Charlie's Blog: March 2016

3.28.2016

The Ocean


Singing to an ocean, I can hear the ocean's roar
Play for free, I play for me and play a whole lot more, more!
Singing about the good things and the sun that lights the day
I used to sing on the mountains, has the ocean lost its way.
LED ZEPPELIN, The Ocean

Led Zeppelin's "ocean" was the sea of fans that came to see them play each night. It's nice that they would dedicate a song to them. For Pink Floyd's Roger Waters, he hated the fans and even spit on them. This bastardification would turn into the epic album The Wall.  It's easy to hate people but it is hard to understand hating people who love you. At least the Zep guys didn't hate their fans.

Misanthropy is one of my lifelong struggles. In my twenties, I was a devout Calvinist, and Calvinism breeds in you a deep loathing for yourself and for others. God became utterly remote to me, and it doesn't take much to see why I found relief in atheism. I still debate if being a Calvinist is worse than being an atheist. At least the atheist can delude himself into thinking that life might be worth living.

I find myself going back there again. I don't hate people since hate is against everything Jesus taught. Calvinism actually teaches that God hates people. Calvinists will deny this until later on they drop the bomb on you that God hates the unelect. Naturally, this isn't a great selling point, and true Calvinists don't really care. They'd rather win an argument than win a soul. But it is a great selling point if you want to hate people, too.

I'm not about to return to hating people, but I would be naive to overlook the fact that people are sinners. I have to return to my job tomorrow and the realization that I had before I left that the people I work with aren't so great. Looking back over my working life, I must admit that the people I have worked with were not my friends. Granted, I have made friends with co-workers, but most of my co-workers have not been my friends. The truth is that most of them aren't even good people.

Back on my old job at Hell Inc., I would help out my fellow coordinators by sending them guys from my area to fill the holes in their areas. This was a daily thing as most workers are unreliable. That is one of those facts that fed my dim view of humanity. The other fact is that when I was in similar need those people I helped never helped me. Add on the misery inflicted from management, and I just accepted the fact that a job is where you endure pain and misery for me. The pain and misery doesn't come from the work itself but from the people. From above, below, and beside me, every person on that job simply hated me for no good reason and were too selfish and evil to ever be more than a misery to endure. The worst of it all was to be calumniated by someone I helped many times.

I have a dim view of humanity. Nothing in my faith or my experience serves to change that viewpoint but reinforces it. As an atheist and a libertarian, I took a brighter view of humanity mostly by diminishing my expectations of people. Even by those lowered expectations, I had to admit that human beings were disgusting, vile, nasty, and evil. I made up the difference by being disgusting, vile, nasty, and evil myself.

Being Catholic has brought me back from the abyss of my own sins. But it has made me sensitive to the evil of the world. As a Calvinist, I would find comfort that the evil people in the world were probably predestined to Hell. As an atheist/libertarian, I simply became a mean person and would find comfort in the fact that I could unleash on people with the knowledge that they deserved it. Now, as a Catholic, I find no comfort because I can't be evil to these people, and I do not desire that anyone go to Hell.

I am going through a time of interior suffering. People enamored of pyschology would call it depression, but it is not the same as depression. Depression is anger without enthusiasm. It is when you are mad about things, but you feel powerless to change them. Interior suffering is when you see and experience a sadness over the evil in the world and in yourself.

I am saddened at the passing of Mother Angelica. Her influence on my life has been immense. My personal belief is that the woman was a saint. Watching her on EWTN gives me an idea of what a saint is like. She was holy but also human and humorous. I've seen her happy, joyful, sad, and angry. She was frail and fearless. She was a saint to me but also heroic. I will miss her, but she will live on in my memory courtesy of the many hours of television she made. May she rest in God's peace forever.

Easter Reflections On The Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ


Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
1 CORINTHIANS 15:12-19 NASB

I can understand why an atheist does not believe in the Resurrection. First of all, it is an unusual event. Second of all, most unusual events like spontaneous combustion and Bigfoot turn out to be a bunch of lies. Third of all, in a world of misery and evil, it is hard to believe that God even exists or that His answer to it all is to come and get Himself killed and then rise from the dead. I agree completely with those who say that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. The people I don't understand are the ones who live and work in the religious realm who try and reduce the Resurrection from a real bodily event to a symbolic spiritual event experienced purely in the minds of the Apostles. You can find these heretics in various places of liberal Christianity, but it is most disturbing when one of those places is among the members of the Society of Jesus and Catholic institutions of higher learning.

Belief in the bodily Resurrection of Christ is not an optional thing in Christianity. I won't go into the substantial evidence for the resurrection as others have already done this. Atheists may not believe, but they can't say it is for lack of evidence. They may not find that evidence compelling as I do, but I can say that no amount of evidence would ever suffice for them. As a former atheist, I can say that atheists are atheists for the simple reason that they cannot deal with the problem of evil. Then, they go and commit evil. Basically, God does not exist because He allows atheists to exist.

My main concern is with the religious heretics who deny Christ's resurrection. Why? To be more precise, why do these people work in a religious profession? Why are these people priests and prelates? To me, it is like a meat eater who works in a vegan restaurant. Why pretend to believe in what you don't believe? And why not avail yourself of the much easier life in places where the lack of faith and promotion of heresy are tolerated and supported?

I have already touched upon this issue in a previous post called The Episcopal Church. The reality is that the reason these heretics who deny the Resurrection and other doctrines like Transubstantion remain in the Roman Catholic Church is because of the most obvious reason. They are evil. They belong to the Devil, and they do the Devil's work which is the corruption of Christ's church. It is already public knowledge that priests, prelates, and religious violate vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. Many of them are practicing homosexuals and others have preyed upon minors and children. I am currently reading a book that alleges that powerful priests and prelates in the past have engaged in satanic rituals, and my research on the matter has led me to the conclusion that these allegations were not idle speculations. It pains my heart to discover these things, but it does not diminish my faith. If evil can make such a target out of the Catholic Church, then the Church must truly be from God.

Back before Good Friday, I pondered to myself why Judas Iscariot did what he did. My view of the man was that he started from a good place and fell. St. John the Apostle dispels that silly notion.
But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?” Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. 
JOHN 12:4-6 NASB
Knowing a bit about John's Gospel, it was written last of the Gospels and didn't waste time with a simple retelling of events like the other three. John gives us information the others leave out, answers certain questions, and is written with a different purpose in mind. With this passage, he answers my question. Judas was not a good guy who became bad. He was bad from the start. He was an agent of the Devil, and his intent was to destroy Jesus. He was a like a spy or a double agent.

Most people live in service to their own sin or evil. Others live in service to an evil greater than themselves. This distinction is an important one. Judas Iscariot lived in service to Satan. He did not betray Jesus merely for his own ends. He betrayed Jesus for the sake of the Devil.

This is controversial stuff because many people don't actually believe in the Devil. They believe people do evil because they are off in the head or weak in their character or adhere to an ideology like communism that leads to evil. Somewhere, the good got misdirected into evil. But to live in service to Satan and sacrifice oneself to a greater evil is the purest evil there is.

