Category Archives: philosophy

Fauns

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Fauns originate in Greek mythology as forest spirits, sensual, playful, and infused with the energies of the natural world.  They are followers of Pan, the god of the forest.  They are hedonistic, seeking sexual gratification from nymphs and human girls, loving wine and feasting.  They are not the same things as satyrs, though Roman mythology would come along and squeeze them both into the same mold.

So, why am I, a boy from Iowa of distinctly German ancestry, so fascinated and obsessed by fauns in art and literature?

The answer is both goofy and creepy.  I have a faun of my own.  He lives with me as an invisible friend.  His name is Radasha.  He is Harvey to my Elwood.  (That’s a Jimmy Stewart movie reference if the twists and turns of my mind confuse you.)  Just like the fauns of mythology when confronted with travelers and wanderers, he sometimes helps with guidance and advice, and he sometimes does me mischief with ridicule and wicked tricks.

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My theory for why my convoluted psyche has need of invisible companions goes back to the fact that I was sexually assaulted when I was ten.  That is why Ra is basically a ten-year-old boy with the legs, tail, and horns of a goat.  He is the sexual/sensual part of me that got split off from my inner self by that traumatizing event.

Being a child-victim can do terrible things to a boy.  It seriously interfered with my blossoming interest in girls.  It turned me from an inventive, out-going leader of the gang into a quiet and somewhat timid introvert.  I repressed the memory of the actual event, more of a torture-situation than seduction, so that the real psychological damage of it occurred at the subconscious level.  I began to worry that I might be gay.  I began to seriously loathe myself and my own body.  I went so far as to burn myself on my lower back by lying against the furnace grate in order to repress desires I felt were evil.’

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Radasha showed up at my bedroom window late one snowy night when I was about seventeen years old.  He began talking at me, making fun of me for being terrified of girls, and encouraging me to risk being naked more.  He wanted me to enjoy the idea of sex more and shy away from it less.  In some ways, he kept that part of me alive.

Of course, I made myself familiar with the mythological creature Radasha obviously was.  I read everything I could about it.  I even acquired a copy of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Marble Faun and read it with great fascination even though the prose was dense and archaic.  I realized that I wasn’t alone in using fauns as an artistic expression of the repressed sensuality that constantly consumed me.  Ra was there to needle me and encourage me, to lead me to learn how to better like myself.

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I know by now most readers will have given up on this post already, put off by bizarre self-analysis of my rather atypical case of abnormal psychology.  But being naked more is apparently part of faun-therapy.  At Ra’s insistence, I am making myself more psychologically and metaphorically naked by revealing these things here in a blog that mostly nobody reads anyway.  And naked fauns in my artwork are a definite thing that merits exploration.  So if you have actually read this far through this mythological mold spore of an essay, you now know about as much about me as I know about myself.  And you will probably do just as I do.  You will shake your head and continue to wonder how any one old guy can be quite so weird.

 

 

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Angel Thinking

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Yes, you are about to read more Mickian nonsense about an agnostical atheist who believes angels are real.  Heck, I not only believe in angels, I am one.

The word itself comes from Biblical Greek where angelos was the word for messenger.  And because the pre-twelfth century translators of the Bible looked at the “el” part and thought of the Hebrew word that meant “God”, they used angel to mean a messenger from God.

Now, I am not being a sacrilegious atheist when I claim to be an angel.  That is mainly because I am not technically an atheist.  I do believe that a spiritual creative essence informs the universe, but I am actually an agnostic because that means I actually don’t know anything   “A” for “not” and “gnostic” for “a know-er of stuff”.   I am a teleological idiot because I actually don’t know anything about anything.  But I do have the ability to look at evidence, weigh it, and reach a logical conclusion about what is most probably true, and I firmly believe in that  only until more evidence comes along.  I believe that particular thinking process is what is known as science (at least until better evidence comes along).  So, scientifically considering the issue, I stupidly believe I am an angel.  I bring possible knowledge from God.

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Grandma Beyer used to have a picture like this in sepia tones on her bedroom wall in Mason City.  I studied that guardian angel picture for hours as a child.

Thinking about stuff hard enough gives you insight, at least if you don’t over-heat your brain with hard thinking and catch your hair on fire.  A lot of stuff has been happening that I have been thinking hard about.  Here are some examples.

