Epilepsy nearly killed me (again)

Written By: JD Adler - Aug• 16•12

[This is the original, author’s version. An edited was published by The Key West Citizen] When I was 14 (1985) I began having bizarre, frightening experiences. In the mornings, while in the bathroom, I would suddenly find myself falling to the ground without any memory of how I stopped standing normally. During the day, in class, my head would suddenly bounce off my desk for no apparent reason. Sometimes I would be holding conversations with people and, although nothing would seem different to me, they would start looking at me like I was crazy. When I asked why, they would explain I had stopped talking for several seconds and then started up again as if I had never paused, sometimes in mid-word.

My pediatrician, a well respected doctor in the community, had no explanation. He offered ridiculous suggestions like “try eating breakfast before going into the bathroom for your shower, etc”, or getting more sleep, and so on. I don’t think he bellieved these, but he needed to try something.

A few months later, in health class, we were shown a movie. You know the type; black and white film, made in the 50s, with a horrible voice over and scratchy lines cutting through it. This one was about epilepsy, and although the medical science was horribly out of date even then, it was enough for me to recognize what was happening to me. I can not tell you the excitement and relief of realizing that there is an explanation for what is happening to you, that you are not a crazy person. The glimmer of hope it offers that there might actually be some solution.

After a series of tests, my self diagnosis was confirmed and given a label; juvenile onset myoclonic epilepsy. A very technical way of saying puberty has triggered a condition you were born with that causes your brain to short circuit. Over time this condition, if left untreated, will develop into tonic clinic seizures, which are the type most people think of when they hear the word seizure wherein your muscles tighten and release repeatedly for varying periods of time. If it lasts five minutes or more, that’s called status epileptics and could possibly result in brain injury or death. Often, but not always, these seizures include loss of bowel and/or bladder control (imagine explaining that to a new girlfriend in the middle of the night). The victim of these seizures has no memory of events during the seizure. Afterwards, the victim is confused and disoriented, a state called post-ichtal.

This describes the type of epilepsy I have lived with, there are many others. Some elements are common to all, others are unique to this type. In this article I will only be talking about my type.

I also experience something I call mini-seizures. My doctor has never given me a proper medical term, although I am sure there is one. In these mini-seizures I do not lose consciousness or anything else, it is just one specific set of things that happens. My chest constricts like a hiccup, I take an involuntary step, but most significantly, I feel as if my mind is momentarily slightly outside my body. That is a metaphor for something I have diffuctly describing. I am not saying my mind actually leaves my body. I am saying the physical and mental perception is as if I am somehow disconnected from my brain and snap back into place. I know how crazy that sounds, but I do not know how else to describe the sensation. It is disorienting, terrifying, and exciting all at the same time. Afterwards, my stomach is tied up in knots for an hour.

My first neurologist, at the age of 15, prescribed phenobarbital, a powerful barbituate. I went from being among the top students in my class to being a glassy eyed dope head in a matter of weeks. It also had the wonderful side effect of giving me acne across 80% of my face. All of this with little effect at reducing my seizures. He retired two years later. My next doctor was horrified to discover he had prescribed this drug, and immediately changed my prescription to something called depakote. My acne cleared up, my mental processes became better (still not normal, but better), and my seizures started to come under control.

There is no such thing as 100% control. I have been lucky enough to have good control. Some people need brain surgery, or tons of medicines, etc. I have usually been able to get significant control from only one medication at a time.

When I was 19, I decided to travel across country in my car. People told my I was crazy to do this as an epileptic, but I refused to live a life of fear. The first leg of my trip took me to NY state where I immediately got into a car accident. At the time I did not connect it to epilepsy, but when I looked back on it later I realized it was an absence seizure that caused me to pause in the middle of an intersection, not poor vehicle pickup due to too much weight, as I tried to convince myself at the time. The last thing I remember was checking both directions for clearance and then entering the intersection. I do not remember my car being struck in the passenger door, causing it to pivot up onto its nose. I do remember looking through the front window at the ground, and then the car slamming down onto its roof and spinning like a top. I managed to climb out and was standing there when the first responders arrived. I clearly remember all of them being shocked that I was alive, let alone suffering nothing worse than a few scratches. I did continue my cross country trip, but that is a separate story.

Eventually I was able to maintain enough continuous years seizure free that I was able to volunteer as a firefighter (yes my Chief knew the story). Which was very exciting for me, because that had always been my dream job. After a time I was preparing to take the test to become a paid firefighter, and two days before the test I had my first tonic clonic seizure. I remember eating breakfast in a local diner, and then I remember being in an ambulance struggling with the medic. When I became aware enough to stop fighting him, my first question was, “What am I doing in an ambulance?” he told me I had a seizure, and I just sighed. Ending any hope of ever being a paid firefighter, or even volunteering anymore. After all, how could I possibly put other firefighters at risk like that?

