on Hope

Hope is like a light, and it is itself the switch.

For anyone who reads my blog the words above may sound familiar, probably because they are. I said something similar in my post “on Belief”, where I said “I believe love is like a light, with somebody else at the switch.”

Love is a strange, wonderful, mysterious force over which we have virtually no control.  We can’t compel someone to love us, neither can we stop ourselves from loving someone – thus “someone else is at the switch.”

On a superficial level it seems hope and love are similar. But though the words I’ve used to describe them are, the sentiments behind them are not.  Language is simple, emotions and thoughts aren’t.  Please bear with me as I struggle to convey differences that are nuanced more than obvious.

Hope begins within and is sustained from without.  Love floods us from without then grows within. Love is powerful and compelling. Hope is tenuous and timid.  Love is infinite, hope is finite.

So from the words above it would seem that between love and hope, I believe love is the greater force?

I don’t think so.  Language does not permit ready comparison of the two topics, but I’m inclined to think hope may be the most powerful force in our universe.  Hope helps us accomplish incredible things.  With a little hope we are able to not only undertake impossible tasks, but succeed in completing them.  With hope in our hearts we’ll walk a path of broken glass, barefoot, both ways.  However that isn’t the reason I think hope may be more powerful than love.  The reason is because of what happens in hope’s absence.

Without hope there is no point, no purpose, no reason, and no goal.  Without hope there is no beginning, but there is an end.  When we don’t have hope, we just don’t.  What do I mean by that?  As I said, while language is simple the concepts it is used to convey are complex.  I don’t mean that without hope we just don’t have hope, that would be redundant.  I mean that when we don’t have hope we no longer have the energy or desire to even begin the most trivial of tasks.  But when we have hope we’ll do and withstand the impossible.  Consider that contrast.  With hope in our heart we accomplish. Without hope we don’t even begin.

Where love is the reward, hope is the motivator.

But hope isn’t just about love, hope is about life and how well we live it.

As a parent one of the most terrible realizations I’ve ever made is that my children will not live as good a life as I’ve had. They’re entering the workforce already in debt. They’re living in a world in which social injustice is rampant.  They’re entering a world of unconscionable disparity in income. They’re entering a world in which people have accepted that possessions are more important than people.  They are entering a world in which hope has been mistaken to mean “have”.

I hope my children will be caring, compassionate, and loving – not bigoted, grasping, and afraid.  I hope they can accomplish such a tall order in such a hopelessly terrible world. You be the judge as you read the following.  My oldest daughter, Tamryn, just graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work.  She was the only person in her graduating class with a perfect 4.0 GPA.  She is working with Children’s Services, where she makes a difference in the lives of low income families and their children in south eastern Ohio. People like her renew my faith in the goodness of humanity.  I feel my pride in her accomplishments and evolving nature is justified. So what is the problem? The problem is that Tamryn epitomizes pretty much everything wrong in the world we live in.  She is heavily encumbered by student debt.  She is dealing with the victims of a failed and horrifically unjust social system.  Income disparity affects not only those she works with, who are poverty stricken, but it affects her directly since her pay is dollars an hour less than the completely unqualified clerk in Human Resources who completed her employment paperwork.  Tamryn will be continuing her education with a Master’s and then, I hope, a PHD.  However she already knows she’ll literally never be able to pay back the debts her education will incur if she remains in social work.  Before you suggest she change her job into something more lucrative please reconsider these two sentences, “They’re entering a world in which people have accepted that possessions are more important than people.“, and “They are entering a world in which hope has been mistaken to mean “have”.”

Let me summarize, perhaps it’ll help me understand why I’m finding my hope in humanity wearing so thin. Tamryn is working to give hope to children largely without hope, while being being financially penalized for exposing the goodness of her heart.  How hopeless is that?  Is our only hope to flee into imaginary worlds where the status-quo of this broken one is not?

Which brings me back to the opening line of this post, “Hope is like a light, and it is itself the switch.”  Hope is not infinite. Hope may be able to spread itself thin, it may be able to keep its flame burning  in the face of a gale force wind. But hope is finite. And at some point hope simply runs out and turns itself off. I know.  I’ve been there and done that, and suspect I will again.

To me, hope has been important enough to prompt me to speak of it many times. A few examples from Twitter appear below.

Hope has no place in a world where indifferent silence rules.

How can we hope to learn, if we close our ears to all whose views run contrary to our own?

Without hope, could we continue? #thought

You cannot compel love, you can only give it, in hope it is accepted, and returned. #thought

To relinquish hope is to relinquish life.

If we can’t see deeper than the words, what hope have we of ever understanding? {Even of our own heart.}

Hope, sometimes it is all we have, to hold.

If you don’t question then you shouldn’t hope to learn. However, if you can’t question then you cannot hope to learn.

~ Hope ~ http://cgayling.com/malmaxa/2014/10/hope/ … a poem.

If we dare not explore our deepest fears what hope have we of overcoming them?

Hope is for the future, memory is for the past.

My hope for your future is that you’re able to find the external sustenance your hopes need to stay turned on.

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on Disappointment

Prepare to be disappointed.

Before you continue reading I encourage you to question each of my assertions. Please don’t trust me, do the research for yourself.  To that end you’ll find many of the embedded links are Google searches, phrased in as unbiased a way as I am able.

I wish I could give this topic a positive slant, however that is difficult since it is about an extremely negative topic. Generally, American politics,  specifically, one particularly horrific example of an aspiring American politician named Donald J Trump who embodies disappointment on many levels.

Am I disappointed in Trump? What thinking person could not be? However this post is about much greater issues than a nasty little man.

Trump has made me realize how disappointed I am in multiple elements in the USA. He is running on the campaign slogan “Make America Great Again.”

Trump’s detractors claim America has never stopped being great, sadly they are wrong.

