Category Archives: philosophy

Shakespeare Knows Fools

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The fact that Shakespeare was a master of the art of creating and mocking fools does not really help decide the question of who Shakespeare really was.  A stage actor who owned a theater in Elizabethan times and apparently focused on being the bit player, the butler, the second man on the castle wall in the great plays, would certainly know enough of flim-flam, being a con man, or artfully throwing turds at kings and queens in ways that get rewarded rather than beheaded.  But a nobleman who has unpopular and unwelcome-but-probably-wise insights into the back-stabbing-goings-on of the royal court of England would equally be capable of putting the most memorable of critiques of humanity into the mouth of the fool or the clown in the great stage-play of life.  Even the most depressing and violent of the Shakespearean tragedies is enhanced and made pointed by the presence of the fool and the comic relief.  In some ways everything that Shakespeare wrote was a comedy.

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Whoever Shakespeare was, he shared Mark Twain’s overall assessment of “That damned human race” and often declared all men fools in the eyes of the playwright.  Puck’s observation on humanity is delivered about not only Bottom and the other poor players who carry on their vain attempts at performing Pyramus and Thisbe while Bottom magically wears the head of an ass, but also the easily fooled lovers who mistake their true loves for one another, and even the clueless mortal King Theseus of Athens.

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In the play within a play, Nick Bottom wants to be not only his own role, Pyramus the romantic lead, but argues that he should be Thisbe, the lion, and Pyramus all at once, making a satire of human nature and its overreaching ways that we could only pray Donald Trump will one day watch and magically understand.  In fact, Shakespeare’s entire body of work is an extended investigation of foolishness versus wisdom, and with Shakespeare, the verdict always goes to the fool.

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The plays of William Shakespeare are filled with fools doing foolish things… and fools being accidentally wise. (Think Jacques in As You Like It giving his famous “All the world’s a stage” soliloquy in which he elucidates the seven ages of man.)  There are fools too who prove to be wise.  (Think of the ironic advice given by the jester Touchstone in As You Like It, or the pithy commentary of King Lear’s fool).  The fools in Shakespeare’s work are not merely the comedy relief, but the main point that Shakespeare makes about humanity.

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Whoever the man was who wrote the plays of Shakespeare, he was someone who had a deep understanding of the basic irony underlying all of human life.  And someone with that vital sense of the bittersweet, a philosophy of life that encompasses the highest heights and lowest depths that a soul can reach, is someone who has suffered as well as known great joy, someone who has experienced loss as often as profit, and has known real love as well as real hatred.  It is the fool that Shakespeare shakes us by the neck with to make us recognize the fool in all of us which makes the plays resonate so deeply within us.  It is watching the path of the fool unfolding that makes us shake our head and say to ourselves, “Yes, that is what life is really like.”

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On the Problem of Always Being Wrong

I was a middle-school teacher for thirty-one years. That, of course, basically means I have to be wrong about everything. Principals have told me so. Parents have told me so. And students who have heard them say so take it completely to heart because, well… Who has the most authority to declare someone else completely wrong?

Yes, I have it on good authority… I am wrong about everything, always.

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But it is very useful to realize that I am in good company. Galileo was wrong about the sun not going around the Earth. The College of Cardinals said it was so, and the Inquisition forced him to confess he was wrong. Giordano Bruno was so wrong about Copernicus being right that the Inquisition had to burn him at the stake. One would almost think that it is a bad thing to be wrong.

But it’s not.

Science, in fact requires its greatest practitioners to find out all the ways that they are wrong. How else do you create a theory of what is probably right?

It is fundamental to the scientific method to be as right as it is possible to prove. Of course, every scientific theory yields up a lot of anomalies that somehow defy the rules of the currently understood correct theory.

Isaac Newton got thumped on the brain-top by an apple and realized that the same thing that made the apple fall to Earth was making the Moon fall to the Earth, although the Moon is falling at the same rate as it is going around the Earth, so it never finishes the falling.

