Category Archives: philosophy

Take the Midnight Train to Anywhere

 

Journey back with me to the 1980’s, and hear once again the music of escape.

There was a time when I was young when I did not know where I would be when the next new dawn came.  Yes, I once took the midnight train (except it was a bus) and I arrived in a teaching career in deep South Texas.  I crossed borders into another culture, another way of life, another journey made of words and pictures that hasn’t reached the final station yet.

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At the outset, we all take a risk.  Born and raised in South Detroit (although it was really North Central Iowa) I passed through established procedures, rules, and regulations to do things that desperately needed doing for people who could only help themselves in very limited ways.

Some spoke mostly Spanish.  Some lived in broken homes.  One boy lived for a while under the bridge of the Nueces River, but attended school every day because he was hungry to learn, and because free school lunch was the majority of the food he got to eat.  He got on a midnight train, and I never saw him or heard from him again.  His sister, though, lived with a tia who treated her like a daughter, and grew up to be a school teacher.  I let her teach the lesson for me during one class period, as part of an educational experiment, and it put her on her own midnight train.

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It was a train going on the same track I followed.  Not because of me and what I did for her.  But because she came to realize it was the right journey to take for her.  It was the perfect anywhere for her.

But there is danger inherent in getting on a midnight train going anywhere.  You don’t know who is waiting for you down the line, or what your circumstances will be at the next station along the way.  There may be strangers waiting up and down the boulevard, their shadows searching in the night.  I befriended other teachers, mentored some, learned from many,  even married one.  I had a run in or two with people who sell drugs to kids.  I had all four of my car tires slashed one night.  I had a car window broken out.  I had a boy once tell me he would kill me with a knife.  I later had that boy tell me he had a good job and a girlfriend and he was grateful that I talked him out of it and never turned him in to the police.

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And we end up paying anything to roll the dice just one more time…  At one time or another we have all been there, aboard that midnight train to anywhere.  There is a moment in everyone’s life when… well, some will win, and some will lose.  Some were born to sing the blues.  I have been there.  I have done that.  And it occurs to me, that song plays on in my head still.  I am still on that journey.  And I won’t stop believing.  Because it goes on and on and on and on…

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Filed under autobiography, insight, music, nostalgia, philosophy, poetry, review of music, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Flying the Magic Flying Carpet

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There are many ways to fly.  Airplanes, bird wings, hot air balloons, bubble-gum-blowing goldfish… well, maybe I am really talking about flying by imagination.  The more my six incurable diseases and old age limit my movement, my ability to get out of bed and do things, the more I rely on reading, writing, and the movie in my head to go places I want to be.

Wings of Imagination

Sometimes the wings I use to fly come from other writers.  I get the flight feathers I need not only from books, but also from YouTube videos, movies, and television shows.

This magic carpet ride in video form is by the thoughtful creative thinker Will Schoder.  In it he carefully explains how Mister Rogers used the persuasion techniques of Logos, Ethos, and Pathos to talk to elephants and convinced a congressman intent on cutting the budget to actually give Public Television more money for educational programming.  This is a video full of warmth and grace and lovingly crafted magic flight feathers that anybody can use to soar across new skies and blue skies and higher skies than before.  I hope you will watch it more than once like I did, to see how beautifully the central explanation spreads its wings and gives us ideas that can keep us aloft in the realm of ideas.

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It is important to stay in the air of fresh ideas and new thinking.  The magic carpet ride that takes you there is the product of vivid imagination, cogent thinking, and the accurate connection of idea to better idea.  So instead of falling from the sunlit sky into the darkness that so easily consumes us on the ground, keep imagining, keep dreaming, and keep flying.  You won’t regret having learned to fly.

