Friday, April 23, 2010

Proud to be an American

My ancestors were German. My ancestors were Mexican. My ancestors were Cherokee and Irish and English and French and more. The blood in my veins flows from all over the world, and I take pride in that. My ancestors were nobility, they were underlings, they were social outcasts and blue collar workers and who knows what else. That said, I do not claim to be a German American. I don't claim to be Mexican American. I don't claim to be Native American.

I am an American.

I was born here. I have spent nearly all of my life here. I will probably spend the majority of the rest of my life here, and someday I will more than likely die here. This is My Fucking Country, but it's not mine because I have some kind of racial purity. It's not mine because I have the proper paperwork to verify it. It's not mine because I look the part. It's mine because this is my home. I am a product of my environment, a mish mash of as many ethnicities as you can find. This country is a cultural melting pot, a cultural tossed salad, a frickin jar of mixed nuts! We've got over two hundred years of random immigrant canned hash, more than two centuries of cultural Spam (the "meat" kind, not the email kind), nearly a quarter of a millenia of international outcasts beating their heads against each other recreationally to try and make a place where we can all live without killing each other.

We have had some flubs, but historically, we've moved forward. We did away with slavery, we decided Japanese internment camps where a lousy idea, we got rid of Jim Crow laws, and hell, a couple years ago we even to put a black guy in charge. We have (arguably) worked towards racial equality. Or at least, reached a point where it's not a crime to be the wrong color.

Unfortunately Arizona decided to backpedal on that standard today. In essence, the new "immigration reform" law signed today by Governor Jan Brewer, has made it a criminal violation to not "look American". Or rather, it has made it mandatory for police officers to stop you and ask you to provide documentation proving your citizenship in the event you look like an illegal alien. Cops don't even have the option to opt out, as they will be sued if they do not. Now, some have said that it is possible to identify an "illegal" by simply looking at them. That is, after all, what the law requires police to do, so it must be.

Unfortunately, that's bullshit.

It is NOT actually possible to identify all potential illegal aliens by sight alone. More importantly, it is not necessarily possible to identify all Citizens by sight. It is, however, far easier to identify people of different ethnicities by sight alone. For instance, the likelihood of an illegal Canadian immigrant being identified is pretty much nil, however, the likelihood of spotting a Mexican in the street is very good. Eastern Europeans might easily blend into a crowd of middle class Caucasian Americans, but what about a Pakistani? What about a perfectly legal Puerto Rican immigrant? Puerto Rico is an American protectorate, they have as much representation in our legal system as the residents of our Nation's Capital. So, who do you think this law is directed at? "Illegal" immigrants, or "Un-American" looking people.

This law is about race, no matter how much they may pretend it isn't. It is about people who don't speak the correct language, people who don't wear the right clothes, people who aren't the right color.

Now, I fervently believe something needs to be done about about the fact that the US/Mexican border. Immigration Reform can't be put off any longer without serious consequences. That said, telling the cops to go check the papers on all the brown skinned people is a horrific idea.

Simply, and hopefully objectively put, the law requires police in the state of Arizona to determine whether a person is in the US legally. It requires all immigrants to carry their alien registration documents at all times, as it also requires police to question people if there is "reason to suspect they are in the US illegally."

This law does away with "innocent until proven guilty". It requires people to prove that they Are, instead of the accuser having the burden of proof that someone Is Not. This law will require racial profiling, because they are relying on police to visually identify potential "illegals". That is less effective than telling someone to walk around and pick out all the doctors in a crowd. They'll look for white coats, or stethescopes, or other stereotypical traits that are not grounded in reality.

I won't pretend for a moment that there are no people in the country illegally right now. And I know the majority of them are hispanic, people who decided it would be easier to sneak into this country than to try and go through the legal paths. Once upon a time I looked into the possibility of moving to another country, and the prospect was daunting. As soon as I knew how hard it would be, I immediately began considering shortcuts and loopholes. Ways to make it easier. These people were faced with a difficult decision, and they chose to ignore the law and pursue what they wanted. I can't really fault them for it, but that doesn't mean much. Illegal is illegal, and things are getting too dangerous on the border to just wish it away.

However, Illegal is Illegal. And racial profiling is Illegal. It's easy, but it's not Right. And it's not effective. This law is going to unleash all manner of hell on the residents of Arizona, legal or otherwise. This law is backtracking on all the civil rights decisions that have been made, it is opening the door for all manner of racist hatred and bigotry, and it is just a dumbass idea from a practical level.