Later, Albert Einstein would realize that Newton’s gravity would even bend the light of distant stars around the edges of the Sun. And so, he found where Newton, genius that he was, was wrong. And so, the Theory of Relativity was born.

Guess what. Einstein was wrong too.

So, ultimately, it is okay for me to be wrong about things. It is necessary to be wrong before you can find out what is right. So, when I say something stupid like the following…

Comedy is good for you.

You should be naked more.

Fairies are only real if you believe in them.

You must take a leap of faith and live in the world like a Navajo, in tune with the natural world and comfortable with other people living in your world too. Moment by moment in the present moment.

…and eventually, I may stumble upon what is right and true. Or get burned at the stake like Bruno. That happens too.

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Good vs Evil, a Game We Must Play

Whether we find it palatable or not, there is good and there is evil in the world. It is as unavoidable as the fact that there is hot and cold in the world, darkness and light in the world, school teachers and unreachable idiots in the world… Of course, any good philosopher will define the terms being used (not to suggest I am actually a good philosopher… I’m clearly as horrible at philosophy as I am at writing poetry.) “Good” is here being used to mean all that is positive, effectively aiding in life, growth, good health, love, and community. “Evil” is the negative, all that taints, poisons, kills, spoils, and causes suffering..

And as I try to play the game to win for the side of “Good,” I am often accused of being a loony conspiracy theorist, the crazy uncle who is shushed and vilified any time he says words like “Republican,” “Greenhouse gasses,” “Koch Brothers,” “Inside Job.” “Betsy DeVos,” and numerous other words that light conversational infernos in either Texas or Iowa. And I, of course, feel wronged in that I don’t believe the crazies like Alex Jones. David Icke, or Tucker Carlson. I don’t believe the world is run by lizard-men in people skins, or that Democrats eat babies and worship Satan. And I don’t care that Elvis probably faked his death. But I do believe something is wrong and being covered up about the events of 9-11, and the government is covering up the truth about UFOs. I have researched both sides of each question and found many disturbing things have more and better evidence than the debunkers can provide in opposition. Some evils in our time are threatening to cause extinction of life on Earth. That includes man-made climate change, nuclear-weapons proliferation, Chinese economic aggression, and the acidification of the world’s oceans. Opposing these bad things is not a problem caused by me. I am not breaking the rules of the game.

One definite truth that I hope holds true on into the future as it has done in the past is that humankind is made up of numerous innovators and problem-solvers dedicated to helping us overcome the evils that some men do. Solutions to climate problems are out there and being worked on. Things like vertical forests and atmospheric scrubbers already exist, and more are even being built. Gigantic, mountain-installation solar batteries are being designed and built to provide for increasing clean-energy needs. The technology exists to desalinate ocean water and remove or neutralize naturally-formed acids. Hopefully a way will be invented to clean up all the excess plastic waste in the oceans too.

Of course, the hardest part of that game is getting corporations and the billionaires who empower them to pay the price for solving these problems. The profit motive is there to be had. But it is a long-term investment being proposed in a world of quick profits and short-term schemes that rich and heartless people are addicted to.

Of course, many find “Good” is served best through faith and devotion. That might seem a potential problem for an old atheist like me. But, I remind you, I am an atheist who believes in God. I know there is a spiritual dimension to human life, and nothing works well without that. That is why I am a Christian Existentialist. The basis of most religions is some sort of fairytale about faith in a higher power and a better ultimate outcome than merely death. And that would seem to be useless if it is provably false.

But that is one of the beauties of an existentialist philosophy. Since life does not come with meaning already installed in all the hardware, we have the privilege of creating or choosing the operating software for ourselves. Most traditional religions provide instructions on how to live the best life possible and to love one another. This more than merely outweighs the evil done in the name of religion. The heroes who stand against false and harmful beliefs are given their power by being true to the religion inculcated in them in their youth.

