Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Real Reagan Legacy

There was an interesting discussion of the problems facing the incoming Obama administration on PBS’s The McLaughlin Group a while back. As usual, the group was in the midst of a shouting match - this time about whether or not the proposals Obama was making had any chance of working and how badly the Democrats would suffer in the next election if they didn’t. That’s when Pat Buchanan drew a comparison between the current situation and that faced by the incoming Reagan administration.

He pointed out how Reagan’s plans took over three years to start bearing fruit and how the Republicans got soundly thrashed two years after his election (a year before any positive changes in the economy were seen). This got me to thinking about my own thoughts and feelings during those times. You see, I was inspired by Reagan’s candidacy like I hadn’t been since Johnson (who reminded me of my dad) and Bobby Kennedy. I was too young to vote during the 60’s, let alone understand what the real issues were all about, but I was certainly primed for the polls in 1980. Besides, Reagan was the only politician ever mentioned, let alone given praise, by Ayn Rand.

Regardless of how he is painted by the politicians of today, I still believe that Reagan’s attempt to get government out of the way of way of free enterprise was the morally correct thing to do. Unfortunately, what he apparently didn’t realize (I know I didn’t) was that those who passed themselves off as Capitalists had been so corrupted by years of having to work around government interference that they no longer had the decency required to be actual Capitalists. Even Alan Greenspan, who not only was praised by Ayn Rand but contributed an essay or two to her books, was fooled into thinking that the profit motive would be enough to keep those clowns in line. A casual look at any news program today will reveal how well that turned out.

Now before you start thinking that maybe Ayn Rand just didn’t know what she was talking about, I should point out how she railed against the so-called ’defenders of Capitalism’ - the Republicans. Don’t get me wrong. She certainly had no great love for the Democrats, but at least they didn’t hide their liberal agendas. The Republicans, on the other hand, pretended then and now to be all in favor of freedom and free enterprise and yet consistently voted in ways that violated everything they preached. They’re the ones who consistently vote against the rights of women, gays, sexual freedoms, the content of our children’s education, and those who seek ’alternative’ lifestyles. And I’ll bet that the way they treated women was particularly annoying to Ms. Rand, one of the greatest minds the world has ever known.

What does any of that have to do with free enterprise? It’s simple really. Free enterprise only works in an environment that encourages freedom of thought! When looked at that way, the Republicans have acted for decades as the greatest hindrance to freedom this country has ever faced. Maybe if Reagan and Greenspan had paid more attention to what Rand was saying, they would have realized that their plans needed some serious checks and balances placed on their own party.

As for President Obama, I’m almost afraid to hope that he is as level-headed as he seems. If I could give him one little piece of advice, it would be to suggest that he push his evolving party to become what the Republicans should have been for Reagan. After all, Bill Clinton did a lot of good by stealing ideas from the conservatives. Genuine free market Capitalism is not only the way for Obama to take control of both sides of the political landscape, it’s the only true path out of the economic mess we’ve stepped in.

I want ice water.

Heroes: Johannes Kepler

Considering how religion has dominated the history of western civilization, it should come as no surprise that scientific advancement in such an environment required a truly heroic effort. I am hard pressed to find a better example of this than the 17th century mathematician Johannes Kepler. Although this man is virtually unheard of outside of science lover’s like me and the scientific community itself, his accomplishments stand with even the most famous scientists of all. I first heard of Kepler while watching Carl Sagan’s PBS series, Cosmos. The name might also be familiar to those who follow NASA, because of the recently launched Kepler telescope and it’s mission to search for other habitable planets.

Despite being raised a Lutheran, attending seminary school, university as a theology student, and his full intention to become a minister himself, Kepler’s brilliant mind and absolute dedication to his search for the truth led him to instead to become what many believe to be the true father of modern astrophysics. At a time when The Church still maintained that the Earth was the center of the universe and Galileo was spending the rest of his life under house arrest for defying that doctrine, Kepler almost single-handedly developed the modern scientific method of discovery and went on to provide us with the laws of planetary motion that we use today to predict the positions of the planets and send to our spacecraft so precisely through the solar system.