The reason we have such a distorted image of Judas is not because of what he did before his betrayal but what he did after. Overcome with grief and despair, he tossed away his pieces of silver and hanged himself. Had he held on, he would have been witness to the Resurrection. His life would have ended differently. He could have come back from the darkness. But as it stands, I agree with our Lord when He said that it would have been better if Judas had never been born. There is only one thing worse than not existing, and I will leave it there.

The selection of Judas as one of the twelve should serve as both warning and consolation. There have been other Iscariots after Judas, and the history of Catholicism is replete with these evildoers who have served the Devil while pretending to serve God. These people pretend to believe while doing what they can to undermine the faith in their subtle ways. One of those ways is to reduce the Resurrection to a mere idea devised by the Apostles in an act of pure fideism. What matters is not that Jesus rose bodily from the dead, but that you believe that His ideas of social justice rose from the dead. This is simply crap. Why would I ever allow myself to be tortured, mutilated, and executed for something as ridiculous as this?

Once Jesus has been reduced to a mere idea, that idea can be changed. And that is the poison the Iscariots pour into the lives of the faithful. The body and blood become mere bread and wine again. The miraculous becomes myth. Death is still death. And Heaven is merely the last pleasant thought you have before your life is extinguished forever. If that is all Christianity amounts to, I don't want it. I'd rather be a bleak atheist again. Fortunately, I do believe that the Apostles died for a real event and a real Savior. Christ is truly risen.

3.26.2016

Random Thoughts on Various Subjects 7


Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.
OSCAR WILDE

1. TRUMP VS CRUZ

It all comes down to these two anti-establishment candidates with Kasich hanging out for no good reason whatsoever. From what I've read, it is now mathematically impossible for Kasich to win enough delegates to get the nomination. I'm not sure why he remains in the race. Marco Rubio has more delegates, and he dropped out.

I voted for Ted Cruz back in the primary, and I would like to see him win it. The establishment is holding their noses and finally endorsing Cruz because the alternative is too much for them. These endorsements come way too late.

As for Trump, he is now showing that he will be the vilest man to ever occupy the White House. Going after another candidate's wife is as low as you can go. Trump may claim that Cruz drew first blood with that ad featuring his trophy wife in the buff from an old British GQ photo spread, but it is obvious this came from independent Cruz supporters. Cruz can't control these people. Meanwhile, the National Enquirer publishes libel about Cruz's supposed affairs with five different women, and the publisher of that rag does have ties to Trump. But at least they are attacking Cruz and not his wife. But Trump being the anti-gentleman he is, he went there on his infamous Twitter account, and he retweeted a slam on Heidi Cruz that was despicable.

What do I think of Donald Trump? He is a classless, lying fool. He is like a pit bull brought in to guard your home, but he ends up mauling your kids. People support him because they expect that he will change things, but I say that it will be a change for the worse. He may be the first president to trade out his First Lady for a new trophy wife when her mileage gets too high. And we will never know a day when this guy won't be making headlines that are on the level of the National Enquirer instead of The Washington Post.

Conservativism isn't just about small government and family values. It is also about civility and decorum. By displaying these traits, you set the tone for a nation. As Burke famously said, "Statecraft is soulcraft." As it stands, Trump is inferior to Barack Obama in this regard. On the family side of things, Obama and his clan are the epitome of what every American family should strive to be. With Trump, you just have an old guy banging out a bimbo he could get to agree to the prenup. That is a bad example for our country. I can understand why Trump would go after Heidi. Trump is a disgrace as a family man, and he will do anything to deflect attention from that deficit. This is a solid reason to not vote for this man.

2. BATMAN VS SUPERMAN

Critics have savaged this film mercilessly. It is horrible. I have read that it will require $800 million to break even. I hope it flops. It will end bad movies out of Hollywood. As it stands, this movie was made sort of like a CGI cage fight between two superheroes. Then, it was tasked to establish a franchise. Whatever happened to movies with stories? In this epic battle, the losers are the real storytellers who could have made a quality film on a tenth of the budget. What a waste.

3. iPHONE SE

Apple decides to update its 4 inch phone by simply switching out the innards. Otherwise, it is a rectangular piece of fragile glass like all the other smartphones except smaller and cheaper. Yet, the media wanted to make a big deal out of it for whatever reason. Personally, I am tired of smartphones. I agree with the guy who said that "SE" stood for "Sucker's Edition."

4. BRUSSELS TERROR ATTACK

There's not much I can say here except that Belgium brought this on itself with its multiculturalism and political correctness. Europe needs to wake up and deport all Muslims from their countries. I am not heartless when it comes to refugees. I am totally supportive of taking in Christian refugees. Christians are decent people. Muslims are savages. I don't believe in a "nice" Muslim anymore than I believe in a "nice" Nazi. Islam is a religion of hate, murder, and rape. Declare yourself a Christian country and make it a Christian country. Christianity is civilization.

5. BERNIE SANDERS

People love Bernie Sanders. Even I like to listen to him speak. I don't agree with him, but I like that he highlights issues that I think bear attention. Plus, Larry David does a great impression of him on SNL. It will be sad to see him exit the national stage. They should give him a TV show or something. Maybe on HBO.

6. ODDS AND ENDS

--The Glenn Beck loony Mormon endorsement is one a candidate could live without.

--I would love to see a Bernie Sanders/Mark Levin debate. How can we get these guys together?

--Sriracha Flavored Beer?! And people want to take me to task for saying there is a craft beer bubble.

--The IRS is an enabler for identity thieves.

--McDonald's should recognize that growth does not go on forever. Its efforts to boost sales are pathetic. Pay a dividend and let it be.

--I look forward to eating jelly beans again.

--Comboxes are not worth the trouble they cause.

7. QUOTABLE QUOTES

Apart from the cross, there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.--St. Rose of Lima

The “establishment” composed of journos, BS-vending talking heads with well-formulated verbs, bureaucrato-cronies, lobbyists in training, New Yorker-reading semi-intellectuals, image-conscious empty suits, Washington rent seekers and other “well-thinking” members of the vocal elites are not getting the point about what is happening and the sterility of their arguments. People are not voting for Trump (or Sanders). People are just voting, finally, to destroy the establishment.--Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.--Proverbs 28:6

8. LINKS OF INTEREST

Did Jesus Die Only for the Elect?

A Prescription for Life

The Disturbing Fact of the Resurrection

3.25.2016

In Through the Out Door


People who don't take care of their drums really annoy me.
JOHN BONHAM

I have always thought In Through the Out Door was the coolest title for an album that I have ever heard. Of course, it wasn't the best album Zep ever made due to the fact that Bonham was drunk, and Page was strung out on heroin. This left Jones and Plant to make the album with the two others showing up to do their parts. It is Led Zeppelin's last album together as a band. Bonham would die the following year from an excess of drink. I cite the quotation above as an irony. The man could take care of his drums, but he couldn't take care of himself.

I have had my share of dealing with drunks and drug addicts. My only advice to people is that if you are dealing with someone like this then you need to put them out of your life. I don't believe in enabling or interventions or any of that crap. One of two things will happen with these people. They will either come to their senses and get clean and sober. Or, they will drink and drug themselves into an early grave. You can't save these people.

