On Israel, Again Cross-Posted From Facebook

Suppose a Palestinian Gandhi were to arise, who rejected violence, even violence in response to violence. Who worked to free the Gazans and the Left-Bank Palestinians, but steadfastly condemned violence as a method to achieve political goals. Imagine this approach sweeping through the conciousness of all the Muslims in the region, and imagine them saying to Israel: "We will never harm you, but we will never give up our rights, either." Imagine them persisting in this path despite Israeli persecution and provocation. I claim that eventually there would be peace.

Now imagine the Israelis doing the same. I claim that eventually there would be genocide.

The Israelis may be assholes, but they have been and are still fighting for their lives. Soldiers will always succumb to moral failings. Best not to have them at all.


Cross-posted from a FaceBook comment on a debate over immigration

The Declaration Of Independence has no weight in our legal system (although Ms. Brann once told me that it is officially labelled "Public Law #1"). But it does occupy a special place in American hearts and minds. In it, Jefferson writes that all are created equal, and that all have the right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I think of this as promoting a classless society, of rejecting old European notions that noble birth confers more rights than humble birth does. I think of it as a statement that it doesn't matter how you were born, what matters is what you do.

If you believe that Jefferson was correct, how do you justify immigration control at all? Have we not given up the goal of a classless society in favor of one where the nobility of birth on this soil makes one better and more worthy of rights and privelege than humble birth elsewhere in the world?

Illegal aliens get treated like shit, and anyone who buys fruit at a grocery store benefits from this. Why not let everyone in who wants to come and give all who come equal protection under the law? Perhaps we could demand a period of national service so that those who come benefit those who are already here, if that would make it more palatable.


Cross-Posted From A Facebook Email

Hello, *******. I am glad for another opportunity to connect with you.

Some of the apologetic character of my public athiesm is a recognition that I am a bigot where faith is concerned, and I try to portray my lack of faith as a failing rather than calling out the faith of others as error.

I am also trying to prod self-reflection in those who see faith as both a gift and a virtue (using virtue here not to mean strength but to mean correct choice and its resultant rewards). How can it be both? And if is is a gift, what is the correct attitude toward those who don't have it? Surely not condemnation--are you bad because you didn't get a gift?

Part of it is also a way for me to express my genuine pain at the lack of God. Your beliefs seem to have modified over the years, so I'm not confident in saying that you are a theist. If you are I have a question for you, and it is one of my questions for any theist: think of the times that you have turned toward your Divinity for comfort or imagine that that you found nothing there...think about how much harder life would be without divine presence and then will you approach an athiest, with condemnation or mere sorrow?

For the record, I don't think my anti-theist bigotry is unearned. Some of my earliest memories are of elementary schoolmates telling me I was going to Hell for my lack of faith, which always seemed like harsh punishment for something that didn't really *feel* like a choice to me. I lived on the far outskirts of Boise during my primary school years, and the budding friendship I had with the only boy my age within walking distace was derailed when he was forbidden to play with me due to my atheism. The Catholic Church has recently come out and said that at least a few non-Catholics will still mysteriously be saved by the Catholic Church's action in the world (even though such salvation will owe nothing to the erroneous beliefs of those saved), but in general it is an article of faith in most Western religions that lack of faith equals damnation, and I have lived my life feeling oppressed by that tenet.

Your unsolicited advice is sound, though I wish you had phrased it in a more "I give you credit for..." kind of way than a "You should give yourself more credit for..." way. I see it as mainly acceptance of me on your part, which I currently crave. There are plenty of changes I could make so as to have a more pleasurable or competently navigated life, but what I need from friends these days is to love me where and how I am. I've spent my whole life trying to be *better*, have I not yet earned love and acceptance for who I am?


Educating The Youth Using Money

I want my store to be a place of education as well as commerce.  To that end I am placing snippets of information in with all of the currency I sell.  Later I may do the same with the coins.  Here is what I have so far.  Feel free to read and comment. 

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Back To As Normal As I'm Likely To Get

I'm no longer manic, or Enlightened, or Spiritually Awake, or Completely Bonkers, or whatever combination thereof I was while writing my previous few posts.  I'm still sorting out what was happening and what it means for me going forward.  For now, amongst other things, I have the phrase "sesquipolar disorder" stuck in my head.  And I'm still entertained thinking of Cleo as having an Infinite Improbability Generator inside of her.

In fact, I spent a pretty pleasant week playing with my Spring Breaking kids, including the three of us enjoying season 1 of Parker Lewis Can't Lose on DVD (I like the show Scrubs, and I'm glad they are at least keeping the Parker Lewis attitude toward realism alive, but Parker Lewis has Scrubs beat cold).  I also put in several long days at my store, so instead of it looking like a tornado hit a thrift store's furniture section, it looks like a riot of colors in the shape of a perfectly good store, albeit a store devoid of inventory.  Inventory this week, then promotion can really get going.  I even had my first two sales while I was busy decorating.  My initial eBay sales are going well; this week I plan to begin selling sport coats on eBay as well as continuing banknote sales. 