Kepler’s work with planetary motion led directly to Newton’s later work showing that the motions of objects on the Earth and the heavens are governed by the same set of natural laws including Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation. Amongst his other many achievements, Kepler’s work in Optics also inspired Newton and others, leading to our understanding of light, vision, and photography. Amongst his firsts are the development lenses for vision correction, and the explanations for depth perception, how a telescope actually works, and how the moon causes the tides.

Johannes Kepler was a truly amazing individual who absolutely deserves recognition as a true life hero.

I want ice water.

And The Band Plays On…

I got all riled up this evening when I heard of the death threats against AIG employees and their families. I immediately raced over to this old-hunk-o-junk PC of mine. I wanted to rail against the news media for getting this witch hunt started in the first place, and against those weak-kneed politicians that couldn’t resist piling on. I wanted to point out how, in the larger scheme of things, those guys at AIG are no more guilty than the rest of us who bought into this whole get very much for very little mentality that damned near sunk the whole she-bang.

Unfortunately this old-hunk-o-junk is so slow that I’ve had time to cool off a little - enough to realize that I’ve said it all before. So instead I’ve decided to simply let those good old boys of Rush say it for me, with their song…

Witch Hunt

The night is black
Without a moon
The air is thick, and still

The vigilantes gather on
The lonely torchlit hill

Features distorted in the flickering light
The faces are twisted and grotesque
Silent and stern in the sweltering night
The mob moves like demons possessed
Quiet in conscience, calm in their right —
Confident their ways are best

The righteous rise
With burning eyes
Of hatred and ill-will

Madmen fed on fear and lies
To beat, and burn, and kill

They say there are strangers, who threaten us
In our immigrants and infidels
They say there is strangeness, too dangerous
In our theatres and bookstore shelves
That those who know what’s best for us —
Must rise and save us from ourselves

Quick to judge
Quick to anger
Slow to understand

Ignorance and prejudice
And fear
Walk hand in hand

I want ice water

At Seventeen

As you might have gathered from the other articles about my personal life, as a child I was what some would call “a sensitive boy.” That is, those who wanted to be kind. The other boys usually weren’t. I prefer to think that I was just “more aware.” However I came to see things the way I did, as I neared seventeen I had had my fill of the opinions of those I knew about how things worked and how people should live. More than ever before, I looked for those I thought had something exceptional to say. One of those voices was that of Janis Ian, and her very timely song…

At Seventeen

“I learned the truth at seventeen.
That love was meant for beauty queens.
And high school girls with clear skinned smiles.
Who married young and then retired.

The valentines I never knew.
The Friday night charades of youth.
Were spent on one more beautiful.
At seventeen I learned the truth.

And those of us with ravaged faces.
Lacking in the social graces.
Desperately remained at home.
Inventing lovers on the phone.
Who called to say - come dance with me.
And murmured vague obscenities.
It isn’t all it seems at seventeen.

A brown eyed girl in hand me downs.
Whose name I never could pronounce.
Said - pity please the ones who serve.
They only get what they deserve.

And the rich relationed hometown queen.
Marries into what she needs.
With a guarantee of company.
And haven for the elderly.

Remember those who win the game.
Lose the love they sought to gain.
In debentures of quality and dubious integrity.
Their small-town eyes will gape at you.
In dull surprise when payment due.
Exceeds accounts received at seventeen.


To those of us who knew the pain.
Of valentines that never came.
And those whose names were never called.
When choosing sides for basketball.

It was long ago and far away.
The world was younger than today.
When dreams were all they gave for free.
To ugly duckling girls like me.

We all play the game, and when we dare.
To cheat ourselves at solitaire.
Inventing lovers on the phone.
Repenting other lives unknown.
That call and say - come dance with me.
And murmur vague obscenities.
At ugly girls like me, at seventeen.”

