Charles Prugh and the Art of Living and Dying: July 1

I came home to our house in San Anselmo to visit my dad. My dad was likely on a great deal of morphine to keep the pain down. But as we discovered later, he was sensitive to morphine.

He was given a catheter today. A bag that is strapped around his leg. He has no idea most of the time what it is and he is constantly trying to remove it. When I first arrived which seems like days ago now, he was nearly unable to communicate. He waited long times between sentences. Its like yelling down a long tunnel toward a two year old if you are trying to have him do something that involves practical reality like eat or brush his teeth or move from one room to the next. He asks questions and can’t hear answers. He asks questions again. Why can’t he take a bath tonight? Sometimes he closes his eyes and pantomimes in the air making large rectangular shapes, taking things out, sometimes writing, sometimes listening as if he’s in conversation. Once we get talking he becomes more and more present. He said after lunch how excited he is by writing this book. We have no idea where it will go. For now, that is unimportant. He sometimes gets to the point where he looks at me and really sees me. We connect during the talks even if there are long delays between answers. He can walk around asleep and act as if he’s awake. He can be awake and look asleep. Cats jump up on the dinner table or onto his shoulder. The other day a white cat with brown eyes. Tonight a grey cat over dinner. Watching the movie a cat sat on his shoulder. His father appeared on the kitchen floor. He was alive and was gardening there. Will appeared at one point. I assured him that while he was with me in spirit, he was not actually there.

Where am I? Mostly glad that we can make such deep contact in spite of the fact that he can’t pee by himself, can sometimes not eat by himself, can barely make it from one room to another by himself, can no longer dress himself and makes little sense to anyone who has no patience for the spaces between thoughts that seem disconnected. I’m so glad to have this time and I thank God for it.

These were his words:

Dad: A man, his father on the floor after gardening he was alive, my mom floating above with an off white dress. It’s all there. It just floats out, floats out in a stream.

Emerging idea. We accepted that. hope I quote you correctly. Doing something with it, because I admitted that this squishy stuff is coming out of me. All my first drafts coming out of me.

Voluminous. Well I think that the words that are voluminous are signs of the passing phase. Earlier you had commented on the big words I might use to which I myself might have objected, to which my agent at times at objected, his comments were Charlie, you write as though people read and the truth is they don’t read that way at all. He described this over the telephone. You write like a 19th century poet. To which I had replied by saying, I write like Yeats? He could say things so clearly and so simply. He wrote the way I wanted to become able to write. A better example of that would be E. B. White who writes simply. And his writing is so earnest. Anyone who can write clearly and straightforwardly. Some writing is good rational writing, “like dear mom, I’m having a good time.” Your mother can write in a different way. She has a style of writing and it comes over as clear and coherent and consistent. Picturesque and factual but not boring. I admire her writing.

When we met we wrote each other back and forth. I was all over the place and god awful back then, and I was out in the dessert, a place least conclusive to writing – odd jobs. It wasn’t a place where you could sit down and be encouraged to write. I was there to figure out a way to make a living. I wasn’t there to write. And I thought I had it all solved. John had this contract just north of palm springs and we proceeded with it as everybody thought we would. We thought we could go ahead and the developers – they are all alike – everybody out there at the time was trying to get control of water in the desert – just big time – but I had no aspirations. All an effort in futility.

Me: Who were your mentors?

Dad: Laughs… as in someone who I think um, I don’t think I ever had one. I had passing acquaintances who more for their reasons than mine emerged more to see what needs I could meet that they thought I could help them with. They looked to me for help.

Me: How about Kierkegaard?

Dad: I never thought of it this way. I did have mentors.. there is no doubt about that. Living and dead. And their presence then and even now guided me in my thinking. In ways I think that neither one would identify as being powerful…

Here comes the train. What are we going to do with the train that’s coming down a track toward me? Surely there is a track… for the most part it was without. People who exerted a sudden and a dramatic effect upon me. So there were mentors.

Dad: I don’t think that Nietzsche was a shallow thinker because he was more interested in pomp and circumstance without content, and gave out a tremendous response which the world has acknowledged.