I've had zero cravings for alcohol or pot, and feel cured in a way that is new to me.  Attempting caution, I'm still looking into treatment options, including Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.

I did, however, buy three cans of beer this weekend.  Fifty cents each at an estate sale.  Not to drink, but just because I wanted to be the only store in town selling Billy Beer.  Yeee-haw!

My Immediate Family

Here's the story of Cleo Patra,
Who had lots of courage and a Heart Of Gold.
She is a good girl, and we love her.
Yes! She is brave and bold!

Here's the story of girl Tesia,
Who was growing up to be tough, brave, and strong.
She is a good girl, and we love her.
And so we Sing our Song.

Here's the story of Woman Polly,
Who was Mother to each of these good Girls
She is a good Momma, and we love her,
Her hair has lots of curls.

Here's the story of a man named Eric,
Who taught us to sing this family song
He is a good Father, and we love him.
We know he'll come along

All of us together are a family,
And we love each other all we can.
Four Lyons, roaring out together
As we sing the music heard in God's Big Plan

In God's Big Plan
In God's Big Plan
Singing out the song of God's Big Plan
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How To Help

A Work Of Having Faith In People, Learning About Them, Helping Them, And Loving Them; Fueled By The Joys And Sorrows Of Alcohol And Life, And Containing Some Little Dumb Art

I am an angel.  My message is from you; to you.  And it is being carried over the Internet. The message is that I see you.  And know who you are.  And I am smiling.  And I love you, because I can see that in your whole self you are true and good, and worthy of love.  But I cannot help you, because I am an angel, and I want you to be who you already are.

When I was at St. John's College in Annapolis, I thought I could help people.  And since I was popular for the first time in my life, I loved many of the people I knew there.  So I wanted to help them.  And tried to.  Soon, I cultivated the image of a BSOC, Big Savior On Campus.  It was great.  My ego got a boost.  If God had an ego as big as mine, He probably wouldn't be so jealous.  And even better, I was helping people I loved.  What could be better than that, right?

Wherever I went, there I was.  But you know what they say, "Wherever You Go, There You Are."  I started to realize that people I helped still had problems.  The fact that I loved them had not changed, and nor had they, really.  Sometimes they were happy, sometimes not, just like before.

But at least I helped them for a time, right?  Or maybe they were a little better?

At that time in school women were falling in love with me.  But I was holy.

At that time, and since I was 13, I had a religion, of sorts.  My god was Love.  Pure chivalric love, as had been portrayed to me in King Arthur stories.

When my Mom was a girl and young woman in small town New Mexico, she was very beautiful.  Cheerleader.  Homecoming queen.  And always going and doing.  Not living a quiet, bookish life.  Very independent, she had gotten a college degree rather than getting married straight out of high school like her friends.  And after she married my Dad, she had even gotten away from living near her mother.  For most of my aunt's and uncle's adult lives, they lived a short drive from my grandmother, following her up to Boise when she later moved up there to be near my Mom.  They spoke on the phone at least once a day, and saw each other close to daily.  Not my Mom, though.  She was proud of her job and her kids and her distance and her independence.   And rightly so.

Now, of course, after the time when I was 5 she was coming back into her bedroom after a shower, MS caused a fall that broke her back, she didn't get around so well.  But she was still beautiful.  I still remember how she looked lying there after my bottle-fed from birth self ran in and she was sort of twisted there.  Lots of my childhood I don't remember all that well, like the part after she'd left for the hospital.  But this was a big day for me, being the first time I had ever seen naked breasts or a wet cunt.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a modern enlightened sort who thinks that what's inside a woman is more important than her appearance.  I never understood why my first girlfriend, the anorexic one, the one who used to cry for hours, cared so much about it.  And I was genuinely quite surprised when my second girlfriend, to whom I had never once so much as said a word about her appearance, started crying because I said that all our kissing was giving her a few zits.  (Not too surprised, though.  I had already learned by THAT point that if I loved a woman it would wind up in her being hurt and sad.  Heck, by the time I got to Polly it was just a habit.)

But back then was a different time.  A woman could just sit there and look pretty and still be worth something.  And my Mom was pretty.  Even those periods when she was swollen up from the steroids they'd give her (Man, nothing worked better than those steroids, let me tell you!).  She even splurged a bit and got very minor plastic surgery once.  She knew she was still beautiful and worth love.

Well, maybe not that time I was about ten and a pickup broadsided us and she got her face smashed some.  I bet she thought that was why my dad told her while she was there in the bandages all bruisy that he had fallen in love with someone else, but that he had not had an affair with her (turns out she wouldn't have one with him, but I think it came close) and was divorcing her.

But I don't think I understood that back then.  I didn't understand too many things back then.  I understood that I needed to help her (Remember helping people?  This is a post about helping people.), but I didn't understand why, despite all of my efforts to step up how helpful and obedient I was she kept telling me I was getting more "out of control".  I understand now about projection, but I didn't back then.  So I tried to obey her as best I could, even though I thought it was unfair that because my brother always complained when my mom asked him to help her and I tried not to complain, that meant she picked me to help her more.

