Reading, Riting, and Roy…

“I write not to get money, but for pleasure.”

Isaak Walton, from The Compleat Angler 1653

The gift of words…

Of all the gifts inherent to me, the one I am most appreciative of is creativity.  Though I seek a creative path with most of my affairs, my primary creative outlet is writing essays.  I see each essay as a kind of performance.  The beauty for me is that I am under no scrutiny when I perform.  I am free to make mistakes, change directions, retool, stop and start again, or throw it away without anyone but me ever knowing about it.

If I have completed an essay, and thrown it out to be read by an audience of dozens, it’s because I feel I have done my best with it.  If read by even a few, I feel validated even when criticized.  I understand that not everyone will be interested in what I have to share, while others may have interest but not agree with my message.  If a few people find value in my thoughts, that’s great, but I would write anyway.

I am not a professional writer.  I am a hobbyist who, like most hobbyists, would rather spend time working at my craft than at my job.  At this point, I feel that I am a capable amateur.  Not world class, but a better writer than many who are professionals.  I enjoy my job as a fitness trainer, and also see that as a creative outlet, it’s just that writing is a necessary compulsion for me.  One benefit of my day job is that it affords me the time to write.

I can write a 1,000-word essay in less than an hour, and do so with relative ease.  In fact, if I begin taking too long on an essay, I’m usually overthinking it.  When this happens, I will put it aside or just throw it away.  My creative side wants my words to flow, not be forced or hurried into place.

If the truth be told, I could not write a lick if not for modern word processing software.  My mind is too disorganized to write in longhand, and in linear fashion.  That I can cut, paste, backspace, and try different paragraphs in different places serves my dyslexic brain well.  If words are the color pallet of my creativity, editing options are my brush.

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My writer’s den…

Listen up…

Here’s the irony; I read at less than an 8th grade level.  Though writing essays is easy for me, reading one takes work – because I have to see all the words at once.  Reading a book is an outright chore.  I don’t enjoy reading.  I do read on occasion.  Most of what I physically read are online articles, columns, and blogs.  A friend or client might hand me a book.  When this happens, I make every attempt to read it even if I do struggle with the process.  It’s important to me to honor a gift from another, even if it is a book.  Honestly though, I remember very little of what I read.  I listen to books.  I listen to books every day of my life.

My comprehension when listening is greater than when I read, probably because when I listen to books I’m active.  I don’t just sit and listen to books.  I listen to books while I clean, while I organize, and when I exercise.  I listen to Kurt Vonnegut when I deadlift, and Stephen Hawking when I bench press.  I believe the activity with my body frees my brain up to absorb information better than if I just sat and listened.

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My “reading” room…

There are times when I will buy a hardcopy of a book I am listening to.  If I find a life-changing value with it, I will read portions of it concurrently – not as I am actually listening to the book, but in the same time frame.  This allows me to use a highlighter on certain passages of the hard copy which I can easily find and review later.

The books which interest me most are on science and the humanities.  I don’t listen to much fiction – there is enough of that already in my head.  There’s something about a book being spoken into my mind, especially when done by a good narrator – it’s as though the voice of God is projecting it to me, or the voice of an authority figure anyway.

My library and my shame…

With my listening done digitally, my book shelf is my phone.  I know for my literary-minded friends this is near sacrilege – to not have a wall or a room full of books.  My entire library fits in my pocket.  I like that it is always with me.  I wonder if my more literate friends ever feel sad that they leave their library behind as they walk out of their home each day.

The collection of my own writings is even less soulful.  I don’t save hard copies or even digital copies of what I write.  After I complete an essay and post it to my blog, I delete the Word document from my laptop.  All the thoughts I am so compelled to forge and to share, I trust to the gods of Google and WordPress, that anyone who might be interested in them will be able to find them, stored on a server in some unknown location with trillions of other data bits until the end of time.

