Thursday, October 12, 2017

Six Degrees of Separation

A while back there was this popular idea going around known as the "Six Degrees of Separation."  In essence, this idea means that you are connected to any other person in the world within six or fewer steps.  It shows how closely the human race is bound together no matter how different we may seem or how various our cultural backgrounds or other aspects of our being.

Yet have you ever considered that it also means you are only six degrees of separation away from mass murderers such as the recent one in Las Vegas?

Perhaps now you will not find the idea so comforting.

Now you may prefer to hold to the theory that gun control is the solution to the problem of mass murder.  Were you to propose that to my face, I should be forced to give assent with one stipulation: it would require the complete banishment of all guns from the face of the earth (and I certainly wouldn't mind getting rid of the black arm and returning to the day of the sword), but that would be a feat to accomplish indeed.

So I would rather wind these two popular topics of idle conversation into one: what if instead of spending so much time jawing about mass murderers, you sent a message of love to some poor tempted soul through the six degrees that separate you?  For all you know something as simple as a smile at a stranger might brighten his day enough that he decided to buy coffee for someone who then felt a sudden desire to call up an old friend and so on until it reached the afflicted spirit of someone who felt the world worthy of destruction?  Might he then change his mind?

Maybe you will never know.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Draft Bill for Equality

WHEREAS the Declaration of Independence clearly states that "all men are created equal," and 

WHEREAS we clearly understand that statement to refer to all people without needing to mince words about its political correctness; and

WHEREAS we certainly believe that all are indeed equal and consequently deserving of equal opportunities in the area of education and elsewhere; and

WHEREAS equal obviously means the same; and

WHEREAS it is entirely unfair to ignore the needs of equality by allowing some to be superior to others or to permit the emotional trauma caused by feelings of inferiority; and

WHEREAS no one's equality to another should be threatened by pretended superiority in terms of greater knowledge or advanced learning or greater competency or any other area of higher status caused by greater exertion of effort or natural merit; now

THEREFORE, the government of the United States of America hereby takes into its jurisdiction the proper distribution of justice by ensuring the equality of each citizen of this nation.  By these rights, the government shall permit none to rise above the bar of equality set for the lowest possible denominator that all may be equal and none may be made to feel inferior by the speech or position of another, including, but not limited to, the following areas:

1. Education: no person shall know more of any subject than any other person.  No advanced degrees shall be permissible.

2. Speech: no person shall use advanced grammar or quote distinguished writers or other languages or speak in any other language but the simplest English.  Slang is permissible only if it be widespread and suitable for all persons.

3. Argument: no person shall apply logical principles to the argument of another nor argue to deconstruct another's argument lest the other be proved less by losing the argument and therefore becoming subject to feelings of inferiority.

FURTHERMORE, anyone who fails to meet the bar of equality by selfishly rising above it must seek to give restitution by regressing immediately or be subject to fine or imprisonment according to the severity and number of offenses.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Give Me Liberty Or Give Me a Deck

In consumerist America, little of the passionate fervor of our forefathers remains to spur us to daring action.  We have no battles to fight, no tyrant overseas to overthrow, no independence to gain.  Most of us have access not only to the basic necessities of life, but a tremendous array of options to fill every spare moment with entertainment and pleasure.

The thrilling cry of revolutionary Patrick Henry might well resound with the faintly-humorous pun of a lumberyard's advertising board leading up to the celebration of Independence Day:


It could be rather an amusing pun, if it were not a little too close to the truth.

Yet surely, you might say, we would not surrender our freedom for so little as a deck?

Perhaps not a literal deck.  Then again, perhaps we would give it up for something smaller—a cell phone perhaps?  A tax cut?  A free lunch?  A popular opinion?  A like on a Facebook post?  Do we really know much we would sign over our freedom for things so worthless even when it means turning our backs on those things we know deep down truly matter?

The more we surrender our liberty bit by bit for the smallest of things, the more we bind ourselves to the forging of chains for which we can blame no one but ourselves.  Fear speaks louder than reason.

Will we throw overboard the metaphorical tea of our oppressors and shout for liberty or death?  Or will we rather choose our own security and see any revolutionaries about as a dangerous threat to the life of pleasure we have chosen?

As for me, I stand with Patrick Henry, if in a battle of an entirely different nature: give me liberty or give me death!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Stock Characters

One might think that as an advanced civilization we would have outgrown stock characters.  After all, we know much more about physiology, psychology, and philosophy than our ancestors, so we can be much subtler in our characterization.  Yet somehow these characters keep showing themselves again and again in various manifestations.

One recent appearance of stock characters resulted in a delightful show known as Firefly.  It was cancelled of course, like most good shows, such as the children's show Magic School Bus where I gained a surprising amount of scientific knowledge, but I digress.

