Doublespeak about Life

Everyone is pro, or for, life. Who could be against living? And so this “pro-life” label is nonsense.  So called “Pro-Lifers” usually seek only to control women through reproductive Big Brother-ism. These self labelled Pro-Lifers promote control of others (women) through the mechanism of the State. In a way, these crafty people actually exhibit mostly anti-life behaviors.  In any case, the reality of abortion is extremely complicated and two things are true:  Abortion means taking a human life in utero: The State has no business controlling a woman’s choice to make that moral decision.

Why do thinking people allow the false “pro-life” label to continue?  Why does the media allow it by publishing articles describing the two “sides” of the issue as “pro-life” and “pro-choice” as if they were mutually exclusive?  Why does no one challenge this erroneous false dichotomy?  Is it because the issue is too complicated?  Are we afraid of the truth, the real truth of what is going on?  Is it just too convenient for us to have a this/that conception of the world?  Are we really that simple?

Yes, I think we are.  Because it is complicated.  And there is much more to promoting life than abstractedly protecting a collection of cells in an autonomous woman’s body.  The truth is painful — abortion means a woman makes the choice to end human life.  Liberals have to come to terms with this truth.  The other truth is that the State does not have a compelling interest in forcing that woman to keep that pregnancy going to natural childbirth.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  If there is a compelling State interest, it is the preservation of the woman’s autonomy, privacy, and agency.  In any case, it is none of the State’s business what choices the woman makes about her body.

The person who wishes to use the State to force a woman to lose her autonomy is not actually pro-life.  The misnomer is so painful that I don’t know how it stays in use — for instance, these so called Pro-Life people usually do not condemn the State from taking human life through the death penalty; they rarely oppose wars; they eat meat, wantonly contributing to the misery, suffering, and wholesale slaughter of living sentient God created creatures world wide.  No, these “pro-lifers” are anything but for life.

What they are for, sadly — and they cover up with this horrendous doublespeak — is biblically based domination of women.  They only wish to force women to submit, to shed their individuality.  They seek to employ the State to carry out their devilish desires to subjugate women.  It’s made even more sinister when they also trouble the State to also oppose contraception, support for women’s health, and welfare for children and women already living.  These people cannot possibly be thinking of the welfare of others no matter how much they cover up their motives with confusing language.

Yes, abortion is almost always wrong from a purely moral standpoint — it is, after all, the conscious choice to terminate a living creature.  But it is not the state’s right to take away that moral choice from a woman. This is the important distinction.  Abortion should stay legal and safe, even if most often the choice to have an abortion can be seen as immoral. “Pro-lifers”, who really are not pro life, should simply not have an abortion if they are opposed to them.  I know I am opposed to abortion.  But I will not condone the State taking away a woman’s right to do with her body what she needs to do.  That is wrong, simple and clear.


So Very Cold

An allegory for the addicted

so coldYou’re cold.  And you look down at that radiator heater nearby.  It’s the one with the oil inside that heats up so nicely and puts out strong heat.  It’s on, but far away.  So you pull the radiator heater closer.  It doesn’t really help because it’s still too far away.  You could get up and run around to warm up or make something warm to drink or maybe even, you know, put on some more clothes.  Or heck, your family is upstairs with a cozy fire in the fireplace.  But you’re lazy.  And you’re still cold, so, even though that little voice in your head says it’s not a good idea, you pull that heater even closer.

That does feel better, now.  You’re warming up a bit.  But in time, you feel like it’s just not enough.  You can’t really get it any closer, but you need that heat because now you’re feeling colder than you were before, even though it’s obvious that the heater is warming you up more than ever.  But never mind that.  You’re cold.  So, you pull it even closer, ignoring that stupid voice.   The one saying how stupid you’re being and why don’t you just go upstairs and be with people near the fireplace.  You’re just going to end up even colder later, you know, when the heater stops working or you have to leave the room.  But you don’t care about that.

The heater is nearly touching your leg now and that little voice keeps chirping.  So annoying.  Who put that voice there?  And again, the heater works for a bit as you bring it perilously closer.  You were feeling ok for a moment. But now you’re cold again even though you could swear your leg is burning. So, you try to take the heat a different way thinking this will make all the difference.  You push the radiator heater away a few inches – there, that means I’m not being so irresponsible.  I’m thinking about this, controlling it.  But part of the new idea is that you’re going to pull a blanket over the heater and over your lap to trap more heat.  Ok, this is good.  This is working.  Now you’re getting the heat in a rapid, deep pipeline and you’re warm all over.  And you’re not letting the heat get too close to your leg!