That I write with the aid of technology feels good.  I enjoy the process, and am proud of the way I create my essays from my laptop.  People seem to be very accepting of this.  That I depend on technology for my learning, in place of reading, doesn’t sit as well in my head.  I feel guilty, often ashamed that I can’t read that well, and that opening a book intimidates me.  However, my biology conspired against me ever becoming a good reader.  My eyes play tricks with words, and no amount of practice makes this better.  In the scope of reading and writing, this is just who I am.

Whether they are printed on parchment or sent to straight to silicon, words are the primary messengers of all of our ideas.  Words allow us to share so much.  For my part, the words I send out each week are a message in a digital bottle.  I never know where they will wash up, but I am always hopeful they will be read by someone.  Be well…  rc

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If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from The Golden Grass.  Enjoy…

Catharsisaurus Rx…

The blender in my head…

I’ve live pretty deep inside my head.  I am continually haunted by the complexities of modern life, and how they may be impacting my reality, assuming there is a reality. That doubt, of my own reality, is the heart of the thing.

On the surface I train clients, check on my mother, text my daughter, and reassure my dog.  Underneath all of this, my mind is bombarded by tiny pellets of doubt, all day long, that are slowly deteriorating the shield which protects my rational side.  Among my greatest fears is that this shield will parish before I do, leaving the chaos in my head to play unbridled havoc with my mind as I age.

My inner Cartesian has come to appreciate those frantic moments in my life, like when my frozen vegetables fly out of the bag and land all over my floor because I pulled them too quickly from my freezer.  That things like this always happen at the worst possible time also serves me well.  Those moments snap me out of my doubt, if only for an instant, and halt the existential banter between all the Roys within.

The life within the life…

I regularly entertain the life within the life.  I imagine waking from a nap on a summer’s day, my right cheek stuck slightly to the warm concrete beside the swimming pool of my youth.  The distant chatter of Marco and Polo awakens me.  I am 12 years old, and the life that I have lived since will have been only a dream.  Reagan never won.  I never married so I never divorced, and the internet was all in my imagination.

Perhaps though, I’ll awaken in an asylum, and not by the pool.  My arms tied behind my back, and with a crayon between my toes I write my suicide note on a foam wall.  This life I write from right now will have been a peaceful dream, and what lay ahead, a nightmare.

And don’t get me started on my lifetime of chronic bad dreams.  Where do I go when I dream…?  Is what I do any less real than what I do when I’m awake…?  In an active mind, I often feel that the only thing separating my memories of life from my bad dreams  are the words memory and dream.

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Kinda hopin’ Really hopin’ I don’t wake up here…

Occasionally I consider that all other people are just extras in an orchestrated game between the gods.  I am at the center of their illustrious amusement – just a silver ball in their game of pantheonic pinball.  At the end of the game, I wonder, will the gods rise in unison and offer me the ultimate thumbs up or thumbs down, based on how well I performed bouncing off the obstacles they set before me.  Ever-present is the feeling I am being watched and judged.

The illusion of conclusion…

Even if I am real, where and how am I real…?  Between parallel universes, infinite universes, or an eternal universe where anything that can happen will happen, I find myself right here, right now, and in this glorious life.  Although in the quantum world, I’m only probably here, and probably now.

Physicist Brian Greene tells me freewill is only an illusion and suggests that mathematics supports this.  The calculations of my future have already been laid out, he says, and that I have no say in my say.  However, I don’t steel tips off tabletops in restaurants when nobody is looking, and I don’t push people down the stairs – even when they deserve it.  Sounds like free will to me.

Some scientists suggest existence as I know it is some kind of holographic image created in an alternate reality, and is smaller than the tip of a pen.  Others say I am slave to the algorithms within a cellular automaton.  Just the thought of that has me pining to be a slave building a pyramid, for at least then I would exist in a simpler state.

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Holographic Youniverse…

The idea that some being in another dimension might be administering my every thought and every motion by way of a joystick bubbles under the surface of my daydreaming as I clean my studio.  On one hand this appeals to me inasmuch as if it is true, then I am exonerated from all indiscretion and responsibility.  However, if I’m not a Sea Monkey in a jar on some extraterrestrial kitchen counter, atonement and responsibility are not only my duty, they are my only hope.

