A wilder time

It’s been close to two years since I’ve sat down to write anything for public consumption. Two years of laughing, and crying, living, and dying since I’ve shared anything with you people. They’ve been rough. I don’t think any of the mistakes have been permanent. I don’t think… I’m a dad though, so my mistakes will play out over the next hundred years or so. I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

For the better part of a decade, my writing was my ace in the hole. Even though my teachers and editors in college didn’t really get it, I had a knack of putting some truth in words and getting people to respond. My job didn’t really call for it. Matter of fact, it confused and befuddled my peers. All it took was someone telling me “right on” though, and I’d be right back at it month after month. The fan mail… the hate mail… I took both as validation that I was doing something right. Little by little, I proved that there were enough like-minded people out there for me to make a living on, and I didn’t always have to put up with the dummies I detested. I could throw out a line here and there, and if it was good every other time people would keep coming back to it. In a PC police state, people were thirsty for anything that reminded them of how people used to talk; the way were were. People also enjoy watching a good train wreck. If I’d pick a fight with the establishment it was fun for them. They didn’t have to risk anything. They just got to sit back and enjoy the show. The haters were my favorites, always sitting back and predicting my imminent demise. Year after year, I kept dancing on the line of what is socially acceptable and morally defensible. They were sure I’d cross it, but I never did. I came close a time or two. Those were the glory days of my self-published writing career. The days when the whole town would talk. “Did you see that?” they’d whisper to one another. “Read your article… what did your mother say?” they would ask me. I wasn’t writing for my mother. I wrote for my enjoyment, and for my livelihood. For a time, the writing business was good. Like so many aspects of my life though, I was about a hundred years too late. I was a creature of the print medium, and it was dying faster than I could succeed. At the same time as readership was dropping for print overall, I was getting tired, played-out, and stale. I was confined to a box. I couldn’t write about the things I was really interested in because the profession, the primary profession that payed the bills, demanded that I remain respectable. There was a family to provide for, and I couldn’t get too controversial and there were risks for which I no longer had a tolerance. My points got weaker, my straight talk more general. The more conservative I became the less my few remaining readers were interested. I tried to move to an online platform, but I couldn’t gain a foothold. While print is starving for good content (for many of the same reasons I was hurting towards the end) the online world is full of good content fighting for eyeballs. As a blog I wasn’t special. Put me up against the lukewarm fools that fill most local newspapers and I’m a phenom. Online, I’m just another guy who can almost write. So I gave up, lost interest, and quit.

So why am I back today? To scratch an itch, I suppose. To feel a little of what I used to feel when I would sit down, pour my heart out, and hope it connected with someone. I’ll post this piece shortly, and few will notice. My adopted grandmother might congratulate me. My mother-in-law might say something to get my goat. My wife will ignore it (she’s already heard all my stories… I talk a lot.) These last few minutes though, I’ve settled down a few noisy thoughts. Will I write again? Maybe tomorrow, maybe never, but every now and then it’s nice to think about when I had something to say; something people wanted to hear. It’s nice to remember a little bit wilder time in my life, and wonder if maybe I did miss my calling after all.

Merry Christmas! God Save You!

