Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Blurring The Lines





When we are young we are handed a coloring book and a box of crayons to amuse us. The hard work’s already been done, all we have to do is stay within the lines. We can choose any crayon we want to use on the picture, but we already know if it’s a pony or a kitten or a flower. We can pretend we’re rebels by coloring the horse purple, but it’s still a horse.

The game doesn’t change as we get older. We are still given parameters and are judged every time we color outside the lines. Not only do we receive negative feedback for crossing the lines, even our thoughts are expected to stay within accepted parameters. And if we practice drawing within the lines long enough, we forget to question the shapes we are presented and for the most part don’t pay much attention to the lines at all. We accept them as we accept a law of nature such as gravity.

An outline is not a natural phenomenon but a human construct. People draw lines on a map in order to define nations, but it is never as neat as that. Different people draw the map in different ways, depending on which country they identify with. Germans did not see the same Germany those in Poland did, Serbia did not see the same Bosnia Herzegovina that the Austrian Empire did. Both cases of seeing too clearly the lines they wished to see resulted in world wars and tens of millions dead.

Reality has no clear lines. Only the human mind can come up with such a concept. Reality is much more fluid than a human mind can comprehend, especially a human mind clouded by fear and hope and greed and insecurity and whatever other emotions that disrupt the calmness required to see things as they are.

Small minds like lines because they make a complicated world simple. Greedy and selfish people like lines because it separates what is theirs from what belongs to others. The thing is, the greedy and selfish people will always be moving the line outwards so that there is more for them and less for us, because that is what greed and selfishness does. The greedy and the selfish and the small-minded are unable to comprehend concepts like “we” and “us”, “share” and “co-exist”. They need to draw lines in order to feel secure and in control.

The imagined paradise of the line drawers is not a world where all share and work together but one where individuals working against each other magically create a magical capitalist wonderland, where each one’s selfishness serves to make an ideal world. At least that’s the vision they sell. Personally, I don’t think they spend their time imagining an ideal world at all, at least not for society as a whole.

They cannot help but divide. They feel compelled to build walls: around their homes, around their neighborhoods, around their nations. They need always to protect what is theirs and in the process destroy all that is ours. “Our” is too big a concept for them, does not fit neatly within the lines they have drawn.

Divisions exist between each and every one of us. So too does commonality. Our current perception of reality is one that breaks us all down into separate entities with separate interests. Which we are. But we are also part of something larger, with shared interests. Indeed, life is ultimately meaningless if we cannot find something larger to be a part of.

Lines/walls/barriers divide us, artificially so. The line that divides liberals from conservatives is an artificial distinction because there are so many agreements between individuals on both sides. Not everyone on one side agrees 100% or even 50% with those they are lumped together with, and the line that is drawn does not even include issues on which most of us agree, such as not wanting to die in a nuclear holocaust. The only useful reason then for these lines to be drawn at all is so that those in power can divide us in order to rule us.

Those who see lines wish to make them obvious to others. Those who wish to rule us always see an “other” on which to place the blame. We cannot accept the notion that we are all to blame, and consequently that we all can find solutions. Oh, no, that is not how they see things. They need an enemy. They need terrorist Muslims and Russian bots and job-stealing Mexicans. They need not only foreign enemies but domestic ones as well, Dumbocrats, Deplorables, Libtards, and especially Nazis. Because everybody on the other side of the line is a Nazi nowadays.

Lines are illusions created by minds afraid of complexity, afraid of external threats, afraid of just about everything. Lines become limiters, become boundaries, become borders and walls and fences and barriers. They become prison walls that shut us off from the outside until the world we inhabit becomes our own private bunker where we are safe from the outside world even as we become dead to it.

In such a mindset we can no longer perceive the undeniable fact that we are connected to the world in ways far beyond understanding. Much of the way we interact with the outside world and with our fellow humans is done sub-consciously, not unlike how lower levels of animals are capable of working together for the good of all without a brain sophisticated enough to be aware of it.

