The VigilanceVoice
Wednesday- April 3, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 204

Message Of Vigilance--
In A Bottle From Reno, Nevada...
Cliff McKenzie
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

        GROUND ZERO, New York City, April 3--Messages of Vigilance come in many forms.
        Some are stuffed in bottles set upon the oceans of time.  Some of these lonely voyagers find their way to shore.  Their mission is to remind those who open them Hope exists, even if it is trapped in a bottle floating at sea.
        Centuries ago in Greek Mythology, Prometheus opened Pandora's Box.  Out of the box flew the Seven Deadly Sins--pride, anger, greed, lust, envy, gluttony and sloth.  Frightened more sins might escape, Prometheus slammed the lid shut.  What he didn't realize was he shut it too soon, for the last item hidden in the box was Hope, which would have neutralized and overshadowed the power of the Seven Deadly Sins.
        It is easy to give up Hope.  It is easy to slam the lid of Pandora's Box shut too soon.
        We can look at the world and shrug our shoulders, tiring of hearing about all the conflicts in the Middle East that seem as ancient as the sands of time, or, we can hurry past the nightly news because the endless parade of crimes reported and oppressions conducted by others upon the innocent sours our taste for the goodness of life.
        We can also give up on our Dreams.  We can look out at the horizon of our lives and see ours Dreams dwarfed by Reality--ground down to tiny grains of sand on a beach littered with bleached skeletons of Dreams that have died long ago, but occasionally wash to shore as a warning that to Dream again is a futile waste of time.   I call this the Terrorism of Dreams.
       This form of Terrorism is to make us feel we are "nobodies" in a sea of "somebodies."  Trapped in the prison of Complacency that locks our Dreams from having any chance of growing, we look at the world from inside a dusty bottle of self-defeat, of self-loathing for "what we haven't done," or what we "haven't accomplished."   As we scan our lives, we see the world around  flourishing. Others appear to build upon their dreams while ours have been trampled by time and circumstance.   We get seasick bobbing up and down.   Our Sea of Dreams rises and falls on heaving swells, tossed about by the winds and rains of  "should have dones," or "could have dones."  Our lives are ruts, carved deeper than a grave.
       Many of us, including me, often awake to the day wondering if it will be like yesterday, or the day before--"just another day of futility in making the dream come true."
       On days like that it seems the earth has ruptured and Hope has been swallowed into its bowels.  But Hope leaves behind an hourglass.  It's sand drips down, reminding us that Time erases the Hope of Dreams, that we are too late to catch the rainbow, that opportunity has passed and we are stranded.  
We wallow in this belief until something happens to change this false, Hopeless outlook.
      Some event can renew the thin strands of Hope slipping through our tired and aging fingers.  Such an event can instill in us Hope is still alive and thriving--that it might not be dead after all--that we might not be victims of our own demise, that the shadows of failure have not covered all our being--yet.
      That's where messages in bottles come into play.  
      When they drop out of the sky with ribbons and bows on them  we can see Hope inside.  We can see the final gift in Pandora's Box awaits its release.

