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Letters to the editor, August 2007

This a traditional letter column. You are encouraged to write a letter of comment on anything that you find worthy of comment. It will (may) be published in this column along with my reply. As editor I reserve the right to delete material; however I will not alter the undeleted material. E-mail to me that solely references the contents of this site will be assumed to be publishable mail. All other e-mail is assumed to be private. And, of course, anything marked not for publication is not for publication. Oh yes, letters of appreciation for the scholarly resources provided by this site will be handled very discreetly. This page contains the correspondence for August 2007.

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From: Karen S.
Date: 7/25/2007
Subj: Curiosity Killed The Cat

I found your website today and the article you wrote on mysticism. As you said, there is so much misinformation out there on this topic and a lot of junk to sort through, which takes time and a serious gut test.

This essay was clear and in line with my experience and knowledge. So, curiosity got the better of me. First, I am assuming you are the author of this essay (Richard Harter). You mention that it helps to have a good guide or teacher and this essay is, as is evident, superficially informative. I am seeking a good guide or teacher and more in-depth information. Any suggestions or directions you can provide me?

If you have information to share with me I will be happy to, if it matters, give you some background on myself.

Thanks for your time,

It was a pleasure to hear from you. Yes, I am Richard Harter and I am the author of the essay. I hesitate to give anyone advice – it is presumptious for one thing and for another it has been quite some time since I have concerned myself with mysticism. However you asked and I will do my best to answer. Please take all of my remarks with several grains of salt.

It matters what religion you believe in, or, if you are a non-believer what sort of non-believer you are. If you are a convinced Christian it may be best if you stay within the mainlines of Christian mystic practice. Your priest or pastor probably can’t help you directly but they can point you in a good direction.

I would suggest that do some self searching and ask if this a path that you want to follow. If you decide that it is or that it might be I strongly suggest you should do a substantial amount of reading before doing anything radical. Unfortunately I’m not up on the current literature. However I have some suggestions:

If you can find a copy read Meister Eckhart (14th century Christian mystic) and “The Imitation of Christ” Copies of Krishnamurti’s writings are fairly available. You could read the Upanishads, though they are tough going for a westerner. Eastern religions are difficult to understand for westerners because the theological traditions are so very different. Action vs non-action does not translate directly into good vs evil. Zen is probably the most accessible variant for westerners because it strips out theology and focuses on practice. However Zen is tuned to medieval Japanese culture and to monasticism. If you can find books by Alan Watts they would be worth your while.

I suggest very strongly that you be very careful about seeking out a teacher or guide. In particular please stay away from the cults. The objective is to still the mind, not to numb it. One difficulty is that it is easy to mistake charisma for enlightenment. Following a charismatic fraud is one of the great traps.

I would also suggest that you learn and practice the basic meditation techniques. Search the web for meditation. Prcticing meditation is good for your mental health regardless of whether you walk down the path of mysticism or not.

I hope this is of some help.

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From: Chip Hitchcock
Date: 7/16/2007
Subj: July letters

So just what are/ the differences between people who stayed and people who left? Taking OLotLBD as an exception, are the other departures snarky types like yourself? Surely you aren’t afraid to discuss this, living alone in a house on the edge of an official wilderness….

Fear!? Do I fear that oncoming mob of villagers wwith blazing torches and pitchforks? Don’t be silly; I am fearless when faced with madness! … What are you doing? Get your hands off of me! …. Help, for the sake of God, Help!! …. Please don’t hit me again. … Mommy?

Er, perhaps I exaggerate. Should I say that the differences are the same as those in the “Left Behind” series of novels? No, that won’t quite do. House is this: Those who stayed were shyer, less outgoing, and quieter than those who left. In their own element they were voluble enough but in the presence of more worldly people, not so much.

Snarky? I beg your pardon. All of the graduates in my class were the best of all good people, well mannered and well behaved, credits to their God, their country, and their mothers. I repeat, all, without exception.