This new rapid heat idea is brilliant.  You wonder, though, what’s going to happen when you have to get up and be away from the heater?  That little voice is telling you that you’re going to be even colder than before and you’ll probably have burns on your leg.  So silly, that voice.  And you hear other voices – that would be your family having a grand old time without you.  So, you pull the blanket away to think about maybe leaving the heater and joining your family.  But sure enough, you’re immediately freezing!  Colder than you were before you even looked at the heater.  Ok. So, you can’t take the blanket away or the heater, that much is established now.

And…you’re still not perfectly heated.  Your family looks in, sees you all alone, wrapped up in a blanket tented over a heater, and they look at you funny.  Jealous, no doubt.  And, of course, that stupid voice is saying, this is not such a good idea.  You’re going to overheat you dummy, or something’s going to catch fire. But screw that stupid voice.  This is what heaters are for!  I mean seriously.  Let’s use this heater, get warm, be happy.  So, you tent the blanket so the air can pool inside.  This is lovely.  Holy smokes…you’re hot now.

This is really working.  But wow, is it working too well?  Wait, what’s happening here?  You pull the blanket away and you get a little relief for a second.  But wow, now it’s really really cold.  You can’t believe how cold it is out there without the blanket and heater. So, you put the blanket back on and just turn the heat down a bit.  Maybe if you do a little bit less, you’ll be ok. But that doesn’t work either, because of course without the heater on constantly, you’re getting cold.  Ok, so screw it.  You turn the heat up and just pledge not to move.  At all.  If you move, you will get hot.  Of course, you’re getting really hot anyway.  So hot that you’re getting sleepy.  Well, maybe a little sleep won’t be such a bad thing.  It’s better than being cold.  And if you turn off the heater, you’re going to freeze.  You can’t live without that damn heater now.  Who the hell gave you this heater?  It’s going to be the death of you.  This is, of course, the last thing you really think as you pass out from your core body temperature climbing so fast.

The fire is what brought them to you.  It’s small, thankfully, and you had smoke detectors.  So, your family — who had wondered why you were isolating yourself with the heater and blanket when they had a perfectly warm fire burning in the fireplace upstairs with hot chocolate — find you on the ground, unconscious, with second degree burns from the heater on your leg and third degree burns from the oil that burst out when you fell on the heater.  And the fire, it’s just a little fire from the cord that you bent.  So, not a lot of damage.

But as you come to, you’re cold.  You’re so damn cold.  And the family tells you, no more heaters.  You can’t be trusted.  And that is terrifying.  But you know that with enough work, you can make it. But right now, it is so very cold.

Going Somewhere?

Maybe it’s the rushing around that gets us so lost.

Where are you going?  Don’t you have somewhere to be?  You’re on your way to something, aren’t you?

These are questions most of us find absolutely normal.  Expected even.  But have you ever really thought about this idea – that it is expected that you always should have somewhere to go?  That you can say where you are going?

I can stack, scores of times over, all of the places I will go stretching on for weeks; I’m going to lunch in 16 minutes — I’m going to present to my staff in 76 minutes.  I’m going to another meeting after that.  At about 5 pm I’m getting on my bike and going home.  I’ll go to my couch soon after that and then to my Xbox for some Destiny and then I’m going to bed.  I’m going somewhere!  Life must be great!

I usually think that it’s a good thing to have somewhere always to be going.  I usually believe that this “going somewhere” brings meaning and belonging to my life; But as I was hustling around Portland the other day, I noticed a person who seemed to have nowhere to go and I started wondering.

You see, late last summer, the Mayor of Portland, OR, USA “cracked down” on homeless camps. So, I’m seeing homeless folks around my work area a lot. And I thought the other day, as I was bustling about, that they have nowhere to go!  More than being lost, more than not belonging, these people seemed stuck in place with no place to go.  In being lost you do have somewhere to go- home or something you know. But the homeless destitute person is not lost. He or she just has nowhere to go. Imagine what that must feel like?

To do this I had to truly grasp what it feels like to know I have somewhere to go — to really think about this reality of mine. I know I don’t even think about it. I just go. To my next appointment. To catch the bus. To the movie. To dinner back home. To work. And so on. What does that feel like?

Am I happy because I always have somewhere to go?  Does that mean if I had nowhere to go I could not be happy?  So what would that then mean for the homeless man with nowhere to go?  Does this make the homeless person unhappy?    So the homeless man got me to thinking more closely about my assumptions regarding the state of happiness and having somewhere to go.

Nietzsche said “if you have a why to live, you can bear almost any how.”

Sapiens author Yuval Harari suggests, “happiness is not the surplus of pleasant over unpleasant moments.  Rather, happiness consists in seeing one’s life in its entirety as meaningful and worthwhile” (p. 390)

Maybe the why can be also the where. For by having a place to go, I also have a why for going. And that implies meaning and worth. It has to be worth it to muster the energy to go, right?  And so it must be meaningful.  It must have a why.  Right?

So the poverty of the homeless maybe isn’t lack of a home or food or cash. It is maybe just having nowhere to go and therefore being unhappy.