Dog is one of us…

When my eyes lock with my dog I feel love and truth – simultaneously.  That emotion is a daily confirmation that I am real.  When our eyes break though, I can’t help wondering if my dog is actually an angel sending signals back to God, or an observer sending recommendations back to the mother ship.  I wonder the same thing with many of my human contacts too, you who is reading this included.

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“Stroolde calling Orson, come in Orson…”

I flash back to a time in school when I was taunting a special needs kid.  My friend Jeff stopped me and said…

“Roy!  Don’t tease Milton!  What if he’s God and he’s just testing you…?”

Jeff was joking, but I’ve never been able to get that thought out of my head; that anyone else might be God, or a designated representative of the Junta Grande.

The scratch ticket and the interwebs…

I feel guilty for having won the lottery of existence.  All my needs are met – exceedingly.  I’m able to enjoy and appreciate so much.  That I get to make a living doing what I love, and do so in such a beautiful place seems unjust to me, on behalf of those who can’t.  I wonder why I’m not a knobby-knee’d Ethiopian child with fly on one eye suckling his mother’s dry tit.  Yet I seem to be me, and this seems to be my time and my place – probably.

Living in the internet age has only thrown gasoline on the fire of my doubts.  I wonder if this increased connectivity with people and information around the world isn’t just an expanded test by my maker.  It makes no sense that I have instant access to most of the much of the knowledge ever attained and so much information, even if it isn’t always accurate.

Are my social media friends and my analog friends truly connections, or are they an audience watching me and trying to influence the way I bounce off the bumpers in the pinball game of my life…?  They might just be 7-billion lesser gods.

When I look the grocery clerk, the beggar, or the barista in the eyes, I often wonder if they’re thinking,

“He’s on to us…”

That people so seamlessly merge in and out of my digital and analog lives makes me feel increasingly uneasy.

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My maker…?

The known universe is precisely 54 years old…

Let’s assume I am real.  I see memes on social media daily that remind me how small and insignificant I am relative to the immensity of the universe.  This is bad internet juju in my opinion.  I am the only component in the universe that I have absolute dominion over.  If ultimate inter-connectivity is inevitable, then the universe can’t fulfill its own destiny if I fail to fulfill mine.

I was dead for nearly 14-billion years before I was born.  I’ll be dead again in a decade or two more.  I better get this thing right while I’m still here.  It’s all pretty overwhelming at times, this work of performance art which I call my life.

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At the end of the day, I suppose my reality is simply my choice – my decision to carry forward without worrying too much about any of this.  Whether or not I’m a spec in the universe, the center of it, or an organic shuttlecock in game of badminton between gods, so long as standing in nature stirs my heart, and my daughter returns my phone calls, I will choose to act and feel real.  I will though, always have my doubts.  Be well, and thank you for taking the time…  rc

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Enjoying God’s creation, in his creation, and where I feel most real..

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If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Psychic Ills.  Enjoy…

Spring ’16: Cameras, Smartphones & Gi-tars men…

Spring Has Sprung…

I have been hiking, running, and slow walking Monserate Mountain and the Los Jilgueros preserve in Fallbrook for 16 years.  In all that time I don’t remember the sum of the skies, the greens, and the earth coming together so often, in such color, and so willing to be received.  This has been the best spring season I can remember.

I left my fancy camera behind last summer when I left Temecula, and never looked back.  I never used it that much anyway.  Too complicated — to many buttons, too much to think about, not fast enough in process.  Not for my process anyway.

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Going forward I am a committed smartphone photographer.  I will let the available light and where I stand dictate any would-be results, based on the fact that I live in a beautiful place.  As in the gym and at the dining table, I do better when I impose strict limitations on myself.

A good comparison for this…

 Eric Johnson is one of the most talented guitar players alive.  With regard to his skills, his tone, and his process, he expands on and enhances these with technology.  Guitars.  Effects.  Peddles.  Amps.  Processors.  Mixers.  And about  all of this, he is very protective and secretive.  At the end of the day though, Eric Johnson might be the Wagner of the electric guitar.