We cannot legislate this problem away, just by making it illegal to be an illegal. Once upon a time, a man told me that people vote with their wallets. If someone doesn't like the way a company does business, they go somewhere else. In this case, how much of Arizona's labor pool is immigrant labor, legal or not? They may succeed in driving out the immigrants, and if so, then what?

This country, My country is made strong by our diversity. It is romantic to imagine a unified coalition of people, striving boldly into the future. The thought of racial purity has attracted so many people through the years. The thought that "We" are better than "Them" and our blood proves it. It's not true, though. We are a mob, a crowd of schmoes and yahoos from any corner of the world you can think of. We aren't boldly striding forward, we're all running into each other, a lump of poor saps jostling each other listing slowly forward. The US isn't a sprinter charging forward, we are a couple rugby teams running desperately and not really making equivalent headway. Except it's not just two, it's ten. Fifty. Hundreds. Thousands. Hundreds of Millions of idiots desperately trying to carve out their own place, their own piece.

And this is our strength. This is how we have come from a rag tag of international outcasts to the single strongest economic and military force in the modern world. Some of our greatest developments came at the hands of immigrants. Foreigners. Aliens. The day we build the impenetrable wall is the day our culture will start to die. We will whither, stagnate, and crumble into ruin.

The American Dream is in full technicolor. Our cultural strength comes from the many cords we have bound together. But it is fluid. The American Dream is constantly in flux, because it is not Just American. It is English. It is Irish. It is French, German, European, African, Asian, and more. Two hundred years ago, the English colonists would never have dreamed of a day when we could instantly prepare food from any corner of the world we wished. I had Chinese food last week, and Indian the week before. I just spent ten minutes cooking an Italian dish (Pizza) and downed it with Belgian Ale. Once upon a time, people hated the Irish flood of immigrants. Another, it was the Chinese. There are people alive today who fought (and others who didn't survive) simply so that a black person could use the same bathroom as a white person. The country changes.

There are people who will insist that this law is good. There are people who will insist that these illegal immigrants are hurting our country, bringing their culture and their language here with them. That's nonsense. Personally, I feel some fresh blood will do this country good, make us even stronger. For better or worse, society will hammer something out, and the country will make due. The truth is that we are living in a time of change. The country I die in will probably look alot different than the country I was born in, but it will be my country.

My America is strong, more than strong enough to survive a couple spanish speaking hispanic people. My America is strong enough to survive the racist knee jerks of some scared white Arizonians. My America is probably even strong enough to survive my crazy ramblings.

But that doesn't mean I have to enjoy the rough patches. And it sure as hell doesn't mean I have to justify my position with the proper documentation. Because My America doesn't go around asking for papers. My countrymen have bled and died all over the world to stop tyrants and dictators who did just that, and I will not keep quiet when they start doing it in my back yard.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Time is a bizarre creature. It really is. “Time” is an arbitrary system of measurement, more so than any other, I believe. Physical measurements are largely constant. If you measure out the space between two stones, don't move them, then measure again, you will get the same result. However, if you measure out the span between sunrise and sunset, then measure it again the next day, you can come up with vastly different results. A pleasant day passes in the blink of an eye, but a difficult day lumbers and lurches like some great beast. Vacations rush past in an instant, but sometimes it feels like an eternity surviving through a single workday. Time is extraordinarily subjective, even more than the way the road there seems long, but the road home seems short.

However, time is not meant to be the focus of this little blurb. The intent of this is an analysis and breakdown of lessons I have learned in the past ten years. They have been quite intense at times, and I would like to make sure I don't miss the point. So, in no particular order, let us consider what I have learned in the past ten years.

