populace concerning attempts to relocate cemeteries in order to facilitate strip mines, oil wells, gas wells, and rock quarries.  One such battle is currently ongoing at Carcassone in Letcher County Kentucky.  I have no direct personal knowledge of the conflict other than what I have seen in the media. But a local couple whose family members are buried on a small, mountaintop cemetery are involved in an ongoing battle with a coal company which wants to move the cemetery more than twenty miles away, which is a massive distance by Appalachian mountain standards.  Newspaper accounts can be found at the Mountain Eagle , the local newspaper in Whitesburg, KY. I will attempt to directly contact the people involved in the conflict and gain more information which is certainly pertinent to this discussion.

This article will not be complete until I have managed to interview at least a couple of the cemetery managers involved about policies and procedures involved in the relocation of these graves.  I will also try to take the time to do some research in the Floyd, Rowan, and Johnson County Kentucky Libraries and newspaper morgues from the time period involved in the construction of Dewey Lake and Paintsville Lake in order to search for information about current events and opinions at the time the lakes were created.  Please feel free to insert your own personal information about this process and to make suggestions of ways to obtain more accurate information about the processes involved.  I would also love to interview any former employees who may have worked in the relocations. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Some More Reflections On Gun Control, The Gun Culture, And The Underground Economy

Today, January 8, 2013, I had two brief encounters less than an hour apart which showed me a great deal about the gun culture in both America and Appalachia and also about the underground economy and how deeply it is involved in the sale and transport of guns all across the country.  It is also significant that these encounters happened on the second anniversary of the shooting in Arizona which severely wounded former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killed six others.  Giffords and her husband also announced ongoing efforts with their non-profit corporation Americans For Responsible Solutions to raise money and take part in the effort to bring about changes in American gun laws.

I was in a business meeting with an individual who asked me if I ever get guns in my practice as an auctioneer.  He loves to buy and collect guns and made the statement that he never sells a gun if he buys it unless he finds a "better one just like it".  I do not sell guns as a part of my practice as an auctioneer unless I know that I am in strict compliance with federal law and told the man so. Here is a link to great article about federal law and how it applys to auctioneers . A few minutes later I left that meeting and drove about 6 miles down the road where I saw two people I know selling merchandise by the side of the road which is common today all across Appalachia.  I stopped to talk to the two and actually bought an item from one of them, a "smalls box", to be used in my practice to display small, valuable items.  The man had one single shot 12 gauge shotgun displayed on the ground outside his van.  I picked it up, asked the price, and talked about it briefly.  The man then said "I've got a whole van full of guns if you want to look at them." Then he turned, opened the back door of his van and showed me more than a dozen guns of all shapes, sizes, and descriptions including several automatic weapons.  He also made a statement that he had more at his home for sale.  But what was most significant about this encounter is that only a few months ago this man's brother was sentenced to life without parole for killing the man's daughter and son-in-law in the presence of four of their children.  The man who was selling the guns is now attempting to earn money to raise his six orphaned grandchildren whose parents died by gunfire in the presence of most of those children.  This encounter obviously has a lot to say about the gun culture in general, attitudes about guns in this family and about how the underground economy plays a significant role in the sale, transport, and use of guns all across the country.  It is also very significant that the person I was dealing with in the earlier business meeting was a licensed professional and a key player in the investigation of the murder and the burial of the childrens parents. 

Gun use and gun ownership have become so widespread in this region and the country as a whole that this man apparently sees nothing wrong in the continued presence of large numbers of guns in the home in which he is raising grandchildren who have been orphaned and traumatized by the murder of their parents in the presence of most of the children.  Admittedly, this man is poorly educated and of what I would believe is low normal intelligence based on my knowledge of him and my training and experience as a mental health professional.  But, I have no doubt that his intelligence is high enough to understand at least the basic implications of such a trauma on the children. 

I have known about the underground economy most of my life since I grew up in a country store, sold door to door for years, and now work as a self-employed auctioneer in Kentucky and Indiana.  All across the country, hundreds of thousands of people make at least part of their living from the underground economy, that part of the overall economy which functions outside the normal bounds of taxation and regulation such as yard sales, flea markets, illegal auctions, gambling, prostitution, drug dealing, and other forms of crime. A relatively good discussion of the underground economy can be found here: What Is The Underground Economy? .  Gun sales to shadow buyers is a very large part of the underground economy and generally operates totally outside the ability of law enforcement or taxation agencies to measure, monitor, or control it.  Anyone with any kind of criminal record, criminal intent, mental condition or combination of the three can go to the average gun show,  flea market, or roadside sale and find hundreds of guns for sale for cash without a single question being asked. Here is link to a somewhat dated, but very well researched and written article about guns and the underground economy . The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms attempts to intervene in at least a portion of these illegal sales, primarily bulk sales, but is generally far too overloaded to effectively control the sale and transport of guns in this manner. 

The underground economy, especially as it relates to criminal enterprises, moves and sells hundreds of thousands of guns every year in this country.  A large portion of these sales are facilitated by gangs and criminal syndicates and for years it has been common for major northeastern groups to buy guns in states with little or no state regulation and transport them to cities along the eastern seaboard for sale on the street.  Untold millions of dollars of guns are transported and sold in this manner.  This is one of the primary areas in which stricter gun control laws, better regulation, and improved funding for the ATF and other law enforcement agencies could stop, or at least slow, the flow of guns to criminals and criminal groups. 