Aristotle… easily. Profoundly. (His tongue sticks slightly out of mouth). Because he enabled you to see things in terms of first things. He asked the simplest questions. He always talked about why do things move? Look what you are doing here. 2400 years later and you take for granted the way the world is set up. And he wanted to know why do things move? Most people would not think of that at all. He would think about why do things move? And he go on there with things like, and in so doing he launched his civilization in a line of inquiry. In the first place, things moved through three stages 1) they would go through stages. They would say ahh, they move from this place and they move to the next place and they move to a third place and they keep on moving and so what starts from stack it has to start from somewhere then it moves to the next place and the next place and is a process. And in the next place it stops again and then it starts to move ahead and it’s a molecular process and it never ends. Now most people say, so what? But it was the beginning of physics. Its so basic Its so simple. He organized meetings of people who would meet at night. And they had no idea about the stars or anything. I should have married a meta-physician because this is so far out that most people. And he would say few women I can talk to about metaphysics I can tell you that for sure… laugh..

There you have an explanation of probably the most amoebic cell attempting to explain consciousness. Your saying and asking that question you open doors with awareness to be informed from the very infinite part of the world about the answer to it all. It is so big. A part of you that wrote out the rest of it… had to do with signs and symbols. After metaphysics came inquiry into how human beings have themselves in the midst of this maelstrom collide with one another. They give some kind of cognitive recognition. They communicate with one another. They attempt to empathize with one another with varying degrees and they attempt and in so doing, they create some kind of seminal for us to have a universal function and how that comes what we call rational order. Common ground. And out of it you get some kind of regular order. There has to be some kind of order to this, otherwise these creatures couldn’t end up with any kind of verbal communication or even written communication that would enable them to communicate by language. Some kind of communication has to come out of it. Out of it comes structure and the notion of give and take. But it all came out of the notion of the question. What is it all about? What is an idea? What is this? Without these questions you don’t die. You were just never born. Never born. You have to have the order. Someone or something has to posit the question and out of it 100,000 people have given varying degree of answers. These various answers have bloomed like flowers in the dessert. That’s where you get these ideas like Buddhism, and materialism, and communism. All of them are attempts for people to introduce coherence where incoherence existed and where it may have always existed within the human situation.

Most of what I say doesn’t make any sense…. So long as you can register the world.

Mom: I’m practical and logistical. Dad is theoretical.

Me: What was Picasso? He played… he justified what he did so that he could make tons of money for it.

Dad: He knew how to connect things.

Colors constantly come and go.. red and blues and greens… one of the most beautiful pieces of philosophy is the strategic manual on how to wage war. The geopolitical thinking. How does one nation move across continents. You’d find references to this realm of thinking, you’d look up geophysics. Von Klausowitz. He was German. He’ll mention names of these people. He derives his whole way of looking at the structure to plan, coordinate at least academically organize the forces that ends up being the ones that do all the dirty work. Early in this century this country was faced with the horror of which way to respond to an attack on its shores and the leaders in that time responded in kind from their tortured examinations of the premises for which… what happened before? What happened before? And their answers were probably as foolish and wise to answers that prior generations. What is the way to fight a war? The way to fight a war is to get our troops to beat up all their troops. Hence came the notion of big armies. They recognized that this time this wouldn’t work. Its not the way to do it. You need to plan as to what comes first. Do you attack by sea or attack by air? They decided that the bravest thing to do in a war in sea and air was to take little bits of money if you had a navy if you weren’t big enough, if you couldn’t build. You didn’t know how to build ships that were big enough to carry people, thousands and thousands of people. So they built what they could build. Out of it came dreams of huge attacks, waged by attackers who could wage some by air, some by sea, some by ground. Out of it came the notion, 1) if you could divide the world into a circle, 1/3 of the world is made up of geopolitics. You could probably beat up a lot of people if you leaned on them strong enough. On the second hand if you couldn’t conquer the geopolitical, you could conquer them with troops. But third, the group of people you could conquer if you were so big that you could beat them all.