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Filed under battling depression, commentary, dreaming, humor, imagination, insight, inspiration, metaphor, Paffooney, philosophy, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Things I Know For Certain

I think a lot of thoroughly thoughtful thuggish thoughts that build and build and build up an idea, and then turn around and knock it all down.  Let me demonstrate by knocking down that title right off the bat.  Rene DesCartes in the early 1600’s said, “Cogito Ergo Sum”, and he thereby totally disrupted the world as we knew it.  Didn’t get that?  Let me translate.  He said, “Je pense, donc je suis.”  Still didn’t help?  Okay, here’s the English, “I think, therefore I am.”  In other words, the one thing that I know for sure is that I am thinking this particular thought at this particular time.  If I am thinking, and I know I am, I must be here and I must be real.  So there is one thing I know for certain.  But do I know anything else for certain?  Uh-oh.  How do I know anything?  I have to rely on my senses.  And my senses lie to me all the time.  I am partially color blind, so I don’t see the world the same way you do.  I don’t see things in black and white, like Great Grandma Hinckley did in her 90’s, but the colors look different to my eyes than they do to yours and I will never know what things look like to you.  Forget politicians and all other people who tell lies, my own eyes lie to me constantly.  So can I know anything for sure?  Of course not.  All I have are firm beliefs based on imperfect senses and best guesses at what is true.  So what I am actually talking about is a list of potential essay ideas that I am merely asserting as true based on my imperfect goofy thinking of thoughtful thuggish thoughts.

Idea #1 that I think is certainly possibly maybe true; My brain was taught and I was raised to adulthood by the movies I saw when I was young.  I want to talk about this at length in another post.  The video is by a guy who was a kid in the 80’s, and he has some really awesome movies to offer as a way to delineate his rise to adulthood.

My list includes the movies of my boyhood seen in the Belmond Theater and on our old black and white Motorola TV.  My list of movies that raised me includes Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, and The Wizard of Oz.

Idea #2; Animals are people too.

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I mean, as a writer for young adults, I know for a fact that animals are relevant as characters.  They have a point of view, feelings, reactions, and complex lives that people rarely pay attention to.  I have to write about this some time in the future too.

Idea #3; The worst things that happen to us in our lives, are also the best things that happen.  Wow!  What a difficult essay topic.  But I not only think it, I can prove it… at least to myself.  But can I write about it?  Time will tell.

Idea #4; Silly thoughts and serious thoughts are two sides of the same coin.  And this will be particularly difficult to think about if thoughts are literally coins.  That would mean that my head is full of metal, and I know several people who would read that sentence and shout, “I knew it all along!”  Fortunately they are all too sensible to read this far in one of my blog posts.

So, at 600 words I still have lots more to say.  But people with metal in their heads often talk way too much, so my concluding sentence will be simply; “I promise to shut up for now.”

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Irreverence

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It is a difficult thing to be an atheist who believes in God.  Sometimes it takes an oxymoron to find the Truth.  And you often have to go heavily on the “moron” portion of the word.

The thing I find most distressing about faith is the fact that those who have it are absolutely convinced that if you don’t agree with them and whatever book of fairy tales they believe in and interpret for you, then you are not a True Believer and you do not have real Faith.

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I remember being told by a Mormon girl in one of my classes that I was her all-time favorite teacher, but she was deeply distressed that, because of my religion (I professed to be a Jehovah’s Witness at the time) I was doomed to burn in Hell forever.

Hey, I was raised in Iowa.  I have experienced minus 100 degree Fahrenheit windchill.  I am among those who think a nice warm afterlife wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.

But I am no longer actually a Jehovah’s Witness.  So I guess that helps with the whole Hell-burning thing.  The Witnesses are a religion that claims to understand the Bible is full of metaphorical truth, and yet insist that it is literally true.  They don’t believe in Hell, which, honestly, is not actually mentioned or explained in the Bible as we have it now.  But they do believe your prospects for eternal life on a paradise Earth are totally contingent on knocking on doors and telling other people that they must believe what you believe or experience eternal destruction.  I have stopped being an active Witness and knocking on doors because I got old and sick, and all the caring brothers and sisters in the congregation stopped coming around to visit because number one son joined the Marines, and the military is somehow evil hoodoo that cancels out any good you have done in the past.  Being a Jehovah’s Witness was really hard work with all the meetings (5 per week), Bible reading (I have read the entire Bible two and a half times), door-knocking, and praying, and you apparently can lose it all for saying, thinking, or doing one wrong thing.