Seasick Steve, on the other hand, plays a guitars often made of hubcaps, washboards, broomsticks, and scrapyard components.  Most often, they just have a string or two.  Given the choice, I would honestly rather see Steve play live than Johnson.  That’s just my shtick.

As the saying goes, KISS.  Keep It Simple Schleprock.

Down The Road…

Spring is winding down.  Hopefully May gray and June gloom will help keep all the greens a little greener for a little longer this season.  By August there will be more browns than greens, and as beautiful as this community is, I’ll need to find other subjects to photograph.  Probably the area homeless, and in black & white.

I have prioritized walking in nature this Spring in a way I previously have not.  For at least one hour per day, often longer, I am stopping, observing, listening, smelling, and yes, photographing.  Relationships, above all things, are what we are here for.  My relationship with nature has never meant more to me.  That new found fulfillment is due in large part to me stopping, pointing, and capturing.  Looking for beauty helps one see beauty.

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Here’s a quick recipe for happiness.  Live in a beautiful place. Take make time to enjoy that place.  Share that beautiful place with grace.  Be well…  rc

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If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Seasick Steve.  Enjoy…

Music Has The Power Of Wings…

Why So Many…

I was saddened when I heard of Merle Haggard’s passing last week.  I chose to take the rest of that day off to hike, to contemplate, and to write, just as I did with the passings of Glenn Frey, Michael Been, Christ Whitley, and Stuart Adamson.  Each has left substantial etchings on my psyche.

In 2016, people are asking the same question,

Why so many rock & roll deaths all of the sudden…?

It actually makes sense.  Like the big bang of the universe, Rock & Roll had a big bang of its own in 1954 when Bill Haley sang Rock Around the Clock.  That singularity set the Rock & Roll universe into motion.  Haley would be 91 if he were alive today.  But he’s not alive, he’s dead, just like everyone else is or will be.

Like any big bang, the Rock & Roll big bang resulted in an increasing complexity, creating more and more stars as time passed.  Whether they be stars in the universe or those here on earth, stars are born to grow bright, some more bright than others, and to ultimately perish.  With so many more stars existing than ever, that they are losing their lives with increasing frequency should not surprise us.

Despite the sadness we feel when they go, each passing star is the ultimate reminder of their work and their gifts.  So long as we remember it and pass it to the next generation, music can be eternal, if even the musician can’t.

On The Values Of Music…

“Music has the power of wings.”  Mike Scott

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Music has helped me frame moments and has provided postures that have salvaged me time and again.   In my post-divorce years, music helped me find faith and mindfulness.  On stressful days, music has been a release – a way to vent by listening rather than speaking.  Music has helped me relax when needed, and I have used music to amp me up when coffee had its limits.  Music has calmed a heart full of rage, and prevented a clinched fist more than a time or two.  Music transports.

Above all things to me, music has been about relationships. The relationships which have come my way because of music have had the power to endure in ways many of my nonmusical relationships haven’t.

When I was 15 my father caught me jumping on my bed and mimicking Jeff Baxter’s guitar solos in My Old School.  My dad, who hated rock music, found the humor, then joined me on his own air guitar, forging a moment in time I will never forget.

Music can help reinforce a strained relationship better than concrete and steel.  Had it not been for a common love of music during her teen years, my relationship with my daughter might have never recovered after her mother and I divorced.

In the 16 years since that divorce, my daughter’s mother and I remain close friends – largely because of a love of music.  Just three nights ago my lovely former wife called to ask me about some of the guitars Sister Rosetta Tharpe played. At first she chastised me for never exposing her to Tharpe

“Why haven’t you ever told me about her…?” she asked.

We stayed on the phone for quite a while and enjoyed some laughter.  I got a bit weepy when we hung up because the conversation was so dear; two divorced people laughing and talking about whether or not Prince’s guitars might be derivative of Tharpe’s, and whether or not it was a Gibson or a Gretsch.