Being an almost seventeen year old boy living in the Black community, I naturally had no one to talk to about the impact this song had on me. I’m not sure if I could have explained how I could relate so strongly to a song about a girl and her problems anyway. But I did, and I still do.

I want ice water.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Dragged Down By The Stone

In the late 70's, during my first attempt at 'higher education,' I wrote an essay on how I thought that Pink Floyd's Animals was an accurate reflection of our society. Sadly, I don't have a copy to share with you today. I do however, find it sweetly ironic that now, some thirty-two years later, the Pigs are in the air with no place to land and the Dogs are in a drop-dead panic because the Sheep are on the rampage.

Please allow me to translate:

The Pigs are those whom we, for one reason or another, have granted 'positions of authority.' While they are mainly elected officials, all those who are looked to for leadership and guidance fall into this category as well.

The Dogs are those well-trained individuals who work so hard to squeeze every penny of profit they can out of the system we provide at the behest of the Pigs.

The Sheep includes pretty much everyone who are not Dogs or Pigs.

It is possible for a member of one group to move into another. And because of the 'special nature' of this wonder-land we live in, it is even possible for a player to exist in more than group at the same time. Isn't that cool?

Sadly though, there is trouble on the board. Paradise has turned into a ball of confusion. The Sheep are out for the Dogs blood now that they've realized their true place on the food chain. The Dogs are begging the Pigs for bail money now that their victims are circling around with leash / noose, in hand. And the Pigs are fluttering about like wounded ducks while simultaneously wagging their fingers at the Dogs and crying for the Sheep to have patience.

As Pink Floyd sang:

"Now it's too late to lose the weight you used to need to throw around.
So have a good drown, as you go down, all alone.
Dragged down by the stone."

Unfortunately, the 'you' in that prose might well be all of us.

I want ice water.

Update 3/20/09

I decided to update this article after watching John Oliver's (The Daily Show) stand-up performance on Comedy Central. With his being British and with Pink Floyd being British and with my fascination with that British accent - I think in a British accent at times don't you know, it just seemed appropriate that I include his closing thoughts as an update to this article.

John, and his comic 'scientist' sidekick, made the point that perhaps the reason the U.S. isn't working harder to solve the problems of the world is because the rules of this crazy game say that whoever is on top when the world ends must be declared the winner. Well for a die-hard fatalistic American patriot like myself, I had to consider that perhaps this was a good thing. It's just unfortunate that no one will be around to celebrate our glorious achievement.

Not being one to give up on fame and fortune at any cost, perhaps we can leave some sort of great American Monument bragging of said achievement for future alien visitors to find. That'll wipe the smirk off their proud little green planet-hopping faces!

I want ice water.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Radicals Like Me

Note: I’ve provided The Who’s We Won’t Get Fooled Again for your listening pleasure while you read this article.

I have been inspired to write this article by watching a little of today's Glenn Beck show. He was talking to Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller fame) about how speaking against the government these days can get you labeled as a radical, or worse, a militant. This stuck with me because I sometimes fear the same thing when it comes to the things I write about here. I know that Mr. Jillette has claimed his alliance with The Libertarian Party, and I think that Mr. Beck has at least declared his sympathies for their beliefs. Regardless of that, I absolutely agree with their statement that if someone today wrote something similar to Thomas Paine's Common Sense, they would be labeled a radical.

As for political parties, someone once said something to the effect of "I wouldn't join any group that would have me as a member." I think it was either Will Rogers or Mark Twain, but I haven't been able to find the quote when searching through theirs. Regardless of who said it, as an independent thinker not wanting to swear allegiance to any group or party, this thought has been with me from the moment I heard it. As I've said before, I consider myself to be an Objectivist from a philosophical perspective. This means that I work hard not to allow subjective thoughts and feelings to influence my opinions and actions on specific issues.

By definition, claiming membership in a group or political party means that you have adopted the statements and platforms of that group or party as your own. While I realize that this is not literally true for those who join groups and political parties, they do expose themselves to having to defend or deny statements and opinions that they had nothing to do with. I refuse to put myself in that position, regardless of how "out in the cold" that leaves me.