  1. Donald Trump is proving to be a really epically bad president.
  2. There are multiple really epically bad hurricanes forming one after another in the Atlantic.
  3. The spell-checker on WordPress hates how I spell epically.
  4. A monster earthquake hit Mexico.
  5. The Bible has this book in it called Revelations that calls for bad weather and earthquakes and a battle called Armageddon that will bring an end to everything.
  6. Kim Jong Un is an epically bad leader in North Korea who has nukes.
  7. It is easy to see where the unavoidable conclusion is headed in angelic “message from God” terms.
  8. Satan was an angel too.

So, as an angel, here is what I believe God is saying;

“As human beings, we all need to learn to love one another more.  Love is the only answer that cures hate.”  – God (No, really, he said this to me!)

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Seriously.  We need to take the weather anomalies as a sign that the time for climate change denial is long over.  We need to work together with all people on the planet to lovingly change those things we do that have caused the crisis.  We need to lovingly make peace with North Korea.  Fighting them will only lead to the Biblical ending of the story coming to pass.   I have an anomalous agnostical faith that there is a lot of truth in the Christian Bible.  (The spell checker doesn’t like “agnostical” either.)  Loving other people besides ourselves and the people who know and love us is the only possible solution to the problems before us.

Of course, I am saying all this angelic crappola tongue-in-cheek because I am, after all, a humorist, and I agnostically don’t know anything at all.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t mean what I say.

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Dvorák’s Scherzo in the Nude

Another opportunity to visit the nudist park has passed without me being able to seize the day and do what I really wanted to do this weekend.  It was, however, a different set of reasons than last time.  Last time I was determined to go on a Saturday when more nudists would actually be present.  I got sick and it rained that Saturday.  So I set my sights on Labor Day weekend.

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This weekend the hurricane that ravaged Houston changed my plans.  You see, the storm also ravaged Port Arthur and the distribution points that local gas stations rely on for new shipments on a weekly basis.  I did not see the gas shortage coming in time.  The lines at gas stations and two hour waits for gas mostly all happened before I was ready to cope with it.  So I was not prepared to make the trip when the time came.  Gas stations are limited to selling chewing gum and promising that more gas would be available by the middle of next week.

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Yes, the boy in the picture is me naked as I might’ve been in a more sylvan youth than the one I actually had.

So I am left to sit here in my bedroom studio in the nude writing this and listening to Dvorák’s Scherzo Capriccioso on YouTube.

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A scherzo is, perhaps, the perfect metaphor for an essay like this one.  Most of what I write are really scherziplay (or scherzi if I hadn’t goofed on that typo in the definition) if you analyze them closely.  Sprightly and humorous idea flows (at least, they make me laugh) that wax thoughtful and slightly serious at certain points.  This one, the capriccioso, the capricious and mercurial idea that I have somehow turned into a nudist, is my attempt to make sense of the nonsensical, the whims and flimsy that led me to be a naked old man.

You may have noticed in my artwork a tendency to associate nudity with childlike innocence.  (At least, you should have noticed if I have any ability at all as a writer and artist to guide your perceptions.)   There is no sense at the nudist park that it is about sexuality and impending orgies.  Those things are completely against the rules and have no place among actual nudists.  You go to a nudist park and it is just you and your towel for sitting on talking to a bunch of naked people who just as fat and old and saggy and baggy as you are, each with their own towels for sitting on.  Nobody uses more than their first names, and more than that is not necessary.  Nudists are more open and honest than most people you meet in social situations.  They literally are not hiding anything.  And I have discovered that I fit right in there.  It seems like the most natural thing in the world.

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Once I got past the initial embarrassment that anyone would feel in that new-nudist situation, I came to the conclusion that I have always been a nudist.  Having been born a nudist, my parents and grandparents trained me not to be one, and being sexually assaulted at ten gave added horror to being naked around others that it took a lifetime to overcome.  But naked is how we were created.  There is a reason that Adam and Eve didn’t wear clothes in Eden.

I didn’t get to go back to the nudist park this holiday weekend.  I will never convince my wife and kids to go with me either.  In fact, I myself may never have another opportunity to go back there.  But listening to Dvorak’s Scherzo has confirmed in me that I am a nudist and always have been.  Sorry if I have frightened you with my naked ideas, but maybe you should listen to a scherzo naked and test whether you are one too.

