27 May 2009


Greetings Dear Readers,

I remember as a boy watching and counting mile markers on the interstate during long family trips. I would see how far it was to the next town and then use the mile markers to count down the distance. Mile markers on our highways are fairly permanent and dependable things in our world. Milestones became important to me early on.

On the trip we often took from my home in Atlanta to our summer beach cottage on Folly Island there were some mile markers that were very important to me. One particular one was just outside of Charleston. It was under a massive oak tree that dripped sleepily with Spanish moss. For me that mile marker signaled the beginning and on the way home the ending of my summer vacations.

As we left our vacation spot each summer I would anticipate that mile marker and once we had passed I would turn around and watch it fade into the distance knowing it was always there to welcome me on my return. A weary sadness would envelope me each time we passed my secret doorway to a more carefree and natural life. Other milestones in life would eventually distract me from my sadness. Still, however, when I am truly life-weary I think of that mile marker and it always stands there with its door open waiting for me to return and recapture the simple joy that is Folly Beach.

Yesterday Avalon drove me past such a mile stone called 26 May 2009. It was one of leaving not arriving. Yesterday I signed and handed over to her the divorce papers she wanted. I did not do this because I wanted to but rather because to oppose her would only hurt her more deeply. I honestly did not think my heart could be further broken but I awake today more broken than I have felt since my daughter Rachel died.

Friends tell me I will heal and move on. I think that both of these things are true, but not in the way they mean. As I have said over and over, I love Avalon and I am still in love with her. Christ is good to me and is retooling my heart so it becomes more his and less the image of what I think is his. There is still that previous mile stone of 14 June 1997. It is the one where I vowed to her and to God to travel with her for life. She vowed the same.

So as I see this mile stone fade into the distance, I realize that like Folly, the door will never close. No matter how much farther down the road I go there will always be this monolith created by a few signatures where the love of my life chose to take a different path. Unless she chooses to return to her vows our paths will not merge again and I will travel the rest of my romantic road alone. As I mourn the death of the dream that is my Avalon, I see other sign posts ahead. I know my beloved Christ leads me onward toward him and I will follow as closely as I can. I also know that I am enveloped in a deep abiding sadness that causes me to look over my shoulder and this milestone for nailed to it is my broken heart.

I promise dear readers to do my best to focus on the milestones ahead and give you and Christ my very best. I promise to always leave the door open for Avalon, but I will have those wiser than I stand by that door so that I do not behave foolishly. I promise to continue by his grace to give Christ my very best. I will continue on the journey and if from time to time you see a far away sadness in me, you may assume that I am just looking over my shoulder at the open door hoping that I may once again be joined on my journey.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn – fellow traveler

18 May 2009

Not Might for Right

Greetings Dear Readers,

When I was very young the musical Camelot was very popular and nowhere more so than my home. Apparently at age three I would run around the house singing “Fie on Goodness Fie,” much to my mother’s chagrin. The Arthurian legend has fascinated me most of my life. The books, the movies, and actual history have woven themselves into a tapestry of wonder for my mind and yet there is a kernel of truth that I found in that 45 year old musical that has shaped much of my thinking.

When Arthur is envisioning his kingdom, he juxtaposes the current philosophy of “might is right” against the dream of “might for right”. What has recently evolved in my thinking is something that I considered when I have taught Morals and Values development or Critical Thinking as college level courses.

I was rereading Dr. Kohlberg’s word on the stages of moral development this past week and it occurred to me that Arthur’s ideal were good but need to progress further. Unfortunately for me there is little that I can do on my own to push others to this higher ideal. I can only work for it myself. You see whilst Might for Right is an excellent way to live, it is not strong enough to keep us from looking within ourselves for the source of what is right. I have labored for years thinking I was doing right and using my power to do so. I had forgotten to consistently look beyond my own reasoning to keep my use of power in check.