I bring up Firefly not to laud its merits, nor to condemn its flaws.  Rather I bring up the show because of its wonderful variety of stock characters.

Also, those stock characters have played a significant part in assisting science, the medical profession particularly.  I cannot give you the precise details, but I have it on good authority that a certain Eastern medical doctor uses the characters from Firefly as a metaphor for the various organs of the human body.  For each of these characters—just as each of the organs in the body—serve a specific role.

So perhaps we stock characters may be of more use than one would ever imagine....

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Quoting the Thirty-Fourth President of the United States

The other day my Grandma spoke seriously about the dangers of certain actions in the modern world and she called upon Eisenhower in her defense.   However, her quotation only resulted in laughter from my little brother and me.

Why, you may ask.

Well, because this was the quotation: "Never get involved in a land war in Asia."

Does that sound familiar?

Now my research fails to assure me with absolute certainty that it was indeed President Eisenhower who first said it. However, presuming that he did indeed originate that phrase I am only brought once more to admiration at the skill of a certain William Goldman who so cleverly wove that phrase into the vocabulary of his character, Vizzini:

"You only think I guessed wrong! That's what's so funny! I switched glasses when your back was turned! Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders - the most famous of which is "never get involved in a land war in Asia...."

Although, if on the contrary, Eisenhower quoted Vizzini, then I can but applaud his good taste in film and literature.

Which of these twain be true, I leave to your better judgment according to your knowledge of history and time....

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Humor of the Sexes

Whenever I am flying on Southwest Airlines and hear a male voice over the loudspeaker, my ears perk up and I begin to pay attention, hoping for some humor to lighten the dreary repetition of safety instructions for flying.  I fly so much these days that I could give the safety instructions myself—almost word-for-word if my memory worked that way rather than having been trained to forget useless information.  Hence if I hear the usual rigmarole spouted out with scarcely a pause for breath, I zone out nearly immediately.

Very rarely—once perhaps in all my flights across the country—has a woman made jokes.  Nearly always it is the men and the majority of them do try to be funny (at least on Southwest).  My question is this: why?

Yes, why are men funnier than women?

Perhaps it is because women are typically more focused on nurturing and therefore care more for the travelers' attendance to safety than in trying to make them laugh.  Perhaps they are afraid that one passenger who had never flown before might be alarmed at being told that nitrous oxide would flow from the oxygen mask.  Perhaps it goes against their nature to boldly state that any passengers who do not like their service can use any of six emergency exits.

Or perhaps it is because men have more confidence in their ability to be funny.  Women are often more perceptive and more concerned about how others will receive their words and actions, humorous or otherwise.

Then again perhaps it is some other reason entirely.  What do you think?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Organized Religion

I hear a lot of people out there don't believe in organized religion.  What do you think?  Do you believe in organized religion?

I can tell you right now my opinion:

I don't.

Yep, that's right.

I don't believe in organized religion.

If you can show me an organized religion, I'll tell you whether I believe in it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Great Wall of Mexico

There have been great walls in the past—most notably the Great Wall of China and the Berlin Wall.  President Trump's plan to create a wall on the border between Mexico and the United States is scarcely an original idea.

Perhaps you may even consider Trump's plan to be perfectly reasonable and quite necessary.  However, I see one very distinct problem with it.

The problem with the Great Wall of Mexico plan is this:

Canada will be jealous and want a wall too.

I doubt I need to point out how many more thousands upon thousands of miles that border covers....

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Law of Diminishing Thanks

The question having surfaced of whether one ought to say thank you in response to a thank you note, I here propose a Rule of Thumb I call the Law of Diminishing Thanks.  I expect your intelligence suffices to derive from that title precisely its meaning.

Still, for the purpose of being absolutely inescapably clear, I will lay forth an example.  Imagine that someone gave you a ship (or a boat, which is slightly more likely, not that it is terribly likely either; but one can dream of miraculous benefactors appearing and bestowing precious objects) or some other item you desire.  Certainly you would wish to express your gratitude.  The custom of our society—which has fallen somewhat out of use—is to send a handwritten note conveying your immense appreciation.

It might stop there.  Imagine, though, that you have the privilege of being that marvelous benefactor and you receive that thank you note handwritten with such great warmth and care in a beautiful handmade card that you wish to thank its sender.  You might return an equally effusive note, but then the exchange of notes might continue ad infinitum.

Instead, taking advantage of modern technology, you might send an email or a message via some other online venue.  Your thanks thereby decreases in its significance.

