Charlie's Blog: October 2016

10.29.2016

Thoughts on the Eve of the 2016 Presidential Election


A vote for her is a vote for four more years of Barack Obama.
DONALD TRUMP

I have already cast my ballot in the 2016 election. I have one of those crazy jobs where a 12 hour day is considered a short easy day, so I know I would never make it to the polling station in my precinct. They should make Election Day a national holiday like Independence Day. But they don't. Businesses don't want to lose the productivity and profits, and Democrats know that people that work for a living never vote for Democrats. So, we work on a day where we have to find our own way to get our voting done. For me, this has been the absentee ballot process. I highly recommend it.

This has been one crazy election year. It was supposed to be Bush vs. Clinton, and Jeb Bush would be sailing smoothly into the White House against the scandal ridden Crooked Hillary who belongs in a prison cell. But the opponent the Democrats wanted is the one they got--Donald J. Trump. I wanted Ted Cruz, but his failure shows that the GOP is not a majority conservative party., So, we have Trump. I voted for Trump. I voted straight GOP on everything else. I voted no for the two measures calling for new taxes to be blown on whatever.

Hillary faces more and more scandal, and the media has done everything it can to ignore this treasure trove of corruption. Apparently, Woodward and Bernstein only go after Republicans like Nixon. More has been made of Trump's poor choice of words than about Hillary Clinton's felonies. Trump is not the best candidate, but only a blind fool cannot see the mile of daylight between these two individuals. Despite the media carrying water for Clinton, this country knows how dirty she is. If this country votes for her anyway, it shows how depraved we have become as a nation.

I have enthusiastically supported Trump even though I think he is inferior to both Romney and McCain before him. I didn't vote for either of those guys choosing to either vote Libertarian or just not vote at all. But the last eight years have taught me a valuable lesson. My life would be better today if either Romney or McCain had won. Instead, I have suffered under the worst president in my living memory. Barack Hussein Obama was scooped from the cesspool of Hell, poured into a blue suit, and slung into the White House to bring us to Hell's doorstep. Now, we have Hillary Clinton to carry us over the threshold into national damnation. Trump is absolutely right when he says that voting for Hillary is voting for four more years of Barack Obama.

There are those on the right who entertain ideas of voting for Gary Johnson, some unknown guy running for the Constitution Party, or simply sitting out this election. Their reason for this nonsense is simple. They care more for the Republican Party than they do for the United States of America. They would rather endure four years of Hell under Hillary than tolerate the four years of Republican purgatory under Trump. I understand these people. This is because I used to be one of them. They argue about voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil. I would counter that by saying that not voting for the lesser of two evils is voting for the worse of the two evils. When I failed to vote for McCain and Romney, I voted for Barack Obama. I refuse to ever make that mistake again.

This brings us to another issue. Will Hillary and the Democrats try to steal this election in the same way that Kennedy stole the election from Nixon? Absolutely. Blue states are blue precisely because of the big cities in those states like New York and Chicago where the Democrat Machine runs the voting. They always rig the elections in those places. They always have. The antidote to this corruption would be voter ID laws that Democrats oppose every single time likening the showing of a driver's license to Jim Crow laws meant to curb black voting. The reality is that it would end their vote rigging.

I have never voted for a Democrat in my life. The Democrat Party has always been to me the party of evil, the sodomites, the baby killers, the closet Marxists, and those who hate America and wish the UN ran this country instead of We, the People. I am not always pleased with Republicans, but I have never been pleased with a Democrat. Democrats come in two flavors--evil and more evil. I don't know how any Christian person could ever belong to such a party.

I have hope that Trump will pull out a win here. As I write this, Hillary's campaign is imploding from the reopening of the investigation concerning her emails. I doubt that any of this makes any difference to Hillary supporters, but it makes the enthusiasm diminish to the lowest level possible. I think many of the people that voted for Obama will simply sit this one out the same way I sat out on Romney in 2012. I don't see the support for Hillary anywhere. I have seen more campaign signs and stickers for Gary Johnson than for her. As for Trump, I see hats. T-shirts, and all the rest on a daily basis. I think SC will definitely vote for Trump, and I hope this is the same for the rest of flyover country.