In one world, if China wanted to apply its notion of geopolitics and wanted to attack Kajbakistan then its simple, you put a lot of academic power on that country and they could see that they would be gobbled up and a war like that is simple. The other enemy won’t be strong enough to wince at what they are doing because everybody understands what kind of war is being executed. So a little nation that is being beaten because this is a war of limited duration. The big party gets out and says lets push him and the little guy is going to be pushed but all he has to do is back up a little bit and yell at the world for help. He yells and squeals and it works well. It’s a war of ways by people.

The two leading writers of it were people in the latter part of Germany. They came up with this during the latter part of the 19th century. The germans called upon the leaders of Germany who believed the same thing, that we could apply the same thinking because we wanted to move into Germany and get into overall Germany. The newspaper never prints this stuff. This is how you plan all these – the ground of overall design. There is a design behind all of this. Now in WWII they had a huge choice in the west, we had built up a huge army and what are we going to do with it? 195,000 tanks, so many ships. Where are we going to send them? By this time the military commanders are asking where are we going to put them?

I’ve always carried the numbers in my wallet — ..

After world war II…. It was well known that someone in Washington carefully put together their estimates into which direction. To show the plan that had to be made before to decide to go. Do we try to resist the enemy in the area in which the area in which we were most vulnerable? Once we know to which areas should we put our greatest strength to protect ourselves in the future. We’ve made two decisions. During the early years from 1946 most of our strength was in our trucks, justified because they direct military. In the last 15 years if you look at the world geopolitically, the military defense has placed an ever increasing number of deterrent in the middle east and the south east asia, in china, in south east china. Because we have perceived that would be the greatest deterrent.

Who are my heroes? The people who took those ideas to steer this gigantic mechanism. To the military. To educate the public in order for you and people like you to eat.

Intellectual leaders both their military society and they lived all of their military thinking prevailed in western europe and they were greatly responsible for planning. I waded into it in part, because there were 13 million American soldiers that were drafted in world war II because the country as a whole was easily accept the notion of the nation that our country was under threat and so they responded accordingly. But nobody who could define that threat. It was too big. What do you do when you say China attacked the united States? What would we do? It came out of a clear cut recognition of a threat that we had never seen before and we had to learn a whole new way of living that we had to learn in a few months. I did admire when I saw an army moving and how it trains people and how it makes, its such a horrible thing to see but it is so deadly efficient, they give you orders, you accept them and you go do them. That is the order you have and that’s EDT.

There is nothing between you and what you are killing. Its all so hideously impersonal.

The most crashing example of the former world that we were talking about, after our entire division of 50,000 men had crossed the Rhine river, there was a terrible bombing that went all day and all night and all the next day and we could see the way they were crossing the Rhine, a lot of them wouldn’t make it but we did it. Early in the morning about 7 oclock, the general recognized that we didn’t have the information we needed to know and there was one division ahead of us and they would ordered us to come over. And it was cold and rain. And I was asked to follow up the river about ten miles maybe and ah, I ah, yeah, at the aide of the commanding general came up to me and said Sergeant Prugh would you please drive the general up the Rhine river and drive the others. There were two cars behind him… to get our orders. And I had a choice the way I looking at it in our conversation a huge dialogue of being in the flat world, the non speculative vs. the real world. And I was talking about should I respond about this? There is no way you can live from this. The general was talking from the world war. In the army you don’t say no, so you just say yes sir. I was not licensed to drive the commanding generals vehicle. I said yes sir, General got in back, the aid, the commanding general, that’s like … the aide is so high up the commanding general is like aide to the pope. And I was just a sergeant. Where do I go… Turn right, take it up to division 9. The general would read his map. Route right.. turn left so forth. We swung p and went full bore down there with Sherman tanks, caught up in the horrible world of war. And there was no speculation in this war. It was pure action. And the vehicles were coming off the bridge and off the pavement. And we were roaring down here, and roaring. And we were told that all we cold do was resist the enemy and kill him any way we could. So we did that. But ah, we ah… we had to fight our way through killing and shooting and past the rain to the place where the bridge we went up there past the entrance, past another 5 miles and had to park, and everything was hidden.

