Thursday, December 18, 2008

a moral

in elementary school, the 'they' that we remember vaguely as anything other than 'me' called me Son of Thunder.  i remember the chanting, like a mob of monks echoing a boomful curse, 'Son of Thunder! Son of Thunder!' i needed anger then, as a shield from all the pain.  no matter that we were poorish or dressed badly, always behind or obtuse to the current fads--i had no self awareness of this condition.

a bystander, i watched myself pushed and kicked and hurled, thrown and dragged and tossed.  later, i would learn that my kin were robots; that of robot descent i too had buttons which could be manipulated.  i must learn to safeguard these buttons, keep them secret, safe.

anger and oughtness.  these are the emotions.  in the beginning, i was angered by that which i felt i ought but did not receive.  later, i learned that i ought receive nothing but that i was due opportunity.  i ought not be carried to the finish line, but i am due the opportunity to run there--so i believed.  this reformed my notion of oughtness.  i ought be given nothing, but no barriers ought obstruct my ambitions.

still, i troubled over this.  for some, no caravans to safe harbor traveled and obstructions to free range obfuscated escape.  what of those with no means faced against a conscious will?  surely oughtness should dictate that obstacles be overturned and paths be paved for the safe pursuit of dreams and goals.

then, of course, the conflict begins.  man ought make himself; but man ought not unmake other men.

i am then angry.  angry that life does not unfold as it ought, and angry that i do not as i ought in life.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

like father like father

heather and i ran into a woman who attends my father's church at the mall today.  "you don't look anything like your father," she said, "but you have your mother's smile." 

i don't know how to respond to that.

to some, this might only be the most fleeting of thoughts; but my identity, from my own perspective, is so tightly woven round the husk of my youth that a threat upon any part of it is a threat upon all of it.

i see it, when i look at pictures.  there is a face that transmutes between frames.  the father becomes the son and the son becomes the father.  it is there. 

yet with increasing frequency, i hear surprise at the comparison.  several times in the last month: "why, you don't look anything alike."

what does that mean?  anything?  nothing?

we want roots.  i want roots.  i suspect the roots want roots but can't, and therein lies the rub.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving

I read a bit recently that described thanks as gratitude for that which one did not earn (to which I would also attach, 'deserve'). In my mind, this perfectly fits the Pilgrim's myth which we iterate each year at this time: the benevolent stranger gives the weary passenger a bed, a roof, and a loaf of bread. The myth survives (I hope), because it still occurs. Those without obvious merit and means are given means without regard for merit.

For my own part, I know that I owe much to the charity of friends and strangers. Strangers have saved my life on many occasions. One man out of thousands rescued me from the side of a highway and brought me home. One man pulled me out of the road before a truck passed. One asked me to wait; and another to hurry. I have countless times been guided by the vision of others who had the opportunity to see the world in ways which I could not and the wisdom and goodwill to advise me a better course.

It's easiest to imagine the most dramatic of these little salvations, because they etch themselves so easily into memory; but I fear that I forget the more important thanks which ought be offered to those who toil beneath the obvious.

We are spiders upon a great web, spun and spinning by all those we know; traversing it as though we were the maker.

Monday, November 24, 2008

out of mind of sight

Self-consciousness is generally loathsome, though it doesn't stop me from trepidating on its doorstep, flirting with it constantly behind my eyelids.  In one sense, the whole of my existence is a barbaric wrestle with regret.  Skipping from one medication to the next in the endless psychopharmicological pursuit of a cure to this rotating polarity in my brain, I feel at all times nervous about the state of my emotions.  I am, after all, a creature more emotional than rational; though I do with my best intentions try to reason my way through the emotional cloud.

Quick to anger and sadness and despair and slow to peace and quiet.  The world within my head only distantly mirrors the world through which I walk, yet the two are so separate, so real, and so indistinguishable to me that I find myself in constant worried tension over the viability of my beliefs.  In the end, I must always believe something; and it seems necessary to believe that which feels most true.  After the excesses of over rationalization have begun to spoil by the curb, there remains only one faint handle by which to pull myself up: a gut instinct, a hunch, an irrational feeling.

