Category Archives: philosophy

What I am Thankful For

I am grateful for the fact that I have never killed anyone in my life so far. When I turned 18 in 1974, I signed up for the draft as was required by the law, and I received a draft number that had a high likelihood of being called up. I had to think about joining the Navy as my father did in the 1950s during the Korean Conflict. Or possibly resign myself to going to jail for refusing to be called up. I was a confirmed pacifist from early on in my life (a result of the trauma caused by being secretly a victim of a sexual assault at the age of ten.) So, I lucked out and the draft was suspended before the government would’ve decided to draft me in 1975.

I also did not ever cause the death of anyone by a traffic accident, household accident, or any other accidental way. As long as I am still driving, I have to use the caveat that I have not killed anyone yet.

I am also grateful for pessimism. I have been accused of being optimistic about many things. But I would argue it is a tactical advantage to be firmly pessimistic. I look at every possible outcome of any and all undertakings. I plan on things going wrong, including serious thought being given to how I will deal with huge roadblocks to my goals, concocting workable plans B, C, D, and even all the way to Z. Being a pessimist means you will not put all the Easter eggs in one basket, especially the basket the drunken Easter bunny plans on hiding at the bottom of the river in a bag full of stones. I am not deterred in my quests by the first, second, or third obstacle. I am willing to rent scuba equipment to deal with the drunken bunny thing. I do not get downhearted because I expected the worst to happen. And I deal with it for as long as it is possible. Persistence and preparedness are worth far more than luck and chance. And this is where I have to endure the inevitable claim that I am secretly an optimist. I confess. I do believe I can wear down and conquer anything. If that’s optimism, then I have to insist that I have renamed it the “Fruits of Pessimism.”

And I am also grateful for the chance to become a nudist, even though not until late in life because it represents a victory over the monster that abused me when I was ten. He left me with a lifelong fear of being naked in the presence of others, extreme difficulty with having a sex life, including self-harm to my private parts, a fear of becoming a homosexual or a child molester, and deep depression about all this stuff I felt I had to keep secret. My mother and father both died without knowing it happened. But my wife and children know. My sisters both know. And I was able to spend last Memorial Day weekend with nudists at the Bluebonnet Nudist Park. I am now liberated of all the things that once made me feel like a monster and made me hate myself. His ghost has no further power over me. And I am grateful.

I know I am probably the only person in the US grateful for these three things all at the same time. But I think the most important things to be grateful for in life are the things you have overcome, and the means you have for overcoming them.


Filed under battling depression, commentary, Paffooney, philosophy

Naked Creativity

Descend with me into the place where ideas come from, deep beneath the clothing you cover yourself with to protect yourself from the unknown. You come into this life naked. You can be wrapped for burial when you die, but if anything steps out of the dead body, it will not be wearing clothing. You face the inner demons and devils of life only with your naked self for defense.

Children seem, as a rule, to be more open to creativity. They are closer to the simple recombining of ideas that lead to new and creative thought. Children are also more open to living life naked. Shyness and negative body images are things that have to be carefully taught, along with racism, classism, entitlement, and a narcissist’s love of only the self. It is natural to be naked. We do not have to be taught how to be that.

I am now old and withering in body and energy and health. But as a senior citizen, I have embraced the urge to become a nudist that was always a part of me. I tend to see myself as a child when I think about the inner me, the me that lives near the actual source of all creativity. I do, in fact, more often than not, portray myself as a naked child. Though, I must warn you, my joy in my own nakedness was taken away from me at the age of ten. It took many years to get it back.

But the nakedness I am talking about in this Art Day post is not the literal nakedness of the old and spotty me. It is the willingness to stand emotionally naked in front of the world through the medium of this blog and use some of my deepest secrets as the puzzle pieces to put together a totally revealing picture of the me that is my creativity. I risk much to stand naked before the world. No armor to deflect the spears and arrows. No camouflage to hide me safely away from whatever attacks may come from those who see me for the first time, naked as I am, even when I am wearing clothes.