We must move through the stages of moral development in every area of our lives and strive to be using the universal laws that are outside of ourselves. We must constantly be reminding ourselves that no matter how we have been give or rested by our own hand power in a situation we must do what is right for the sake of doing what is right. It is not might is right. It is not might for right, though this is wise. It must become always that we do what is right for the sake of what is right. Kohlberg would call this the highest level of development or Universal Ethical Principle (the Principled Conscience).

Avalon’s departure, almost exactly a year ago, caused me to question this philosophy. What I learned in my questioning is that the philosophy is sound. I have expressed it often in my Grandfather’s words, “Do what is right even if it hurts.” In my own pride I had stopped examining the rightness of things and was simply sinking further into the mindset of might for right, using my power and authority to try to force others to do what I felt was right.

In the course of evaluating things I have found that those I love do not operate at the same level of moral development as I do and that I fluctuate in my falleness between levels quite readily. Some are still at the earliest stages of development where they are driven by the thoughts of avoiding punishment or finding what is in it for them. I know that I sink to this level often when I do not remember that I am to be like Christ no matter how I feel.

In the intermediate stages I find those who constantly want the approval of others. They seek to be seen as the good son or daughter. They use law as their standard for behavior. These are not bad things but they will not endure all circumstances. When faced with a law that does not suit the current crisis or our perceived need, it is easy to abandon that law and return to the lower thinking of “What is in it for me?”

I have heard many things over the last year that astounded me. Someone I used to respect told me that they did not care about right or wrong as long as there was happiness. Someone told me it was wrong to continue to love Avalon because she had violated both her social contract and the laws of her faith. Both of these views are as profound a lie as can be told. After a year of learning just how fallen I am (and I think I am just experiencing the first droplets of this truth), I find that I return with clearer eyes.

Right must only be practiced for the sake of right. The power outside of me that determines that is Christ. Even my own reasoning will not suffice to work things out so I am comfortable or happy. Working my own will or abandoning my vows is not a option. Expecting others to do what is right for the sake of doing what is right is foolish. It is right to think they should but expecting it is putting a burden on them they may not be able to carry. I am still the one who stands by the door (if you do not understand this, I will explain some other time). I am not the example people need, Christ is. I will not abandon the truth my Grandfather taught me and I urge you to do the same. We must both, in the shadow of the cross, by God’s grace determine to, “do what is right, even when it hurts.”

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

17 May 2009

Eating Cheetos® with Chopsticks

Greetings Dear Readers

I love eating with chopsticks. I just do. I have pondered why and I do not know. I used to be really bad at it and then I did something, I bought some stainless steel round chopsticks. They are awesome. You can stab almost anything with them. They will skewer veggies and meat without so much as a by-your-leave.

Their only drawback is that they are round. Once they get a little moisture on them (think sesame chicken sauce) they get very slippery. Yes I realize that skewering is cheating. So I started eating odd things with them that would be hard to grasp with round stainless steel chopsticks. Cheetos® are very hard to eat with chopsticks. The same cheesy oil that coats your fingers forces the two round surfaces to osculate quite liberally. What this means is that the challenge is in play.

So I sit there, wrestling cheesy cylinders from the bowl, between the chopsticks, into my mouth. They slip under too much pressure. They slide under too little. It is all about applying the proper pressure to each piece of differently shaped cheesy goodness. Each Cheeto® in the mouth is a small victory. All too soon the bowl is empty. I have dropped and lost a few cheesy logs of crunchiness but my skill has improved. The next time the Cheetos® are in the bowl, they will stand less of a chance. I will win.

As a final thought, this process of eating slippery things with stainless steel chopsticks has had a side bonus that is amazing. When I go out to eat and use paltry squared wooden or plastic chopsticks, I am a chopstick god. I can eat almost anything. I think I may almost be ready for the test of the chopstick Jedi. Right now, as I write this, I am looking at the online catalogue for Titanium Chopsticks. Dare I try them? Am I ready? We shall see. We shall see.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

11 May 2009

Who Am I Really

Greetings Dear Readers,

For those of you who do not know me personally, I am not about to reveal my secret identity. I realize that this disappoints some of you, but there is hope for I am growing older and I might slip. What I wish to ponder is the actual nature of who I am with a few stops at points of interest along the way.