So we drove up there. And nobody understood the chemical stuff that was going on there. We were just crazy. We opened the gates and let them out of the jeep there was a cabin back in the woods there and I would flow over there and in the army you never questioned…. No I back in the job was to keep that thing ready to go because we knew they’d fly out of there…and they came out. With canvas plates which really contained our orders. What are you going to do with 15,000 men on the Rhine and our job was to get these instructions back to the guys. I got back and we had no feelings about anything. Now is the time to go Where do we go? I had no feelings at all.As a soldier you become utterly painless.We took off.The advantage of a military vehicle is that it is marked as such. The guys will kill you just because you are a member of the army.

We would go ahead back as fast as we could back toward the Rhine river and anybody attempted to slow us down.

I just drove… and I discovered I noticed there was a trestle.. and as you drove back you’d swing under this trestle and this thing would swing in the mud and the snow slip it into second gear and pound the car, and slide the car under the trestle and I drove about 50 feet, which I know is still there. Big loop. I swung out there and swung to the right and quickly inside the warehouse and stopped. And at that time there must have been three or five generals asking did you get it? Did you get it? Down to earth conversation…everybody got out and he began to parcel something because this belongs in the story and I was sitting there looking at him. And the aide to the commanding general turned back to me and the general said thank you Sargent for what you did for the division. That didn’t happen historically. What happened was two months later when I had applied, he had told me the approved – he could say I had the merit that I could be useful in the next phase of the war. Applied to leave to join the Nuremberg War Crimes Commission. One assistant commanding general had vetoed it because he felt they would need us in the continuing our efforts with – my investigative powers and the fact that I could write short hand and could talk to German people warranted the belief that I could be of value and gather information. The general as I see it was looking more at me from a military standpoint. His reading of the story…. But he was considering more of me… where I belonged in the division. I always suspected that the guy who vetoed me was in charge of personnel management. I don’t know his real reason. He might think that this guy was trying to get out of this division.

Its later now.. about 6:45. There is a little less morphine now:

Dad: Life has two roads. I took the road less traveled.

The war for me was my response to a call. I was called from the world I lived in to meet a need that I deemed important to respond to. My response was that of a man whom you might expect sense a response: fear, uncertainty, terror, a response to a challenge to do the best I could with what I had. The record of my adventures, comprising my learning make my mistakes, my lesson to learn, corners turned, my terrors confronted, my hideous encounters never resolved, my record of responses to those challenges. My nightmares, some that really never materialized but tormented me day and night. My records culminating in a roaring sea of severed beliefs about what was good or right or honest or reasonable, pleasant possible or attainable by me or by anyone leaving me mentally and emotionally paralyzed at the black terrible thought that anyone could survive what I have seen and read about and done.

A record that left me worst of all totally lacking in tools or instruments in knowledge or strategies or tools required with which to pick up the remnants of this world and assemble a world with which I could in any way claim to have a livable place I could create a tolerable place in which I could live in it. Tolerably live in a place in it. A record of results, of the remnants of those efforts, fumbling, incomplete, writhe with humor wasted time youthful oversights poor timing bad judgment, mismanagement, pursuing dreams, illusions of grandeur, laughs, that no one could ever in his right mind pursue… appears to be just on the right side of insanity close enough to lead to his being arrested, far enough away that he could continue his pursuit of the ever more adventurous goals which has culminated in victory in having responded to a call, groping his way through a tragic period of having responded to a call (the call of 1973 to September of 1945). Recovery from the call (1944) September 1945 to February 1946. From 1946 as a bewildered civilian. The last sentence could be the fabulous and perhaps feudal report of an untrained writer, lacking training qualifications in writing stories that interest anyone.

Fabulous report of veri-glorious

Factual,often veri-glorious, true occasionally funny, of all of his mistakes write writhe with errors beyond anyone’s imagination. Mistakes made from which nonetheless prevented him from repeating them again, all offered to a public overwhelmed by material, comprising what may very well be nothing more than tidbits, misinterpretations, distortions, and ransacks of historical and personal … Facts you and perhaps any other person could just as easily compound upon which you like so many others gather little of anything if in truth, nothing at all. That left part i.e. the conclusion I leave to you to arrive at.

Elan vitale.. philosppher

Some individuals rise up and take enormous control over the periods in which they lived. And by thought and deed or discoveries, left enormous imprints or insights.

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