The human mind gives us a tremendous advantage over other species, but we tend to overrate its ability to envision the big picture. The intellect is useful but it is not infallible. Logic is a wonderful thing, but can only work within our limited data set, and the data set humans have compiled is quite small compared to the universe. The intellect is a wonderful tool, but so too is humility. In fact, we need to make sure the two are balanced within us. Too much belief in our intellect and we become arrogant and destructive. Too much humility and we start accepting what the arrogant and destructive tell us.

If we make a conscious decision not to see the lines, or rather, not allow them to direct our vision and determine our reality, we open ourselves up to truly miraculous things. If we refuse to see the distinction between “them” and “us”, we come face to face with the concept of an interconnectedness between not only all human beings but all life itself. Dropping the pretext of borders and differentiators, we have nothing standing between ourselves and the vast universe, and we are left open to the realization that all life is interwoven and identical in its urge to grow and reach out. It is truly overwhelming and I understand the fear of stepping outside the lines. But once one does, the foolishness and emptiness of the alternate view becomes apparent. We will still feel the pull of the things we leave behind, will still have sentimental attachments to old ways in the same manner a child is reluctant to put aside his nook or special blankie, but it is a necessary step in achieving a new level of maturity.

Imagine an entire planet of “us”. If you think it is a powerful thing to belong to “An Army Of One”, of belonging to a immensely large and powerful group that is capable of protecting you from a powerful and frightening enemy, imagine being part of a far larger group of people with no corresponding “other” to oppose you. You are part of such a large army, you just have to dedicate yourself to it in order to help make it a reality. This army, having no external foes to fight, will work side by side with you in making the world we all share a better place to inhabit. This army is dedicated to helping the fallen, since they don’t have to worry about taking enemy fire. Like the armies every nation now have, they will require a certain amount of selflessness. But unlike the armies of today, they will not demand that we abandon free will: we will be active agents in shaping the future. It is an army that is in the service of life, not death. It is an army without borders, walls, or lines of any kind. We all belong to it whether we know it or not, and our mission is not to destroy but to build. Go ahead, dare to take a peak over the lines you have drawn that have separated you from the outside world. I promise you it won’t be as scary as you have imagined.

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Media's War On Spirituality


Spirituality is either the result of having a comfortable enough place to reflect upon the meaning and purpose of human existence, or else it is the result of such suffering that one has no choice but to retreat inward in search of ways to cope. The most spiritual among us are those who embrace both ends of the spectrum, those who forsake physical comforts in order to have the time to focus on the meaning that can be found in simplicity. I refer to the religious, who can be found in any primitive society, from Buddhists to Taoists, to Christians, Muslims and Jews. And I refer to primitive societies because I wonder if it is even possible to retreat from the modern society that now exists.

Economically, we should have arrived at a point where we are all comfortable enough to afford the time and space necessary to reflect upon spiritual matters, but the economic engine that was so good at creating convenience and answers to physical want also demands of us our undivided attention. A capitalist economy soon realized it needed to become a consumer society in order to further itself, so that wealth creation went from beyond the merely physical to the psychological. In order to maintain a system that can give happiness on merely a physical level, they needed to eradicate from people’s consciousness any thoughts of achieving happiness through non-economic means.

When people are neither actively purchasing or consuming or else creating goods or services for others, they must either be lulled into a stupor or else be driven to distraction by emotional provocation. They must be given constant distractions so that their thoughts never stray to the spiritual perspective, which revolts in the face of such mindless creation and consumption. To distract from the spiritual, they must never let minds stay too long on a single subject. A mind left alone too long might start out on a path of self-directed thoughts. Interrupt it every few minutes or even seconds, and the mind is forced to respond to outside stimuli and forget whatever internal ideas that might be bubbling beneath the surface. Scatter the pieces of the puzzle at regular intervals, and the puzzle solver will never be able to put them together to form a coherent image.