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Why Do You Think That? Part 5

On a sleepy summer Sunday it is only natural to think thoughts about God.  And I have to include Jesus and Christianity in all of that meditation.  After all, as a boy I attended Sunday school on Sunday morning in the Rowan Methodist Church and then would attend the Sunday service with my mother and father, brother, and two sisters.  We would sing songs from the Methodist hymnal.

But here’s the kicker.  Over time I have studied and learned science, how the world really works, and how people really act.  I have noticed that most of the most intelligent writers, scientists, and thinkers are atheists and agnostics.  I have had to make my peace with these things;

  • There is no life after death.
  • Jesus may not have been a real person.
  • If he was real, he had very little in common with the Jesus we worship.
  • Jesus doesn’t need to be real to have value in my life.
  • There is no white-haired old man sitting on a throne in heaven.
  • There is no heaven.
  • If there is no heaven, then there certainly is no hell.
  • We are all connected… even those of us who don’t live on this planet, in this galaxy.

So I guess, that makes me an atheist who believes in the existence of God.  And because of this moronic oxymoron, my thesis now has to be; Even atheists have a need for religion.

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Saint Raphael

Yes, when it comes to religion, I am an idiot.  Just like all the rest of you are.  Mark Twain once said something like, “Religion is the firmly held belief in what you know ain’t so.”  That misquote, of course, is taken entirely on faith from a vague memory of a passage in the short story “Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven”

Of course, I am not saying that I find no value in religion.  I was associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses for almost twenty years because that was the religion my wife clings to.  They are a Bible-based religion with a strict literalist interpretation of scripture who are expecting the end of the world, this “wicked system of things” at any moment now and go around knocking on doors and giving away free Bible literature with their own Truth professionally printed to save as many of the unbelievers as possible.  Don’t get me wrong.  I have never really fully accepted what they believe.  But I have freely participated.  Their belief system makes them some of the most loving, self-sacrificing people you could ever meet.  They are non-violent and believe in helping everybody no matter how far they have to bend over backwards to do it.  There are very good things in the Bible about living a moral life that are absolutely true and will make you and your children into better people.  But here’s the most important thing about living that kind of life.  If you are doing it for the promised rewards of eternal life, then you are doing it wrong.  The goodness you do in this life and the love you both give and receive is the only heaven there is.  Hardship taken on as a sacrifice to a loving God gets you nothing but the feeling that you have done the right thing.  But let me assure you, that feeling is a treasure greater than fine gold.  That mental state you create for yourself is the whole point and purpose of religion.

 

I do realize that liars are the people most likely to say, “Believe me…” before telling you something is true, but believe me, I don’t expect you to accept my cold clinical dissection of what religion is in my world view.  I want you to believe whatever you believe is true about Jesus, Jehovah, Allah, or Budda…  or nirvana or existentialism or science.  I accept you and love you for who you are.  The important thing is that we are all connected.  Most religions make us nicer to each other and make us more loving and kind, as long as we are not allowing ourselves to fall victim to the dark side that exists in every religion.  When your religion tells you to hate something, especially when it tells you to do something to punish that something you hate, especially especially if that something you hate is another person of some kind, then that’s where Eve is biting the apple, that’s where all the trouble starts.

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Don’t let atheists tell you they don’t believe in anything.  I hear Neal DeGrasse Tyson talk about being made of star stuff and teach about the connections we have with everything in the universe.  Listen to him yourself on Cosmos talking about the wonders of science and the human quest to know, and tell me if you don’t hear hymns to God in his reverent explanations.  He just knows God in a different form than you do.

So here is my humble conclusion on a sleepy summer Sunday morning when my meditations drift back to a boyhood of telling Jesus jokes in the down-time during Sunday school.  I am an atheist who believes in a loving God.  And even atheists need God in their life.

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Becoming

The classic line from the visionary poet Theodore Roethke;

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But the truth is, before you can BE you must first BECOME.

I know what you are probably thinking.  “What is this idiot rambling on about now?”

Well, sometimes you simply have to spout a lot of love and hoo-haw and just pretend it means something.  That is the core, I think, of what philosophy is all about.

But maybe a list of what I have already become will get the idea knitting itself together.  You know, a list of the things I can already just BE.

I have already become college educated.  I have a BA in English and an MAT in Education (Master of the Art of Teaching).  Those letters my college years bestowed upon me are only an “N” short of being an anagram for BATMAN.  So I have almost become BATMAN.

