Fatherly Rage

No child is bad from the beginning… they only imitate their atmosphere.

Prince

Nothing in life is easy. Nothing. Especially the things that are good. Even things that are supposed to be natural, like parenthood.

Life is stressful enough without adding kids into the mix, and patience is always in limited reserves. Like any scarce resource, patience must be judiciously managed so that one doesn’t spend the last few hours of the waking day a simmering cauldron of rage.

This affects parents, no doubt. But this is not necessarily what has been affecting me. I am generally even-keeled and tend not to let my emotions overtake me, whether I’m at work or involved in something personal. This isn’t my natural disposition, though, but one borne through almost two decades of managing a legendarily short fuse.

And yet, I find myself getting angry at my son a lot lately.

He is four-and-a-half, very funny, and very energetic. This energy has difficulty being dispersed by nature of our having moved recently to a much smaller place in the city. This will change soon, hopefully, but I’m not making any guesses as to when.

So in lieu of being able to play outside, he has to deal with “indoor” stuff, particularly at night, when there are no playgrounds or parks or backyards nearby. And the indoor stuff soon gets boring for a kid who loves nothing more than being out in the open air. 

You can see where this is going.  Continue reading “Fatherly Rage”

Can’t Shake It

I would love to not pay attention. 

And yet, I feel compelled to do more than while away my time as the world goes on around me. 

So I try to put what’s happening together, to paint a coherent picture, and I usually don’t like the results. And so I worry. 

I worry about how we use history as a how-to guide and not a cautionary tale. No matter the lessons the record provides, we seem to return, like a dog to its vomit, to the worst of what humanity has to offer. 

I worry about what kind of world I’ve brought my son into, what kind of inheritance he and his progeny will have–though I will be dead, I still worry about them. 

I worry about eternity

And I worry if there is any hope for us in the here and now. Continue reading “Can’t Shake It”

Other People

It’s always about “other people,” isn’t it?

When we judge, we act like we alone are uniquely above any criticism. Everyone else is the problem. We’re the solution. 

We all do it, even those of us who try to be aware of it

Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Words to life by right? 

Yes. But this isn’t a command to never judge–take a look at the next part:

Judge not, that ye be not judged.

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

–Matthew 7:1-2

In other words, be very careful what you say to others. And don’t be a hypocrite. 

Of course, evil should be judged harshly. Or things that can lead to evil. But don’t be so self-righteous to think yourself immune from this, or bristle when you get the same treatment from others. 

To many, evil is subject to interpretation. I tend to stick with immutable principles like those given by God, but your mileage may vary. 

So that’s evil. But what about stuff you disagree with? Or that you just find silly or annoying?

What about other people’s habits and mannerisms that just irk you?

“They do this, they do that, they just piss me off!”

But maybe it’s not them. Maybe it’s you.

If what other people do doesn’t affect you, or isn’t evil or doesn’t lead to evil, who cares?

In other words, pick your battles. Make them worthy of your time, energy, and judgment. 

As with most good things, though, this is easier said than done. 

I fall into this all the time. Social media makes it easy. 

Mockery is fun. Ridicule is a coping mechanism. Complaining lets off steam. 

But I wonder: What do people say about me and people like me?

Probably stuff I would object to as untrue

Exactly what other people say. 

Someone has to be right though, don’t they? Something has to be true and the other false. 

Usually. 

I know we’re a divided nation, and that’s fine. There needs to be a contrast between different ideas and their consequences. 

This is why my maxim is to attack ideas and not people. Continue reading “Other People”

Theater of the Mind

There is no more powerful force than the human imagination. People live their lives according to what they think is true more than what actually is. 

No kidding, right? It’s a pretty good heuristic: “That mean-looking son-of-a-bitch over there with the knives and stuff sure looks dangerous…think I’ll stay away from him.”

But there are also those, shall we say, less-than logical manifestations of this tendency. 

Let me provide some context: I work in DC. The presidential inauguration is in a few days. You can imagine the talk swirling across the country finds itself here. 

And I have to laugh at a lot of it, even though a lot of it scares me. 

Scares me?

It absolutely scares me. Because some people’s actions are guided solely by what they imagine is the case. 

There are people with important, high-stakes jobs like airline pilot, doctor, and lawmaker who think that we are one step away from having things like internment camps and death squads. The one-hundred percent think–no, know–that slavery is this close to being reinstated. 

And how many times do people tell you “All X are Y”? “All Christians are bigots. All Muslims are terrorists. All blacks are criminals.” And so on. 

Again, this goes back to heuristics: One bad experience with a group taints one’s view of them, yet one good experience never changes anybody’s mind for the positive. 

Survival. I get this. But letting our imaginations get the best of us has huge implications 

When somebody thinks they’re Napoleon, we sent them to the loony bin. But act like we are all dead if we don’t pass a certain piece of legislation right now, and you become a national hero. 

And back to Inauguration Day: “All Republican voters are evil and Trump is Hitler reincarnate. Let’s throw bricks at them!”

Which leads me to an important point: If we all live based on what we think is going on, who is right? What is what?