Thus we have commercials on television to take us from those very rare instances when a compelling argument or narrative is taking place. And what was once an every fifteen minute or so break has become more frequent. Live shows, that once had a single camera resting upon a scene for moments at a time as it played out, have been replaced by the hyper-editing introduced to us on MTV in the 80’s.

News channels not only give us one story, they give us many concurrently. They have the narrative spoken by the host, but they also have a running stream of information below it. Add to that the constantly shifting graphics all about and the mind is always in motion, never permitted to orient itself.

This is not a stylistic choice, not some mere fad that has come and will then move to some other style. The immense amounts of information that is thrown at you on CNN and elsewhere is not an attempt to keep you as informed as possible in a hectic and changing world, it is a way to insure your mind is always kept busy, because a busy mind is always concerned with the surface noise, and is never able to plunge the depths of issues. The media has created a kinetic Potemkin village, one of pure flash and no substance. It is not merely useless, it is distracting. No useful knowledge can be gained from such a system of information dispersal. It does not permit you to connect with your rational nor spiritual aspects, it merely demands you absorb. It does not give, it demands obeisance.

It—the media—is not there to inform you. It is not there to help you become a more active member of a democratic society. It is there to keep your emotions heightened so your intellect is never in the driver’s seat. It is there to prime you for the people who make the commercials and pay the bills. It is there to wear down your defenses. And since it is so all-encompassing, it inevitably will. When it does not leave you feeling stupid it will leave you feeling helpless. And for those most in its control, you will be left feeling intelligent and powerful while having a grasp neither on truth nor on the reins of power.

But as powerful and omnipresent as the media is, it needs your help. It requires you to betray your most basic values in order for it to be effective. If you stay true to the values your parents and your teachers and your religious institutions have sought to instill in you, the media cannot control you. It may dress itself up as your mother, but it will never tell you to share with others. It may say it speaks for Christ, but it will never tell you to cast your bread upon the waters. It may quote from revered historical figures, but it will do so only in order to corrupt the spirit of what they have said. Peace and love are perhaps the most revered words echoed by family and church, but they will never be spoken in the media, because peace and love don’t help sell automobiles. The degree to which you do not hear the Sermon On The Mount Spoken on your television is the degree to which the media is working against your best interests and the interests of all humanity.

What can you do to escape from the insidious influence of the media? Find a source untainted by it. Pick up an old book, watch an old (black and white) movie. Step outside your era because it is only in this way you can step outside of the cultural milieu created by a media that has become both incredibly concentrated and far-reaching. If you must consume current media, then listen to genuinely independent news, art, and music. Get outside and in touch with the physical world around you, with whatever nature is left to you. Dig in the garden, walk in the woods, listen to the birds. Rebuild the connections that were all your forefathers ever knew so that you have a frame of reference built on something of substance.

It is time to step away from the television and get out in the streets. It is time to stop listening to the lies and start speaking the truth. Because here is the idea most feared by a mechanized and monetized media, the secret it seeks above all else to keep from you: that you are in control not only of your own life but are part of a society that can direct the future for itself, without the need for them. We as rational and caring human beings can construct a world where lying and coercion will be unnecessary, where force will be seen as a tool of the unjust. Because in order to build a functional society, you don’t need to be controlled, you need to be liberated.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Joyfulness

I am becoming increasingly convinced that it is impossible to change the world for the better without being a joyful person. While the world will inevitably deal us moments where we must grit our teeth and bear suffering, no enduring good will come of a life of continual painful sacrifice or doing what is distasteful because it seems necessary. Positive and lasting progress will occur only from those deeply in touch with what makes us more joyful.