Just as the warmth of a cup of coffee will influence my emotional state, my emotional state is always in bitter siege of my reason.  That I say, with frequency too embarrassing to confess, things which are wrong (logically, ethically or practically) is true; but that I always very nearly believe myself in these moments to be the most reasoned, the most disciplined, the most sane is the great sadness.  To exist in a constant state of waking from a falsehood, a falsehood which seemed too compelling to be anything but absolute and true.

In the absence of  strong emotions, my mind is clear; and I, at least, feel that I appear to be normal.  The overpowering fear persistent within these moments is that my illusions persist.

Feelings are like tides, and the tides have me lost at sea.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

i pity them

family is a strange thing. this is overly generic. family is an evolved concept, evolved out of necessity for the preservation of species. it is both a biological connection between generations and a social grouping, collecting different biological chains together into one label. this can be extraordinarily useful as members of the group assist the survival of each other.

it becomes problematic when members of the same species begin to evolve family as a means of competition for survival among members of the same species. we begin to see communication barriers between groups when the group differs according to loose labels like 'race' or 'orientation' or 'gender'.

the more evolved realize that survival requires codependence. no one creature can endure without the mutual support of others. the less evolved recoil at the thought of intra-group communication. to them, the infidels must die and the righteous must rise.

to the other side, dialog is an abomination. the only course is the fire.

Friday, November 21, 2008

License to *hit

The subject of the latest email from Dean. Indulging him:

Blogging with mythological imagination impregnated by poorly informed historical imagination.

Rhetoric in cloaks of ignorance bleeds out of hovels of supposed intelligentsia.

Does anyone hear the tree (in this case bramble) falling in the woods?

The death of reason personified. Hope left as a vagrant in the streets. Transcendence lost in triviality.

The invisible mute Grandpa has spoken.


The sick irony of the phrase 'death of reason' is my profound desire to apprehend what is True in this world. In arguing for rational debate, I am somehow offensive to his sensibilities. I am willing to dialog with anyone on any subject in the hopes of better understanding their point of view, but I guess Jesus was a conservative Republican. After all, Jesus hated blacks and homosexuals, so we should too.

If I recall, the 11th Commandment was Thou shalt not be a liberal, for it is an abomination to God.

I am not a Christian, and that gives me the freedom to try to seek out Truth instead of blindly believing scriptures that are profoundly dangerous and false. If the only framework in which Dean is comfortable arguing a point is behind the ignorance of his own beliefs, he has my blessing to remain blissfully mute.

I am always open to the possibility that I am wrong and will gladly accept correction when available; however, it must be informed and reasoned discipline that guides our search.

Monday, November 10, 2008

hogwash

It's strange that in the largest (and first) economic crisis of our century, the streets are calm and the crowds quiet.  Entire countries' economies have collapsed in the past few months.  Within the U.S., every investment bank has collapsed.  We no longer have a single investment bank in our borders.  Almost all of the central banks are both hoarding money and hemoraging assets.  Global companies are shutting down.  DHL, GM, Ford.  Retailers are rotting from the inside.  Commercial paper is scarce, inter bank lending is still largely frozon, and everyone with assets is terrified.

This terror somehow escapes the average American.  Unemployment rises each day, yet panic is the furthest thing from our minds.  Some of us are conscious of the looming giant but are incapable of doing anything about it.  Others blissfully walk the streets, unaware that the sky is prepared to swallow them whole.

The illusion of security is still relatively strong.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

full disclosure

never before and never since have I awoken with the force of another man's fist in my face.  there is a time, in my past, when I woke to the blurred forms of socks filled with soap and padlocks flying toward my restrained form.  there is no one to hear that scream.

when one can bleed in the view of the public, and when the public chooses to ignore the bloody masses...

all fuck has gone to fuck, excuse my german.

Friday, November 7, 2008

the folly of age

My brother, Timothy, wise beyond his years, hipped me to an email conversation with our grandparents.  I consider it worth reading.

