Month: February 2006

Walleye Chowder

Walleye Chowder

This is an easy recipe using fresh walley, preferably caught from a sparkling Minnesota lake. Should take just 45 minutes, and much of that time can be spent relaxing or downing shots of icy cold vodka.

2 eight-ounce walleye filets 
3 strips diced bacon 
1⁄2 cup diced celery 
1 large yellow onion 
2 cups quartered red potatoes 
3 cups milk 
1⁄2 cup whipping cream 
1⁄4 cup flour 
3 tbsp butter 
2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley 
Salt & pepper to taste 

Put the butter into a large stock pot to melt over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and quickly saute until the bacon begins to crisp. 

Add the celery and onions, saute both until onions turn slightly opaque. Then add flour to form a roux. Stir until the roux blends with the butter, forming an almost paste-like consistency. Then add milk. Be sure to use cold milk to prevent lumping. You can adjust the thickness at this point. To thin it, simply add chicken stock, milk or water. 

Add the potatoes and chunks of fish and stir gently. Use a whisk and be careful not to break up the delicate pieces of walleye. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 40 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through. 

Then, add the whipping cream and stir gently, then put in bowls. Add salt and pepper to taste and garnish with parsley.

The Last Man of An Ancient Culture

By Ken Korczak

(Note: My contact on this truly bizarre story swears it’s 100% true. The caller asked to remain anonymous — you’ll soon understand why!)

In the northern part of Kittson County, Minnesota, which borders Canada, are the wild woods of Caribou Township. Few people dwell here, but my brother who lives in nearby Lancaster says he knows of a few “old hermits” in those woods.

When you write about the paranormal for as long as I have, you develop an intuition about where a good story might be hiding. Whenever I hear about people living in isolation, chances are that something about them is different from normal. So after asking around, I was delighted to uncover this spooky story of an old Caribou hermit who died back in the 1970s.

This old man had contact with almost no one, except for the two people that told me this story. I’ll call them Dan and Clare.

Back in the 1970s Dan and Clare were newly married. Dan was from the Twin Cities, but Clare was born and raised in the rural Lancaster area. One of the first thing she told her new husband was that she had a “special great uncle” who lived like a hermit deep in the Caribou woods. He was some 90 years old. She was his only connection to civilization.

The old man was originally from Wales, England. He came over with his wife, who died in the late 1950s. They had no children.

The reason they came to America and had settled so deeply and isolated in the woods was because they were both members of an ancient, extinct religion, which Clare said was pronounced something like Gwer Gith I Noone, or perhaps Gwer Geth High Noon.

Gwer Geth High Noon, as I’ll call it, supposedly was a secret society, a “hidden” European culture or religion that perhaps dated back to neolithic times. Clara said she gathered from talking to her Great Uncle, who spoke only crude English, that he and his wife were among the last survivors of Gwer Geth High Noon, whom were driven out of Europe by the coming of modern times.

The old man and his wife escaped to the woods of Caribou township where they could live out the rest of their lives, the last of their kind.

Gwer Geth High Noon was based on the worship of various nature gods. Stones were of particular importance. The members of Gwer Geth High Noon apparently believed that the heavier the stone, the more its power “bent the world,” whatever that meant. They also held trees in high regard, especially oaks.

Clare and Dan took care of the man as he grew older, although he was remarkably self sufficient. He had lived for years on deer, rabbit, and even raccoon meat. They said he made a vile drink by boiling tree bark. (Note: a popular food supplement today called pycnoginal can be found in health food stores and is made from tree bark extract. It is high in vitamin C and other healthy nutrients).

Anyway, one day when Clare went to check on her uncle, she found him dead. He was was reclined peacefully on his rude bed made from torn up rags on the floor. In his hand was a branch from an oak tree.

Clare was shocked to find that the man had left behind instructions on how and where he wanted to be buried. The instructions were in symbol form, drawn on the cured hide of a deer, using some kind of plant-based pigment, perhaps blueberries. The parchment contained a detailed symbolic map which showed exactly where his grave must be dug.

Apparently, there was some kind of stone monument in the woods, next to which he had buried his wife many years ago. He wanted to be planted by her side under the sacred stone. The map cleverly showed the way to the stone, using natural formations as guideposts.

At first Clare and Dan didn’t know what to do. They knew it was illegal to bury someone in the woods. They were also legally obligated to report his death, but were unsure if they should do so. If they did, they could not honor his last wish.

This man may have been the last member of an ancient, hidden culture that had survived since the Stone Age. To have him buried in a cemetery full of Scandinavian Protestants or Polish Catholics, the majority among northern Minnesotans, just didn’t seem right. He could have been cremated, but Clare was certain that this violated the tenets of Gwer Geth High Noon.