Great is not a suitable term to describe a nation that spends almost six hundred billion dollars a year on its military when eliminating world hunger would cost a mere thirty billion. Great is not a suitable term for a nation that embroils itself in foreign wars against the expressed wishes of the entire world and its own people. Great is not a suitable term for a wealthy nation in which one out of six children suffer from hunger. Great is not a suitable term for a nation in which an inability to pay medical bills is the leading cause of bankruptcy. Great is not a suitable term for a nation that incarcerates a higher percentage of it population than every other democracy. Great is not a suitable term for a nation whose police are responsible for enforcing laws, instead of protecting citizens. Great is not a suitable term for a nation with the worst income inequality in the so-called free world.

Great is a suitable term to describe a nation that once put a man on the moon. Great described this nation, but it no longer does.

America could be great again, but not with people whose primary concern is accumulating obscene amounts of personal wealth at its helm. More on that ugly and utterly disappointing aspect of Trump later, but before we get there other disappointments in this once great nation need to be brought forward and addressed.  As I said in the opening sentence of this post, prepare to be disappointed.

The government is the first disappointment, for fostering a status quo in which nothing substantive is accomplished because of a divisive political system dominated by same-old, same-old party rhetoric. For ignoring the desires and concerns of its citizens in favor of big corporate greed.  For angering its citizens so badly they are willing to consider  Trump, not because he represents good but because he represents change, and any change seems better than what we have had for the last twenty years of government. Any change at all. Who is in charge in this divided country? America is supposed to be a democracy, so theoretically the people are in power – disappointingly, this is untrue. The government is in charge, and the government has sold out to special interest groups, lobbyists, and wealthy corporations.  Wealthy, immoral corporations which the government protects, while making its citizens foot the bill.

The mass-media is the next disappointment, for giving unlimited airtime to the biggest bigot of the modern era, Trump, while giving virtually no airtime to the significant issues facing America today. For failing to fact check the fundamental lies and distortions they actively broadcast for Trump. For failing to focus attention on the issues. For failing to be unbiased. For feeding the misconception that Trump is anti-establishment.

The American people are the next disappointment, for not looking at the facts and issues while gulping down heaping helpings of irrelevant rhetoric.

The United States of America is the next disappointment, for proving to a well-informed world that its highest office, that of President, is literally up for sale.

And the biggest disappointment of all is Donald J Trump, a foul example of how the most despicable of humanity is lauded and applauded for accumulating a massive fortune while doing nothing toward the betterment of humanity. By my own definition those more interested in accumulating wealth than good deeds are evil. Period. Trump’s record on the matter of personal generosity is an enormous disappointment.

Now, in the interest of fairness, let us begin by counting the positive things about Donald J Trump.

Zero. What a miserably disappointing number, for a miserably wealthy individual. Oh, wait… you think that number should be closer to the count of dollars Trump is thought to possess? If you do, please add yourself to this list of disappointments. Remember, money has no value except in exchange, therefore how much money someone has does not determine their value – the determination of their value is their contribution to humanity, and on that score Trump scores a big fat, and disappointing Zero.

Now let us count Trump’s negative elements. Actually let us not, for none of us have that much time. However let us look at some of the more egregious things this repulsive example of obscene wealth has alluded to.  Trump flip-flops on almost every point he raises. He is a hypocrite. He is too cowardly to take responsibility for his actions, while being adept at casting blame on everyone but himself. He is a verbal bully. He is a shockingly obvious caricature of Adolf Hitler.  He is a spoiled rich brat, not a self-made man. He is inconsistent in almost everything except in how often he lies, which he does with alarming and disappointing regularity. He is racist, sexist, and intolerant of religious differences. If Trump epitomizes anything, he epitomizes bigotry. He is a fear and hate monger who implicitly encourages personal violence. He grants himself freedom of speech, while actively attempting to deny it to everyone else via blatant threats. He finds his own daughter sexually attractive.  He is indiscriminate in who he attacks, even going so far as to deride the Pope.  He has nothing insightful to say, though he does come phonetically close by being inciteful {sic}. He is so out of touch with modern reality that he describes million dollar loans as “small” or “trivial”.  He has no substance, no articulated policy, and no plans to deliver his empty promises.

Trump is a liar, plain and simple. Don’t believe me? Then it is time for you to wake up, plain and simple.  Here is a wide selection of a whole lot of reading on Trumps lies.  And here is an explicit article dedicated to the subject of Trump’s pathological lying, complete with proof.

Why does humanity hold liars like Donald J Trump in such all-abiding contempt?  For a very simple reason. Liars are not trustworthy. How incredibly disappointing that so many in America are willing to elect someone who is fundamentally untrustworthy to the the highest office of this once great nation. How incredibly disappointing…

But perhaps most disappointing of all is Trump’s incredibly underwhelming generosity. Kind of sad, and extremely disappointing. However even the worst examples of humanity are deserving of something and Trump is no exception – he definitely deserves the title “The Least Charitable Billionaire In The World”.

And that is Donald J Trump described in a single word – disappointing.

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on Time Spent

From a few days ago as I sat eating dinner alone hundreds of miles from home…

A couple with two young children sit at the table next to mine.  Twenty minutes pass before they speak to each other for the first time.  They have yet to meet each others’ eyes.  The man has said nothing to the children, a boy and a girl, very well behaved.  Not a single word, not even a single wordless sound.  The mother talks to them, her eyes smile as she does. Her voice is harsh, her eyes are not.

How does this image make you feel? Does it make you wonder what’s wrong, how things got that way, and why?

If you’re like me you see parents interacting with their babies and pre-school children more than with their school aged kids.  Once children get to five are they no longer fun?  I see this strangely detached behavior far too often, and it invokes extreme sadness every time I note it.

Why is it this way?

So many claim they don’t have time…  Strange, because since we all have the same amount of time it would seem to be a matter of how they choose to spend their time more than time’s lack.

Apparently many choose to spend their time on things, not on people.

So sad, for things do not love us, they don’t remember us, they don’t worry about us, and they definitely don’t care about us.  People?  They do.

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on Mankind’s Course

We require sleep.

But that isn’t what this post is about, so why am I beginning with that statement? Because everything matters.  Everything.

That we require sleep isn’t an opinion, it is an established fact. Experiments involving various creatures we pitiless humans are willing to torture, maim, and murder in our relentless search for explanations rather than understanding have shown that after extended sleep deprivation something scientifically inexplicable happens.  Sleep deprived animals simply keel over and die.  It doesn’t matter how healthy they are, or how much food and drink they have.  If they are denied all rest, they just die.

