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!).