I wish to sing a song of myself, in the way Walt Whitman did in his Leaves of Grass. I need to make my body electric not only open to anyone and everything, but to actually become a part of all of it… to be one with all of you.

Some will look upon the fruits of my creativity and say I created something beautiful. Others will be offended and accuse me of misusing my gifts for some evil or perverted purpose.

But deep down and far below I have uncovered the naked truth. And I do not need to hide anything by trying to wear clothing as a disguise. I am a nudist. I am nothing but me. I have the curse of being creative, and that has led me to showing you what is within me, the things I have created, and the thoughts that gave birth to them. The naked me.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, nudes, Paffooney, philosophy

How It Should Be… According to Mickey

A 1951 Schwinn Spitfire like mine in 1963 when the world was golden.

My bicycle was red. It was red and looked just like the ones that Captain Kangaroo had in his commercials that we watched on a black-and-white TV every day before we walked or rode our bicycle to school, across town a whole long seven blocks away. After school I could ride it out a whole mile and a half to Jack’s farm with Bobby and Richard and Mark the preacher’s kid to go skinny dipping in the cold creek in Jack’s South pasture. Jack was younger than any of us except Bobby. And it was a golden age.

Spiderman comic books and Avengers comic books cost twelve cents to own, but they were forbidden. And as much as we sneaked them and passed them around until they fell apart, usually in Bobby’s hands, we never knew that Dr. Wertham had gone to Congress to make our parents believe that comic books would make us gay and violent. He was a psychiatrist who wrote a book, so even if you didn’t believe him, you had to worry about such things.

I believed in Santa Claus until 1967. And after I found out, I only despaired a tiny little bit, because I began to understand you have to grow up. And adults can lie to you, even if they don’t do it to be mean. And the world is a hard place. And the golden age ended in November of 1963 when JFK was assassinated.

In June of 1968 I rode my bicycle out to the Bingham Park woods, Once there, I took off all my clothes and put them in the bicycle basket, and then I rode up and down the walking paths through the trees with nothing between me and God but my skin. I had a serious think about how life should be. All the while I was terrified that someone might see me. I was naked and vulnerable. A mere two years before that I had been sexually assaulted and was terrified of older boys, especially when I was naked and vulnerable. But I was a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals and Bob Gibson. They were repeated World Series winners. And they beat the Yankees in the series in 1964. And more important than that, cardinals were the little red songbirds who never flew away when the winter came. You don’t give up in the face of hardship. You face the trouble. No matter how deep the snow may pile up.

And in 1969, the first man to walk on the moon showed that a Star Trek world was in reach of mankind. Star Trek was on every afternoon after school. I watched a lot of those episodes at Verner’s house on his family’s black-and-white TV. The Klingons were always bested or beaten because the crew of the Enterprise outsmarted them. You can solve the problems of the universe with science. I know this because of all the times Mr. Spock proved it to me not just by telling me so, but by showing me how you do it. And what you can achieve is greatly enhanced if you work together like Spock and Kirk and Bones… and sometimes Scotty always did.

So, what is the way it should be? What did Mickey decide while naked in the forest like a Dakota Sioux shaman on a spirit-quest?

JFK’s 104th birthday was on May 29th. Dr. Wertham has been dead for 40 years. Bob Gibson was 85 when he passed away in October of last year. Captain Kirk turned 90 in March of this year.

The Golden age is long gone. There is no single set of rules that can clearly establish how it should be now. But I like those ideas of how it should be that I established for myself while naked on a Schwinn Spitfire in a forest long ago.

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Filed under autobiography, cardinals, comic book heroes, commentary, humor, inspiration, oldies, Paffooney, philosophy

Strawberry Fields

This foolish essay about berries that mean love to me is only partly inspired by the Beatles song, “Strawberry Fields Forever.” That’s because, of course, their song was only about meditating. In the lyrics they take you to the “Strawberry Fields where nothing is real… but it’s nothing to get hung up about…” They are talking about a blissful place of no worries where we all need to go. And then staying there forever.