This is why it is so tragic when great philosophers like Nietzsche are misunderstood and misused by evil men like Hitler’s Nazi Party. Nietzsche did write about the “Ubermensch” or “Super-man.” But he would never have argued for a “Master Race” like the Nazis did. He was writing about how a man takes ownership over the writing of his own story. And the man (or woman, since he talked about men as if the word meant mankind) can make goodness out of even a life of suffering (just as Nietzsche with his mental illness in later life himself did.) Nietzsche was a philosopher who taught in his writings how people should love one another and should make their own meaning out whatever circumstance they found themselves living in.

It is to be hoped that whatever religious fairytale you adhere to, and however near we are to the actual end of the world, we will all continue to strive for the Good, the Light Side of the Force. It is the only hope we truly have to ultimately win the game..

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Shakespeare is NOT Bacon

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(The graphic above should say “Empiricism,” not “Empirism.”  Ir is a typo.

Yes, Sir Francis Bacon is at least as interesting and obscure as William Shakespeare.  But let me assure you, I can confidently state, “Shakespeare is NOT Bacon!”  He is not eggs either… or any other breakfast food.  Sir Francis Bacon was the breakfast, the first meal in the great Elizabethan banquet of literature, poetry, and culture.  And William Shakespeare is a more important main course, the royal dinner, as it were.  But it has to be acknowledged that Bacon was essential to the very existence of William Shakespeare.  Breakfast always comes before dinner.

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In 1845 a female author by the name of Delia Bacon (nothing suspicious about that coincidence, by the way) put forward an idea that William Shakespeare’s plays were actually written by a group of men under the leadership of Sir Francis Bacon.  She thought the group intended to inculcate into English culture an advanced system of politics and philosophy which they themselves could not take credit for publicly.  She would later write a book in 1857 called The Philosophy of the Plays of Shakspere Unfolded which advanced the notion that the plays were written for Baconian purposes beyond mere theatrical entertainment.  Numerous people, including the American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson supported her in her quest to find proof, sending her to England to research the crazy conspiracy theories she founded by noting ciphers in the plays, and in the essays of Bacon, that led her to believe all she had to do was dig up the gravestone of Shaksper in the chapel at Stratford to find written proof in Bacon’s own hand that he was, in fact, the author or primary motivator of the plays of William Shakespeare.  She spent one cold and creepy night in the chapel, just her and her spade and her crow bar, along with the bones of the Stratford guy, trying to work up the courage to do a bit of grave-robbing… and failing.    It is a good story, but very poor archaeology.  She was denounced by the literary historians and establishment figures who supported the Stratford guy.  They said her scholarship was sloppy, her cipher analysis goofy and unfounded, and her conclusions more questionable than a pig in theatrical make-up.  (My words, not theirs.  English critic George Henry Townsend was entirely too stuffy and boring to simply be quoted here.)

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Now, I, of course, strongly disagree with the Bacon lady.  As I said in the very title, “Shakespeare is NOT Bacon.”  But I do think there was merit in sniffing out old Frankie’s scent and fingerprints on the whole Shakespeare/Shaksper thing.  The Stratford guy was not Shakespeare either.  When he died in 1616 there was no public outcry at the loss of England’s most popular poet and playwright.  Even King James who was Shakespeare’s number one fan and constant audience member, didn’t mourn the passing of the actor/theater-owner/businessman from Stratford.

