Jack & Lucky Chapter 9, Part 3
Chapter 9, Part 3
Louisiana was a pleasant place to spend the war if you had to be in the Army. At this point Lucky wished he was in “None of the Above,” not in Louisiana, not in the war and particularly not in the Army. His chance of going to Vietnam as a “technician” was very small at this stage of the war and he did nothing that would improve this chance like foolishly volunteering. Even at the lowest stage of his depression over being expelled from Carol Amherst he didn’t feel so desperate as to volunteer to be shot at.
His removal from Oklahoma under peculiar circumstances probably helped him stay state-side. In any case, motorpool personnel were not in great demand in Vietnam yet. Lucky was assigned to the motorpool at Fort Polk in central Louisiana, headquarters for swamp rats and mosquitos.
He had only been in his new assignment for a few months when he first encountered trouble. He went to one of the taverns outside the main gate one Friday night to rendezvous with several of his friends.
“Is this supposed to be the place with the easy women?” Lucky asked his new buddy, Clyde.
“That’s the Word, I’ve never been here before so I guess we’ll find out together.” Lucky and Clyde were walking along the exit road toward the Main Gate.
“Exactly, let’s find out. I mean don’t give up pursuit until you get a clean surrender.”
“For a guy who hates the Army so much, you talk like a real soldier.”
“Fuck you too. I was talking about women, not enemies. Maybe tonight I can show you what the difference is if you’re confused.”
“There should be some other guys from the Pool here, they told me they were going.”
Lucky and Clyde were wearing civilian clothes. The main difference was that Lucky was wearing his black engineering boots. They left the Gate and crossed the street at an angle. When they arrived in the tavern they circled around in the smoke filled room looking for their friends. They didn’t recognize anyone and didn’t notice any unattached, attractive women, so they took an empty table near the pool tables.
They ordered beers without any need to show I.D. and settled into a discussion about the merits of the waitress who served them. She was an experienced, hard working lady fifteen years their senior, but still had all the attributes they were looking for.
After several hours, several pool games and more beer they noticed three older men giving the waitress a bad time. She tried to keep her distance but they persisted in bothering her. Each time she came their direction they grabbed at her and pinched her butt. She swatted at their hands, teased back their advances to be polite but was clearly and increasingly annoyed.
Lucky, in his altered state of mind from alcohol, had grown fond of the barmaid, calling her by the name embroidered on her low-cut blouse. “Look at the way those assholes are treating Yvonne? Are you going to put up with that Clyde?”
“Hey man, it’s none of our business, she can take care of herself. Besides there’s three of them and only two of us.”
“Shit, we’re Army, we don’t care about those odds. You can’t just stand by here and let my girlfriend be mistreated, can you? I’m going to call that ugly fucker out.”
“God, Lucky. Give it up. You’re just going to get into trouble.”
“Screw you, you’re too sober. Where’s your patriotic spirit?”
“What does patriotism have to do with you, me and Yvonne for Christ’s sake?”
“I don’t mean patriotism, I mean “Chivalry,” that’s what Jack called it. Being polite, and civilized.”
“Not me, man. Who the fuck is Jack? That went out with the horse calvary.”
“You stay here then. If I need you I’ll call.”
Lucky walked toward the group who were harassing Yvonne: “If Jack were here he’d help me,” he thought to himself and he was right.
“You Jerk, leave Yvonne alone. Didn’t your mother teach you how to treat a woman, how to act in public or maybe you didn’t have a mother?”
The old guy stood up. “What’s it to you, you dog face, dip shit. Mind your own fucking business!” Lucky’s closely trimmed haircut identified him as military.
“I’m making it my business when an ugly fuck like you can’t keep his hands to himself and mistreats and insults a decent lady.” Lucky still had a chip on his shoulder from his exile from Oklahoma and wanted to take revenge against someone and this old jerk was his first target.
Yvonne shook loose and walked away smiling at Lucky. “Don’t worry, I’ll be alright. I can take care of myself.” She winked at Lucky.
“You hear that short-stuff, it’s alright and none of your fuckin’ business.”
The other two men at the table stood up and came around to support their companion, moving slowly in a direction to surround Lucky.
Lucky stood his ground. “You owe her an apology and your friends better sit down before they get hurt.”
After seeing the other two stand, Clyde advanced slowly shaking his head in disgust at Lucky’s boldness.
From the other side of the room a tall, wide shouldered man who had observed the disturbance moved toward Lucky. “You need some help?” He had seen the distressing behavior and volunteered to help the lone soldier.
“Sure, take your pick.”