I can't speak for him, but I've never been particularly close to them.  Dean is impossible to talk to, through no inherent fault of his own; he simply chooses not to engage in lengthy conversations.  I've only rarely spoken to Naomi.  As my relationship with them has been so limited, it would be prudent to disclose that I do not truly know them; I know of them, and I've heard some of their life stories as told by other family members; but I have no direct relationship with these stories.

That said, when you get an email with Obama Photoshopped onto the body of a man shining Sarah Palin's shoes, with a personal note, "Best picture of Palin yet!", it's difficult not to think, "Racism?".  Perhaps they didn't intend the picture as a racist attack on an African American, but to submit an objectively racist picture of anyone to a group via email in ignorance of the context of the photo is as damning in my mind as having done it deliberately.

I'm emotionally agnostic towards them.  I'm not angry with their potential hatred of blacks or homosexuals or anyone else not like them; but I am angry with the population this belief pattern represents.  It's a group dedicated to the proliferation of injustice, and I wish it weren't a part of America--or perhaps, I wish this group weren't so loudly perched on America's shoulder.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

a comment on comments

It's too early (by the pundint's reconing) to call, but I've had my first comment.

This is monumental.  This is big.

As always, though I have no readers; my call remains the same:

Read something.  Anything.  Possibly twice.

burning bush

the agony of waiting for it all to end

Saturday, November 1, 2008

over the hill and through the woods

there is always a time when we must choose how much evil we are willing to support to affect good.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

for your bucket of thoughts

If you ask the Jew, the average practicing Jew or even a cross section of Rabis on the question of the afterlife, you'll find that they generally don't believe in one. The question doesn't interest them very much. If you drill down, they'll admit they believe in Sheol, this place where everyone (Jews and non-Jews) go when they die; and it's a bit like Pergatory--nothing particularly good or bad happens there, it's just a holding cell for a time.

The promised reward to Jews for their faith is entirely temporal--the promise is that God will bless their families, their sons and daughters, their grandchildren, the generations of their families through time. That's it. They don't look forward to a Heaven or fear a Hell; they are very rooted in the here and now. It is true that they believe in Heaven as a place where God and the angels dwell, a vantage point from which God observes mankind--but they don't see this place as a final destination for souls. Man never dwelled in Heaven and Man never will.

If you look at the Jewish tradition in another way, they're also not evangelical, which is to say they aren't interested in converting anyone else to Judaism. They do accept converts, but they don't spend any energy advertising. This is because their relationship with God is both inclusive and exclusive--the punishments and rewards of Levitical law apply *only* to the Jew, both ethnically and religiously. It is a relationship which affects only the believer and excludes everyone else; which in effect means that right and wrong are a bit subjective. It is fundamentally wrong to eat lobster as a Jew--a sin. As a non-Jew, lobster is morally agnostic; it is neither good nor evil for a Gentile to eat lobster.

It is true that the Jew looks at the Gentile through the lense of their own moral compass; but there is no judgment in that analysis, only the acknowledgement that the Gentile is not the Chosen and a feeling of assurance that by following Levitical law, the Jew is awarded blessings from Heaven.

So, if you follow these two suppositions: that neither Heaven nor Hell existed in Jewish theology at the moment of Christ's arrival and that God had two relationships at that time, one with the Jews and one with the rest of mankind (one was very specific and detailed, and the other was not defined at all, from the perspective of the Jew), then consider this experiment.

If we agree that the preceeding statements are sound and accurate reflections of what the Jew believed between 700 BCE and 32-34 CE, then consider the impact of Christ's death. Effectively, he introduced or created the concept of Hell. It didn't exist before in any religion; but suddenly there is a place where we will weep and gnash teeth and the key to this place is belief in Christ. Now consider that the estimated population of the entire world at that time was about 200 million people, from Rome to America to China. Now, think about the number of evangelizing converts of Christianity, suddenly rushing out into the world to convert the Gentile to the new faith. Think about the time it would take to travel to all of these places given the state of technology at this time. Also, consider that no written document existed, nor would one exist until ~350 - 400 CE.