This seems like a cold and heartless attitude to take, but it comes from experience. Alcoholism and drug abuse cover over a much deeper spiritual emptiness. People are miserable, so drugs and alcohol give relief from that misery. That spiritual state is what separates the recreational user from the hardcore addict. Drunks and addicts don't always find a way out through religion. Some just realize that drugs and drink just don't do the trick, and they stop with the substance abuse. Others aren't so lucky.

To untie these people and set them adrift on the sea of their own misery takes a certain level of faith and common sense. The people that find this hardest are the parents of teenagers. You have to try and get them help while they are minors, but you must cut them loose and put them out once they hit 18. Any parent who disobeys this dictum will only prolong the agony for themselves and for their children. Parents blame themselves for the failures of their children, but they shouldn't. I know of families that have produced clergy and convicts from the same parents. It only goes to show that people have free will, and they don't always make the right choices with that free will. I have yet to meet the parent who encouraged their children in a life of crime, vice, and deceit. Even Don Corleone wanted his son, Michael, to go straight in The Godfather.

This brings us to the War on Drugs. As a libertarian, I was against it. As a born again conservative, I am still against it. The only difference between then and now is that I favor decriminalization instead of legalization. What's the difference? I will explain.

The current War on Drugs is based on the same flawed logic of Prohibition which is that evil resides in a substance. If you eliminate the supply of the substance, you will have eliminated the evil. The result of this flawed logic are thousands incarcerated, drug cartels threatening everyone, and virtually no dint in the problem. I have personally heard stories of people who operate within the GOP who campaign hard for drug warriors and drug war policy and then go home to smoke dope and snort coke. One of the most famous cases involves Thomas Ravenel who was a Republican busted for cocaine. Today, Ravenel advocates for legalization.

Legalization of drugs is the libertarian approach, but it is flawed as well. This is because it stops focusing on the supply side of the problem but does nothing on the demand side except to encourage it. Libertarians are fond of arguing for marijuana legalization because weed is relatively benign compared to other substances including alcohol. Yet, their arguments sound ridiculous when it comes to heroin and crystal meth.

Decriminalization takes the approach that you focus on the demand side of the problem. Basically, people need to seek help and treatment. Prison is not treatment as we see that we can't even keep drugs out of our jails. Decriminalization keeps the stigma but lessens the penalties. Fines, confiscation, and mandatory treatment do a better job. This is what Portugal did, and the results have been fabulous with a decline in drug usage, incarceration, and violent crime. Basically, decriminalization focuses on the source of the problem which is the drug user. Once demand is lessened and eliminated, supply doesn't matter.

We already take a similar approach with alcohol abuse. Most law enforcement agencies target public drunkenness and drunk driving. DUI/DWI convictions can be a nightmare for offenders. But if you applied the drug war mentality to the present problems, you would go after bars and taverns and liquor stores while people were driving drunk and killing people left and right. Those places would be out of business to be replaced by an Al Capone. But with the libertarian approach, people could drive drunk until they crashed their cars into other cars. They would make the argument that auto insurers would police the problem except they also want to make it legal to drive without insurance. Neither side seems like common sense to me. The present policy is the correct one. Drive drunk and lose your license and your ride. Pay fines and go to treatment.

I find most policy prescriptions go to the extremes. Either you have libertarians who take freedom to the extreme or you get tough talking fascists that want to take it to the other extreme. I find the best policies prevent the bad while leaving freedom for the good. For instance, I can go with a wall on our southern border, but I also think it should be easier for Mexicans to come here legally and become citizens. People can't tolerate this mean between extremes, so they want all or nothing. This is just dumb.

Today is Good Friday. I have been reflecting upon my life, and I feel ashamed that I am not more vigilant in my prayers. If there is a secret to happiness in this life, it is this. Always maintain your life of prayer. Don't ever neglect it. Pray the Rosary daily. Do the Morning Offering. Pray the Angelus. Perform the Act of Contrition each night before bed. I find that when I adhere to my Plan of Life that my stresses and anxieties lessen. I feel strengthened and refreshed. I suspect the reason the Lord allows us to get stressed out is to drive us to our knees and pray.

The story of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane comes to mind. Jesus asks his disciples to pray one hour with Him, and they couldn't manage it. Jesus rebukes them and exhorts them to pray because they are going to be tested in this time of trial. Then, our Lord prays earnestly and intently. He is facing His ultimate trial. Yet, in this time of prayer, He finds strength. Tradition has it that an angel came and comforted our Lord in this time. If the Son of God needed to pray, we definitely need to pray.

This Lent has made resolve to pray as I should. Prayer matters. Prayer works. I have also made other resolutions to be more serious about my life, my projects, my work, and my apostolate. I feel like I am merely playing at becoming a saint instead of pursuing it with serious intention. There is really only one true and valuable ambition in life, and that is sainthood.

3.24.2016

X


As the Baby Boomer generation heads into retirement, and hopefully irrelevance, the time comes to reflect on their legacy. What did those born between 1946 and 1960 do with their time here on this earth and what did it all mean? If the generation scarred by World War I was the Lost Generation, and the generation that rose to the occasion to defend freedom in World War II was the Greatest Generation, then what buzz-phrase can we honestly apply to the ladies and gentlemen born in the triumphant post-war birth explosion as the United States captured the whole planet’s imagination as the newly crowned Leader of the Free World? The answer is simple and more than a little disappointing: the Worst Generation. The phrase “Baby Boomer” won’t stick because it only describes their births, not their legacy. Those of us heading into retirement today are without question the Worst Generation and the first generation to leave an America and a world for their children worse off than when they found it.
WILL NICHOLS

I use "X" as the tile of this post because it is the label given to my generation born during the 1970's. I am a member of Generation X. I am sandwiched between the Baby Boomers and the Millennials. I have tasted some of the prosperity of those Boomers, and I now taste the misery of the Millennials. It puts me in a weird position. I remember going to college and paying for it with part time work and my folks letting me live at home. Now, you can't even pay for college with a full time job and living at home. Being a Gen Xer has given me the viewpoint of someone who has witnessed things going from good to bad. Boomers are out of touch while Millennials are either angry or clueless.

This exchange in a combox captures the anger: 
MILLENNIAL: I cannot wait for baby boomers to start dying off in large bulk, so that the world can move on and be a better place. Sadly by the time that happens, I will be in my 50s. They are, hands down, easily the worst generation since the dawn of man.
BOOMER: WE older folks think you are just a bunch of spoiled little worthless brats - who don't wanna work either.
That is one vicious exchange. I can agree that Boomers are the Worst Generation. Basically, they spit in the face of their parents, and now, they filch the prosperity of their children. This is something I have said before on the C-blog. The animosity between these generations will become more acute as these Boomers max out Medicare and Social Security. For Millennials, if they have Social Security, it will be garnished to pay off the remainder of their student loans. That is one miserable future.

The most galling part of this generational conflict is when a Boomer wants to lecture a Millennial about being "spoiled worthless little brats." Now, this invective properly fits the Boomers but not the Millennials who have come of age in the worst economy since the Great Depression. The Boomers have essentially pulled off an economic rape of the younger generation, and now wish to absolve themselves of the crime by blaming the victim. Self-awareness requires virtue, and the Boomers do not have this virtue.

