July 28, 2018

We have an inmate at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp who was a physician's assistant when we arrived. Now he's a doctor. I'm not sure if he now believes he is a doctor, he's forgotten there's a difference, or if he just thinks we're all that gullible. His delusion/memory lapse/scam does underscore the fact that we can always reinvent ourselves, and there's no better place than prison, or any place that lacks Google, to try that. I wonder if it's too late to claim that I started 4 years at 2nd base for the New York Yankees, earned 4 Gold Gloves, hit over .300 every year, and won 2 World Series rings before retiring to become a missionary? It's not like I have ever told anyone here that I didn't do that. On second thought, maybe an HONEST re-invention would be more in keeping with my prison rehabilitation. Certainly less interesting, though.

You may know that the roots of plants will naturally grow toward water. But did you know that recent experiments have proven that they will also grow...

July 23, 2018

In all the time I've been at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp, I've never quite adjusted to the accommodations. If that ever happens, I fear that I will have gone over the institutionalized edge; so hopefully it won't. One of the outcomes of housing 180 inmates in a facility designed for half that number is that it's never quiet. It's obvious many of the inmates and corrections officers have neglected to ponder Proverbs 17:28.

Silence may be golden, but it's also more than just the absence of noise. For some, like Alain Corbin, who wrote A History of Silence, it has substance. For others, it's where Elijah heard God's "gentle whisper" after the powerful storm, earthquake, and fire, recorded here

Maybe silence is as the poet Rilke wrote "a medium through which we enter the hidden reality of things." If his words are true, and I believe they are, then silence can open us to the unknown or forgotten aspects of ourselves. That internal universe when unexplored can be scary, but it can also b...

July 18, 2018

The traditional Chinese symbol of yin and yang is a graphical description of the Taoist (pronounced Dowist) notion of the relativity of all values. It's a different way to view polarities than the traditional western dualistic perspective of oppositions that we get from our puritan ancestors. We like opposites: naughty/nice, light/dark, liberal/conservative, happy/sad, male/female, native/immigrant, you get the picture/you never will.

To the Taoist, both extremes are resolved in the constantly turning circle. The faster and longer the circle turns, the more reality blurs and blends, becoming neither black nor white at all, because all things are one at the center. 

Even good and evil lose their absolute character as illustrated by an ancient Taoist story. Huston Smith, in his 1958 classic book The Religions of Man retells this story about the farmer whose horse ran away. His neighbor commiserated, only to be told, "Who knows what is good or bad?" The next day the horse returned bringing...

July 13, 2018

Holidays are a mixed bag at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp. Visitation is permitted on those days, and visits are life-giving to inmates. However, when no visitors show, holidays can also make for very long weekends. In a place already overcrowded, a visitation day closes the outdoor picnic area and the TV room, as both areas are needed for visits with family and friends. Usually we have a decent meal on holidays, and our 2018 4th of July meal was good. We had hamburgers (allegedly close to 100% beef), hotdogs (who really knows what's in ANY hotdog), fries, beans, corn of the cob, and an ice cream sandwich. 

On most holidays, we have East versus West sporting contests, which can be entertaining. The main event on July 4th was a 100 yard dash. The race was conceived when two inmates, one noticeably overweight and the other significantly more overweight, began arguing about who was faster. Before they knew it, posters were up announcing the Independence Day Race and the odds makers took o...

July 8, 2018

My dad would have been 97 this month, but he'll forever be 62 to me. I wish my kids had known more of him than a few videos, recorded after his stroke, which hardly captured who he was. 

It was autumn of 1968
The autumn after the last summer
I played baseball and the summer
A lot of bad things happened.
But that autumn brought change
And with endings came new beginnings
Tenth grade and Richard Nixon.

Beginnings on the farm meant calving
And the birth of one not quite right
A tiny heifer we never named
Who only got worse
With each passing day until we knew.
Euthanize is such a sterile word
Poorly describing the unthinkable.

My dad took the rifle
Because I wouldn't, I couldn't.
But I was there and I remember
The sounds of the mother.
I also remember the sounds of the crickets
And their silence after the last shot
When they would no longer sing, couldn't even cry.

But I cried and my dad cried.
I had never seen him cry
But he put his arm around me
Holding me against his huge shoulder
As we cri...

July 3, 2018

Grigori Potemkin (1739-1791) was an advisor to Catherine the Great of Russia in the late 1780's. In 1787, he sailed with Catherine down the Dneiper River to show her all the development he had accomplished on her behalf. Catherine must have enjoyed the river, because she didn't notice that Potemkin had built sham villages along it's banks full of jobless peasants appearing to be actively involved in pretend commerce. It was all a show. After the boat was out of sight, the peasants packed up the village and moved downstream to another location to pull off the charade again. Catherine was so impressed, Potemkin was named Prince of Tauris, the ancient name of Crimea, and showered with gifts, even becoming her lover for a while.

I must admit, when considering Potemkin, my first thought was that he would be the ideal choice to fill the now vacant position of Director of the Bureau of Prisons. Anyone who could pull off that kind of fraud would be perfect to run an institution built on lies. U...

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© 2016 by Charles D. Jones