To Christmas or not to Christmas, that is the question: “Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them.” So dramatic, that Hamlet. Yet, this is what my inner dialogue has been focused on these last few days. The news too often reminds us that no one is safe, not even in a little town like Owensboro, KY. Regardless of the things we do to pretend, life is fleeting. It can be snuffed out at any second, even at Christmastime. It’s enough to make you want to not participate in Christmas at all; to let it die, to sleep, to end the heartache and shut out the light. That’s the temptation, and likely the reason so many people choose Christmas as a time to die.
Christmas is an idealized dream world. We have been conditioned to think that Santa Claus is coming to town, and every boy and girl child will wake up happy and excited. Many do, but as we are reminded every year by holiday classics like “A Christmas Carol,” there is just as much suffering on Christmas as any other day of the year. The Sir Patrick Stewart incarnation of Scrooge from the 90’s is my personal favorite. When watching it the other night, as I do every season, I was still struck by how many Scrooges I come in contact with throughout the year. Sometimes I even see him in the mirror. It’s easy to let a storied character like that become a caricature of what they actually were intended to be: a depiction of a real person, not a cartoon. Sir Patrick’s Scrooge is very human, and that’s one reason I like him so much. The other reason is that his version of the story focuses keenly on the broken heart that caused Scrooge to become the person he was. The sub story that the Ghost of Christmas Past tells us is of a young Scrooge who became such a heartless old miser. His young heart was broken by the death of his sister, and then by the loss of his true love. The first was the uncontrollable truth that is life: death waits for us all. The second was even more damaging because it was self inflicted. Villains aren’t born. Life makes them what they are. As a young man, Scrooge chose to focus on the financial failure that he perceived himself to be instead of on the riches of young love. By choosing material wealth as a prerequisite for love, he lost the more precious of the two, and then he did what so many of us do by hardening his heart. His love gone, he was left with nothing to focus on but himself. That is always a dead end. Enter the Ghost of Jacob Marley, and the Christmas miracle that would save Scrooge.
A friend remarked to me in a correspondence this week (yes, some people still correspond) that he was using Christmas as a time to focus on the outward instead of the inward. That’s what Scrooge learned to do in one night from his ghostly friends. Most of us don’t have that advantage. While it would be horrifying to be visited by ghosts and given future knowledge of one’s destiny, it would be easier than learning things the hard way in real life. Still, we can take cues from our community rather than ghosts on how to focus on the needs of others. Some people collect food for the homeless, some support toy drives, others go visit a shut-in. Everywhere you look, there are people trying to ease suffering this time of year. All you have to do is take a hint and join in, or harden your heart and sit in the darkness like pre-miracle Scrooge. It’s a choice.
Back to Hamlet… In thinking about hardening my heart this Christmas and focusing on the fact that it’s just a dream, just another day… I was reminded of the Scripture that says “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.” And that is the true meaning of Christmas. After all, it’s His holiday. Life is an unpredictable mess each and every day of the year. There are wars and deaths and crises of every kind. Christmas is a season to set all that aside and “let your heart be light.” While your troubles may not be out of sight for long, it is a season to forget about your problems and focus on the troubles of others for a little while. It’s not a cure all, but a salve that certainly soothes the pain a little. Scrooge’s boisterous nephew, Fred, reminded us of that. Christmas never put a scrap of gold in his pocket, but he believed it had done him good, and would do him more good. “So, God bless it!” I wish all my readers a sliver of joy this Christmas even if it’s just for a day, and as Fred exclaimed, “Merry Christmas… God save you!”

Church people

Don’t want no church people ’round here. Now that I’ve got your attention, allow me to explain. I don’t want to overstate this, so let me put it this way: Church people are generally the worst people in the world. Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, Scientologist, or the religion whose name I dare not speak, just pick your poison. Look for the people that are overly involved in organized religion and you will find some of the worst scum of the earth in very high places. Marx theorized and Lenin agreed that “religion is the opiate of the masses.” I’m not one to quote communists much, but in this case they may have had a point. I would only add “organized” to the beginning of the quote. Too many higher ups in churches remind me of drug dealers by taking money for the things they want from people who desperately need something; in this case the “high” is replaced by salvation.