If Hillary wins, this country is doomed and will never recover in our lifetimes. If Trump wins, there will be riots as the scum of this nation burn down their neighborhoods knowing their welfare gravy train is coming to an end. Let them burn. But make no mistake about it. Trump is on the side of good. He isn't Luke Skywalker, but he is Han Solo. I doubt he will ever be a saint, but you don't have to be a saint to be a hero. You just have to know what side you are on and fight like hell. Trump is a fighter. He is the guy we need.

Saying Trump is the same as Hillary is a false equivocation. There are scoundrels, and there are villains. People need to know the difference. Trump is a scoundrel. Hillary is a villain. Just vote for the scoundrel. You will have four years to consider someone to take him down in the primaries for 2020. And don't forget this other fact. Trump doesn't have any other Trumps to staff his cabinet and administration. He already picked his first hire in Mike Pence, and that guy is solid. I could easily vote for Pence for President. And I truly believe that Trump will listen to his people on policy.

I pray for this country. I pray that Hillary never becomes President. I pray that Trump will be our President. And I pray that Trump will become a better man than the one he is now. Give the guy a chance because Hillary will never give you a chance. She will finish the demolition begin under Barack Obama. This country can't take four more years of this. Get out and vote for Trump.

10.24.2016

SOC 7


The funniest people are the saddest ones.
CONFUCIUS

My life has been incredibly busy for the last month, and I have neglected the C-blog over that time period. When I have had time, I have been beat up and tired to the point that sitting down at a keyboard is the last thing I care to do. I don't even want to write this, but I am making myself do it. This leads to a few questions. Am I writer? Should I continue with writing?

My answer to those two questions can only come when I answer a few bigger questions. When it comes to my activities, I have two options, and I am torn between those two options on a constant basis. I have touched on the issue before in other blog posts, so this may be a revisit for some regular readers of the C-blog. One path is the Renaissance path. The other path is the Zen path.

I am a fan of the Renaissance Ideal. This is the idea that human beings should pursue various avenues of thought and develop themselves to their fullest potential. Aristotle is to blame for this crazy idea, but the Renaissance was a time of great human flourishing as a consequence of this idea. I also believe that it is a Catholic idea.


If there is a single statement embodying this ideal, it would be this. More is more. You should read more and do more. What you read and do should be of superior quality. The problem comes when you hit against the limitations of time, money, and energy. There are only so many hours in the day. You only have so much money to indulge on projects. And then, there is the simple fact of getting tired. The Renaissance path is a frustrating path. It is more ambition than completion.


My frustrations with this Renaissance path led me to the Zen Habits blog and the life strategies of Leo Babauta. Leo has one essential strategy for dealing with frustration and stress. This strategy is ruthless simplification. Less is more. I call this path the "Zen path."

If you follow the Renaissance path, you will meet with frustration. If you follow the Zen path, you will meet with boredom. Somewhere between boredom and frustration is the right path, but I don't know what that path is called or what it looks like. In my internal debate between these two paths, I have reached a few firm conclusions.

The first conclusion is that you want to go down the Zen path when it comes to material things. You don't need a big house or expensive clothes in your life. Live small instead of living large. Clean out the clutter in your life. Eschew the McMansion. Paring your life to the essentials will free up lots of time, money, and energy. Minimalism in the material realm is a winning strategy.


The second conclusion that I have reached is that you cannot be a polymath while holding down a day job. I admire Leonardo and Aristotle, but those dudes were not burdened with full time employment. In the modern realm, the closest guy I know to being a polymath is Nassim Taleb who knows many languages, is wicked smart in math, and has written books. I consider myself to be a writer, but I have yet to write a single book. How does Taleb do it? The key is that the guy is rich, and he got rich by doing very little work. He enjoys a freedom that even full time academics do not enjoy. Yet, those in specialized fields of endeavor would say that Taleb is merely a dilettante. There is some truth to that criticism because Taleb enjoys no special status in the world of academics. He is a sort of pop intellectual. But I think his multidisciplinary approach has been the key to his genius. The problem that Taleb points out is that the specialized realms of knowledge have made the world incredibly stupid. But I will revisit this a bit. The key thing to know about Taleb is that he isn't spending 40-60 hours a week digging ditches or selling shoes at J.C. Penney.

