Wednesday, September 30, 2015

THYME Magazine: The Bridge Builder's Tale XXIII

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor


Never, never, never... give up!" -- Sir Winston Churchill

We want to know not how we should pray if we were perfect but how we should pray being as we now are." – C. S. Lewis

Now the man who had brought them all here was gone. Greene thoughtfully fingered the letter, and reflected simply: "Here we have a unique sermon, spoken by a man who wanted in the end to strip away all pretense, that if there was indeed any evidence of the Divine having transformed his life, you might see it. As his friend, I can attest to it that I have seen much evidence that Rupert Zimmerman was a man who's life was transformed.

There was one more thought to be read from Zimmerman's 'last letter,' then the mourners would drive out the Memorial Tower on the Eastbound span, where Rupert's ashes would be interred. The tower was a unique bit of architecture containing a pipe organ built with pipes made of glass! It was built by an Austrian master builder and Pastor Greene loved its pure sound. He often retreated to the memorial tower to play this instrument as he arranged his thoughts for the weekly sermon. The tower had been built to remember the lives of those who had died on the Bering Strait Bridge. There were even glass pipes of the organ embedded in the stained glass windows. The effect was a beautiful chapel where art and music came together in solemn harmony:

We will now proceed to the little chapel on the bridge." Green continued, "In it are remembered the names of those who died on the bridge and its approach roads. The first plaque recalls the name of a man who plunged to his death into the icy waters. I'll never forget that night, for I held tight to the man's friend, who was about to jump into the icy void after him! Though that man didn't escape my grasp and follow him... he took no thought for his own well being at the time. He, in that sense, was ready to lay down his life for his friend!"

So, I would have to say that TWO men died that night on the bridge, though that man was brought back from the brink and ministered to much by my friends the Greenes. He went home to love and serve his family. We know his granddaughter, the young woman who helped Kris paint the mural at the college, for she spent two Summers with us here at Big Diomede."

But there was a THIRD man that died that night on the bridge... it was ME! That was the night I gave my heart to learn the ways of the Kingdom I have now entered into. I tasted honest prayer that night, and though there was no sudden transformation, I ceased to live as the man I once was... I now lived for a new Master... and He demanded my very life!"

The life you have come to remember today was, I hope, the life of Him living in me more than me living as I've always lived. George Müller was as bad a man as I in his first life, but saw a transformation in himself that led him to declare that 'the age of miracles is not past.' Living in simple trust of the one who had transformed him, he built five large orphan homes at Ashley Downs in Bristol. I've visited them. History tells me that indeed the age of miracles is not past! I have been blessed to live in it!"

I will not tell you in a letter how to pray. For me it took Jon's patient friendship to bring me to that point. Around you today are many who have tasted the Kingdom I speak of. They will be more than eager to show you the full richness to be found there. Words fail to describe it. I've rambled long. I've taken more than my share of this day... so please enjoy your trip to the little chapel and if you are so inclined, make your way to Wales and hike on my beloved Cape Mountain for me!"

The little choir sang "How Great Thou Art" and the mourners prepared to drive to the memorial tower chapel. The Eastbound span had been closed to traffic for the procession, but people had been allowed to walk out along the shoulders of the span’s travelway... and here they were! Men and women of the New World, assembled to remember the passing of one man. Truckers and motorcycle riders stood shoulder to shoulder with security officers and waitresses. Cooks and concrete finishers, steel workers and seminarians, pilots and mechanics, dishwashers and designers, mothers and babies, farmers and house builders all lined the bridge together. Old soldiers and Inuit communications specialists joined together with young engineering apprentices to line the path between continents that had changed their lives. Elizabeth sobbed unashamedly, knowing that her father's crazy vision and persistence was the reason they stood here. Indeed, without a visionary to build this bridge, there would be no place to stand! A new wave of emotion rolled over her as she realized that this bridge was merely a tool in the hand of a Greater Master... to build the work of the Kingdom that now her father had stepped into. She told the driver to stop the car. She stepped out onto the bridge deck and began to extend her fair hand to those in the crowd... old leathery hands, soft children's hands, brown, black white and all shades in between!, the warmth of human touch blessed the bridge across the Bering!

Martin, Kris and Jon joined her. There was no hurry to complete the journey to the chapel and the impromptu celebration of humanity joined together certainly was something that warmed the heart of the Divine.

Scuola di Atene by Raphael.