And I didn't understand that she might be a wee bit sensitive about certain things when I finally disobeyed her and refused to go to my room once.  I didn't want to be too rebellious, so I didn't hold out long.  Just two or three requests.  Even after the third request I still wanted to show her that maybe I was a little out of her control, so I was going to go slowly and I was even going to highlight how rebellious I was trying to be by saying, "I'm going slowly. Like you always do."

I was a bit proud of my rebellion.  Not only hadn't I gone first time, I hadn't gone fast.  And I'd pointed out that I wasn't going fast. I clearly remember knowing that I felt odd as I was saying the bit about it being how she always went, but I didn't understand it too well.  To me I was meaning to point out my control of myself.  But I did understand I was being bad, because she wanted me not to be out of her control.

Thought my brother was overreacting a bit when he came in a few minutes later and told me he'd bash my teeth out if I ever did anything like that again.  Shook me up a bit, though.  Not as much as when Dad came over to the house a few days later and explained to me the nature of my offence and said that if ever did anything like that again, even one single time, he would beat me to a bloody pulp.  But at least now I understood what kind of thing I'd done, how bad it was, and what was the expected level of my being in control of my actions was.

Even today I think of that one comment as one of the worst things I have ever done.  Because I know how much it hurt my mother.  I understand that in a way you don't.  I also understand that one of the most helpful things my Dad ever did for me in my whole life was that conversation we had, because it gave me the strength and understanding to be able to be as careful toward others with my actions as I have been every day since then.  Oh, um, except for the days when I only have just enough control to PUT ALCOHOL OR DRUGS AHEAD OF MY LOVE FOR MY GIRLFRIEND, MY WIFE, MY FRIENDS, AND MY CHILDREN BECAUSE I AM NOT BEING A GOOD PERSON. 

Sorry about that.  Got a little loud there.  Anyway, as I was saying, I had a religion back then.  When I was 13 I was visiting my Dad in California, reading King Arthur stories.  One day I even sneaky read his journals some.  And found his account of how important love was to him, and how the greatness of love could be compared to mountains.  The most noble love, Everest, only a select few had ever attained that height with the depth of their love.  But with his love for the woman he left my Mom for he had at least made it to K2.

Lots more made sense to me then.  Funnily, I always kind of liked the fact that the divorce happened, except for understanding that it hurt my Mother.  And the part about how my step-father, who was consistently gentle and sweet and noble with my Mother, and to whom I am mostly grateful because he genuinely helped (just sing it when it comes around again) her feel like someone would love her and care for her and gave her dignity and respect that she needed to keep from starving herself to death before she was able to get me into successful adulthood, sometimes used to slap me, or throw me around, or stand over me and scream that just because I thought I was so smart didn't make me special and that I needed to stop hurting people.  I say mostly grateful because, even though his comments were completely correct because I had been bullying his kid, who he loved and wanted to not see harmed, and that that has HELPED me not to hurt people since then, he hurt my Mother when he hit me.

I made sure to part on good terms with him.  It was hard for me, but I wanted to tell him that I understood and valued and loved him for that.

I wish I could deal with that part of my life better, because that would help me find my step-brother Scott and tell him how sorry I have been in my adult life about bullying him.  And I could find my step-sister Melanie and tell her I was sorry for the time I hid all the dirty dishes in my room and then sat and listened to him beat the hell out of her for it because I was too much of a coward to face possibly getting beat myself.

The reason I always kind of liked the divorce is that after the divorce my Dad spent more real quality time with me.  I suspect that he did early on, too.  But there is a lot to do when your wife's so sick.  And it wears you down.  And my Dad has always been a good person, but he was always a weak one.  My Grandfather Carl, who was usually going places around the world with his really cool job so he wasn't there much, used to tell me how he loved my Dad more than my Uncle John because Mike always needed it more.

And now I understood why.  After reading Dad's journal it was clear that love was the most important thing ever, and that THAT was why he was willing to leave my Mother.  He'd always explained he loved both, but if you had a chance for attaining the highest love ever, you'd pretty much have to do it.  Using chivalric love as my model, I made it my goal to attain the highest love ever.  Not be the second best knight, Lancelot, who eventually had sex, but the best, Galahad, who never did.  Galahad kept himself holy, kept himself apart.  So I would be holy, and I would be a virgin.

It was easy to see how mine was the best model, because I was around high school boys.  I could hear them talk about sex, and it did not seem like they loved the girls they spoke of.  Disgustingly often, it seemed like they were downright mean.

And when I had my first girlfriend in high school, I swore I would always love her and remain holy for her.  And that was a dirty lie.  And I basically chose St. John's to follow her to school.  On the drive down to Santa Fe, I got the just friends speech.  I stayed holy and faithful to her until after I found out when she lost her virginity six years later.

So there I was, helping people, and being holy.  And having women who I loved and who were in love with me.  And not having sex.  But seeing that sometimes I couldn't help people.

