Blog Archives

The Cost of Freedom

Recently I’ve been seeing a lot of this quote:

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants” – Thomas Jefferson.

It has been suggested that this is to be understood as a call to arms against an unjust government. That would be an incorrect interpretation.
The quote is out of context. Try reading the full quote:

“God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion.

The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive.

If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. …
And what country can preserve its liberties, if it’s rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms.

The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them.

What signify a few lives lost in a century or two?
The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
It is its natural manure.”

– Thomas Jefferson, November 13, 1787, letter to William S. Smith, quoted in Padover’s Jefferson On Democracy, ed., 1939

The emphasis is mine. This is my take on the above quote, and what it means in the context of the changes going on in our country.

It is the solemn and patriotic duty of every American Citizen to loudly protest against any government action they do not understand.
It is the solemn and patriotic duty of every American Leader to engage with equal fervor and EXPLAIN COMPLETELY to the people the action being taken.
It is the solemn and patriotic duty of every American Citizen and American Leader to engage in this debate.

It does not matter that the communication of this information may take time, or expense, or that some people will never understand it.
It does not matter that the U.S. population is 100x greater now than when Jefferson wrote his words in 1787.

The people have a duty to protest, the leaders have a duty to explain.
If the current leaders are mystified at the reason behind the vociferous opposition to Health Care Reform, it is because they have done a PISS POOR JOB OF EXPLAINING IT!!

Barney Frank lashed out at a citizen during a town hall meeting recently because he believed her to be a nutball. I believe her to be confused.
The debate about health care reform is not going to be solved through ad homenim attacks on the proponents or opponents.

The questions remain:
Why do we – the whole country, not just the uninsured – need health care reform?
If health care reform is needed, why is THIS the best way to do it for the whole country?

Can ANYONE point me to a link where these questions are answered succinctly and completely?

Near hits?

So I had the pleasure of a break failure earlier today. Very nearly slammed into the rear of another car at an intersection.

It’s interesting what goes through your mind at moments like that.
Mostly “OH F**K!!”

Anyway, I survived, the sidewalk survived, and the truck is in the shop costing me just under $1800 to fix.

The adrenaline rush got rid of my headache for awhile. It’s back now.
Off to the ankle surgeon!

No tendon tear in ankle so no surgery for now. Looking at something called PRP, involving a plasma injection. IDK

Must do research.

Day Four?: Aftermath

Woke up @ 5:15a this morning incredibly depressed, due in no small part to the massive migraine which caused the rising sun to split my head wide open exposing my brain matter to the open air.

This in turn led to a ritual genuflection at the feet of the Porcelain God.
As I lost my self in the religious ecstasy of mandatory prayer, I considered how I had come to this place. Both in a specific literal sense, and on a more ephemeral cosmic level. This just made my head hurt more, but being a sadist I tortured the poor soul already bent in obeisance to excretory demons and continued the thought.

My immediate situation was readily solvable. Unsupportive bed, over indulgence in wine, lack of appropriate hydration, and a genetic propensity for migraines.

Which led me to Part 2 §42.1(a)
[Sorry, still suffering aftershock from the bar exam].
My genetics, and with that my conditioning.
The whole Nature vs. Nurture debate started playing out in my head.

Surprisingly, like Occam’s Razor to a Gordian Knot – a voice whispered simply: Template.

Meaning thus:
Each of us is born into this world partially pre-determined. We are to a great extent limited by our genetic inheritance. Notwithstanding modifications due to modern science – If you are born with short genes you will be limited to life activities not requiring height, conversely if you are born with tall genes you will be excluded from most carnival rides.

However, while some characteristics of who we are are fixed at birth, the vast majority of characteristics pertinent to modern life are acquired through our programming as applied to our genetic template.

For example, let’s say you are born with heightened dexterity – you may be able to do a wide variety of things requiring heightened dexterity: Surgeon, laparoscopy operator, juggler, gem cutter, pickpocket, etc.

What you end up doing and who you are is largely programmed by your family, your culture, your geography, and your other genetic traits.

I’ll use myself as a specific example.

I was born with relatively tall genes (6’4″), a medium-large frame, naturally good eye-hand coordination, exceptionally strong calves and thighs, high proportion of fast-twitch muscle fiber with excellent recovery time. These genetic feature could have led me into any number of athletic pursuits Tennis, Baseball, Football, Cycling, Running, etc.