(to be continued) [click to read]

Copyright © 2015, The Kirchman Studio, all rights reserved

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

THYME Magazine: The Bridge Builder's Tale XXII

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor


An artist is not paid for his labor, but for his vision." -- James McNeill Whistler

Perhaps the most sincere praise Rupert wrote in his last letter was for those rare people of vision like his wife Pat, Kris and her husband, and his own extended family, who while they didn't build great, works like bridges, built perhaps even greater links to worlds of noble aspiration! Their lives were to him a continual challenge.

He didn't want to embarrass his oldest granddaughter, but carefully crafted his words so that the young woman would have no doubt as to how much he loved her. Anna's oldest child was indeed the successor to Martin O'Malley as chief engineer of what would soon be THREE spans linking East and West. That this child had chosen to follow the path she did of her own passion was a great joy to the old man. Even more of a joy to him was the knowledge that he had cut her no slack in getting there. She'd EARNED her place. He was truly sorrowful that he could have no more interaction with her in her career. "But, it is time for me to move on..." the old man wrote, "to a place I believe contains even greater wonder and inventiveness. I humbly dare to believe that I shall press my feeble hand into the scarred hand of the Master!"

Again, I thank you, Jon and Kris, for your unwavering friendship in guiding me to a place where I could 'see' this Promised Land. I shall ever be in your debt for the knowledge of this place that your loving witness first made real to me."

The great builder rarely addressed the Pastor as other than Reverend Greene in public. This slip in a letter was intentional. The man who had frst come to Big Diomede to oversee the moral well-being Zimmerman's Folly had become his personal mentor in things unseen, and Zimmerman loved him for it!

Indeed it was Greene who had become Zimmerman's closest confidant as he developed new ideas in education as well as innovation in construction. Now, illuminated by the thought that Divine inspiration was truly available to mere mortals, Zimmerman pushed to see where that inspiration might take him. He set out to woo Pat to come to Big Diomede. Abandoning his Spartan quarters on Wales, he brought her to the Big Diomede community. Together they designed a house to be built by the craftsmen in Virginia and assembled in the little community. Their house was not all that different from the first house built on Big Diomede for the Greenes. In fact, Pat "borrowed" many ideas from the original house. Rupert mused that the Pastor's wife would have been brilliant had she pursued a career in his own design department.

Martin and Elizabeth built a house next to Rupert and Pat's. Their children grew up in the full richness of a multigenerational family. The choir of the little church on Big Diomede grew rich with an ever increasing variety of voices. Rupert and Pat were there every Sunday, and they usually drove over to Little Diomede after services with their children to a place where it was Saturday, on the other side of the International Date Line. There they would enjoy chicken sandwiches that they could not have had after church on Big Diomede. The restaurant chain's policy of being closed on Sunday was strictly observed... even acknowledging time zone differences! The residents of the Diomedes had some fun with this!

On warm Summer days the happy little party would continue on to Wales, and a day of hiking on Cape Mountain or along Kingigin. Zimmerman looked forward to these walks most of all. Even in his nineties he still loved to hoist a grandchild onto his shoulders and walk in cadence to his or her song. The tundra flowers were brilliant during the brief Summer. There was by this time a little reconstructed Inuit village near Wales and the family loved to explore it. Pat's heart warmed to the Rupert who had first carried their own children on his shoulders to the little log farmhouse reconstructed in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Waynesboro, Virginia. He seemed to have returned, only this time there was a mantle of peace that the old man wore.

Summer flowers on Cape Mountain.

Diomede Girl. Alaska Historical Collection.

Walrus Boats. Alaska Historical Collection.

When the long Winter descended, Rupert would 'surprise' Pat with a Christmas present that usually involved a trip to someplace warm and sunny. One DIDN'T want to miss Christmas festivities at Big Diomede's little church. The Greenes made certain that they were both beautiful and meaningful, but January and February the Zimmermans would leave the work of the great bridge in the hands of Martin and Elizabeth as they visited places dear to their youngest daughter.

Pat and Rupert became eyes and ears for Elizabeth in their travels. Many of her initiatives to build a school or provide clean water began with a tearful story told by her mother. Pat never needed spend the endless Winter in the North country. She never set foot in the 'Labyrinth of Exile" again!

Photo by Kristina Elaine Greer
Photo by Kristina Elaine Greer.

