Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Collapse XIII July 4th

05 July 20XX

My Dear Lucilius:

July 4th has come and gone, perhaps on the most memorable July 4ths in all my years.

I have long stopped following the major news outlets and so have no actual idea of what the government “line” is this year – but if it is like years past, it is undoubtedly filled with how far we yet have to go and how only through the Government, not the People, can we be great.

This year, things felt different.

No sooner had I finished my missive to you of 02 July than a knock came at my door. It was a young woman, whom I had never before met. She said she lived over on the other side of the main road through town. Someone had decided that we needed a Fourth of July celebration. A local rancher had donated a side of beef. There would be fireworks of some kind. Would I consider coming?

The “yes” was out of my mouth before I had time to think and consider the matter. And so, the afternoon of the 4th, I got into a semi-dressed mode, the kind of which I have not worn for many years on a day not a Sunday, and headed out.

Someone had opened up what had undoubtedly been a bar in a former life, had swept the floors of the dust and washed the windows so the light could come through. Red, white, and blue bunting was hung on the walls with the American Flag.

I would guess by the crowd present that almost everyone in our 110 or so odd town came along with the some of the outlying folks. The beef was as promised and everyone, including myself, brought a side dish (I had forgotten how much I missed potato salad). A trio of a guitar, string bass, and violin played songs, mostly of the patriotic and County and Western variety.

You would be rather proud of me – I conversed with a number of individuals. I met my neighbors down the road. I found another person that kept bees. And mostly against my own better judgment, I had a beer.

The fireworks were for the most party for the children and consisted of those “safe and sane” fireworks which are even now illegal in most places – but were appropriately enjoyed by all none the less. They also had sparklers, and everyone got at least one to wave in the dying light.

This is my country Lucilius: People celebrating their country, the fact they are free and, among other freedoms, have the ability to associate unmolested by the government. There was no discussion of current events or what the future might hold: instead, just citizens celebrating who they are are.

It was glorious.

America may be in trouble, but it seems the American spirit is as alive and well as it ever was.

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Dependent Individualists

We have become the most dependent group of individualist ever.

On the one hand, we completely value individualism (at least in Western society) to the point that the power to be me - really, the right to be me - has become an article of faith in modern society with an almost religious-like fervor.  The world can and should do nothing except accept me precisely as I am.

On the other hand, we have become a society that is completely controlled by the opinions of others - that dreaded "peer pressure" society that everyone preaches against, yet we somehow all seem to be in.  Opinions, actions, and beliefs that are not currently considered societally acceptable are driven from the public square with an animosity and a zeal resembling that of the Cultural Revolution. And in a rather amazing turn of events, elements of our society now need defending from words and ideas which they find to be offensive or "damaging to the psyche".

If you think that things are getting stretched to the breaking point, you would be correct.  Such a thing cannot exist in tension for a long period of time.  We are on the cusp of those who demand social conformance starting to eat their own side as, once they have driven out everyone else they disagree with, they will instinctively (but perhaps not consciously)  seek out new targets to ensure that their view is the dominant one - even if that means destroying one time allies in the process.  More often than not, revolutions always end up eating their own.

Sadly, we are almost at the point that every totalitarian society dreams of:  a society where individuals go after aberrant opinions and zeal which the dominant power can never match, reaching into every aspect of life where the government cannot reach.  And once people become used to living in such a society, they one day discover they have discarded their freedom for the privilege of being a societal slave, always living on the edge of having one's life destroyed by a stray word or thought or deed.

Do not believe me? Read the histories of totalitarian states, of Communist China and North Korea and Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany, even of Rome under Caesars.  And then get back to me on your right to "be" who you want to the exclusion of all other opinions.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Losing My Way

I have become deeply convinced that I have lost my way.

Oh, things are going swimmingly of course.  I am making more money than I ever imagined.  We have heat and food and clothes and cars.  Everyone is healthy and happy.  The bunny is well and the dog seldom manages to run out the door any more.

And yet, I am as deeply unsatisfied as I have ever been.

Life seems to be a long series of work, sandwiched between weekends trying to recover my good mood and energy.  I have to force myself to open my e-mail at work in the morning for the overwhelming amount of e-mail I get. My day is spent answering questions, refereeing arguments, and checking and double checking documents.

Oddly enough, I find that I enjoy precisely none of this.  It has become a great burden I shoulder Monday through Friday (and sometimes Saturday).

I have started asking myself if this is really it.  I should really be more grateful, yet my feelings vacillate between anxiety of not being able to complete the job and a growing sense of depression that what I am doing is what I will be doing for the rest of my time.  Any sense I have that I am filling a role that God has called me to has completely escaped me at this point.

I have tried to pinpoint - perhaps uselessly - the precise moment when everything went astray.  I think I know when it was, although I have no guarantee that the outcome of my life would be better than it is now.

It was 1996 and I was splitting time working at my cousin's Mini-mart and doing business college teaching, which I enjoyed although it always was struggle knowing if I had a job the next quarter.  I had just gotten a position at a second college for teaching when my Brother In Law called with a potential job offer in his industry (biotechnology).  It had benefits which my then-current job did not, so off I went with the responsible "adult"position.  I did enjoy teaching political science more, but benefits were benefits.

