Charlie's Blog: SOC 24


SOC 24

Only the educated are free.

Busking is basically where a street performer who plays music or displays other talents like juggling or magic out in the street or park for free and whatever donations people care to drop in the hat. Busking has a long history stretching back to ancient times. Basically, it is the combination of performance and begging. Along with busking is the soapbox where preachers or speechmakers would elevate themselves on a box in public spaces to be heard above the crowd and opine on anything from politics to religion. This also stretches back in antiquity. Socrates, St. Paul, and Jesus were all essentially soapbox preachers.

There is something humiliating about this form of street performance and oratory. You are liable to get something thrown at you as you are to collect donations or attentive ears. Now that we live in the age of the internet, I can see the parallels. I watch musicians making videos in their living rooms and posting them on YouTube. Others merely speak into the microphone. Do these people have dreams of bigger stages? I doubt it. The street performer is little more than a beggar at the end of the day, and the same is true of the internet performer as well.

I think about this stuff as I reflect upon my place as a writer of things unread. I used to be a writer of things read. Once upon a time, I tried being a writer while in my twenties. I had dreams of being a hack novelist like Stephen King while working for a newspaper or magazine until my big break came. By the time I finished my English degree, I knew that this dream was unlikely to happen for me. At the time, writers made very little money, and this included those working for the New York Times or managed to get a tome on one of the bestseller lists. Writers like Stephen King or Tom Clancy were fabulously successful for basically writing crap that could be turned into movies, and this move thing is what made them so rich. Today, the king of crap writing is a queen and her name is J.K. Rowling. I have read all of the Harry Potter books, watched none of the movies, and decided that I don't really like her stuff especially now that Dumbledore is gay.

I gave up writing after college and went on to other things. I would revisit my writing in my late twenties as I wrote a few bad stories on the weekends when I wasn't working. But my return to writing didn't really get going until I started visiting a few internet messageboards and became a bit of a sensation under a pseudonym handle. I was a minor celebrity sort of like the sportscaster at the local TV station. It wasn't ESPN or Monday Night Football, but I was a thing. My messageboards were attracted to me because I could actually write unlike most people on the internet, and I also had a message. I had some substance. Unfortunately, it was the wrong substance. I will now elaborate.

I had lost my faith in the Protestant Calvinist Christian faith I had in my twenties up until the tragic suicide of a friend and housemate which sent me down the Dark Path. By age 30, I was an atheist. I was not a militant atheist. That would come later. But I no longer believed in God which left a gigantic gaping hole in my worldview and mind. I was lost and drifting and had nowhere to turn. Without religion, I had to turn to philosophy for answers. I went back to the ancient Greeks and studied up on Plato, Epicurus, Aristotle, and the rest. But the lifestyle and mindset that attracted me most was the Stoic lifestyle. I read a lot of Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius who were all Romans. This makes sense in hindsight because the Stoic path was very similar to the Christian path. It hit a nerve with me and also others.

Basically, I took Stoic philosophy and made it accessible to regular people. When you read Stoic writings, they are both challenging and comforting. I still quote those guys, and they still influence me today though I reject those parts that are in conflict with the Catholic faith. The gist of Stoicism is that there are some things in our control and other things that are not. In a world that is often unpleasant, you should make for yourself an inner fortress of tranquility and try not to be disturbed by the unpleasantness of life or being taken captive by the pleasures of life. It is a nice theory if you can pull it off, but no one has ever done it. Nevertheless, in the post-9/11 world, such teachings became very popular. People were upset, and I gave them comfort.

I had achieved minor fame because of this. Had I stuck with this, I would have been Tim Ferriss today. So, why didn't I stick with the Stoic thing? 9/11 should give you the answer. In the aftermath of that disaster, I was all about being resilient and honorable and all of that. I think many people were like that. Consequently, the federal government took advantage of that impulse to honor and patriotism to roll back our liberties with things like the Patriot Act. By the time the second Iraq War took off, I was going down a libertarian path.

The problems with Stoicism are twofold. The first problem is that the ideal of the Stoic sage can never be attained. The Stoics themselves admitted this. To put this in a practical way, if you saw some Islamist Musloid terrorist types brutally gang rape, torture, and murder your daughter, you are not going to be tranquil in that moment. If you are, you're not human. You are a robot. Humans feel emotions and always will. This is how God made us. We can't unmake it.

