Monday, February 16, 2009

Obverse or Reverse

I love the wisdom of Victor Henry, the old sea dog who served his country so well in two world wars, confidant of two presidents, father of three including a fallen war hero. A man could learn much from all that was written about Victor.

Some of you are wondering who Victor Henry was, why you don't recognize the name of such a famous person, and why I should be writing about him. Well, he is a fictitious character, the hero of Herman Wouk's two epics, The Winds of War and War and Remembrance. So actually Victor's wisdom is Wouk's wisdom, explained through his character.

The particular bit of V.H. wisdom I'm thinking of today comes from The Winds of War, near the end. Henry is en route from temporary duty in the Soviet Union to Pearl Harbor to take command of the battleship California. The Japanese sneak attack comes while he is on the last leg of the trip, from Quam to Wake Island to Pearl via Midway Island. He gets to Pearl Harbor and learns the California took torpedoes in the attack, and he has no ship to command. In the pile of letters waiting for him was one from his wife, asking for a divorce, and one from his daughter, saying she was being named in the media as the paramour of her boss. Henry, temporarily staying at his son's house (a naval aviator), finds a bottle of brandy and drains it in a few hours. He wakes up the next day with the pain deadened but unable to function.

At breakfast he learns that the Japanese had bombed submarine installations in the Philippines, including the navy base where his other son was an officer on a submarine. As Wouk writes concerning what Victor thinks, "When things go bad, his long experience told him, they went very bad".

That seems to be happening at present. Another computer crash, this time the computer I work at, with all my writing on it, very little of it adequately backed up. I don't know that it's lost totally, but I fear the worst. My truck, fresh from the shop for routine maintenance, the next day throws the new belt they just put on it and I am almost stranded 100 yards away from my destination. The economy goes from bad to worse and I'm pretty sure we are in a depression, though the data to confirm that is a couple of quarters away. And, it looks like a financial problem in my extended family is about to blow up and I may have to go half way across country to help deal with it--or maybe not. And, I am dead tired from the labors of clearing out my mother-in-law's house (not even close to done), the rigors of diet, exercise and weight loss (not even close to any goal), and the rigors of work, trying to help save a company from ruin for 20 percent less pay than a year ago. Yes, after my somewhat euphoric post of last Wednesday, things have gone very bad.

Every coin has two sides, obverse and reverse. You can't have one without the other. I tend to be pessimistic in my outlook of life, so when bad things come, similar as for Victor Henry, they seem normal. The hits will probably keep on coming. Such as today. I found out between beginning this post and ending it that the agent who was considering In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People is going to pass on it. Victor Henry was correct.

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