(to be continued) [click to read]

Copyright © 2015, The Kirchman Studio, all rights reserved

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

THYME Magazine: The Bridge Builder's Tale XXI

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor


Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth." -- George Washington

However (political parties) may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion." -- George Washington

That is not to say that the new Republic suffered no growing pains. Many of the Yupik had been effectively disenfranchised for years. In the articles of Confederation drawn up for the Republic the Yupik were simply granted proportianal representation in the text of the document. An interesting scramble of "carpetbaggers" from the lower 48 rushed in to seek newly created offices only to run quickly afoul of the residency requirements. Failing becoming elected representatives, they took up new careers as lobbyists for interests from the lower 48 until hastily passed legislation banned the practice. Alaska, like Israel, had a multitude of interests represented in her assembly and that required building coalitions with other factions in order to obtain the required majority to accomplish anything. Because of the diversity it was almost impossible to seal the old "two party agreement" that had resulted in so much lack of real representation in the lower 48.

There was a Yupik Inuit Association Party, a Tlingit Seal Hunter's Union, a Russian Orthodox Society, an Oil and Gas Producer's Association Party and about seventy other parties in the legislature. Each had publicly stated objectives requiring some openness in announcing coalition creation. It seemed chaotic to some, but resulted in some solid discussion and clear consensus as opposed to strong-armed solutions or backroom bargains. It did seem to take a lot of time!

Zimmerman avoided seeking public office as a rule. He would quash any speculation of his potential candidacy by reminding questioners that he was still considered a war criminal by the government in the lower 48. His conduct in battle had been honorable enough, but there were those in Washington who would not readily forgive Rupert's role in financing the successful revolution. "How would you like your elected official arrested on a trip to a meeting in Washington?" Zimmerman would respond if asked to consider any elected office. He, Martin and Elizabeth had no problem, however, in offering their services to the advisory boards that crafted the framework of the new republic. In his "last letter" he was copious in his praise of the policy drafted by his two closest colleagues.

Photo by Kristina Elaine Greer
Photo by Kristina Elaine Greer.

(to be continued) [click to read]

Copyright © 2015, The Kirchman Studio, all rights reserved

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

THYME Magazine: The Bridge Builder's Tale XX

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor


This is no time for ease and comfort. It is time to dare and endure!" -- Sir Winston Churchill

There was no adolescent culture in Wales or on Big Diomede. If George Washington could become a surveyor at age sixteen, teens could join in the great work of their elders. Greene, the man who had taught Rupert how to pray, had preached his first sermon on prayer at the age of nineteen! It was good! Zimmerman, as part of his own discipleship, obtained a copy of it. Laura Ingalls Wilder had taught school at seventeen. Building a new country required many hands, and people were learning again how to train their own replacements.

If one chose not to participate in the work of the Alaska Republic, one did not eat. Now there was plenty of work to be done maintaining the ever growing number of roads in the North country and one could always join a maintenance crew to obtain enough to live on. You were free to move on and free to join in again, but only the disabled, elderly and mothers with young children could obtain government help. Most of the young mothers preferred the 'data processing' option where they got issued a small computer and were paid by the job. [1.]

There was no "under the table" economy to speak of, simply the realization that there was a smoother entry level one with a simple yearly license fee so that all participated in the greater economy. It was something like five petrodollars, the cost of a sandwich at the service plaza. After you reached a certain salary level you paid that plus a small percentage. There was no bracketed disincentive to going higher. There was no minimum wage either. For five bucks a teenage Entrepreneur could start his or her own company and that fee let you have your own website. Reporting requirements were nonexistent until you made really serious money... and the handful of youngsters who did hit the ceiling wore it as a badge of honor! Since so few people received government assistance it was an incentive to simply hire oneself out to a greenhouse farmer for a while. The oil and gas leases on public lands actually resulted in citizen bonus checks. Alaskans had received these benefits before the Republic, but now the shares paid more as the public land leases exploded. Some of the energy profits were taxed to provide endowments to improve medical facilities.

Healthcare in Alaska was largely a free market item. You would always get a "private option" bill from the provider. Most people paid the bulk of their care straight out of their own funds and this was counted as pre-tax dollars. What you couldn't pay was financed at a fairly low interest rate, or no interest at all if you had minimal earnings. You could buy any kind of health insurance you wanted, but the most economical package was one that only paid for catastrophic expenses. Public involvement was limited to underwriting those unfortunate situations where a person's care exceeded any reasonable ability to ever be paid off. In the 'lower 48,' large hospitals were writing off large amounts of 'uncollectable' billing while bearing down on those who had some means to pay. The Republic stepped in to cover the catastrophic loss. Private individuals were expected to cover their care up to a fairly high amount but were extended quite a bit of grace and time in fulfilling that.