  Below, I inserted some excerpts from Reader's Digest 1975 edition of Strange Stories, The vignettes record how bottles with messages cast upon empty seas have helped change lives, renewed Hope in those who may have lost theirs, and reinforced both those who sent the bottles and those who received them.  
      I need to believe that there is a bottle with a message of Hope bobbing on the seas for me.
      So does any Parent of Vigilance.
      If one is to shoulder the responsibility as either a Parent of Vigilance, a Citizen of Vigilance or a Loved One of Vigilance charged with the duty to fight off the Deadly Sins of Terrorism--Fear, Intimidation and Complacency--then one needs to believe in Messages in Bottles.
      At least I do.
      Vigilance requires reinforcement.  It needs to be shoved up through the wall of Complacency that blocks it.
      A parent who teaches a child to replace Fear with Courage, Intimidation with Conviction and Complacency with Action may not see the results of such teachings for years.   His or her child may still act in ways that suggest all the teachings have been futile.   The child may not operate on the same urgency of time as the parent or loved one who administers the Hope and Belief.  Vigilance requires patience, perseverance.  In some cases, it may be like waiting for a bottle to drift ashore with a message in it.
      We may never know how Vigilance works in those we offer it to.   It may spring to life at a time when it is most needed, and we may never be aware of its gestation or birth.  All we can know for sure is we planted the Seeds of Vigilance, that we faced Terrorism by offering our child or loved one Courage, Conviction and Action.  Whether that is enough to spark the fires of Hope, only the Universe really knows.  
      It has taken me over five decades to see Hope.  I struggled all my life to see it, and now I can, if only a glimpse of it on the horizon.
      I understand Hope operates on a time schedule that is different from mine.  I have to be cautious to remember that.
      Prometheus slammed Pandora's Box before Hope could escape.   I did too.   All I could see for years was the oppression of the Seven Deadly Sins swirling around my head and shoulders.  Outside I appeared big and bold and courageous, but inside swarmed the locust of self worthlessness.  Clouds of self-defeat blackened my horizons, shrouded the sunlight of Hope.  I was a tiny, lonely man inside, while appearing bold and brash and fearless on the outside.   I had no Dreams left.  My Hope was gone.
      On September 11, 2001, as I stood near the epicenter of Terrorism watching bodies leaping from buildings, hearing the cries of humanity wailing in agony, watching buildings collapse in a roar of angry hatred imposed upon the innocent by Terrorists who sought to cover America in a death shroud, Hope burst out of Pandora's Box.
      As Death stalked me that day and I huddled against a stone building with my arms comforting a group of women crying that we were all going to die, I refused Terrorism's invitation to be afraid.  I refused to be intimidated, to fall to the ground in the fetal position of complacency, writhing in anguish that I could do nothing to fight back.  I refused to resign myself to the whim of our government, our politicians to resolve the problem of Terrorism.  And, I refused the Terroristic thought that I wasn't worthy enough to fight the battle, that I didn't have the credibility or the status or name necessary to stand at the forefront of a hand-to-hand combat with Terrorism's Emotional and Physical venoms.
      I found myself no longer afraid to be a "Voice in the wind."
      I found myself no longer willing to suffocate my Dreams that I could make a difference in this world.
      I drew the line in the sand.
      So I began to write the Vigilance Voice.   I began to publish daily my Hope that one day the world might arm itself against Terrorism not only from without, but from within.   I created "weapons of neutralization," tools to provide protection Terrorism's fallout--Fear, Intimidation, Complacency.
      I stuffed messages in bottles--cyber bottles--and cast them upon the sea of cyberspace in hope that someone somewhere might read them, might uncork the Hope I was offering to anyone willing to listen.
      For two-hundred and three days I have stuffed messages in bottles about how to fight Terrorism with Vigilance.   I have no idea whether anyone ever read any of these missive because I never received any messages back that I personally didn't prompt, no sign from the vast shoreline of humanity that my thoughts and beliefs  were being read, or considered valuable.
     As the days grew in numbers, and the Terrorism of Silence deafened my ears, I began to wonder if anyone had found the messages I put in the bottles--or, if they did, whether they had any impact upon them.
     Daily, weekly, monthly, my Hope I was effective dwindled.   I caught myself searching for fragments of Hope, like the circus clown, who tries to sweep the spotlight into a tiny dot.  The spot of light I stood in shrank each day.  Hope I really was making a difference evaporated, leaving me to bob up and down in a growing Sea of Indifference.   My Fears, Intimidations and Complacencies grew in proportion to the lack of response to my webpage.  
     I even stopped dieting.   I stopped working out.   I could feel myself sliding back into a world where my Hopes and Dreams evaporated yet again...and my Voice was being smothered by winds that scattered them in a thousand pieces so they could not be heard.
     Then yesterday I got a bottle back.
     It came from Reno, Nevada.
     It had no name or note inside the bottle.
     But inside was a picture of a man.
     I knew who the man was.
     I knew what he represented to me and to the person who had sent the bottle.
     I knew at least one person had read my words, and had found value in them.
     I sat and looked at the picture.
     I was glad there was no writing on the paper that was enclosed to protect the picture.   Words cannot say what pictures describe.
     This bottle from Nevada came in the form of a envelope.   It had been in my mail box, postmarked March 18.   I had stopped going to my mailbox on a daily basis because it was empty each time I visited it.   Terrorism had gripped me.  I was terrorized that the world beyond my fingertips had no interest in what I was saying.  I had attached my self-worth on the expectations of others.
      Fear of an empty mailbox, the Intimidation I was a Voice in the wind, and the Complacency that no one cared and therefore why should I, all converged to drive me away from checking my mail--from seeing if anyone had found my "message in the cyberspace bottle."
      As I opened the envelope and stared at the picture this person sent, I could have just as easily been opening Pandora's Box for a second time, to look for the Hope that was waiting to escape.
       I sat for a long time staring at the picture, and then at the blank page of paper that protected it in a tri-fold.   I touched the paper, trying to feel the spirit of the anonymous person who had sent me the picture.  Was it a man or a woman?   Who were they?  What did they think?  Which story did they like best?   What didn't they like?   Were they old or young?  Did they have children?  Grandchildren?  What ethnicity were they?   What religious beliefs did they hold?   Had they taken the Pledge of Vigilance?   Did they print it up?  Did they sign it?
      Then I stopped.
      I was qualifying Hope.
      I was putting conditions on Hope.
      Hope, I realized, is pure.  It has no conditions attached, no parts of the whole.  It exists a priori--in and of itself.
      I put the picture back in the sheaf protecting it.  I studied the envelope again.
      I realized that the message I had received was about Perseverance.   The anonymous person who sent me the message was telling me to "keep my shoulder to the stone."
     That morning, yesterday, I had written a Conversation to God--About Peanuts and Vigilance. (link to yesterday's story).  In the Conversation, God told me to look at the Rock of Discouragement that I was shoving upwards as a mere wall of empty peanut shells.   He told me not to feel oppressed when I tried to push my messages up the hill.  He recited his own frustrations about trying to get His messages across.   He told me to have "Faith!"
      The Bottle Message From Reno, Nevada was an endorsement of that "Faith!".   As I opened the letter from Reno yesterday, it was as though God Himself (or Herself) had sent me a sign, a signal that Hope existed.  I felt a chill, a warm glow of awareness.
      I want to thank the messenger of Hope from Reno, Nevada.   Whoever you are, your message meant something very powerful to me.   Perhaps more than you might ever know.  For that, I am eternally grateful.
      And for those of you who wonder what the picture was--it was a picture of Hope.   Hope comes in many forms.   It usually exists all around us, but we find ourselves blind to it most of the time, or at least I do.
      Until, that is, someone or something opens my eyes to its presence.
      If you feel like I did, that whatever your Dreams are, they are shredded, mere fragments of what you once hoped they would become--don't give up!   Dreams never die.   They can be resurrected by a picture, or a child's hand squeezing yours, or by a shooting star arcing across the Heavens, or someone's smile, or an envelope with a blank piece of paper and a picture of Hope.
      Dreams are the fuel of Vigilance; nightmares the fuel of Terrorism.   When one gives up his or her Dreams, it leaves more room for the Nightmares to run free.
      Perhaps what I have written today can become your Bottle of Hope.   If you're wallowing in Dismay and Discouragement, lift your head above the quagmire.  Resurrect your Dreams.   There is Hope--it exists in the heart of Vigilance!
      Semper Vigilantes!