The second problem is that Stoics are easily duped. They are wedded to a devotion to loyalty and honor but divorced from a greater moral context. It doesn't matter if the battle is just or unjust so long as you act in an honorable way. This is the dilemma of soldiers tasked to fight in wars that are more about oil company profits than patriotism. Theirs is not to wonder why but merely to do and die. That little rhyme comes from Tennyson's "The Charge of the Light Brigade." I post it here for those who have never read it:
The Charge of the Light Brigade
Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Into the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.

“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
   Someone had blundered.
   Theirs not to make reply,
   Theirs not to reason why,
   Theirs but to do and die.
   Into the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
   Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
   Rode the six hundred.

Flashed all their sabres bare,
Flashed as they turned in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
   All the world wondered.
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right through the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reeled from the sabre stroke
   Shattered and sundered.
Then they rode back, but not
   Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
   Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell.
They that had fought so well
Came through the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of hell,
All that was left of them,
   Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
   All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
            Noble six hundred!
The Light Brigade poem is about a group of dutiful British soldiers sent to their certain doom. Tennyson praises their Stoicism, but the rest of the world wonders about their common sense. Essentially, it is a poem about the virtue of blind loyalty. The problem is that blind loyalty is blind, and there are those who are all too willing to take advantage of that loyalty. In terms of war, this would be the military-industrial complex who trade human life for financial profits. But for me, the battle was more close to home.

I was questioning the blind loyalty thing, but certain family members were eating it up. I will not elaborate beyond that as I keep my family matters as private as I can. The gist of it is that I acted honorably towards my family, and they acted dishonorably towards me. I was a dupe, and they nearly destroyed me. When I came out of that, I was a changed man stripped of my Stoicism.

I believe in loyalty, but I do not believe in blind loyalty. I will defend my country, but I will not help my country in genocide of a race like the Jews in World War II. Likewise, I will help my family, but I am not going to help them destroy themselves or me.

What is the difference between a Stoic and a Christian? I can go on and on with an extensive list, but I will cut to the most practical difference. Stoicism makes supreme moral demands upon oneself and virtually none on others. You can see the formula for disaster already. I became the loyal son to a family of scumbags who always did right by them and never judged them for anything. What a fool that I was. That was God's chastisement on me for becoming an atheist, so I am not bitter about it. I deserved it.

My family would love to have that stupid person back, but they killed him. They are evil people, and I leave it to God to judge them for that evil. They will pay for all the things they have ever done to me or anyone else. They need to repent and ask for God's forgiveness and diligently seek conversion. They need to do penance. Will they do this? Of course not. I pray for their souls, but I will not be surprised to see them burning in Hell.

I apologize for this digression down memory lane. So, I was a writer about Stoicism until my family beat it out of me, and I transmogrified into a militant angry selfish atheist and a libertarian. I was reading Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard, and others. This turn cost me my Stoic fans, and I didn't care. I was mildly popular before this turn. I became insanely popular after this turn. It was a strange thing for me. I did not understand it. As time went on and I found myself repeatedly banned from the messageboards, I turned to blogging at the suggestion of a reader. I was still using my pseudonym, but the popularity of my first blog was intense. Unfortunately, the character that I played on the internet was not actually me. It was a caricature of me.

I always draw the parallel of my blogging with the rock band KISS who wore makeup, removed the makeup, and went back into makeup. When I was anonymous, I felt like an invincible god of the internet. This would explain the problem of trolls. People do things while anonymous they would never do while identified. Either way, I felt strongly that I should stop being a character and be myself. So, I dropped the handle, and Charlie's Blog was born.

Unlike KISS, things went better for me when I unmasked. Was I the same person? Yes and no. With the handle, it was like a schizophrenic dual personality. I became unified when I stopped being that part I was playing. My online persona became nicer while my real life persona became meaner. The result was that the popularity I enjoyed online manifested itself in the real world. It was surreal.

The popularity thing was a real phenomenon for me. I didn't understand it at the time, but I understand it completely now. When I was in high school, I had no friends. I was religious, but this isolated me from my peers. I never fit in, and I was glad to graduate. Things became a little better in college, but I was basically a loser and a loner for most of my life. When I became an atheist, this all changed. The world fell in love with me.

I am reminded of Satan offering the world to Jesus in exchange for Jesus bowing down to him. Of course, Jesus told the Devil to go piss up a rope, but we do glean an important fact. The world was for the Devil to give to whom he chooses.

