I’m David Milliken. I graduated from The Ohio State University with a major in international studies (Latin American focus). My Masters in English is from Idaho State University. I have been a community college administrator, public information officer, employment trainer, tutor on a reservation, brick salesman, and erstwhile political candidate. For thirteen years the chamber of commerce industry gave me freedom and a sense of mission in community promotion and development. For the last few years I have been an independent, PR contractor to an Internet-based, legal service enterprise. We provide registered agents to serve companies operating outside of their home state. Over all, I claim a working life in communications.
My Interest in Career and Livelihood. Liberal arts types tend to be curious about everything. This can be good and less good. I have concluded that other paths for me would have been just that — other paths with their own ordeals and rewards. I have had the livelihoods an English major is likely to have — or perhaps anyone with a dreaming, philosophical, questing bent.
Like Odysseus I went to sea. Hindsight being perfect and however ironic, the island I departed most reluctantly was the United States Navy. I am quite nostalgic about those years. I recommend this huge, military institution to the young for amenable structure, discipline, experience, even great freedom within its culture. As a Naval officer I served in Vietnam aboard the USS Carter Hall (LSD-3) — that’s a dock landing ship used in amphibious operations. Before she was decommissioned after a distinguished record, the Carter Hall was one of the last ships propelled by steam reciprocating engines. We called them Thumper One and Thumper Two. Their rhythm and vibration were always reassuring, comforting. And she, our shipmates and I thumped around the Pacific and South China Sea — upwards of 6 knots. She was built for 17, but slowed down after 20 years of service. In her declining years Carter Hall even worked to assist whales in distress. She was slow but steady.
Life as Quest. “I’m going, lads, to Sparta,” said Odysseus to his crew,” but I still don’t know what fate may have in store nor what my own mind wants; slowly, by what I see and do, I’ll work things out” — Nikos Kazantzakis from “The Odyssey,” III, 576-578.
What is a “factor? I am most interested in three of four meanings of the word. The first two of these are obsolete but relevant here: 1) a maker, master, author, doer of anything; 2) a partisan worker or adherent; and 3) one of the elements, circumstances or influences that contribute to produce a result, a constituent. I am interested in tortoise-like traits and behavior as illustrated in humans. A fourth meaning, of course, is one who acts or transacts business for another, an agent, substitute, a mercantile agent or merchant. In colonial America the sot-weed factor was a tobacco merchant.
Why the “tortoise factor?” The tortoise represents in the medieval bestiary of fables certain habits and traits of moral significance — especially in contrast to habits and traits of other animals, e.g. the hare, geese, eagles and others. For adults I recommend frequent visits back to these fables as they profoundly apply to our world today.“ My American Heritage Dictionary gives an archaic definition of “fabling” as recounting as if true. In a broader sense fable is synonymous with fiction. I have no issue with digging up archaic meanings in search if enduring meaning.
My Tortoise Philosophy. Yes, well, and as author and editor, I wear the tortoise shell glasses. I operate this web log from the pleasant Kansas City area where I have my being in Sherwood Forest, a former park full of ancient oak, elm and gum trees. I live with my wife and two terriers. I read a great deal; and at last, in my cellar hide I write. We like movies, especially independent, small films. I putter about house and yard — and ride my bicycle. While I can walk on land, my limbs and spirit are better adapted to a watery environment.
I believe that Odysseus is right about working things out — all of the life planning and goal setting aside. Fate still shapes life by happenings beyond one’s control; and also, of course, human behavior, whether by good sense, folly or ignorance, shapes the rest. The goal, often a life-long pursuit, is knowing what one wants. The irony? Some people always sensed, however faintly, what they wanted in the beginning; but first, they tried everything else. Alas, in youth we are least prepared to make serious decisions. Do I regret not being practical? No, I regret not being also practical, i.e. being a poetic engineer.
Sometimes we get by with a little help from our friends and relatives. The earlier career mistakes occur the better. The sooner one finds his muse the better; but there is life after layoff, firing, bad luck, getting lost, stupid acts and many more setbacks. I hope this truth lies deep in the intent and meaning of The Tortoise Factor. We move forward steadfastly, cautiously.
I am not Odysseus, but my life has been richer for all the hours passed in literature. Reading is experience. Literature has been the companion who helped me make sense of life. I mean literature, cram-packed with thoughts, ideas, characters, tears and laughter. Decidedly lacking his poetic talent, I am still a Romantic and sympathetic with the perennially idealistic Shelley — fascinated and awed by life and intellectual beauty.
That’s what the Tortoise Factor and the Tortoise Philosophy are all about. Life requires good camouflage and a shell enabling essential retreats from the madness. And I’ve always liked the occasional foray into a cause; but I’ve learned much about man-made beasts bigger than I. Keeping an eye on the back trail, occasionally one can still pull the tail of a beast or two. Beware, however, of over-complication (I have been a master at it.) and mere shows of strength. They lead to Pyrrhic victories. By her nature the tortoise knows better. Contemplating the animals is quite worthwhile.
I want WWW.thetortoisefactor.com to be an odyssey of thought and reflection. In life we are affected by panic, optimism and fear — not necessarily in that order. Our strongest virtue in the face of these is perseverance. And we have only each other and the animals for company who are masters at perseverance. We are companions on a trail. Humans long for the unconditional and animals offer it — best that we remember this. And for the tortoises especially, the vibrations, oh, the vibrations are the best warnings of danger and prospect. There is a Creator God.
Leave comments. For private comment my email address is below. They will remain private. Throw me some fresh, green leaves — especially artichokes. Throw me an argument. To be honest I am miserable without a way to plummet the world with words. I desire to make sense and to be a little useful. I look for guest contributors. Make yourselves known.
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