As an adult living in California, I now had to find a new neurologist. This doctor put me on a drug called Topomax, along with the Depakote I was already taking. In addition to successfully controlling my seizures, I lost most of my short term memory, began moving my bowels so often that my weight dropped below my high school weight in a matter of weeks, essentially making me look like a junkie, and I began suffering from something called temporary global amnesia. This lovely condition presents as finding yourself somewhere with no idea how you got there or why, although you still know who you are and how to do things like drive for example. My doctor at the time (I had retuned to PA and a new doctor before this last symptom presented) told me this was unrelated to my epilepsy or my medicine. At which point I began looking for yet another new doctor.

The newest doctor, who remains my current one, told me of course the conditions were related, in a way that made me feel good about thinking the prior doctor was a moron. He took me off both of the old meds and replaced them with a medicine called Zonegran which has proven to be very successful at controlling seizures and has shown little in the way of side effects. In fact, not only did I regain a healthy weight, and my short term memory, but I also discovered that what I thought was a normal depression cycle (for me) was in fact a side effect of Depakote, and I had been suffering from cognitive issues as well, all without realizing it. Over a decade lost to depression and cognitive suppression.

But nothing is 100% and I do still suffer from occasional seizures. Usually these present as the “mini-seizures” I described above. However, occasionally they present as full blown tonic clonic, and that is when things get dangerous. Although I still hold a legal driver’s license, I do not drive anymore out of fear of what might happen to someone else. I do not think I could forgive myself if someone else died as a result of me having a seizure while behind the wheel.

What really scares me though is that I might die in some totally pointless way. I am a person who has traveled America several times, I snowboard, I’ve hiked mountains, I do not fear death by adventure. I do fear a humiliating death, falling down the stairs, hitting my head on a toilet, etc. and epilepsy makes that a real possibility.

Ten years ago I almost died in the shower when I had a seizure, fell through the shower curtain, which then wrapped around my face, cutting off my air supply. Had one of my house mates not happened to be home, heard the crash, and kicked in the door when I didn’t answer, pulling the curtain off my face just in time, I surely would have suffocated to death. He told me my face was pale and my lips were blue and I immediately began sucking air in once the blockage was removed. I have no memory of anything between getting in the shower and waking up in the hospital.

Two weeks ago I was riding my bicycle to meet a friend when I apparently had a seizure in the middle of an intersection. I remember riding my bike on Friday and waking up in the hospital on Saturday in four point restraints, a neck brace, my right eye swollen shut, and three broken ribs. In addition, for reasons I can not explain, I believed I had been kidnapped and that the medical staff were lying to me. I was actively fighting and verbally assaulting my caretakers as if they were indeed kidnappers, although I had no reason to believe they would want to do so. When my mother was put on the phone, I warned her to stay away lest she too fall into their trap. It would be Sunday before I began to return to reality. I still have no memory of events between riding my bike on Friday and waking up on Saturday, though I was apparently awake a good portion of that time.

I am a man who believes in facing a challenge, attacking it, and defeating it. When your opponent is your own brain, what are you to do? Unseen, unknown, unable to mount any type of defense or even be given a real explanation. This is life with epilepsy. Literally millions of people have this condition, 50,000 die every year in America, yet no one ever discusses it publicly. Which is why I am telling my story here. I neither want nor need your pity or condolences. I am a grown man, I can get through my life and shoulder my burdens.

What I want, what those of us with epilepsy need, is twofold. 1) an educated public and 2) a greater focus on a finding a cure instead of just a treatment.

So here’s some education: don’t ever put anything in an epileptic’s mouth, they’ll just bite it off and choke on it. If you see someone having a seizure put a pillow under their head, and move anything that might hurt them away. Only call an ambulance if they have hurt themself already, or if it goes on for three minutes or longer, there’s very little a hospital can do for just a seizure. Although an extended seizure can cause brain trauma. Afterwards give them water, and tell them what happened, because they will be confused and dehydrated.

Epilepsy is not a sign of mental retardation or weakness; Alexander and Ceaser conquered the world while suffering from epilepsy in an age when people thought it meant you were possessed by demons. Epilepsy does not prevent you from handling most mental or physical tasks, although you should self regulate when it comes to putting others at risk, but I am perfectly capable of doing most anything anyone else is doing on any given day of the week.

The one thing all types of epilepsy, and many other neurological disorders have in common is low levels of a chemical called GABA. This acronym describes a a chemical which supports the transmission of signals between neurons on the brain. Anti-epileptic drugs help by increasing the receptiveness of the cannabinoid receptors (yes the same receptors as marijuana cannabinis affects) in collecting signals that the low GABA levels cause difficulty in making connections. Is this an oversimplification? Yes, but it’s not wrong. So why are we so far from a cure? I do not know. The brain is a mystery still. Many good people are working on the problem, but no one has a solution yet.

There are days, years, that go by where I am able to barely think about it. Other times, I have no choice because it is shoved right in my face like a brick wall. I am reminded that I am a powerless victim of my own brain and genetics and there ain’t a damn thing I can do about that. All I can do is stand up and dust my self off and take another step forward because what other choice do I have. Screaming at the sky don’t do nothing, not even make me feel better. That’s life with epilepsy, until it isn’t.