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If being human is about relationships, then I know of no better way to enjoy or enhance a relationship than by exposing it to music.  Music can transcend politics, religion, philosophy and even social status when it is allowed to.  For this to work though, one’s ears need to be open.

I think of my camping friends who I meet most summers in Nebraska.  From working class schlubs like me, to educated working professionals – conservative and liberal, Christian, Atheist or Jew, when the campfire is aglow and the guitars come out, we harmonize as one.

Music To Our Children And Beyond…

As a child, when my father wasn’t playing Pete Fountain or Mitch Miller on the Sears Robuck stereo, my mother was playing Eddie Arnold and Bobbi Gentry.  On Brigadoon, they both agreed.  Music was encouraged.  In our house at one time or another were drums, trombones, a trumpet, and the ever-present untouched guitars.  Our musical dreams destined to be unfulfilled, though experienced quite well through the lives of others.

When my daughter was an infant in her bassinette, and just days old, her mother and I danced around the room singing to The Ramones…

Chel-sea IS, a punk rocker, Chel-sea IS, a punk rocker Chel-sea IS, a punk rocker oh oh oh oh oh oh

As part of the earthly autographs etched into the Golden Record aboard the Voyager I spacecraft, are recordings of Blind Willie Johnson, Mozart, and Chuck Berry.  How wonderful it would be, I have thought, that if the only thing an alien species gave a rat’s ass about in receiving this information would be Chuck Berry’s Oh Carrol…?  Surely they would put the tops down on their intergalactic Cadillacs and head our way with the best of intentions.  Maybe we could trade some of our vinyl for some of theirs.  And some dilithium crystals – we will need more dilithium crystals if we’re ever going to get out of here.  The God I believe in plays air guitar.  Be well…  rc

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If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from me, Roy Cohen.  I wrote this nearly 30 years ago for what was to be the world’s first rockabilly opera, but never completed it.  Enjoy…

Spicy…

Variety isn’t the spice of life.  Eccentricity is.”  Me circa 2001

To say Fallbrook has a certain flavor, is to suggest it does to the mind what good chili does to the taste buds; it awakens with spices.  The overriding spice of Fallbrook is eccentricity.  Peculiarity among our local characters helps Fallbrook cultivate its identity – it’s unique flavor.

I often feel like I live in a David Lynch movie, and that beneath the surface of my otherwise ordinary life are 7 or 8 underlying storylines that I know nothing about, yet effect everything I do.  I have been here 16 years and I’m still the new guy, waiting for somebody – anybody to teach me the secret handshake and let me know where the human sacrifice/drum circle is each week.

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Exile On Main Avenue…

Some characters here are entrenched – significant threads in the fiber of this community.  Despite their respective oddities, they are often important if not essential components of Fallbrook’s structure.  There’s the evangelical cowboy poet, complete with fancy boots and a 10-gallon hat.  There’s the crossdressing feed store merchant.  The man who owns 4 restaurants who can always be seen wearing, and probably sleeps with his Fedora on.  There’s the preacher in flip flops with the 12” goatee, who can always be seen in a red flannel shirt, and who hosts Drinkin’ With Jesus at the local brewery.  There’s Priscilla, a woman in her 70s who ten years ago she gave away her car and now walks everywhere – all day long.  She claims to walk up to 5 miles per day just doing errands.  And there’s Brett, a local artist of native American ancestry who grew up here.  Everyone knows and loves Brett.

I could go on and on about our characters, and didn’t begin to scratch the surface.  There are hundreds more standouts – thousands maybe.  Fallbrook probably has more long gray pony tails per capita than any town in America.  We have men who drive vintage hot rods as their primary vehicle, and peculiar lady socialites who are the driving force behind our community volunteerism.  What enhances our many characters though, is that they tend to be good people, good at what they do, and are giving to the community.

There are also what I think of as the surface spices; the non-contributing characters, but who also add flavor to Main Avenue.  These folks fascinate me even more than the entrenched characters.  I suppose that fascination is rooted in the fact that they probably have less say in their eccentricity, and that mental illness, substance abuse, or checkered pasts might be the driving force behind their oddness.