But I think this is the easy and incorrect answer — one that most of us would auto-jump to based on all the biases of our Calvinist society of “do, do, do and go, go go.”  And so I challenged myself (and I challenge you now if you don’t already) to look at it the other way.  That by creating constant places to go we chain ourselves off from where we can truly be free which is the here and now — the always present and yet chimeric current moment.

“So often times it happens, that we live our lives in chains, and we never even know we have the key.” (Strandland & Tempchin, for the Eagles)

As I considered the “plight” of the homeless person and how sad it was that they had no place to go, I thought that I was really projecting onto him my cultural assumptions about happiness.  This person may be sad, but it has nothing to do with having nowhere to go. I may be happy, and it also has nothing to do with having somewhere to go.  In fact, it is despite having somewhere always to go to that I am happy, if I am happy.  And the homeless person might be much happier than I!

This expectation — that it is right and good to always have somewhere to go —  belies our foundational cultural belief that we should always be seeking, always searching, always on the move toward — happiness, good feelings, not suffering.  We crave and chase these interior feelings we think we must have so much.  In that chase we spend almost all of our time on the move — either avoiding that which we think causes us pain or towards that which we think causes us happiness.  But in constantly going somewhere, we never ever experience the miracle of the moment. And believe me, every moment is indeed a miracle.

The homeless experience some types of poverty no doubt — hunger, lack of shelter, poor health, being untouchable.  But spiritually a homeless person may be very rich, richer than I who always has somewhere to go.  Those of us rushing around going somewhere are not rich because we have somewhere to go. Those of us constantly on the move, always craving that next feeling of worth or meaning, we are actually the spiritually poor.  Because it is the craving of the next feeling of numinous happiness that creates a Heisenbergian human situation — the more we try to grab the next better feeling down the road, the more that thing changes and becomes impossible to actually have.  And so we keep moving on and on when in reality, we should stop, not try to grab the thing or go to it, but just watch it from our place in the moment.

Like I used to say to my toddlers,  and I should remind myself now: “stop moving around so damn much, you’re going to miss the show.”

Overcoming the Tragedy

Four months ago, way back in July when I could still delude myself into believing there are orders of magnitude more good than bad people in the USA, I wrote to recalcitrant Trump supporters:

The rise of megalomaniacal authoritarian fascists happens slowly but inexorably because people do not call out the obtuse and depraved.  The comparisons to Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, are not exaggerations.  Authoritarian Charismatic Tyrants rise to power because morally corrupt people or simpletons support them; but they also rise because Good people don’t expose the tyrants or their perverted supporters.

Now we are five weeks past the Tragedy and it is clear that there are at least 60 million American citizens who either acted stupidly or who actually are dangerously depraved. This does also mean that we have at least 62,000,000 people who acted in a considerably smarter way.  And we also have many many more who are just “asleep.”  In fact, given that there are 350 million in our country, it is possible that 4 out of 5 Americans are already acting smart and good.  And of the 60 million not so good, there may be many who want to be Good but just don’t quite know how.

So, what do we Good people do?

For those who acted stupidly, we feel badly for them.  It cannot entirely be their fault that they acted this way.  We should seek to understand how they could have acted so badly. And then we need to help lift them up to a more enlightened and open minded stance toward the world — to help them be the smart person they really are.  And I’m not talking whiz-bang-rocket scientist-eastern elite-front of the classroom sitting-smarmy smart. I’m talking just, well, common sense smart.  The kind of smart that allows us to know how to “do the right thing.”  The kind of smart we admire in hard working people who make good decisions, even those decisions we disagree with.  Supporting Trump is not a good decision.

So for those who acted stupidly we do not blame them.  We help them act smart so they don’t do things like vote for a person who hates them — whose behavior will undermine their lot in life.  Take the working poor, for instance.  Millions of working poor could be lifted out of poverty right now by the “overtime rule” congress and Obama put in place recently.  These working poor supposedly supported Trump.  But during the entire time prior to the election “Trump [had] vowed a massive effort to roll back a number of regulations from the Obama administration [and he] cited the overtime rule as one of the regulations he would hope to undo.”  These “poor, white, working class,” who inexplicably voted in giant droves for Trump, supported a guy who publicly states that he will harm them.  This is an example of acting stupidly.

I hate to break it to these people, but the President Elect loathes them.  He will do things that will make their lives worse. He finds their ilk dirty and embarrassing.  While he will pander to them at a massive rally, he would not spend any time with any one of them at a social event.  They would  never be invited to Trump Tower. If he were their classmate, he would ignore them in the hallway or rub Vaseline in their dirty poor person hair to give them a reminder that they are worthless in his gilded world of billionaires and aspiring sycophants.