Why am I writing this for the whole world to see? I really don’t know, except maybe it’s a little bit cathartic.

Epilepsy has nearly killed me three times now. Will it be the death of me in the end, or will I die from something else entirely? Only time will tell.

[update: 2/13/13]

Another close call, December 20th, two days after my birthday, causing a LisFranc fracture of the right foot which I am still recovering from the resulting surgery. This seizure was full of firsts; my first stairwell fall, my first broken bone, my first surgery, and my first metal plates implanted into my body. I remember sitting at my desk and then being in the hospital. My roomate says his dog came and got him just as he was leaving. A few minutes later, and I would have laid there for how long?

My Doctor wants to give me a second medication. Last time I tried that it had devastating mental and physical side affects. I can handle the physical, but the mental? Which is worse seizures or stupid? If you think that’s an easy question then you either have never had a seizure or you are not a creative thinker.

28 years of seizures, with no end in sight, and all the doctors can offer me is more drug expriments.

[update: 05/28/14]

The textbook says seizures should decrease in frequency after 40. For me, that seems to be true as of 42.  I’ve only had 1 tonic clonic since my last update. That was 2 days after my last birthday, and I’m fairly sure the celebration was the contributing factor there.  Right in the middle of the new girlfriend’s living room. Guesses on how that turned out?

Mini-seizures have increased in frequency, however. Nearly once per week, I momentarily feel my perspective shift, then my stomach rolls, then the dizziness sets in. Sometimes an involuntary twitch of the foot or hand, which sucks if I’m holding coffee.

I finally have insurance via Obamacare, which is nice. I currently owe 10’s of thousands in medical bills from my last 3, uninsured seizures. Taking that fear off the table is a definite stress reducer. Now all I have to do is figure how to pay my debts off.

I never went on the second medication. I think it proved to be the best choice. The zonegran has kept me mostly under control with minimal side effects. Until a cure comes along, that seems t be the best I can hope for.

[Update: 10/21/2015]

I’ve since moved to a new city. One tonic clonic seizure not long after moving here, right around my birthday again. Of course it was in public and people called an ambulance because they were scared. Of course the hospital couldn’t do anything but bill me. Small town doesn’t get the same training as big city, so while I was post-ichtal, all confused, laying on the table in the hospital… the EMT was yelling at me to pay attention and give him the info for his paperwork. Good times.

Mini-Seizures continue to increase in frequency and a severity. Now they seem to hit in series, 3-5 in a row. At work one day I had to stop and sit down because I couldn’t maintain during the post-ichtal. I hate having to ask others to cover for my weaknesses.

I got kicked off Obama-care because I missed two payments. The mistake was mine, I thought I had set up auto pay and hadn’t. When I tried to pay everything I owed, they told me I was too late and couldn’t get it back. I went back forth between the government and the insurance company several times, each blaming the other, before I was told I had no option left. Complete inflexibility, the rules are the rules and you will obey or suffer. So now I pay $121/month for my meds while working for $12/hour plus a handful of tips. Wonder if they’ll make me pay the tax penalty?

Several articles have been published over the last year claiming scientific proof that marijuana can limit seizures with fewer side effects… yet still the government remains adamant on classifying it as worse than heroin or cocaine. Whose side are you on boys?

Maybe there will be cure next year….

David Eddings: The Belgariad

Written By: JD Adler - Feb• 29•12

The Belgariad is a 5 book series by David Eddings (1931-2009), which would be followed by the Malloreon Series, and 3 prequels co-authored with his wife Leigh. As stories within the fantasy genre there are certain plot and character staples one can expect: there is a dark lord trying to rule universe, and our hero is an orphan living a mundane life until one day a wise old man whisks him away, in the nick of time, just before some mysterious bad guys get their hands on him. It turns out the boy is not some ordinary kid but in fact, the secretly hidden away heir to a throne, magic power, and the focus of prophecy. And so a fellowship of the outmatched, yet heroic good guys is formed to help our hero (Garion) retrieve the magic object (the Orb of Aldur) from the bad guys (The Disciples of the Evil God Torak).  [Aside: in the Rivan Codex, Eddings offers an essay in which he outlines the principal elements of a fantasy story.]

The appeal of Eddings’ writing is the depth and detail of his character’s and plot line. We watch the characters develop and change over several years as the endure hardship and loss and suffering, as well as celebrate the occasional good day. Although the villains are rather 2 dimensional, as villains should be, the 4 main characters and numerous supporting characters have full lives aside from the quest. So you cannot help but become attached to their fortunes. And the plot lines are intricate, subtle, and developed over the course of the series.  Although you obviously recognize that Garion is going to be the hero of the story right away (by virtue of him being the main character), it is book 3 before you fully understand the implications for him. Eddings is very careful to build towards the revelation, rather than dumping it in your lap in the first chapter and then making the rest of the story only about the chase. In fact the full scope of the plot line isn’t revealed until the  second series, The Malloreon, although you would not realize it at the end of the Belgariad, which feels complete.