There’s David, an unkempt homeless man who spends most of his day sitting on a bus bench in front of a local medical office.  David claims to be a Vietnam vet, and I don’t doubt that.  I bring him a burrito from Taco Bell every so often.  Our conversations tend to be short since he never remembers who I am or that the jeans he wears were given to him by me roughly 4 years ago.

There’s the man I refer to as the Mexican Preacher.  He too is homeless, but fairly well groomed.  He often walks up and down Main Ave. with a gallon of water in his hand, constantly wiping his face as though it’s covered with bugs.  He seems oblivious whenever I attempt to say hello, as though he lives in a slightly different state of time than the rest of us.  I have seen him in the alley beside my studio reading the bible aloud at 4:00 in the morning and at 3:00 in the afternoon.

There’s the African American girl, perhaps 14 or so, who also can be seen walking around for hours at a time, and at any time of day.  Not sure that school is even a part of her life or that she has much of a home.  She covers her face and runs whenever she sees my dog.

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Never in school.  Runs when she sees Stroodle…

There is the Asian woman who always walks up and down Main in a mini-dress with an umbrella overhead, a large duffle bag over one shoulder and a cumbersome purse over the other shoulder.  Apparently she can be seen hustling coffee at the Jack in The Box.

Like the entrenched characters, I could go on and on.  There are many more.  Some of these surface characters don’t stick around too long, while others have been here longer than I have.  Where they come from and where they go is as big a mystery to me as what came before the big bang.  Who ae these people…?  How did they land in Fallbrook…?  What’s next for them…?  I sit in wide wonder as I ponder their stories and circumstances.  There, but for the Grace…

Then a friend pointed out to me the other day, as we sat in front of the coffee shop discussing some of these personalities, that I too am somewhat of a character.

“It’s not just that you talk to your dog, Roy – or that you try to teach him Spanish, and discuss events in the Middle East with him” she noted,

“It’s that you ask him questions and wait for an answer…”

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Now say it with me, Stroodle…  Su est mi compadre especial…

So I guess all that remains is to determine whether I am a visceral spice or a surface spice in the chili of Fallbrook.  Time will tell.  Be well… rc

One…

My belief:  This life, and of my experiences are a training ground for what comes next.  I have failed at many things, and have done much damage in this world.  That I know.  I also know that through it all, I have had relentlessly good intentions from day to day.  I am trying hard to learn as I go.

When I transition from this life into what comes next, I have no fear of where I’ll be placed.  Each new day represents a chance for atonement, and opportunity to be kind.  I take both of those very seriously.

One can only speculate, but I believe that in the end, we all merge into single consciousness with no physical manifestation, and that consciousness is what drives the universe.  I am you, you are me, and everyone who has ever lived is everyone else.  This gives me peace, and helps me better understand even the hardest lessons.

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Fat Dogs, Niebuhr, and Tomorrow…

No Time For Obese Dogs…

I sat down this morning preparing to pose a question on social media about the responsibility humans have in stewarding obese dogs.  This after an exchange last week about who is responsible for canine obesity.  My stance is that, much like obesity in humans, pet owners bear only a portion of the responsibility for canine obesity.  That is, dogs like humans, are subject to increasingly complex food, pharmaceutical, medical, and social systems.

Though humans do have some say in the obesity of their dogs, these systems are probably also influencing canine obesity, though not to the level that the same systems are influencing human obesity.  To a lesser degree, canines are also susceptible to the economic and media systems which influence humans, though the freewill thing which humans relentlessly pander to, probably doesn’t distract dogs too much.

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I’m thinking, too much bread in his diet….

I chose not to post my original question on social media though, because I realized it would have done nothing more than set anchor to a line of convoluted and irrational arguments that would chain me to my laptop for hours.  At the end of the day I thought, we’re all caught up in an endless web of systems anyway…

Three Wise Men…

In his book, The Religions of the World (formerly The Religions of Man), Huston Smith suggests,

We need to remember that in their own day, prophets are not seen as prophets.  To most, they appear to be fringe thinkers, not to be trusted, and often irrational.  It is only those few who follow them, and with the posthumous spreading of their ideas over time, that elevates them to prophet status.