Now, I had hope that the Millennials would learn from the excesses and vices of their parents, but I realize that this is foolish optimism on my part. I believed that hard economic times would produce a generation like the Greatest Generation, but it hasn't. The Boomers were a spoiled brat generation with prosperity. The Millennials are simply a brat generation without prosperity. Where Boomers were lazy lottery winners, Millennials are lazy welfare check recipients.

Where does Generation X fit into all of this? The answer is clear when you contemplate the nihilistic nineties. This was the age of Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, and Pulp Fiction. It was a time of material prosperity but spiritual emptiness. Nothing embodied the spirit of the time better than the tragic life of Kurt Cobain, a person blessed with fame and fortune but so empty inside that he ended his life with a shotgun blast to the brain.


Where the boomers had marijuana and LSD, Generation X went straight for heroin. When the history of my generation gets written, I suspect the "Empty Generation" will be our moniker. Xers are the older brothers and sisters of the Millennials. I remember my twenties being a time of opportunity and promise but also darkness. Millennials don't know this darkness. Where did this darkness come from? Why did it exist?

Cobain's suicide note contains this cryptic but telling passage:
I have it good, very good, and I'm grateful, but since the age of seven, I've become hateful towards all humans in general. Only because it seems so easy for people to get along that have empathy. Only because I love and feel sorry for people too much I guess.
These are not the words of a spoiled brat. Cobain mocks himself as an "erratic, moody baby." He expresses remorse for the misery he has caused and also for the sadness his death will bring. But he also believes that people and the world would be better off without him. He is filled with self-loathing and emptiness. His heroin kit is at the scene, and he could have easily gone out with a painless hot shot of smack. But he chooses the shotgun. He chooses the violent way out like Hemingway.

There's nothing to admire about Cobain. But you can feel sympathy for a man with a profound emptiness in his soul. Boomers like Morrison, Hendrix, and Joplin went out on excess. Their hedonism destroyed them. Cobain was killed by his own sadness.

We can argue that Cobain was the exception, but we saw the same emptiness in the grunge music of other artists of that time. Cobain was not alone. Others would destroy themselves with heroin. Economically, the nineties were a good time to be alive. Spiritually, it was living death.

The survivors of the nineties are now in middle age. What can we make of Generation X today? The simple fact is the X-People lack the particular vices of the Boomers and the Millennials. Xers are not ungrateful, but they are also not foolishly optimistic either. This comes from the knowledge that they are worse off than their parents but have it better than their younger siblings. When I talk with people in my age bracket, we shake our heads at how bad Boomers and Millennials are. I feel bad for those going through this recession, but I also acknowledge that prosperity has a corrosive effect on the soul.

The Boomers enjoyed great prosperity and indulged themselves. Millennials were given the shaft economically, but they have a steady stream of mindless distraction courtesy of the internet. This is why they can be so optimistic even though there is no reason whatsoever for this optimism. Millennials are simply stupid. They possess the attention span of a gnat. Boomers were about indulgence. Millennials are about distraction. Xers were about reflection. They came of age before Facebook and smartphones.


I don't wish for Generation X to sound superior. As most people see it, they were an aberration. The generation that most resembles Xers were the Lost Generation. This was the generation of Fitzgerald and Hemingway. They were called the Lost because of their lack of direction and sense of emptiness post-WWI. They lived through the Roaring Twenties, but they were able to reflect upon the emptiness of it all. Remember, The Great Gatsby was published in 1925 before the Crash of '29, and you can see how Fitzgerald diagnosed the emptiness and vanity of the Roaring Twenties. The decade of the 1920s corrsponds roughly with the decade of the 1990s. For them, it ended with the Crash. For the Xers, it ended with 9/11.

The Greatest Generation came after the Lost Generation which is why I expected the Millennials would be another Greatest Generation. But I don't see that anymore. These things don't move in a cyclical pattern. The tough times made the Greatest Generation, but the tough times today are making nothing better. I have no hope for the future of this country. It saddens me that the Millennials will take over one day, and they will finish off what is left of this once great nation. They are going to drive us into the grave while tapping away at their smartphones.

3.23.2016

In My Time of Dying


And I see them in the streets
And I see them in the field
And I hear them shouting under my feet
And I know it's got to be real
Oh, Lord, deliver me
All the wrong I've done
You can deliver me, Lord
I only wanted to have some fun.
LED ZEPPELIN, In My Time of Dying

This song from the Zep boys is a variation of a gospel blues song going back to Blind Willie Johnson. Even Dylan did a version of it. It is bluesy with slide guitar and has lyrics deeper than anything else Led Zeppelin ever did. The credit has to go to Blind Willie. I don't know if the lyrics are original to him are taken from some older spiritual. What I do know is that those blues musicians sang and played from a place that some white guys from England will never know.

I write this piece in a blue mood. The news is about the terrorist attacks in Brussels which is almost certainly in retaliation for the arrest of the ringleader in the Paris attacks. Some Belgian politician has publicly come out spewing crap about "Islamophobia." It just blows the mind. How many people have to die before these fools admit that multiculturalism has been an utter disaster?

I've revisited my blog post about defensive pessimism, and I am pleased that its wisdom still holds up. I despise optimism and positive thinking. Optimism makes suckers out of people, and those suckers are lining up to vote for Donald Trump. Trump has the honesty to speak frankly about the problems we face, but his solutions are virtually hot air. He is no different than Obama with his optimistic progressive crap. Even Obama has tired of his own lies, and it shows on his face.

But there is a downside to being so relentlessly pessimistic. It leads to depression. You can't live without hope which is why it matters so much that you place your hope in Jesus Christ. There are two erroneous ideas that hold sway today, and they are both seriously wrong.

The first and most prevalent idea is that God does not exist, and there is no afterlife or resurrection of the dead. There will be no Day of Judgment. This life is all you get. You only live once, so you need to make it count. For some reason, making it count devolves into drinking liquor and banging out whores. When life gets too messy, you opt for suicide, euthanasia, and abortion. This is why secularism breeds a culture of death.

The second idea is one prevalent among evangelical Christians, and this would be Christianity without the cross. The most potent example is the teleheretic Joel Osteen and his prosperity gospel. A close cousin of this heresy is the one known as "victorious Christian living." This rock is found on the campus of an evangelical Christian college:


This idea comes from a bad place theologically. Catholics talk about being in a state of grace, but this is better expressed as "vigilant Christian living." There is no victory until you make it to Heaven. In the meantime, you have the life of the cross which is not pleasant. Once upon a time, I used to live by this flawed theology, and it ended in a great deal of bitterness and disappointment for me. This is why I would drift to Calvinism because it was more stark and brutal but seemed more realistic. Calvin acknowledged suffering but gave it no value.

Life is suffering. But this fact should not lead us to despair. The atheist believes that pleasure is the only good and pain is the only bad. The Catholic Christian knows better. Pleasure is good but not the ultimate good. Pain is bad but the not the ultimate bad. To have pleasure without God is worse than to suffer pain with God.

The antidote to depression is to stop thinking of suffering as the ultimate bad thing. I admit that I fall into this trap. I like this passage from Romans 8:35-38:

Who will separate us from the love of  Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written,
“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; 
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This verse is where many evangelical Protestants get the idea of victorious Christian living, but they gloss over the suffering part. They read the "overwhelmingly conquer" part and ignore the rest. But this conquest is a victory over ourselves more than being shielded from suffering. The great temptation in suffering is to yield to the belief that God has abandoned you or simply isn't there. I know what that is like because I yielded to it back when my friend killed himself. My wife had a similar trial, but it drove her to faith. My trial drove me away from faith. I was a Protestant, and Protestants don't do suffering.