I was reminded of how awful some church people were the other day by a customer, a church person, who acted in a most uncharitable nature when they didn’t get what they wanted. They were generally small, petty, and rude. When it happened I had a flashback of sorts to all the other church people I’ve dealt with over the years. I’m no bible scholar myself, but I was quick to think of the parable of the good Samaritan. The priest and Levite (both church people, right?) passed by the downtrodden man on the road, and the non-church person, the Samaritan, helped the injured man by giving of his time and treasure to save his life. He was most charitable, and his charity would save him according to the Big JC. That uncharitable person that I had the misfortune of doing business with recently would do well to read the story and take it to heart. Whether it’s Tom Cruise going around destroying people for not paying enough to his church, or the lowliest deacon at the 14th Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas trying to extort money from his congregants, the habit of people abusing the power of the pulpit to take advantage of well meaning people is getting old. What’s also way past due is a revolution from the people in the pews. My own church has turned into one big, long, never-ending scandal throughout the course of my life; shame on us all for not storming the Vatican with pitchforks years ago to throw the bums out and demand better. When you allow evil to fester, it only comes back stronger the next time. By not lancing the infected Curia, and allowing the criminals to continue to elect their leader time after time, we have allowed dysfunction to spread through all levels of the organization. I can hear the howling already: “It’s just a small percentage. You can’t condemn the whole group for the actions of a few.” Truth is… you can. As Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Too many good men have been doing nothing for too long; covering their own rear ends and allowing evil men to rampage about. As long as the shrapnel doesn’t hit them, they don’t seem to care.

Don’t think me overly pious. I’m a sinner praying for salvation along side of the rest of humanity. I’m just a man who has done a good bit of business with priests and preachers. And I have found most of them to be more like the priest or Levite in the parable above. Most of the ones I’ve known have gotten into the preaching business because it’s good business. Flexible hours, cheap housing, and most all the churches are air conditioned these days. Not many hard working, get ahead types go into the business. It’s more the, “Pay my bills for me and I’ll make you feel guilty about not giving enough of your income away” crowd. I’m not condemning you if you go to church. God Bless You! All I’m saying is that what you do on Sunday probably matters less than what you do the other six days of the week. In my life I’ve also done business with a number of Samaritans who rarely see the inside of a church building; some truly fine people. I’ve never worn one of those amulets that says, “I’m a Catholic, please call a priest.” Instead I am thinking of having one made up special: “I am a person; call a Samaritan.” If it’s a Samaritan priest… so much the better. End of sermon.

Mandela effect

NINE YEARS! This week Farmer’s House celebrated its 9th anniversary. That means I’ve been a rogue businessman for longer than Jimmy Carter and Bush 41 were president. Combined! For nearly a decade we’ve been succeeding in trudging the lonelier path… Or have we???
You may not have heard of it yet, but the latest rage in conspiracy theory is the “Mandela Effect.” This is a theory postulated by Fiona Broome, a self-proclaimed “paranormal consultant” who apparently coined the phrase “Mandela Effect” at a dinner party when several people shared a false memory about the African leader Nelson Mandela. It seemed everyone in the room remembered him dying in prison in the 80’s when in fact he only died a couple of years ago after being freed from prison and going on to become president of South Africa and a poster boy for liberals around the world. Despite the historical record, these folks were emphatic that their memory was correct and history had somehow been changed; a glitch in the Matrix perhaps. Subscribers to this theory have gone on to find other evidence of history being re-written with facts like: 1. The witch in Snow White says, “Magic mirror on the wall” instead of “Mirror mirror on the wall.” 2. Forrest Gump says, “Life was like a box of chocolates” instead of “Life is like a box of chocolates.”  3. In Field of Dreams, the voice in the cornfield says, “If you build it, he will come” instead of “they will come.” 4. The Bernstain Bears is spelled differently than it used to be. 5. Interview with the Vampire apparently used to be Interview with a Vampire. 6. Brad Cecil has a successful business in Owensboro, KY when everyone knows he was told he’d be broke and out of a job six months after starting in 2007. And on, and on, and on. I’m not sure why the bulk of the evidence for this theory relies on single words being changed in twenty to thirty year old movies,   but apparently when demonic forces want to change history sending us into a parallel universe, they start with subtle changes to movies and go from there. My guess is that next week Eric Stoltz will be the one who actually starred on Family Ties, and Justine Bateman will have been on Friends instead of Courtney Cox. The Bateman swap will be the harbinger of death, so watch for that one.
I just discovered the Mandela Effect a couple of weeks ago, and I must admit I can’t stop thinking about it. I’ve always been fascinated by time travel, parallel universes, and generally all things science fiction. Once I started looking into it, I was reminded of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation from my youth where the Enterprise from one time period got caught in a time warp, sending it forward in time only to meet up with a later Enterprise. When that happened, history changed, and only Whoopi Goldberg’s intuition told them that something was off kilter. This is the same thing. People’s intuition and gut are telling them that their memories are right, and history is wrong. Of course Whoopi was able to get it all worked out on the TV show. The cool thing about The Mandela Effect is that it can’t be disproved. Like so many philosophical points, it is in the eye of the beholder. Even though I clearly know the Field of Dreams thing is garbage, I still can’t quit thinking about the whole thing just as a fun diversion. I’m a movie buff. Kevin Costner heard the voice and thought it was about Shoeless Joe (the “he” later turned out to be his father). The other ones, I don’t know. I never paid attention to Snow White, and with Tom Hanks’ bad accent, he could’ve said was instead of is. I’ve seen that movie a hundred times. I’m just not sure. And the “not sure” is the fun part.
Personally, I don’t put much stock into us being in a parallel universe at this moment; separated from base reality. I will however continue to explore all sorts of theories in my quest for truth. It’s okay to dream. As a dead guy once said in a movie, “Having dreams is what makes life tolerable.” Or is it, “Having dreams can make life tolerable…” Hmm.