This, of course, I could never do. Worrying about the future is tattooed on my behavioral imperatives in the dark part of my stupid old brain. And while I often found that place of no worries, and lingered there for a bit, I found you could never really get anything done if you stayed in that state of strawberry fields forever.

But don’t get me wrong, strawberries are a critical part of every healthy mental diet.

You see, my meditations on strawberries when I was a child of eight, nine, and ten centered on the strawberry patch at Great Grandma Hinckley’s place.

She was, as I incorrectly recall, slightly older than Jesus when I was that age. By that I mean, though she seemed museum-quality ancient to me, I had derived wisdom about life, love, and laughter from her before Sunday School taught me any of those things said in Jesus’s words.

And I was given the task of mowing her lawn in the little plot of land surrounding her little, tiny house in the Northern part of Rowan where I also lived and grew and celebrated Christmas and Halloween and Easter and the 4th of July. And though I was doing it because she was so old, I never even once thought she was too old and frail to do it herself. Grandma Hinckley’s willpower was a force of nature that could even quell tornados… well, I thought so anyway when I was eight. And she gave me a dollar every time I did the lawnmowing.

But there were other things she wanted done, and other things she wanted to teach me. There was the garden out back with the strawberry patch next to it. She wanted me to help with keeping the weeds and the saw grass and the creeping Charlie from overrunning the strawberries and choking them to death. (Creeping Charlie wasn’t an evil neighbor, by the way. He was a little round-leafed weed that grew so profusely that it prevented other plants from getting any sunlight on their own leaves, causing a withering, yellowing death by sunlight deprivation. I took my trowel to them and treated them like murderers. I showed them no mercy.)

And Grandma always reminded me not to be selfish and eat the very berries I was tending in the garden. She taught me that eating green strawberries (which are actually more yellow than green, but you know what I mean) was bad because they could give you a belly ache, a fact that that I proved to myself more than once (because eight-year-olds are stupid and learn slowly.) She also taught me that it is better to wait until you have enough strawberries to make a pie, or better yet, strawberry shortcake with whipped cream. She taught me that delayed gratification was more rewarding in the long run than being greedy in the short run and spoiling everything for everybody.

She always gave me a few of the ripe strawberries every time I helped her with them, even if I had eaten a few in the garden without permission. Strawberries were the fruit of true love. I know this because it says so in the strawberry picture. Even though I probably never figured out what true love really means.

My Great Grandma Nellie Hinckley was the foundation stone that my mother’s side of the family was built on. She was the rock that held us steadily in place during the thunderstorms, and the matriarch of the entire clan of Hinckleys and Aldriches and Beyers and other cousins by the dozens and grandchildren and great grandchildren and even great great grandchildren. I painted the picture of her in 1980 when she passed away. I gave it to my Grandma Aldrich, her second-eldest daughter. It spent three decades in Grandma’s upstairs closet because looking at it made Grandma too sad to be so long without her. The great grandchild in the picture with her is now a grandmother herself (though no one who has seen this picture knows who it is supposed to be because I painted her solely from memory and got it all wrong.) But Grandma Hinckley taught me what true love means. And true love has everything to do with how you go about taking care of the strawberry patch.

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Lazy Sunday Thinking

The tradition I grew up in was that you spent the early morning reading the Sunday paper, the Des Moines Register and Tribune, pouring over the Funnies while Dad read the news, society, and sports pages… along with Parade magazine. And we would eventually trade, me releasing the Funnies to Dad in return for the sports page. Then he would give in to the nagging of my sisters and let them read the Funnies before him while he reread Parade magazine.

Of course, our moral training would follow (the parts that didn’t come from the Funnies, I mean.) Then we would go to the Methodist Church for an hour of Sunday School followed by a service and sermon from the Methodist minister.

That’s what Sunday thinking was all about. Somebody else would tell us what to think about morality, religion, and events in the world. And as I got older, and sometimes skipped going to church, there would also be Meet the Press and NFL Today. Always somebody who was not me telling me what to think.

It is always easier to let someone else do the thinking for you.