The antidote to depression is remember that suffering is used by God to produce good things. As I journey through Holy Week towards Good Friday, I reflect on those disciples who were not prepared for the hour of Christ's suffering. They abandoned our Lord. They scattered like lost sheep. Each one of them gladly went to the martyrdoms they were unwilling to face at that moment. Protestants are deprived of the splendid books of Maccabees. Here is the story of the mother and the seven martyrs from 2 Maccabees 7:
It also happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested and tortured with whips and scourges by the king to force them to eat pork in violation of God’s law.
One of the brothers, speaking for the others, said: “What do you expect to learn by questioning us? We are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors.”
At that the king, in a fury, gave orders to have pans and caldrons heated.
These were quickly heated, and he gave the order to cut out the tongue of the one who had spoken for the others, to scalp him and cut off his hands and feet, while the rest of his brothers and his mother looked on.
When he was completely maimed but still breathing, the king ordered them to carry him to the fire and fry him. As a cloud of smoke spread from the pan, the brothers and their mother encouraged one another to die nobly, with these words:
“The Lord God is looking on and truly has compassion on us, as Moses declared in his song, when he openly bore witness, saying, ‘And God will have compassion on his servants.’”
After the first brother had died in this manner, they brought the second to be made sport of. After tearing off the skin and hair of his head, they asked him, “Will you eat the pork rather than have your body tortured limb by limb?”
Answering in the language of his ancestors, he said, “Never!” So he in turn suffered the same tortures as the first.
With his last breath he said: “You accursed fiend, you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the universe will raise us up to live again forever, because we are dying for his laws.” 
After him the third suffered their cruel sport. He put forth his tongue at once when told to do so, and bravely stretched out his hands,
As he spoke these noble words: “It was from Heaven that I received these; for the sake of his laws I disregard them; from him I hope to receive them again.”
Even the king and his attendants marveled at the young man’s spirit, because he regarded his sufferings as nothing.
After he had died, they tortured and maltreated the fourth brother in the same way.
When he was near death, he said, “It is my choice to die at the hands of mortals with the hope that God will restore me to life; but for you, there will be no resurrection to life.”
They next brought forward the fifth brother and maltreated him.
Looking at the king, he said: “Mortal though you are, you have power over human beings, so you do what you please. But do not think that our nation is forsaken by God.
Only wait, and you will see how his great power will torment you and your descendants.”
After him they brought the sixth brother. When he was about to die, he said: “Have no vain illusions. We suffer these things on our own account, because we have sinned against our God; that is why such shocking things have happened.
Do not think, then, that you will go unpunished for having dared to fight against God.”
Most admirable and worthy of everlasting remembrance was the mother who, seeing her seven sons perish in a single day, bore it courageously because of her hope in the Lord.
Filled with a noble spirit that stirred her womanly reason with manly emotion, she exhorted each of them in the language of their ancestors with these words:
“I do not know how you came to be in my womb; it was not I who gave you breath and life, nor was it I who arranged the elements you are made of.
Therefore, since it is the Creator of the universe who shaped the beginning of humankind and brought about the origin of everything, he, in his mercy, will give you back both breath and life, because you now disregard yourselves for the sake of his law.”
Antiochus, suspecting insult in her words, thought he was being ridiculed. As the youngest brother was still alive, the king appealed to him, not with mere words, but with promises on oath, to make him rich and happy if he would abandon his ancestral customs: he would make him his Friend and entrust him with high office.
When the youth paid no attention to him at all, the king appealed to the mother, urging her to advise her boy to save his life.
After he had urged her for a long time, she agreed to persuade her son.
She leaned over close to him and, in derision of the cruel tyrant, said in their native language: “Son, have pity on me, who carried you in my womb for nine months, nursed you for three years, brought you up, educated and supported you to your present age.
I beg you, child, to look at the heavens and the earth and see all that is in them; then you will know that God did not make them out of existing things. In the same way humankind came into existence.
Do not be afraid of this executioner, but be worthy of your brothers and accept death, so that in the time of mercy I may receive you again with your brothers.”
She had scarcely finished speaking when the youth said: “What is the delay? I will not obey the king’s command. I obey the command of the law given to our ancestors through Moses.
But you, who have contrived every kind of evil for the Hebrews, will not escape the hands of God.
We, indeed, are suffering because of our sins.
Though for a little while our living Lord has been angry, correcting and chastising us, he will again be reconciled with his servants.
But you, wretch, most vile of mortals, do not, in your insolence, buoy yourself up with unfounded hopes, as you raise your hand against the children of heaven.
You have not yet escaped the judgment of the almighty and all-seeing God.
Our brothers, after enduring brief pain, have drunk of never-failing life, under God’s covenant. But you, by the judgment of God, shall receive just punishments for your arrogance.
Like my brothers, I offer up my body and my life for our ancestral laws, imploring God to show mercy soon to our nation, and by afflictions and blows to make you confess that he alone is God.
Through me and my brothers, may there be an end to the wrath of the Almighty that has justly fallen on our whole nation.”
At that, the king became enraged and treated him even worse than the others, since he bitterly resented the boy’s contempt.
Thus he too died undefiled, putting all his trust in the Lord.
Last of all, after her sons, the mother was put to death.
Enough has been said about the sacrificial meals and the excessive cruelties.


I share this story in its entirety because Protestants never get the chance to read it and hear it courtesy of Martin Luther taking the scissors to the canon of Holy Scripture. Without Maccabees, Protestants are left with a distorted view of suffering because all of those Old Testament characters come out of their trials without a scratch. The most famous would be the story of Daniel's friends who were cast into the fiery furnace and come out not even smelling of smoke. The result of this distortion is that evangelicals believe God will deliver them from suffering and adversity. But this is no longer the case as we see from Maccabees. God no longer delivers us from suffering and adversity. He delivers us through suffering and adversity. This episode from Maccabees shows us what is going to be commonplace in the New Testament. Since Protestants believe in Sola Scriptura, most of them have only a vague idea of the fates of all those apostles. They all died violent deaths. None of them recanted their faith or lost hope in Jesus Christ.

Life is cruel and awful. This is because human beings are evil and wicked. Socrates concluded that it is better to suffer an injustice than to cause an injustice. Even a pagan like him thought it better to suffer for doing right than to ever do what was wrong. With this in mind, we should never lose heart because of suffering, adversity, and disaster. We should be concerned less with the sufferings we bear and more concerned with how we bear them.

The antidote to depression is to see the privilege and value of suffering. This is hard because human beings are weak. This is why we need God and His grace. From grace comes the strength we need to endure our hardships. In our own power, we can do nothing. Only Christ living in us can help us carry our crosses. This is why Jesus can talk about carrying a cross but also calling it a light burden. This makes no sense! But it is grace that makes the impossible possible. This is true victorious Christian living.

