THE SAYINGS OF JOSH JOESON
I have an old friend, a neighbor, with whom I spend many a quiet evening in the back yard, watching the squirrels, the hummingbirds, and the occasional coyote or hawk as they go about their daily business. Josh is just an ordinary fellow: perhaps a bit better off than many, since he has never drunk alcohol, used drugs or tobacco, gambled or spent money on women other than his wife. He has never splurged on a flashy car or a boat or big vacations. It’s not that he’s a Mormon, or even less a Muslim, or even a Pentecostal or a Baptist. Certainly not an Episcopalian – he sees that church as an arm of the powers that be. I’m not sure that he goes to any church unless he has to. He’s not a do-gooder in any way you could recognize. He’s just a quietly devout man with his own opinions. As he thinks he whittles wood – he says that he thinks with his hands.
In his youth he was more outspoken than he is now. He ran for office as a New Dealer and quite a lot of people thought that he might become President one day on the Democratic ticket. He seemed to have everything going for him: he was a great speaker, he could run a tight organization on very slight resources, and he reminded people of the best in our nation’s past, encouraging them to live up to it. But he had a little trouble with the law, I think it was during the McCarthy era, when he was about 30. J. Edgar Hoover was having him tailed, as he did everyone whom he saw as a potential threat to the moneyed interests, and Josh was framed and was prosecuted for treason in a trial in which the main witnesses perjured themselves. Josh had to pull some strings to get out of that one, and he lay low for a couple of decades afterwards. He’s never gone back into public life but he reads a lot and thinks about it. As he says, “busy people have no time to think, idle people have to think to save their minds”.
Here are some of his sayings:
“Wealth never trickles down: it can only trickle up.”
“A democracy in which wealth is concentrated in a very few is doomed to one man rule.”
“A society with no constraints on the power of the wealthy is in danger of a revolution.”
“The powerful always use their power to gain more power.”
“The powerful will always break the rules when it suits them.”
“Words are blown away in the wind: the only thing that power understands is direct action.”
“Never use violence for political ends: the powers-that-be are always better armed.”
“No man is as blind as a rich man confronting poverty.”
“Those who raise money to fight injustice are tools of the rich, because they use their services.”
“Never trust a salesman, as he has a vested interest in deceiving you.”
“Never trust a man successful in a business ruled by criminals: he must have sold his soul.”
“A man who does not pay his labor breaks the most sacred contract.”
“A man who takes advantage of women will take advantage of anyone.”
“A man whose business deals in immorality or violence has no conscience.”
“The ultimate weapon will always be used, eventually.”
“A plea bargain can never be just.”
“A country in which prisons are privately run will end up with all of its citizens in prison.”
“A country in which all schools are privately run will end up with at most 25% of its people going to school.”
“If you starve the Government, you will finish by being slaves to Corporations.”
“If a Corporation is a person, the hive is a bee. Neither President nor Queen can be held responsible. But any employee or worker bee can be made a scapegoat. Is this just?”
“ ‘Homo Economicus’ does not exist. Market Theory is a house of cards based on a false assumption.”
I began to carve objects from wood when a close friend here in Austin, a lady from south Wales, died. It struck me that it would be a nice memento for her sister, who still lives in Wales, to make a Welsh love spoon in memory of Gina. Gina’s husband could take it over with him to the interment ceremony in April 2016. I had never carved anything in my life, but I had a few tools in the garage, and some old scraps of 2″x4″ lumber, so I began to carve a spoon with a Welsh Dragon (y DDraig Goch) for a handle. For a model I used a small anthracite carving of the Welsh Dragon that I had bought on a trip to Wales many years previously.
The carving was remarkably successful, upon which my wife pointed out that it would only be fair to carve a spoon for the bereaved husband as well. So I made a Daffodil (the national flower of Wales) spoon for him. My wife also needed something unique to give to Italian colleagues when she went over there for a conference, so I made another two spoons: an Etruscan chariot and a horned toad.
Then she announced that while she was gone in Italy it would be nice if I could make 20 card-holders to tell our guests where to sit at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners! I had several short pieces of roughly 1″ by 1″ moulding in the garage, all different and of different woods, so I set to work to make 20 tiny Texas animal carvings.
And from there the whole thing burgeoned: it turned out that several pieces of oak firewood on my woodpile had interesting possibilities, as did some very old redwood planking salvaged from a rotten deck – not to mention dead branches of Mexican buckeye that were going rotten in the yard. So I made several pieces about a foot high, mostly allegorical, from these woods.
I started getting ambitious -collecting very large pieces of wood from fallen trees in the neighborhood. Finally, 15 months and 48 carvings after beginning, I turned to stone. My first stone sculpture was in scrap limestone that was given to me by a friendly stonecarver, and was of a Manx buggane (sort of a leprechaun, but much meaner) trapped by St. Ninian in the rock. Then I carved a small two-tone pebble into a flower for our daughter, two of whose friends immediately suggested other carvings. So far I’m up to eight stone carvings.
My wife, bless her soul, also wanted a small wooden tray for her birthday. Not satisfied with making her a tray, I painted an Enid Blyton-like scene of two old hedgehogs sipping tea and reading, the one seated on a toadstool and the other on a quartz crystal, both of them being watched by a jealous spider and ignored by a literate snail. The two are seated by a yellow brick road in a large green meadow. So now I will have to practice composing scenes in two dimensions!
It is an amazing thing to discover at the age of 74½ that one has an unsuspected talent, crude as it may be. It is also daunting: in order to have any output at all one must work hard in the years left.