Read the single paragraph abstract of this experiment, one of hundreds that have reached the same bizarre conclusion.  As you do note the language used in order to justify humans treating so-called lower creatures with such callousness.

Now let us consider the relative value of souls. Who are we to strip away any soul’s host?  What harm do we do to the soul to whom we have denied life?  Is a rat’s soul worth less than a human’s?  This is deep, heavy stuff that reveals a dark side of human nature few seem willing to even superficially consider, and still fewer are willing to directly address. Are you already feeling pangs of discomfort? Are you already telling yourself, “This is not for me! Get me out of here before I start feeling uncomfortable!”

Virtually all life requires the termination of other life to exist.  That the living feed on the dead is an inescapable fact.  However surely the method and manner of death must be a factor in the moral equation of life?  The deceased do not bear the burden of guilt in the manner of their demise, that guilt falls squarely upon the shoulders of the creature[s] that caused life’s termination.  I abhor cruelty.  Morally, I cannot accept cruelty is ever justified.  If research requires that we humans be cruel, then such research is morally repugnant and should not be undertaken.  Yes that’s just my opinion, and my opinion is definitely not fact.  But perhaps it’s your opinion too?  Even if it isn’t, I hope you’ll take time to consider it.  While you do, consider how crucial diversity of the species is to humanity and indeed to most species. Also consider a few further points I’ll raise below.

We humans are the most voracious, greedy, inconsiderate, cruel, and destructive species to ever have ever inhabited our sorely beleaguered planet.  We claim a dominion over land, sea, and air to which we have no right.  As sentient beings, capable of understanding our terrible impact on the world, we should be Earth’s caring custodians, but we are not.  Instead of our planet’s careful caretakers we have collectively become the worst blight to ever afflict it.

Similarly to the innocent creatures we “use” in our experiments, we have sorely used our planet, to the point it is in dire need of rest.

Humans are not above nature, they are part of nature.  How sad for us to forget that?  How insane is it to mistakenly believe the purpose of nature is to serve mankind?  How foolish is it for something which is part of a far greater whole to believe the greater whole’s sole purpose is service to one particularly unpleasant parasitic element within that whole?  {Yes, the particularly unpleasant parasitic element to which I’m alluding is mankind.}  How tragic for our species to be the implement of not only our own ultimate demise, but the absolute extinction of literally countless other unique and precious species?

The path of devastation mankind currently follows will ultimately lead to our own extinction.

Does that sound like my opinion stated as though it is a fact?  Mere moments of logical consideration result in that inescapable conclusion.  Unless we change our approach to our relentless consumption of our world’s resources, our willful destruction of its diversity, and our unconscionable pollution of land, sea, and atmosphere we will cause our own extinction.  That such extinction is unlikely to come within our lifetime, or perhaps even within the lifetimes of our great grandchildren isn’t the issue.  The issue is that the longer we delay changing the course of mankind, the shorter mankind’s journey through this magnificent Universe will be.

Is mankind willing to become nothing more than a forgotten blip on the Universe’s radar?  Unless we radically change course, that is precisely what we doom ourselves to become.  Apparently our most primitive ancestors appeared about seven million years agoWow!  Seven million years is a long time, isn’t it?  Not when measured on a cosmic scale of billions, or more likely trillions.  {Wait a moment!  Is a trillion a million billion, or a thousand billion? It doesn’t matter, except to establish perspective.  And the perspective is this… the amount of time you’ve just taken to consider how many years exist in a trillion is far longer than the Universe will remember the ugly little blip we call mankind.}

However the situation is far worse than that.

Mankind wasn’t the Earth’s cancer until very very recently.  Collectively we set out on a path of rampant, willful devastation of our planet and its resources with the start of the Industrial Revolution.  Barely two hundred and fifty years ago…  In a mere two hundred and fifty years we have managed to pollute our fresh water, our oceans, our air, and every landmass upon this formerly pristine planet.  We have also managed to drive uncounted thousands of unique species into extinction.  And in that same miserable two hundred and fifty years the overwhelming majority of humanity have been driven into abject poverty.

Mankind has been deceived into accepting that the unconscionable greed of the few outweighs the modest needs of the many.

If we wish to survive, we have to change.  There is no other viable choice than drastic change.

If we choose to say nothing, then nothing will change.  Words are the fruit of thoughts, and within the fruit of words are the seeds from which deeds grow.

Raise your voice for change.  If you don’t then who will?

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on Just War

I wrote “on Just War” for a splendid online publication named Hellbent Magazine. I highly recommend you visit their website and browse around. The original posting exists at this internet link.

on Just War

I do not enjoy talking about my Active Duty Army days. In this I’m similar to an overwhelmingly vast majority of former military combatants. Indeed, I feel so strongly about this matter that it is one of the few subjects I refuse to talk about with even my own children. However I believe this topic needs to be brought into view where it can be examined by everyone with a conscience, so I’m making this exception.

Why am I so reluctant to speak about my military past? For reasons I’ll attempt to articulate here. For reasons I suspect are the same virtually every other ex-combatant doesn’t like talking of their past.

We all want to believe we are fundamentally decent people. Sadly when we’re on active duty in a combat role we encounter an enormous problem with being “decent people”. “On active duty in a combat role” doesn’t mean you’re sitting in a base-camp is some foreign country listening to distant gunfire and the occasional explosion. “On active duty in a combat role” means you are physically out in the field of war, you are going to have contact with the enemy, somebody is going to die, and you fervently hope that somebody isn’t you.

And that is the fundamental problem right there. You fervently hope that somebody isn’t you…

There is no such thing as a just war.

It doesn’t matter that you are on the side of right and the enemy are on the side of wrong, because to them it is you who is on the side of wrong and they who are on the side of right. Wars are not fought by enemies, they are fought by people. And what decent person can ever justify killing another person they do not know, and about whom they know nothing? The enemy are not nameless, faceless, inhuman entities. They are individuals like you and me. That person you hope will die that you might live is someone’s child and is quite possibly somebody’s parent as well. Yet as an active duty combatant you find yourself in a situation in which your most ardent desire is to kill that someone.