And then I found a glorious, beautiful, young woman who loved me.  Or I was pretty damned sure she did. And I loved her, but not enough to be unfaithful to first girlfriend.  And she needed help, because others were so mean to her.  She had friends, but many times I would see her come in for inexplicable and unearned harm. 

And she told me she was going to kill herself.  I panicked and tried to help her.  I lied to her and told her I loved her with my pure, precious heart.  And broke it worse than anything but harming my kids ever could.  They are my last, best chance at redemption.

And by helping her, I hurt her.  I couldn't live with the shame and avoided her.  Hurting her again.  And was still too much of a coward to respond when she forgave me.  It took me seventeen years, but I eventually came back to her.  I've only panicked and tried to help her once since then, but I know she forgives me.

Come to 1994, now there is another beautiful young woman who loves me.  For a few years now I have been willing to break my great love oath, for a variety of good and bad reasons.

She loves me, and in a real, but to me seemingly insufficient way,  I love her.  And she is in pain, and I think I can HELP her. And I have heard tell about how love can grow over the course of a sexual relationship, so I hope that could happen to me.  So I tell her I love her, and we have sex.  And my heart breaks twice.

And I tried.  And many glorious and beautiful things happen, but I always feel it cannot work forever.  And my Grandfather Carl dies, who I have loved and who has helped me so much and loved me so much, and in such a true and real way.  

Things get a bit hazy here, what with all the drinking I was doing.  Eventually I break up with her.  And my heart breaks again, but I had it coming.  Hers does too, I thought, and I always knew that the only reason she had it coming is that I knowingly and with selfishness aforethought brought it to her.

And THEN, after the only time in my life I have actually drunk Everclear,  I did it to her AGAIN.  And my heart broke.  Again.

Three months later, of course, I have the best five days of my life with Polly.  Everything else we tried to do together, after that, is meaningless except for two things.  One is Cleo and Tess; the other is that she had a chance to help me, and break my heart in a way that surely would have finished it up altogether, and she decides not to break my heart.  To love me instead of helping.  That is one of her miracles, for she is a saint.  The essence of being a saint is that you are able to help, or that you are a martyr.  Sometimes the miracle is when they don't help.  I used to think she was a goddess, and I wanted to have her.  Now I don't want to have her.  And I know that she is a saint, because somehow in all the mess of our marriage and breakup, I figured out that sometimes it's not my fault that I fail, because she left me with no way to understand how I could reasonably have been expected to try harder, and that sometimes it is just their fault, and that logically, therefore, I am a good person. And that was her second miracle, and for that she is blessed.  And sometimes she still tries to help me just for me and not even for the kids, despite all the holy water under the bridge.  And that is her third miracle.  As sweet little Paramanunda said, enlightenment comes upon you slowly, like a sunrise.  And living in Seattle, I know that sometimes even this sunrise is hidden for a while longer behind the clouds.

And now I have two kids.  Every day I think they should, they go to school, more or less on time.  With clean clothes and lunches.  Else it's a Daddy day.  And we have Daddy Weeks, that they talk of and plan for all year.  And just about every glorious picture of themselves they draw has them smiling in it.  And I get them to their after school activities and playdates.  And I set up birthdays and holidays.  And we have taken several long trips, age appropriate versions of my glorious summer of '79,  a summer I have always treasured because it helped me to forgive my dad, who always thought he was a bad father, but I knew he wasn't.  For all he tried to teach me that I failed to learn, he and Mom did teach me that they loved me, and I never importantly doubted it.  And he taught me the second most important lesson of my life.  Which is that no matter what I do that may or may not help or harm my kids, my number one job as a father is to fill them so full of love that for the rest of their lives they never run out.

I don't always get as much help as I'd like from my family,

with my distant dad, who holds on to a love of money because his first true love, a love of love, he failed at because when he was twelve , his Mom and Dad surprised him by saying that they were getting a divorce, and that he had to choose which one of them he wanted to live with.  And even though he was so young, he was already smart enough to know that love really was the most important thing, and that he loved each of them too much to ever say he loved one less than the other, said that he wanted to stay where his friends were, because they loved him too.  And his mother, who had a bit earlier said that he could be with her, if he chose to be with her, left and he didn't see her again for three years while he went through puberty as a geeky kid who girls didn't want to talk to, and never even told him why.

And you know what?  His love of money, which he engages in in a beautiful and moral way that is not greedy but patient, and depends on his hard work and his intelligence to grow, is very easy for me to understand.  Because he taught me a lot about how capitalism works at its essence, and it's details.  And I have thought a lot about the Protestant work ethic, and how much it has built in this brave new world, including my beloved Internet, the only thing I have ever seen in this world that I had at least some way of viewing as a god, because it's everywhere, and it's right here, and people who are lonely and in pain because of diseases, or not enough love from other people can turn to it without understanding it, and it can help them, and it can hurt them, all in ways that are often, well, not mysterious, but WEIRD.  And I like it as a  god, because it's never jealous, and it could never possibly give a rat's ass whether you worship it or not, because while a need of people is to worship and have faith in their lives, a god has no business needing anything.  And because it's still growing and getting better instead of sitting there being needlessly and unhelpfully perfect.  And because it gives any person connected to it a chance to put some weird-ass bit of themselves out there, and lets them see all the other weird-ass bits of other people that are out there, including this one thing this person had as a signature line, "Everyone is unique, except me."