This is hard stuff for me because I struggle with faith. It is hard to have faith when the Church you belong to continues to reel from a sex abuse scandal. It is hard when you see so much evil in the world. It is hard when you want to do so many things with your life, but the system makes that impossible as they hamstring you at every turn. Sometimes, the most heroic thing you can do is to keep praying. As I keep living, I see that God is all I really have. There is no other way for me.

3.22.2016

The Rain Song


These are the seasons of emotion and like the wind they rise and fall
This is the wonder of devotion - I see the torch we all must hold.
This is the mystery of the quotient, quotient - Upon us all, upon us all a little rain must fall.
It's just a little rain oh yeah
LED ZEPPELIN, The Rain Song

The Rain Song is one of the most beautiful songs that Led Zeppelin ever recorded. Go to YouTube and listen to it now. The song stands in sharp contrast to many other songs in the Zep catalogue. That is one of the things I always appreciated about this band. They did it all. They rocked hard, but they did country, folk, ballads, etc. They did not confine themselves to a genre which most groups do today. The antithesis would be a group like AC/DC that turns out the same song again and again. Granted, that song rocks, but it made them a one dimensional type of band. They are the musical equivalent of a burger and fries.

I am on vacation this week from my day job, and I don't really feel like writing anything except these stream of consciousness essays. I suspect the reason for this is a desire for reflection and reassessment about things in my life. Yesterday, I wrote about writing in The Lemon Song post, and I spent the day in a kind of blue funk about why I bother writing. If it made money and afforded me a living, my question would be answered. But it would be the wrong answer. If it made the world a better place in terms of change, that would also be an answer but also the wrong answer.

I keep a thing on my fridge with the dictum from St. Benedict to pray and work. There is no ambiguity in those two dictums. You know why you pray, and you know why you work. Writing is neither of these things. Granted, writing can be turned into prayer but so can dishwashing. Ultimately, writing is a form of play. Writing is not utilitarian nor is it devotional. It is cultural. The epiphany that hit me yesterday was that I don't know why we pursue culture. The residue of my Calvinist Puritan days still clings to me.

Puritanism was the desire of Calvinist types to remove the last vestiges of Catholicism from the Church of England. They failed in this attempt and ultimately were driven to the shores of the New World to rebuild life along these puritan lines. The Puritans despised things like vestments, stained glassed windows, ornament, and all the rest. Catholicism revels in it. Now, Puritanism died out a long time ago, but its fundamental impulse lives on today in the minimalist aesthetic. Everything is reduced to the utilitarian in minimalism.


Things like beauty, art, music, and culture seem like a waste which is why the Puritans purified such things from their existence especially in the religious realm. But these things still had a way of sneaking back into their lives. For me, writing seems frivolous since it seems to serve no greater purpose. My mind is not right on this, but I am trying to get there. I just know that I should keep writing. I just haven't figured out why I should keep writing.

Society considers the time and effort spent on creating art and music to be a colossal waste of time and resources. This becomes crystal clear the moment a son or daughter tells their hardnosed parents that they will be pursuing a liberal arts major when they go off to college. Dad would prefer something like engineering or accounting or pre-med. This is because these fields promise money which is the supreme value in our society. This mindset saturates the American mindset which is why the USA stands in stark contrast to a place like Europe. Nothing like this scene exists in America.


The fundamental difference between Europe and America is that Europe has been fundamentally Catholic while America has been Protestant. The result is that Europe is beautiful while America is ugly. When Americans do pursue cultural things, they tend to be plain, ugly, or in hideous bad taste. As Europe sheds its Catholic past in favor of secularism, it adopts this same aesthetic or lack of one. The Bauhaus and subsequent movements are prime examples of this loss of beauty.


This materialist utilitarian minimalism is not an aesthetic so much as the absence of an aesthetic. Even the Muslims with their iconoclasm manage to do better than this dreck. But what does this have to do with my writing?

I resent my writing when I have left some chore undone or consider the hatred of my job. My writing becomes the abused child of my world as it takes the blame for everything bad in my life. I think of how much I could have accomplished with my life had I not been tapping away for hours at this keyboard. This child might have once held the promise of doing something great, but I see that it has Down's syndrome and will be dependent upon me until the day I die. Such a child still renders benefits to parents, but they are mostly emotional and spiritual. People of the atheist/materialist mindset would say such a child should have been aborted, and they even go so far as to argue for infanticide. In this, we see how a pure materialism drains out the loveliness and goodness of human beings. This is also reflected in the aesthetics of emptiness.


It bewilders me to see some Catholic Church built by a brutalist architect. Brutalism is ugly. It reflects a worldview in opposition to Catholicism. Catholicism is for beauty and culture.

Truth, beauty, and goodness are things we pursue for their own sakes. They serve no other end except to be reflections of God. It is easy to accept and appreciate a painting of Christ or Our Lady, but what about the Mona Lisa? What about culture that does not serve an explicitly spiritual end?

Tolkien criticized Lewis's Narnia books because of their allegorical and didactic nature. Similarly, Flannery O'Connor was not terribly interested in writing books of an explicitly Catholic nature or being merely a writer for the diocesan newspaper. Granted, both writers wrote fiction informed by their Catholic worldviews, but we see that many people read their works without making the Catholic connection. It's like a furniture maker that builds a chair for the glory of God, but the customer buys the chair because he thinks it would make a comfortable seat. Similarly, should an architect make an office building with the same sense of aesthetic as he would with a cathedral?


Louis Sullivan seemed to think so. His buildings rival many of the churches built today in terms of beauty. Such buildings would probably not be built again today because of the "waste" of the exquisite ornamentation on the outside.

What purpose does this ornamentation serve? It serves nothing more than to lift one's spirits. It has no utilitarian function beyond that. Some people will try to make a claim of therapeutic benefit since all things spiritual have been reduced to psychology. Writing is reduced to "journaling." Music becomes "meditation." Blah blah blah.

Culture occupies the midspace between worship and work. The Puritans were good at worship and work, but they were deficient on the culture. When people do embrace culture today, it tends to be a Bohemian anatgonism to worship and work as wannabe rock stars quit their jobs to smoke dope and play raucous rock music.

Culture is a bridge between the worldly and the divine. It is worth the time, money, and energy we spend on it. As such, I can keep writing because I see the true purpose of it where I did not see it before. I thought of writing as a waste of life, but life is more than eating, drinking, and grinding it out for a paycheck. Those things are important, but they just aren't everything. This is why I feel like I am just waiting to die when my life is reduced to those mere things.

3.21.2016

The Lemon Song


Went to sleep last night, worked as hard as I can, 
Bring home my money, you take my money, give it to another man. 
I should have quit you, baby, such a long time ago. 
I wouldn't be here with all my troubles, down on this killing floor. 
LED ZEPPELIN, The Lemon Song

Fans of the Beatles debate who is their favorite Beatle until it devolves into a battle of Lennon vs. McCartney. I am more of a McCartney guy, but if my wife finds out, she will have my hide because she loves Lennon. My reasons for liking McCartney are different than most people's reasons, but they are the same reasons my favorite Zep member is John Paul Jones. I will elaborate.