I don’t know.  Continue reading “Theater of the Mind”

What Is Enough?

“How’s work going?” my father asks me during Christmas dinner. 

I kind of shrug and tell him the truth: I like it well enough. My co-workers are fantastic. The pay is great, especially in comparison to my old jobs. It’s just that I amount of money or friendly colleagues will ever make the law interesting to me. It’s a slog almost every single day. 

“Sometimes I have an existential crisis about it,” I say, “like ‘what am I doing with my life’?” A little dramatic, but sometimes there’s no other way to express yourself. 

“You’re there to provide for your family,” my father said, “just focus on that.”

And this is true. But is it really enough?

Work is where a man spends the vast majority of his waking hours. Providing for a family is almost a compulsion–I certainly have nothing against stay-at-home-dads, and I was one for several months while I was unemployed–but I always knew I wanted to be the breadwinner. I had to. 

And it’s not like we really have the opportunity, or need, to go out and hunt or fight or anything. So desk-jockeying is the closest thing many of us have to “providing.”

So when said desk-jockeying is neither intellectually stimulating or particularly difficult, it does call into question what one is doing with one’s life. 

In other words, it’s clear proof that extrinsic rewards (pay) aren’t always enough. That intrinsic piece (meaning) is missing.  Continue reading “What Is Enough?”

The Mother of Reinvention

Sometimes I feel like I’m not supposed to be here. 

Not like I wish I’d never been born, though I, like everyone ever in the history of humanity, have struggled with this feeling. More like I was never supposed to be born at all. As in, as me

You see, my mother had a miscarriage between my older brother and me. That miscarriage had the same due date that I did. Given the strange…dislocation and lack of interest I’ve felt my entire life, sometimes I wonder if that person–that “me,” if you will–should have been born and I should have been the miscarriage, or not conceived at all. 

My mother, of course, has a different take. She likes to say that I “just wasn’t ready yet” (mothers are great like that, aren’t they?) This calls into question what we are before we are born, if anything. A life is literally something created out of nothing (okay, I know sperm and eggs aren’t “nothing,” but where did the original come from? Quite honestly, the “primordial goo struck by lightning” explanation isn’t very satisfactory to me.).

If the soul is immortal, is every human soul just somewhere waiting until the time is right? Or are we all pieces of God, who breaths the Holy Spirit onto the zygote at the moment of conception?
These are deep philosophical and theological questions I’m not going to get into now. I am more interested in the first part of this post, the idea of birth and rebirth. Reinvention. 
Continue reading “The Mother of Reinvention”

Recalibration

You know, I had another post ready to go. But after I put the finishing touches on it, I decided not to publish it. 

For starters, it was very solipsistic. Nobody wants to read a diary. People read   blogs for interesting stories that teach something or provide some insight, not for dour lamentations and narcissistic howls into the digital wind. 

Let’s just say I’ve been feeling restive lately. Discontented. Or in the common parlance, down

And so the other day, as I’m wont to do when I get like this, I opened my Bible at random and read the first verse that caught my eye. It was so apropos I had to underline and highlight it. 

It might have just been a coincidence. It probably was. I don’t care. I’m running with it. 

It’s precisely because this world is how it is–oh-so “advanced,” you might say–that I need to trust in Him more than ever, desolate as I am. 

And it’s why I still enjoy the ancient rituals and elaborate services of church. 

My church has changed very little in 2,000 years. Orthodoxy is no feel-good sect that glosses over the so-called naughty bits of Scripture to appeal to a modern audience. Our liturgy was written in the 4th century and is performed in a dialect of Greek no one outside of the clergy speaks anymore. 

It’s the definition of old-school. And this is why I love it. In the face of a world that feels unnatural, all of that tradition feels more real. It’s like an escape to a time and place where things were more rooted. 

Many Christian services are attempts to recreate the kingdom of heaven here on Earth. And sometimes during a service in a Sunday, when I smell the incense and I hear the chanting and see the icons, I swear I can almost feel it. 

Regardless of your religion, chances are it’s centuries old, probably millennia. The fact that it’s still around is testament to the truth and purity of its ideas. 

There’s nothing incongruous about performing ancient rites in an era of high technology, fast travel, and instant communications, of unprecedented comfort, leisure, and ease. 

If anything, it reminds you of what being human is, that we don’t have all the answers, and that there is something to aspire to. It provides some recalibration in a society that’s hellbent on consuming you while. 

If I may get a little solipsistic here after all, please indulge me. I have been feeling so unfocused lately. My personal energy is at an all-time low, and I’m having difficulty figuring out what’s the point of anything it is I do, whether it’s my work or my writing or anything else, even having a family. If my offspring is condemned to have these same issues, then what’s the point of it all?

Focusing on the divine can at least provide some kind of purpose beyond the endless cycle of live-work-die. 

Maybe you don’t need that. That’s cool. As for me, I’ll be taking my regularly scheduled detours into the past so I’m better equipped to handle the future. 

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PS I still don’t even really know what the purpose of this blog is, either. Maybe I’ll figure this out one of these days too.