The third conclusion that I have reached is that you should not waste time, money, and energy on pursuits that do not produce a satisfactory to high degree of excellence. For instance, I do not take singing lessons or pursue music in any serious way because I am not very good at it. I enjoy listening to music, and I used to play guitar on a very low level. But I am not good at it. So, I gave away my guitar. It was a good decision even if I do miss the fun of playing. This is also why I do not pursue art as a serious endeavor beyond doodles and MS Paint creations. I like using visual elements in my blogging, so I have developed this area to my tastes and liking. I use a scale to judge on this matter. The first stage is incompetence. I am incompetent in knowing French. I can move to the next stage which is competence. This would be the ability to read and converse in French. After competence is proficiency. This is the stage where you are able to teach others French. Finally, there is excellence where you are composing fine French literature. You can move through the first three stages with training and practice, but I suspect that last stage only comes from talent and genius. That last bit brings us to the fourth conclusion.

The fourth conclusion that I have reached is that talent and genius should not be wasted. I believe these things are gifts from God. I am old enough to know that I have a talent for writing and a talent at nothing else. Other people tell me this. The weird thing is that I don't see it myself. I can recognize talent in others but not in myself. This blind spot is also God's gift because it keeps you humble.

The four stage model is helpful in determining what you should do and not do. For instance, I don't waste time learning French because I have no compelling reason to know it. Spanish is a better choice. Necessity determines much of what we should learn and do, and these fields only demand competence. You don't need to be a trained chef to make sure your kids don't starve. But you do need to know how to turn on the microwave.

If I am a minimalist in the material realm, I am a maximalist in the mental realm. I believe you should read as much as possible as widely as possible. Reading allows you to go places where you can never go and to live lives you could never live. Books allow you to escape the tethers of time, money, and energy. To a lesser extent, movies and videos allow some of the same thing.


These thoughts tumble in my brain like clothes in a dryer. Taken together, they lead to another level of conclusions. The first of this new level of conclusions is that you should not waste time on unnecessary things. You have to make the cut somewhere, and this is the most elemental place to make those cuts. So, I am not going to bother learning the fine art of Japanese pottery making. I don't need to know it, and I can always buy a Japanese pot.

The second conclusion is that competence is all you need in necessary endeavors. I don't need to be Richard Petty to get to work each day. I think of this as the blue collar aspect of things. You have sculptors, and you have bricklayers. You have architects, and you have frame carpenters. I totally believe in having competence across a variety of fields. I can honestly say that I have never been the best at any job I have done, and I have not been the worst. I can't be the genius at everything, but I can serve genius.

The third conclusion is the hardest to accept. You should not pursue unnecessary things unless you can achieve excellence in those things. For instance, the world could get on without this thing in it:


But I honestly believe that the world is made better by such things. They serve no utilitarian purpose, but life is more than eating, drinking, working, and sleeping. And this is where the Renaissance path and the Zen path come to their greatest divergence. This fine piece of sculpture is just clutter to the minimalist.

Should life be pared down to the purely necessary and essential? I would say no. Human beings are more than mere animals working to survive. There is more to life than simply keeping body and soul together. The bulk of my frustrations in this area deals with the concept of necessity. What is necessary for me to do?

Playing guitar is not necessary for me. Writing is necessary for me. Writing serves no material need or end for me, yet I feel that it is something I absolutely need to do. For someone else, playing guitar has the same need for them. They have to do it or burst. Writing is like this for me. I can do a lot of creative endeavors, but I can take them or leave them. I can't do this with writing. I think Michelangelo felt the same way about his art.

But it doesn't matter if you have 100 projects on a list or merely 10. If you can only get two or three completed, that's all you've got. If you want to do epic things, you just can't do them while grinding for a boss all week long. This is why people who have done great things have either had a patron, a windfall of wealth, or were accustomed to living in severe poverty. In the problem of time, money, and energy, time is the most valuable of the three. With money, you can free up time. With energy, you can get more done in less time.

Time is my problem. I don't know how to conquer time. I doubt I ever will.

10.16.2016

SOC 6


Silence is a true friend who never betrays.
CONFUCIUS

I have been very busy the last couple of weeks. It has been hard to find time to sit down at this keyboard to write anything. I have also been detached from the wider world, so I have no material for a RTOVS post. So, I turn to the SOC option when I feel the need to write but have nothing to write about.

My busyness comes from three things. The first and most obvious was Hurricane Matthew. The second has been my digital sabbaths which has eliminated a large chunk of writing time from my life. The third has been my job and work in my parish. Letting the C-blog lie fallow during that time has been a bit vexing, but I am learning to relax with the idea of taking breaks from writing.