And if I look back, it always seems that my choices after that date have always come back to "follow the money"- even the time I tried real estate and came back (crawling) to biotech.  I suppose there is nothing wrong with that per se - after all, we all need to eat and make a living.  But following that path has gotten me to this point, where the connection between myself and my dreams (whatever are left of them at this point) seems completely divorced from my actual 168 hours of life a week.

I find myself torn.  On the one hand, I have to keep doing what I am doing to be a responsible husband and father.  On the other hand, the sense of not fitting in - and as result of that not being the best person for the job to the point I fear I will make an error - continues to grow.

There is a resolution of sorts here, something beyond my vision that I cannot fully see at this point but I know to be there.  No matter how I squint my mental eyes and look though, I cannot make it out at this point.

If I had more wisdom I suspect I would know better what to do.  Right now all I can do is sit and think and drive to work and do the work and continue to feel that something is fundamentally, terribly wrong.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

The Barricades

I love Les Miserables.

I love the story. I love the music (a great deal of it is in my singing range).  I love the themes and the messages.

And who would not?  Redemption, protest, sacrifice, nobility, a glorious struggle against wrong.  All within a three hour period.

Actual revolution, thought looks a bit different:

This is potential revolution, in reality.

It is not clean like the musical.  People are not nicely dressed - nor are we, as the audience, in our climate controlled atmosphere and comfortable clothes.  The air is full of smoke and shouts and gas.
And people really get hurt and bleed - not just the theatrical kind that makes us sigh and weep.

We have become so removed from much of the world around us that we can view such things and never think about what such things (which are still going on) actually look like in real life:  the injuries that maim, the deaths that take forever (instead of conveniently falling over after the first hit), the starvation of depressed economies.

I wonder the next time most people go to see such entertainment, can they go and see it ever the same again?

Jesus As Lord

"Jesus is Lord, and those who refuse Him as Lord cannot use Him as Savior.  Everyone who receives Him must surrender to His authority, for to say we receive Christ when in fact we reject His right to reign over us is utter absurdity.  It is a futile attempt to hold onto sin with one hand and take Jesus with the other.  What kind of salvation is it if we are left in bondage to sin?

This, then, is the gospel we are to proclaim.  That Jesus Christ, who was God incarnate, humbled Himself to die on our behalf.  Then He became the sinless sacrifice to pay the penalty of our guilt.  He rose from the dead to declare with power that He is Lord over all, and He offers eternal life freely to sinners who will surrender to Him in humble, repentant faith.  This gospel promises nothing to the haughty rebel, but for broken, penitent sinners, it graciously offers everything that pertains to life and goodness."  - John MacArthur, The Gospel According To Jesus

Saturday, December 08, 2018

A Few Words From...Paulo Coelho

“The two worst strategic mistakes to make are acting prematurely and letting an opportunity slip; to avoid this, the warrior treats each situation as if it were unique and never resorts to formulae, recipes or other people's opinions.”

“I have seen many storms in my life. Most storms have caught me by surprise, so I had to learn very quickly to look further and understand that I am not capable of controlling the weather, to exercise the art of patience and to respect the fury of nature.”

“Remember your dreams and fight for them. You must know what you want from life. There is just one thing that makes your dream become impossible: the fear of failure.”

(Hat Tip:

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Of Christmas Gifts And Changing Interests

Driving around this last weekend, The Ravishing Mrs. TB and I got to talking about Christmas presents, specifically the presents that we were going to procure for each other (I cannot complain - for most of the years of our marriage, I am only directly responsible for procuring hers).  

It is always a little bit of a fencing match, I suppose:  the question of who is going to name the first idea (and thereby set the price range) is always present.  There is also the realization that practically speaking, the acknowledgement that for most of the small things we desire, we can just buy them outright (not always the case, of course).

So I thought and I thought.  Finally I said "Most of the things I want are connected to Iai so I doubt we can get any of those."

This struck me as a very odd development.

Over the course of the years (and if you have read long enough, you have been through at least some of them) I have had any number of interests and activities.  I still have many of them of course, but over time most of them have slowly continued to fade into the background - it is mostly a time and space continuum thing:  not as much time available, so I have slowly started to focus on a few activities to the exclusion of others.  The big winners from this paring down are Iai and  weight training (writing, reading, and cheese now hold runner up designations).

It is funny how one thing tends to take over our life we when were not looking for it - and this is certainly not something I would have predicted 10 years ago.  My interests then were much more focused on gardening (when I had a good one I could grow) and bees and mead making.  Things changed, of course, and we ended up here.  And I ended up with a new interest.

What does wanting "Iai" things looking like?  Getting a new scabbard made.  Getting a sword fitted out.  Getting a higher grade of training gear.  And always, going to Japan to train.

Sadly, none of this fits easily into a stocking or is something that one can just procure at the local brick and mortar store. And that is okay - budgeting for it and waiting are part of the fun.  But is a remarkable thing that most of the less valuable things have been sluiced away by the years, starting (in small measure) to leave the nuggets visible.