Time passes, you look back on those days from the vantage granted by time, experience, and reason and realize it was all for nothing.

It was all for nothing.

I fought in a war to keep my country free, but my country was lost anyway. Zimbabwe is the ruins of Rhodesia. Rhodesia, a country once described as the “breadbasket of Southern Africa” has turned into a place of widespread starvation in which people routinely tolerate grotesque injustice every day. So what did my fighting in the so-called “liberation war” accomplish? Isn’t it peculiar how history is written from the victors perspective?

I ask again, what did my fighting in that war accomplish?

It accomplished nothing. Nothing. Nothing, except the deaths of a whole lot of sons, and I am ashamed to say, the deaths of some daughters too. Tragically, those deaths are not nothing. Those deaths are the unwritten somethings of the forgotten heroes of a rewritten war.

A terrible mistake is for people to imagine they know what it is like to be on active duty in a combat role. Until you have personally been there you don’t have a clue. Not a single clue. People extrapolate war into cute little sound bites like, “It is for the greater good.” Utter nonsense. The only people war serves are those immoral enough to profit from said war.

Who profits from war? Those who sell weapons. Those who hold onto power by whatever means possible. Those who attempt to wrest power from whoever currently holds it, also by whatever means possible.

There is no such thing as a just war…

How can any situation in which it is tolerable and acceptable to kill other people simply because they are on the other side ever be just? It cannot. How can it be just to suspend all universal laws of moral decency and encourage the willful, intentional murder of people you don’t even know? It cannot. That one side in a war is unjust does not grant the other side the right to suspend morality. Suspending morality does not make one side just – it makes both sides unjust.

Never forget wars are not fought by lifeless machines. Wars are fought by human beings. That nameless, faceless, inhuman entity you are encouraged to murder without conscience is not nameless, faceless, or inhuman. They are a person, they have a name, they have a face their parents and children love, and they are no less human than you. They deserve better than to be murdered simply for being on the other side of an unjust war.

Perhaps this is why the war is off limits to conversation with my children. I want my children to think I am a good person. How do good people get involved in such terrible affairs as war? How can a decent person do things that are fundamentally unconscionable? How can a decent person ever forget their indecent deeds?

I grow weary of people assuming war is a glorious affair.

I volunteered for military service about a year before I would have been conscripted. I did so because I wanted to serve my country. And I did serve my country. But for what? Ultimately for nothing except the death of a whole bunch of people I never knew, but all of whom had mothers and fathers, and many of whom probably had children too. Such memories do not make me feel good about myself. That I was young and gullible should not be an excuse. It really should not. It is not an excuse sufficient to ease my troubled conscience. Not even a little.

Perhaps these are the reasons former combatants are so reluctant to speak of their roles. Perhaps they are just people like me who look back on their deeds and know they are not just. Perhaps society demands our silence, but our conscience does not.

There is no such thing as a just war…

 

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on Our Children

Today is my favorite youngest daughter’s birthday.

A few days ago Julia demanded I write a blog post in celebration of this auspicious day.  Actually she didn’t really, one of the many things I like about her is that she is assertive without being demanding.  She knows her own mind and won’t bow before anyone, including me.  As every child everywhere should be, not only to their parents but to the entire world, Julia is a very special child.

Last night my wife insisted we get a birthday card.  I’m not big on such things, however I changed my mind as soon as she said, “They mean a lot to her.”  Isn’t that the essence of what birthday celebrations should be about?  The things that mean a lot to the one whose birthday it is, rather than to those whose birthday it is not?

On Wednesdays Julia gets to sleep in since classes for the entire Junior and Senior grades start late due to something called “Working Wednesday”.  I never slept well last night and though I tried to get in a couple of extra hours that effort turned out to be a dismal failure.  Thus I was up, sitting on the couch when Julia came downstairs, plonked herself on my lap as though she is still five years old, and gave me a big hug while I wished her a happy sixteenth birthday.  That is sort of a tradition, I always inform her I’ve decided I’m not letting her grow any older while telling her she is a a year younger than she actually is.  She always responds by proudly asserting her real age.  I held her in our hug for longer than usual, my head buried in her neck as I composed myself.  I don’t think she noticed…

No matter what we do to try and keep our children young, they grow up…

But there is one place in which our children remain forever young – in our hearts.  And in so doing their memory serves the same for us, so no matter what you do don’t let your children age.  They truly are the fount of eternal youth.

{P.S. To all you doubters of how special our children are here is a link that will take you to a few things Julia, right on this blog.
And here is another, a little fairy tale I’m currently expanding into a Children’s Book inspired by my favorite youngest daughter, whose name I think you may already know.
And should you still be of a doubtful nature, here is the ultimate proof – a full-length work I promise is unlike anything you’ve ever read.  Within Malmaxa Julia is the Principal Heroine.  Yes, I changed her name – not to protect her identity, but to reveal her true nature.  Regardless, I’m sure you’ll soon recognize her and smile when you do…}

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on Parental Authority

This post is a brief addition and clarification of “on Father-Figures“, so if you haven’t already read it please consider starting there.

I don’t believe there has ever been any question of my parental authority with my children. Indeed I can recall remarkably few times my authority has been tested, possibly because there are lines which I simply will not allow my children to cross, and when they have reached those lines they’ve realized they really don’t want to be anywhere near them, let along across them.

Some lessons we learn in a single sitting, other lessons we never learn at all.

There are many who assert parents should not be friends with their children.  Purportedly because being friends with our children somehow undermines our parental authority, but I ask, “Why?”

Parents do have have an implicit authority over their children.  That authority comes tightly bound into the enormous responsibility of raising functional children.  Stamping out bad behavior detected in our children must be considered one such responsibility.  Something about stamping is that to do it effectively requires authority.  If you, the parent, have no authority then stamping will appear to your children as a meaningless little temper tantrum.  Which is very likely something for which you probably have the audacity to chide them…

How we choose to discipline our children doesn’t matter as much as that we will enforce the discipline we impose.  And in order to be able to enforce said disciple, we have to have parental authority.