Now, consider the life expectancy of the average Roman (population ~50 million or 1/4 of the world at this time) was between 20 - 30 years, and let's give the very optimistic assumption that folks were dying at the current rate of 0.09% of the total population per day. To put this in context, 155.000 people will die today, died yesterday, will die tomorrow. So, by today's very high standards of living, life expectancy and mortality rates, almost 0.1% of the world was dying each day in 34 CE.

Suddenly, this new Heaven and Hell exist for non believers; the previously undefined relationship between God and the Gentile has now been defined and the consequences for non-compliance are very sharp indeed.

*If* this God puts his money where his mouth is, how do we account for the millions that died in China before the first missionary ever arrived? Forget the billions living now and in the last centuries who never heard this Gospel and are now damned for all eternity to the lake of fire. Christians will make arguments about General Revelation and suggest that missionaries *have* reached every corner of the globe. Let's look at the very real, indisputible position of the millions who died before the very first missionaries every arrived.

What was God's plan for them? Even if they were searching for this God in deep and constant meditation, centuries would pass before they ever had access. Thousands of people, dying each week that the Gospel didn't arrive.

Just a thought for your bucket of thoughts.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

shine and rise

mornings are like little deaths; the gaping jawl of the reaper, his teeth both rotting and sharpened, looming above the head of the wakened, threating to consume it

then, of course, there is the wee one, fast becoming not-so-wee; and his immutable morning soundtrack

the sound, of course, audible to no one but himself, he wages this silent but bloody war against the agony of morning, forcing his reality upon us loathe to stir from our dreams

would that mornings never were

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

this present opaqueness

There was within me a quiet comfort in the belief that some all knowing force guided the hands of man in the daily doings of human kind, a relief and respite in the faith that it was not truly up to *us* to guide the resolutions of issues of strife and hunger and cruelty.

That comfort has long since been replaced with an awkward kind of horror, a livid rage, an abject revulsion of the species to which we claim heritage. That there is no god, gods or God should surprise no one; but that we should, as a species, continue to perpetuate a pattern of self destruction is immensely saddening.

In the former context, I had no reason to fear, for I was in no way responsible. This invisible and unapproachable god controlled all the myriad forces in the world, and I had no power to prevail over his will. Of course, this god doesn't exist in the latter; and all of my own decisions and the decisions of the public contribute to our own damnation--strictly speaking of this finite existence.

It is (perhaps) all moot. I hope that we will as a species progress and save ourselves. It is my great fear that we will not.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

presidential politics aside

I wonder if teething is nature's way of driving parents towards insanity.  I remember times looking at my own parents with the hypothesis that they were indeed crazier than a band of mango/chicken hybrids, but I'm now getting closer to the truth of it.

It may just be the only way to deal with the pain: desanitification.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Goodybye Randy Pausch

I didn't know him until the day he died. I wish I had met him earlier.

Friday, August 1, 2008

blief or belf

I encountered this on my YouTube browsing, a rendering of Penn Jillette's contribution to the NPR show, This I Believe:

"I Believe There Is No God"


It seems interesting but not particularly compelling to redirect a rational ambivalence toward the existence of God to a concerned belief in his non-existence.  It's a seemingly subtle twist to transition from "I do not believe in God" to "I believe there is no God".  The former allows me to pursue other more interesting beliefs and frees me from a long and unnecessary argument which the latter seems destined to encourage.  That is not to suggest it's an  uninteresting or valueless argument or that I begin avoiding beliefs which are too cumbersome or uncomfortable to carry; only that in this case, it's unnecessary.

I care that good exists, and I believe that it does.  My "I do not believe in God" belief leads me to believe that good is evolved, that it's changing and permeable and that it's not absolute.  A subjective good makes sense to me, is supported by defensible arguments, and has the same doorway as Mr. Jillette's belief into a world with less suffering.  Mr. Jillette's belief strikes me not as inherently wrong or problematic, save that it seems one more step before the question of good, which is the only question that will get us closer to the problem of suffering.