However, I was also born with Asthma. This in and of itself does not preclude those athletic pursuits. How the condition is managed and the attitude programmed toward it is what determines the likelihood of pursuing those endeavors.

In my case, I was treated by very good – but very cautious doctors. I had the support of a mother who had seen how bad my Asthma attacks were, and spent her time very concerned that I would over exert myself and collapse. Her fears were not unfounded, when I was a child there were other children in my area who had died because of severe Asthma attacks. This however led to my developing an attitude of fear and loathing regarding physical exertion in general and exercise specifically.

This alone may not have completely prevented me from engaging in “fun” physical or playground activities. However, my disdain for all things physical was enhanced by my father in two ways. My father is a highly educated and cerebral person who was nonetheless an avid sport participant when he was younger.

As I said he discouraged physical activity in two ways:
1) Many philosophical discussion about how the physical body is not important – this was a popular late 19th early 20th century protestant stoicism position. “The soul is all, the mind for interpretation, and the body for carrying around the other two”.  So I began to consider my body as a mere vessel for my brain.

2) As I said my father was an avid sports participant. He used to take me with him to his basketball games and what not – and make me sit on the side and watch. Talk about boring. There were a few instances he tried to engage with me in sports, but he grew quickly frustrated with my lack of coordination (gangly pre-teen) and lack of stamina (asthma) and did not encourage me to overcome these obstacles.

So disdain, grew to an active dislike and shunning of all things physical. It took me decades to even realize that my attitudes had been so skewed that I had taken to actively neglecting my body and health in general. This of course has led to my being a very large slug. If I take off my shirt I get calls of “Hey Jabba, where’s your hut?”, and If I’m at the beach, “Push it back in before it suffocates!”

Anyway, having effectively eliminated one branch of potential development with early programming. Which takes me from physical to mental.

I was fortunate (or cursed) to have been born relatively intelligent.
I say cursed because I am smart enough to know what I don’t know, but not smart enough to learn it. For example, I found my upper limitation for mathematics at Calculus.

Maybe if I had a better or more engaging teacher I could have learned it, but this was the first time I couldn’t teach myself the subject. Fortunately (at the time back in the dark ages) it wasn’t required for my degree – so I never bothered to retake it. I often wish I had.

I managed to get through a computer systems engineering degree and through law school. Again though, not the sharpest tack. I may achieve competent or even clever, but “brilliant”? Unlikely.

The point being (given the divergence of computer systems engineering and law) I could have chosen to pursue a vast range of other careers:medicine, teaching, accounting, sales, technical work, etc. I could also have become a master mechanic, carpenter, or other skilled tradesman.

It all came down to programming. The encouragement and attitudes I absorbed from my family, my culture, my geography. What skills were praised? What professions were revered? What educational resources were available?

And in the Aftermath of the Bar Exam, what’s next?
I know where I’ve been, but where am I going?

Where have you been, and where are YOU going?

Day Three: Mid-day

On lunch break right now.

I screwed the essays up this morning royally – complete blanks on some really basic areas of law.

My brain and soul aren’t all here today.

I just want this done.

Day One

So, day one of the bar exam done.

It was both more and less difficult than I thought it would be. The questions are all phrased: Discuss.

Which leaves a wide field of directions for you to take with both content and organization. Add to that the fact that each fact pattern is issue rich. Just loaded with relevant, irrelevant, and intertwined issues.

My main worry is that it seemed too easy. I have to wonder: what major thing did I miss?

Well it’s done. Time for the hot tub.

UPDATE: After I got home I found out that Ginger, our family dog of 19 years, had passed away in her sleep while I was taking the exam. I’m still processing this.

Of Fear and Neglect

I recently received an email from an old friend accusing me of not blogging enough because I’m afraid of criticism and that, in general, I just don’t take things seriously enough.

Unfortunately he’s right on both counts.

The main reason I don’t write is fear. But not – as my friend supposed – fear of criticism. Rather I have a fear of the Truth.

I find it nearly impossible to lie on paper. Not fiction writing, which is imaginary, but the same types of communication we each have all day every day with everyone – including ourselves. Er…huh?

Each day we arise and begin the lie telling process. Not big lies, but small ones to grease the wheels of a smoother day.

Maybe it starts with a look in the mirror to brush our hair as we neglect to notice the increasing amount of grey therein, or conveniently focusing only on our shoulders and above so as not to notice the increase in sag and spread around our middle.