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According to the Baptist preachers, Jehovah’s Witness elders, religious zealots, and other opinionated religious people I have known and dealt with in my life, if I do not believe what they believe and agree with them in every detail, then I do not know God and am therefore an atheist.  So, okay, I guess I am.   If I have to be an atheist to believe whole-heartedly that everyone is entitled to sincerely believe whatever the hell they want to believe, then I’ll wear that label.

On a personal note, my favorite verse of the Bible has always been 1 John 4:8,  “He that does not love has not come to know God, because God is love.”  That is why I claim to be an atheist who believes in God.  I know love.  I love all men, women, children, animals, sunrises, artwork, paintings of angels by Bouguereau… everything that is.  And I even love you if you exercise your freedom to tell me, “Your ideas are totally wrong, and you are going to burn in Hell, Mickey, you bad guy, you!”  Mark Twain always said, “I would choose Heaven for climate, but I would prefer Hell for company.”  I am not going to worry about it.  I will be in good company.  Some things are just bigger than me.  And trying to control things like that is nonsense. Sorta like this post.

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Filed under artists I admire, artwork, autobiography, finding love, foolishness, humor, philosophy, religion, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Rain Is Supposed To Make Flowers Grow…

I am a pessimist by choice.  I always expect and prepare for the worst.  It is possible that this has become a self-fulfilling prophecy as I seem to be the butt of a series of never-ending cosmic jokes and misfortunes.    Last night the rain came down hard in Texas.  We got over 4 inches of rain in a little over two hours.  It came in the house as the river of runoff found enough cracks and crevices in the south wall of the house to soak the carpets in the family room and the Princess’s bedroom.

We had to get electronics off the floor.  My son had to rescue computer equipment and game machines.  The wooden feet of furniture got soaked, and the carpet became spotted and squishy.  I was feeling ill already, and a wet carpet will swiftly become a mold farm… mold I am highly allergic to.  I have some carpet cleaning to do today.  In fact, the carpet will have to be removed before too long.

But even though we got way too much rain in too short a time, and it did damage, rain does make the flowers grow.  I will end up doing the carpet removal myself, as I have done twice before.  The exercise will be good for my heart, my diabetes, and my arthritis.  Exercise, though hard and painful, is a flower of goodness.  I will also be able to control how we reshape and restore the floors.  Tile is better for allergies than carpet anyway.

I have no money and I’m in poor health.  Misfortune continues to rain down upon me relentlessly like raindrops in a thunderstorm.  But I am prepared.  I have know-how and a will to respond to misfortune.  I needed another challenge about now.  Eleventy-eleven bad things happening yearly is more or less the way it goes now.  And rain does eventually result in flowers.

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Filed under autobiography, feeling sorry for myself, flowers, grumpiness, humor, irony, pessimism, philosophy

Mickey Viewed From the Inside

Yes, this post is a self-examination.  Not the kind you see Donald Trump enacting every weekend, where he says any crappy thing that occurs to his craptastical very good brain to cover what he doesn’t want us to believe about the truth on Twitter, basically for the purpose of continuing to say he is great and we are poop.   I do not like myself the way Trump likes himself.  I am an old bag of gas that is in pain most of the time, in poor health, and the subject of endless persecution from Bank of America and other money-grubbing machines that are convinced any money I might accidentally have really belongs to them.  But this is not a complain-about-crap fest either.

This is a self-examination that attempts to honestly examine where I am in my quest for wisdom and my affliction with being a writer.