Since things should start at the beginning, my childhood will come first. I was a “good kid” who did not sleep much, spread grape jam on his mother’s bed, and felt lonely most of the time. I went through three or four father figures by age nine and was sure it was always my fault. I developed poorly in the social arena and was an easy mark when others looked for someone to pick on. I fell in love with baseball and Star Trek, both of which shaped my character greatly. I lost my grandfather who perhaps was the only person touching my spirit in healthy ways.

The years between nine and fourteen are foggy for many reasons. At age fourteen I found Christ and much became clearer. I tried too late to make honesty and right my way of life. This struggled with inner pain I chose to suppress. Too many things went suppressed and ignored for me to truly become my potential.

I realize that this is a small framework to start with but the significance is there. I stand at the edge of my half century mark. I have two failed marriages and three lovely children. I am pursuing a writing career that is my passion and God sees fit to let me help my students from time to time in ways that matter.

I do not get to see my sons enough though that is changing. My heart is broken and though I fear it will never heal it is producing some beneficial moments where I seem to flicker out and Christ is prevalent. I am getting healthier physically and mentally. The loneliness is hungry and dangerous but something Christ seems willing to fill and is doing so.

Who am I? I am a sinner, saved by grace, wanting to leave behind the parts of my nature that detract from others seeing Christ in me. Christ is providing the grace for me to be more than I am. I love a wife who has given up on me and see my failures causing difficulties for my sons. So who am I? I am an average guy who needs to depend solely on Christ to become anything more than the sum of my errors. Why did I write this for you? Perhaps you too need to know that you can become more than the sum of your parts. Perhaps you will pray that I do. Perhaps one or two of you who know me well will see that I have come to the end of myself and am trying to build on what is left. Perhaps someone will be encouraged and they too will reach beyond their failures and give grace to others.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

10 May 2009

Mum and Buttercups

Greetings Dear Readers and Mum,

I have a memory I cherish. I am about 3 years old and it is either early spring or late fall. I think I am in Washington D.C. but it may be Virginia or Maryland. Mum and I are at the zoo or a park or something. It is one of those character shaping moments that happen because the time and place are right and the adult chooses a path with the child.

We are walking, not on the path but along a fence. There are deer on the other side of the fence. One is an albino. In the field in which we walk grow buttercups; thousands and thousands of butter cups. Along the edge of the fence there are no butter cups, they have all been eaten by the deer.

I do not know how I realized this or what compelled me. I knew in that moment that I had to get buttercups for the deer. My mum helped. Patiently, quietly she show me how to get the buttercups and pass them through the fence to the deer. My memory tells me that I spent hours feeding buttercups to the deer but I am sure I was distracted in moments.

The real thing is, that I learned it was OK to reach out to animals, do something different, and walk my own path. I lost some of those lessons along the way and all to soon the fog of childhood lifted and I realized that my mum was a person. Events of the past year have made me realize that I still have those lessons. I have walked my own path even when it was the wrong one and I was fouling things up.

Every once in a while, when faced with a choice to be like everyone else or to find my own way I remember the deer and the buttercups. I recall how much joy I felt as the soft noses and warm breath caressed my chilled hands. I remember that my mum was really interested in what I was interested in and it has made a difference.

Thank you Mom. Happy Mother Day.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

05 May 2009

Names for Animals

Greetings Dear Readers,

I saw someone the other day walking their four pets on leashes. They were ferrets. The human spent the bulk of their time untangling the four leads. The ferrets were not walking as much as it was a mobile wrestling match. I chatted with the human for a moment and as we talked I asked what a group of ferrets were called. She did not know and neither did I. I promised to find the answer and here it is. A group of ferrets may be called a business, a cast, a fesnying, or my favorite and the most accurate a frenzy of ferrets. My search for the name led me to a listing of venery for animals or collective nouns. Some are humorous and some are just strange.

