The current state of my cardboard castle is pictured above. I probably need to remind you that I am making this thing with my own hands. It is made from old Ritz Cracker boxes with a layer of cutout skin printed from the computer. It is put together with glue, tape, and a little bit of ingenuity… oh, and a lot of “insert tab A into slot B”. It is shaping up into a very Elizabethan style of castle. I originally started it to create props for use with the family Dungeons and Dragons game. But it grows into a project existing for its own sake, a piece of artwork that is made just like so many others I have done before, in many small steps, one piece at a time.
Here we are stepping back in time to what it looked like before, with fewer elements created. You can see that the essentials are already added in here… the tavern and the outhouse… can’t live without either of those.
It does, indeed, make a worthy addition and contribution to the ongoing D&D campaign currently journeying through the eastern cities of Aundair in the realm of Eberron. We are seeking the stolen dragon eggs, and have recently conquered the castle of the Duke of Evernight, freeing it from its terrible curse.
But I do truly believe that the key to this art project, in fact, the theme of this whole post, is that big, impressive things are built our of one small step following another over time. You build brick walls with a bricklayer placing one brick at a time.
Novels, too, are accomplished this way… one small step after another. As are both the marriage and the raising of children in the life of a family. Nothing worth building goes up in a flash… unless it’s built by the Flash… but he is only a character from a comic book and not real. So, I continue to build. One day soon, I shall have battlements capable of warding off goblins and orcs. And for today, I have added another brick to the walls of my blog.
I have told you repeatedly (if you are foolish enough to read more of my blog than is probably healthy for normal people) that I am a pessimist. Like Benjamin Franklin, I believe it is best to always prepare for the worst that can happen and actually expect it. With current gun laws in this nation, and the way corrupt politicians and businessmen continue to profit off the suffering of the rest of us, and people’s basic selfishness and cruelty to others in word, thought, and deed, we rarely get a glimpse of anything but the worst of human nature. We are never disappointed when we expect the worst to happen. And yet, since I am never taken by surprise by bad things, only by unexpected good things, all that is surprising is wonderful and made up of very good things. Human beings are capable of amazing goodness and works of wonder, not in spite of their many failings, but because of them. The miracle of life is how the lowly worm turns into a beautiful butterfly. How the tiny brown seed becomes the brightly colored blossom in a vast field of other flowers.
When I tell others that I believe that people are basically good and that I believe all students can learn, I often get an argument. Mass shooters like we had last week and wars and terrorists crop up by the multitudes in order to refute my belief. People who think I am an atheist tell me i’m being a hypocrite to think we should operate our lives around facts and proof and then hold a difficult-to-prove belief like this. Maybe it is an act of faith… but an act of faith that my theocratic friends call a belief in humanism, which they prefer to see as something from Satan. Well, I do believe in God. I just don’t believe in a god who waves a magic wand and intervenes. I believe that God Jehovah (or possibly Allah or the godhead or whatever you want to name Him) made us like the flower seed, meant to grow and transform, and to be winnowed like grain by the winds and rains of life experience. Not all flowers blossom. But more of them do when you water and weed and nurture them. And what is true for flowers is true for men and women. What can I say more about human beings to convince you that I am not wrong to be in awe of them… even the weedy ones? Probably nothing. If you are not open to such ideas, you haven’t read this far. But whether you read this far or not, I am fascinated by you, and will always want to know more. And I am not going to start a new church or something. I am merely going to continue to watch and to wonder.
I got the word that my mother’s surgery went smoothly and she is fine. Hopefully she will be out of the hospital soon. I can breathe again. There are numerous moments in life that make a person’s heart quicken and the “fight-or-flight” security program in the brain kicks in, making us breathe harder… making us sweat… We wait endlessly for the threatening conditions to pass, and minutes feel like hours.
Alan Watts was a genius who took Eastern philosophies and meditation and brought them to Western culture in a way that offers light and hope and freedom from fear. I discovered him on YouTube and learned that even though he is dead, his thinking reaches out to me and gives me comfort in my inevitable face-off with Death. Do you know Death? He was that funny. yet disturbing character in some of Terry Pratchett’s funniest Discworld novels… the one that talks in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS because the weight of his words are so serious. That particular face-off in the Hockey Game of Life is one that sooner or later I am bound to lose. Everybody loses that one sometime… but only once. After all, as hockey players go, Death is a superior center.
I think that if I can get one message across to other people before I lose that face-off and the hockey game ends, it needs to be this, “All people are the same. No matter what color, what sex, what belief system… they all have equal worth. I am a part of them, and they are a part of me. As Alan Watts says, I am connected to everything.”