The ugly one lunged at Lucky with his two hands outstretched. As Lucky took a quick step back the three clumsy old guys collided but one had Lucky by the shoulder. Lucky tried to swing his arm free from what seemed to be an octopus but got tangled with the same arm that held him. Before he could get free the first man landed a fist to the side of his head.
Clyde and the Good Samaritan entered the fracas at this point and uncoupled the group. Both experienced soldiers easily tripped and knocked their unsuspecting opponents to the floor.
Lucky went down to one knee but only as a way to gain leverage and stability. He came up with a quick upper cut and caught the first ugly guy under the chin and sent him reeling backwards nearly unconscious. Lucky shook his fist in obvious pain.
That was enough for the three old guys. They picked themselves up and left the tavern yelling profanities and gesticulating wildly.
Lucky held his good hand to the side of his head where there was a large, swollen knot developing. He yelled after his tormentors, “Don’t show your butt-ugly faces around here again tonight!”
Clyde came to Lucky and looked at his head. “You dumb shit. You could have gotten really hurt.”
“Those old farts can’t fight but geese I think I broke my hand or a finger.” Lucky inspected his hand in the dim light but didn’t notice any obvious defect, just pain.
Lucky turned to the Good Samaritan and raised his good hand. “Hey thanks. Where did you come from?”
“You’re Army I take it. So am I. Just in town on TDY (Temporary Duty). Thought I’d give you a hand.”
“Glad you did. Join us for a beer?”
“I’m with these guys over here. You guys join us.”
So Lucky and Clyde went to the other end of the tavern and socialized with what they learned were Special Forces troops. The Good Samaritan was a young officer, First Lieutenant, soon to be assigned to Vietnam. His action went part way to restore Lucky’s respect for the officer’s corps.
They stayed out much later than they originally planned. Consequently, when it was time to get up for work, Lucky overslept. He was late reporting to work the next day and he had a miserable headache.
The first thing his First Sergeant said was: “You have to report to the Captain at 1400 hrs. Don’t be late for that or you’ll loose a strip.”
Jack continued in his journal:
To some people the suggestion of the existence of God is prompted by an unmistakable feeling declaring His existence. While to others, the subject becomes open to conjecture. That is, they would explain that God is real as He is found in the minds of the people. Thus God is the outgrowth of successive generations of imagination. Then there are those who can find no logical basis for God and thus equip themselves with strong minds and declare they don’t need god. Even if they admit their minds are closed or not, it seems in that case they are. From the perspective with which I am equipped, I can see that there are only two alternatives of any consequence. Either God exists and is real in fact, or He [She, It?] doesn’t exist.
I have considered many rationalizations in His defense. Now I will present those I can recall:
1. It could be said that there is more suffering than happiness in life, therefore men must be living for a purpose in order to endure the suffering.
2. It could be said that men have basic needs to be satisfied and because of these he has created a God to fulfill these needs.
3. It could be said that the complexities of the universe are such that there must be a higher intelligence that understands All and had a hand in Their creation. Which would include the thought that the statistical possibility of the Earth existing as it is, is so minute that there must be divine guidance and intelligence behind it’s formation.
4. It could be said that the human intelligence is a glorious thing. That the power of creation we have in birth is a great thing. That since we don’t understand these things, God therefore exists.
5. We might say that the organization of society, the need for reason in all things proves logically the existence of God.
6. Then one might say that the presence in mankind of a need for a superior being is enough to prove the fact of His existence. That man has always demonstrated both the need and the desire for an intelligence greater than himself, is to some sufficient proof.
7. Some have testified of seeing Him, which based upon other indications would seem credible.
Jack was fighting to answer the question, “Is there a God?” He failed to realize that this question is irrelevant to the most important practical accomplishment of religion, which is to help people live well together and cause beneficial changes in their lives. This accomplishment must be achieved by any theory or philosophy that legitimately attempts to replace religion.
Also, he fails to recognize the mystery associated with God and infinity. He hasn’t learned that not having a logical explanation is a perfectly acceptable point of view for a religious person to hold. Mormons look for logic, historical consistency and proof; this is one of their most serious failings.
One further possible proof Jack considered but did not include, is the logical consequence of reality solipsism. Four years earlier he confronted a dialectic and had written about the possibility of being the only intelligent being and having the world organized around him as scenes in a play by an intelligent God. If that were in any way true, it clearly establishes the existence of a God. The alternative, Freewill, does not deny God, however.
Also, if there was any divine connection between his intelligence and a higher intellect such as a “Triune-self,” he failed to notice it. This theory was expressed by his brother Sid relating to the writings of Harold Percival. This was most closely related to the Hindu concepts, and proposed the existence of a central intelligence controlling reincarnation, all of which could be described by the word “God.”