Plot

There were a number of unique and interesting elements to the series, however, the truly original twist that Eddings’ put into his stories was the personification of prophecy and fate. The driving force behind everything are these 2 prophecies. In ancient history known only to the Gods, an event took place which altered the the universe by interrupting its natural course, causing the God Torak to be born instead of the God Eriond. This created 2 possible ‘fates’, the original and the new. Each fate has its own prophecy. Due to the vastness of space-time, it has taken several millennium for the dominoes to fall on this event. But now the situation must be rectified, the universe can have only one destiny, and its up to a young boy named Garion to kill the evil God Torak or the entire universe will descend into chaos.

These prophecies are not just predictions, there are actual sentient forces behind them. These rival forces are characters in the story, able to manipulate events, people, even the gods, to their will. Although the Human Garion and the God Torak fill the traditional roles of Protagonist and Antagonist, it is these 2 prophecies that are actually moving the story in that manner.  Ultimately both possess the same desire, to force a final showdown between their vassals, the “Child of Light” (Garion) and “the Child of Dark” (Torak). At which point either we will be returned to the original path, or stay on the new path until it destroys us.  The end goal of the Light Prophecy is the ordered, stable universe, while the Dark Prophecy desires chaos and destruction.  And nobody, not even the Prophecies, know how the final meeting will end. (Spoiler: the good guys win)

Art

Although the definition is oft disputed, originality is always a key element to the credibility of a work as art. A hurdle science fiction and fantasy genres are regularly accused of failing to overcome due to the appearance of formulaic plots and rehashed concepts. This is a criticism that could easily be applied to any artistic medium if the observer only offers a cursory glance, rather than truly seeing the individual creations of the great artists. David Eddings is one of those rare great artists.

Now, the concept of good and evil coming to a final showdown is not particularly new. Nor is the idea of being compelled by some metaphysical force to your fate. But the concept of circumstance causing the birth of competing, thinking destinies affecting our lives for their own ends, essentially turning the universe into a timeless game of chess, is both new and interesting.  This is not God and the Devil playing with Job, in this story God and the Devil are but tools of Destiny just like Job. Eddings is presenting the cause and effect of history, on a cosmic scale, as being so complex that it organically develops an intelligence of equal complexity.

This idea that a) there are competing fates created by ancient events, and b) there are ethereal beings who personify these fates, and c) play active roles in the competition as manipulators of events, is an invention entirely belonging to Eddings. (which is to say, as a fan of the genre I’ve never encountered it elsewhere). I find this thematic invention very compelling, because he asks the audience to conceive of the universe from a different perspective.  This is more than the suspension of disbelief required to accept magic or space travel, in order to understand the outcome of the quest you have to understand the nature of Eddings’ universe. And doing so inevitably causes you to consider your perspective on the actual universe, because we comprehend the new by relating it to what we know.

In this story Eddings asks you to accept 2 key points about his universe: 1) every seemingly minor event is actually a necessary component in the puzzle of the universe, and 2) therefore individuals choices can change the ‘identity’ of the universe.  Which makes Destiny the synergy of all history, and our relationship to it, and each other, symbiotic.

And this is where the work becomes art, by moving the audience, through an original metaphor, to reconsider their perspective on the world.

 

 

Jack L. Chalker: The Well World

Written By: JD Adler - Feb• 16•12

“The Saga of the Well World” and “Watchers at the Well” by Jack L. Chalker (December 17, 1944 – February 11, 2005) presents a unique look into the manner in which science fiction can transform real science into metaphor and, through that effort, enter the realm of art.

Story

The story is set in a distant future where humanity has settled the galaxy, running into few other species in the great expanse. Society operates in collectives of planets, some capitalist, some mafia like, some using drugs or technology to turn themselves into insect-like colonies. The back cover summary for book 2 “Exiles at the Well of Souls” gives us a good review of the story line.

Antor Trellig, head of a ruthless interstellar syndicate, had seized a super computer with godlike powers, which could make him omnipotent. The Council offered master criminal Mavra Chang any reward if she stopped Trellig – and horrible, lingering death if she failed. But neither Trellig nor Mavra had taken the Well World into consideration. Built by the ancient Markovians, the Well World controlled the design of the cosmos. When the opponents were drawn across space to the mysterious planet, they found themselves in new alien bodies, and in the middle of a battle where strange races fought desperately, with the control of all the Universe as the prize.

We soon discover the Well World is a massive  planet (several Jupiters combined) whose crust is covering an ancient super-computer. This computer maintains the equations that control the physical universe. On its crust are several hundred hexagonal territories, each containing a different species. These are the seed stock for all intelligent life in the universe, grown here and then deposited on planets once ready. Built by a race known as the Markovians, who were the only intelligent species to inhabit the universe. Having evolved to their fullest, they felt something was missing, so they decided to try again. They built this planet/computer to program a new universe, based on a new quantum math, populated by the species they created. However they could not create new souls, so they had to transform themselves into the new creatures and let the computer run on auto. This was the key part of the project, they were testing to see if different forms and/or compositions in different environments would allow them to discover what was missing. They left one of their own behind to monitor things, Nathan Brazil, who is not ruled by our physical laws because he is not of this universe.