Perhaps the recipient of the original gift might thank you for this brief note of thanks, but likely—and most suitably according to the Law of Diminishing Thanks—it will remain less each time.  Thus, by this diminishment, in the end there will be so little left for which to convey thanks that the exchange will die out naturally and without awkwardness.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Word of the Day

Here is a helpful word for all you adventurers out there—and frankly for those of you who simply have no idea where you are going. 

Coddiwomple (verb). To travel purposefully toward an as-yet-unknown destination.

It goes in my cranial category of delightful mouthfuls such as discombobulate and circumambulate.  The only difference is that it has no derivation from the Latin, at least not so far as I know.  If anyone does, however, discover that the Romans were speaking in such manner, I for one want to know at once.

In the meantime, let us carry on bravely, coddiwompling with all the courage we can muster into the darkness of the uncertain future.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Me, Myself, and I Muse on Cynicism

I: Those wiser than I would have it that age must of necessity bring cynicism; but I, perhaps through fault of youth, must disagree.  Cynicism seems rather the result of a loss of hope, a small step forward on the path of despair.  Must I, simply by repeated and unwilled rotation about the sun tread down that path?

Myself: Well becoming a martyr might offer a simple alternative.

I: I don't believe that is in my power.

Me: What after all is so bad about cynicism?  Is it so much to be feared?  Perhaps it lends its weight to the wisdom of the aging.

I: Is cynicism then the cost of wisdom?

Me: The two oft seem entwined.

Myself: 'Tis a petty price to pay if it were for the greatest treasure of all, as doubtless wisdom is.

I: Yet I would not pay it.

Myself: Then have it not.

Me: How harsh a saying.  Perhaps you have already begun to taste deeply of the well of cynicism.

Myself: Nay, but a certain healthy cynicism keeps one from expecting too much of others, like a dash of salt upon a meal.

I: There is truth in that.  I, by nature, am certainly inclined to cynicism: I expect the worst, but still hope for the best.

Me: Hope—there you have the key of it.

Myself: As long as the key opens a door, I find no fault with it.

I: If I look at Myself—

Myself: I?

I: Yes, I that is—I cannot help but see that flawed and cowardly as I am, there is no hope and cynicism is the natural response.  Certainly a lifetime of effort spent in exhausting my strength in seeking to produce some fruitful change in the world would leave me as dark and gloomy a cynic as ever was.

Me: Then not to become a cynic must mean the existence of something beyond Me.

Myself: Granted.  You need only look about you.

I: Hope grounded in the world, in mankind, in Myself is worthless.

Myself: Sadly, true.

Me: Open the doors then to the world beyond Me.

Myself: And Myself.

I: And I.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Compost Speaks Again

If you can read this...

...then no words are necessary.

Monday, December 5, 2016

A Parting of Ways

Sometimes the time comes to take the road less traveled by.  In this case, as I reflect upon the significance of today's date—a significance merely personal with little exception—I find myself ever more aware of the threads of the past leading into the present.  For eight years ago today a new-found friend and I drew from the dry pages of history an idea of fresh and exciting proportions with life-altering fruits.  Some might have called us fools for leaving behind a stable and secure life to make a pilgrimage on foot from church to church, accepting whatever Providence should grant us along the way, praying with each mile forward toward a known destination and unknown end.  Well we were fools—fools for Christ.

I reflect upon these matters today partly because I cannot help but do so.  No matter how much I have at times tried to forget things past and not to speak of them, I know that I do not forget; perhaps this is merely human, or perhaps it is the fruit of my personality, which desires—and requires—permanence.  In any case, the shadow of the past falls still upon the present with all its goods and ills.

The other day, as I spoke with a dear friend, sharing with her how my Lord had been working through my life, I realized an important truth about the past: I must speak in order to remember.  Although I cannot truly forget, I can let things slide into a sort of apathetic knowledge taken for granted.  If, on the other hand, I boldly proclaim what I have learned in this earthly pilgrimage, I accept for myself again and again the good that has been given, and perhaps may even shed some glimmer of light into the darkness of a fellow traveler's path.

To that end, I have decided—hesitantly at first—that I must share some more spiritual ponderings with those who care to read.  I tend to think of such things as being very personal and meant to be treasured closely in one's heart.  There is a certain amount of truth to that view certainly, but it leaves aside a greater truth: that what is given to us is often meant to be shared that it may grow and increase, like the Gospel parable of the talents.  What I give to others, I often have in greater degree for myself as well.  When I give freely, I let my Lord bless what I offer and multiply it—in this way my life becomes fruitful.

Since the spiritual journey has more direction than mere jibbooms and bobstays, I will keep these two continuing as separate threads.  Here I will continue with the randomness and spontaneity originally intended, as time and grey matter allow.  If you wish to follow my other journey, you will find that thread here.