The end result here was that the hard haggling over what was 'covered' never really affected care decisions between doctors and their patients. Hospitals with excessive costs might have to write off some care given now and restrict some procedures in the future. The resulting choice and competition along with the government's limited participation, far removed from individual incentive, resulted in lower costs and better options. Alaskans had never enjoyed better medical care. Alaska Petrodollars would also buy you care at Johns Hopkins or the Mayo Clinic in the 'lower 48.' These institutions fought fiercely to maintain their private options, knowing that the freedom resulted in the ability to deliver better care.


(to be continued) [click to read]

Copyright © 2015, The Kirchman Studio, all rights reserved

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

THYME Magazine: The Bridge Builder's Tale XIX

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor


Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones." -- Sir Winston Churchill

The more Rupert Zimmerman learned about Israel's progress, the more he was convinced that the possibility of Divine inspiration might actually exist. Portrayed by the world media as knuckle-dragging barbarians and oppressors, the people Rupert actually met there in his work were delightful and open-hearted. Even before the night he embraced his own faith in the Divine, on a night that began at the Greene's home and ended with his prayer on the bridge, Zimmerman had been the guest at many a Sedar meal. Here was the story of mankind's greatest struggle -- that of exile and exodus, and most of all REDEMPTION!, all told through the medium of a meal! Giggling children hiding the Afikomen were immersed in the great narrative of their people. But Zimmerman began to see that that great story had a place in the greater human narrative. Hadn't Abraham received the promise that through him ALL the nations of the Earth would be blessed?

Haroset, bitter herbs and young lamb mingled together to add illustration to an old story. In ancient times a covenant was often made within the context of a meal. Rupert's own redemptive story was now unmistakably flavored by sweet tea and macaroni and cheese. In the 1950's the American company Swanson created an invention known as the "TV Dinner." Families no longer conversed around the table, often "watching the news" instead of passing truth from generation to generation. Food was placed into individual compartments in a small aluminum tray, individualized for each diner. There were no more passed dishes. The family ate in silence as the television did all the talking.

Zimmerman remembered the great table at his grandparent's house in Virginia. The men in the shop would come to the house for a midday meal just like farm hands had done for years. Laughter and conversation flowed as all took a clear break from their duties and shared the life of the community. News was what might be happening at Ruritan this week, a ballgame with sons or grandsons, the beginning of fishing or hunting seasons... all shared joys close to home. There was an old pear tree in front of the house. If the children picked the windfall pears they might end up in a delicious dish of baked pears... coming out of the same oven as the macaroni! Real macaroni and cheese started with a purchase of hoop cheese at the country store and ended with a delicious baked brown crust! One unplanned benefit of bringing the Greenes to Big Diomede was that Kris could bake this dish perfectly!

How little we cherish those essential institutions which we carelessly cast aside in the pursuit of progress! The late Twentieth Century became the age of "heat and eat." Still, Rupert remembered fondly the "ice cream dates" with his own children. Their complicity in sneaking sweet treats into the house also resulted in some times of sweet sharing. Then there were the pancake parties where Rupert ladled the batter in a deliberate manner to create hearts and animals on the griddle for his children. He wished inwardly that he had done more of this. All three of his children were extremely creative. Had these mealtime memories given them the impression that this was indeed a good thing?

Pat and Rupert had rekindled those memories with Anna's first child. When the girl laid out a tea party, Zimmerman would phone his assistant and say "hold all calls." Somehow the man realized that children traded freely in the world of creative wonder. So many adults lived in a world of repetitive motion. The old man struggled to keep his own creative edge in his work and would often return to his studios from a "tea party" with renewed insight for his own work. Pat sometimes groaned as her husband felt compelled to point out the form of animals in the clouds. "You don't do that with your colleagues, do you?" she once asked. "No." he responded. Knowing that the truth of the matter was that he only did so with his most trusted ones.

Zimmerman had on his staff a number of young women who had babies. "Motherhood," Rupert asserted, "necessitated invention!" He made sure they had places with older ladies to care for the infants right in the complex at Wales but insisted that this "company benefit" extended to the priviledge of the freedom to nurse the children as necessary. One's first bonding with another human being, Rupert noticed, was that of a child and his mother... a sharing of food that extended to the warm contact between two beings! If the complex at Wales was austere in its passageways, the childrens' rooms more than made up for it. Soft light played off of many murals and colorful furnishings. Older children could play under the domes of smaller versions of his biosphere. There were plenty of secret places for a child to hide in.

It was not all that uncommon to see a well-renowned engineer from Martin and Elizabeth's studios breaking a creative block with a walk through these "children's gardens."


(to be continued) [click to read]

Copyright © 2015, The Kirchman Studio, all rights reserved