-I have learned what it is to be my own man.
-I have learned what it is to give myself to someone else
-I have learned that sometimes, you cannot stand and fight the world in front of you
-I have learned that sometimes, you must stand and fight the world in front of you
-I have learned that these two occasions are often one and the same
-I have learned that evil is not as unpleasant as everyone says it is, and that hate is sometimes an extremely enticing option
-I have learned that evil is subversive, and hate can poison the soul in no time at all
-I have learned that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing
-I have learned that you should never be satisfied with “a little knowledge”
-I have learned that money should always be a means, not an end
-I have learned that money never stretches as far as you think it will, and never brings the joy you think it should
-I have learned that no man is an island, and that I am no exception
-I have learned that fear drives a man to do terrible things
-I have learned that bravery is not always what you think it is, and that sometimes retreat is the only wise choice
-I have learned that you should strive to live without regrets, but some choices will haunt you no matter how far you run
-I have learned that you can only Hate the people you truly Love, that no one else means enough to you to warrant that intensity of emotion
-I have learned that sometimes, you need a dog around to know you are loved
-I have learned that sometimes, you need a cat around to know you are not the center of the universe
-I have learned it is in fact possible to love and hate your friends at the same time
-I have learned that no day is so good that something awful cannot happen
-I have learned that no day is so bad that something beautiful cannot happen
-I have learned that there is an unbelievable freedom to be had in owning your own car
-I have learned that there is an unbelievable slavery and burden in owning your own car
-I have learned that Stuff is great, and I have learned that I am far too proficient at accumulating it
-I have learned that Blood is Blood, and that your family is always going to be there. That is the definition of family.
-I have learned that true Education has little to do with dates and facts, and far more to do with how to deal with people
-I have learned that the past is a fluid creature, a slippery bastard that is constantly in flux. The road behind you is winding just as much as the road before you. We just pretend it isn't
-I have learned that laughter is the best of medicines, and that curry takes a very close second
-I have learned that my little slice of reality may be small, but I must tend it best I can because its all I'm getting
-I have learned to love math, as it is one of the few things I can trust to stay stable
-I have learned to love words and language, because they can do so many wonderful things
-I have learned to trust people, and I have learned to distrust people. I have yet to learn when it is appropriate to do which
-I have learned that the likelihood of me ever growing up is slim, and that this saves me the trouble of having to figure out what I want to be when I get there
-I have learned that a manual transmission is the only way to drive, especially when the weather goes sour
-I have learned that long drives are often worth it just for their own value, and that the journey is at least as important as the destination
-I have learned never to underestimate a northern Mid-Western winter. Mother Nature is far more creative than me, and will always have one more trick up her sleeve
-I have learned that quality is its own reward. I have yet to learn exactly when it is appropriate to fudge things, and settle for really good instead of great

-I have not learned when to shut my mouth
-I have not learned when to open my heart
-I have not learned where I lost my naivete
-I have not learned when I lost my joy
-I have not learned when it is inappropriate to laugh
-I have not learned how to take it like a man
-I have not learned when to stay in line
-I have not learned who's on first
-I have not learned how to live without technology
-I have not learned what's so great about Lost
-I have not learned why I am here
-I have not learned how to accept responsibility and criticism without flinching
-I have not learned how to stop lying
-I have not learned how to get women and impress people at parties
-I have not learned how the rest of you people make it all look so easy
-I have not learned when to leave well enough alone
-I have not learned how James was so damn good at rolling a disc when it wasn't even in his name
-I have not learned to fly

-I want to learn another language
-I want to learn how to please my woman
-I want to learn how to find a woman
-I want to learn why people are they way they are
-I want to learn to find contentment in little things
-I want to learn the real story behind UFOs
-I want to learn how to control my weight
-I want to learn discipline
-I want to learn

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Price of the Greater Good

So, in light of the crumbling failure that is Health Care Reform, as well as a series of serious disappointments I've seen play out during the past 12+ months, I've found myself wondering what price should be paid to make the world a better place. I'm not a particularly patient person, and as a result, I don't enjoy seeing wasted opportunities. Sometimes, you only get a single chance, and I take no pleasure in watching excellent chances simply slip away.

Now, I realize that this is a personality trait of mine. The whole world doesn't see things as I do, of that I am all too well aware, so I have learned how to see the world through multiple sets of lenses. I can typically understand just about any viewpoint (no matter how vocally I may pretend otherwise). I have in my lifetime been a staunch, hawkish conservative, a fierce liberal, and most points in between. I have run the gambit from a rabid fundamentalist to a die-hard humanist, and even dabbled briefly in unbridled apathy. However, I am what I am, and I cannot be otherwise. So, while I may comprehend why some people would rather play it safe, I am not one of those people. So it is, I cannot stand the current state of things.

I believe that just because things are functioning in their current form, that is not a guarantee that it will always be such. I believe that people must constantly question the status quo, because sometimes (as a great man once said), “the status is not quo.” Complacency is as much a sin as any of the big seven, in my opinion, and must be avoided at all costs. Even if you are comfortable the way things are, that does not mean they cannot be improved. The human creature is innovative and the pages of history are full of people who have worked hard make things better. Or, at the very least, to keep things moving.