Now, for the depraved; Good people fight them.  While it may be the depraved have a choice in their moral corruption, until they change their mind, we do not relent in our constant serving of the truth to those eager to dine instead on rotten double speak and lies.  When Kellyanne Conway tweets that Trump’s “victory” was a “landslide. blowout. historic” we Good people fight back by pointing out that no, actually, his “victory” was one of the lowest margins in the history of the USA and, in fact, the guy lost the popularity contest on a massive, embarrassing scale.

We do not normalize the behavior of the Potentate of Pennsylvania Avenue or his loyal supplicants.  If our congresspeople are Republican, we call them to let them know that we truly support a diversity of ideas — we wouldn’t ruthlessly fight your run of the mill conservative, for instance.  But to support Trump, dear Republican Congressperson, is to support all that is Anti-American.  For Trump has openly stated ideas that oppose the constitution and freedom!  And you will fight that support until we see new leadership in Congress that has American values at its heart.

And we don’t Pollyanna our way through this time.  Oh sure, work on staying positive.  But don’t overdo this.  There is really very little to be made light of here.  If you’re prone to optimism, please, consider obviating that impulse a bit until we have emerged from the Tragedy.  Don’t over post vapid and vacuous crap to your Facebook page.  Go ahead and do a little bit of that.  But use your time there mostly to fight the depraved or help those who acted stupidly.

Because this isn’t a normal time when open minded people are just sad to have your regular, run of the mill selfish and greedy conservative in office.  How wonderful it would be to have just that — oh how I long for the fantastical fabricated conservative trickle down fantasy of Ronald Reagan! Instead, we have a fragile, unstable, Narcissist, demagogue who is unfit to take office whom all of us Americans — conservative, liberal, centrist — should oppose.

Because he is the antithesis of America!

In my better moments (which I am embarrassed to admit happen very rarely) I want to fight the urge to discredit those who supported Trump.  I know that shaming them will do nothing to change them.  And so I put my selfish self in the Trump supporter’s shoes and say: If I supported an elitist, greedy, hoarding, over sexualized and predatory, selfish, arrogant, purposefully ill-informed, and profoundly unfit entertainer for president, I would WANT to be shamed.  I would deserve to be shamed.  I would thank my lucky stars that someone cared enough to drag me out of my myopia to see the light.  And so the Good people of this country should kindly and gently, but resolutely, bring to light the fact that we have much work to do in educating those who acted stupidly and fighting the depraved. Otherwise, “dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.” (G. Washington)

And finally, most importantly, we forgive –even forgive the depraved — If they change their minds; which all of us are (still) free to do.

An Admonition for the Recalcitrant Trump Supporter

I hate to break it to you…

Do you still support Donald Trump for president of the USA?  If you do, I hate to break it to you, but that makes you either obtuse or depraved. Translated that means you’re either stupid or you’re a really bad human.  But you don’t have to be, and I think deep down you’re really neither stupid or bad.

Now that may seem harsh.  And I don’t normally make such expansive, judgmental pronouncements about anyone I  disagree with, even when their ideas seem ludicrous.  I generally try to “attribute the best motive” (Noddings, 1984).  This means that even if I think the person before me expounding on the merits of, say, destroying “Obamacare” is insane, I attempt to understand the argument with the belief that they must have a good reason for believing it.

I’m neither a Republican nor a Democrat.  While I tend to believe Republicans are mostly selfish and narrowly obsessed with individualism– the GOP serving mostly to advance the interests of the frightened and greedy, I have never really attributed immorality or corruption to them.

And I often find Democratic Party ideas to be silly, onerous, damaging to individual liberty, or divisive — but not corrupt.  And in fact I do find an affinity for what some would call Republican Party values, tempered with Democratic Party standards – especially the Libertarian values.

For instance, I own a gun and believe in gun rights (as well as gun control); I tend to believe the federal government can be overpoweringly abusive at times (but regulations save lives and money); I think we ought to carefully consider laws with the original intent of the Constitution in mind (but understand we don’t live in 1776).

I’m not commenting on the obtuseness or depravity of the Democratic party right now, though, because the Democratic Party has not put forward a Narcissistic, ignorant, megalomaniac as its nominee to take over the nuclear codes and tend to the affairs of the most influential nation currently on Earth.

And so, if you’re a Republican now (or anyone) who still supports Donald J. Trump I am calling you out.  You are either obtuse or seriously depraved. If you want to be neither, all you have to do is stop supporting Trump.  Ideally you would renounce him and call him out yourself.

You are obtuse (at best) if you follow him blindly, without researching what the man truly is about.  But there’s not much we can do about stupidity.  We can just hope there are only a very small number of actually stupid voters in the USA.

