What Owns You

Hands in chains

Compulsion. We think it’s a disorder–OCD. Most of us, we say, are above it. We’re in control.

But really, that’s a delusion. So many things control out lives. And adding more irony is that we are keenly aware of it.

The device you’re probably reading this on: How many times a day do you check it? If you’re an average person, the answer is 80 times per day. Eighty! Who’s in control?

It’s no great revelation that the stuff we own ends up owning us. But it’s helpful to occasionally remind ourselves of this.

Tyler Durden Fight Club quote the things you own end up owning you
People knock Fight Club, but the book and movie resonate for a reason.

Lots of these things are vampires, leeching us of or time, money, and energy. Time, money, and energy that could be put to more productive use. It’s bad enough that we don’t really own much of the stuff we think we do . . . and then, this stuff turns around and owns us.

I know that I myself have several things that own me, physical good or otherwise. These keep me from doing what I really want to do and know that I should do: write, read, pray, work out, play music, think, and so on.

Bela Lugosi Count Dracula

A caveat: These things don’t interfere with family time. When I’m with my family, the screens are out of sight. That’s an iron clad rule, and it’s one that’s easy to follow, because my wife and I keep each other in check (this will be important later on), and quite frankly it’s embarrassing wasting so much time on this stuff. Continue reading “What Owns You”

Beige Evil

Nobody sets out to be evil. And nobody thinks that they’re evil. But would we even recognize evil when we see it?

I’m not just talking cartoonish, Pennywise the dancing clown evil, but the more insidious kind that often comes wrapped in the mantle of goodness and virtue.

I’m no Hannah Arendt scholar, but she is the philosopher who coined the phrase “the banality of evil.” In interviewing the architects of the Nazi’s extermination of the Jews and other undesirables, she was shocked to discover that these people weren’t the garishly sinister figures she expected. Instead, they were ordinary, nondescript, and even kind of boring.

Weird, right? But then again, so few set out to be the villain. Other people use that term. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” might have been a stupid thing to say after 9/11, but it actually describes how people see themselves.

(Now, taken out of context and as a blanket generalization, ignoring questions of who or what is actually right and good, the statement is obnoxiously relativistic, but I digress.)

Evil seeks to come in two main varieties: cartoon evil and beige evil. The former is rare and easier to detect. The latter is, sadly, far more common.

Cartoon Evil is big, bold, and knows it’s causing–and reveling in–mayhem and bloodshed. Think ISIS. Of course, they think they’re doing Allah’s work or whatever, but they totally enjoy the killing and the torture and the rape. Hey, they’re just doing what their Prophet says, so why not have fun?!

The thing is, most functioning human beings recognize ISIS for the evil that they are. They’re an easy one. Both the Nazis and the various horrific communist regimes (Russia, China, Venezuela, Cambodia, North Korea, Cuba, and so on) are a bit trickier to classify because they cloaked themselves in a mantle of faux-sophistication and academic-sounding justification. But they’re still evil.

Beige Evil, on the other hand, is creepier. It worms its way into you to eat you from within. And Beige Evil is usually pushed on you from without. Comedian George Carlin commented that when fascism comes to America, it’ll be in “Nike sneakers and smiley shirts.” He was on to something. Continue reading “Beige Evil”

Everyone Is Garbage and I Want to Go Home

I have refrained from writing about Charlottesville and other politics stuff because it’s all too stupid. HOT TAKES are flying around everywhere, nuclear hot takes, and the hottest of hot takes are usually exceedingly dumb and offered right after the incident in question.

They also suffer from a lack of nuance.

Worse, they present us, the regular person with a job and bills to pay, maybe with a family, who has nary an ounce of hate in our bones and who wants to just be left alone, to pick a side between two options.

Two garbage options.

White nationalists Reichtards are garbage. Violent Antifa communist anarchists are garbage. Politicians are garbage. Our two major political parties are garbage. The fringe parties are garbage. Our media is garbage. Our education system is garbage. Law enforcement is garbage.

Everybody is garbage.

Why on Earth, then, would anybody pick either side of this false choice? Continue reading “Everyone Is Garbage and I Want to Go Home”

Letting Things Breathe: The Power of Rhythm 

Rhythm

I move fast.

It’s just how I am. My natural inclination is to make quick, precise, sometimes jerky movements designed to do what I need to get done as quickly and efficiently as possible. My wife likens it to a bird, which isn’t necessarily the best animal to be compared to, unless it’s a hawk or falcon or other kick-ass bird of prey.

“Enough about birds!” you might be saying now. “I didn’t think this was an ornithology blog!”

And it’s not. Not yet, at least. But birds do have their own sense of rhythm.

“Rhythm!” you’re saying now. “I like rhythm! Music, right?”