Letting the dead old man rest on his bed of rags, Clare and Dan decided to see if they could follow the map and find the stone monument in the woods.

The map proved remarkably easy to follow, and within 25 minutes of traipsing through thick woods, they found the monument indicated on the map — except it was not made out of stone — it was an international border pylon signifying the U.S.- Canadain border.

The tall slender pylon indeed might be mistaken for some kind of sacred monolith by a man from a different culture, and a different time. Dan and Clare knew they had real trouble now. Burying a crazy old man in the woods was one thing, but digging a grave next to an international border pylon must violate about 100 federal or international laws! What to do, what to do?

After a few hours of soul searching, Clare and Dan could not decide what was best. They needed more time to think, and judged that one more day would make little difference. It was early October and quite cold outside. The old man’s shack was not heated, so he would preserve fairly well for at least another day.

That night they went over and over it with each other. One of the things that touched them strongly was the fact that his poor wife was already buried out there in the woods, alone and waiting for her husband to join her in eternity. It didn’t seem right to leave her there alone, against the kindly old uncle’s wishes.

Still, Dan and Clare were respectable law abiding citizens. They were Lutherans. Before going to bed, they had decided to go by the book, and call the county coroner in the morning.

But that night was the second scariest of their lives. After a few minutes in bed, they began to hear loud footsteps walking toward their bed in the dark bedroom. It sounded like “heavy cowboy boots clomping on a hardwood floor,” they said. They could also hear “raspy breathing.” When they turned on the lights, no one could be seen. As soon as they turned the lights off, the heavy footsteps walking up to the edge of the bed would sound again.

After experiencing this a half-dozen times, they decided to sleep with the lights on, but the light burned out within minutes. As they scrambled for another bulb, they could hear the footsteps racing toward them! By this time is was 2 a.m. and they were dead tired. (No pun intended).

Finally, Clare shouted: “Okay, okay, Uncle XXXX! We get the message! We’ll honor your last wishes! We’ll bury you next to the sacred stone in the woods, next to your beloved wife!”

After this they heard the footsteps no more, although they slept in the living room with all the lights on.

PART II

Dan and Clare could not believe what they were about to do, but after a night of sleepless terror, they felt more compelled than ever to finish what they knew they must.

The task ahead of them was grisly. They had to carry the corpse of the old man about a half-hour’s walk through the tangled brush of the northern Minnesota woods. By moonlight, they needed to locate the metallic pylon marking the U.S.-Canada border. Once there, they would dig a grave in the hard ground, not yet frozen, but mighty cold, and most likely filled with tangled roots, rocks and undergrowth.

It was early October but the ground was not yet frozen. On any other occasion, the evening might be considered pleasant in a brisk, autumn sort of way. The moon would come up gibbous, and would cast plentiful light. Clare and Dan were actually glad that only a pale lunar glow would illuminate the lurid burial ritual which they must carry out illegally by modern law, but orthodoxly under the ancient precepts of Gwer Geth High Noon.

Dan and Clare arrived at the old man’s shack just before sundown, and even though they were deep in the woods, they waited for darkness before they dared carry the body outside and begin the old man’s final earthly journey. They half expected his body to be gone after presumably hearing his footsteps all through the previous night, but the old man was there on his bed of rags, very dead.

The wait for darkness was nerve-wracking and interminable. But as deep purple twilight set in, they wrapped the body in thick blankets, and using a small trailer which they could pull by hand, they towed the body into the woods.

The trip through the woods proved extremely difficult. They had to abandon the trailer after just a 100 yards because it kept catching on brush and branches. Several times the old man’s body rolled off onto the ground, to the great dismay of both Clare and Dan.

Every time this happened, Clare cried out “Elgrowtrin-O’lel-Galon!” She had learned this phrase from her uncle, and believed it was Gwer Geth High Noon canticle against negative forces. If any of the ancient nature gods were still awake, Clare was eager to have their blessing on this macabre processional.

But eventually Dan was obliged to heave the stiff corpse over his shoulder and weave his way through the woods, following Clare, who held a dim red lamp to help illuminate the way. The gibbous moon was already above the horizon as they reached the half-way point.

Dan put the body down and rested for a bit. Clare tightened up the twine which wrapped the body. Then they were off again through the thick wilderness. The trees were mostly bare, but were still thick enough to filter much of the moonlight, exaggerating the gloom. As they walked, each dry branch they stepped on cracked loud enough to be heard half way to Winnipeg, or so it seemed to the jittery couple.