PS: wrt your editorial I’d be surprised if ]your[ coal goes to Ohio; I recall seeing bargeloads of coal(presumably from immediate neighbors) floating down the river by Cincinatti some years ago. OTOH, I shouldn’t be surprised — cf the story some years ago about two branches of a corporation deciding they were short of something (pork bellies, IIRC) and ordering a truckload from each other; the branches were in Chicago and St. Louis, and the drivers reportedly passed each other in central Illinois.
No doubt you are right. The Wyoming coal (not my coal, btw) probably goes to Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin. OTOH Wyoming coal is cleaner and cheaper than Eastern and Mid-Western coal, so maybe they are shipping it onto Illinois, et al. Be that as it may, I have no doubt that you are right, if not about this then about something else.
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From: Anthony R. Lewis, PhD, FN
Date: 7/14/2007
Subj: humor


this was forwarded to me.


A woman was walking down the street when she was accosted by a particularly dirty and shabby-looking homeless woman who asked her for a couple of dollars for dinner. The woman took out her bill fold, extracted ten dollars and asked, “If I give you this money, will you buy some wine with it instead of dinner?”

“No,” I had to stop drinking years ago, the homeless woman replied. “Will you use it to go shopping instead of buying food?” the woman asked. “No,” I don’t waste time shopping, the homeless woman said. “I need to spend all my time trying to stay alive.”

“Will you spend this on a beauty salon instead of food?” the woman asked. “Are you NUTS!” replied the homeless woman. “I haven’t had my hair done in 20 years!”

“Well,” said the woman, “I’m not going to give you the money. Instead, I’m going to take you out for dinner with my hubby and myself tonight. The homeless Woman was astounded. “Won’t your husband be furious with you for doing that? I know I’m dirty, and I probably smell pretty disgusting.” The woman replied, “That’s okay. It’s important for him to see what a woman looks like after she has given up shopping, hair appointments and wine.”

Thanks, good story. I will use it somewhere.
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From: Paul Severino
Date: 7/8/2007
Subj: good stuff

Dear Mr. Harter – Very nice site. Enjoy the variety of stories, thoughts, and truths. You are a fine example of a thinking human. All too rare nowadays….regards – paul s. fayetteville arkansas

Thank you for the kind words but I must beg to differ. There is all too much thinking going on these days. Unfortunately the thoughts are things like:

“I think I’ll have some more pizza.”
“I think I’ll turn on the TV.”
“I think I’ll start another war.”

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From: Derek Detjen
Date: 7/7/2007
Subj: Women w/standards

Hi Richard: I really enjoy the repartee in our brief exchanges. I just noted the two-liner below your name and it’s quite funny. Reminds me of our many unaccompanied trips to the tropical paradise of Guam during the Vietnam conflict. There were probably at least 500 military men on the island for each available (and I use that term advisedly!) woman. One of my fellow crewmembers was heard to opine one day, referring to the old system of rating women on a scale of 1 to 9 that “Guam is so bad that every women automatically has a plus-4 correction factor added to her rating.” He further observed that “it’s not the fives that become nines that bother me, rather it’s the ones that become fives!!” I can personally attest to the validity of that observation! I heard another fellow crewmember observe that “when Prince Valiant starts to look good, I know it’s time to go home.” (Prince Valiant was the nickname of a rather mature (read old) civil service worker who had her jet black hair cut like the cartoon character. It’s safe to say that there was no such thing as a desparate woman on Guam, only desparate men!

Chortle. Oddly enough I carried on a correspondence during the 90’s with a woman who worked on Guam. When the Japanese occupied the island the locals were all skinny and lived on rice. Nowadays they are all obese and live on supermarket fat food. Apparently we bring the American weigh of life with us wherever we go.
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This page was last updated August 1, 2007.
It was moved January 9, 2008

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Hyde County, South Dakota is the Pin Tail Duck Capital of the world. Visit scenic Highmore, SD in 2007!