If you were to ask me, however, which political party comes closest to the way I see things, I would have to say The Libertarian Party. But again, I have no intention of giving blanket approval to their party platform by joining. And in case anyone thinks it hasn't occurred to me, I'm fully aware of how my frequent references to Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism invites being tagged as a "Randian." I am also aware that the late Ayn Rand, and those who stand in her stead, has rejected the Libertarians even though so many Libertarians point to her as the influence that led them to that party. I can only guess that other Objectivists feel as I do about joining political parties.

At any rate, I will continue to write what I think until those with the torches and pitchforks drag my cold, dead hands from the keyboard.

I want ice water.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

On The Cover Of The Rolling Stone

Just like everyone else, I would like my moment in the sun. And I will gladly admit that this blog is my attempt to finally gain some recognition but for talents that I'm actually proud of. The drawback to my approach, of course, is that the web is crammed full of zillions of pages of stuff produced by people who think their work is worthy of attention as well. In fact, there are many, many examples of excellent sites that I can only hope to compete with.

However, just like all media these days, there is plenty of trash on the web as well. But I'm not mad, as I'm having a great time just learning how to do this. Besides, this whole thing started as a kind of public self-therapy journal anyway. To be honest, and with no insult intended towards anyone, I find much of the stuff I run across to be absolutely hilarious. The hilarity of it all reminds me of one of my favorite songs, On The Cover Of The Rolling Stone by Doctor Hook and The Medicine Show:

(No, I don't believe it, nah, nah, ah, oh...don't touch me. Hey Ray, hey sugar, tell 'em who we are)
Well, we're big rock singers
We got golden fingers
And we're loved everywhere we go..... (that sounds like us)
We sing about beauty and we sing about truth
At ten-thousand dollars a show..... (right)
We take all kinds of pills that give us all kind of thrills
But the thrill we've never known
Is the thrill that'll gitcha when you get your picture
On the cover of the Rolling Stone

(Rolling Stone.....) Wanna see my picture on the cover
(Stone.....)Wanna buy five copies for my mother..... (yeah)
(Stone.....)Wanna see my smilin face
On the cover of the Rolling Stone.... (that's a very very good idea)

I got a freaky ole lady name a cocaine Katy
Who embroideries on my jeans
I got my poor ole grey haired daddy
Drivin my limosine
Now it's all designed to blow our minds
But our minds won't really be blown
Like the blow that'll gitcha when you get your picture
On the cover of the Rolling Stone

(Rolling stone.....) Wanna see our pictures on the cover
(Stone.....) Wanna buy five copies for our mothers..... (yeah)
(Stone.....) Wanna see my smilin face
On the cover of the Rolling Stone
(talking) Hey, I know how
Rock and roll.....

Ah, that's beautiful
We got a lot of little teenage blue eyed groupies
Who do anything we say
We got a genuine Indian Guru
Who's teaching us a better way
We got all the friends that money can buy
So we never have to be alone
And we keep getting richer but we can't get our picture
On the cover of the Rolling Stone

(Rolling stone.....)Gonna see my picture on the cover
(Stone.....) Gonna buy five copies for my mother..... (I want one)
(Stone.....) Gonna see my smilin' face
On the cover of the Rolling stone
On the cover of the Rolling.......
(Stone.....) Gonna see my picture on the cover
(talking) I don't know why we ain't on the cover, baby....
(Stone.....) Gonna buy five copies for my mother
(talking) We're beautiful first....
(Stone.....) Wanna see my smilin face
(talking) I ain't kiddin' ya, oh we would make a vulnerable cover....
On the cover of the Rolling stone......
(talking) fresh shot, right up front, man.....
I can see it now, we'll be on the front....
Smilin', Man......
Ahh, beautiful.......

I want ice water.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Heroes: Inspiration

Readers of this blog have heard me rail against organized religion and belief in the supernatural in general. You’ve also heard me preach about the benefits and necessity for rational thinking. But I hope that my strong belief in our potential - and my faith in our ability to live up to that potential - has been revealed as well. If this blog reveals nothing more about my character than this, then I will be satisfied.