My encounters with these two men on the second anniversary of the Tucson mass murder was significant to me in my reactions to the underground economy, the gun culture, and the need for strict gun control laws and adequate funding for the enforcement of those laws.  I hope it is to you also.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

One Appalachian Man's Opinion Of Gun Control

I received my first gun, a 20 gauge shotgun from my parents as a Christmas gift when I was about 10 or 12 years old.  I grew up in a family where we ate nearly all wild game common to the area in which we lived and nearly ever male in the family hunted.  We learned to shoot and handle guns in childhood and many of my relatives and neighbors received their first firearm at ages somewhat younger than I.  As a part of this common, every day usage of guns, we all learned gun safety; rules about handling, cleaning, and transporting guns; and, a set of common sayings which I still practice to this day.  Among those sayings were these:
1) assume that every gun is loaded until you have checked it yourself and know otherwise;
2) never point a gun at anything you don't intend to kill;
3) never kill anything you don't intend to eat;
4) always keep guns clean and well cared for.
I grew up in a family where my most distant known ancestor, the Reverend Aulse Hicks, travelled from Western Virginia to the area around Prestonsburg, Kentucky, sometime between the 1790 census and the 1810 census.  I am sure one of the things he felt was necessary for such a trip in that time period was a long rifle and he probably owned a pistol as well.  I could, if I stretched, justify owning a pistol, a 22 rifle, a shotgun, and a heavy rifle for deer hunting.  I do not bother to stretch that far since I have not hunted since a detached retina in my right eye more than twenty years ago.  I have perfect vision in my left eye and could, with some work, retrain myself to shoot effectively enough to hunt with a rifle using a left hand grip and my left eye.  I do not bother to do that.  I can see well enough to shoot an occasional varmint around my house or an intruder, if necessary.    That is all I need guns for and I do not need an arsenal.  Times are very different than they were when Aulse Hicks travelled from Western Virginia two hundred years ago.  Hungry mountain lions, angry native Americans, angry Frenchmen, and angry British holdouts do not roam the hills of Eastern Kentucky.  A plethora of drug addicted thieves do roam these hills; but, it is not necessary for me to be able to kill them all.  I do not need an arsenal.  I do not need fully automatic assault rifles, or high volume clips, or armor piercing ammunition.  I do not need a concealed carry permit.  I do not need the National Rifle Association to assume it has the right to speak on behalf of me and every other American.  What I need in today's world, is a national legislature with enough courage and wisdom to pass an effective, broad ranging, and constitutional ban on fully automatic weapons, assault rifles, armor piercing ammunition, clips which hold over five rounds, purchases of firearms at gun shows without background checks, and purchases of firearms across state lines.
We live in a world today in which the gun culture has become so rampant that most people are being led to believe that unlimited access to all firearms and ammunition is a constitutional right guaranteed by the Second Amendment.  This is the text of the Second Amendment:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
The Founding Fathers were very wise in many ways and on many occasions as they began this country.  One of the wisest acts in which they took part was the creation and inclusion of the phrase "well regulated militia".  That phrase gives the legislative, judicial, and executive branches of government all the power necessary to fully regulate firearms and all appurtenances connected to them.  Additionally, the common welfare has always been seen by the courts as being sacrosanct in comparison to the limited desires of the few whether it be the desire of a few to drive drunk or own an arsenal of automatic weapons.  As our society and culture have changed over the years, events such as Columbine, Newtown, and a dozen other mass murders along with many assassinations of public figures have clearly pointed out the need to protect the common welfare despite the desire of the National Rifle Association and its followers to own unnecessary and dangerous weapons in an unrestricted manner.  Today's NRA is just as out of step and out of date as the Ku Klux Klan of the 1960's.  Their beliefs and desires are contrary to the public welfare and immediate, decisive action needs to take place place in order to control access to weapons of mass destruction.  We can no longer allow events such as Newtown to take place without making a concerted national effort to stop future such events. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year To My Readers!!!

I would like to wish all of you who read this blog from time to time a very happy and productive New Year.  I have not posted on this venue in several  months and yet, somehow, the three largest months of readership in the history of the blog have been the past three months.  I have reasoned from that fact that some of the things I have said have been pertinent and interesting to my regular readers and, more importantly, to individuals who have not been regular readers.  Without having fresh posts to read, even those who have been most impressed by the content or writing would not return repeatedly to peruse it over and over.  I am not deluded into believing that it is great writing.  It has to be the content, the things I say, the stories I tell, the views I express, the culture I try to protect and propagate.  I have also been very heavily involved in a relatively new consignment auction business over the past several months which roughly coincides with the lengthy gap in my blogging.  I recently found a quote in the Bible which I must have read numerous times but never grasped before:
Ecclesiastes 9:10 states "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest."
While I read the Bible regularly and generally read it cover to cover at least twice a year, I almost never quote it and read it more as an exercise in self discipline than as a religious act.  But this quote applies so thoroughly to both my auction business and to this blog that I had to take it to heart.  To use a frequently used, abused, and overused term, I am "rededicating my life" to try to practice the wisdom contained in the verse.  If we all apply that concept to our works and our lives, we will find that we have produced far more in any given time period than if we had not done so. I will work to write on this blog more regularly and to make my business more productive by first being more productive myself.  At times, I have been able to hold two jobs and work 75 hours a week for more than two consecutive years.  I also completed two college degrees while working full time and driving two hundred miles a day to and from work.  Productivity, whether in physical or intellectual labor, is rooted in a mindset.  With the right mindset, most of us are capable of "doing it with our might" as the verse says.  It is simply a matter of seven day a week productivity at the rate of about 12-18 hours a day.  It does not require brilliance, great physical ability, or divine purpose.  It requires work on a daily basis.  I will try to invest some of that work in this blog in the year to come.  And let me say that I have never made a practice of making new year's resolutions and this is not one.  It is simply a decision prompted by a pertinent piece of writing which I happened to grasp near the end of the previous year.  Happy New Year, and please consider coming back to read more of this blog from time to time.