About Me

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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 61 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Monday, January 23, 2012

Humanity and the Right Fight

Copyright © 2012 by Ralph Couey
except quoted portions.

"By rights, we shouldn’t even be here, but we are.
It’s like in the great stories, the ones that really matter.
Full of darkness and danger they were. 
Sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. 
Because how could the end be happy?
How could the world go back to the way it was
when so much bad had happened? 

In the end it’s only a passing thing. Like a shadow, the darkness must pass.
 But a new day will come;
and when the sun shines, it will shine out even clearer. 

Those are the stories that stayed with you, that meant something,
 even if you were too small to understand why. 
But I think I do understand.  I know now. 
Folks in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t.
They kept going because they were holding on to something. 

What are we holding on to? 

That there’s some good in this world; and its worth fighting for."

--Samwise Gamgee
"The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" 

This quote is from a movie, a fantasy called “Lord of the Rings.”  Everyone knows the story, one of heroism and cowardice; of holding true and falling to temptation; of feats accomplished, and catastrophic failure.  A quest that defined friendship and courage, and yet still told the dark story of how human flesh sometimes fails in the face of challenge.  Similar stories have been told for thousands of years.  The Iliad, The Aeneid, The Odyssey, all have contributed tales of the best, and the worst, of humankind.  In those tales, people suffered and died.  Worlds came apart and ended.  In the reality of human history, much the same has happened.  But even in those darkest of times, when it seemed that the tapestry of our collective story was approaching a ragged end, humanity still survived.  Kingdoms rose and fell.  Global powers waxed and waned.  Swords were drawn and blood was spilled.  Yet, we still stand here today, survivors all. 

It becomes easy to look around at the evil we continue to do to each other, at the violence and hate we insist on inflicting and assume that once again, humanity is falling into the abyss of self-imposed extinction.  It’s easier still to wallow in despair, taking a perverse kind of comfort in the idea that surrender is the only option. 

The soliloquy quoted above, given in the Two Towers by the character Samwise Gamgee, is one I find particularly poignant.  Frodo and Sam, along with a fellowship of knights and warriors undertake a journey to carry a powerful ring across a war-torn land in order to cast it into the fires of Mt Doom in the heart of the dark land of Mordor.  It was a journey that cost lives and changed the hearts of all who shared it.  But they never turned back because they knew that the act of destroying the ring would save their world from destruction.  

We find such stories inspiring because they demonstrate to us the greatness we are capable of, even when slowed and crippled by our own weaknesses.   

We who inhabit this world at this particular juncture of time see also a dark world.  People die in wars, and in our communities by their own hands.  We see floods and earthquakes, and fear what time has shown to be a cyclical shift in climate, fearing that our mother planet is somehow turning against us.  Governments, always prone to human frailties, have become so corrupt, so unresponsive to human need that even those of us who enjoy free elections despair of participating.  The process has been poisoned by greed and lust for power and those who become candidates we see as completely warped by the system.  Some we send to office with high hopes and dreams, only to feel the crushing disappointment of just how human they proved to be. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Newest Model

Copyright © 2012 by Ralph Couey

Witnessing the birth of a child is one of the most profound moments any human can experience.  To come face-to-face with the power and miracle of life simply redefines a person's entire outlook.  We know the biology, the science.  We can be intellectually satisfied with discussions of fertilization and cellular mitosis.  We can look at a pregnant woman and know what lives inside.  But to be present at that moment when a human life emerges from another human simply takes our breath away. 

My wife bore four children, of which I was present for three.  While my aging brain is beginning to shed memories of the mundane, the images of those births remain crystal clear. 

The years that followed were chaotic and rambunctious, stretching us to our limits.  There were difficult moments, and others of boundless joy. Now they're all grown, most with families of their own.  They've managed to drag us kicking and screaming into the 21st century, announcing the arrivals of their newest children via text, cell, and even facebook.   

Last spring, our middle daughter announced she was pregnant.  It would be her first child.  That we already had been blessed with 5 grandchildren did nothing to lessen our joy and celebration.  As the months progressed, our anticipation grew.  In a courageous decision, Crystal announced that she would host the family Christmas gathering.  We were even more excited as it became apparent that all four of our kids would be there at the same time.  At this stage of life, those moments become rarer with each passing day.  So it was with great anticipation that the family gathered.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Techo-Thought

Copyright © 2012 by Ralph Couey

The human race has undergone numerous changes over the centuries.  Life span, height, fine motor skills, and other developments have helped us rise from simple cave-dwellers to what we have become today.  Some argue pointedly that our facility to create technology has swept past the moral and ethical capability to control its usage.  But the most profound evolution involves our ability to communicate.
Anthropologists hypothesize that the first spoken language appeared around 2.5 million years ago.  But the development of written words didn’t come about for a very long time until the Sumerians produced their proto-version of cuneiform around 3500 BCE, with the Egyptians following about 200 years later.  Clay tablets were the first media for this new form of expression and record-keeping.  Animal skins, called “parchment,” gained favor in the 6th century BC.  The Chinese invented paper around the 2nd century BC, and in its various forms has been the standard of publication since. 
With the birth of the information age, words would be rendered electronically and stored on a silicon disc.  And as computer software and processor capacity has grown, the required space for that storage has shrunk considerably to the point where the 8gigabyte mini SD card in my cell phone could hold, if my information is correct, some 1, 024,000 pages of text, all on a piece of media smaller than my pinky fingernail.
Scientists are telling us that in the very near future, even more efficient storage media will advance that incredible figure by several orders of magnitude. 
Technology is leaping ahead almost faster than we can comprehend.  Just in my lifetime things have drastically changed. 
In the early 1980’s I was in the U.S. Navy, spending a good deal of time on the water half-way around the planet from home.  Mail was a vitally important way to keep in touch with loved ones, but one that required patience.  Letters would leave the ship on an irregular schedule, most times air-lifted by helicopter to another ship.  We all held our breath as that bag swung through  the air before it landed safely on the other flight deck.  Eventually ,those bags would go on a delivery aircraft that would fly to an airport where the bags would be handed over to another conveyance for eventual shipment to the Fleet Post Office in San Francisco, where it would be distributed through the US Postal Service system to our loved ones.  That was a journey that could take a couple of weeks in the best of circumstances. 
But even at that pace, we had it so much better than before.