I have been enjoying a few different things on the internet lately. I haven't had much time to read everything the net offers, but there are a few things I take the time to check in on. One of those gems is the Bethune Catholic blog. I like that blog because the thinking is very similar to my own but different enough to make it thought provoking and interesting. The most thought provoking material lately has been the issue of Trump.

I really wish Donald Trump was not the GOP nominee. I would vote for Pence over Trump. But here is where we are. The real issue here is not about supporting Trump so much as supporting the Republican Party. I have never voted for a Democrat in my entire life, and I doubt that I ever will. This begs the most obvious question. Why should we continue to support the Republican Party?

People desperately want better options than the two they are offered each election cycle. This is why Bernie Sanders did so well. It is why Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are polling at the highest numbers those third party candidates have ever had. And it is also why Donald Trump won the GOP nomination. People want a different flavor from chocolate and vanilla. What they don't get is that our system is based upon gaining a majority or at least a plurality of the vote. I don't think people understand that aspect of democracy. The one thing our system guarantees is that no one gets everything that they want.

The reason the Democrat and Republican parties dominate is because they are filled with people who understand and accept that fact of life. Libertarians are now feeling the sting of that reality as they see the LP run two candidates who are not libertarian at all. The LP is basically a refuge for Republicans who smoke dope and support abortion. Their numbers are up this election cycle, and it has been achieved through the compromise of the principles that the LP espouses.

I am a former libertarian, so I am amused to watch all of this. It also vindicates my return to conservatism. Conservatism differs from libertarianism in one key respect. Conservatives espouse principles, but they are not principles founded upon abstractions. This is a very important distinction because it has to do with the issue of compromise. I will use taxes as an issue to highlight this distinction:
PROGRESSIVES--Unlimited taxation 
LIBERTARIANS--Zero taxation 
CONSERVATIVES--Limited taxation
Progressives or liberals like Hillary Clinton are without principle on anything. When it comes to taxes, they will let you keep whatever income they deem fit. Your money and your resources belong to the State, and you live to serve the State. Libertarians go to the extreme opposite end of the spectrum calling all taxation a form of theft. Since order is a spontaneous thing, no government is needed, and that means no taxes are needed either to support the non-essential government. Conservatives believe government supports and promotes order, and it needs money to operate. But if it takes all of your money, why support it? This is why conservatives support low taxes but not zero taxes like the libertarians.

The problem is when it comes down to the numbers. A 10% top tax rate would be an atrocity for progressives, a total compromise to libertarians, and a dream come true for conservatives. But because some conservatives think it should be 5% instead of 10%, they become as uncompromising as the libertarians. Yet, this is not conservatism at all because these conservatives reject the dictum from the great Edmund Burke who said,  "All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise."

"Compromise" is a dirty word to people today. It connotes having zero principles and a willingness to sell out. Somehow, being uncompromising is seen as a virtue. So, for the sake of not compromising, certain conservatives will reject any and all legislation that allows rape and incest exceptions on abortion. Now, I agree with the principle of these conservatives, but I also want to limit abortions and save lives. If compromising on a bill that limits abortions will result in lives saved, then I think we should compromise. Yet, there are pro-lifers who can't do this. They reject the better for the sake of the perfect. It is allowing all to perish because all cannot be saved.

God compromises. That may be anathema to people, but it is the truth. God is not the author of evil, but He does allow evils to exist. An uncompromising God would have already consigned us all to Hell by now, but He doesn't. God abhors sin, yet He shows mercy to sinners. Likewise, slavery was an evil, but it was permitted because the alternative was starvation. Divorce is also an evil, but it was permitted because battery of women and other ills are worse. Likewise, Donald Trump is a flawed candidate but not as flawed as Hillary Clinton. We should tolerate the lesser evil of Trump to thwart the greater evil of Hillary Clinton.

Prudence is the ability to hold to the perfect without sacrificing the good. True conservatives know this. This is why I knew Mark Levin would come around and commit to voting for Trump. Levin does not support Trump or agree with him on many issues. But Levin knows that Hillary Clinton would be a disaster for this country. The same goes for Ted Cruz and his late endorsement of Trump.