It continues as we pretend not to mind the small, tasteless, and unhealthy sustenance we consume on our way out the door or that we grab on our commute. Sure, sure – we all love that whatever filled breakfast burrito/sandwich/pastry and our coffee/frappa/whatever.  And we love eating it all the time – even if we know (on some suppressed level of awareness) that each bite/sip brings us closer to illness and death by way of clogged arteries and gastrointestinal failure.

How many small lies have we told? And we’re not even into the meat of the day – interpersonal interactions.

“How ya doin John?”

“Just great Matt!”

Um, yeah…I think you’re going to have to angle to get your nose through the door…ok, there you go. And it goes on throughout the day with greater and lesser “grease” to keep the day running smoothly.

These lies aren’t malicious, maybe they’re necessary. You don’t want to be seen as the “whiner” or as “rocking the boat”. Don’t mess with the status quo because who knows what the alternative is. Truth? The alternative really could be worse than the status quo.

So where was I going with all this? Back to the fact that I’m afraid to write, because I have an unfortunate habit of writing what my mis-firing neurons tell me is the truth. It may not be the truth as you see it, but that’s ok.

My problem is the truth is often not the way I WANT to see it, and once I’ve written it I have to confront the disparity between the fantasy world I want to believe in, and the real world my mind’s eye sees with unblinking starkness.

So, I simply neglect to write. I neglect to see. What’s that? The world’s fly is undone? Oh, I didn’t notice. The world didn’t bathe or brush it’s teeth? I didn’t notice that either.

Oh look! There’s a shiny new something or other I can obsess over so I don’t have to notice all the other stuff I don’t really want to.

Which brings me (in my usual rambling way) to the second point. I don’t take things seriously enough.

Can you blame me? How many people died needlessly in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somali, Darfur, Rwanda, or where-ever this week? How many children we’re abused, molested, abandoned, or worse? How many people are suffering from a horrible fatal illness? How many people are unemployed? How many people are losing their homes?

Ok, what? Too serious? How “serious” is enough?

So no. I don’t take many things seriously enough.

If I did, I might never stop crying.

Maybe I’ll start writing a little more frequently, maybe not. In any case I hope the world and I can keep up this tenuous truce of mutual neglect.


Nurture and Support

I was thinking this morning on what it means to “nurture” and “support”.

It occurred to me that many individuals confuse responsibility and obligation with being nurturing.

When you choose to have a child you become obligated to care (literal not figurative) for that child. At the least you must perform actions as required by law.

Feed, clothe, maintain its health, educate it – if only out of self-interest so the child doesn’t remain dependent on you any longer than necessary.

None of those actions is nurturing, they should be natural actions of any mammal for its young. Of course we only have to watch the news about how horribly children are abused to see the lie in that assumption.

What then is nurturing?

Nurturing are those acts you take that enhance the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual status or development of another. Nurturing can be as simple as “Good Job!”, as difficult as an intervention for an addict, or as painful as holding the hand of the dying.

Nurturing means being there for someone else when you DON’T have to be.

Some people mistakenly believe that every act of self sacrifice is nurturing.

However sometimes self sacrifice falls under your aforementioned responsibilities and obligations.  For example, going to your child’s parent/teacher conference instead of out to see a movie. Not nurturing, just obligation. Or not spending $75 on a new pair of shoes so you can buy school supplies. Not nurturing, just obligation.

What then is “support”? Support is the action part of nurturing.

A quick clarification – “Moral support” isn’t support. It’s wishful thinking.

It is akin to saying “I wish you well and success in your endeavors” – lip service, not support.

Support are those tasks you undertake to assist another in the completion of theirs, without actually doing theirs.

Frequently this can be thought of as a team, people supporting each other towards a common goal.

Like nurturing, people often assume that they are “supporting” someone simply because they said, “I support you”.

For example –

Spouse 1: “Honey, I have a really big and very important project I’ll be working on for the next two months. I could really use your support on this.”

Spouse 2: “Of course dear, you know you have my support!”

….Sometime later….

Spouse 1 returns home at late having been gone since 5am

Spouse 1: “Honey, did you make dinner?”

Spouse 2: “No dear.”

Spouse 1: “Ok, I’ll just fix myself something.”