Message Bottles In History

compiled by Kraig Josiah Rice

The following 16 paragraphs of information in this chapter is from Reader's Digest Strange Stories, Amazing Facts, printed by the Reader's Digest Association, Inc., Pleasantville, New York in 1976.
* * *
Queen Elizabeth I of England in the 16th Century used bottles to carry intelligence reports. "Elizabeth I once received an intelligence report by this means and was so disconcerted to find it had been opened by a boatman at Dover that she appointed an official Uncorker of Bottles and decreed that no unauthorized person might open a message-carrying bottle, on pain of death."
                                                          * * *
"The strangest case was perhaps that of Chunosuke Matsuyama, a Japanese seaman who was wrecked with 44 shipmates in 1784. Shortly before he and his companions died of starvation on a Pacific coral reef, Matsuyama carved a brief account of their tragedy on a piece of wood, sealed it in a bottle, and then threw it into the sea. It was washed up 150 years later in 1935 at the very seaside village where Matsuyama had been born."
                                                          * * *

"When he was postmaster general for the American colonies, Benjamin Franklin realized that, because their whaler captains knew the currents much better than their English counterparts, American ships were crossing the Atlantic much quicker than the British mail packets. He therefore compiled a chart using both the whalers' lore and information he obtained by dropping bottles into the Gulf Stream and asking the finders to return them. The information he recorded is little changed today."
                                                          * * *