This Sunday I let Anand Giridharadas do the thinking for me. For those of you who don’t know the man with too many syllables in his name, Anand is an Indian-American born in Shaker Heights, Ohio who rose to fame as a columnist for the New York Times and is currently a political pundit who writes incisive criticisms of the current Capitalism-obsessed world.

He was a guest on Jon Favreau’s Sunday program Offline.

They were talking about how Republican extremists are not waving the American flag as much after the January 6th Insurrection. And he made the point that the more peaceful side, those of us who are more progressive and want to heal the country without resorting to violence, need to take ownership of being flag-flying patriots more.

After all, he said, we are doing something in this country that no other democracy in the world is trying to do. Germany, France, England, even Sweden are primarily white-race-dominated democracies trying to provide peaceful, prosperous life for all citizens, while we in America will soon be a minority-dominated democracy. If we succeed in ruling the ultimate melting-pot society peacefully, we will be exceptional because no one else is doing that.

That is an incredible thought. I am glad he did that thinking for me.

We all need to be saying, “Black Lives Matter,” not because white lives don’t matter anymore, but because, “All Lives Matter, Including Black Lives, Because We Are All Brothers and Sisters Together.

Sometimes the most important thoughts come about because, on a lazy Sunday, I let somebody else think for me.

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Filed under commentary, compassion, Liberal ideas, philosophy, politics

Picturing What’s Inside

The question before me now is, “What do you know, and how do you know it for certain?”

Well, I really don’t know anything. How do I know that I don’t know anything? Well, Socrates always told everyone who would listen that he didn’t know anything for certain, and he is obviously much smarter than I am. So, being super-stupid by comparison, I don’t even know as much as Socrates.

So, like Socrates, I need to ask questions. But who will I ask? I can look at the picture above for answers, and I can ask you, the reader, the questions.

The picture is one of the most favorite ones I have ever drawn. By that I mean it is one of the pictures I drew with colored pencils that I like the best. It is, therefore, basically a self portrait of things inside my silly head.

Do the soldiers look familiar to you? If they do, it is probably because, like me, you have seen the soldiers from Disney’s Babes in Toyland. Hopefully they are just generic enough that Disney wont sue me for modeling this fantasy on something I saw in their copyrighted movie. I didn’t intentionally copy anything, and I have never knowingly made a single dime off of this picture. So, they don’t need to sue me, right?

Okay, those weren’t Socratic questions. They were leading and focused questions. So, let’s start the Socratic stuff.

Do you see anything in the picture that is innocent and childlike? Could this be illustrating a childish fear of the darkness? Did you notice the darkness they are marching towards on the left of the picture? Could this also be showing a progression towards maturity? Are the children and the soldiers not approaching that darkness… whatever it might be? Are they not getting more prepared to face the darkness as they get closer to it? The weapon pointed straight at the darkness is the bugle. Does the bugle, being an instrument for announcing something in combat, not have some symbolic meaning here? Does the darkness they are approaching not represent something like death? Does the boy with the drum suggest how we might deal with the darkneness in our own too-near future?

So, did you learn anything from this post?

I am asking because…

…I don’t really know anything.

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Wrapped in Sunshine

Wrapped in sunshine, things are always better.

Artificial light simply does not compare.

Nudists like me are happiest when the only clothing we are wearing is sunshine.

Kids are prone to love being naked outdoors,

But they do tend to think what their parents teach them to think.

And their parents usually think nudists are dangerous…

Or just plain crazy.

But Sunshine can be an idea. What we former English teachers call a metaphor.

Today’s Lesson on the first day of Kindergarten… because Mickey is in his second childhood.

Having sunshine in your mind is a way of thinking that can benefit you better than you know.

Sunshine in your mind can simply be happy thoughts. And, remember, happy thoughts could make Peter Pan fly!

So, wrap yourself in Sunshine… And light up the world!

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Filed under battling depression, foolishness, goofy thoughts, healing, health, philosophy, poetry

What Will One Day Be…

No king rules forever.

No man we know of lives eternally.

The planets and all the stars have their appointed ends.