Friday, July 25, 2008

awesome pitiable envy

ants tunnel into the crops, eroding the soil and spoiling the harvest

the farmers respond by killing the ants

we burrow into the crust, pulling out oil and coal

Saturday, July 19, 2008

a grieved grievance

I've been very excited about upgrading my iPhone to the new iPhone 3G. This morning, I called the Apple Store at the Syracuse, NY mall to see if any were in stock. Lo, 16GB Whites were in stock. So, I packed up the family for a trip to the mall and drove the 2 hours to Syracuse. Eagerly, I went into the Apple store and boldly asked, "Please, sell me an iPhone."

This is where it all goes wrong. I have $299 plus tax in hand. Apple has an iPhone in stock. Why didn't I walk out of the store with $300 less in pocket and an iPhone richer? Utter disregard for customer satisfaction, customer loyalty and a Byzantine delusion that by rigidly controlling access to your product that somehow you will profit.

The problem, it seems, is that I have a family plan with AT&T and that my mother, who works for a college with a contract with AT&T and receives a discount adds a mysterious 'IFU' tag to my account. Now, I cannot buy the phone from Apple, I must buy it from AT&T.

"AT&T is sold out nationwide," I say.

"We know," says Apple.

I asked if I could buy the phone and take it to the AT&T kiosk just down the hallway.

"No," says Apple.

I asked if I could bring an AT&T representative up to the Apple store to work out the kinks and let me somehow purchase the phone.

"No," says Apple.

I asked if Apple could sell this iPhone to the AT&T kiosk and let AT&T sort out the details.

"No," says Apple.

Why I can't purchase the phone, I can't imagine. This kind of corporate arrogance drives me nuts. My current iPhone is mine. I can do with it what I want. The new iPhone 3G should be mine as well, but apparently Apple doesn't want my business.

This is all very frustrating, because unlike so many others, I'm playing by the rules. I'm not unlocking my iPhone and switching carriers. Apple's rules are wrong, don't get me wrong; but I'm willing to play by them in order to get access to the device. At the point when Apple has changed the rules so much that I can't even enter the playing field?

I'm buying my iPhone 3G unlocked from China.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

circles twice removed

Time bends in unpredictable ways with children.  Eli is almost 6 months old, and he's the most amazing little person, which always strikes me as an odd thing to realize.  It seems like there's this wealth of common knowledge, generally in these seemingly obvious observations, "Children change your life", "My child is the best thing to ever happen" or any number of different (even radically different) observations, which are impossible to apprehend (or at least I chose not to try) in the absence of the actual experience.

In the same way, there are all these things which I feel like I've known for quite a while about life, but for one reason or another have chosen to ignore until now.  I can't quite put my finger on it.  It's a feeling of constant, "Oh, now I get it" that never seems to end; and I've abandoned all hope of ever approaching a final sense of awareness in which "I get it", because I don't think that place is realistically apprehensible given our life expectancies.  Sometimes, it's a vague feeling, having remembered a moment observing my parents doing something that I find myself now doing, remembering a kind of absent, half-concerned confusion as to the what's and why's of what they were doing, as it didn't appear to make any sense to me, and then suddenly awakening to those answers as I find myself doing those actions.

I guess in a sense, it's as if I spent a good portion of my life watching some other people live their lives; and I spent a portion of that time in observation pontificating and sometimes even going so far as to judge them in accordance with my own standards for how a life ought be lived.  Then, suddenly, I'm out of the stadium seating and onto the field; and I'm acutely aware of this sensation of replaying a match that's already been played.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

in the waking hours

There is within me this horribly perverse desire to hoard away little minutes here and thither for my own squandering. Fatherhood robs you of your selfishness, and I want it back. I linger fondly over memories of gross self indulgence, filling my belly with late night television and sleeping until noon after noon. There were these rare but ghastly glimpses into a future filled with stale potato chips and beer cans stacked to the ceiling and dripping disorder across the room, and the vague notion of eternity in this foul stench of a vision; but these were easily squashed by the audacity of self import.

The child allows no other in his unruly room within your heart. No space exists for self, and though his departure was no doubt timely and a salvation of many colors, the idea of self sometimes pines for itself in the quiet moments between tasks. That the house is full of diapers stacked to ceilings and scattered books and toys cover the couch and floor matters little to the faint horrors of former visions. The child must be satisfied and his thirst is greater than any of my former selves.