And I have seen all the good things money has been able to bring into my life.  Money I got because a man in my family in never even MET worked hard, and was intelligent, and was patient instead of greedy, somehow left it to me when my Grandmother Nancy, who I loved did everything she could to help me, and taught me, both directly and through her daughter, who SHE loved, and who was taken from HER in a heartless, and slow, and agonizing way, to become, as she and my Mom always used to say, "an educated man", died.

I always say I never cared about money, but of course I knew I wasn't being honest.  How could I not care about something that lets me not have a job I hate, where I have to do things for people whose goals are not mine, and who often pursue those goals in stupid ways, and sometimes immoral ones, and lets me just play with my kids.  And whose lack limits and oppresses all my newfound wonderful friends on my blog.  The problem isn't that there are too many rich people, the problem is that there are too many poor people.  And don't hate the rich, either, for they know not what they have, nor what they could do with it.

and my brother Greg, who I love, and who was always a kinder brother to me than I was to him, which was his job, because he has always been my big brother, getting HIS heart broken because his own disease, OCD, which he has for no fault of his own, whether or not he has done enough of a fearless, searching, moral inventory to have figured that out, has kept him from getting enough RETURN love from them, seeing as how he was too broken up to see them for four years after Tess was born, because he was always the one who really, truly, genuinely wanted a woman to love him and be his wife and really, truly genuinely wanted kids, while I just wanted a life without responsibilities, where I could travel around and see and do great things (sort of like a knight who would go on a quest, without any woman he loved being right there going along with him), saw me at his wedding with everything he ever wanted and hoped to get, saw it there in the same wedding room as the woman he loved in a real, true, and valid way (and also with the woman who didn't love him, oh yeah, she was there too)

but I do get help from Tona, who loves ME, and who I love but would never want to marry, for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with her, and, unbelievably, incredibly, is okay with that, and is happy with what I can give her, without making me feel crucially bad because I'm not willing to give her more, and is always willing to come love me where I am, although usually I come love her where she is.

and I get help from Uncle Aaron, who drives me to Olympia when I'm sick because he just can't not help me, even though I imagine that it sometimes horrific, and he even lets me drink (and sometimes puke and then keep drinking) on the drive down, and who I spend too much money going out to lunch with, even though we don't get to go out to lunch as much as we should.

and I get help from Shilo, who I love deeply, whom Polly helped learn to read big words like the ones in this blog, and whom she fell madly in love with so that she broke up with me, and who I always, at the time, suspected secretly loved me more than he loved her, although I never knew how he came to that realization so early, and who acts like his best friend Tommy Lee when I talk about soccer with him, which I love to do, and who has been through so much mind-burstingly bad stuff in HIS life that I just don't have the strength to get into it here, or help him with when we are together.

And I get help from Polly's family.  Tia Jo, the baby of the group, who all the others took care of so heroically. Who found Teo Jorge, a man who I am a good enough judge of character to know is a very good man, and who has the happiest life of the sisters, even though she drinks to drown her guilt that she was the only one that got out, and because she has to live so far away, and who used her business skills and her love of Latino culture to find a job that lets her live on the other side of the Earth but still allows her to come visit so much.

And Corrie, Polly's soul-sister, who had the courage to stand up to the Devil, even though the law didn't believe her (and neither did that BITCH, Elizabeth Loftus, who wrote her book about it without even trying to talk to her) so that the mess could start being stopped, and who has an ability to keep on loving and teaching and helping despite all of this and has only just asked for a life for herself, just a little but good life for herself.  And now that there is dear little Amanitore, I hope the two of them are always blessed.

And Kathy, who really sincerely wanted to love and protect her kids, but couldn't enough because she was being abused, too, and because her family messed her up so bad that she has to hide her true feelings whenever anything bad comes up, like the truly, but inconsistenly terrible way poor, sad misunderstood Jeff treats her pure Tina, the only Christian I've ever met who, despite not understanding all of the garbage that comes with Christianity, is just fundamentally happy if someone gets to be closer to God.

A tragic result of my drinking is that, in her panic that more of her beloved little girls were getting hurt, for 30 seconds suggested that Cleo and Tess be taken away from me, meaning that despite how much she deserves my love, and has it, she is my direst enemy.  But only until Tess is 16.

And so I take care of my kids, and try to open a store that shows kids that money is fun, and you can do great things with it, like see back into foreign lands and far out into mysterious times, as long as it doesn't cost too much.

And I try to help them not worry about their cats, who are left alone if I am sick.  And I take care of the little animals, too.  I hope I do a better job taking care of them in the future, a little bit for them, but mostly because my children love them, and if you learn what someone really truly loves, it will help you help them.