So where does parental authority come from?

It certainly doesn’t come from the biological act of fathering or mothering a child.  Too often the biological act itself is one of irresponsibility, and it seems to me that responsibility seldom seems to derive from an irresponsible act.  Therefore no – conceiving a child, or contributing to a child’s conception does not grant you parental authority.  It is such a pity so many parents, of all ages, seem incapable of comprehending that. Screaming, “Because I’m your father!!!” does not serve as an effective response to the single most important question your child will ever ask you.  Namely, “Why?”

So where does parental authority come from…?

Parental authority is granted by only one thing, specifically your parental responsibility.  If you abdicate your parental responsibility then you have absolutely no right to assume authority over your children.  If you don’t care enough about your children to be a responsible parent, then what possible reason do your children have to care about what you say, or about your rules, or about how you happen to feel at the moment you suddenly decide to impose your wishes on them?  Why should they feel for you if you don’t feel for them?

Our children are the biggest responsibility we will ever have.  Nothing we do will ever matters as much as raising functional, well-adjusted, caring, and contributing children.  Nothing.

So before you become a parent, please be willing to accept this daunting responsibility.  And at times it is daunting.  Trust me on this.  I have been a parent four times now, so I should know.  However you may also trust me on this – being a responsible, caring parent is hands down the best thing that ever happens to us.  Nothing compares to how our child’s love makes us feel.  Nothing

All well and good, but what have I used my parental authority to accomplish?

Turns out I haven’t accomplished a whole lot on that score.  However since it turns out my hierarchy of needs in regard to my children’s behavior is limited, I’m okay with that.  I don’t allow my children to be rude or look down on anyone, period.  Why?  Because I believe it is far better to be polite and forgotten than it is to be rude and remembered.  And that is pretty much it.

Every interaction with our children is potentially a lesson in how to love better, and if those interactions are not?  Well then I question whether we should be teaching our children at all.  A wonderful thing about lessons on how to love better is that as we are teaching our children, we are learning ourselves.

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on Father-Figures

As we age how we treat our children, and how we want them to treat us changes.  A lot.

With our first two children, Tamryn and Dannielle, my primary concern was being their father.  With our younger two, Gareth and Julia, being accessible as other than an authority figure has become extremely important to me.  Indeed it is so important, and so satisfying I’m now trying to encourage similar relationships with Tamryn and Dannielle. However this is proving much more difficult, probably because the roles assumed in relationships established over many years are difficult to change.  Yes, that is a subtle dig at how old my two older children are… no, it isn’t.  It is an apology to my two older children that I wasn’t more of a friend and less of an authority figure to them.

Why do I feel many people will actively discourage me from wanting my children to treat me as a normal person, rather than a father-figure?

Well for one I am a normal person… well, as normal as the silly standard of “normal” can be in a world filled with billions of utterly unique individuals.  But even more important is the growing realization I am an aging, real flesh and blood person.  Besides the obvious issue of age, I have all the failings of flesh and blood.  I have all the doubts, hopes, dreams, regrets and woes which render any person real.

What does that mean?

It means I would rather be seen as a flawed yet accessible man than as a lifeless caricature composed of societal definitions of the way fathers “should be”.  You see, to me that is all any figure is.  Including “father-figure”.  A father-figure is a two-dimensional, empty, pen and paper sketch with grossly distorted and exaggerated authority.  But worst of all, just like many pencil outlines, they have an empty white space where their heart should be.

I don’t want to be a father-figure to my children.  Yes, I want to be their father, but I very much want to be accessible as someone they might care to consider their friend as well.  And honestly?  Once my children are no longer children, the second is more important to me than the first.

Everyone knows our children are our children forever.  Our parents are the same, but why not also be friends?  It is said that you can pick your friends, but you cannot pick your family.  How wonderful would it be if we picked our family as our friends?

Please don’t bother regaling me with hollow wisdom which asserts that before I am my children’s friend I should be their father.  Instead regal me with why you personally think such a statement is wise.

Thank you for spending your time on the musings of a softening old man…

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on Little Things

A funny thing happened today. It made me feel very good, so naturally I want to share it with the world.

One of the programmers at the company I work for is an oriental lady named Waverly Chang who hails from China. She was already working for the company when I started, but unlike me she had no children and vocally proclaimed she had no interest in having any. I always told her straight up that children are the most wonderful thing anyone can ever have.  Regardless of the heartache and misery they will invoke, the joy, love and meaning they bring into our lives is simply incomprehensible to people without children.

At first Waverly was adamantly opposed to the idea of children, however she always seemed interested to hear little stories of what my kids had done, or what mischief they had been up to. And like all children, mine got up to an awful lot of mischief.  Anyway after a couple of years Waverly changed her mind. Her son Allan was born about a year later. She was so proud of him, but he was so much work!  As an exhausted new parent deprived of sleep she very naturally immediately asserted that with only one, they were done!  Allan was thereby doomed to the miserably lonely existence of an only child. {My choice of words, not hers :).}

I reassured her by sharing stories of our firstborn, in which my wife and I were the heroes and our oldest child, Tamryn, was the villain.  Stories, which if you know anything of me at all, you know are truths.  One such tale was of Tamryn’s first six weeks of life.

Tamryn was born wide-eyed, alert, curious, and hungry.  The first three we immediately recognized and felt as proud as any young couple could be – after all, this gift was the fruit of our loins.  That all changed the first night we brought Tamryn home.  Without fail Tamryn would wake up screaming every two hours.  As every human knows, the pitch and tenor of a newborn’s scream sends shock-waves of discordant distress throughout our bodies.  We were literally beside ourselves in our efforts to appease our baby.  We soon established a ritual, we’d pick her up, comfort her as best we could while our numb minds kicked into frantic overdrive from our exhausted, disturbed sleep.  Once in reasonable control of our faculties we’d change Tamryn’s diaper which, to add insult to injury, was pretty much always soiled.  Then my wife would nurse Tamryn until she quieted and fell asleep {Tamryn, not my wife:)}.  And then the cycle would begin again, with the virtual two hour clock ticking so loud we’d be hard pressed to get back to sleep before the screaming began again.