But if you’re not following him blindly, then you are depraved — morally corrupt.  This is because Trump is not just someone to disagree with like Republicans before him were.  Unlike prior honorable Republicans, his ideas are rooted in evil, containing within them the potential to cause grave harm to many humans. His perspective on the world validates all of the hatreds and hostilities towards those in the minority in our pluralistic experiment of a truly egalitarian society.  It foments harm to others.

So, to be smart enough to learn about him and still support him, you support the destruction of the foundation of our country, harm to humanity, and the spread of ignorance.  This makes you a depraved soul.  A dangerous life form for our country and our people.

The rise of megalomaniacal authoritarian fascists happens slowly but inexorably because people do not call out the obtuse and depraved.  The comparisons to Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, are not exaggerations.  Authoritarian Charismatic Tyrants rise to power because morally corrupt people or simpletons support them; but they also rise because Good people don’t expose the tyrants or their perverted supporters.

All Good people, Republicans and Democrats and Independents, have a duty now to expose Trump and his supporters for what they are — the early blossoms of a poisonous Kudzu that will strangle and overpower our nation.

If you’re a Republican, you only have a couple of choices in order to save yourself and our world from your depravity.  You can be like George Will – a truly Smart and Good person and renounce your Republican membership for now.  Or you can be like Jeb Bush, another (surprisingly) Good and Smart person, and declare publicly that you will not vote for Trump.

To choose otherwise only exposes your stupidity or your inherent depravity.  Republicans do not have to be either.

Heaven on Earth

Mollycoddling Franco the Fiat just past sunrise on my quintweekly grind towards the monthly cashout, my pre-caffeinated gaze found purchase upon the most startlingly ridiculous question to consider so early — “If you die tonight? HEAVEN or HELL?

First of all, why tonight?  Why not if I die right now?  Because right now is the point.  But more on that in a moment.

First, well, damn.  What kind of perverted  mind conceives of such a billboard?  And right on my morning commute. Granted, most mornings I have made the far wiser decision to pedal my bicycle to my daily labors rather than use Franco…so, this particular billboard does not invade my usual daily existence.  Still, startled I truly was.

I mean, first of all, how the hell am I supposed to know the answer to this ultimately ridiculous question?  And who is the corrupted soul that believes he or she has the answer to this question — a question that completely misses the entire point of existence?  Also, how much money did they waste in making this inane billboard?

I am a Christian — a Catholic Christian to be exact (of course, many Protestant types out there would argue to their death that I am not even a “Christian.”  So much for their souls).  I am a Christian who does not prop myself up by this fantastical notion of “an afterlife.”  The concept of something coming after this incredible life — where every moment is literally a miracle — is so radically insulting to this moment that God gives us that I have never been able to understand why so many theologies rest themselves ultimately on this concept of “an ultimate reward.”

People.  The Ultimate Reward is right here.  Right now.  From the Christian theology, Jesus Christ even said it himself — Heaven is on Earth.  When he spoke about the “coming of the Kingdom of God” he meant it as it sounds — that the Kingdom of God is here on Earth when we as puny humans deign to actually act in the way of God…that is, to love each other IN THE MOMENT.  He was not pointing to some celestial reward, some pie in the sky nirvana, some cloudy angelic resting place among the cherubs, some lullaby land of virgins.  Some place we go to after we die.  No. We don’t.

If a person is going to “go to hell” rather than heaven “when they die” it is because they are already dead — at least symbolically they are dead.  They are already in Hell. Though they may breathe, their heart beat, according to the theology of my understanding of God through Jesus, they are dead to the reality of God here among us.  They refuse to live precisely because they focus on what may or may not come after.  How ridiculous and sad to have missed the grace filled gift of life right here.

It then, therefore, is a choice made by a person in the moment here on Earth; a choice to ruthlessly fixate on a reward that, by its nature, reveals the destructive selfishness of that person’s soul — a soul so wrapped up in protecting itself after the body dies that it fails entirely to heed the doxology of all religions — love one another. NOW.

There is nothing after this life here on Earth.  This impressive expansive gift that we have in our hands right now is the reward.  If anything happens after we are gone from this Earthly plane, it will not be anything that relates to what we call human consciousness.  Billboards like the one that startled me this morning are mere, but profound, distractions placed by depraved souls attempting to keep us hurtling on the highway to hell — the highway we ride when we fail to realize that the kingdom of god is here and now and that every moment is a miracle.



Bananas about Bananas

I hate bananas.  I just hate them.  I hate spelling the word banana.  I hate having to spend time going over if I put one too many n’s in there.  I hate bananas so much that I might even loathe them, which is an even more intimate relationship than hate; and that’s kind of uncomfortable, which makes me even madder.

Bananas actually bring me pain.  Even writing this is an exercise in agony because I have to keep writing the stupid word banana.