As they walked and spoke in their own communities, men like Jesus, Confucius, and Muhammad did not command the attention of too many, though they did make some noise.  It was only after death, and by those few who valued their ideas who worked to spread those ideas, did they become elevated to prophet status.

I have been reading (some of) the works of Reinhold Niebuhr recently.  Niebuhr is hard to classify.  He was a Christian theologian and educator.  He was a prolific author, a public intellectual, a sounding board for other intellectuals, and an occasional advisor to heavyweight political figures during his time.  Though he considered himself a socialist Christian, and since both of those terms today have been hijacked and mutated, I will argue that Niebuhr was the ultimate conservative by the real meaning of that word.

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A portrait of the American Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892 – 1971), United States, mid-20th century. (Photo by Bachrach/Getty Images)

I came to Niebuhr by way of Chalmers Johnson and Andrew Bacevich, both of whom draw on Niebuhr’s moral and diplomatic sensibilities in their own works.  In his book The Limits of Power, Bacevich refers to Niebuhr as a prophet at least a dozen times.  Chalmers Johnson suggests that if every nation had a Niebuhr whispering in the ear of its leader, there would be no need for NATO, The United Nations, or military bases beyond domestic borders.

All Systems Go (Where They Want To)…

Among other things, what the works of Bacevich, Johnson, and Niebuhr reinforce to me is that principled ideals, however impactful their potential might be, are not going to immediately override systems which are already in place and aimed in a forward direction.  The best we can hope is that reasonable ideas take root, and are cultivated over time to gradually steer the trajectory of a system.  The civil rights movement, still in progress, is a good example of this.  If we take an honest big picture view, it’s clear that prophets make good helmsmen on the initial watch, but communities need to keep steering once the prophet is no longer around.

Americans are caught up in all the systems of modernity; technical systems, political systems, cultural systems, economic systems, and many others.  Whether we are talking about obese canines, the military industrial complex or international diplomacy, and whether we consider ourselves passengers, components, or victims of the systems which carry us, I am reminded as our presidential election draws near, of the two flies believing they control the horse who’s ears they stand upon.  We are driven, and we are bound by systems.

Vote The System To A Slight Turn…

Like many, I often think voting doesn’t matter and I don’t trust any of the candidates.  I do though, believe that voting is a responsibility and it’s one I take very seriously.  Perhaps my vote this year, which will go to the most Niebuhrian candidate on election day, will help steer the modern political system just enough toward a new direction that we can pass it off to a more reasonable generation, who might spread the word of Niebuhr’s prophecy and steer us better still.  Of course I’ll need the help of 100,000,000 or so like-minded friends to make this happen.

Before you vote this November – before you decide on a candidate, a platform, or donate any more money or your own sensibility to a cause, please consider reading The Irony of American History by Niebuhr, The Limits of Power by Bacevich, or Blowback by Chalmers Johnson – all 3 if you have the time.  It’s time we steer away from America’s imperial ambitions abroad, and that we take a good look in the mirror.

I gasp at what is taking place with the current presidential race, but realize the idiocy of it all is a reflection of our culture at large – of the systems we have set into motion and make no attempt to steer.  It seems clear to me that we could benefit from a new prophet to help lead us out of our Idiocracy.  As Bacevich calls for a Niebuhrian revolution, I stand alongside him in hopes that someone – anyone will listen, learn more, and help spread the word.  If not Niebuhr, perhaps David Brooks.  Be well…  rc

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We are just one or two elections away from President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Comacho…

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If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Dave Alvin.  Prettiness and such like that.  Enjoy…

A Walk To Forget…

I walk in Nature for at least one hour every day. Partly for my health, partly as a way to gather my thoughts for the essays I write, but mostly because it keeps me from killing people.

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There is no shortage of data that suggests walking in nature, whatever else it might do for your health, soothes a chaotic mind.

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Oceanside Estuary…

Left. Right. Left. Right. Easy instructions to follow… Jhciacb