The joy then emerges quite unexpectedly, as we feed his unquenchable desires with our little loves--their unquenchability fuels my purpose in ways no other self ever afforded; and to love him is to know love (a little).

How then to ferret away a moment for myself?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

i love twine

from the knots it forms in my drawers...

to the kittens it delights in my imagination...

and to the semantic web i yearn to embrace...

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

a dark in the shot

You had your first shots today, my boy, just a few short days after your learned to laugh.  It was painful to hear you really cry.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Eli, my Eli

It is almost a month since you were born. We have taken many pictures of your progress, and it is a joy to watch you grow day by daily.

I imagine that you have what must be the opposite of Alzheimer's: the gradual acquisition of memory and a constant state of impermeable confusion, rolling over your consciousness like waves, which leave just a little more sand on the beach than they take away with each thundering tow. Your eyes are developing, and your neck is nearly strong enough to turn your head at will; but you are utterly helpless. I marvel at your weakness, because it seems to speak to our species as a whole.

There are no lesser animals, but there are animals less complex (perhaps) than our species, animals whose young are nearly ready to defend themselves upon departure from the womb. You are not. Like the panda, we must raise our young with absolute dedication or they will die. That we have selected to so evolve as a species seems significant. Certainly, it is a testament to our social nature. We live or die upon our ability to interact socially. That we should have incorporated this social dependence into childbirth is interesting. Interesting, if only to me. I do not pretend to own some greater understanding of this little mystery; but the panda and the polar bear raise their children alone. Dolphins, it is true, socially converge as do a vast array of apes and monkeys. We are certainly not unique in this regard; but it might be described as a feature of the "more evolved"--whatever that might mean.

All that aside, it is a joy to watch you grow.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

hello, son

It's mere minutes before the day you are scheduled, albeit not destined, to be born; and though you may be familiar with my voice, we have not spoken--not I to you or otherwise.

Your mother and I have thought about calling you Eli. In the Hebrew, it means "God" or "my God" or "ascension". The Jews, about whom you will come to learn a great deal in the many years I hope you live, did not believe in a heaven or hell as the Christians that followed them do. Rather, their great hope, through a life of sacrifice and righteousness, was not that God would ultimately bless them individually or immediately but that he would bless their children and their children's children.

There is much about this world I wish were different for you. You may not see true Winter in your lifetime. You will certainly find life harder than it was introduced to me. My generation was softly born and cradled with beautiful lies, and our eyes opened too late. Your generation will be harsher, perhaps angry and even bitter against us for the poor condition of the world we have kept for you. Truly, we lived in ignorance.

I do not believe in god or Gods, Allahs or Krishnas, Calvins or Marxes. They are mostly made of phlogiston, burning brightly in artificial air. I do like the notion of the Judaic faith--that our blessings are our future; that our future is our family. I doubt they've that written anywhere or spoken it so vulgarly as I, but it's my notion of their belief. One possible belief--narrowly focused.

That you are of me, and that I get to enjoy you and the fruits of your life is blessing. I anticipate meeting you.

I fancied in my youth that I would die alone and childless, though not perhaps for the reasons you might one day come to expect. Rather, I felt very keenly a connection to this God, about whom the theme of this first letter is becoming tightly woven. I believed then (and still do) in this notion of absolute truth--that right and wrong can be judged, only I then believed they needed a Judge to be so. It seemed to me then that a relationship with this God need be personal and intimate, but I felt nothing. Because I believed in but did not experience this God, for a great while I despaired and thought my own life hopeless; and later when I did come into an experience, my beliefs had gradually changed; and it seems that a great deal of my struggle has been in and around the attempt to meet my beliefs with my experiences.

It has not been to this day a struggle of great success; but, out of despair, I do still hope. Goodness must exist, and Justice must be sought. I don't have perfect answers to the logical problems these two assertions stand upon, but I know it is worth a great deal to believe in these two things.

I look forward to the journey with you.