All my life, I have searched for inspiration. From books like The Holy Bible, Atlas Shrugged, Time Enough For Love, and The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant. From movies like The Ten Commandments, It’s A Wonderful Life, and The Day The Earth Stood Still. From TV shows like Gun Smoke, Law and Order, and Star Trek. And from the songs of groups like The Temptations, Pink Floyd, and Rush.

Another thing that should be clear from reading this blog is how I love to include the music and lyrics from songs that relate to what I’m talking about. The great thing about my favorite movies and TV shows is that they combine great visuals with great music. In this article, I will attempt to combine all three elements - the visual, the music, and the lyrics - from two of my all-time favorite TV shows: The Greatest American Hero and Star Trek: Enterprise.

I chose these shows because they represent my life-long desire to be, and to inspire others to be, a force for good in the world. The Greatest American Hero represents how being a hero is not always a matter of choice, and that mistakes can and will happen along the way. The entire Star Trek line-up represents what can happen when good people stand up and make the right choices. I’m hard pressed to find another SciFi collection that presents such a positive view of the future. Star Trek: Enterprise is the greatest of the line-up because it’s the closest in the time-line to where we are now, and therefore presents a more relevant look at the moral issues - both social and technological - that we face.


The Greatest American Hero
(Believe It Or Not by Mike Post and Stephen Geyer)

Look at what’s happened to me,
I can’t believe it myself.
Suddenly I’m up on top of the world,
It should've been somebody else.

Believe it or not,
I’m walking on air.
I never thought I could feel so free.
Flying away on a wing and a prayer.
Who could it be?
Believe it or not it’s just me.

It’s like a light of a new day,
It came from out of the blue.
Breaking me out of the spell I was in,
Making all of my wishes come true.

Believe it or not,
I’m walking on air.
I never thought I could feel so free-.
Flying away on a wing and a prayer.
Who could it be?
elieve it or not it’s just me.


Star Trek: Enterprise
(derived from the song Faith Of the Heart written by Diane Warren and sung by British opera star Russell Watson. This song was first featured in the film Patch Adams, performed by Rod Stewart)

It’s been a long road
Getting from there to here
It’s been a long time
But my time is finally here
And I can see my dreams come alive at night
I can touch the sky
And they’re not gonna hold me down no more
No they’re not gonna change my mind
’Cause I’ve got faith of the heart
I’m going where my heart will take me
I’ve got faith to believe
I can do anything
I’ve got strength of the soul
No one’s going to bend nor break me
I can reach any star
I’ve got faith
I’ve got faith
Faith of the heart

I want ice water.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Ball Of Confusion - Revisited

I love the old Temptations song Ball Of Confusion and I’ve been waiting for quite a while for someone to do an updated version. Well I’m tired of waiting and will now tackle the task, at least the lyrics part, myself. My thanks to leoslyrics.com for the original lyrics.

Ball Of Confusion - Revisited

1, 2… 1, 2, 3, 4, Ow!

People moving out, foreclosures rolling in.
Why, because the bubble’s crashing in.
Run, run, run but you sure can’t hide.
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.
Vote for me and I’ll set you free.

Rap on, brother, rap on.

Well, the only person talking about love thy brother is the…(preacher.)
And it seems nobody’s interested in learning but the…(teacher.)
Muslim nations, immigration, regulation demonstrations,
Aggravating humiliation, prisons all around our nation.

Ball of confusion.
Oh yeah, that’s what the world is today.
Woo, hey, hey.

The sale of guns are at an all time high.
People walking round with that look in their eye.
The cities are strange in the summer time.

And oh, the beat goes on.

Evolution disillusion, oil controls the screamin’ polls.
No mo’ rockets to the moon, kids still growing up too soon.
Politicians say low taxes will solve everything.

And the band plays on.

So, round and around and around we go.
Where the world’s headed, nobody knows.
Hey Google user, can’t you hear me talking to you.