And sometimes I drink, remembering faithful Thomas's naming of it as undifferentiated, numinous, experience.  And how wonderful it was to drink at St. John's, which was not a Christian college, though it was a very religious one, the only community I ever felt like I belonged in until now.

And sometimes in my pain I may make it seem like I'm just waiting until Tess is 18 to drink myself to death.  But that's just the starkest, messiest way I have of saying that deciding to become a parent was the biggest tradeoff I ever had to make.  And that at some point, the one and only thing I really, truly need, that anybody truly needs.  Which is a life that is really truly mine.

But I don't mean it.  I'll figure out how to stop drinking.  I'll figure it out myself, as the Suicidal Tendencies would say.  Trust me.  After all I've been through, and how I've handled it, and what progress I say I've made, how can you say I'm crazy?

You see, when you try to help someone, you are making both a judgment and a prediction.  Judgments can sometimes be in error, and the future is fundamentally unknowable and unpredictable.  Always consider whether that person might be better helped by you just trying to love them as they are, where they are.

So yes, I want to be helped.  And sometimes in drunken pain and confusion, I have asked for it, needed it, and been given it.  I'm writing this to give you the information you need on how to do it better, without hurting yourself by being sad.  It's very incomplete.  And some of you will try to help even though you can't understand all of it.  That's okay (Grandpa Carl's universal word), I forgive you, and love you for it.  Trust me, it helps. 

Socrates taught me that philosophy was about seeking what was good and beautiful, and reading of his death was the only thing that could reach me when Grandpa Carl died, so I have always tried to keep my Plato with me.  And Aristotle gave me his Ethics, which I understood to be about how to achieve happiness by walking a middle path.  I always wanted everything, though, the lesser and the greater and the middle.  About half my life ago I was writing about Existential Hero Achilles, or the Go-Kart Of A Priori Knowlege.  I even wrote a sophomore (SOPHomore, as beloved Old John would say) essay titled, "God, the Universe, Mankind And Me", though I no longer remember what the actual topic was. 

My first sophomore essay was titled, "Why I Hate Epictetus, Another Look At The Fall Of Man"  wherein I opined that a good way to interpret the Garden of Eden story was to note that whenever God did something, he saw that it was Good.  And that the snake said that eating the Fruit of The Tree of Knowledge would make you like a god yourself.  And that he was right.  The only sin was shame.  Eve and Adam were too young to know how to participate in Good and Evil directly, so they made morals to cover themselves.  God sent them out of Paradise, not to punish, but because they weren't ready for it yet.  He at least gave them better morals. (I've always said, if God had wanted us to use napkins, he wouldn't have given us pants.) 

Whereas Epictetus said, "Keep before your eyes, from day to day, death, and exile, and all things that seem terrible.  For then you will never set your thoughts on what is low, nor aspire to anything beyond measure."  I hated that, because it meant that you spent all your time with these terrible things before your eyes.  And I thought that we would always achieve more if we strive for the good than if we try to avoid the bad.  And I still think that.  Only now I have learned to love former slave Epictetus, because his is a philosophy for older people, and I've learned that those things already are before your eyes from day to day, and that to not see them is an injustice.

And that they only seem terrible.

Epictetus said that the essence of good and evil was an attitude of the will.  Which brings us inevitably to Nietzche, who I have been reminded of as I write, because he too had these glorious burning things in his head that he had to spew out before the madness, which wasn't really syphillitic, killed him.  He at least knew with his joyful science, that someone who was human, all too human, was beyond good and evil.  He just didn't realize that beyond good and evil there is only everything, and couldn't see from his mountain, which he had to wander to all by himself, with everybody else in front of him so far he could just barely see them, that everything is the Promised Land.

When I first read Nietzche. it was my Junior year.  The year after my homeless year, which hadn't even yet started but had been planned when my Mom died.  The homeless year when I had so little, in a sense, but had so much.  The homeless year when Andrew died just getting started with his homeless year and his quest to see the world on his bicycle steed.  Poor sacrificed Andrew, whose beautiful locks suddenly had a mortally traumatized brain, which meant that many deserving people could see through his corneas, or use his
heart, or lungs, or big liver, or kidneys.  I learned from him that when someone dies, keep them with you, use as much of them as you can, and tell joyful sad stories about them (like the ones Grandpa Carl used to tell me about everywhere in the world and about fortunate life) so that others will be helped by death, also.

And at his memorial service, when my beloved Thia, whom I had earlier known as Cyn, and who loved me and thought that she was filled with poison because of what had happened TO her and once had a dream where she saw my smile (I was always good at smiling, what with my goofy grin) and it was like a gentle rosy-fingered dawn for her,  also loved Andrew and at least had been with Andrew once, spoke instead about how just a month ago her grandmother had died, and instead of saying things about him, she spoke about her own pain.  Years later I remember and understand, and I love her.  And I know she has no poison in her.  And I am smiling that smile especially for her.

When it came my turn to speak, I basically couldn't.  All i was able to stammer is that I remembered one time Andrew had hugged me and he was wide.