Yet, I keep eating them.  And this is a mystery to me that I cannot unravel.  I just always gravitate to eating bananas even though I despise them!  It’s not that I just kind of don’t like them; I abhor them.  I hate the smell. the taste.  the texture, GOD the texture, kill me gag me ugh.  I hate peeling them (and YES, I know the “correct” way to peel them).  I hate knowing that after I eat one and throw the peel in the trash that I will have to smell its underlying insidious odor the entire day reminding  me that not only do bananas suck but that I have yet again succumbed to the banana cult.

But why?  Why do I reach for that banana as my daily snack or breakfast item when my head is saying “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO”???

As I ponder, I realize that I am always being told to do the thing I don’t want to do because it’s “good for you.”  Or to do the things that are hard because “it will make you stronger.” The drill seems to be in the case of the dreaded banana that:

bananas are good for you; you hate bananas; eating them is really hard for you; you should not avoid things that are hard for you because  avoiding hardship is worse for you; you should eat bananas.”

Where did this messed up crap come from and how do I stop it?

Is this because I’m a first born?

Honestly, I’m confused and now saddened by this whole mess.

To make matters worse, something also says to me that “everyone else seems to like bananas, why don’t you?  Why can’t you be like everyone else?  Look how happy they are eating the wonderful banana!”  And so I reach for that stupid banana.  I peel it, hating it all the time, and I eat it and smell it and nearly gag.

How many other things do I do in life because someone told me

  • It’s good for me
  • Do the thing you hate cause that must be the thing that will make you stronger
  • It’s what everyone is doing?

Why can’t I be critically minded about these banana times in my life where I follow the same prescriptions about any of a number of things that, well, that just really suck and are nominally good for me at best?  Countless, I assume.  And I’m going to spend some time looking around at what those things are.  Maybe I’ll report back here on it.  Maybe you could share the things you find you do mindlessly like I eat bananas.

In the meantime, the only admonition about bananas I’m going to follow from now on is that a fisherman should never ever bring a banana on board the boat.  It’s bad luck and you’ll never catch a damn fish.  Of course, a few years ago, prior to hearing this desperate warning, I brought a banana on my and my friend’s boat while salmon fishing in Oregon.  I took the hated banana out (I, of course, was cursing the banana out loud because I hate bananas so much) and peeled its nastiness and my friend literally yelped that I HAD TO GET RID OF THE BANANA!  It was bad luck. Well, I ate the damn thing anyway, despite the new bad luck rule and despite me hating that society shames me into eating it because it’s good for me.  And about five minutes later I caught the biggest salmon of my life.

You know what.  Screw the rules and what society says.  Bananas suck and I don’t have to eat them.  Except, of course, when I’m fishing.

Be true to thine own selves people.





The Most Iconic Rock Song Intros of All Time

Spinfisher WordPress Image AngusYoungRock and Roll songs are based on very simple ingredients:

  • Three or four chords
  • A catchy “hook”
  • Relentless repetition
  • A short, inviting, but usually mundane lead in or “Intro.”

The Intro is used to introduce the main phrasing, sound, theme, and foundational melody — the catchy riff — that lures us in and keeps us listening to the song itself.  The song is what matters, not the Intro, though the Intro is important.  In other words, nearly every intro is a byproduct of the song itself.

But a few Rock songs go way beyond the call of duty with the song Intro.  These few Iconic Intros are works of art in and of themselves.  We could listen  only to these Intros to get something wonderful and unforgettable — something important way beyond the song itself.

I certainly have never forgotten the following Iconic Intros.  Each one is linked to a video of the song.  Enjoy and please feel free to give me your ideas on your most Iconic Rock Song Intros of All Time in the comments section.

Hells Bells — October 31st, 1980

Acdc_logo_band.svgHells Bells.  What can I say about Hells Bells?  The intro is so perfect; I remember the first time I heard the bell in the first second.  I was listening on my Walkman, headphones on, being driven in a car.  I was 14 years old.  I got goosebumps and actual shivers before the singing even started.  It simply and slowly wrapped it’s enticing darkness around me like a blanket until the time  when the singing starts; by then I was fully ensconced in the vibe of this epic, menacing tune.  And the building doesn’t really end with the end of the intro.  If you listen for it, the guitar part continues to build all the way into the second verse whereupon we are fully rocking along.

For Whom the Bell Tolls — August 31st, 1985

Metallica Logo

Metallica creates a song of punctuation and repetition in For Whom the Bell Tolls, offering the listener an all inclusive retreat into the existential reality of our doom.  The intro to For Whom the Bell Tolls is striking enough with the layered sounds building together and the staccato belting of the tom toms; but what makes it stand out is that the main guitar riff is first played by the bass player.  One must experience this live version from 1982 to fully appreciate how amazing this is.