After what seemed like hours they finally spied the border pylon among the brush and woods, gleaming dull silver as it reflected a tricky moonbeam that found its way through the maze of branches overhead.

Thankfully, Dan put the body down but didn’t take a minute to rest before he grabbed the spade from Clare and began to dig the grave. If the old man had really buried his wife here some 20 years ago, there was no sign of a grave now. Dan didn’t let himself think about this as he worked the shovel through the difficult turf.

The digging proved exceedingly laborious. They hit roots and rocks aplenty. The ground was cold, hard and sometimes gravelly. Clare took her turn at the shovel. They decided quickly not to go very deep, although they wanted to dig deep enough to prevent an animal from rooting him up, or worse, having the frost push him up next spring.

Dan and Clare wanted to sleep nights from here on, and having this body firmly planted beneath the good, rocky, Minnesota-Manitoba regolith was their best insurance of that!

After the hole was some four feet deep, Dan took the shovel from his wife and said: “I’ll take 20 more scoops and then we’ll call it good enough.”

Clare agreed and held their red lantern high so that Dan could see his work. Dan had the hole deep enough, so now he was just taking slices around the edges to widen it out a bit. Suddenly, the shovel made a sickening crunching sound. Clare held the lamp closer and cried out at the top of her lungs:

“Elgrowtrin-O’lel-Galon!!”

For Dan’s shovel and struck and penetrated the skull of the old man’s wife, and part of her mottled, old skeleton now rolled out of from the side of the grave and fell down at his feet.

Dan screamed loudly and jumped out of the grave with the shovel still in his hand. They both shrieked again when they noticed that her split skull was still clamped over the pointy end of the spade.

Clare said: “Elgrowtrin-O’lel-Galon! Dan, put her head back in the grave!”

Dan put his foot on the skull, pushed it off the spade and dropped it into the grave. Clare slugged him hard on the upper arm. “Not like that, you moron! You don’t kick somebody’s head off a shovel into a grave!”

Dan countered: “Oh, and I suppose you wanted to pull her off with your hands?!”

“Oh for Christ’s sake!” Clare screamed.

Dan said: “Hey, watch what you’re saying! This is Gwer Geth High Noon, isn’t it!?”

Clare grabbed her forehead and said nothing. They both controlled whatever further comments they had and moved quickly to lower the body of the old man into the grave, and into the bony arms of his wife.

They wanted nothing more than to be finished and to get out of the woods, but they stayed long enough to make certain that the grave was not only well covered with soil, but also covered with brush and pieces of wood to conceal it further.

When they were finally finished, they hastened their way back. About 200 yards along the way, Clare tripped, and was aghast to notice that she had tripped on the old man’s boot, which had somehow fallen off. Dan grabbed it and flung it into the woods.

As they continued, they suddenly heard a loud sound of crunching branches and brush, as if something was running through the woods chasing them from behind! Their hearts exploded in their chests. Dan grabbed Clare’s hand and shouted, “Run!”

As they sprinted through the woods, Dan thought: “We’ve been sighted by the Border Patrol! They’re after us!”

Clare thought: “Uncle’s XXX’s has called an avenging Nature Spirit on us! He’s angry because we split Aunt XXX’s skull!”

As they ran, the crashing noise got closer. Dan tripped hard and Clare fell over top of him. The crashing noise was almost upon them. “We’re caught!” they thought.

An instant later, Dan and Clare saw a huge black shape move past them, missing them by a mere three feet — it was a gigantic moose, loping through the moonlit woods.

They would have felt relief if their nerves were not so jangled. They got up and moved at good speed back to the old man’s shack, got in their pick-up truck and drove home.

When they got home, they were astonished by their appearance in the mirror — they looked like haggard coal miners — dirty, white-eyed, leaves and branches stuck in their hair and clothes.

That night they slept little. But Clare finally drifted off and had this subtle dream: She fancied that it was 25-below zero on a January night, and that she had somehow traveled out to the see her old uncle’s resting place. Once there, she saw that the snow had drifted high in the woods, and only the peak of the border pylon stuck out from the snow, glinting silver under bright icy moonlight.

She shivered.

You Don’t Exist

By Ken Korczak

What are you worried about right now?

Well, it’s an almost guarantee that you are worried about nothing, for the very reason that you don’t exist!

You have no worries because you have no mind or body or life to worry with — it’s all an illusion. No worries, but more significantly, no worrier.

If you think this sounds like utter nonsense, some of the most brilliant scientists, philosophers and theological thinkers of our century would disagree with you.

Science and math suggest that we humans don’t exist, (even though there is really no math or science — more illusions!)