A little over two hundred years ago, a group of second class citizens banded together to buck off the standing authority and lay the groundwork for one of the mightiest nations in human history. Their contemporaries were by no means unanimous in support of this, but go out today. Pick anyone on the street, and ask them if any one of them would go back to being colonists of England. Ask them if they would give up all the freedoms and representation they have today.

Roll history forward a bit, and let us look at a period of time that has been referenced often lately. Let us look at the Great Depression. One of the darker chapters in United States history, the Depression was the result of fundamental flaws in the economic system that were rife in the opening years of the 20th century. Before that, though, people had been blissfully happy. The “Roaring Twenties” are still referred to with a glimmer of nostalgia. But I am confident that if you were to ask around, no one would actually suggest that we bring back the economic system that brought about the total collapse of the existing financial system.

My point here is twofold. First of all, I'd like to point out that there were people in both eras who were perfectly happy with the state of affairs. Average citizens who would have been perfectly happy with life continuing just the way it had gone before. However, the state of affairs was unsustainable, and proved itself to be just that. People should never assume that simply because they are content, that the rest of the world is content as well.

Second, and the real core of my pondering, is the fact that a price has been demanded for each improvement. Patriots died freeing the US from England. Farmers and the poor suffered and died in the chaos that followed the stock market crash. I am a progressive, however the price of progression is often steep, and is not always paid by those who you'd think. That is the issue I keep running into, and the question I am trying to answer.

Who has the right to decide that people will suffer to improve the world? What person has the right to bring suffering into the world for the Greater Good?

As much as I want the world improved, as much as I want things made better and the human race to be better off, I also value freedom and liberty. Personal choice. I desperately want to improve things, but is that enough? Is that sufficient justification? I may feel the world has been improved, but what about the suffering people? What about the people whose lives would be harmed, hindered, or ended?

Now, I realize that the current state of affairs is not as miserable as things were back before the Revolutionary War. They were second class citizens, governed by a ruler who wasn't even on the same continent. They were overtaxed and completely unrepresented. Today, we are an affluent and powerful nation. We have most of the things we want, have a (moderately) effective government, and at first blush, don't have too terribly much to be upset about.

The system is broken, though. Politicians are compromised, men and women deep in the pockets of companies who don't really have the people's best interest in mind. The legal system is used to circumvent justice just as often as it is used to actually achieve it. The government intercedes to protect massive ineffectual corporations, yet they won't go so far as to regulate them effectively. It is unbalanced and dangerous, but not unsurprising.

It would be extremely difficult to fix things in one go right now. Maybe impossible. Invariably, it would hurt. A lot. People would suffer. The country would reel. The status quo would be upset terribly. All in the name of the Greater Good.

Would it be worth it? Would the pain of the moment lead to a better world? Who has the right to make such a call?

Oh well, it's Christmas. Merry Christmas everyone one!

(Yes, that is a cop out. No, I have no shame in wussing out. It's Christmas dammit!).

Saturday, October 31, 2009


“What the fuck have you done lately?” - Wesley Gibson in “Wanted”

“You have to realize that someday you will die. Until you know that, you are useless.” - Tyler Durden in “Fight Club”

It is, I believe, one of the strangest parts of the human condition that we seek purpose with our lives. All other creatures in nature survive with their goal being “Let me pass on my genetic material.” Achievements are defined by survival, specifically surviving long enough to produce offspring. Humans muck it up, though. We bring in abstract concepts that cannot be resolved by simply breeding. If I were to go out tonight, impregnate a woman at random, and nine months from now take the child as my own, this would not resolve any of my life issues. I would not feel as though I have accomplished everything needed with my life. I would not be satisfied. This is because human beings have become unnecessarily complicated.

Somewhere along the line, people decided that “Eat, Sleep, Breed” is not really enough to base civilization on. Somebody got the bright idea to invent the concept of “Purpose”. An abstract, a vague generality that gives us all something to worry about while we lie awake at night. The human creature decided to aspire to more than a life of surviving and mating, resulting in millennia of hand-wringing that we aren't doing it right. That we are all failing, because some jackass decided to get people to establish unrealistic expectations for their life.