According to the doctors everything was fine, Tamryn was alert, slowly gaining weight, and my wife’s boobs were so engorged they felt more like two bricks than two breasts.  It was beyond miserable, in fact at one point I recall turning to my teary-eyed wife and exclaiming, “I can’t believe anyone is stupid enough to have more than one of these!” {It seems by my own proclamation we’re pretty stupid, we’ve had four :)}

Turns out the doctors were wrong.  I think it was my mother, but it could have been a friend who suggested we try supplementing breast-feeding with some formula.  We were opposed as there is no question a mother’s breast milk is far and away the best for babies, both nutritionally and long-term health wise. Those aren’t a hippy’s opinion, they are medically proven and indisputable facts.  However a desperate need for sleep soon overcame our reluctance.  {It seems that when a promise of sleep knocks on the door, principle flies out the window.}  We bought some formula… and Tamryn slept for six straight hours!  Yes, bliss is indeed a number a direction and a time, bliss is six straight hours.  Turns out Tamryn was suffering from something my mother called Starving Baby Syndrome.  The poor little tike was getting just enough nutrition to not fall into the red flag zone weight wise, but in order to do so she had to be fed every two hours.

As for those mega-boobs?  Well, spectacular though they appeared, they were not producing enough milk to satisfy our child.  We tried pumping, and it turns out we’d actually got an age old expression completely wrong.  It shouldn’t be “You can’t squeeze blood out of a stone”, but, “You can’t squeeze breast-milk out of stony boobs…”  Once we supplemented Tamryn’s feeding with formula life soon returned to normal.  I sincerely hope you don’t believe that last sentence, because it is a complete lie!  Life never returns to normal after you have a child, so if you think you’ll pop one out then go back to partying like a carefree teenager… well, you won’t, but more on the pros and cons of that later.  Anyway, Tamryn started gaining weight at a better pace, and we have never once looked back.  Not once!  Nope, we’ve looked back thousands of times.  Funny thing how abject misery turns into some of the most wonderful times of your life when related to friends…

You might be wondering why I would be so callous as to tell Waverly such horror stories? After all wasn’t she suffering enough with her own newborn? First off, suffering is not an appropriate word to use to describe the situation – indeed it doesn’t even come close. Second, and more important, there are many valuable lessons to be learnt from personal tales.  Lessons we have significant difficulty gleaning from books, yet which we readily pick up by listening to our more experienced friends and family.

Onward!  It took me a while, but I eventually convinced Waverly that depriving Allan of a sibling would be cruel and unusual punishment.  She eventually capitulated and a few years later they had a little girl who they named Kelly.

So where is all this leading?

Well recently Waverly has been commiserating with me about the miseries of a working life.  Today I saw her in the company kitchen and asked how things were going.  She quickly glanced around before whispering, “Thank God it is Thursday, only two more days till the weekend and I’m with Allan and Kelly!” I corrected her by saying, “Only one more day, we shouldn’t count today…”

This is where this post led.  The thing that made me feel very good was how Waverly and her husband have two wonderful little angels in their life.  To Waverly, those two bundles of joy literally make it worth suffering through a five day week at work if doing so means she can be with them for a two day weekend. I feel even better for having some small part in helping her reach the decision to have them.

As for all you folks out there weighing up the pros and cons of whether or not to take the plunge and change your lives forever by having children?  Think of the workweek to weekend ratio mentioned above.  Five to two, says it’s the best thing you’ll ever do…

Such moments are some of the little things it is so easy to not notice. The little things that make life worth living.

~ why Kids ~
~
Little babies,
little smiles,
little moments,
with our little child…
~

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on Farewells.

To say farewell to those we love is bittersweet, even when we anticipate seeing them again.

We have all experienced such partings, most likely many many times.  Perhaps at a rare family gathering, during which bonds of blood are renewed.  Little compares with the joy we feel as we once again see our relatives, even if we don’t particularly like them.  That first hug… well, it is a pretty powerful thing, and no, a handshake simply will not do.

And then our together time is spent, time comes to go our separate ways, and we must say farewell.  I wonder why such partings are so incredibly painful?

Probably because they are completely unnatural.

Save humans, what other social animals deliberately leave the ones they love except perhaps to find food, and likely not even then?  After thinking about this, the only circumstance which comes to mind is the case of young adults who are either forced out, or set out to find mates and establish family groups of their own.

Yet in human society these partings have become the norm, not the exception.  How much harm do we do ourselves by fragmenting and separating our extended families?  How many relationships are we willing to lose in order to gain tangible things we can touch, but which have no capacity for love?  When did we decide things we can hold are more important than people we love?

Right about then is when humanity went wrong.

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on Depression

My firstborn suffered from depression, I suspect she still does. It has taken me many years to realize its most likely origin is not her mother, but me.

~ Depression ~
~
My eyes I dry, I must not weep,
and thus I send my soul to sleep.
In my broken heart, a jagged hole
from which seeps my unsoothed soul.
The woods are lonely dark and deep
they are not a good place for souls to sleep.
Anguish, from the twilight shadows seep.
Night sees our inner demons upon us creep.
Is there escape on these crippled feet?
Or is the hill from Anguish’s vale too steep?
To return to Joy, which on yon hill awaits?
Or to stay and with our Despair,
our inner demons’ hunger sate?
Choose Joy, and bid the dark woods goodbye.
Choose Love, and return to happiness on high.
Choose to Live, or choose, to die.
~

Why does anguish have such a powerful hold over us? Perhaps to someone who has never been in a terrible depression it is patently obvious that simply smiling helps alleviates the mood.  Which means the decision to smile is a no brainer.