Just a ball of confusion.
Oh yeah, that’s what the world is today.
Woo, hey, hey.

Fear in the air, tension everywhere.
Unemployment rising fast, Obama sure got elected fast.
And there’s no safe place to live, we’re now a well armed nation.

And the band plays on.

Eve of destruction, tax reductions, bridge inspectors set new records,
New blood in demand, economics out of hand,
Genocides, diamond kills, investors running for the hills.
People all over the world are shouting, "End the wars."

And the band plays on.

Hey Google user, can’t you hear me talking to you.

Sayin’… ball of confusion.
That’s what the world is today, hey, hey.
Let me hear ya, let me hear ya, let me hear ya.

Sayin’… ball of confusion.
That’s what the world is today, hey, hey.
Let me hear ya, let me hear ya, let me hear ya,
Let me hear ya, let me hear ya.

Sayin’… ball of confusion.

I’m so proud, but it sure wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. So don’t forget my check when you decide to record it. I may be laughing now, but I’m still a Capitalist. :mrgreen:

I want ice water.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Singing The Blues

As I’ve said before, I suffer from depression. Sometimes the bottom just drops out, usually for no rational reason that I can discern. When I’m laying on the bottom of one of these downturns, it’s very difficult for me to do anything, let alone writing. As much as I would like to write about it while it’s happening, I’ve never been able to do so. I’ve just been through one of these phases and I want to share with you, as best I can, what it’s like.

The following is a list of Pink Floyd song lyrics that not only describe the feelings I have when I’m in the middle of one of these funks, but are the actual songs that I sometimes listen to - and sing along with - while it’s happening. Amazingly enough, these songs somehow help me get through it.

The last song, by Emerson, Lake & Palmer, represents my underlying desire to persevere and reclaim my hold on life.

Please note that whether you are reading this on Blogger or on WordPress, I have made it possible for you to listen to these songs. On Blogger, they’ve all been included as individual songs in the Blog Playlist in the sidebar. On WordPress, you’ll find the same playlist on the Songs for this Blog page.

Pink Floyd - Another Brick In The Wall (Part III)

I don’t need no arms around me
I don’t need no drugs to calm me
I have seen the writing on the wall
Don’t think I need anything at all
Oh no! Don’t think I’ll need anything at all

All in all it was all just bricks in the wall
All in all you were just bricks in the wall

Pink Floyd - Goodbye Cruel World

Goodbye cruel world
I’m leaving you today
Goodbye all you people
There’s nothing you can say
To make me change
My mind

Pink Floyd - Hey You

Hey you!
Out there in the cold. Getting lonely, getting old,
Can you feel me?

Hey you!
Standing in the aisles with itchy feet and fading smiles,
Can you feel me?

Hey you!
Don’t help them to bury the light
Don’t give in without a fight.

Hey you!
Out there on your own sitting naked by the phone
Would you touch me?

Hey you!
With your ear against the wall, Waiting for someone to call out
Would you touch me?

Hey you!
Would you help me to carry the stone?
Open your heart, I’m coming home.

But it was only a fantasy
The wall was too high as you can see
No matter how he tried he could not break free
And the worms ate into his brain.

Hey you!
Out there on the road always doing what you’re told,
Can you help me?

Hey you!
Out there beyond the wall, breaking bottles in the hall,
Can you help me?

Hey you!
Don’t tell me there’s no hope at all
Together we stand, divided we fall.

Pink Floyd - Is There Anybody Out There

Is there anybody out there?
Is there anybody out there?
Is there anybody out there?
Is there anybody out there?