Once upon a time, over a decade ago, I made a vow, to serve God and do his Good Work. Since then, I have not only systematically deconstructed all of my definitions of “God”, but also any preconceived notion of “Good Work”. I am a man of my word, however, and I do strive to fulfill the spirit of the oath I took. That means I too have dedicated my life to levels of complexity and frustrations that your average wild hare couldn't begin to imagine. I am consciously and intentionally pursuing a path that I don't actually believe, as such. Or maybe I gave up on it years ago, and the thing that I'm doing now is just kinda masquerading as my divine calling in the meantime.

So is there such a thing as a higher calling? Is there such a thing as a Big Picture? Purpose? While it would be disingenuous of me to say I believe in the idea of God's Will, I think that humans have come far enough that maybe there is something bigger to it all. I saw an article the other day that discussed exactly how little of the earth's surface is actually habitable without special conditions or preparations, and how tiny a little sliver Humanity actually occupies in the history of Planet Earth. Something along the lines of 1% of the history and surface area of Earth is actually survivable by humans. But in that tiny little fragment of time, look how far we've come, and how many things have become achievable. We have proven that most anything we can imagine can be created or achieved, which makes absolutely no sense. It's ridiculous, and yet we regularly pull it off. And even those things that are patently impossible, that are outside of every law and physical restriction we've figured out, even those things are imaginable. Ask a physicist, and every single one will tell you that it is impossible to travel faster than light. Ask your average TV viewer or geek, and they'll give you a half dozen possible ways to do it. Some could probably even provide a diagram.

This level of ambition, of accomplishment, this is unprecidented in Nature. Sharks have been around for millions of years, and they have yet to invent water wings, let alone create mass publications or travel faster than their physical body would normally allow. Cockroaches are considered by some to be the pinnacle of evolution, able to survive things that would kill a person just thinking about it. However, these little bugs have not developed culture. They have not conquered the globe and enslaved nature to their whim. Cockroaches can not be held responsible for the extinction of one single other species. Very disappointing, and I believe evidence that there is something up with the human race.

We have veered away from individual survival, and begun to work on a more collective level. Yes, there are deviants who will always live only to serve their own skin, but everyone knows that there should be something more going on. We seek to know all the secrets of the universe, but to what end? I believe it is a matter of us trying to discover collective immortality. We are all working to be or do great things, just so that we can sustain the status quo and keep not only our lives, but our way of life going on ad infinitum. We want to live forever, and get as many other people to live forever with us so we don't get lonely.

So, if that is the case, and this massive collective delusion that we all must serve some higher calling and greater good is actually just us all trying to become immortal, then maybe this is all just a survival trip after all. But that really doesn't seem sufficient...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

No Post

I wrote a post, and I was going to put it up, but I didn't. But I did write it. So be patient, I'll try and write another one.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Political Disfunction

So, considering the existential crisis my last post caused me, I believe a change of pace is in order. Thus, I would like to turn my attention away from my study of the human psyche internally to a more practical expression of human nature - Politics. Specifically, government.

Begin with a premise - Given time, the human creature will experiment and distill the most preferred form of governance. This government will embody the virtues desired by the governed, and will provide the optimum balance of freedom and protection. Having endured the crucible of Time, impurities and weaknesses will be minimized while practical functionality will be maximized. The people will happily submit to the rule of those in power because those in power will serve to bring the greatest good to the largest segment of the governed.

Now, let's compare this premise to the current state of affairs in the United States. As a relatively young nation, it is fair to say that we have a relatively modern form of government. Given the general premise that "Newer = Better" established previously, the United States should theoretically possess the purest and strongest values people should look for in their government. While not necessarily Ideal it is, according to the premise, a preferred form of government than, for instance, Medieval Feudalism or Roman Dictatorship. And perhaps by comparison it is. There are not absolute social restrictions found in serfdom, nor is there the gluttonous excess sanctioned by the Caesars. But what do we really have?