Science

String Theory suggests (vastly oversimplified) that everything in the universe vibrates at a quantum level similar to a violin string, and like music, that vibration has a numerical equivalent. And this is the base math for all matter and energy in the universe. This theory also requires a minimum of 10 space-time dimensions. That is the science behind the science fiction which drives this plot.

Art

The art of this set design is in the use of the theory as metaphor. While the characters are engaged in all the usual politics and action/adventure associated with the genre, power hungry bad guy and liberty defending heroes working with morally ambivalent pirate types, the subtext throughout the series is the Markovian equation and their quest for fulfillment.

Are souls in new bodies capable of discovering new truths, or is that just redecorating? Is perspective as valuable to understanding as knowledge? Chalker has taken the nature v nurture argument to a quantum level, asking if physics or metaphysics determines who we are, and where the line between the two exists.

Chalker is not so arrogant as to offer a final answer to these questions. But the fact he causes his audience to ponder their own existence in relation to the world around them, I believe, lifts this above the level of pulp fiction. The fact that he does it subtly, through symbolism and imagery and parable, convinces me this work graduates to the level of art.

 

Star Trek: Mirror Universe

Written By: JD Adler - Feb• 01•12

One of the aspects of the Star Trek series that I always enjoyed was the continuity of plot lines across series. The mirror universe is one of the most well structured examples of this.

In the original series, Captain Kirk, Scotty, Bones,and Uhura, end up switching places with their doppelgangers from the alternate universe due to a transporter accident. Of course, in the “Mirror” universe everyone is evil, the federation is an empire, women are scantily clad, and men wear beards.At the end of this episode, just before the happy ending where everyone goes home, ‘real’ Kirk encourages mirror Spock to recognize the tyrannies fail but freedom is forever, and the logical thing to do is reform.

Flash forward to the Deep Space Nine series (DS9)  produced 3 decades alter, set a century after, the original. In the second season, Major Kira Nerys and Doctor Julian Bashir get trapped in the Mirror universe due to a shuttle engine leak while traversing a stable wormhole.

This time there is no switch, and they meet their counterparts. Major Kira’s Mirror is a petty tyrant, and the Chief O’Brien’s is a slave in an ore processing facility under her command. The Doctor’s Mirror is not seen.  It seems Kirk did have influence on mirror Spock, who in turn did change the empire into a peaceful federation. The result, however, was an uprising by the formerly oppressed who then turned the humans into slaves and built their own empire. Now led by the Klingons and Cardassians, with the Bajorans playing a significant role.

I found this attention to detail impressive. Not only honoring the roots of Roddenberry’s  creation, but also maintaining the story line for the audience.  They could have developed a new alternate universe, with their own rules, but the authors chose to develop the story organically.

DS9 devoted 5 episodes to the Mirror universe, which gave them time to develop the characters and plot.  Instead of a flat, “Bizzaro World” where the characters are all just opposites, we find the characters have similar root personalities that have developed differently due to circumstance. Similar to identical twins seperated at birth and put in different cultures.

So the Chief is still mechanically inclined, but never received Federation training. Kira is still in the military, but instead of being a resistance fighter she is a tyrant.  And, despite the influence of Kirk, the mirror universe remains a place of oppression.When Bashir tells Mirror O’Brien (Smiley) that in the other universe he is a “Chiefof Operations” it blows his mind. The idea that his life could have been something other than slavery rocks the foundations if his identity. Setting in motion a series fo events that will alter the Mirror Universe.

Captain Sisko’s Mirror is a privateer serving the tyrant Kira in exchange for not working in the mines. It is also insinuated that he is her sex slave, as are several other females and males. Influenced by the crossover characters “Smiley” (O’Brien’s Mirror) and he become the leaders of a human revolt against the empire.  And the struggle for freedom continues.

In the prequel series, Star Trek: Enterprise, during the last season they had an episode entirely within the Mirror Universe that showed how the Federation got turned into an Empire by the Mirror Jonathon Archer. A paranoid megalomaniac bent on instilling order and security to the  galaxy, resulting in neither. He is assassinated by his consort, Sato, before he can even where the crown, who then declares herself Empress.

A story which, on the surface, appears to be a political soap opera in space, is in fact a parable about the illusion of control, and the influence of circumstance.

Tom Bombadil is Master

Written By: JD Adler - Jan• 22•12

For those of us who read “The Lord of the Rings”, there are several sections of the trilogy which were left out of the movies. I’m not here to criticize Peter Jackson’s work, it was a fantastic production. But some of these abridged sections hold content of significance. Their absence may allow for the action to flow faster for the modern, instant gratification culture, however a key piece to understanding the puzzle is lost.