"In 1875 the crew of the Canadian bark Lennie mutinied and murdered the officers. A steward who was spared because he could navigate steered them to the French coast, telling them it was Spain, and surreptitiously dropped several bottles over the side revealing the whole story. The French authorities found one, boarded the ship, and arrested the surprised mutineers."
                                                          * * *

"Fragile as it is, a well-sealed bottle is one of the world's most seaworthy objects. It will bob safely through hurricanes that can sink great ships. And for most practical purposes glass lasts forever. In 1954, 18 bottles were salvaged from a ship sunk 250 years before off the English coast. The liquor in them was unrecognizable, but the bottles were good as new."
                                                          * * *

"It is impossible to predict the direction a bottle will take. Of two bottles dropped together off the Brazilian coast, one drifted east for 130 days and was found on a beach in Africa; the other floated northwest for 190 days, reaching Nicaragua."
                                                          * * *

"Speed is also bound to vary according to wind and current. A bottle might be completely becalmed or, if caught up by the Gulf Stream at its raciest, might travel along at four knots and cover as many as 100 miles a day."
                                                          * * *

"The longest bottle voyage ever is thought to have been made by a bottle known as the Flying Dutchman. It was launched by a German scientific expedition in 1929 in the southern Indian Ocean. Inside was a message, which could be read without breaking the bottle, asking the finder to report where he found it and throw it back into the sea.
                                                          * * *

It apparently caught an eastgoing current, which carried it to the southern tip of South America. There it was found, reported, and thrown back again several times. Eventually, it moved out into the Atlantic, then again into the Indian Ocean, passing roughly the spot where it had been dropped, and was cast ashore on the west coast of Australia in 1935. It had covered 16,000 miles in 2,447 days (a little over 6 1/2 years)-a respectable average of more than six nautical miles a day."
                                                          * * *

"In 1953 a bottle was found in Tasmania 37 years after it had been dropped overboard by two Australian soldiers on their way to France in a troopship. The mother of one of the soldiers recognized the handwriting of her son who had been killed in action in 1918." Historical note: Australia fought for her mother country, England, against Germany on the battlefields of France and Turkey during World War I. Remarkably, Tasmania is a State in the country of Australia.
                                                          * * *

"A message found on a beach in Maine in 1944 read: 'Our ship is sinking. SOS didn't do any good. Think it's the end. Maybe this message will get to the U.S. some day.' It was identified as coming from the USS Beatty, a destroyer torpedoed with heavy loss of life somewhere off Gibraltar on November 6, 1943." Historical note: the bottle from the sunken American warship floated to the shores of that country during World War II. The destroyer was probably sunk by a German submarine in the Atlantic Ocean off the Southwest coast of Spain.
                                                          * * *

"...both the British and U.S. Navies have used bottles extensively to compile intricate current charts. And the movements of oil slicks, mines, and even fish have been predicted with help of seaborne bottles."
                                                          * * *

"Paolina and Ake Viking were married in Sicily in the autumn of 1958, thanks to a far-traveling bottle. Two years earlier Ake, a bored young Swedish sailor on a ship far out at sea, had dropped a bottle overboard with a message asking any pretty girl who found it to write.Paolina's father, a Sicilian fisherman, picked it up and passed it to his daughter for a joke. Continuing the joke, Paolina sent off a note to the young sailor. The correspondence quickly grew warmer. Ake visited Sicily, and the marriage soon followed their first meeting."
"In the Lodi, California News Sentinel Newspaper appeared the following United Press International (UPI) article on Friday, September 6, 1985, entitled, "Message in a bottle found, in nine years." "Berlin- A message in a bottle dropped into the Baltic Sea was found nine years later in San Francisco, the East Berlin daily newspaper Tribune said Thursday. The bottle, with numbered message '4,764,'. was one of 13,000 'posted' into the sea at Oresund between Denmark and Sweden on August 7, 1976, by the East German Institute for Marine Studies in Warnemuende, the paper said."
                                                          * * *

In the Lodi, California News Sentinel Newspaper appeared the following UPI article on Friday, July13, 1984, entitled, "Note in bottle answered after almost two years." "South Portland, Maine-Nearly two years ago a South Portland boy wrote a note and stuck it in a bottle that was tossed into the Atlantic. He forgot about it but this week he got an answer from the Azores-more than 2,500 miles away.'I didn't think the bottle would make it,' said Wayne Broderick, Jr.,13, who wrote the note as part of a class project two years ago. 'I'm writing a letter back.' Broderick this week received a letter from Anna Isabel Chaves Sousa, 16, who lives on the island of Santa Maria.