This past weekend, a large number of protectors descended upon the nation's capitol to rise up and decry... something. There was no clear unity, beyond a very clear dissatisfaction with the current presidency. Some claimed Tax Reform, a worthy cause. Some claimed they wanted to protect seniors from Death Panels. This is slightly less logical of a cause, as others were vocally and violently protesting government spending on any health care, ostensibly out of fiscal responsibility but more often expressed in the form of "I refuse to allow My money to be spent to help other people who can't support themselves!" Or, as a blog I found explained it, "Barack Obama can be many things to many people, but he cannot be a Marxist, Nazi, Socialist, Fascist, Kenyan Muslim Jew all at the same time." (link here)

This past summer, the virtue of Vocality has been canonized. If the squeaky wheel gets the grease, then this group should be extremely well lubricated by now. The new national anthem is the Irrational Hate Anthem, once only the domain of pale, depressed goth kids living in the basement (no offense, Elizabeth). Want your five minutes of fame? Want to live the American Dream? Want to stake your claim in the new Obamerica? Speak up. And if we don't hear you, shout. Yell. Scream. Shriek rabid slogans, bellow your way out from complacent anonymity. Don't worry about the message: at that volume, people won't be able to understand you anyway.

This is a small (if somewhat loud) minority, though. So what is the government Really like?

Backbiting. Infighting. Stagnant, corrupt, partisan bickering that has completely lost touch with the populace. There is a reason the word "politics" has come to only have four letters. One arm of the government is rabidly seeking to destroy the other, not because their constituents want that. Not because this group is promoting a dangerous, damaging, and negative agenda. No, this group sows disorder and misinformation because they aren't the ones in charge. And the ones who actually Are in charge attempt to bargain with their rivals. I voted for this president, and I love him. I believe he is a role model, to be admired and respected. Unfortunately, the only way for him to have reached this peak is by sacrificing values, compromising his agenda, and now that he is in a position to affect change, undermining his own efforts by collaborating with people who have clearly labeled themselves as the enemy.

Once more, we are reliving the story of the Frog and the Scorpion. We are crossing the river together, except this time the Scorpion made no promises to behave. On the shore, he lobbed hate and spite at the frog, promising to see him dead. The frog then, (for reasons as yet unclear), began trying to carry the scorpion across. Now, the two are drowning together, leaving the rest of us schmucks who actually have to Live in this country to make sense of it.

If the premise laid out previously contains any grain of truth, then this is what we want. A government too impotent to do anything more than destroy the lives of people halfway across the world. We want our ruling bodies to be utterly disconnected from reality, to have no sense of pragmatism and yet an overriding sense of idealism. The government we have built in this land, the government distilled from millenia of human advancement and development, is disconnected, and ineffective. I would accuse them of living in Ivory Towers, however that implies a certain level of "superiority".

The people in power now, the decision makers who will determine the fate of anyone who might read these words, they are only in power because they could raise the most money and talk faster and prettier than the other guy. Or gal, as the case may be. The champions of Marriage keep getting exposed for marital infidelity. The champions of Fiscal Responsibility bay for more money to be spent halfway around the world, with nary a thought to oversight or responsibility. The champions of Social Reform, of Progress, they ignore the will of their constituents and mindlessly follow the loudest voice in the room.

If this is what we want, if this is what generations of Americans have given their lives for, then God help us all. If this isn't what we want, why the hell isn't anyone fixing it?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tackling the Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything

Preface - Any thoughts contained in the following ramblings are not meant to include assessments as to whether or not the Divine exists, or what form it may take, or likewise, what happens after death. I'm not dead, so I can't know, and I really loathe making uninformed decisions. So, realize that this is coming not from an atheist, but from a questioner.

So, after a series of bizarre experiences, merging art and life, I find myself questioning that eternal mystery "What next?" Life is a straightforward enough matter. There's diapers at one end, families in the middle, and then diapers again at the other. It's that bit that comes afterwards that people are always wondering about. Generations of humans, millenia of lives marching forward into a big black curtain, a proper stage mask that no one ever sees behind. It is the one certainty in life that every person finds waiting at the end.

I once read that the human race invented the idea of gods as a response to the staggering reality of our own mortality. Horrified beyond the bounds of rational thought at the truth of our existence, the fact that we burned so bright, so fast, and then go so utterly dark, primitive man used his newly developed powers of imagination to impose an external order onto the world. Like a child naming it's invisible playmates, the elements were given identities. Fire, Earth, Thunder, these primitive gods sprang out of nothingness, to give meaning to the desperate young humanity's plight. Because that's where the roots of concepts of Afterlife come from, from our concept of the divine. We were so utterly mortified of what comes after death that we invented religion to protect ourselves from it. It sounds reasonable to me.