Through science and observation and logical extrapolation….

We learn how small we really are in the vast universe around us.

And we see how impermanent everything is…

We are made from the dust of exploded stars. All elements beyond helium and hydrogen were formed in the flaming hearts of distant, ancient suns.

And when we die, we dissolve back into the elements from which a volatile and creative planet with a life-filled biosphere created us. And may decide to create us anew.

So, we will one day be mere dust again. Free to create something new.

We are but the words of the puzzle, making one crossword one day, and another anagram the next.

But the stories we make of those random, meaningless words…

Are the reason for existence.

And they are just as eternal and undying as anything else is.

And there-in lies the reason for hope.

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Thinking About Tomorrow

No tomorrow is guaranteed.

Even today is not a sure thing.

Every new dawn is a gift.

It might be the last day on Earth for me.

It might be the start of a new adventure.

We shall see what we shall see.

And all we can do is…

… Let it be.


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Recognizing What is Good

We have to have a reason to keep going from day to day. Sometimes people you would never expect to give up, real balls of intellectual energy and cultural importance give up and end their own lives. Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway, and Robin Williams come to mind with no mental effort..

There has to be an undeniable goodness hidden somewhere in reality that makes life worth living. The real question, then, is how we find it. And in order to find it, we need to be able to recognize goodness when we see it.

A problem arises, though, when we realize that even the worst villains in history see themselves as the good guys, the heroes of their own stories in the annals of history. ,

There are many things in life that are seen generally as bad or evil that can, over time and with factual input come to be seen as a general good. I was more or less taught as a boy that if you masturbate, you are doomed to go to hell when you die. I was taught this after I had already been sexually assaulted and tortured. I tried really hard to completely resist the urge, going so far as to burn myself whenever I felt a desire to do the deed. But when the Methodist minister told our confirmation group the actual facts of life, he also taught us that masturbation is a natural function for both boys and girls. And that it was necessary to learn how your body actually works. And how to approach it with maturity and the realization that in later life you will probably need that practice to maintain a healthy love life based on mutual love, respect, and desire. And as an adult, I would actually reach an understanding that that particular practice was a useful thing for maintaining prostate health, avoiding depression, and helping both your immune system and your sense of satisfaction with life. It is a good thing that is hard to recognize.

I would also learn in my role as a teacher, especially when I taught middle school kids in their “Wonder Years,” that there really are no bad kids or evil kids. When they act out in class, being defiant, disobedient, unruly, inappropriate, and every other kind of stinky behavior that kids do, you can’t just throw them on a trash pile and get rid of them. That only leads to more of the same and a trash pile of monumental size. Rather, every instance of misbehavior has a root cause. And if you take the opportunity to talk to the juvenile offender, you can get down to those root causes where you can solve problems, extinguish bad behaviors, and instill good behaviors. You get to know the kid for who they really are. And I have to admit, by the sixth grade, some kids are so damaged by life there is literally nothing within your power to heal what’s wrong. You can still work with those kids, though, and benefit them in the long run. I had some amazing accomplishments with some kids that other teachers had on their trash piles. There is startling good in some of them, if only you are willing to search for it.

So, what is my reason, as the insufferable know-it-all who is giving you this unasked-for advice about life, for getting up and going on every single day?

Well, I am a pessimist by philosophical habit, and yet, I find more really good and worthwhile things to pursue in this life than bad things to avoid or arm myself against. In fact, I can focus on the good things and ignore the bad (at least until I have a bad week like last week where multiple terrible things happen all at once and screw up everything. I fear that may have been what happened to Robin Williams.)

I can see good coming from all the things the former orange-skinned leader of our government is doing or has done that are basically evil. (There is real evil in the world.) He is busily leading all the evil lemmings in the Republican Party off a cliff that will go a long way towards cleaning up corruption in Washington.

I am still fundamentally a pessimist, but I do recognize;

It is far better to live in the sunlight where you can see what is good and what is evil than to try to hide yourself in the darkness and hope the wolves that are hunting you simply never sniff you out.

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