Francis Bacon, on the other hand, was a powerful intellect, educated in the ways of science, the law, and government in the Elizabethan age.  Bacon gathered other men of powerful intellect and accomplishment at Gray’s Inn to hold debates about things philosophical and things scientifical.  It is not unreasonable to imagine that the man who really wrote the plays attributed to Shakespeare sat at that table and participated in those debates.  And Sir Frankie had good reason to keep lots of this business a secret.  There exists evidence that though he was apparently happily married to a fourteen-year-old girl, he did a little bit of swaying toward the other gender too, a thing not too popular with the average Anglican Englishman.  He also dabbled a bit in the occult (think witches in Macbeth sort of thing).   And his essays indicate a strong correlation to the philosophies and ideals of the German Rosicrucian Movement.  In 1593 during a Roman Catholic plot against Queen Elizabeth, Frankie managed to take a position on the investigation that totally offended the old virgin queen.  He was on the outs with Liz for the rest of her difficult and anger-management-challenged life.  He did rise to prominence under her successor, James I, but never-the-less managed to die amidst total ruin and scandal.  There is a lot in Frankie’s life to indicate that he had a direct influence on the content of Shakespeare’s plays.  Some of the characters in the plays may actually be, at least in part, based on Frankie himself.  But  this guy never hung out with the Stratford guy that anyone knows of.

So, if Shakespeare is NOT Bacon, or eggs either… and the Stratford guy isn’t Shakespeare, then who is?  Come on!  You knew I had a lot more to say about this crazy conspiracy thing, right?

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The Cowboy Code

When I was a boy playing cowboys and Indians with cap pistols and rubber tomahawks, we all knew that cowboys had a code.  The guy in the white hat always shoots straight.  He knows right from wrong.  He only shoots the bad guy.  He even shoots the gun out of the bad guy’s hand if he can.  Westerns are about right and wrong, good and bad, and the unyieldingly good knights of the plains.

And boys believe what they see on TV and in the movie theaters.  People who make television shows never lie, do they?  In fact, Wyatt Earp was based on a real guy who really lived and really shot the bad guys at the gosh-darn real OK Corral.

Daniel Boone was a real guy too.  He faced the opening up of new lands full of deadly dangers.  And when Fess Parker played him in 1964, wearing Davy Crockett’s coonskin hat, he walked the earth like a guardian angel, making everyone safe by the end of the episode.  He even knew which Indians were good and which were bad.  Mingo was always on Daniel’s side.  And when they spoke to each other about the dangers they faced, it was never about killing the people they feared.  It was about doing what is was right, about helping the community at Boonesboro to survive.  Being encouraging… looking forward to a more settled future created by following the cowboy frontier code.

So, I am left wondering what ever happened to the cowboy code?  I listen to Republican presidential candidates talking about dipping bullets in pig’s blood to kill Muslims, and building walls against Mexican immigrants, and why our right to carry assault rifles is sacred, and I wonder what happened.  Didn’t they experience the same education from the television versions of the Great American Mythology?  Didn’t they learn the code too?

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I am old enough now to know that cap guns are not real guns and you cannot solve problems by shooting somebody.  But that was never the point of the cowboy code.  We need straight-shooters again in our lives, not to shoot people, but to tell the unvarnished truth.  We need wise people who can tell who are the good Indians and who are the bad   We need them to shoot the weapons out of the bad guys’ hands.  And I know that’s asking for leaders to be larger than life and be more perfect than a man can actually be.  But Daniel Boone was a real man.  Myths and legends start with a fundamental truth.

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Infinite Monkeys

The theorem goes, “If you sit an infinite number of monkeys behind an infinite number of typewriters and let them tap away at random for an infinite amount of time, they will eventually come up with all the works of Shakespeare, and in addition to that, all the works of literature that have ever been written and ever will be written.”

Now, that is a daunting theorem. All the great works of literature by Mickey will be recreated by monkeys? And even worse, they will probably produce much better versions of all of it. Plus versions of it written in German, Mandarin Chinese, Urdu, and Californian (a really difficult language to translate.) All languages ever created on all the planets of the universe, as a matter of fact. The proof is there. It hinges on the mathematically precise definition of “Infinite.”

But you have to remember, infinite is the biggest number there is.

