Tough Choices (In Writing and In Life)

Do you ever read a book or see a movie and think to yourself, “Where’s the tension?

When it seems like a given that nothing bad will ever happen to your characters (ahem, Disney Star Wars), things get boring.

It’s analogous to music: we need tension and release, delayed gratification, point and counterpoint.

No matter the kind of story, we usually want to see our characters face difficulties and then overcome them. Along with this, we want the outcome to be uncertain even as we hope for the best.

I remember reading comic books as a kid. There was a brief period in the 80 and into the early 90s where, when something bad happened, like a character dying, it had consequences.

Related to this is the joy, albeit a perverse one, audiences take in seeing protagonists make tough choices: Does our hero save the child from a burning building, or capture our villain, who we know will kill more later one? Does our hero steal the life-saving medication for his friend or spouse or child at the expense of someone else dying, or leave it and look for another solution?

This isn’t to say that ambiguity is the magic formula for a compelling story. It means that the instances when there are no “good” choices make for interesting stories. Continue reading “Tough Choices (In Writing and In Life)”

Peak Virtue

What does it mean to be virtuous? What does the end-game look like?

It’s a weird question, sure. But it seems to be a question not too many speak about.

Here’s what I mean: If you’re a Christian, “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:38-40, Luke 6:28-30) has probably been said to you by people who hate Christianity–and likely other Christians!–to discourage you from fighting back against anything, ever.

But this is silly, right? That’s not what God wants, to let us be patsies and doormats and get rolled by any evildoer whoever happens to come along with ill-intent towards us.

After all, what’s more virtuous: To stand up and fight against those would world enslave or exterminate you, or keep you from proper worship of God? Or to refuse to fight until your enemy runs the world, and you and your children and grandchildren are in abject misery but at least you can say “Man, I turned the other cheek like a goddamn champ!

See what I mean?

This isn’t going to be a verse-slinging post, or a theological one. But I think this example makes a good point out of pinning down what is virtue and how does one practice virtue?

I’ve presented a little bit of an unfair binary question here, but let’s play it out for a bit. Virtue is either:

  1. Standing by your principles, even if it means you and your loved ones die; or
  2. Occasionally violating a principle or principles now in order to prevent ruin and damnation for future generations.

I think it’s pretty clear that this is a difficult choice to make, one that will make the principled feel “icky” (a technical term). But it might be the most difficult choice a man faced in his life.

What would a deontologist do? If you “always do what is right,” do you aid the wounded man you know for certain was about to rape and murder your wife because “it’s the right thing to do” (give aid to the wounded) even though that man will resume trying to rape and murder your wife, or do you let the attempted rapist/murderer die?

Which is objectively better? Which is right? Which is virtuous? Continue reading “Peak Virtue”

Fifty-seven Percent Dad

The Daytime Renegade, author of this blog, driving between Washington, D.C. and New England.

The clock ticks over to tomorrow as I cross into Connecticut, the frenetic congestion of New York City an unpleasant memory in my rear-view mirror. I’ve got slightly less than half a tank of gas left, enough to make home with plenty of fumes remaining to get to the gas station down the hill in the morning. This morning. Daytime. Things get so confusing when you don’t sleep.

I’ve become intimately familiar with the I-95 corridors and the cities which surround its unyielding concrete surface. This isn’t the first time I’ve made the drive from Washington, D.C. to New England, nor will it be the last. Since the fall, I’ve been making the drive twice a week. It’s been necessary because I work down south and have family obligations up north, and I’m very lucky that, given my situation, work allows me to work half of the time from home.

Let me crunch some numbers to give you a rough idea about what this is like. Since my new job started, I’ve spent about 672 hours in the car and driven approximately 44,800 miles.

672 hours. That’s 28 days. About a full month’s worth of living stuck behind the wheel of my car.


And the worst part of it, the worst, is that for those three days when I am away from home, I am not only away from my wife, but I am also away from my four-year-old son.

How did this happen? Continue reading “Fifty-seven Percent Dad”