The advent of quantum mechanics and modern physics increasingly imply that our existence as human beings is a kind of persistent illusion. We are under the false assumption that we’re people, we only imagine we have bodies and brains, and minds functioning inside those brains. Illusions, all of it.

Listen to what one of the greatest physicists of the century, Authur Eddington said of quantum theories:

“In the world of physics…the shadow of my elbow rests on the shadow table as the shadow ink flows over the shadow paper…the frank realization that physical science is concerned with a world of shadow is one of the most significant of recent advances.”

By “shadow” Eddington meant illusion. More than any other science, it is particle physics that is confronting the fundamentals of reality, and more and more, the evidence point to the fact there is no reality!

For the past 300-some years, the world has been under the impression that everything is made up of atoms, “the building blocks of the universe.” It was the great Isaac Newton who solidified our impression that atoms were like billiard balls. Pile enough of them on top of each other, set them in motion and you get rocks, trees, animals and people.

But in 1900 Albert Einstein’s hero, the brilliant Max Planck, revealed some incredibly disturbing discoveries he made while trying to solve problems concerning the radiation of energy.

To make a long story short, Planck was forced to conclude that matter at its most fundamental level is not continuous, not solid. There are no tiny billiard balls. When you break down an atom, you get an electron, a proton and maybe a neutron. But it turns out these are not the smallest units either. You can break things down further to bosons, quarks, W particles, tachyons and a lot of other shadowy “things” that just sort of wink in and out of existence.

Where do things go when they “wink out?” Nowhere! They cease to exist! Then they come back again.

So what? you might ask. Well, as you know, the human body is made up from the fundamental elements of nature. We are mostly water, but we also have iron in our blood, calcium in our bones, and such. But each of those substances are made up of individual atoms, which in turn are made up of ghostly bits of nothing that just sort of come and go, in and out of reality.

Scientists call this blinking process “quantum fluctuation.”

So when the elements of your body fluctuate, so does your body, and so do you! So does you brain and the chemicals in your brain! In fact, you may be in a state of nothingness more often than you are in a state of somethingness (even though there really is no somethingness!)

As the currently popular medical guru Depack Chopra points out, all of us our dead (nonexistent) for much of the time, yet we are all constantly afraid of dying, not realizing we are dead much of the time! (Oh by the way, there’s no such thing as time either. Einstein proved it was an illusion, but we won’t get into that right now).

Even at its most solid state, the atom turns out to be not very solid at all. Atoms are 99.999999 empty space. If the nucleus of an atom were the size of a ping-pong ball, and if you were to place it in the center of a large football stadium, the electrons that orbit around the nucleus would be at the outer walls of the stadium.

What is between the nucleus and the electron? Nothing! And what are the nucleus and electron made from? Smaller and smaller bits of energy which are not solid, but actually whirling fragments of light.

Even a block of solid lead is nothing and light, acting as “something.” So is your car. So are the chemicals in your brain. So are you.

Once during a long, boring drive from Grand Forks to southern Missouri with one of my graduate school professors, we became embroiled in a lengthy debate about the deep issues of the universe. I argued that all was illusion, and he argued for solid reality. When I mentioned the unreal nature of fundamental particles, he said:

“That makes no difference! All this means is that these flucuating bits of energy are what we are made out of — but we are still us, still the same, still real solid people. Are your saying is that we are more fundamental than atoms.”

He also said: “If I whacked you with a baseball bat, I bet your pain wouldn’t feel like an illusion!”

At the time, I was stumped to answer because that was before I understood the nature — or more accurately — the mechanics of illusion. I didn’t realize that even our argument was an illusion!

The fact is, my professor and I could have argued for years on end and neither of us would have convinced the other because BOTH of our aurguments were false! Why? Because neither of our arguments exist!

The fact is, language is one of the primary ways in which we become deceived into believing in solid reality. Once a creature reaches the stage where it can manipulate symbolic language, you can bet that creature is deeply buried under many layers of illusion.

I also should have quoted the Uncertainty Principle and the Incompleteness Theorm to my professor.

You see, the idea that language is all illusion is not a simple belief, but a fact which has been proved mathematically. Back in the 1920s, a German math genius by the name of Kurt Godel produced a rigorous mathematical demonstration which showed that all logic was ultimately self contradictory.

Godel’s proof is known as Godel’s Theorm, but also as the Incompleteness Theorm. It states this:

“It is impossible to to establish the logical consistency of any complex deductive system except by assuming principles of reasoning whose own internal consistency is an open question as that of the system itself.”

Whew! That’s just a fancy way of saying that, no matter what your viewpoint — it’s wrong! You will never be able to convince someone of what you believe because all rhetoric is, by nature, fundamentally inconsistent.