So many variations will be there in the truthfully infinite amount of stuff that infinite monkeys will produce that one version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet will have a final act where, instead of everyone dying or accidentally killing themselves, Hamlet will talk them all into putting on yellow chicken costumes and dancing with hula hoops as a means of acquiring absolution for their sins.

And a version of it will also exist where all the letter “B’s” will be replaced by “P’s” and all the vowels will be doubled so that Hamlet’s famous soliloquy will begin, “Too pee oor noot too pee, thaat iis thee quueestiioon…”

Accurately imagining the conditions required to have infinite monkeys tapping out infinite works of literary art means that any ridiculous thing that Mickey thinks of will have to actually be typed out by one or more (or infinite) monkeys in all of that infinite monkey writing. Somewhere Eugene Ionesco’s play Rhinoceros will have nothing but characters who are rhinoceroses at the beginning of the play who turn into human beings by the end of the play. (That is the exact opposite of the real French absurdist’s play, for those of you who did not have to read such stuff in college literature courses.)

In fact, in order to think up all the ridiculous variations of every work of literature would take Mickey an infinite amount of time. Mickey probably doesn’t really want to live that long.

And then there is also the question of the physics of infinity. Is the universe itself, I mean, the one we all live in presently, actually infinite? Astrophysicists don’t think so according to current observable data on the astronomical model of this universe. And then you have the problem of infinite monkeys made of infinite matter. The universe would be filled to overflowing with infinite monkey-matter. And that leaves no matter or space to be used for infinite typewriters. The whole universe would be monkey-matter. And that would also mean no room for bananas, or, in fact, any monkey food of any kind. What is going to motivate the infinite monkeys to work for an infinite amount of time on their monkey literature which they won’t have typewriters to write on anyway?

And then there is another horrible thought that occurs to me. In this picture to the left, do you see the evil monkey? Believe me, if you have an infinite amount of monkeys, one or two (or possibly an infinite number of them) will definitely be evil geniuses.

And evil monkeys do evil monkey-business.

At least one or two (or possibly… you know…) evil monkey geniuses will disassemble infinite typewriters to make infinite doomsday devices. Typewriters will be re-engineered into computers and will become filled with monkey-viruses that will rewrite the operating software of the universe. And then, everything becomes an infinite monkey-villain paradise where the evil geniuses among the monkeys will live the perfect life for monkey criminals full of monkey crimes and monkey debauchery and the kind of infinite chaos that infinite monkey-villains enjoy.

This thinking about infinite monkeys leads to one very definite infinite-monkey conclusion; WE DO NOT WANT TO MESS WITH GIVING INFINITE TYPEWRITERS TO INFINITE MONKEYS!!!

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Mr. Happy

I know that I am probably the last person you would think of to ask for advice on how to be happy. I am a crotchety old coot, a former middle-school English teacher, a grumpy old-enough-to-be-a-grandpa non-grandpa, an atheist, a nudist, and a conspiracy theorist. You would expect someone like me to be out in his yard in his underwear yelling at pigeons for pooping on his car more than they do his wife’s car. Be that as it may, I am also basically happy.

You know what happy looks like, surely. After Christmas day is over you see two kinds of kids. One kind is miserable and grumbling in his or her room about their Christmas gift that they didn’t get, in spite of the five expensive toys they did get. Yeah, that one’s never going to be happy. Then there’s the other kind, the one happily breaking or playing with the few cheap toys their parents could afford, using more of their own imagination than the imagination the toy companies pay someone to put into their TV or YouTube toy commercials. That one is going to be somebody you can rely on for years to come. That’s the kind of kid I like to think I was. Of course, I’m probably wrong about that too. Being a middle-school teacher gives you plenty of opportunity to learn the lesson that you are actually wrong about everything in life, and like Socrates, you know absolutely nothing for sure about anything.

Years upon years of being a public school teacher, the butt of comedians’ best school-memory jokes, the target of Republican spending cuts for saving enough money to give massive tax cuts to billionaires, and having to be every kind of professional for every kind of kid, no matter how ugly and unlovable they are, teaches you where true happiness comes from.