I was never good at speaking at memorial services.  When my roommate Steve, who balled that jack like Jack would have wanted, no seatbelts or sense, weaving in and out of traffic in snow and broken windshield wipers, going way too fast, belching dense, black fumes out the back, stopping only to pour quarts more oil into his duct taped (my memory's not perfect, and says nothing of this, but I bet it was the same brand of duct tape I got crucified to the ceiling with, after Jim said "I'm Bored", and Scott said, "We can take Matt's car" and we all said, "We can do anything!  We're THE LOFT") holey engine, until his engine stopped with an eartch, the things I said to his parents I said trying to help them, but I didn't know them very well, so I didn't do a very good job of it.  I had feared he died of alcohol, but it turned out he had not had any alcohol, just pneumonia, the night he died.  But alcohol had a dirty hand in that, too, because as he retched in the bathroom, and then staggered through mine with a look in his eyes that I only sort of recognized at the time, having only seen it on Hank Gathers's face just more than a year earlier.

Steve taught me not to be afraid.  Because after you'd ridden in a car HE was drivin' you'd never be afraid again.  And he taught me how not to be afraid, which was to laugh, because how could you not laugh when he didn't want to take the bus home with me, because in the morning a place would fix the engine we'd all heard making that sound by putting a new oil hose on it.

All my life comedy has been my most [still working on this section].  Hobbes said it was sudden glory due to realizing that you were better off than someone else.  Of course, now I know he's right, at least the sudden glory part, but wrong about the last bit.  So often we see laughter in someone else's pain, because secretly we are afraid of our own pain, and laughter helps us not be afraid.  And he's just not quite right about the sudden glory part either, because the essence of comedy is that you can keep working on it as much as you want, and that you feel like you should keep working on it in the future, and that you enjoy the work you're doing on it now, and you remember fondly working on it in the past.  I could even say that it is a moving image of the eternal, but it would be even better to say that it's uh... [darn it!  I just had this bit, and then I stopped to fix up the other bit a bit better, and now I can't remember how this bit was supposed to go].  So I can't tell you what laughter is, but, I can tell you that it's FUN.

And fun makes for a good place for me to get back to the kids.  But we were talking about Nietzsche.  And Nietzche is something you should only give to a child if they have wise adult supervision.  But you should find a way to give it to bright children, because of something said, fittingly enough, about Wagner, by my sophomore music teacher Bill Pastille, who showed me how to listen to a piece of music for the first time, by analyzing it to hear all the things it's saying, but making sure to remember that anaysis of anything is just analysis, so don't let understanding get in the way of meaning. In my Don Rag at the end of my sophomore year, knowing that my mother had just died, he said "Mr. Lyon did not write a music paper, but I'm sure that if he had it would have been good.", taught me that your mind is not bigger than your heart, and your heart is not bigger than your mind.  Your heart and mind are big TOGETHER.  No wonder they all looked so happy after they had voted him tenure.

He said, "How else are the students going to experience pure EVIL?

My school had this wonderful policy called Sanity Leave, where any one of these earnestly seeking kids who was too messed up and in pain and needed a break, could go to the Assistant Principal's office and ask for some time for themselves.  Everyone needs some time for themselves, sometimes.  We should all work at a place that has Sanity Leave.  My assistant principal was Mr. Verdi, and he was also my Nietszche tutor, both my Junior and Senior year, and had a degree in Experimental Psychology.  He looked at me, with my wild eyes, and my shaky hands (Actually, my hands have shaken my whole life, an inheritance from both sides of my family.  There's this thing called a  Benign Essential Tremor which makes my hands shake all the time.  And it makes my hands shake more when I'm extra nervous.  Of course, everyone's hands shake when they're extra nervous. ), and he saw my foot-and-a-half tall Mohawk and, he heard me declare, without a precis, "I NEED SANITY LEAVE!"  And after a moment when for the only time in my life I saw him taken aback by anything, he
asked, "Are you sane?", I said, "NO!", and he said "What do you plan to do about it?"  And I told him I was going to go to a friend's and watch TV.  He very wisely said that that would be okay, as long as I still came to just my Nietzsche class.  This did not teach me that kids should sometimes get to sit and watch a tele-vision, because I already knew that.  What kid doesn't sometimes like to watch TV?

I needed the sanity leave, because after all that had already happened to me, and with all I was looking for, I picked up Nietszche for the first time and he did his big old crazy wild beautiful glorious spooky bad Nietszche thing all over me.  And I had sanity leave and watched TV at BOPVITO with Eliot Duhan (not his real name).  And I kept reading my Nietszche, wherein at some point Nietszche said that eating TOO MANY potatoes made you an alcoholic.  You want to know how EVIL Nietzche could be at times?  I know that he meant that as an Irish joke.  And now I know that the joke was being made soon after the Great Famine.  And that's pretty darned Evil.  But not pure Evil.  Poor sad lonely Nietzsche, who wanted to break the world across his back?  Evil?  Well of course he was, because he wanted to be everything, both good and evil.  Nietszche teaches me, and I will teach everyone else, eventually, that PURE EVIL  is when there is someone, ANYONE, in pain, and they don't get help because there is something about them that a prejudiced bigot does not like.