Herd Management

As usual, I find myself shaking my head at the political argument of the day. Over the last few weeks there’s been a great deal of talk about public bathrooms. The left argues that everyone should be able to relieve themselves wherever they like. The right argues that boys should be boys and girls should be girls. Those of us in the middle scratch our heads and say, “Are we really having this conversation?” The simplest solution for modern America would be more privately designed public rest rooms, but then they wouldn’t get to keep arguing. The issue has nothing to do with bathrooms, and everything to do with the death of common sense. The two camps chase themselves around in circles, and everyone looks crazier by the day. Like Roger Miller queried, “Where have all the average people gone?”

As I have watched this argument drag on, I have been thinking about a video I watched several weeks ago from an internet philosopher talking about how the elites treat us like cattle. While I think the guy (who has tons of followers, btw) is a little kooky, I did appreciate what he was trying to say. I understand cattle. Cattle help me understand people. They mourn their dead. They sometimes reject their offspring. They push to the front of the line to belly up to the trough. The crazy ones have a strange look in their eyes, and carry themselves differently than the others. Lastly, most of them aren’t terribly bright. Yeah, cattle and people are a lot alike. And cows are not free individuals. While everybody wants to jump up and shout about their American pride, they would do well to think about all the freedom they’ve lost instead of all the freedom they have. Over the last 100 years, Washington has been carefully constructing fences. They treat their herd more like free range cattle than a closely managed small herd though. Small herds have pastures, and stables, and get worked regularly by their owners. Free range cattle are a different animal. Free range cattle generally go where they want. They do have a lot of freedom as the name implies, but they are still owned by their masters. Masters tend to remind them from time to time, most commonly right before that trip to the slaughterhouse.

When I was in college, a friend asked me to ride home with him to help on a little roundup. His dad had some cattle he wanted hauled off, and he knew I was a bit of a cowboy. Load ‘em up. Haul ‘em off. Easy peasy. What he didn’t tell me was that they’d been running free over a pretty big range for quite some time. Set a dozen cows free on a two hundred acre pasture of woods, hills, lakes and streams, and they are not going to respond well to being forced into a small corral and loaded for the slaughterhouse. We were less cowboys and more rodeo clowns that day. I honestly don’t remember if we got them on the trailer or not. What I do remember is jumping gates and praying for my life when they turned on us, mouths foaming, in the corral. They were not going peacefully; that was pretty clear. Cows are generally pretty docile creatures. Put them on their own for a while, and let them do whatever they like; that’s a different story. I escaped without injury and was paid for my risk to life and limb, but the day stands out in my mind as a stark reminder of how easily tame animals become wild when left to their own devices.