At the snowy end of a cold, hard week… I have some facts to face. As a family we are suffering from anxiety disorders, depression, and other mental health issues. And my family is coming apart at the seams. You may have noticed that much of the joy… the love, and life, and laughter… has gone out of my recent posts. We are breaking up. We are not staying together as a family. I am not spending much time feeling sorry for myself about it. I have known the potential consequences for quite some time. You can’t pull the family wagon over the next hill when one horse is pulling to the west, another goes east, and two more go south. Families often come apart with age. Children leave the nest. Sometimes you push them out so they will start flying on their own. But sometimes they plummet to the ground and break a wing. Sometimes they break two wings when foxes are prowling nearby. We have had too much pushing and plummeting this week. Words have been spoken that I wish were not. Fires have been lit not to keep us warm, but to burn things down. And the snow is still coming down. I will be all right. I do not fly away when the winter comes. I will stand by my children for as long as my legs will hold me upright. And if you have read this far in this gloomy, grisly post, don’t be sad for me. Happy times we all enjoy make good memories, but the hard times hammer us into stronger, more tempered steel. Life is a great forge, and we are all under the hammer of God.
Remember, the cardinal is my personal symbol because he is the little, bright-red bird who doesn’t fly away when the winter comes. Cardinals bring warm red colors to coldest of winter days.
It is generally true that any kind of artist, whether they make portraits, or paintings, or novels, or poems, or photos of landscapes, or photos of cats, is making a self-portrait more than anything else. It is true that no matter what form an artwork takes, you see it from the perspective of the artist. You are shown what they see. You are led to think their thoughts. Characters in books are usually telling at least in part, the author’s life story. That’s why I use so many real people that I once knew to model the people in my stories and drawings upon. You must write about what you know, and your own self is what you know best. This Paffooney of young Milt Morgan is a picture of me. It actually looks like what I once looked like. Milt as a novel character thinks and acts as I once did. Anyone that knew me fifty years ago will tell you how much this looks like me. Of course the number of folks who knew me back then continues to seriously dwindle.
There are certain people that I spend a lot of time listening to on YouTube. These are people who are nothing alike. They are very brainy people and good at making cogent arguments that really make sense. They have a gift as explainers. Some of their ideas I agree with, and some I do not, but I am always willing to listen.
The first one I have pictured here is Russell Brand. He describes himself as a comedian. But I find much of what he has to say is the kind of comedy that Mark Twain and Will Rogers once did, and John Stewart and Bill Maher now do. He explains things about how our basic rights as Americans, and human beings, are being compromised and even taken away from us. He often hits themes of economic inequality, racism, and love for your fellow man. I was fascinated by his interview of members of the Westboro Baptist Church. He absorbed their hate-filled insults and deflected them back with grace and wit. He routinely examines the fear-mongering tactics of Rupert Murdoch and Fox News. He ridicules them and undoes their propaganda with such reasoned defusing of hate-bombs. He talks fast and uses big words, and even though I know many people who absolutely hate him, I listen to him constantly.
This second man is Russell’s opposite. Stefan Molyneux is a Libertarian philosopher that my more liberal friends are absolutely horrified by. He goes into the problematic behavior of liberal heroes like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Junior, debunking, defaming, and generally de-mythologizing them. He believes things about not helping the poor and taking apart the government that I soundly disagree with, an for basically Republican Libertarian reasons which seem very self-centered and self-serving to me. But he is able to put forward cogent arguments that are so clear and inter-connected that you have to admire his Occam’s Razor thinking and over-all consistent philosophy. He even seems to have a decent Christian concept of love that is ironic in the face of his seeming atheism.
My first encounter with John Green came about by buying a copy of Mental Floss in book form from Half-Price Books. His wonderful wit and sharp intellect is demonstrated in detail in all the ironic twists and shocking tidbits of information that fill his books and video series like Mental Floss, Crash Course, and his best-selling novel (now a movie) The Fault in Our Stars. Like the other two, he talks fast, uses words you often need to look up, slips fast one-liners by you, and connects ideas so smoothly that very complex things become simple and elegant. I find that, of the three of these men, I would most like to meet and talk with this wise and gentle man. I definitely intend to acquire and read his book as soon as I can… I mean his novel. I have already seized and devour as many of the Mental Floss books as I could find. I guess I really think that he is more like me than either of the other two, although, I know that that is somewhat conceited to say out loud… or even in writing.
So what is the point of this post? These are three wise men who I listen to and allow to shape the edges of my intellect and basic beliefs. I really believe you should investigate them for yourself. But what do I know? I am still on the Quest to be a Wizard.