Shine on you Crazy Diamond — September 15, 1975

Spinfisher WordPress Image Pink Floyd

It is at 2:10 into this 25 minute Pink Floyd masterpiece of old school Deep Track style rock — before the era of Album Oriented Rock ruined it for everyone — that my life changed.  The sly, not piercing but beckoning, single note from David Gilmour’s Stratocaster enveloped my musician’s heart and what burst forth was a bona-fide and unquenchable desire for true to life rock and roll.  That single note and the buildup to it — all by itself — would make this a masterpiece of an Intro.  But this Intro is so much more — lasting another 6:33 from that first guitar note until the first words — that it stands as a perfect work of art all by itself.

I will Possess Your Heart — March 18th, 2008

Spinfisher WordPress Image Death Cab for Cutie

For a song about stalking and the obsession of unrequited love, a relentless slowly building introduction that is longer than the song proper is the perfect way to begin.  And so it is with this recent pop masterpiece from Death Cab for Cutie.

The Spirit of the Radio — March 1980

Spinfisher Word Press Image Rush

Some intros contain such a unique sound or riff that upon the first note you know what song it is and what is coming; so it is with The Spirit of the Radio by Rush.  This introduction to an upbeat paean to the sound and joy and heartache of music gives us every single thing that rock is all about in 42 seconds.  We hear rapid fire distorted guitar arpeggiation followed immediately by powerchord/bass/drum punctuation, drum lead, then fade out of the original riff and the start of a brand new guitar line using a different guitar and a different sound — all surrounded by a crescendo of drums and bass until Geddy Lee invites us to “Begin the day with a friendly voice…”

No One Like You — March 1982

 Spinfisher WordPress Image Scorpions

Snare Drum — power chord power chord — single note Stratocaster scream.  Now, starting with a serious guitar solo is not that interesting or unique necessarily.  But the Scorpions in this intro do two things — first they introduce the piercing signature single note heard throughout the song that adds punctuation better than any other song’s single note since Candy-O (about 20 seconds in).  Second, the beginning moves from rock to something quiet and mellow flawlessly setting up the dynamic of the whole song from mellow to hard rock back to mellow — but always bringing us back to that intro that tells us that there really is no one like you.

Crazy Train — September 20th, 1980

Spinfisher WordPress Image Ozzy

First of all, there’s Ozzy screaming “Ahhhhlllllllll Abooooooord, hahahahahaha!!!!” and then the guitar…that rippin’ guitar journey up and down the fretboard into absolute Crazy Train lunacy.  In listening to Randy Rhoads seduce the electric strings towards the time for Ozzy to sing (scream), I can see how another Iconic Intro may have come to life (see Sweet Child O Mine, below).

The interesting thing about the Crazy Train intro is it’s pretty much the only good part of the song.   In fact, the mood of the song changes nearly completely between the intro, which is minor key into a strangely upbeat major key action in the main part of the song.  Still, it is iconic and unforgettable — makes you play air guitar no matter where you are.

In the Air Tonight — 1981

Spinfisher WordPress Image Phil Collins In the Air Tonight

Even though I really don’t like this song, it can hardly stay out of this list if for no other reason than the countless millions who have air drummed the 8 beat tom tom drum down to the beginning of the song.  another reason this intro is so interesting is that the intro actually includes lyrics.  Most rock song intros are instrumental only.  But Phil Collins’ numinous voice pleads on throughout the buildup, into the drum exclamation, and onto the main part of the song where the emotion becomes more angry and sinister in keeping with his message and his story.

Sweet Child O’ Mine — August 15th, 1988

Spinfisher WordPress Image Guns N Roses

First of all, this song absolutely rocks.  And it pretty much singlehandedly saved the 1980s from a swirling cauldron of hellish so called music parading around as something artful.  It was almost all hideous — poppish drivel from candy apple teenagers– sloppy sad pseudo British sounding crap from dark dressing folk — to hair band excess and non-sense.  Oh, and Ska.  God, why Ska? Guns n Roses saved us all and just in time for the 90s to wreck it all again.

But who can forget the hook of this Intro — of this entire song?  Even non-air guitar players cannot help but air riff on Slash’s pseudo-syncopated chromatic lead in to a superbly rocking experience.  Though it is super short for an Iconic Intro, Sweet Child O Mine is the  Sweet Riff that marked the beginning of an incredible song  and of the end of the Hell of the 80s.

So there you have it.  The Most Iconic Rock Song Intros of All Time.  Rock on!

The Way of Love

San Francisco Catholic teachers have been girding their loins for battle against their Archbishop, Salvatore Cordileone, who wishes to “include morality clauses in their handbook and labor contract” in “which a teacher could face punishment or dismissal for ‘escorting a woman into an abortion clinic, handing out contraception to students,'” or supporting gay marriage.  The Archbishop hopes to control his employees lives both inside and outside of the classroom with this approach.  Certainly the Archbishop has this prerogative, though the legality of making the morality clause a part of the employees actual contract might be questionable.