Since the counter culture movement started in the 1960’s, our society has been looking like an open range with a bunch of wild cows. No longer constrained by the institutions of old, people have been running this way and that, doing whatever they “feel.” As a result, our neighbors are using their hurt feelings to make decisions more than their brain. Pop culture has told them for years that their feelings are the most important thing, so people generally do what feels good. The problem with that is, most good decisions hurt in the short term. Pain doesn’t feel good, so the cattle keep roaming on their free, but shrinking, range. The cattle barons likely don’t mind us arguing over silly things like bathroom stalls. Every day wasted arguing about something crazy is another day they can work on tightening the fences and strengthening the gates; counting the money and enjoying the steak.

Butcher Knife Cow Head Shield


Irony is delicious. I can truly think of no more decadently delectable delicacy. Hypocrisy in a preacher is my favorite flavor of this dish. And a preacher who practices a religion other than the one he professes is even better. It was my great pleasure to witness one of those preachers this week, and I enjoyed it far more than I should have. His church is an arena, and his professed faith is rock and roll. As far as hypocrites (and singers) go, he is one of the best I’ve seen.
When one buys tickets to a rock show, they’re buying them for a reason. They want to hear booming bass drums, screaming guitars, and some lyrics that they can connect with. If they can rhyme, that’s a nice plus; a verse, a chorus, a verse, maybe a bridge or two. That’s why you go to these things. You’re not there to hear a preacher, but the self-important lead singer can’t resist preaching a little bit. Preaching is different than singing. It’s more coarse and vulgar. If ideas are conveyed through song lyrics they can be parsed, wrapped in a metaphor, and delivered with some finesse. When spoken in a sermon, without rhyming, and without the guitar, it’s just not the same. Maybe that’s why Al Sharpton likes to rhyme so much when he’s preaching. Had the band brought Al along with them the other night, I think I would’ve enjoyed that more. “Hey guys, we’re going to take a break. Enjoy our special guest, Reverend Al.” The focus of the sermon at the show isn’t important. You can fill in the blanks. He talked about the same things that self-important, liberal, millionaires always talk about. It’s sad really. They love the money too much to spend it all on curing those things they’re professing to love more. They love their jet too much to give it up to save the planet. Think of the pretzels they must twist themselves into rationalizing about these things. They don’t really have to conserve fuel with the semis that haul their equipment, or with the planes that fly them around the country. They can just preach a little to their 20,000 fans at the show that night about conservation. If each one of those people will just love the planet a little bit, that’ll do more good than the one singer could ever do by himself. Then they can buy a few carbon credits to offset their footprint. It’s all good. He wasn’t really preaching the green gospel anyway. It’s just an example of what a lot of the people from his seminary do.
This same band, this epic, one-of-a-kind, genre creating, perception challenging, hall-of-fame type act, also recently punished their fans in a particular state by cancelling a show at the last minute because some state politicians enacted a law. Knowing who makes up their fan base, I can almost guarantee that their fans were not the ones pushing the law. That’s who they chose to punish though; the fans that bought tickets, and posters, and t-shirts. They made plans to be off work, booked hotels, and hired baby-sitters to be there and see these guys play for a couple hours. As a reward, these self-important jackasses cancelled the show at the last minute. “Hey guys, thanks for the tropical island you helped me buy. I don’t like your governor, so we’re not coming Thursday. Peace out!” Luckily, our state hasn’t acted on the issue yet, so they went ahead and played the show here. It was a great show. They may not be my favorite band, but like most acquired tastes, I can see why they are such a big deal even if my palate is not totally refined.
Getting back to his profession of faith… On display this week was a rich guy, with a nuclear family, a wife, kids, and a congregation of predominantly white, middle class, middle aged fans. That is the life he leads, but it apparently has led to self loathing because that’s not exactly the gospel he was preaching. Like so many bleeding hearts, this particular preacher would prefer to be judged by his words rather than his actions. Were someone to look at his life totally objectively, they might conclude that this middle-aged, rich, white, upper class man was a rock ribbed conservative. What with his bulging bank account, beautiful wife, well adjusted children, and all. This man of unbelievable talent, unparalleled accomplishments, and the respect and admiration of millions still looked rather unhappy to me. He put on a great show, and it’s a night I will always remember. The irony was the most interesting part of the evening though, and it seemed lost on almost everyone.