If you ask people who the best rock vocalist is, you would see Robert Plant at the top of the list along with guys like Roger Daltrey, Freddie Mercury, and Bono. If you talk about greatest rock drummers, Neil Peart takes the top spot. John Bonham would be the number two guy. Then, with guitarists, Jimmy Page would be in the top five along with Hendrix, Clapton, Beck, and Van Halen. Led Zeppelin had a surplus of pure natural talent. Most bands are lucky to have just one or two stellar talents, and they usually end up fighting as egos clash. Then, there is John Paul Jones.

John Paul Jones is one of the most underrated bassists of all time. He never gets his due as most people think of Entwistle, Clarke, and Pistorius when the debate comes up. But I can tell you that JPJ was not the best on the instrument though he is definitely good even to this day. Basically, John Paul Jones was the blue collar member of Led Zeppelin. He did not care to shine out but preferred riding in the back seat. Yet, his humility hides a man of many abilities. Jones is a multi-instrumentalist playing bass, keyboards, mandolin, steel guitar, and on and on. Paul McCartney played much the same role in the Beatles. In addition, Jones has played more sessions with various artists and groups than a person can count, made string arrangements, produced records, and on and on. He brought a variety to Led Zeppelin than made them more than just a proto-heavy metal band. Jones is the type of guy who makes everyone and everything around him better.



Do I identify with Jonesy? Absolutely. The guy does many things well and is still married to the same woman after all these years. They were wed in 1967. For rock musicians, that is an amazing feat. Plus, Jones has a considerable net worth he has not squandered. But the one thing Jones has which is rare even among the hoi polloi is humility. I can't say McCartney was humble.

The blue collar theme is one I touch on regularly here at the C-blog. Saying that someone is "blue collar" is the highest compliment that I can pay to them. Conversely, the worst insult I can lay on someone is that they are "talented." I have a real love/hate relationship with talent.

People who have talent tend to have that one thing and nothing else. Talented people tend to be arrogant and lazy. In my years of listening to music, reading books, and watching sports, I have learned that talent is not the same as virtue. It is rare when you find talent and virtue in the same individual. When you do find them together, you get a Michelangelo, a Michael Jordan, or a William Shakespeare. Most of the time, you get a guy like Babe Ruth who was a fat slob, a bad human being, and a guy who could really knock the hell out of a baseball.


Talents are like diamonds. They seem rare and valuable, but this is an illusion. If all the mined diamonds were cut and put on the market, they would be worth about as much as table salt. The reason they are worth what they are is because the DeBeers diamond cartel locks them away in a vault and keeps them off the market. Similarly, talent is as common as those diamonds. We consider talent to be rare because of the cartels of professional entertainment and sports who select and make "rare" the many talents that exist. Now, thanks to YouTube and the internet, you discover just how ordinary extraordinary talent is. Just this weekend, I looked at the art and drawings of a young man that I found had great talent on par with what you see in animation and comic books, but I also admit that I have lost count of the number of people I have met who have the same level of talent.

It is sort of depressing to realize the common nature of what we think of as uncommon. Just when you think you are the hottest guitarist in the world, a Hendrix comes along to blow you away. And, then when you think Hendrix is a god among mortals, there will be a 12-year-old kid on YouTube who can play every one of Jimi's songs note for note. Greatness is an illusion.

I think about this when it comes to my writing. I admit that I have a talent for it though I'm not Shakespeare. I know this because people tell me this. I don't know it because this is just how I write. It's like having an accent. You don't realize you have one until people tell you that you sound like a Southern hick.

The ubiquity of talent is what makes me want to quit writing. I didn't care before because it was a marignally better use of my time than doing what I normally would do during that time which is watching television. But my time has become more precious these days, and I can think of better things to do than write blog posts that no one reads. I can think of some reasons to keep writing, but none of them are good. Here, I will list them:

1. You don't want to waste your talent.

Talent is wasted every day. It is not precious. No one ever tells someone to not waste their talent as a janitor. It always involves athletics and entertainment. This is because those things pay very well for a select minority of people. With writing, it doesn't pay well even for the ones who do make it on the bestseller list. It's like playing a lottery where the grand prize is free lottery tickets for life. As for the Parable of the Talents, I think it has been misinterpreted. I think the talents in the parable refer to grace and not necessarily a skill or ability to do something well. It is a variation of the commands to be fruitful which we know are the fruits of the Spirit. Being able to dunk a basketball is not a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

2. It is great for mental health.

Writing a journal helps to work through personal issues. It forces you to think. But you don't necessarily have to publish a blog when you can just buy a notebook and write your thoughts in it. Yet, I can make the case that prayer and being outside for a walk have great salutary effects on one's mental state. The problem is that I am lax on doing those things because I spend so much time writing.

3. You might change the world with your writing.

If my writing ever had any real return, this is the one I desire most. There's a reason I spend so much time writing about religion, politics, and philosophy. I spend my time in the deep end of the pool because I think it might make the world a better place or help someone. The problem is that no one actually reads what I have written. I have no new ideas but old ideas expressed in my individual way. The greatest book ever written is the Holy Bible, but it is obvious to me that no one reads that thing.

These are some fairly dubious reasons for staying in the writing game. I can think of two really good reasons to quit writing. The first is that not writing would return my time to me. The second is that writing is a vanity that feeds the ego much like people spread their lives all over Facebook. The number one reason people put so much time, money, and energy into Facebooking, blogging, vlogging, and making YouTube videos is that they want the world to know and recognize them as special snowflakes. The internet allows anyone the chance to become famous even if it is just a viral video forgotten by the end of the week.

I watch a couple who do vegan videos on YouTube, and this has become a big deal for them. But their main gig is being a band. He plays instruments, and she sings. They are both talented and unique. Yet, their music is unexceptional. I hate to tell people things like this because it bruises the ego. This isn't to say they are bad. It is to say that they are wasting their time. By the same token, I have to say that I am wasting my time because my talents and creations are on the same level as theirs.



I admit that the world would be less without Michelangelo's David, Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, and Bach's concertos. It would be sad if any of those men threw in the towel before completing those masterpieces. And that is the thing. Talent is common as dirt. I admit that. But those stupendous creations are not common as dirt. They are more rare than gold. This is the difference between art and mere labor. And yes, that kid on YouTube can play Hendrix better than Hendrix, but Hendrix did it first. That kid will be a copyist until the day he dies.

The fruit of one's talent means more than having talent. The simple fact is that a guy like Bob Dylan has produced more fruit with his meager talents than some of the most talented people alive. I'd much rather listen to Blood on the Tracks than suffer through anything by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. The question is not what you do. The question is what have you done. As a writer, I haven't done anything.

The promise of talent is that something great may come out of it. The reality is that most talent produces nothing remarkable. If you can't produce a David, you need to go back to chiseling stones for walls. The world always needs walls.

3.20.2016

Dancing Days


Dancing days are here again as the summer evenings grow
I got my flower, I got my power, I got a woman who knows.
I said it's alright. You know it's alright - I guess it's all in my heart
You'll be my only, my one and only. Is that the way it should start?
LED ZEPPELIN, Dancing Days


I begin my spring vacation today. Most people do a summer/winter vacation thing, but I choose a spring/fall routine to coincide with religious days of significance. In the fall, I aim for All Saints' Day/All Souls' Day while the spring is for Holy Week leading into Easter. My job does not afford me the kind of hours to participate in those things, so I have to burn vacation time to do what normal people are able to do. As for ski and surf, I don't do any of those activities.