Pink Floyd - Nobody Home

I’ve got a little black book with my poems in
Got a bag with a toothbrush and a comb in
When I’m a good dog they sometimes throw me the bone in

I got elastic bands keepin’ my shoes on
Got those swollen hand blues
I got thirteen channels of shit on the TV to choose from

I’ve got electric light
And I’ve got second sight
I got amazing powers of observation

And that is how I know,
When I try to get through
On the telephone to you,
There’ll be nobody home

I’ve got the obligatory Hendrix perm
And the inevitable pinhole burns
All down the front of my favorite satin shirt

I’ve got nicotine stains on my fingers,
I’ve got a silver spoon on a chain
Got a grand piano to prop up my mortal remains

I’ve got wild staring eyes
And I’ve got a strong urge to fly,
But I got nowhere to fly to

Ooh, babe when I pick up the phone
There’s still nobody home

I’ve got a pair of Gohills boots
And I got fading roots

Emerson, Lake & Palmer - Still... You Turn Me On

Do you want to be an angel,
Do you want to be a star,
Do you want to play some magic on my guitar?
Do you want to be a poet,
Do you want to be my string?
You could be anything.
Do you want to be the lover of another
Undercover? you could even be the man on the moon.

Do you want to be the player,
Do you want to be the string?
Let me just tell you something,
It just don’t mean a thing.
You see it really doesn’t matter
When you’re buried in disguise
By the dark glass on your eyes,
Though your flesh has crystallized;

Still .... you turn me on.

Do you want to be the pillow where i lay my head,
Do you want to be the feathers lying in my bed?
Do you want to be a colour cover magazine;
Create a scene.
Every day a little sadder,
A little madder,
Someone get me a ladder.

Do you want to be the singer,
Do you want to be the song?
Let me tell you something
You just couldn’t be more wrong.
You see i really have to tell you
That it all gets so intense.
from my experience
It just doesn’t seem to make sense,

Still .... you turn me on.

Hmmn .... you turn me on.

Hmmn .... you turn me on.

I want ice water.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Tolerance... Not! Perfection

Because I had a tendency to hold up the process of testing and quality control on my job, my supervisor once remarked that, "if we waited for every system to be perfect, we’d never ship anything." I had to agree that he was right, but that doesn’t mean that I was ever comfortable with that idea. In fact, I later became the company’s technical writer mostly because the engineers were never able to design our products so that it was obvious how to operate them.

I’ve had such a problem dealing with the ramifications of my perfectionism - if you only knew the massive amounts of time I have spent just writing and editing these articles - that I think a look at the subject of human perfection is in order. As for the attitude that most people seem to take towards people like me, I think Pink Floyd’s song Not Now John is a fair representation:

"Fuck all that we’ve got to get on with these
Got to compete with the wily Japanese
There’s too many home fires burning and not enough trees
So fuck all that we’ve got to get on with these...

Not now John we’ve got to get on with the film show
Hollywood waits at the end of the rainbow
Who cares what it’s about as long as the kids go
So not now John we’ve got to get on with the show..."

Even those who aren’t so callous in their views on getting things done, most of whom owe their ’gentleness’ of attitude to a religious upbringing, think that it’s ’sinful’ somehow for a human to strive for perfection in the things he does or in his life in general. While I completely agree that things must get done and products must be shipped, I have a problem when it comes to avoiding the idea of human perfection altogether. How else do we continue to move up the evolutionary ladder?

I realize that some will object to my reference to evolution, but I made that reference specifically because of the fundamental conflict that exists between the various views on how we got where we are and how we will survive and move forward in the future. I have to wonder if those amidst this raging debate have ever considered that, regardless whether one thinks we got here through divine action or random happenstance, we absolutely need something better than the our interpretations of the past to guide us into the future.

Perhaps a start on that can be achieved through a good definition of just what a 'perfect human' would be. My personal view is that, since absolute perfection is impossible for beings who don’t possess the power of omniscience, human perfection is better thought of as a road on which those who strive for perfection must travel. And while the occasional detour is to be expected - after all, trial and error is a fundamental part of the learning process - striving to stay on the road is absolutely essential.

Those who would treat as weird those of us who tend towards obsession when it comes to getting things right should remember that all of those people in history that we hold up as examples of human greatness were considered weird for their obsessive behaviors as well. While I may never be considered qualified to stand amongst those great people, I have no doubt that they were just as disgusted as I now am at the way creative people are treated.