A. You have to learn to love the job you are trying to do. And…

B. You need to do the job you love with every resource you can squeeze out of your poor, battery-powered soul.

I did that. I did the job all the way from deluded and idealistic days of youth to cynical and caustic old age hanging onto your job by the fingernails until you have to choose between dying in front of the whole classroom of horrified kiddos you have learned to love, or going kicking and screaming into retirement to maybe live a bit longer than you would have if you had stayed at your work station in the idiot-to-income-earner factory for young minds.

Being satisfied with the career you chose and the success or failure you made of it is not the only factor in being happy. Teachers don’t earn much compared to corporate informational presenters who do the same job for a lot more money in front of a lot less hostile audiences far fewer times a day. So, it helps if you can manage to need less stuff in life. After all, stuff costs lots of money. Especially stuff you don’t really need.

That is why being a nudist and not having to worry about how much you spend on clothes helps a lot with your basic level of happiness and peace of mind. Also, lots of vitamin D soaked up through your nude all-togetherness produces happy-hormones in the brain.

Being an avowed pessimist is good for being happier in life as well. After all, the pessimist is always prepared for the worst to happen. And since the worst rarely is what actually happens, the pessimist is never shocked and dismayed and is frequently pleasantly surprised.

And so, here is Mr. Happy’s secret to a long and happy life;

  1. Tell yourself that the job you have to do is the job you love to do often enough that you actually begin to believe it.
  2. Do that job you love as hard and as well as it is possible for you to do.
  3. Love the people you work for and the people you work with, even if you have to pretend really hard until it becomes real to you too.
  4. Be satisfied with the stuff you need, and try to need as little as possible. The man whose paycheck is bigger than his bills is happier than the man whose paycheck only pays for a portion of the interest on his wife’s credit cards.
  5. Wear fewer clothes. You don’t need them in a quickly warming world. And you should love the skin you’re in.
  6. Expect the worst possible outcome from everything in life, and then there is nowhere to go but upwards.

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What’s the Worst That Can Happen?

Being a fantasy and science-fiction writer with a considerable reputation for being totally ignored by the reading public, I often think about where society and science are taking this world as we continue to climb ladders towards the future and slide down the chutes of unexpected consequences.

And being a pessimist, the future I see is almost always grim. Of course, that’s not an unexpected thing from a writer who consumes a lot of very speculative ideas from other science-fictiony thinkers and proclaimers of gloom and doom.

But the War of the Worlds thing will not happen. Alien civilizations that are far more advanced than we are are already here, living among us and in secret enclaves in caverns and under the sea. We don’t have to worry about invasions from outer space. They could’ve akready taken this world from us if they had wanted to. Again, this is not a factual explanation. This is merely fanciful speculation based on things I think are probably true.

Of course, they are not going to solve our problems for us either. It is not in their own interest to save us from ourselves. No alien repairs to the environment reversing global warming.will ever happen. They have in the past intervened in nuclear crisis. There is considerable testimony from credible and qualified witnesses that UFOs have routinely messed with our nuclear arsenal, even disassembling warheads on rockets in mid-flight and neutralizing missiles in silos. They don’t care if we die. They just don’t want the planet wrecked.

The Democrat-bot continues to deliver haymakers to the Republican-bot, but notice who dominates the majority of the ring, no matter what happens.

One of the things that the alien residents of this planet might allow to occur, and even enjoy watching, is that the current two-year pandemic may prove to be the thing that makes homo sapiens go extinct as a species.