I said earlier that I wasn't much good at speaking at memorial services.  I have always been good at speaking at weddings, because they are happy places, and I do well at happy places.  Chris, RobandorMolly, Dianne and Mat, Liz and David, you know what I said.  My personal favorite was the first, Elizabeth and John's, two of the gentlest folks you could ever hope to meet, and who home-schooled their own two beautiful girls.  It was a ceremony in the style of the Society of Friends, which is a very beautiful style.  In one part, the friends fall silent and wait, so that the Spirit can move through them. 

At my Preschool I got structure, but I was allowed to seek out and learn about the things I was interested in.  And I found my Lane there, with whom I used to giggle, because mice kept coming and eating our Tuna Fish Sandwiches when his mom wasn't looking, and one time it was his turn to bring snack to class and he fell down the stairs and skinned his elbow and knee and smashed all his Cookies.  And I remember looking at his blood and for the first time I wondered if I was a very unusual kid, because I could see my best friend crying and in pain, and that that didn't really bother me.  Instead, I was wondering if there were any cookies that weren't broken. My First Best Friend Lane taught me all kinds of things, and most of them very fun to learn .  The one that wasn't was the one caused when he had to move away and I never saw him again, and I've been sad about it ever since.  Sometimes kids have to go where their parents need to take them, and that's okay generally, but that parents need to remember that their kids have just the same rights as they do, except that parents also have the right to say, "Because I said so, that's why.", always keeping in mind that a parent's number one job is to do what is best for their child, which does include helping them stay in touch with their friends, if possible.

I never went to Kindergarten.

I was in a Catholic school named St. Mary's for My First Year Of School (my parents thought I was ready).  When I was there I received something that was called Communion, which consisted of something called the Body Of Christ, which seemed like a little piece of bread, and something that was called the Blood Of Christ, which had a Dionysian taste.  And if you think I'm going to tell you what this taught me about Communion, YOU MUST BE FREAKING NUTS!  Because St. Thomas Aquinas taught me long ago that FAITH IS NOT AN ACCIDENT OF BREAD!  But I will say that that is the First Time I Had Alcohol.

I remember that I felt guilty when I was there, the same way I have always felt guilty in every church I have ever been to since then.  And it has kept me from seeking out Mosques, and Temples, and Wats, amongst others.  That's a shame, although now I am looking forward to seeing them all.  I said all the other words, same as everyone else.  But I tried not to say the word God, because I thought I didn't believe in God, and that therefore I shouldn't SAY THE WORD.  And that was unlucky for me, in a sense.  The rest of my life, since then, has been so unbelievably lucky that in a small way I began to question my faith in a complete absence of God in the World.  My rational mind just couldn't figure out why the gods of parking would let me find a parking space in front of Katz's, or all kinds of things.

What this teaches me, is that I don't know God's Name.


Helping Christians Not To Hate, And Why I'm No Good At Helping People

Hi Kathy and Nick,

I've been going through some more rough times with alcohol, but this time the bender wasn't too bad and the aftermath is leading to a lot of good things.

I'm examining my beliefs on the subject of God, as it is clear to me that my Atheism causes me pain.  I already knew that, in fact.  What's new is considering what to do about it.

Now don't get too far ahead.  I still can't really imagine how I could believe in the God of the Bible.  But I'm at least trying to look around a bit.  I'm going to be talking with an old college friend of mine who is a Jesuit priest about it.  I don't need debate from you, I need it from him.  Of course, love from you is always great.

I was looking at one of the things that Christians sometimes say that is hard for me to accept, and in doing so came to appreciate Jesus more than I did before.  So I thought I should share it with you.  Please don't think I'm attacking you, even if it turns out you think I'm wrong.  How you interpret Christianity is your business, as far as I'm concerned.  I'm just trying to help you love God more the way you want to.

The thing that always bothered me is the idea of hating the sin but loving the sinner.

Jesus never said this.  He said love your enemies and love your neighbors, don't judge people, forgive them.

If you hate the sin, you are hating and not loving.  It's just too hard to hate a sin and not slide into hatred for the sinner.  Let God worry about what is sin and focus on loving and forgiving.

I know that you are afraid Polly and Corrie will end up in Hell.  The idea hurts and scares you.  In your hurt, you start to hate their sins, because you fear their sins are the things that will take them away from God.  Do you really think God won't step in and save your wonderful daughters?  Don't have fear and hate, have love and forgiveness and hope.  Let God take care of both you and them.

I love both of you, and wish you well.  I'm getting better.



And you know what?  I did this out of arrogance, pride, anger, and desire for revenge.  And knowing that I'm really manic, which clouds my ability to do the right thing.  I love Kathy, but she is my most dire enemy.  I deliberately tried to change two other people for very selfish reasons.  Fuck 'em, just to see the look on their face.
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