Tom Bombadil by Brother's Hilderbrant

One of my favorite characters was Tom Bombadil, who exists not only in the “Lord of the Rings” but also in “The Adventures of Tom Bombadil”. This character appears to be an incidental contact for Frodo and the Hobbits as they are forced to take a path through the “Old Forest” in order to avoid the enemy. However, Tom’s role (and that of his his wife Goldberry, daughter of the river Withywindle) in the trilogy is to provide background/setup for the mythology that governs Middle Earth.

Myth of Middle Earth

In the Silmarillion, Tolkien describes the creation and history of his fictional universe. There is a creator, Eru Illuvitar; gods, the Ainu/Valar; and lesser gods, the Maia/Istari (Gandalf, Saruman, and Sauron are these); and a vain, greedy, rebellious god, Melkior.  Their story is the story of creation, and the birth of the Children of Illuvitar (Elves and Humans). Tolkien unfolds the entire history of the universe before the act of creation actually occurs, in a chorus of the gods.

‘Behold your Music!’ And he showed to them a vision, giving to them sight where before there was only hearing; and they saw a new World made visible before them and it was globed amid the Void….and as they looked and wondered this World began to unfold its history, and it seemed to them there that it lived and grew.

Melkior becomes the “evil one” character who eventually mentors Sauron before being destroyed. And then Sauron becomes the “evil one”.  The common theme for the evil characters is the desire to rebuild the world according to their own designs (industrialists). Whereas the heroes are always nature loving, agriculture and mysticism types (hippies). The darkness that comes when the evil is advancing includes pollution and fire and noise and hostile behavior. The territory of the heroes usually coincides with sunshine, greenery, music, and beautiful women with flowers in their hair. The concept of the ancient past being a time when nature was more powerful, and life was better, is pervasive in the stories. It is the advancement of technology which has disconnected the living from life.

So what does all this have to do with Bombadil? We meet Tom early in the first book, when we are still learning what the plot is, along with the Hobbits. This is not incidental, he represents the old powers, the old middle earth, from the days when it was still being formed, before Melkor forced the Valar to remove themselves.  He does not fear Old Man Willow, nor does the Ring of Power affect him, not because he is able to control them but because they cannot control him.The themes are being laid out for us.

Frodo asks twice who he is, once of Tom’s wife Goldberry, to  which she responded cryptically,

[Frodo] “Then all this strange land belongs to him?”

“No indeed!” She answered, and her smile faded. “That would indeed be a burden…The trees and the grasses and all things growing or living in the land belong each to themselves. Tom Bombadil is the Master. No one has ever caught old Tom walking in the forest, wading in the water, leaping on the hill-tops under light and shadow. He has no fear, Tom Bombadil is Master.”

And later he asks Tom directly, to which he responds even more cryptically,

“…Tell me who are you, alone yourself, and nameless? But you are young and I am old. Eldest, that’s what I am. Mark my words, my friends: Tom was here before the rivers and the trees; Tom remembers the first raindrop and the first acorn… He knew the dark under the stars when it was fearless- before the Dark Lord came from Outside.”

The last phrase is interesting because it suggests Bombadil does not come from the same place as Melkior (the Dark Lord), but the only beings on Middle Earth at the beginning, before the elves, were the Valar, the Maia, and Melkior. All of whom were with Illuvitar previously. Athough Tolkien does tell us, in the Silmarillion, that only Illuvitar saw/heard the fullness of the music of creation, and therefore there were unknowns even to the Valar. Is Bombadil one of these surprises? If he is not one of the gods, then what is he?

The last time Tolkien speaks of him, beyond an aside, is at Elrond’s council in Rivendale, when they are trying to decide what to do about the Ring of Power. He is described as ancient and powerful,  but not concerned with the petty wars and politics of the world. Gandalf dismisses the idea of enrolling his aid as pointless;

“…he is withdrawn into a little land, within bounds that he has set, though none can see them, waitng perhaps for a change of days, and he will not stop beyond them.

To which Glorfindel the Elf adds that hiding the ring with Bombadil would only be a delay, for if Sauron was not defeated;

“…I think that in the end, if all else is conquered, Bombadil will fall, Last as he was First; and then night will come.”

Themes of ancient history and fate, and cycles (first and last), and the connection between Bombadil’s origins and good, wrapped into a man who exists in the world yet remains aloof. Very much like an ideal or philosophy.

In just a few short passages, Tolkien is able to establish this character as a symbol of the ancient ‘faith’, and define that faith as standing with nature and tranquility and freedom. He also establishes that Bombadil is respected by the heroes, therefore they are also with the ancient faith. The presumption that Sauron will try to destroy Bombadil if they meet, tells us that evil is against these things represented by  the ancient faith. And so the entire backdrop of the trilogy has been introduced without a narrator.

In “The Adventures of Tom Bombadil”, an epic poem by Tolkien, Bombadil tells stories from his life. He is continuously falling into the clutches of badgers and river spirits but simply sings a few magical lines and walks away; because he is master and no one can hold him. And yet depite this mythos, he is described physically as:

Old Tom Bombadil was a merry fellow;

bright blue his jacket was and his boots were yellow,

green were hid girdle and his breeches all of leather;

he wore in his tall hat a swan-wing feather.