Spouse 1: “Honey, I’m not seeing anything in the fridge except some left over curry I brought home last week.”

Spouse 2: “Yeah, we need to go shopping.”

….Another Day….

Spouse 1 returns home after another exhausting day.

Spouse 1: “Honey, I’m really hungry. Did you go shopping?”

Spouse 2: “No, but there’s some leftover sushi from lunch in the fridge.”

Spouse 1: “Ok, but I can’t find any dishes…”

Spouse 2: “Yeah, the dishwasher needs to be loaded.”

Spouse 1: “Did you unload the pots and pans?”

Spouse 2: “No, I never got to it.”

….Sometime later….

Spouse 1: “Honey, I’m really hungry. Did you go shopping?”

Spouse 2: “No, but I haven’t eaten either, let’s just order in.”

Spouse 1: “Ok, what do you want to eat?”

Spouse 2: “Oh, I don’t know – but no pizza or chinese…”

Spouse 1: “Ok…no pizza or chinese…any other thoughts?”

Spouse 2: “No, not really. I could go for some steak.”

Spouse 1: “Steak delivery………Ok, where from?”

Spouse 2: “Oh, I don’t know, can’t you look it up on the internet?”

Spouse 1: “……………Alright, I’ll go look……..”

You get the idea. Substitute any task that Spouse 1 can’t complete because they are too busy working on the important project they told Spouse 2 about.

Spouse 1 gave Spouse 2 a heads up, Spouse 2 said no problem.

If Spouse 2 had been honest and said “I wish you well and success in your endeavor, however I will not be able to support your efforts”, then at least Spouse 1 would know they were on their own and could adjust their lifestyle and behaviours accordingly.

Once you know you can’t rely on someone for support, 1) you don’t have to deal with the disappointment of the support being lacking or non-existent, and 2) you can make all the necessary arrangements yourself.

I have more to say on this subject, but I’ve got a headache and am tired of thinking…L8R

Mature Communication

I have failed to learn how to communicate in an “adult” fashion.

I believe the word they use is “assertiveness”, I lack “assertiveness”.

Instead I rely on passive/aggressive communication modes, or allow my anger to communicate for me.

Neither method is particular effective.

Direct honest communication – that’s the ticket – or at least that’s what I’m told.

But what kind of heartless S.O.B. must you be if you can look into the eyes of people you care about and tell them things that might even have a slim possibility of hurting them.

The counter to the “pain avoidance” argument is that humans require pain for learning. Without pain no one has the incentive to change. Of course pain doesn’t even begin to ensure change, and even if change results you can never be sure the results were what you wanted. The changes could be positive or negative from any number of viewpoints.

The change could be positive for you and negative for them; e.g. they give you the last slice of pizza.

Or negative for you, but positive for them; e.g. they dump your ass.

Or negative for both of you; e.g. they begin abusing drugs to avoid the pain inflicted.

So is change good or bad? Neither, it’ just change – but bringing about change is always a risk.

That sounds a lot like the “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” argument.

While I’m an ardent supporter of gun rights, that particular argument has always stuck me as specious.

I mean seriously, inanimate objects never DO anything!

Back to the problem of communication.

Even in seemingly routine communication you can’t be sure the message you meant to send is the message received.

He said “The dress is too tight”, she heard “You’re ass is fat”.

What he meant was “I love the curves on your body, but that dress is flattening all those gorgeous curves.”

She said “I have a headache”, He heard “You’re crap in bed and I don’t love you enough to put up with it”. What she meant was “My sinuses have been killing me all day and it feels like someone shoved knitting needles in my eyes.”

So why don’t people say what they mean?

Because being mindful of how what you say will be received is a cognitively intensive process, and because no matter how mindful you are of both the delivery and possible interpretation of your message, it can still be misinterpreted by the receiver.

Even worse, you can say what you mean, the other person can perfectly understand what you mean, and not care.

Of all possible interpretations – to me – this is the most painful. When what you have to say is discarded as irrelevant, unimportant, or not acknowledged at all. (ooh, rather like this blog…)

“Just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t understand.” – Homer Simpson

Having attempted mindful assertive communications, and having had them not work (ok, fail spectacularly), I’m inclined to resort to the communications modes I learned before age 5.

After all they seemed to work.

Although I’m not quite sure how to throw a temper tantrum in an e-mail…

“You tried your best and failed miserably. The lesson is: never try.” – Homer Simpson