After all, if more people considered it their duty to travel down the road to perfection, then perhaps the rest of us wouldn’t have to be so obsessive about our own pursuits. If nothing else, we wouldn’t be such a rarity that we seem weird by comparison.

I want ice water.

Pride, Respect and Pain

After a very long time, I had the opportunity to talk to my oldest son the other day. I say ’talk to’ because I hardly let him get in a word edgewise. When I realized how much I was hogging the conversation I started to apologize by telling him how rare it has become for me to have someone to talk to, and that was when he told me how much he has in fact missed listening to me. Since we were also discussing his becoming my roommate, I was glad to hear him say that. But his statement planted a thought in my head that didn’t come to the fore until I watched Tavis Smiley’s interview with Mickey Rourke tonight.

Mr. Rourke’s description of the childhood demons that plagued him almost to the point of self-destruction caused me to reflect on my own. Both of us were affected by childhoods filled with violence and pain, and both of us chose to develop a ’hard’ persona to protect us from that pain while attempting to prove that we were a match for the evils that we perceived the world to have set against us. The difference between us lies only in the manner in which we chose to present our ’hardness’ to the world. His choice was the persona of the man who could not be touched through a shield of violence. My choice was the persona of the man who could not be touched through a shield of mental perfection.

I’ve always been so determined to prove that I was too ’smart’ to be affected on any deep level by the chaos and pain of our lives. I did this by attempting to appear to have an answer to everyone’s problem, and of course, an appropriate sermon to go along with my advise. This had both positive and negative consequences. On the positive side, maintaining this persona required me to learn quite a lot about the human condition, and also how to communicate my ideas effectively. On the negative side, this persona made conversing with me a real ’downer’ for some, and made me appear as an arrogant ass to others.

The problem was that perfecting this persona had become the very basis for any sense of pride that I had. I simply never believed that I could ever truly be respected without it. But the harder I worked at it the more difficult the task became, and I seemed to be moving farther and farther away from the respect I wanted. In a very real sense, my ego had become like the planet held up by the shoulders of Atlas, which only grew heavier the harder I strained to hold it up. Eventually it became more than I could bear and I had a mental breakdown as a result. The irony of it all is that as I slid down into addiction and despair, I became in reality both unreachable and untouchable to those around me.

I have to admit that I found comfort for a while in being thought of as ’crazy’ by other people. After all, who would expect a crazy person to have all the answers? But at the same time it really irked me to be judged ’chemically imbalanced’ by doctors and ’unemployable’ by the government. Especially when my mental state seemed to me the logical result of being a sane person living in an insane world. But over time I have come to realize that ’sane’ is a relative term, and that no one is completely sane when compared to some perfectionist ideal. I’ve also come to see that the disappointment that I saw in peoples eyes when I was really screwing up wasn’t because I had been revealed as imperfect after all - everyone already knew I was human, but because it looked like I had given up on striving for perfection - what actually made me special to them in the first place.

It’s now been over two weeks since I started writing this article. Something about the subject matter, in combination with other events in my life, made it too difficult to continue until tonight. What got me going again was seeing Mickey Rourke on Charley Rose last night and helping my oldest son move in with me earlier today. As far as the Rourke interview last night is concerned, I was again struck by the amazing combination of strength and vulnerability that exudes from the man. How can I not feel compassion for a man whose ’shield’ has failed him at least as badly as my own has failed me? But at the same time, how can I not have hope for myself when I see how possible it is for one to survive the failure and come out better for it?

I don’t know if the people who have been disappointed by my failures feel so because I had given them hope and then dashed it, or because I was no longer amusing them by acting like some Don Quixote character battling against impossible odds. And I guess it’s that not knowing that fuels my fear of being a further disappointment or an even bigger fool. But I know that the bottom line that I must stick with is the fact that I do what I do for myself and that it’s my own respect that I must earn. Pain is, after all, an unavoidable consequence of being alive, and genuine pride can only come from self-respect.

I want ice water.