They aren’t wrong.  However someone suffering from depression understands the metaphors used to describe the emotional state are frighteningly real.  Indeed the very word “depression” indicates something lower, but that isn’t the only metaphor used to describe this condition.  We literally tumble down into depression.  It isn’t a gradual decline, it is a precipitous fall.  Once we’re depressed we’re gripped by chains that literally bind us in place.  We find ourselves in a dark foreboding forest in which every innocent tree appears as a predator out to consume us.  To escape means we must climb out of the emotional hole depression is.  The problem is that we have enormous difficulty even getting back on our feet, let alone finding the emotional strength to climb a hill.  No matter how insignificant the climb out of depression appears to others, when we’re depressed the only word that comes close to describing how difficult it is, is impossible.

Earlier I said the decision to smile is a no brainer.  I used those words the same way I use all words, for a reason.  You see depression isn’t a thinking state, it is a feeling state, and while there is little brain in depression there is a great deal of heart.  So if we can’t think our way out of this miserable condition, then what are we to do?  I wish I knew the answer, if I did I would freely share it with the world.  Unfortunately I don’t, and I don’t believe drugs are an appropriate solution.

Sitting here, writing this post, it seems so obvious all I need do is smile, walk up a little hill, and I’ll be free of this wretched feeling.  But I can’t.  I can’t think my way out of a feeling state.  Even a single step back toward joy is quite literally beyond my capabilities.  I wonder why that is?  Perhaps because our soul seeks balance, and what balances ecstasy best is misery?

I don’t think I believe that, it is just a thought.  But since I’m depressed right now, perhaps it’s more a feeling than a thought.

The universe works in cycles.  I know this for my soul tells me it is so.  Depression, for those afflicted as I am, is cyclic.  It will pass when it passes, all I have to do is survive until it does.  So if you’re like me, please try to survive until the time for joy comes around again…

{P.S. Allow me to stress that this post, along with all my posts on this blog and indeed everywhere, are strictly my personal beliefs. Yours will certainly differ. What works for me may well be the breaking of you, so for that reason I strongly encourage you to question always. Question everything, and one day may you be fortunate enough to find the answers you seek.}

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on Social Media

Social Media had so much potential… it promised faster, easier, more robust, and vastly more interactive ways to communicate with friends and family.

What happened? What happened to destroy its promise? What turned Social Media from social, to selling? When did people decide punching “messages” from their own little pulpit, or selling whatever it is they want to sell was worth discarding any semblance of social for the hard-sell? Greed for fortune, fame, glory, or notoriety has co-opted the promise of Social Media.

Not only is there virtually nothing social about so-called Social Media anymore, but it has now transitioned to teaching people terrible habits.  Social Media encourages people to mask what they truly believe in order to present what they think others want to hear.  It is the worst possible form of political correctness, the form where we never reveal what we really think for fear of losing ground in some completely imaginary popularity poll.

We don’t agree” can be taken one of two ways.  It can be the end of a conversation, in which case nothing new is learnt and therefore both parties lose.  Or it can be the beginning of a new conversation, in which case both parties learn another point of view, and therefore both parties gain. In a conversation, “We don’t agree” need not be about seeking consensus at all, it can simply be about conversation itself.  However when we are speaking at an audience, as we invariably are in social media, we aren’t having a conversation.  What we’re doing is standing on a pulpit, while hoping our audience will think us praiseworthy. What we’re doing is talking, while hoping everyone else will listen and not talk themselves.  What we’re doing is feigning sincerity in order to sell our viewpoint, or our product.  What we’re doing is presenting ourselves as a “brand”, not as a person.  What we’re doing in Social Media aren’t very social behaviors at all, are they?

It is said true leaders lead from the front, they don’t push from behind.  And I say that for conversation to be conversation, it must be with one another.  We don’t necessarily have to see the person we’re conversing with, but we do need to be talking to them, not talking at them.  So-called Social Media is more about a marketable audience than it is about social friendship.

Social Media also teaches us to present a false face not only when we speak, but also when we pretend to listen. It teaches us it is good to be surrounded by friends or “followers”. It teaches us to not only anticipate, but also to expect reward for the most inane comments we make.  It teaches us to interpret “likes” as “listens”.  And possibly worst of all, Social Media teaches us to feign listening by “liking”.

Social Media teaches us we are perpetually surrounded by an avid audience who applaud our every word…

When was the last time you stood in a circle of your closest friends and they clapped whenever you spoke?  When was the last time you stood in a circle of friends?  Indeed, when was the last time you stood with a real friend?  Do you even recall what standing with a friend means?  It doesn’t mean “liking” everything they say, it means being there for them, it means telling them to stop when they open their mouth to change their feet in public, it means laughing at their terrible jokes in private, it means delighting in the outrageous together, it means saying shocking things secure in the knowledge nobody else will ever hear.  Now contrast those behaviors with standing with your Social Media friends.

Social Media is about counting your character’s worth by numbering your “followers”.  How many real friends do you actually have? It might shock you to learn the average person in the USA today has just two, yes, count them TWO, real friends. [1] It should shock you to realize that number is down from three just twenty-five years ago.  Thanks, Social Media, for causing a thirty percent reduction in real friendship, while giving us an exponential explosion in virtual  acquaintanceship.  Not!

How many of your supposed social media friends know anything about who you really are?  How many of them do you think actually care?  Here is a clue. Maybe the same number as you have real friends.  Maybe, but more likely a couple less…

Social is precisely what “social media” is not.

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on Talent

This post is a well-deserved tribute to my sixteen year old daughter, Julia. The following is entirely her work, edited and formatted to the style I use for this blog.

Talent: Natural aptitude, or skill?

In art you are often told, “Oh you are so talented!”, or “You are so lucky to have such talent”. And for some it may truly be a talent, but if you are like me you didn’t pick up a pencil and suddenly know how to do everything you can do today. I practiced a lot, hard, for almost three years. I’ve spent hours reading articles and books, watching videos,and drawing, so to take all of that and chop it down to talent is belittling. To say I’m talented is not true, I am well practiced. I can’t say that about every person who does art, but I can say it about myself, Talent has nothing to do with my art ability… all it is, is passion and practice.