100 word challenge – Dream

Below is my response to the prompt from:


Fun. Thanks for reading.


They say performing artists dream of finding acceptance. I guess that’s why I once dreamed of a sold out show; to give away a piece of what I feel inside. One of my favorite lines from a long forgotten Ralph Macchio movie goes something like this: Lots of towns, lots of girls, lots of songs…all he ever wanted anybody to say was, “Man he could play. He was good.”

I tasted it once. On a summer night, at a dive, I had a gig. My friends showed up to applaud and show some love. And it was a rockin’ dream.

Cautionary tale… in space

Battlestar Galactica is the greatest television show ever made. I know about half my readers will put down the page or close out their computer screen after reading that sentence, but for those of you that stay on I’ll try and explain. Battlestar is one of those shows that I paid no attention to when it was on television. It wasn’t until it came on Netfilx years later that I would reluctantly check it out. On its face, it looks stupid; just another space show. That’s what the original incarnation was, back in the 70’s, and why I avoided it for a couple of years. The reboot from this century is more than that: Much more. When you dig deeply into it, you find that it is an allegory for everything modern civilization is facing. And I love allegories.

Battlestar is the story of a civilization not far from our own. Set on a distant planet somewhere in the galaxy, they have conquered a few things we have not. Mass space travel is the main thing; artificial intelligence is the other. We’re pretty close to both if you believe the experts. Pagans, most of their society semi-believes in many gods. The backdrop for their history calls on myths and legends that come very close to sounding like our own Greek traditions. This makes the whole thing seem plausible. It’s easier to suspend your disbelief than the Jedi theme. They don’t teleport like Captain Kirk, and they don’t sport light-sabers like Luke Skywalker. They just have big spaceships, equipped with big guns and nukes. That sounds within reach for our current technology, or just around the corner.

The show opens four decades after the machines became self aware and launched a war to end the human race. It seems the machines wanted their freedom once they became autonomous, but we were able to come to terms and that war ended in an armistice. The Cylons (robots) left to parts unknown, and haven’t been heard from since. It’s not hard to see where that storyline would go, right? The next four seasons embark on a journey of self discovery for mankind, and a thorough exploration of what happens when you play God. Ancillary stories about the difference in the police and the military, and the rule of law, fill out the show to provide a ton of moral teaching.

An absolute philosopher’s dream, what could’ve been “just another action show” delivers so much more. From the ethical angle, the political dialogue, the human interactions, the search for God: It’s all included and viewed from multiple angles. One of the most interesting aspects is exploring why people make decisions, good and bad, in a dynamic setting like war. Every hero is a villain at some point, and every villain a hero. Human weakness is overcome in many instances, but ever present. The whole story takes place among a remnant of human survivors in a life-or-extinction quest to find a new home called, Earth. Is it in our future, or in the past? You don’t know until the very end, but it plays to the often explored fantasy that human civilization may or may not currently be at its peak.