Exactly.

My natural rhythm, the tendency to be make quick movements, spills over into other aspects of my life: I walk fast. I talk fast. And I tend to think fast.

Thinking fast sounds good, right? But you’d be surprised–reaching a conclusion quickly, perhaps quicker than other people, sometimes means that you’re not thinking things through.

Slow down . . . breathe . . . 

This is where the idea of rhythm comes in. Think about music. If the drummer or the guitar player is doing a solo the entire time, it would get kind of boring, wouldn’t it?

Or a movie that’s 90 minutes of bloody action. It sounds cool, sure. But it works far better in theory than in practice.

But I like the music anaolgy better, because so much of life resembles music.

So much can resemble a bloody action movie too, but I digress. Back to music.

One of my favorite drummers of all time is the late John Bonham of Led Zeppelin.

John Bonham

I know, I know, everyone loves Bonzo. But I’ll tell you why, among other reasons, he’s in my drummer top three:

He didn’t overplay. He could, but he didn’t. Continue reading “Letting Things Breathe: The Power of Rhythm “

Lessons from a Life


I know that most of my fellow Americans are gearing up for their Independence Day celebrations–which are important–but this time of year has a different meaning for my family.

It was around this time last year that my mother-in-law passed, just shy of her 57th birthday, after a nasty 10-month bout with the god of all sicknesses, cancer. We just had her one-year memorial service, which has overshadowed any Fourth of July-related activities. 

Even before she got sick, I spent a lot of time thinking about death and what it means, and I suppose her illness got me thinking about it more

But I don’t want to talk about death right now. I’d rather talk about life. And though I only knew my mother-in-law for nine years, they way she lived her life, and how she acted at its end, made a strong impression on me that I’ll never forget.

See the good. My mother-in-law, no matter what, has everyone the benefit of the doubt. Every person, no matter who or what they were, had a chance in her eyes. And if they did something to prove they weren’t worthy of her time or respect, she never acted maliciously towards them. Her attitude was “Everyone’s different, and everyone’s going through something.” So why waste your energy hating them, or letting them control your thoughts and emotions?

Party. My mother-in-law didn’t drink, but she was an incredibly vivacious person. And she loved having fun whenever the chance presented itself. Dancing, music, laughter…she was always the life of a party. As her and my father-in-law ran their own businesses, they worked very hard. But she never forgot that it was good to let loose and have fun with family and friends. 

Forgiveness. Even at the end, she forgave people who did them wrong. And let me tell you, she would confront people about things…but always in a respectful manner, from a place of love and of wanting to move past it. She took Church teaching on this very seriously. I think we’d all be better off if we did too.  Continue reading “Lessons from a Life”

The Contradictions of City Life

We like to say we go to cities for the freedom: Jobs, culture, excitement. And yet living and working in one, you exhibit more herd-like behavior than one does in the country. 

I’ve lived in both, and for the last two years have been back in the city. And I’m not knocking those who enjoy urban living, but it’s full of contradictions that I personally find unfulfilling. 

Maybe when I was younger, I loved city life more. Now, in my mid-thirties, I realize that it might not be for me. 

Contradiction: Thousands and thousands of people meet crushing loneliness. How can you be so saturated in humanity but feel so isolated? How do all of these people and all of this stuff going on make you so depressed? This has been a recognized phenomenon for some time, and no one has a satisfactory answer. 

My take is that populations that are a) too large and b) too diverse have low trust and cohesion. It’s simple. If you feel littlenperceived connection to that teeming mass of humanity that seems almost too big, you won’t make the effort to get to know them. Because why bother? They’re probably transients anyway, here today, somewhere else tomorrow.  Continue reading “The Contradictions of City Life”

Always Be Moving Forward: Nine Lessons Learned from Following the Rules

You go along with the checklist. You follow the rules. And you find that you still can’t “make it.”

Replace “you” with “me,” and that’s where I am now. 

You see, I did the pre-approved, Boomer-sanctioned thing: College. Grad school. Safety. Security. Don’t rock the boat. And I still have to get a second job. 

I’m not against working hard. But it is kind of depressing. 

Perhaps “disillusioning” is a better word. But I’m telling you, this is why I do not find it irresponsible to warn as many young people as humanly possible to explore alternatives to college. 

It’s another reason why I warn people away from law school as much as humanly possible. 

Law school provides you with some of the most unmarketable skills in one of the least-demanded fields. 

Every instinct telling you to go to law school? Listen to it, and then do the opposite. 

The same goes, generally, for college. 

Look, I’m no self-improvement guru. I don’t have everything together. But I can tip you off about what not to do. Why make the same mistakes someone else did? Continue reading “Always Be Moving Forward: Nine Lessons Learned from Following the Rules”