The Dancing Days song is about nothing. Zep was never known for deep penetrating lyrics. They were more about the music than the poetry. I pick the song because it captures how I feel about being unshackled for a week from my wage slavery. I really hate my job. Ten years is a long time to hate something.

I've written a lot of these Led Zeppelin theme stream of consciousness essays. I've gone ahead and made a section for them on the "Select" page. It all started when I wanted a better title than "SOC" for these things and settled on "Ramble On" as a good title which was a Zep song. It made sense at the time because I knew I was going to ramble on about whatever. When I run out of Zep titles, I might do the Stones or Pink Floyd next. I don't know. Zep has a very extensive catalogue of songs.

When I rebooted the blog, I eschewed the sorts of things I did on the old blog like these rambling essays, Random Thoughts on Various Subjects, and reviews of books and videos. I was aiming for a more serious collection of essays, but I admit that some of my best writing is found in these things from the old blog.

I contemplate mining the files from the old blog for things I thought were pretty good. People write to me to ask to read those old hits again. The problem with the old blog was that I wrote the bulk of that stuff while being a foul mouthed atheist libertarian. The guy I most resembled back then was the magician Penn Jillette from Penn and Teller.


Penn became a vegan and lost a bunch of weight, but he still remains an atheist and a libertarian. But he is the most charitable atheist that I know. This comes from being libertarian. Libertarians are not pushy. In the atheist circles I used to run in, the pushy and rude atheists were all Democrats and progressives which was the overwhelming majority. The nice atheists were libertarians. To this day, I know I could call those people and tell them I'm Catholic, and they would still be cool with me. But not the progressive atheists.

I have hope for Penn because I think he might convert to Christianity in the future. He would laugh at this, but he would never say never. This is the thing I like about the libertarian atheists. They rest on a foundation of humility. Progressive atheists are know-it-alls.

That know-it-all quality is something I reflect upon a great deal. A more academic sounding name for it would be "epistemological hubris." Progressives have this in spades. Libertarians have what can be considered "epistemological humility." The hubris favors centralized control of every square inch of life in conformity to political correctness and ideology while the humility favors a laissez faire decentralized way of running things. This humility admits that it doesn't have all the answers but believes those answers may emerge in a zone of liberty. Between these poles of absolute control and absolute freedom lies conservatism. Some things belong to freedom to choose while other things belong to the area of moral law and faith. This is why conservatives can favor choice when it comes to schools but not favor choice on something like abortion.

I just had a convo with my wife about the issue of hair. I shave my head and face daily except for Saturday when I give my skin a break. The routine of shaving takes ten minutes each morning, so it adds up to one full hour weekly dedicated to the task of shaving. You can do many things in an hour, so it seems like a colossal waste of time dedicated to vanity. But I don't think I am vain. I had the good fortune to be born ugly, so I don't spend much time in front of the mirror. It's also why I prefer my "C." symbol to actual pictures of myself. If I ever need a shot of humility, a few minutes of my goofy face in the mirror does the trick. Shaving my head actually degrades my looks a bit making me look like a prison escapee. The upside is that my gray hair is invisible, so I maintain a youthful appearance into middle age.

I shave my entire melon mostly for hygienic reasons. It would be cool to grow out my hair and beard, but I remember when I had the hair thing going. I had dandruff. Even with a beard, there were dry patches of skin under the beard on my chin. There are products to combat this problem, but it amounts to more time and money than I currently spend on shaving. The bottom line is that the shaved head/face thing leaves me clean and feeling better. I have been shaving my head for so long now that I have forgotten the travails of hair care.

My days are filled with frustration. Most of this frustration is economic in nature. I think this is why Trump has become so popular among white working class voters. They feel the same frustration I feel. The problem is fairly obvious. The bulk of the population now lives in perpetual servitude to a moneyed powerful elite that control government and business. It doesn't matter if you are Democrat or Republican because both parties belong to those elites. The result is that we now have elitism versus populism. We are on the brink of mobs with pitchforks. One look at a Trump rally will confirm this.


I am definitely against the elitism that runs the show now. Now, as a conservative, I do believe that elites should govern because Trump and his minions look like the Jerry Springer Show. Trump is entirely on this debased level. I think governing should belong to people of a certain level of intelligence and morality. The problem with the elites is they have retained their intelligence but not their morals. They have become debased and corrupt. Trump is now their Judgment Day.

Populism is the misguided belief that corruption can be fixed with stupidity. I think many Trump supporters would admit that Trump probably won't make things better. But Trump will be revenge on the corrupted elites. At this stage of the game, Trump is going to get the nomination. The GOP establishment has dug its grave and must now lie in it. They made this and brought it on themselves.

I believe the way out is through conservatism such as that espoused by Ted Cruz. Of all the candidates, he is the most Reaganesque. The GOP establishment has done everything they could to thwart true conservatives. So, they end up with Donald Trump and the angry mob. Trump is fundamentally no different from them. The man has given to both Democrats and Republicans. He is publicly pro-life while secretly supporting Planned Parenthood. Trump even endorsed Mitt Romney and gave the guy money. But here's the deal with Trump. Trump is rich, but his riches have come mostly from real estate. This puts him at odds with the moneyed elite that made their fortunes from global financial capitalism. Trump opposes globalism in favor of nationalism and mercantilism, This is how he ends up with support from a guy like Alex Jones.

For me, I know my life is worse now than it was ten years ago. My life wasn't that great then either. My only dream in life now is a homestead and an escape from this economic nightmare and wage slavery. I study economics, but I can't honestly tell you what i think the solution is to these problems. I just know that the socialism of Bernie Sanders doesn't cut it, and the "free market" isn't cutting it either. Mercantilism is bad, too. I favor a gold standard, and that is about as much as I can say about economics these days. I listen to an Austrian guy like Peter Schiff and a Marxist like Richard Wolff and find much to like and dislike in both.

I don't believe you can have central of an economy. Socialism doesn't work. On the same token, companies left without regulations in a pure libertarian economy will pollute and poison their way to riches while cheating their workers out of what they have earned.

Our economic problem mirrors the problem in sports with doping. One side says we need more comprehensive and better testing. But as Lance Armstrong proved, you can beat this regime for a long time. You may or may not get caught in the end, but doping will certainly remain. The libertarian solution is to let them dope which means that athletes will become freaks of pharmacy and end up destroyed by abuse of PEDs. The only solution I see to the problem is to remove prize money and endorsements from sports in a return to amateurism. This is because the love of money is the root of this evil. Likewise, money in politics is what has corrupted politics. Trump has the luxury of having his own money, yet he was one of the people corrupting politics with his contributions.

I don't see a clean way out of this mess. I doubt any of my dreams of a better life will ever come to be. You are either living or merely waiting to die. I am waiting to die. It hurts to admit this, but there it is. I think the rest of my life will be just grinding it out until I expire. Things will not ever get better, but they will certainly get worse as my body breaks down and fails. I do not think I am alone in this. The 1% got theirs, but I suspect they will end up dragged into the streets and murdered by the angry mobs. That mob may be a bunch of losers in this rigged economy, but they will be sore losers. And that's why they like Trump. That guy is a sore loser.