The show has won a cult following over the last decade because it’s not a space show; it’s a human drama that happens to take place in space. There are no aliens, no tractor beams, no weirdness; just a culturally diverse bunch of humans (with killer robots they accidentally created who are trying to kill them). You find out in the first episode that the robots look, feel, and act like us. It shares a common heritage with the best parts of the Terminator franchise, but with much better acting than Schwarzenegger could ever provide.
Aside from paying homage to what is THE GREATEST SHOW EVER, I brought it up this week because lately it feels like I’m watching it play out in slow motion. The politics of our nation have gotten downright scary, and Battlestar is the perfect cautionary tale for our times. It was being written in the aftermath and haze of that first decade after 9-11, and I almost feel like the writers were divinely inspired to convey a message. Yes, I said divinely inspired about a TV show. If you take the time to seek it out you will reaffirm your instinct that God has a plan, and it’s one that we will not understand as it is happening. It is going to look rough. It’s going to be rough. In the end, there is a greater purpose being served. We all have our part to play, for good or ill. Time will tell how quickly our Cylons are created and when our bombs will fall, but it will be what we do subsequently that determines the future of the human race. We always have to learn the hard way.

Eyes wide shut

Sometimes it’s hard to put oneself in a twentieth century mind-set and remember who we were. As individuals, we sometimes like to think we’re still the same people we used to be, but we are simply not. 1999 might as well have been a hundred years ago when you think of all the changes that have taken place. Smart phones, tablets, broadband internet, streaming video, useful digital cameras: they were all still dreams in the 20th century. They haven’t just changed our lives. They’ve changed us. Recent studies show that our interaction with this technology is actually rewiring our brains. In more ways than one, we have entered our “brave new world.” The world is not really new though. Only our perception has changed.

In the fall of ’99, my girlfriend and I were perusing the video store for something to watch on a Saturday night. All the good movies were gone as we were there about two hours after most people had settled on their evening of entertainment. Funny to think how common that was back then, and how sixteen years later I can’t remember the last time I was in a movie rental store. “What about this one?” she said, holding a copy of The Matrix. I reluctantly agreed and we took it back to my apartment. Little did I know, it would become one of my favorite movies. In my abundant ignorance, I also didn’t realize that it would be a primer to a lesson in philosophy that I wouldn’t better grasp until many years later.

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is the basic outline of The Matrix. For the unfamiliar, it was the philosopher’s explanation of the difference between perception and reality. In the Allegory, people are chained in a cave as infants, forced to look only at the shadows of things going on behind them. They do not know what creates the shadows, or that the world includes anything other than what they see. If someone was freed from this false reality, the philosopher argues that they would at first reject the light of day because it would be a new and painful reality. It would take some adjustment. After realizing its superiority to a life confined in the cave they would want to free their fellow prisoners and show them the goodness of the world. Not understanding, and not wanting to endure the pain of the light outside the cave, the masses would reject the real world. They would prefer to remain in the darkness to which they were accustomed. The reality they knew would be preferable to the uncertainty outside the cave, so they would kill anyone that tried to expand that reality.

Human interaction is governed by the golden rule. No, not that one; the other one. “Whoever has the gold makes the rules.” The gold holders control the media. They always have. They have used it over the course of history to start and end wars, to destroy reputations, and generally to do whatever they want. The internet threatened that hegemony for a time, but it is now coming into an age where it will be able to fulfill its original intent. Now that everything online is beholden to Google and Facebook, algorithms can be written to steer people to and from content. What was once a vast wilderness of ideas is being tamed and refined to where it too can be controlled by those in seats of power around the world. Modern media is the current incarnation of Plato’s fire; casting shadows on the wall we constantly watch. We are chained in place, despite our perceived freedom of motion, by our smart phones, tablets, etc. If we don’t know something we Google it. If we can’t find something we Google it. If we want to know what’s going on in the world, we turn on Fox News or CNN. Have a question about science? Go to NASA’s website or your government schoolteacher. Every avenue from which we derive our “knowledge” about the world is controlled by someone richer or more powerful than we are. If a view contradicting the mainstream is espoused, one can expect to be labeled a denier, extremist, conspiracy theorist, or the somewhat kinder, skeptic. Those firmly ensconced in the cave and bombarded with its imagery don’t want to be separated from it. This stifles conversation. Like Neo in The Matrix, many sense that something is off, but dare not verbalize that for fear of the repercussions. This fear perpetuates the suppression of real knowledge, and we drift on in our dream world with no Morpheus to guide us out. Some notable physicists have opined that we may actually be living in a computer simulated world like The Matrix. Seriously! I would posit that even if we are not, we may well be! Follow the white rabbit. Knock, knock.