When I speak of joyfulness, I do not refer to the feeling we have when we have acquired a new material possession or bested another individual in competition. It will not be found at Disneyworld nor will we ever get more than a glimpse of it on our television screens. It is not the sort of thing Madison Avenue will ever try to convince us we want. Not only is it not something others can profit from, those who wish to manipulate you into buying what they are selling are themselves incapable of truly understanding the concept of joy.

Joyfulness is derived from the simplest, most natural, and most human of all our experiences. It is something capable of being experienced by all but the very most unfortunate and miserable of us, is open equally to the poor as well as the rich. Joy is to be found in the humblest of meals. It is the sensation of the sun shining upon our skin, a gentle breeze, the sound of flowing water or the observance of a sunset. It is in the voice of an old friend sharing good news, even as it is in the smile of a stranger.

Those who are able to derive joy from the simplest and most natural of things are truly dangerous to the status quo, for they give truth to the lie that wealth and violence will ever advance human happiness. It is why the violent and closed-minded always wish to make the joyful suffer in order to prove themselves right and others wrong. Whether it be by overt violence or the little aggressions of trying to tear the joyful person down, those lacking joy, those lacking the understanding necessary to achieve joy, always seek to perceive the joyful as rivals. The joyful have no rivals. Joy, like the experience of a sunset or the sound of water, can be shared by everybody equally. Shared joy is joy doubled.

Yet in our quest for achievement and progress, we have walled ourselves off from joy. Joy requires a certain amount of leisure and silence in which to work its magic, where our society has killed silence and replaced leisure with never-ending distraction. We toil ceaselessly in order to chase a happiness that is ever illusive, or else fritter our restful hours in consuming externally-produced information and entertainment that serves only to sell another’s narrative. The voices from outside drown out the one within that alone can experience joy and make us aware of all the joy that is available to us, that is our right as human beings.

Often we seek to be good, ignoring Oscar Wilde’s advice that when we are happy we are always good but when we are good we are not always happy. We feel the need to be something other than what we are, and forget the miracle of our own being, instead pursuing fantasies of what we should be. We seek to be good, valiant, noble, self-sacrificing, when in truth simply by being human we will be all that and more. It is in our nature. That is what it means to be human, but we have somehow come to believe that being human is not good enough. In wanting to be something other than what we are, we have closed the door on experiencing joy in the most basic of human actions. Work has become a means to an end, something we dread and fantasize about escaping, when it has the potential to be a glorious expression of our capacity for creation and sharing. If what we spend most of our lives doing is not a source of joy but instead an unwelcome necessity, we are doing something wrong.

We struggle to acquire wealth, and once we have acquired it, we need to justify our struggle by purchasing things we don’t really need. We spend on lavish dinners while we forget the joy we experienced from harvesting from our own little gardens. We purchase berries out of season at the crowded supermarket, forgetting the miracle of chancing upon them while hiking on an early summer day. Convenience is convenient, but no substitute for joy.

In ceasing to be joyful people ourselves, we become something other than those who inspired us. No child was inspired to be a teacher except by a teacher who not only shared information but joy. Whatever imperfections they might possess, we like to be around joyful people. We flee from the virtuous or successful who are unable to share a spirit of joyfulness. We love and remember our elders not for the material possessions they proved for us but for the joy they were able to awaken in us.

What joy does society give us today? It seems so many of us dread the company of our fellow human beings nowadays, since the sharing of joy seems to be a thing of the past. We shop at stores that don’t offer us human interaction, again giving us convenience and speed at the expense of joy. We joylessly interact with machines rather than face each other, seeing in the eyes of others the joyless reflection of our own souls.