A collection of apes is a shrewdness of apes. I would never associate shrewd with apes, but I do not wish to offend them either. Baboons insist on their own venery but cannot decide if they wish to be tribe, flange, or congress. This sounds very political to me. Badgers collect in a cete. This is the only use of this word and they defend it viciously. I would think they should be a pester of badgers. Bears hibernate in sleuths, but I rarely see them investigating anything other than bee hives. Beavers collect in a lodge and it is rumored that they have a secret handshake.

There are many differing names for birds: they collect in a congregation, dissimulation flight, flock, or volery. Bitterns, a type of heron live in sieges. Boars travel in a singular which seems at least to be oxymoronic. Bobolinks walk in a chain, and if you have ever seen it the moniker makes sense. Buzzards fly in a wake, which is also what we do for the dead; ironic considering that crows come in a murder, hawks in a kettle, and hummingbirds in a charm. Jays come in both a band and a party. Nightingales come in a watch, penguins a parcel, and peacocks an ostentation. Owls are wise enough to gather in a parliament while rooks form in a storytelling (too bad they all talk at once). Lapwings come in a deceit, so they say.

Camels come in a flock which makes me glad they do not fly. Since many camels live in Australia I thought I would investigate other Australian animal grouping. Kangaroos hop in a troop, wallabies and emus travel in a mob, wombats are in a warren, lorikeets in a pandemonium, and Great White sharks are in a shiver. Platypus and Koala do not congregate hence there is not a collective for them. When the rare and dangerous Drop bears gather they do so in a surprise or a shock.

All in all the names are intriguing. I will revisit this later as there are hundreds more. For now, think about your favorite animal. I do not know how they group but it could be very fun to find out.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

04 May 2009

Common Courtesy is not so Common

Greetings Dear Readers,

Recently I was speaking with a friend who has more time on the planet that me and she was recalling how different thing were when she was young. I have to agree. It used to be that when you bumped, nudged, or collided with someone, you said, “Excuse me please.” Now the best we get is “sorry” mumbled under the breath and sometimes and expletive for being in another’s way.

It used to be that you were polite to clerks and shopkeepers. It used to be that clerks and shopkeepers were polite to you. It is wearing to me to order food from a sullen teenager who will not look me in the eye or is texting on their phone whilst I am trying to explain that my daughter is allergic to oranges.

I remember that one used to never have to listen to a string of expletives in order to sit and have a meal at a restaurant. It used to be that people were polite in society and civil with each other. Common courtesy was actually common. The thing is we used to be kind and gentle with strangers. Now they are avoided and even scorned.

My Son Maxim used to work as an assistant manager at a local convenience store. He is polite and does his best to make short moments with strangers leave them with a feeling of kindness. A coworker who chanced upon him told me how he behaved. It seems that she was surprised by the genuineness of his comment to her as she paid for her gas. After taking her money and giving her a receipt he simply said, “Take care” as a parting comment. What caught her attention was that she was sure he meant it. He knew they had not met and in that moment he imparted a viable concern for her wellbeing.

How much difference can we make if we are just polite? How much better can we feel if we go a little farther in being kind to each other? I will leave you with this. A guy I interact with regularly stopped me the other day as I paid for my bill at his business. Yes I am being vague on purpose. He told me that he wanted to thank me for being nice to him. I did not remember what I had done so he explained.

Apparently he hates his job and usually goes home and just tunes out. On the day we last interacted, I was his last customer. He said that I was kind and listened to him “bitch about how bad he had it,” when we are in a world where any job is a job. Since he went home in a better mood, he was attentive when his child came to him with a concern. In short he said that my politeness made him a better dad and he did not miss a moment that was very important to his relationship with his child. I cannot take credit for this, but in his mind my tiny effort made a big difference. I assert that anyone can be nice.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

01 May 2009


Greetings Dear Readers,

Today is No Pants Day. I therefore will not be wearing pants. I am not suggesting that we all go about in our nickers but it is an opportunity to dress in something unusal. Go ahead, have fun. I will be wearing a kilt. There are many places that actually celebrate just wearing their nickers but I would not do that to my fellow beings.

Wishing you joy in the pantsless journey,
Aramis Thorn