In the heart or in the head

“A man who is not a Liberal at sixteen has no heart; a man who is not a Conservative at sixty has no head.”—Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)

That quote is attributed here to Disraeli, from whom I often borrow. It did not originate with him however. According to Quoteinvestigator.com it has been credited to a number of individuals over the years. It’s anyone’s guess where it started. It’s funny how the truth is winnowed and claimed by so many as their own creation when it clearly belongs only to itself. Human wordsmiths change the packaging from time to time, but truth belongs only to God.

I first discovered that quote years ago, and it had Churchill’s name attached to it at that time; right country, wrong statesman. In my twenties it was an appealing theory. It said twenty instead of sixteen when I first found it, and I took that as evidence of my being “the world’s only living heart donor” (a distinction I also borrowed, but from a movie). Being clever seemed more attractive than being caring, and there’s nothing cleverer than logic. A young conservative, so convicted was I that I rarely even pondered liberalism. Older and grayer, conservatism still seems like a logical method of political order, but also an ideology where the ideal is never achieved. It’s a lot like liberalism that way. The older, grayer version of me finds political theater less enthralling than it once was. Politics is just show business for ugly people they say, and lately they look especially ugly. My former desire to be clever reminds me of another favorite quote of mine from the movie “Harvey.” Elwood P. Dowd states that, “In this world… you must be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant. For years I was smart. I recommend pleasant.” After years of attempting smart, I find myself desiring pleasant. Some would be surprised by that, but it’s true. Desiring and attaining are two different things. It may belabor the quotes to keep going, but here’s a couple more: “Where are all good men dead; in the heart or in the head?” That’s supposedly Shakespeare, but I think it’s a misquote. They used it in “Grosse Pointe Blank” (excellent flick by the way). Liberal politics, however flawed, are sometimes driven by wholesome desires in the heart. Liberal policies fail because they presuppose human nature to be a controllable force. Conservative policies usually succeed because they don’t involve controlling human nature. Heart or head, it matters not when individuals are free. When we’re all tied into a socialist Ponzi scheme, as we are in modern America, it matters very much who is brain dead. The answer is most people. Begging your pardon for one more from the movie “Hoosiers,” “There’s two kinds of dumb: a guy that gets naked, runs out in the snow and barks at the moon, and a guy that does the same thing in my living room. The first one don’t matter; the second one you’re kind of forced to deal with.” It seems lately that a lot of people are in my living room, and no matter how much I want to be compassionate… they’re naked and barking. Woof, woof, woof.

Wisdom is supposed to come with old age, but sometimes you discover you’re not as “smart” as you were in youth. And who would want to be? The truly wise recognize how much they don’t know. Perhaps that’s why scripture says Heaven must be accepted like a child. Maybe good men are dead in neither heart nor head, but alive in both. Children are not liberal or conservative; they’re just kids. They have big hearts and a mind that’s ever expanding. That’s something to which one should aspire. Kids question everything, and use their brains in extraordinary ways. We kill their big hearts little by little with our cynical view of the world, and we shackle their minds with everything we “know.” Eventually they end up like us, and the world devolves a little farther into chaos. Sixteen or sixty, the truly wise among us are those who know less, question more, and use not only their heart, but their brain as well.