Joyfulness is not only our default setting, it is our destiny. If we do not look towards our future with the anticipation of joy, we are severely off-track. Regardless of the incessant call for individuality and freedom that is used to promote the path we are on, no group of free individuals want a future bereft of joy. No free thinker looks forward to a time when we are all ruthlessly competing to see who can become the joyless king of a joyless planet. If joy—true contentedness in both being and working towards becoming the human you were born to be—is not part of the equation that formulates your world view, I would humbly suggest you are walking a needlessly painful and ultimately futile path.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Our Fear Of Hope

I have noticed that I am reluctant to openly express to people what most gives me hope because it sounds too abstract, too spiritual, too far beyond what is accepted thought. We live in an age of contraction, not of expansion, where ideas beyond the prescribed limits are dismissed as nonsensical. We have stopped openly wondering what we may become, have replaced such wondering with a fear of what we might actually be. Either of these lines of contemplation may lead to the truth—the future shall tell us which—but only one of these possibilities leads us where we want to go. Only one provides us with any hope.

We are in an age paralyzed with fear. Past generations pushed boundaries to discover new continents, placed footprints on the moon. And yet we seem to be unable or unwilling to contemplate a path towards a brighter future for our species and our world. Our one dim hope, technology, is an absurdly outdated notion for salvation. Our literature and our films seem incapable of showing us a better tomorrow, instead giving us bleak dystopian visions where humans struggle against each other like the worst versions of our primitive selves.

In such a climate, we find ourselves keeping our light under a bushel, timidly speaking of hope and change but not daring to speak of revolution and evolution. For some reason we fear to fully realize the greatness of which humanity is capable. We somehow place on the back shelf the examples of the lives of Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Leo Tolstoy, Dorothy Day, and so many others who have demonstrated the hope and beauty of humanity. We do not wish to embrace our greatest power, our capacity for love. Perhaps it is because we fear losing what we have, even though we feel the foundations rattling beneath us.

The path towards the future we want is clearly marked: it has been blazed for us by countless heroes and martyrs for centuries beyond reckoning. And yet we choose other roads, ones that merely keep us within distance of the path we know we should be on. We are too afraid to commit ourselves to what in our hearts we long for. We anxiously wait for others to take the first step so that we may be swept along in the rush of the crowd, but we are too timid to take the first steps ourselves. And we are so easily led astray by the very worst liars and sociopaths who always find an excuse for hatred and greed.

I feel the fear of calling attention to myself, of standing alone with my mad optimism exposed, to say loudly and clearly that another way is possible, that hopelessness, callousness, and selfishness is not all there is. It appears to be folly to speak of hope and truth and beauty in today’s environment. Fear and hate are the only motivating factors now.

I read a quote today by Bill hicks, something about evolution being not an unreasonable idea but in fact what humans as living beings do. Not only is it what we do, it is unavoidable. It brought home to me the fact that what is true today will not be true tomorrow, that what worked yesterday might not be enough to help us get through today. We as humans must change or we will perish. We must react to an environment that has changed, must adapt or suffer the consequences.

Our environment has changed, profoundly. Where once we had uninhabited lands to run to when the inherent troubles of civilizations became too burdensome, there is no longer anywhere we can go to escape our fellow humans. Where once infinite expansion seemed not only achievable but desirable, it is now madness to cling to such an idea.

Once we could play at war because the toys we used were limited in their destructiveness. Now it is only a matter of time, should we continue to behave as we always have, before we destroy ourselves. Where once we could wantonly slaughter animals and lay waste our environment without serious cost to ourselves, such behavior, in the world in which we now exist, is madness.

Values that advanced humanity in a different environment now serve to destroy it. Human vices which the world could once tolerate are no longer sustainable. To speak thus is not conjecture, it is elemental science and it is the commonest of common sense. The environment in which we live now is radically different from any environment humans have so far encountered. It only makes sense that we need to adjust, adapt, to the new reality rather than ask reality to bow to our desire to behave as we have always behaved.

To pretend the situation is different is denial. Most of us realize this, at least on some level, but we behave as co-dependents in the presence of those whose behavior is destroying our lives, our society, and our planet. So violent and insistent are they that we continue to let them play their selfish and self-destructive games, afraid of what will happen if we stand up to them. But we know eventually that we must have an intervention for them, as well as for ourselves. We cannot continue living the way we have been, we cannot continue to tolerate destructive behavior, we must act to alter the situation or be dragged down by the money junkies whose lives are controlled by their addiction.