Some Asian cultures worship their ancestors. Thus, if you lived a good and venerable life, you would become a sort of house god, given the task of protecting your family. You had an identity, a task, and respect after you died, so it's almost as though you didn't die at all. Christians believe that if you lived a good and devout life, you go to Heaven to be with your creator. You keep your identity, you keep an anchor to your natural life (the same role of worship you had in church is now your role in the afterlife), and so it's like you didn't die. You simply entered a new form of being. Vikings believed their best warriors who died in battle went off to Valhalla, to life on in eternally glorious battle by day, and feasting by night. They kept their same roles and identities as in life, and so it's as though they did not actually die.

This all was triggered when I was asked what my thoughts were on the concept of reincarnation. That one is actually the most transparent of all of the ideas of afterlife. After you die, you just do it all over again. Some mechanism is in place to route your "soul" right back into a new body. You are alive again, and if you're quite good, you can dig deep and pull back memories of past lives. Then, it's like you never actually died at all.

The idea of an afterlife is insurance. It is the human race hedging it's bets against the darkness. By a collective power of will, the human creature unites with other, like-minded people and form a mental shield against the apparent truth of our existence. Even the word "After Life" carries within it's structure evidence of human denial. "Afterlife" or "Life After", it suggests that death is a transition, and not actually death. Death is akin to moving to another town, except the phones are a bit crap there and you can't get a signal to call all the other people you used to know. That's the core of religion, at the end of the day. It is the collective decision of its members to reject the physical evidence they are presented with, and embrace something else.

But what does the empirical evidence tell us? Boiled down in a test tube, the human condition is almost sadistic. Thrust into a vastly complicated universe with absolutely no apparent structure, we are given tremendous mental abilities. We are given the ability to perceive things that we cannot see, the powers of imagination and creativity. We have the unique ability to identify order and patterns, the ability to develop the disciplines of math and science. We are given a drive to know and understand everything, but then we are given the blink of an eye to do it. If we were crafted this way intentionally, it almost seems cruel. If it was accidental, it seems even crueler. Every single human being that has ever lived has been Alive. They have had the spark of life burning bright within them. An identity, a series of connections to other humans - Mother, Father, Friend, Enemy. They had likes, dislikes, quirks and oddities that were unique in all of the history of the universe to this one individual. For a long time, I always used to pride myself on being unique. But, as I open my eyes and study the people in my life, they are all marvelously unique as well. Every decision, for good or ill, is born of a chain reaction of chemicals and experiences and memories that I cannot begin to know. Snowflakes are child's play by comparison.

And yet, like snowflakes, every one of these people has but a short time. And we know it, because we have all seen the hand of death at work. Perhaps it was a bit more immediate for our less modern ancestors, but it was no less personal. Humans did not just being human a hundred years ago, or a thousand, or even more. We have been human the whole time. The sparks of creativity and genius that are with us today have been part of the human condition all along. Those ancestors were just like us, living, laughing, loving. But they're gone now. And they have left us no clues as to what is waiting for us beyond the curtain.

The human creature is presented with the ultimate paradox, and it's really no surprise that we've had to develop all manner of unfounded presumptions about what comes next in order to deal with it. We are given self-consciousness, the ability to have our own identity and unique personality. We then are given a timeline of indeterminate length, except we know with confidence that it will end. We are given the mental ability to tackle any mystery given sufficient time, and then someone starts a stopwatch. Humans are very purpose oriented creatures, so we create situations where we have Purpose. Purpose lets us tap into something eternal and immortal. Purpose lets us be part of something that is not temporary, that is not mortal, but that is everlasting. So, we embrace the purpose we find, and we pursue it because that is how we will live forever.

So, to answer the question, no, I don't believe in reincarnation. I think that, rationally, humans should not be letting ourselves get distracted by the irrelevant. The human creature has a very short time on this world, and we have a great many more important things to be doing than trying to organize what happens after we die. Because, scientifically, we have no evidence of an afterlife. If there is one, there is no reliable physical proof to back it up, so why make an issue of it? I have irrefutable physical proof that I have a life right now. I have an apartment, a car, a cat, and a beer waiting for me in the refrigerator. It is a waste of our precious minds to go muddling around in the afterwards, because we can't yet. If there is something there, then we will all have plenty of time to deal with it when the time comes. For now, I can prove scientifically that I have a beer in my fridge.

For a few more moments, anyway.

There is more to this, though. So I am confident this will not be the last time I find myself tackling it. Feel free to share your thoughts, please.