My gospel of atheism and liberty was an absolute winner with people, and they ate it up. And even those who rejected the message still loved me out of admiration and envy. It was sick. I went from being trash to treasure in so many eyes. Whether in cyberspace or in meatspace, I was a rock star. The message resonated with many people. May God forgive me for ever spreading that garbage.

The massive popularity and magnetism I possessed was the Devil's payoff to me. I never had it before because I was Christian. When I became a Catholic Christian, that popularity turned off rapidly. I went from treasure back to trash where I remain to this day. The world is not interested in Jesus Christ.

I am not an atheist or a libertarian anymore. I am a Catholic and a conservative. Both of those things have brought me hatred and ridicule, and I am more unpopular now than when I was a Protestant. Had I not converted, I would certainly have become more depraved than I was and more popular as a result. The lesson I learned from all of this is that if the world loves you then you are doing something wrong. If the world hates you, you are doing something right. The world belongs to the Devil.

I do not belong to the Devil. I turned my back on him and renounced his empty show. But that whole episode revisits me now as I struggle with my place and role as a writer. This crisis rages within me as I wonder why I bother continuing as a writer. It is also why you may surf here occasionally to see the C-blog missing. I often resolve to end the blogging as a waste of time as I struggle internally with what I conclude is a waste of time.

I miss the popularity. I liken it to going from being a rock star to becoming a classical guitarist. The music has gotten way better, but the audience has vanished. Talk about a trade off! In a just and ordered world, Andres Segovia would have been bigger than KISS. But as I said, the world belongs to the Devil.

I can never be popular like that again. When I became Catholic, the world spit in my face. This begs the question. Why keep writing things no one cares to read?

I love Andres Segovia. Most people have never heard of him. His music is exquisite. Is it exciting? Of course not. And that, Gentle Reader, is where we come to the crux of the matter. Rock and roll is exciting but empty. Classical music is fulfilling but not thrilling. And so, I toss at you Ace Frehley's Fractured Mirror. It is a beautiful piece of music played by a rock and roll guitarist. If you removed the second guitar, bass, and drums, you could see someone like Segovia playing it. If anything, the rock parts ruin what is a fine piece of music. I cite this tune as a demonstration of the conflict between playing for God and playing for the Devil. Ace would revisit the work and rework it numerous times. In its various forms, Fractured is awesome music, and I hear in it an unfulfilled ambition of Ace Frehley to be an awesome musician. Instead, he became a clown in makeup. On the flip side, here is a combox comment from someone who took a different path:
I was 19 in 1989, in college, and was playing electric guitar. I took a music appreciation class, and there was a woman in her 80s who took the class just to learn more about music. She very generously brought 2 Segovia cassette tapes to class for me to take home and listen to. I had never heard of him. I, naturally, was immediately blown away. I bought every recording I could find. I switched to classical guitar and never looked back. I owe so much to Segovia, and to that woman. I wish that I could have thanked her.
This guy took a different path. At 19, you could see he wanted to be a rock and roll guy with his electric guitar. But he shunned it to become a real guitarist instead.

This ties back into my now being a writer of things unread. It is not an issue of talent but substance. My popularity as a blogger came from writing things people wanted to read. The problem was that it was garbage in the same way that popular music is garbage. To write things of substance, I have to accept the fact that the world is going to hate me for it.

I miss being popular, but I see this as evil and demonic now. My blog is an attachment to sin in this regard. Going for the nuclear option is a way to destroy this attachment to sin, but this leaves me with the issue of being a writer. I write. It is what I do, and writing is not sinful. If it was, how would we have the Bible, the Summa of Aquinas, or the Catechism? And writing for the internet is not sinful as I read many of these sources and others on the internet. My answer to this dilemma is the Segovia Option.

If you are a vain rock star grappling with pride, the answer is to hang up the electric guitar and pick up the classical guitar and commit to beautiful music that will be played in much smaller venues. This is the essence of the Segovia Option. You commit to the true, the good, and the beautiful with no regard to acclaim, fame, Facebook likes, and all the rest. These things are worth pursuing for their own sake even if the whole world hates it.

In my exercise of the Segovia Option, I am simply going to keep doing what I do except I am going to accept and even take enjoyment from my unpopularity. I am rewiring my brain. I used to think that if the world loved you that you were doing something right. This was a huge mistake on my part. If the world loves you, you are doing something wrong. Conversely, if the world hates you, then you are doing something right. I like being a writer of things unread because it means I am doing something right.

The world is stupid. It would rather listen to rap crap than Segovia. The good, the true, and the beautiful are reserved for the few. And this is something I need to never forget.