He lived up under Hill, where the Withywindle

ran from a grassy well down into the dingle.

‘Silly’ is the best word I can think of to describe the image this conjures up for me.  A happy, goofy guy bounding through life. Yet this same character is unconquerable and everlasting from the beginning til the end of days. Again, Tolkien reinforces the concept of good as content and satisfied. Fear, self-doubt, and greed all come from desire which the symbols of good do not have.

At this point its worth noting the inspiration behind Bombadil. According to the Tolkien Library Tom was inspired by Tolkien’s son’s destruction of his brother’s toys.

… Tom Bombadil was originally a Dutch doll also belonging to Michael Tolkien. John, his brother, put the doll down a lavatory. Bombadil was rescued and Tolkien wrote The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, originally published in Oxford Magazine in 1934. Tolkien later offered to his publishers the idea that Bombadil’s story could be expanded into a sequel to The Hobbit, but they didn’t bite, so Tom appeared anyway in The Lord of the Rings. Tom makes his debut in the form found in this collection.

So this character, inspired by his children’s misadventures, appears for a brief moment in an epic trilogy. A work noted for the incredible attention to detail. Is it possible he just threw it in to amuse his children or irritate his publisher? Possible, of course, but it does not seem likely. The man wrote an elvish dictionary in order to assist him with ‘realism’. That is not the type of person who carelessly messes with his story on a whim.

If Bombadil is indeed a symbol for the back-story and the ‘good’, then his presence should foreshadow the theme of the plot.

In its most simplistic summary, the “Lord of the Rings” is about the corrupting influence of power and greed. The only people able to carry the ring without being overwhelmed are the Hobbits, who have no dreams of glory or power or wealth, because the Shire has everything they need or want. They are satisfied and therefore un-corruptable.

Sauron and Saruman, the evil characters, are consumed with desire for more; more knowledge, more power, more servants, etc. They wish to control everything, and thus they ruin everything.

Bombadil is unconcerned with the world, and master of himself. Therefore he fears nothing and needs nothing (except the love of Goldberry), and is at peace with the world around him. (very Zen)

The message of the Tolkien’s epic appears to be ‘greed is bad for you’. And he provides what he considers positive examples in the Hobbits. And then he offers Bombadil as this iconic, Budda-like character. Content, self-aware, and wise; Bombadil is the true opposite to Sauron. Unlike Gandalf  and Galadriel who had to resist temptation, Tom is unaffected by the offer of power. Because he has seen the ‘powerful’ come and go, and knows it to be a lie.

Tom Bombadil, Master of Middle Earth, is Tolkien’s vision of the ideal good.

At least that’s my theory.

 

A Plan for US

Written By: JD Adler - Oct• 02•11

A Plan for US

by JD Adler and C Schmitt

A call for an Article 5 Constitutional Convention so that the people can impose reform on the government.

Bookstore

Table of Contents
Washington’s Farewell Address    4
I. The Case for a Third Continental Congress    13
II. Amendments    14

  1. Political Accountability    15
  2. Campaign Finance Reform    17
  3. Direct Voice    18
  4. Citizen Directed Budget    20
  5. Simple Tax    22
  6. Balanced Budget    28
  7. Regulation    29
  8. Privacy    30

III. Legislation    31

  1. End Empire    31
  2. I. Mobile, Defensive Military    32
  3. II. End Drug War    33
  4. Border Reform    36
  5. Energy Plan    37
  6. Currency Reform    38
  7. Sound, Dynamic Money    38
  8. Education Reform    41
  9. Health Insurance Reform:    44

IV. Conclusion:    46
V. Appendix A    48
VI. References    56
Citations    56
Charts and Graphs    57

 

From  the  Conclusion:

Our politicians have failed as leaders. If there are to be solutions to our problems, we will have to provide them ourselves.  Article 5 of the US Constitution provides the tools for holding a Convention to Amend the Constitution. Such a convention would be the perfect forum for populist reform. For us all to put forward our ideas, find the common ground, and develop solutions.

The Convention could be organized as a blending of electronic  town hall and representative democracy. Topics and amendment drafts to be chosen by a six month, online, democratic proposal and selection process involving the entire population. Representatives elected in each congressional district (e.g. 3 per district), would be sent to a Convention to determine a final bill of amendments to submit to the states for ratification.

As varied as our opinions and theories are, we share common goals for our country and ourselves; freedom and stability, health and prosperity. It is reasonable to believe that we can reconcile the various political strategies, to develop a common plan, and execute it effectively.

When readers considers this idea, we ask that they also consider what they future may hold if we change nothing.

Mrs. Kara Daniels

Written By: JD Adler - Mar• 17•11

Mrs. Kara Daniels

The Montgomery Report

The spot light opens on the stage. The familiar oak table and chairs sit encircled in its beam, alone. A few papers and a tablet computer lay scattered on the table before the chair stage left. His chair. Gerald Montgomery’s chair. The most watched man in the world. Each week he sits down with people you have never heard of, everyday people, and they reveal the most fascinating stories. Everyone loves Montgomery because he brings excitement to the mundane.