Jack continues his struggle:
These all approach logic. And on the basis of these ideas I have accepted a belief in the existence of God. But there is one thing: Logic proves nothing except in the minds of those who are too weak to realize the facts and doubts, and live with a faith.
The Atheist point of view suggests that arriving at such a makeshift explanation and feeble rationalization for the existence of God to create a justification for moral codes is a cop-out. It is simply the easy way to avoid the much more difficult task of creating rational rules based on personal ethical judgments. If one chooses to have faith, why not accept any other myth other than Mormonism just as easily? Acquiescing to live on faith is an important concession, how to spend that faith is quite a different consideration.
This is the position in which I find myself, not yet having received any sign. I live with the faith, which is not yet strong enough apparently to warrant an answer because of its merits. Because I have been taught that signs are to be given on the basis of faith. I am caught in a perplexing struggle. Not having a means to increase my faith except intellectual rationalizations and not being able to receive answers because of the lack of this faith. And therefore I will probably remain in this position for sometime to come, barring unforeseeable changes. This means either complete complacency to all religion–which I could not allow in my conscience–or an increase in faith rewarded by a sign of significant consequence to allow a definite sense perception or a sign without that faith required.
It makes it hard to carry out my obligations, however, because the faith I have is not enough to prompt sufficient action to overcome or surpass the point where my conscience feels good about my actions. I shall continue in this present state of frustration probably for the rest of my life. I only hope that my attitudes in other areas [like business] will be sufficiently strong to allow me enough determination to accomplish the goals which I have set, even if my religious attitudes are lacking. Sometimes those attitudes are founded on a common basis. That is to say, a weakness in one area would then indicate a probable weakness in another area. Then the lack of religious ambition would show that I might not have the integrity I need to accomplish the goals I wish to obtain in the business field. I hope they aren’t of necessity connected or else I’m afraid my success will be seriously limited.
Jack was trying to perfect his faith in order to improve his knowledge of religion by some “numinous” experience. He wanted to have that epiphany that makes most religious people ignore the need for rational proof, but his rational mind would never release him to have the faith required to reach that state of perfection. He was like that pigeon chasing an elusive mate, not realizing that her coy nature was a disguised invitation. Religious truth was coy but willing, not objective like science.
In line with some of the points I have made I will write some of the conclusions I have `stumbled’ upon in the past.
I have discovered a satisfaction in the decision that I don’t know an answer to various religious and moral questions. The reason for the satisfaction is that I realize that I can live with this doubt. The realization of this is almost as good as knowing the truth and really knowing. I guess I realize that I don’t need to know. Now I have but to formulate goals and progress in the successful accomplishment of these goals.
This may be Jack’s most concise and important contribution to intellectual thought in his otherwise confusing journal. He clearly states the problem that is solved by acknowledging the question, “What kind of answer do you want?” The ramification of this important realization is that it can be extended: If it is okay to live without absolute answers and with doubt about one issue, it is possible to live without answers to any particular question, including the primary question about infinity and the existence of God. It won’t be long before Jack stumbles past this conclusive turning point as well.
Now going into a different area of thought. I find there are people who arrive at decisions with little or no reason and the reason they usually possess is a personal protection of their ego. There are several different ideas I have with respect to this.
* A conclusion without reason is only a guess.
* Articles [Including religious belief?] should be judged by the function they perform, the objective value which they possess. This is to be done by arriving at a unit of utility, making comparisons, and then deciding on that basis.
* Intelligence isn’t learned until it is organized.
* One who is afraid to be laughed at is afraid to participate in an essential part of life. That is, a sense of humiliation.
* If you can find no one to listen but yourself, you are a very poor conversationalist, the things you say, the ideas you express, need not be said…
* A reason for my writing is because I like to be able to read my own ideas. It almost makes me feel like someone agrees with me.
* Occasionally I attempt to recognize the beauty of monotony. When this is accomplished it is like finding the key to the simplicity of life. When this life is unfolded it means far more than when it is tangled. The various entities in life are to an extent monotonous but in a rather complete sort of way. But who is there to say that monotony can not be complex…
* Special strengths. We must try to keep all forces and talents in our make-up progressing. There is usually going to be some special talent in most people and it is not wrong to use these talents to contribute to society in a unique way. The important consideration is to regard our strengths with humility and thus let these strengths contribute to the development of a well rounded character.
* There is a great deal to learn about people. Much can be learned from societies which have been formed in other generations. The basic motives of people seem to me to be consistent [in history] in certain aspects. I wish to learn these aspects and use this knowledge to predict the future action of those around me. Estimating how people will react to other people can be based on a prediction – based on how others have reacted in previous, even unrelated situations. Thus, we can follow the rules derived by the study of other societies to make judgments about [and predict] modern society.