That’s why arguing politics and religion is so frustrating — no one is ever right, literally! All arguments are rigged from the start!
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But there’s even more bad news for reality. It’s called the Heisenbreg Uncertainty principle, suggested and later proved by one of the fathers of quantum mechanics, the great Werner Heisenberg. His principle states:

“The position and the velocity of an object cannot both be measured exactly, at the same time, not even in theory. The very concepts of exact position and exact velocity together, in fact, have no meaning in nature.”

What this means is that physical objects cannot be pinned down to absolutely exist in any one place at any given time. Like Godel’s Theorm, this principle comes with a rigorous mathemetical proof.

So not only are all verbal arugments fundamentally inconsistent, and therefore false, but physical matter ultimately cannot be measured.

As one physicist put it:

“Our conception of substance is only vivid so long as we do not face it. It begins to fade when we analyze it … the solid substance of things is another illusion … we have chased the solid substance from the continuous liquid to the atom, from the atom to the electron, and there we have lost it.”

It’s amazing how complimentary Godel’s Theorm and the Uncertainty Principle are — they both devastate the idea of a solid physcial world filled with ultimate “truths.” There are no objects, no people and no truth. We’ve only been tricked into thinking so, as weird as this sounds.

Who have we been tricked by? Ourselves! And we don’t exist! Odd!

You might ask: How does knowing that you don’t exist help you with your daily troubles? Well, in fact, it helps a lot. Indeed, this knowledge can lead you to an extreme state of happiness, even bliss. How?

By getting to work at realizing that you are buried under many layers of very tricky, persistent illusions, which because of their mathematical inconsistency, are driving you nuts! It seems like you can never find ultimate truth, true peace and the purest of love becaue you are trying to get these things under the false assumption that they exist in some real way. They don’t. And neither does pain, suffering and worry.

The greater degree to which you become aware that you and your world is all sticky illusion, the greater your feeling of being happy, loving and truthful will become. Why this is so becomes plain when we give a more conventional example of how illusions cause pain.

We all know someone who has mistaken money for what money represents, or mistaken money for happiness. Money itself is just paper, a symbol which rerpresents material goods. Some people fall under the illusion that money is an end it itself, so they mindlessly persue more and more of the green stuff until they have a heart attack and die.

All would agree it’s good to be free of the illusion of money and materialism.

Well, as it turns out, the more illusions we get rid of, the better off we are. Getting rid of illusions like money, drugs and sex addictions is easy compared to getting rid of major illusions like death, time, language, and physical existence, but it’s far from impossible.

I should warn you also, that the more you try to achieve happiness, the worse off you’re likely to get because happiness is an illusory concept which does not exist. You’ll get very frustrated, although frustration does not exist either. Sorry.

So it’s better to work on getting rid of illusions themselves and let the rest take care of itself.

The brilliant psychologist-philospher-author Ken Wilber describes seven layers of illusion in his groundbreaking book, The Spectrum of Consciousness. In this book, Wilber takes you step by step through the kind of illusions human are trapped within, from Nothing to the deepest layer of illusion, which he calls “dualisms.”

The more you understand the nature of illusions, the various kinds of illusions, (especially language, time, the separation of objects in space) the more likely you are to find your way out.

This is what Zen and other forms of meditation are about — to get you to stop thinking so that the ultimate silence of the greater reality of Nothing can be realized.

But as any Zen master would warn you, the minute you start thinking that Zen meditation is going to help you, or that the Zen philosophy is going to help you, or any philosophy or any religion — in that assumption you get lost again!

What’s truly weird about illusion is that you have to use illusions to get rid of them, and it’s hard describe how this gets done. Remember Godel’s Theorm: all arugments based in language are fundamentally inconsistent, and therefore, just more traps.

Even what you are reading here right now is a trap, though this article strives to point out the fact that you are trapped by illusions! But I think it’s at least better to know you’re in jail, than being in jail and thinking this prison we call “life” is our true home.

Some might say: “Okay, but it’s better to exist as an illusion that suffers than to be nothing at all!”

So let me throw you this bone: The big Nothing scientists and philosophers speak of is not so much the complete lack of anything, as it is a singularity of pure Virtual Potential. It does not exist, but has the potential to exist if it wants to. It’s Nothing, but a kind of dynamic Nothing. Whatever. Words and labels are tricky.

But the reason you have the illusion of being, along with its joy and suffering — you want it. At the same time, you can have the bliss of realizing Infinite Potential without the suffering of the illusion of objective existence. In fact, this is your condition right now. You just don’t know it. It’s weird.

A lot of people who read this article are going to say: “Jeez! What a load of utter nonsense!”

And guess what? They’re right!