Adapt and survive, or persist and self-destruct, those are our choices. Evolve to meet the world as it is and not how it once was. A healthy life looks outwards, an unhealthy one leads us ever inwards, constricts what we permit ourselves to be, limits our ability to see the positive changes we are capable of making. Like an addict, our perception of reality becomes so warped we are eventually no longer able to function.

But there is hope even now, just as there has always been, we have just always had other options before now. We have been like a person in a room with the walls closing in. There is a door to the room but we have so far managed to convince ourselves the walls are not moving, or at least not fast enough to worry about. But the walls will continue to push closer until we realize the door is the only option open to us. It is a door our spiritual leaders have been urging us towards almost since we began recording human thought. It is an idea that all of humanity are brothers and sisters, that whatever divides us we have so much more in common. It is an idea that we must treat others as we would like to be treated, that in casting our bread upon the sea of humanity it will give back to us all we require and more.

The day is coming when ideas that have always sounded so wonderful, and yet so far away in some imagined future, will seem the only logical path we as a species have left to us. So much do we fear what might happen if we are unable to achieve it that we have forgotten to imagine how magnificent and natural it will appear when we as a species have at last embraced it. As unlikely as it once may have seemed to us as human flight or the telephone, it is an idea whose time has arrived. And it will come, the moment we seriously assess the options that we have in front of us. Evolution is not merely possible, it is unavoidable. 



Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Free Kindle Novel For A New Year

An old year passes, and from its ashes shall rise a paradigm previously unimagined. In my debut novel can be seen the first glimpses of a new world. It is a world of magic, and it is available to all who are capable of escaping the rusted chains that have imprisoned us for far too long. Free on Kindle through January 2 of 2018. Happy New Year, everybody.


Monday, December 18, 2017

Meat Pies, Nun Farts, And Traditions




I settled in to making meat pies last Saturday in preparation for Christmas, a tradition I began nearly ten years ago. As someone with a French-Canadian background, meat pies have always been something of a cultural and family touchstone, but I have only recently merged them into Christmas tradition. Christmas had always been at my mother’s house, and then it had been passed to my sister, and then to my wife and I. So we’ve had to make new traditions, but in doing so we searched through our heritage to make sure that what has been has not been forgotten.

For the first time since starting the meat pie tradition, my wife was elsewhere as I started, though she promised to return in time to help me with the crusts. She was at her father’s house, going through his things and deciding what would be given to whom, what would go to Goodwill, and what will be thrown away. Her father is now in hospice, and it will be the first Christmas since her and her siblings were born that he will not be at the home they grew up in, where so many Christmases were spent.

It will also be my first year without my Mother around. She fell ill last Christmas Eve and died soon after. However much we try to hold on to traditions and memories of past holidays, time takes its toll, and some things will never be the same. And yet life goes on, and we attempt to bring what we can with us.

I take out my recipe for meat pies, which is a printed-out discussion I had with my Aunt Eileen via e-mail. Though she died not long after sending me her recipe, as I read the instructions I hear the words spoken in her voice, her personality coming through in her choice of words. She speaks to me every year at this time as she helps guide me through a job I’m not very good at. So long as I live, something of her lives on as well. So long as I hold on to tradition.

My Aunt Esther passed away last week. She was another aunt who was quite good at baking, and I might well have asked for her recipe for meat pies had she been available on the internet. But she was a little more old-fashioned, not there is anything wrong with that. Instead of e-mail, we would get an actual card from her every year at about this time.

I remember when I was a child, all the cards that would flood our mailbox from people who had strayed from our lives but still kept us in our thoughts at this time of year. My mom would proudly display them. So many connections, tenuous, but unbroken. People my parents had known since when they were young, people who they had known since the olden days. I thought of them as being old even in the olden days, but now I am older than they were when I thought such thoughts. We eventually become our parents, we eventually become older than the parents we knew when we were young. Roles are handed down along with traditions.