Author: Elsewhere in this blog you’ll find a few poems and pictures by Julia, they are some of the brightest gems in my own personal midden heap, and well worth digging for. In our lives some of us are lucky enough to encounter fallen Angels who fill our hearts with joy, our minds with inspiration, and our souls with satisfaction.  Julia is one such.  She is also the Julia within A Crystal Tear, a Fairy Tale I am currently expanding into a short book.  By another name, Julia is also the principle heroine of Malmaxa. Unlike her father, Julia tends not to name her poems. Here is one I have titled “stars”, partially because it allows me to format the poem to the visual style I prefer.

~ Stars ~
~
I dreamt that I was the one who laid stars in the sky,
ultimate power under my finger tips.
When my childhood home was sold
I was told I have the perfect hands
to play the piano that sat in our dining room.
Fingers that reach key after key,
pressing gracefully against that ivory,
like only the gifted can.
I never learned to play the piano,
I played the trombone.
~
I was in the library, 16 years old,
fingers reaching for a book,
stretching to reach the wisdom of the top shelf.
A woman said she wished she had hands like mine,
fingers long and thin
that demand attention,
that accent long elegant limbs.
She told me “I bet you do ballet!”
I didn’t have the voice to say
“When I step on the dance floor, people get hurt.”
~
I dreamt that I laid the stars in the sky,
that my limbs sweep across,
and leave galaxies in their wake.
~
As a child my mother told me I’m like a baby giraffe,
with long elegant limbs
I don’t really know how to use.
I never learned how to play the piano,
my arms were the perfect length for the trombone.
I never learned how to dance a ballet,
but my fingers dance across pages of books
like that is all they were made to do.
~
I never did put the stars in the sky,
But I found someone who treats me like I do…
~

Author: Julia is wrong. As with others of her ilk, she is largely unaware she does indeed put the stars in the sky. And sometimes also, the tears in my eyes.

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on Boxes

Primarily because I believe beauty deserves to be shared, I recently showed a spectacularly beautiful image my sixteen year old daughter Julia drew to a couple of my co-workers.  One person’s response to the picture appalled me.  That feeling has indirectly lead to this post, in which I’m sharing two of Julia’s drawings.  The first appears immediately below.

Pencil Art

The comment this wonderfully essential image invoked from my co-worker was, “She’s a sixteen year old girl drawing pictures of girls butts? I’d be worried if I was you…”  Though I wanted to respond by asserting I’m not in the least worried as I know my daughter while they do not, and then asking what century they think we live in, I refrained, turned away, and showed the image to someone less judgmental and thus infinitely more able to appreciate beauty for its own sake.

A few days passed, then, in the way of the universe Julia brought me a gift. Another incredibly beautiful, incredibly essential drawing, possibly provoked by an earlier discussion we had had about how universal, widespread, and immoral the subjugation of women is. That image appears below.

"Boxed In" by Julia

“Boxed In” by Julia

Julia’s second drawing lead me to reconsider the comment made to me by my co-worker.  Perhaps they made their judgmental remark precisely because they are themselves “boxed in” to what they have been taught and conditioned to think is “right”.

Artistic people like Julia are a gift to us all. They make us realize the universe is benevolent.  They allow and encourage us to delve the depths of thought, feeling, spirit, and motivation.  Their visions of beauty open our hearts and let our eyes and minds perceive things we might not notice on our own.

Are you boxed in?  Did you willing climb into the box society demanded you dwell within?

Boxes do not improve life, they constrain it.

If we are truly moral beings then we have no need for external rules, for within our souls we already have all the rules we’ll ever need.  By their very nature these internal rules must be universal, and thus they must be universally true for all sentient and moral beings, which I believe most humans are.  What are these universal moral rules? Well, if they are indeed universal you should intuitively know them, and you should also know they are true.  If they are indeed universal then where they reside is within you, and they might be uncovered by delving the depths of yourself, as art encourages.

But be warned, you may have to dig deep for many societal influences seek to impose some nefarious agenda on us.  These influences presume to impose their rules, constrain us to their goals, and place us in boxes from which they tell us it is immoral to escape.  Since these influences are external, they are not universal and therefore they are artificial.

Art is the light that allows us to see into ourself.  Art allows us to dig deep into our own psyche.  Art allows us to climb out of the boxes others place us in.  Art allows us to discard the superfluous and clearly see the essential.

Universal moral rules are the things our soul has always known, without need of any external teacher.  Perhaps you think the Ten Commandments are these universal moral rules?  They are not, they are just another constraining box into which far too many unquestioningly climb.  The truly universal moral rules are few, and furthermore are essential to our survival as collective humanity.  If, as I believe, there are indeed universal moral rules, then they exist within us all, every one of us should abide by them, and every one of us should search for them.  That search begins within, and art is the gate to the start of the path that leads to personal enlightenment.

To me the essential universal morals are very simple and very few. They include these thoughts:-

  • Never be Greedy.
  • Be inclined to Love more than you are to Indifference.
  • Grant dignity to all until they deny it to you.
  • Be tolerant of difference, for without diversity we are doomed.
  • Trust the unvoiced whispers of your soul more than you trust any external law.
  • Abhor cruelty in any form.

Our soul speaks to us.  It tells us right from wrong.  But do we listen, do we hear then choose to ignore, or are we deaf to our own conscience call?

I also believe there are many grossly immoral external laws, however since these are merely my personal thoughts I don’t consider them to be universal.  They include…
Since they encourage and facilitate greed, laws which allow one person to gain while another loses are immoral.
Since authority should be earned not assumed, laws which compel obedience are immoral.
Laws which are more concerned with property than with morality are, by their very nature, immoral.

Thank you for reading.  Thank you also for thinking.  Should you be interested to learn more of Julia you can find her in my work of Philosophy Couched as Fantasy, Malmaxa.  In Malmaxa Julia goes by another name, but she is Julia no less.

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on Aged Beauty

Beauty cries out to be shared. It need not be polished, nor shiny, nor bright, nor new. Beauty is everywhere, if only we choose to see it. And yes, I believe the perception of beauty is something that improves with practice. Practice looking for it, and you’ll soon see it everywhere and in everything.

Beauty
dwells in everything
we see
true beauty need not be
pristine
true beauty, is bettered
by age
and mystery…

ancient, abandoned, mysterious, beautiful no less

ancient, abandoned, mysterious, beautiful no less

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