These comments are social theories derived from the “method of decision making” Jack had previously formulated and utilized since the beginning of his mission in Trento. Nowhere in his creative thinking does he give his mind permission to have faith, or let his mind be led by faith.
There is a final idea from my recorded notes. That is a definition of Sincerity. It is fulfillment or follow-through of an intelligently controlled function. One is able to recognize his own reactions. He should control these and bring them into line with sincerity.
There is obvious in Jack’s writing a tendency to theorize based on observed facts. While this might be useful in developing hypothesis that can be tested by scientific methods, it has little value in deciding basic religious truth, and even less application to Philosophy. Yet, this tendency is common to many and is parallel, part and parcel, to his skepticism about religion.
It was about this time that Jack purchased a bicycle, a peddle sort. Elder Will borrowed one from another elder and the two were set for cross country action in the best Mormon Missionary tradition.
During this time Jack participated in the first street meeting in Bari. He was more a technical adviser in this case. The new district leader had heard about his success and wanted to try it with Jack’s help. Jack agreed, as long as the others did all the work setting it up. This time Jack had brought his materials with him from Padova so he didn’t have to make everything over again.
…Took their bike and we went to a street meeting. This was enjoyable. After a little time my throat was sore from talking. There were lots of young kids. They seem to flock around me. Then we picked up my new bike and my comp and I rode home.
The next day went predictably.
We went out for a ride around the country a bit on the bikes. This morning we saw the beach, what little there is, and the ocean.
The water was reasonably calm, clear and green near the shore. The ocean had an invisible force and attracted the two like the pole of a magnet.
The warm Sun and the gentle breeze made even this rugged, fishy, organic smelling coastline a peaceful setting. Jack and Al had brought a sack lunch with dry bread and meat for sandwiches, a couple of blood-red oranges and some cheese. As they sat they were welcomed to the neighborhood by a flock of friendly pigeons. Whether these were friendly or just avaricious is always arguable. Jack shared a few morsels of his bread with the most handsome pigeon that also had a bold personality and came close. The pigeon was fluorescent blue and silver with white specks on its body. It was one of those that had feathers on its legs. It wanted to talk but instead moved its head in a motion inviting Jack to fly somewhere it couldn’t describe.
In the meantime Al had wandered off. When Jack turned to look, he was surprised to see Al riding his bike along the parapet wall that divided the ocean from the nearly vacant road. The concrete wall wasn’t flat on top, it arched down on both sides and was only about one foot wide. The top of the wall was about four feet above a walkway along the roadside but as much as ten feet above rugged rocks on the ocean side. Notwithstanding the obvious danger, he navigated the wall with competence and an air of casualness.
Jack was concerned and only by riding hard was he able to catch Al.
Jack yelled: “Hey, what are you doing, trying to kill yourself?”
“Come on up the air is better.”
“How can you do that? God, aren’t you afraid?”
“Fear is a state of mind.” He could even talk and concentrate on the narrow, slopping track at the same time.
Jack decided it was no use and didn’t want to distract him. He followed at a safe distance behind. “You crazy jerk,” he yelled. “He must be suicidal,” Jack thought to himself. At the same time he was proud of his friend’s obvious talent and bravado.
Al finished his dare-devil act traveling the full length of the wall without interruption. After that performance Al showed Jack some other tricks. He could stand on his bike seat. He could coast with his legs over the steering bar with his arms stretched out straight. It was all part of a return to his youth. He had learned these tricks in Arizona, land of perpetual summer. Jack, who thought he was doing good just riding with no hands, was seriously impressed.
The next day Jack was back at a street meeting with another missionary. Elder Will had no interest in such work, he stayed home.
We were on our bikes with the sun shining and then suddenly rain. Then Sun just about as fast. Rather funny. I held a street meeting with Elder Morelli.
He was an American with an Italian name who had a special problem learning Italian. It seems those of Italian descent were the most likely to have difficulty with the language.
We got 5 or 6 appointments. Okay, then dinner…My comp received a transfer today, to Firenze. And, I am getting my old friend Elder Ballard for a junior companion for some reason. I haven’t been working very good, so it’s probably a mistake.
We took some pictures of each other…We shopped at some used book stores. On the way home we were riding around on our bikes and stopped and saw the “Corpus Dominus” parade. Then climbed up into this building under construction and watched the dumb parade pass by. It had lots of priests and nuns and other people in morbid costumes. Really spooky. Then home…we then waited around until it was time to go to the train.
Elder Will took the night train to Firenze where he could be close to the Mission authorities presumably. They were worried about him by now. He was frequently very depressed, and as demonstrated, nearly suicidal…
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