He was a sixth-grade student of teacher Lynda Stofen at a local elementary school when he and his two-dozen classmates launched their message bottles with the help of a fisherman, who tossed them into the ocean. The girl wrote back that her brother, a fisherman, picked up the quart bottle at sea. Wayne's letter was the second from the school to net an answer. In November 1982, former sixth grader Frank Marston heard from a Spanish merchant navy captain of the Canary Islands off North Africa.

Miss Stofan said sea message projects are good writing, ocean and geography exercises as students speculate where the messages will drift. And Wayne said he also made a new friend. Anna asked him to be a pen pal."
                                                          * * *

In the Lodi, California News Sentinel Newspaper appeared the following UPI article on Friday, August 21, 1987, entitled, "Writer of 31 year old note in bottle found." Genoa, Wisconsin-Joel Gruhn was only 8 years old in 1956 when he scrawled a note, plugged it in a ketchup bottle and had his father toss it into the Mississippi River. This week Gruhn discovered a Genoa man found the bottle and the note last October and had been looking for him ever since. Duane Froh, 40, pulled the bottle from the Mississippi October 31, 175 miles south of Minneapolis, where it had been tossed in. He showed it to his wife, Diane, and they tried to find its sender. 'My age is 8 years old and one-half. I weigh 65 pounds. I am 4 feet and 5 inches high. The writer of this note is Joe ... . .' the note said, becoming undecipherable at the end. It was dated April 2, 1956, and had a Mound, Minnesota address."
                                                          * * *

In the Santa Rosa, California, Press Democrat Newspaper appeared the following Associated Press (AP) article in June of 1984, entitled, "Child's bottled message reaches England." "Providence, Rhode Island-Stuffing a message in a bottle and tossing it into the ocean with the hope of someone ever finding it is the stuff of children's stories-a dream that seldom comes true. But James Westerman is a believer. Westerman thought his handicapped students would find it fun to put messages in bottles found on the beach and toss them into Narragansett Bay. Last week, more than three years after Westerman's students last played the message-in-the-bottle game, a letter arrived for Bernice Graser, the principal of Westerman's Pleasant View School. It was from 10 year old Jayne Ayre of Barnstaple, England, who wrote that she found the bottle January 29, while taking a Sunday stroll on a beach in southwest England with her father. The note inside fell apart when they pulled it out, but the managed to paste it together, she said. The sender's name, Nomp Travis, was clearly legible, as was the return address: Pleasant View School, Province, R.I.

I found your name on it and was thrilled to see it had come all the way from America,' the girl wrote to Nomp. She also enclosed a clipping from the North Devon Advertiser about her find."
                                                          * * *

In the Santa Rosa, California, Press Democrat Newspaper appeared the following AP article on April 27, 1985, entitled, "Refugees Find Freedom, Note in a bottle changes lives." "Los Angeles-A Vietnamese refugee family arrived in the United States on Friday to a tearful welcome from an American couple whose bottled message floated 9,000 miles to the shores of Thailand and answered their prayers for freedom.

'Welcome to the United States of America,' Dorothy Peckham told the family as reporters and photographers swamped the refugees at Los Angeles International Airport after an 18-hour flight from Singapore. Hoa Van Nguyen, 31, a former South Vietnamese soldier, told reporters through an interpreter that he's 'the most lucky man in the world.' He said he doesn't know why what he called 'a sixth sense' prompted him to pick up the bottle carrying the message from John Henry Peckham and his wife. Nguyen, 31, flew in Friday afternoon with his wife, Joang Kim, 27, who clung to his arm and said nothing, their 16 month old son and Nguyen's 17 year old brother, Cuong Van.

Peckham took the sleeping baby, Hoang Gia Thay Nguyen, and grinned widely despite tears that streamed down his face. Nguyen then gave the Peckhams a present, a picture he had crafted while in a refugee camp in Thailand.

The family was whisked out of the airport by officials from the Catholic Welfare Bureau, who settled the refugees in an Echo Park apartment rented for them by the Peckhams."
                                                                       * * *


 Go To April 2--Conversation With God--Peanuts & Vigilance

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