The political fight over pandemic responses threatens to turn the corona virus into a super-mega-killer virus. Already the Republican Deadly Propaganda Ministry of Lies over at FOX News has stirred their mindless minions to reject anything that could end the pandemic. Don’t shut down businesses. Don’t get the vaccine. Don’t wear masks. Don’t help people by creating green-energy jobs or stimulate the economy by giving money to people who need it and will spend it. Better to all die than to let Democrats get credit for doing something right and good. Ignore all the billionaires making record billions while their mindless minions die out allowing the virus to endlessly mutate and become more infectious and more deadly. Given enough mutation time, the virus could kill all human beings on Earth. Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates and Donald Trump can then have all the money in the world. Good luck eating that in a world with no farmers or grocery stores. They will then die out too, just like all the human beings did before them.

If these disturbing science-fictiony predictions worry you or make you afraid for life on Earth, then Good! You need to pay attention to these very things. But remember too that this is a humor blog. I am hot-cow-poop as a prophet of doom. What I say is very likely not right at all. And you can tell by the picture that Mickey is more often mistaken for Santa Clause than Nostradamus. Still, give these dark notions from a pessimistic fool a thought or two. Somebody has to solve these problems if we are to survive. And how do you know that this somebody is not YOU!

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Thinking About Thinking About Christmas

Yeah, I know… The title seems like a typo. But this pointlessly obtuse Mickian essay is actually about metacognition of the concept of having the “Christmas spirit.” In other words, I am writing about and analyzing how I think about Christmas. A nerdy thing to do done by a nerd who wants you to think he is smarter than he really is.

The Reason for the Season

Yes, I live in Texas, so I am constantly seeing the “Reason for the Season” signs in every Southern Baptist churchyard. So, what do I think is the reason? Yeah, you probably don’t want to know. I was a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses for 20 years. Not that I believed in the evils of celebrating Christmas. I only stopped following Witness commands when they abandoned me in times of spiritual need, but I do retain the belief that if Jesus was a real human being, he was not born on December 25th. If the shepherds were watching their flocks by night, then the latest it could have been was in October. Shepherds don’t graze their flocks in winter. The celebration is what the Christian bigwigs decided they would use to co-opt the pagan Saturnalia. The date represents the rebirth of the Sun after the Winter Solstice on December 21st. The Sun, not the Son.

But unlike Jehovah’s Witnesses, I don’t see the Christmas holiday as a bad thing. People, Christian or not, are nicer to each other this time of year. They are much quicker to think of others and take pity on those who are suffering or are in serious need of help. And they think about giving gifts to others. particularly family. Growing up a Methodist Christian, I never noticed any parents at all giving their kids lumps of coal. Even the really bad kids got cool stuff as gifts from Mom and Dad, or Grandma or Grandpa, or whoever else was lucky enough to have to put up with them daily throughout the year.

People actually willingly spend time with their family this time of year. They hear the minister occasionally when he reads aloud the Bible verses about what Jesus commanded concerning widows and orphans, the homeless, and the poor. And Jesus never said that their reduced condition was their own fault for not working hard enough or not being a good-church-goer enough. And people who choose to reach out and spend time with each other during the season of good feelings generally find they actually like those fellow human beings they chose to spend some of their time with. All people are generally good when they are not being swayed by a way to make lots of money or enraged and vengeful for the real and imagined hurts that others have inflicted on them. I think it is absolutely vital that people have a celebration when they have survived another year of life in which not all of their family and friends are dead and they may even have a little money on hand to celebrate with. If Christmas didn’t already exist, we would desperately need to create something just like it.

Vincent Price’s Christmas Tree again

Vincent Price’s Christmas Tree Explained

The picture above, a surrealist picture-poem of how I feel about Christmas now that I am retired and no longer a Jehovah’s Witness, has never really been explained by me. Now that I am baring my soul as a Christian Existentialist Nudist Atheist who believes in God, I should elaborate on what it means.