I have also finished becoming a teacher.  In fact, I have spent 31 years becoming a teacher.  I have gotten so teacherfied over the years that I am actually now becoming a retired teacher.  I haven’t learned the art of retired teacher yet.  It is still gonna take a bit of practice to start getting it right.  But I can get a kid to sit down and shut up with just a look.  I can read the mind of a glum-faced student and know we are about to have a bad day.  And I always know when to tell a really awful joke so that the students know their only hope of keeping their lunch down and retaining their sanity is to ask me to please get back to today’s lesson.  So I can BE that, at least in theory.  I am still BECOMING retired.

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Why-ever would I draw myself as a naked boy?  I have inexplicably weird urges sometimes.

I am a living, breathing human being.  I have been that now for sixty years and eight months.  I have practiced it enough that I can BE that without even thinking about it.  Well, not now, just most of the time I don’t have to think about it.

But I did make a huge mistake fairly recently in applying for a chance to be a blogger for an AANR-affiliated website.  Yes, that’s right, the American Association for Nude Recreation.  I signed on to write about being a nudist.

I am asked to write a review of the nearest naturist park, the Bluebonnet Naturist Park in Alvord, Texas.  I am hoping to find a day for a day-visit that won’t find a lot of people there.  Ummm.  How did I get roped into BECOMING a nudist?  Is it too late to back out now?  Or would that be UNBECOMING?

But most of all, I have labored long and hard at BECOMING a real writer.  I have two books already published.  Aeroquest and Catch a Falling Star.    You can find them both on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.  But don’t buy Aeroquest.  Those cheap burgle-binkies don’t deserve to make any more money off of me.  I have another book coming out soon from Page Publishing, Magical Miss Morgan.  It is a book I am really proud of, though these foofy publishers have done nothing to help it and a lot to mess it up for me.
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But, I must admit, I have just finished reading Mitch Albom’s masterpiece, The Magic Strings of Frankie Pesto.  It is a miraculous, engaging read that made me laugh and made me cry and made me fall in love with the story.  And it is so far beyond what I can do that I must write a review on it, maybe tomorrow, and gush praises all over it.  I can only dream of BEING a writer like that.  It proves to me that I have a lot more BECOMING to work on.  Sorry, Ted, I am just not there yet.

 

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The Insufferable Superiority of Dead Guys

I may have stupidly revealed this secret before, but since it is already probably out there, here it is again; I have been on a lifelong quest to find and learn wisdom.

Yep, that’s right.  I have been doing a lot of fishing in the well of understanding to try and find the ultimate rainbow trout of truth.  Of course, it is only incredibly stupid people who actually believe that trout can survive living in a well.

So I have been looking at a lot of what passes for wisdom in this world, and find that for the most part, it consists of a bunch of words written by dead guys.

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Boris Pasternak qualifies.  He is a dead guy.  At least, he has been since 1960.  Pasternak is a Russian.  His novel Doctor Zhivago is about the period in Russian history between the beginnings of the revolution in 1905 and the First World War.  He won the Nobel Prize for Literature for it in 1958, but the Soviet government, embarrassed by it, forced him to turn down the prize.

Nobel novelist is probably something that qualifies a dead guy as wise.

I am led to believe that he knew where to fish for the trout of truth.

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I like the idea that the real value in literature, as in the life it portrays, is found in the ordinary.  And yet, Boris speaks of it oxymoronically as extraordinary.  Wisdom is apparently found in contradicting yourself.

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I like the idea of a world infused with compassion.  But is he saying love may lead to misperceptions of how the objects of our love are mistreated?

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This man saw Leo Tolstoy on his deathbed when he was himself but a boy.  Like Tolstoy he questioned everything.  And like Tolstoy, when the end came, he believed in hope for the future.

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The worst part of getting wisdom from dead guys, guys you never met in real life but only came to know from books, is that you cannot argue with them.  You can’t question them about what they meant, or ask them if they ever considered one of your own insights.  You never get to tell them if you happen to fall in love with their ideas.

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Richard Feynman is a physicist, scientist, and writer of science-based wisdom.

Richard Feynman is also dead since 1988.

He is considered a brainiac superhero by science nerds everywhere, and not only do his words still live in his writings, but so does his math.