(more…)

Director Gene Haldry, PhD.

Written By: JD Adler - Mar• 17•11

Director Gene Haldry, PhD.

The Montgomery Report

Black screen, spotlight appears on a theatrical stage framed by red velvet drapes. Stage center sits a round oak table with two chairs. Also made of oak, the chairs’ tall backs appear to made of a single piece, warped by craft into a comfortable curve. The entire chair is plain faces and right angles, except for the backs. These are ornately carved symbols and geometric shapes weaved into dynamic patterns that hypnotize the close observer. Each chair carved by hand, a unique piece painstakingly created by the carpenter.

(more…)

Sasha and Kevin Hendricks

Written By: JD Adler - Mar• 17•11

Sasha and Kevin Hendricks

The Montgomery Report

A stage framed by red drapes, darkened and empty but for the spot light on a an oak table and chairs in the center. Highlights and shadows dance across the ornate hand carved patterns of the seat-backs. The audience, loyal fans of the show 1 and all, recognize that a change has been made to the set. There are 3 chairs around the table instead of just 2. A pair to stage right sit across from the single chair belonging to the nation’s favorite tv personality, Gerald Montgomery.

(more…)

Maria

Written By: JD Adler - Mar• 17•11

Joseph turned off the television and tossed the remote aside. He sat there on the bed, looking at the blank screen for a few moments, I haven’t watched TV for years, and still there’s not a single thing on. How is that possible? Shaking his head, he slid off the plush bed and walked over to the window. The storm-darkened sky caused the window to reflect his own distorted image back at him. A tangle of matted, salt-pepper hair hung about his head to his ears where a tangle of salt-pepper beard took over hanging down to his mid chest. Only sparse tendrils of hair covered the rest of his pale flesh, even his groin only held a few random strands of grey. After years on the street, wearing most of his wardrobe most of the time, his hands and face were the only parts of his body darkened by the sun. They weren’t tanned, more of a browned, and beaten. Even beneath all that hair, even in the rippled image of the window, deep ravines could be seen cut into his face by time and life. He felt alien amongst the plush giddiness of the yellow and white hotel suite.

(more…)

Do Not Enter

Written By: JD Adler - Mar• 17•11

Joseph looked around the hotel room, checking to see if he left anything behind. Where’s my picture? Oh, right, Maria has it. He gave one last look, wishing he could just stay here, and headed for the door. The hallway was comfortably lit by rows of lights running across the top of the walls, all pointed towards a series of convex mirrors down the middle of the ceiling. A warm yellow light cascaded down onto the floor and walls. Not a soul was in the hallway besides Joseph.

(more…)

Joseph

Written By: JD Adler - Mar• 16•11

There was very little he could do about the fact that he was alone, in the rain, with the wind smacking him in the face like an angry woman, repeatedly. His entire wardrobe, 3 pairs of pants, 4 shirts, and 2 jackets, were currently on his body which made the experience somewhat less spirit killing. However, he had lost his hat to an angry dog several days ago leaving him with no cover for his head at all. He had attempted to protect himself with his upraised hands at first, but the sheer futility of that gesture quickly became apparent and he surrendered. Now he just stood on the corner, watching empty buses ride by, as nature mocked him for not being a successful capitalist.

(more…)

Cop Poetry

Written By: JD Adler - Mar• 16•11

Sheriff Brown is the central character of the Claire Creek stories. Although no one character other than the town itself appears in every story, every primary character interacts with the Sheriff at some point during the series. His symbolic role as the executer of the social contract in Claire Creek makes him the symbol of the community’s best and worst binding common characteristics.

 

(more…)

Fishing

Written By: JD Adler - Mar• 16•11

Sheriff Brown and Dr. Allen sat on the banks of Claire Creek fishing. Well, not so much fishing as drinking, while their poles rested on a pair of rocks at their feet, lines dangling in the water. Sheriff Brown dropped his empty can of Guinness back into the cooler and pulled out a fresh one, his fifth, the Dr. was still working on his third. He opened the can, smiled at the whoosh of nitros being released as if it were the sound of lullaby, took a long pull, whipped his mouth and cleared his throat…

(more…)

Jacob Daniels, the last

Written By: JD Adler - Mar• 16•11

LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF JACOB DANIELS

06/06/06
I, Jacob Morris Daniels, being of sound mind and body do declare this to be my last will and testament.

To my son, Adam, I leave my Mustang Convertible. You helped me rebuild the engine so it is rightfully yours. I also leave you, in trust, the money I set aside for your college fund to be given to you on the day you graduate college. Hopefully you’ll be smart enough to use it to pay off your student loans, and not blow it in Vegas as I probably would.

To my daughter, Lydia, I leave you Grim, our Doberman. You’re the one responsible for spoiling him so badly that he’s now a great big wimp, so he’s yours to care for. I also leave you a trust fund, like your brother’s, to be received when you graduate from college. Try not to spend it all on shoes as your mother probably would have.

(more…)