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If I am being honest about the type of writer I really am, I guess I am most like the Weird Recluse in the bottom corner.  I can’t claim to be as good as Kafka or Dickinson, but I am definitely better than some of the crap that gets published and marketed as young adult literature.  The business of publishing is more interested in how many books they can sell, rather than literary merit or good writing.  Some of the crap that is out there and being made into bad movies (which I have not seen because I don’t go to movies that don’t pass the fiction-source smell test) is actually a form of brain poison that will mold young people into sexual predators and professional poop makers.  And people will take poison happily if it has been deviously marketed well.  So far, in the money test, I have made only $16.43 dollars as an author (plus whatever I have made from I-Universe that doesn’t cut a check until it reaches at least $25 dollars).  Nobody is buying my books because nobody has read them.  I have sold a few copies to friends and relatives.  Some of those books are just sitting on a shelf somewhere unread.  I have a couple of 5-star reviews on Amazon, and that is it.  I will die in the near future not having known any measurable success from my books at all.

I have entered novels in writing contests and done well enough to make it into the final round of judging twice.  I have not, however, made a big enough splash that anyone really noticed.  I have paid reviewers to review my books online.  One of those charged me money, and then reviewed a book with the same title by a different author, a book which was nothing like my book, and then, when forced to correct their error, only read the blurb on the back of the book to write the oopsie-I-goofed-last-time review.  They were not worth the money I paid them, money that Bank of America could’ve sued me for instead.

The only thing I have done successfully as a writer is, I think, this goofy blog.  By writing every day, I have managed to give myself considerable practice at connecting with readers.  I have practiced writing humor and written some laughable stuff.  I have plumbed my soul for new writing ideas, and found a creative artesian well bubbling up with new ideas daily.  I can regularly manufacture inspiration.  I am never truly without an idea to write about.  Even when I write a post about not having an idea to write about, I am lying.  Of course, I am a fiction writer, so telling lies is what I do best.  I am also a humorist, so that means I can also tell the truth when I have to, because the best humor is the kind where you surprise the reader with a thing that is weirdly true.  Like just now.

So, somewhere ages and ages hence, I hope there will be a trove of old books in a cellar somewhere that will include one of mine.  And some future kid will pick it up, read it, and laugh.  The golden quality of that laughter is the only treasure I have really been searching for.  It is the reason I write.  It is the reason I continue to be Mickey.

Since I wrote this blog post originally, I have added a few books published on Amazon.  You can find information about this random noveliciousness here at this page in my blog.  Click on this linkie thingie here.

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Filed under autobiography, feeling sorry for myself, foolishness, forgiveness, humor, Paffooney, philosophy, publishing, self pity, self portrait, strange and wonderful ideas about life, writing humor

The Philosophy of Bad Poetry

I do write poetry. But I must admit, I am not a serious poet.  I am a humorist at heart, so I tend to write only goofy non-serious poems like this one;

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So here is a poem that rhymes but has too much “but-but-but” in it.  A poem about pants should not have too many “buts” in it.  One butt per pair, please.  So this is an example of spectacularly bad poetry.  Why do we need bad poetry?  Because it’s funny.  And it serves as a contrast to the best that poetry has to offer.

As a teacher I remember requiring students to memorize and recite Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken”.  Now this sort of assignment is a rich source of humorous stories for another day.  Kids struggle to memorize things.  Kids hate to get up in front of the class and speak with everybody looking at them.  You get a sort of ant-under-a- magnifying-glass-in-the-sun sort of effect.  But in order to truly get the assignment right and get the A+,  you have to make that poem your own.  You have to live it, understand it, and when you reach that fork in the road in your own personal yellow wood, you have to understand what Frost was saying in that moment.  That is the life experience poetry has a responsibility to give you.

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Hopefully I gave that experience to at least a few of my students.

Bad poetry makes you more willing to twirl your fingers of understanding in the fine strands of good poetry’s hair.  (Please excuse that horrible metaphor.  I do write bad poetry, after all.)

But all poetry is the same thing.  Poetry is “the shortest, clearest, best way to see and touch the honest bones of the universe through the use of words.”  And I know that definition is really bad.  But it wasn’t written on this planet.  (Danged old Space Goons!)  Still, knowing that poetry comes from such a fundamental place in your heart, you realize that even bad poetry has value.  So, I will continue writing seriously bad poetry in the funniest way possible.  And all of you real poets who happen to read this, take heart, I am making your poetry look better by comparison.

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Filed under humor, insight, irony, philosophy, poem, poetry, Uncategorized