In my reading at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp, I've developed an ever growing appreciation for Albert Einstein. His General Theory of Relativity changed how we view time and space. However, I didn't know until recently that he had other non-scientific achievements. Most notably, he actively confronted racism. Having grown up as a German Jew, he knew firsthand what it was like to be harassed and persecuted because of race. Einstein claimed life's most important question to be "Is the universe a friendly place or not?" He truly tried to make it friendly, particularly regarding the racism he saw when he came to America in 1933.
While Einstein was a professor at Princeton University, he and his wife invited African American singer Marion Anderson to stay in their home when Princeton's Nassau Inn refused her a room because of her race. Thereafter, she always stayed with them when she returned to the city. Known as the woman with the golden voice, Anderson herself had come from Europe, full...
I've been at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp for 13 months--that's 96 blog posts, 27,000 push ups, 3,000 pull ups, 3,100 chin ups, 1,000 miles on the track, 41 books, 56 bad hamburgers and 20 lost pounds.
One year ago, I made a list of things that I missed from the real world. I intended to work that into a blog post, but the idea kept getting pushed back until it was finally punted. However, now that I've been here a year, I thought it might be almost interesting to revisit the 30 day list and compare it to the 395 day list.
September 2015, Things I Miss
9. George's Restaurant
8. My iPad
6. Listening to Howard Stern
5. A personal TV remote
4. A comfortable couch or chair
2. Friends and family
1. Boone the Wonder Dog
September 2016, Things I Miss
10. Cake batter
9. Chocolate malt from Baskin Robbins
8. Road trips
7. Microsoft Word
5. My iPad
4. George's Restaurant
2. Boone the Wonder Dog
1. Family and friends
Of course you remember Edward Everett. No? He was the foremost orator of his day. In November 1863, he gave a 2 hour speech, completely memorized, holding the crowd of over 20,000 spectators in the palm of his hand. When he finished, Abraham Lincoln took the podium and read ten sentences, 272 words, and sat down. So the loquacious Edward Everett was the warm up act for one of the greatest speeches in history, as it's Lincoln's Gettysburg Address that we now remember.
The day marked the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery that was created at the site of the battle of Gettysburg because there were too many dead to be moved. With over 40,000 soldiers killed or wounded, it was a costly but significant victory, that could have easily been a defeat, for the Union army. Had Robert E. Lee's Confederate army won at Gettysburg in July 1863, their march to Washington would have been unimpeded. The Union victory at the battle of Vicksburg that same day, by forces under the command of Uly...
Rumors are rampant here at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp and can relate to all aspects of prison life, often taking on a life of their own. The rumor mill here even has a name--Inmates.com. We all know that rumors must contain a hint of truth to grow legs. But this place is so weird, it's frequently hard to distinguish truth from complete fiction. So it's fertile ground for rumors. The following is just one of many examples.
A few months ago, the corrections officer who supervises the Recreation Pavilion turned off all the outside televisions because of an unfortunate misunderstanding and over-reaction. One of our inmates is 85 years old and confined to a wheelchair. He should be sent home immediately on a compassionate medical release, but that's another story. A fellow inmate was changing the channel of one of the televisions for him, just being a nice guy. The CO walked by, saw the helper with 2 remotes in his hand, added 1+1 and got 11, and incorrectly assumed the helper was trying...
Some months ago, I began reading Dante's Divine Comedy together with a friend from the outside. He mailed me copies of one or two Cantos at a time with comments, and I would respond with my comments. It was not the most efficient method, but it worked for us. Dante was a very difficult read for me. I struggled with his style and his language. I would have to read each canto multiple times before it made sense, but without fail each finally sunk in and touched me in significant way.
Dante begins with these words:
Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself in a dark wilderness
for I had wandered from the straight and true.
How hard a thing it is to tell about,
that wilderness so savage, dense and dark,
even to think of it renews my fear!
It is so bitter, death is hardly more--
but to reveal the good that came to me,
I shall relate the other things I saw.
In this allegorical poem, Dante is led by the poet Virgil into the depths of hell. In fact the French sculptor Rodin's...
Christian services are held here at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday. None of these services conflict with my work schedule, so I am free to attend them anytime. The Buddhist meditation service is held on Thursday when I'm at work and requires that the chaplain here put me on a "Call Out" list so my supervisor knows that I haven't escaped when I'm not at work.
Over the last few months, I have requested to be on the Call Out list for the Buddhist service, and my name would show up for a few weeks, then disappear. So I would make the request again and the process would simply repeat itself. I finally asked even again, and received this reply from the chaplain:
"Policy states that you are allowed to be placed on callout 3 times if your request does not match your religious preference. You are listed as Protestant. If you desire to be on the callout to attend the Buddhist service, you will need to request a religious preference change to Buddhist."
I've written before about the possibility of one being both a Christian and a Buddhist. I concluded early on that I might be the perfect candidate for such a spiritual experiment because I would have the capacity to struggle at both. After some months of trial and error practice here at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp, it seemed like a good time to write about this, if for no other reason than to force me to ponder the present and the possibilities of my experiment.
Unlike Christianity, Buddhism is not based on a doctrine. One doesn't believe in Buddhism, one practices it. I know many who believe in Christianity, some of them even practice it. If one is serious about practicing Christianity, there are benefits in understanding the practices of mindfulness that Buddhism teaches. This is especially true for a Christian who desires a contemplative life and values non-dualistic beliefs.
The history of the world is full of men and women who have searched for spiritual truths in different ways...
Jerry Dedrick, aka Johnny Cochran, was an inmate at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp. He died on August 18, 2016, in an Intensive Care Unit at a hospital near the camp. He was 51 years old.
I spent a morning with Johnny soon after his arrival here. He preferred to be called Johnny Cochran because he considered himself to be quite the jailhouse lawyer. I never knew if he was good, but he was certainly prolific. I called him Johnny, even though I was one of the few here who knew his real name. During our first conversation, he told me that he had been transferred here from the federal prison camp at Big Spring, so he could receive medical treatment for Hepatitis C. I responded that if he came here for medical treatment, it was not going to end well. It didn't.
The last time I talked to Johnny, he told me that his Hepatitis C medication wasn't being monitored by the medical staff and he was suffering from nausea and other severe reactions. He couldn't get anyone on the staff to believe him, s...