There will be no more Christmas cards from Aunt Esther or Aunt Eileen, from so many other people who were so important to our family once upon a time. When we went through my mother’s things, there were hundreds of cards she had hung on to. It seems as you get older it gets more difficult to throw things away. But eventually all these connections, like strands of a web, fall away.

As I work, I decide to put on a little music to get me in the spirit. Over Thanksgiving, I went through my mom’s things and brought them to my brother’s, to allow family members to take whatever they might like before bringing the rest to Goodwill. While doing so, I came upon a Glen Miller Christmas CD and that was the music I choose to listen to. It was made for her by my Uncle Paul, also taken from us this year. But listening to the music takes me back to when I was young, and when all of those people now gone were younger than I am now. It speaks to me of another age, one that I can only half-imagine. It must have seemed to those who grew up in such an era that it would last forever, but it is gone now. They are but the further ripples that fade as they echo upon humanity’s consciousness, drifting slowly to nothingness. They are gone but they live in my memory. As much as possible, I want to keep their memory alive.

For the first time I decide to use the leftover pie crust to make petes de soeurs. It sounds like a fancy pastry doesn’t it, but the English translation is “nun farts”. I remember my memere (French Canadian for Grandma) making them, remember enjoying the name as much as the pastry. I remembered it had brown sugar, butter and cinnamon, but I check online to see if there’s a recipe. I’m amazed to see many options out there, how popular petes de soeurs apparently are. You never know what from your childhood will pass away into obscurity and what will continue to thrive. Perhaps it is what we choose to give meaning to, what he hold most dear and refuse to let go.

We try to hold on. So much slips through our fingers however much we want to keep it. And other things—like my mother’s possessions—we must learn to let go of. Cleaning out a parent’s home is so very difficult, because every item was something that had meaning to them, every item was something they chose to keep with them. Each item we throw away feels like a betrayal to their memory, like telling them they didn’t mean much to us. I tell myself they are just things, that they are not what really matters. But in letting go of the physical ties to our loved ones and the past, we are left with nothing very tangible.

We need to find physical items to hold onto, need to know that something endures in a world where so many people are taken from us. But even more important than things are the traditions we are able to maintain. What is the point of anything if it is not worth passing on to future generations?

So I try to save what I can from the wreckage that time inevitably wreaks. Old traditions slip from us, but from them we weave new ones. Like a patchwork quilt we take all that still remains from what once was and attempt to weave it anew into something we can pass on to our children.

I see a new generation growing into positions of power, and I have no desire to force upon them those things I hold dear. But I do want to share with them what has been shared with me. I did not embrace all that my parents told me was right, but what I did I clung to tightly. I want to introduce the younger generation as best I can to my Aunts and Uncles, share with them the memories that stuck to me in hopes that they may gain from them and that their influence may remain. But I have no delusions that those I learned from were flawless, that in the passing from generations nothing need be changed. I love those who came before, just as I love those who are to come. I have no wish to limit them but rather inspire them. I want to give to them what inspired me, and those who have gone before us will never cease to be worthy of influencing us. We need not fear that, and so we need not fear that future generations will ever stop appreciating and learning from those who came before.

What tradition passes on to future generations is every bit as important as what is passed down through our DNA. So long as the line is not entirely broken, nothing is ever truly lost, though it may for a time lie dormant. And like our genes, that which is most applicable in helping us deal with the world we live in will survive while the rest will fall to the side. In this way traditions survive, so long as we do our best to pass them on.