But what he is actually saying is, that in truth, we really never “know” anything.  It can never be fully understood and maybe the questions that we ask are more important than the answers.

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Wait a minute!  Feynman, are you calling me a fool?  

Of course, I can’t get an answer out of him.  Richard Feynman is dead.

But he does suggest what I can do about it.

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I had or worked with a large number of teachers in my life who would be absolutely horrified by that advice.

So, what conclusion can I reach other than that Richard Feynman thinks I’m a fool even though he never met me?

I don’t really know.  Maybe I should learn the lesson that you must be careful when you listen to dead guys talking.  But I do like what some of them say.  Perhaps that is my trout of truth.

 

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Why Do You Think That? (Part Two)

In my short, sweet sixty years of life, I have probably seen more than my share of movies.  I have seen classic movies, black-and-white movies, cartoon movies, Humphrey Bogart movies, epic movies, science fiction movies, PeeWee Herman movies, Disney movies, Oscar-winning movies, and endless box-office stinkers.  But in all of that, one of the most undeniable threads of all is that movies make me cry.  In fact they make me cry so often it is a miracle that even a drop of moisture remains in my body.   I should be a dried-out husk by now.

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I wept horribly during this scene.  Did you?

And the thing is, people make fun of you when you cry at movies.  Especially cartoon movies like Scooby Doo on Zombie Island.  (But I claim I was laughing so hard it brought tears to my eyes.  That’s the truth, dear sister.  So stop laughing at me.)  But I would like to put forth another “Why do you think that?” notion.  People who cry while watching a movie are stronger and more powerful than the people who laugh at them for crying.  A self-serving thesis if ever there was one.

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Movies can make you cry if you have the ability to feel empathy.  We all know this.  Old Yeller is the story of a dog who endears himself to a prairie farm family, saves Travis’s life at one point, and then gets infected with rabies and has to be put down.  Dang! No dry eyes at the end of that one.  Because everyone has encountered a dog and loyal dog-love somewhere along the line.  And a ten-year-old dog is an old dog.  The dogs you knew as a child helped you deal with mortality because invariably, no matter how much you loved them, dogs demonstrate what it means to die.  Trixie and Scamper were both hit by cars.  Queenie, Grampa’s collie, died of old age.  Jiggs the Boston Terrier died of heat stroke one summer.  You remember the pain of loss, and the story brings it all back.

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Only psychopaths don’t feel empathy to some degree.  Think about how you would feel if you were watching Old Yeller and somebody you were watching with started laughing when Travis pulls the trigger on the shotgun.  Now, there’s a Stephen King sort of character.

But I think I can defend having lots of empathy as a reason for crying a river of tears during Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  You see, identifying with Quasimodo as the main character, hoping for what he hopes for, feeling like a monster and completely unloved, and fearing what he fears connect you to the story in ways that completely immerses you in the experience.  This is basically a monster movie.Original-Hunchback_of_Notre_Dame

But the film puts you inside the head of the malformed man, and you realize that he is not the monster.  Righteous Judge Frollo and the people who mistreat Quasimodo for his deformity of outward appearance are the real monsters.  If you don’t cry a river of tears because of this story, then you have not learned the essential truth of Quasimodo.  When we judge others harshly, we are really judging ourselves. In order to stop being monstrous, and be truly human, you must look inside the ugliness as Esmeralda does to see the heroic beauty inside others.  Sometimes the ideas themselves are so powerful they make me weep.  That’s when my sister and my wife look at me and shake their heads because tears are shooting out of me like a fountain, raining wetness two or three seats in every direction.  But I believe I am a wiser man, a more resolved man, and ultimately a better man because I was not afraid to let a movie make me cry.

The music also helps to tell the story in ways that move my very soul to tears.  Notice how the heroine walks the opposite way to the rest of the crowd.  As they sing of what they desire, what they ask God to grant, she asks for nothing for herself.  She shows empathy in every verse, asking only for help for others.  And she alone walks to the light from the stained glass window.  She alone is talking to God.

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Yes, I am not embarrassed by the fact that movies make me cry.   In fact, I should probably be proud that movies and stories and connections to other people, which they bring me, makes me feel it so deeply I cry.  Maybe I am a sissy and a wimp.  Maybe I deserved to be laughed at all those times for crying during the movie.  But, hey, I’ll take the laughter.  I am not above it.  I am trying to be a humorist after all.

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