Legalities aside, though, the central question for me is how can we evaluate this morality clause in light of radical Christianity?  That is, if we go back to the root (radical) of what Christians believe Jesus wants from us –  to love God and our neighbor — how does this morality clause hold up?

First, it should be acknowledged that each of the three issues listed above are different.  For instance, one could argue that regardless of Church teaching, handing out contraception and/or fomenting an abortion for a child could be prohibited on the grounds that it would interfere inappropriately in the agency of the parents.  If nothing else, such a prohibition might save the archdiocese from many lawsuits properly filed by parents incensed that a teacher would circumvent their parental authority.  But this prohibition could hold up despite church teachings, not because of it.

The issue of gay marriage, however, stands in contrast to those two issues and is where Cordileone and his Club stands on very weak ground, indeed.  Nicholas Senz, a conservative Catholic blogger and student of theology, represents the thinking involved in this Club of Cordileone that serves as the sodden Terra non firma upon which the Church’s decidedly Un-Christian view of gay marriage rests.  And there are two problems with this worldview.

First, Senz writes that “[there] are some actions that are not good for human beings to do and that do not lead to their flourishing and fulfillment; and when we see others doing such actions [being gay], it is precisely our love for them, our desire for their fulfillment, that causes us to disapprove of those actions.”

This thinking is the jumping off point for the first problem with the church hierarchy so transfixed and confused by all things sexual: The problem is this — there is no evidence that homosexual “acts” are “not good for human beings.” In fact, plenty of evidence exists that gay men and women, freed to unite in love, actually do flourish!  And the converse is true as well — that gay men and women oppressed by a prohibition from uniting in love suffer.  Therefore, there is no reason to disapprove of these “actions.”  In fact, one could argue that disapproving of these actions is immoral.

Sadly, however, church doctrine has obstinately held fast to ridiculous human made beliefs about sexuality that have led to great pain and suffering. Human made suffering of humans — precisely what God and Jesus teach us to fight against.

To defend these decidedly anti-Christian views towards human love and sexuality, the Club of Cordileone employs a false dichotomy to invalidate those of us who believe in love as Jesus taught.  Senz describes us thus:

“These are the sort who see Catholic identity as a tribal designation as opposed to being rooted in a relationship with God in Jesus Christ through his Church and holding to certain beliefs about him”

And so this is where the second problem begins.  Senz, and the old school Church hierarchy, represented by people like Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, describes an immoral zero-sum world that does not actually exist.

What does exist is the fact that those of us who are Catholic and celebrate the love of two consenting humans — regardless of their gender — do both.  We belong to a community (tribe) of love and we are radically aligned with what Jesus wants for us all.

Senz concludes his essay by saying to us that “This is not the Catholic faith, and it is not heading that way.”  But the truth is that, albeit slowly and inexorably, this is actually where the Church is headed — finally.  We are headed on the path of love laid by Jesus.

The State of Marriage

Today the Supreme Court is hearing arguments about “whether same-sex couples enjoy a constitutional right to marry.”

There are many specious arguments being used in an attempt to convince the justices that gays and lesbians should be denied the rights accorded by the state for their unions — or marriages as we commonly refer to them.

The most specious of these arguments is the old Procreation Rationale — that marriage is meant for procreation.  The Procreation Rationale relative to “marriage” when it comes to the state is ridiculous, though, for a number of reasons.  For instance, for most of human history the protection of procreation was paramount to the survival of the species.  That is, if we did not reproduce, the species would die out.  From an evolutionary point of view, it made sense that humans would create a sacrosanct unbreakable institution to promote procreation — this is what we call marriage.  But with 7 billion humans on the planet, this ancient need for procreation is not necessary anymore.  And neither is the ancient definition of marriage being about procreation between a man and a woman necessary.

The Procreation Rationale is specious, though, mostly because the state — being a utilitarian entity —  does not, nor should it, care why people get married, except inasmuch as it is a legal contract between two consenting adults.

Indeed, the whole concept of the state recognizing marriages completely annihilates any romantic, sexual, biological, or theological understanding of this human relationship. The State is robotic, mechanistic, and most importantly, utilitarian — The State does not even care of you love each other. Marriage to the state is simply a legal agreement between two consenting adults which grants exclusive rights and privileges offered by the state to that couple. The state has an interest in this coupling which is why it offers these exclusive benefits. It stands to reason that if the state benefits from heterosexuals marrying, then it benefits from gays and lesbians marrying.

For people who want something more — endorsement that the marriage is sanctioned by God, for instance — he or she must go beyond the state, to the church, which stands separate from the state. A couple can do both, for sure, but only needs to be recognized by the state to take advantage of the benefits of state sanctioned marriage; and that should not be denied to our gay and lesbian neighbors by the state. Nor does granting them what is legally and constitutionally due to them have any affect on anyone else’s marriage.