 This Wednesday I will be making molasses cookies, my favorite. But I will not be making them alone. My daughter-in-law will be helping me. As we bake, I'm sure stories from Christmases past will be shared. In some small way I will be introducing her to people she never had the opportunity to meet. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Decadent And Awesome Are Not The Same Thing

We live in an age where the words decadent and awesome are used interchangeably. Think about it: This chocolate cake is decadent, this chocolate cake is awesome. Now you may say the words are knowingly used out of context, but the more words are misused the less their original meaning has value. When was the last time you heard the words awesome or decadent used in their original sense? I’m sure the last time I came across either of them is while perusing an old book. I can’t recall ever hearing them on television.



When we lose the meaning of such words, the very insight they give us fades away as well. Awe: a mixed feeling of reverence, fear, and wonder, caused by something majestic, sublime, etc. Decadence: a process, condition, or period of decline, as in morals, art, literature, etc. ; deterioration ; decay.



Does anybody see through such eyes anymore? Perhaps on the fringes of society, but even there it is rarer than we would like to think and has less in common with the original intent than those who use them would like to believe. If those in the evangelical movement speak of an awesome God, they do a poor job sharing such an awe through their words and actions. But such words as awesome and decadent and, hence, such insights are utterly absent in our mainstream culture. Concepts that have clung to civilization and have been a major part of what it means to be civilized have vanished, or else been bastardized by advertisers looking to push product.

How did it happen, where did we go wrong? How did we lose understanding of such basic terms? It’s not like we have to agree with them, it’s not like we have to go about using the words decadent and awesome in their correct meaning, but we should at least understand their original meaning before dismissing the ideas the suggest.

It began, I guess, with the advent of modern advertisement. The abuse of language has given us such abominations as “Wessonality” and “manscaping”. It began in a different sense in the 60’s, when a young generation began to question the institutions upon which our society was built. It was a necessary questioning, but the problem was they never got past the questioning stage in order to find answers. As the Baby Boomers grew up, they put aside their quest for answers, settling instead for a reluctance to judge. Judging was what their parents did, and they weren’t going to be their parents.

So they didn’t judge, they accepted. They accepted everything. Instead of forging anew standards and ideas upon which a society could exist, they let it grow wild. Finding no other moral precept than tolerance, which was just a lazy way of avoiding building new ways of building a better society, we abandoned society’s moral structures. But abandoned buildings are breading grounds for vermin.

With no moral guidance from the Baby Boomers who were now in positions of power, money became the only motivating factor. With Boomers unwilling to become moral leaders, to say after lengthy contemplation and discussion that “this is good for us” or “this is bad for society”, profit was the only morality left standing. If you could make money doing something, it was good. If you couldn’t, it was bad. A nice simple replacement for those complex moral problems mankind has been grappling with since the beginning of time. Let the market sort it out. When you think about it, there really is no difference in saying “Let the market sort it out” than “Kill them all, let God sort them out”. Both take away any responsibility from the actor and his behavior and place it on an invisible and unknowable agent.

So money became the new morality. And English majors fresh out of school, their minds swimming with the deepest thoughts of the wisest thinkers, were thrust into a world that cares not a whit about Plato, Shakespeare, or Goethe. But there are people willing to pay graduates who know how to argue persuasively: advertising and marketing firms. Thus, those who are entrusted with holy and meaningful words such as “awesome” and “decadent” find different purposes for them.

When words like awesome and decadent have no more relevance to society than words like “crunchewy”, we have lost a vital insight into our world, our society, our existence. We can no longer see the world through the eyes of the world’s greatest thinkers, we see it through child’s eyes. For marketers have long ago learned to speak in emotional rather than intellectual language.


Again, it is up to the individual to accept or reject the ideas that such words suggest, but it is crucial we understand the terms and what they mean. It is crucial we gain the perspective that seeing from such a lofty height gives. The world we live in now is one built upon a single and simplistic notion, that the pursuit of money and what it can provide is the answer to all of humanity’s deepest needs and aspirations. There needs to be individuals and institutions willing to give a counter-argument to such a powerful and, yes, decadent notion.