The picture is named after the photo-shopped Christmas Tree in the back corner. I photo-shopped it from a photo of Vincent Price, the horror-movie actor, in a TV Christmas special in the 1960’s. I photo-shopped Vincent out of the picture, of course, just clipping and pasting the tree itself. I spent a good share of my youth, including all of my teen years, nursing a terrible secret. I was sexually assaulted at the age of ten. I believed I was a monster. But the Christmas I created the picture and photo-shopped Vincent out, I had successfully made peace with the monster in my past. My story is not a horror story. So, horror-movie-star Vincent had to leave this party.

And part of that is represented by the Cotulla Cowgirl basketball player. Vivi here represents all my 31 years as a public school teacher. By serving the children of South Texas, and later the ESL kids of North Texas, I managed to prove to myself that I was a good and worthy person. I know because of the many things they told me over the years, that my students would mostly agree with my self-assessment that I am not a bad man.

I put myself in the picture as a happy, confident nude boy. This is a thing that I wasn’t able to be after the age of ten. Doubt, fear, and depression clouded my world from 1966 to 1976. When I spent time trying to explain to the high school counselor what was wrong with me, he had to admit that he knew something was wrong, but he did not know what it was nor how to help. And I could not at that time admit what had happened, as I could not even allow myself to remember the actual trauma. So, becoming a nudist in 2017 and coming to terms with the scars and trauma, was a gift to myself. The mental chains are gone.

Anneliese, the gingerbread girl, represents my mental linking with the German-American world of Aunt Selma’s Christmas parties in the 1960’s. The gingerbread cookies, the candy, and the Christmas stories she told with a charming German accent led to the writing of my book Recipes for Gingerbread Children. Christmas is a day full of gingerbread men… and now, making gingerbread houses.

And Annette Funicello is in the picture because Christmas always used to have a Disney-movie, happy-endings sort of theme. I needed that happy ending to every year to keep me going. It was an emotionally essential thing I counted on every year to be able to face a brand new year.

I am an atheist. And an Existentialist. Oh, and a nudist. But I need Christmas. It matters to me. And I know I am not the only one.

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Filed under autobiography, family, forgiveness, gingerbread, humor, Paffooney, philosophy, religion

Living in the Spider Kingdom

Life seems to be getting harder and harder. And I realize that a big part of that perception is the fact that my health is deteriorating quickly. This is a humor blog, but it has been getting more and more serious and more and more grim as the grim reaper becomes more and more a central character in my own personal story.

My perception of reality, however, is best explained by a passage in a novel that spoke to me in college. It comes from the novel, the Bildungsroman by Thomas Mann called Der Zauberberg, in English, The Magic Mountain. In the scene, Hans Castorp is possibly freezing to death, and he hallucinates a pastoral mountainside scene where children are happily playing in the sunshine. Possibly Heaven? But maybe not. As he goes into a stone building and finds a passage down into the ground, he sees wrinkled, ugly, horrible hags gathered around a child’s corpse, eating it. And this vision explains the duality at the center of the meaning of life.

For every good thing, there is an equal and opposite bad thing that balances it our. There is no understanding of what perfection and goodness mean without knowing profanity and evil. Just as you can’t understand hot without cold nor light without darkness. And you don’t get to overturn the way it is. You try your hardest to stay on the heads side of the coin knowing that half the time life falls to tails.

So, what good does it do me to think about and write about things like this? Well, it makes for me a sort of philosophical gyroscope that spins and dances and helps me keep my balance in the stormy sea of daily life. I deal with hard things with humor and a sense of literary irony. I make complex metaphors that help me throw a rope around the things that hurt me.

We are living now in the Spider Kingdom. Hard times are here again. The corrupt and corpulent corporate spiders are spinning the many webs we are trapped in. As metaphorical as it is, we wouldn’t have the government we currently have and be suffering the way we are if that weren’t true.

But no bad thing nor no good thing lasts forever. The wheel goes round and round. The top of the wheel reaches the bottom just as often as the bottom returns to the top. So, it will all pass if we can only hold out long enough.

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Filed under commentary, empathy, feeling sorry for myself, humor, metaphor, Paffooney, philosophy