Trump is not a conservative. He is not Ronald Reagan. I have no illusions about the man. I am saddened that someone better is not the GOP nominee. But we are stuck with this guy. Trump is a scourge to the GOP, and his chastisement of the party is sorely needed. My hope is that Trump will be a kick in the seat of the pants of the conservatives in the party. And we can always challenge Trump again in 2020 should he get elected President. Reagan did it to Ford.

Another website I follow on the regular is Rich Roll. I have been listening to his podcasts, and they are awesome. I don't care for any spiritual insights Roll may have, and I know I don't share his politics. But he is a middle aged vegan who has managed to hit the reset button on his body. The man is 50. As I get older, I am also keenly interested in making this body last as long as I can. I need it for all the stuff I have yet to do. I take great inspiration from middle aged and older people who pursue a vegan/athletic lifestyle. None of us will live forever, but I don't want to be dead before I am truly dead. I have the vegan part nailed down. I just need to exercise more.

10.08.2016

SOC 5


Hell is other people.
JEAN-PAUL SARTRE

Many say that this quotation from Sartre is his most famous and most misunderstood. Of course, the people who claim the misunderstanding are probably the same people who say that we don't get Nietzsche. I think people get both men precisely which is why they end up being rejected while their defenders claim they are misunderstood.

The popular understanding or misunderstanding of Sartre's line is one we know to be true. Other people can be a real pain to us for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the flaw belongs to those others. Perhaps the flaw belongs to ourselves. Either way, the people in our lives don't always serve to make our lives pleasant. This quotation from St. Josemaria Escriva serves as a sort of antidote to Sartre's line:


What I can say without a doubt is that my life is full of people that sanctify me. To give one potent example, a certain person told people that I had left a mess somewhere. In this detritus were pieces of chicken. He claimed that I had left this mess. He said that I eat chicken all the time and even shared a piece with him. The story is amusing because everyone who knows me will tell you that I do not eat meat. But this person did not know it, and he had outed himself as a pathological liar.

I have become used to the fact of being calumniated. I share the story because it is amusing. There is usually a space of time between the calumny and the vindication. In this instance, the vindication was almost instantaneous. It would be nice if it was always like this, but it isn't. Some calumnies won't be corrected until Judgment Day.

When people talk badly about you, it can serve to sanctify you in two ways. The first way is that it will serve as correction if it is true. The second way is that it will serve as mortification if it isn't true. You bear the insult with equanimity just as Christ bore His insults and still bears them.

The biggest issue I have comes from the fact that my sanctification comes from scoundrels and hypocrites. For instance, I was criticized for complaining too much. I am too "negative." Basically, I am honest about things which serves as an antidote to the delusion of "positivity." For instance, management types will try  and tell you to be "positive" about a matter that will result in you taking it in the shorts. When you object, you are being "negative." The reality is they are liars, and I am not a liar. Negative thinking is just reacquainting these people with reality.


I don't think it is possible to take profitable spiritual direction from people who are not believers or even care about living for Christ. The Devil loves to point out your flaws, but his aim is to discourage you from the path. His intentions are to tear you down and chew you up. Likewise, the servants of the Devil do their master's work.

Before I go into work, I have to remind myself that I am being sent to be devoured by wolves. This is not a positive or cheery thought, but it is an honest one. Two things will happen. I will either be imperfect, and these wolves will pounce on the imperfection. Or, I will be perfect, and these wolves will simply lie about my imperfections. This was the experience of Christ in this world who was perfect and perfectly hated.

In my last SOC post, I wrote about taking "digital sabbaths." Basically, I turn off my devices and stay off the internet. I devote my entire Sunday to creating a space for contemplation. I turn off the world and tune into God. How has it gone? It has gone very well. I have only done it twice, and it felt like I was taking a nice hot shower after a long sweaty day of work. It provides a relief and a sort of mental and spiritual cleanse. Conversely, I feel a certain liberation during the rest of the week to read with abandon on the internet. Just as there is work and rest, there is flow, and there is contemplation. The Sabbath is the antidote to workaholism, digital fatigue, distraction, and all the rest. The problem isn't technology or the internet. The problem is that we do not honor the Lord's Day and make it holy. There is a reason God wants us to keep the Sabbath.

I am weathering Hurricane Matthew as I write this, and I am going to post now before I lose power again. Sorry for not writing more this week. I have been extremely busy.