Tumult

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The mind of a two-year old is a tumultuous place, going from the highest of highs to the lowest of sorrows in a single breath. Sometimes I wonder if my mind is much different. I fear that our highest highs get numbed, while our lowest lows get more morbid with time. Death is always ever closer. We feel not simply the sorrow of not getting one’s way, but the sorrow of knowing that every moment gets more and more valuable. To watch a young child get frustrated with circumstances one is convicted that one is nothing more than a young child all grown up. As we get older we are still frustrated, but our frustration is directed at different objects. Life never cooperates. By the time one figures that out, life performs its last frustrating act: it ends.

I am terribly resistant to change. I want everything to stay the same. I will go to great lengths to ensure nothing ever changes. I take pictures. Lots of pictures. Not because I will ever look at them, but because they preserve every present moment. No one changes in a picture. No one grows up. No one ages. No one dies. That moment is perfectly captured. Frozen. Still. I resist change and attempt to live my life in a series of these frames. But life is never still. Life is never frozen. I can’t hold a single moment in a frame and be there forever.
Perhaps I am subconsciously preoccupied with death. Not a fear of death. Just a fascination with its inevitability. It is the one thing we all experience. It is the destination of all of our changes. Good changes, bad changes, all changes end with the one final change.
I don’t think God wants us to be morbidly occupied with our death. We should be acutely aware of it, but we should not allow it to dominate our lives. We were made to glorify and enjoy Him forever and “forever” begins in this mortal life.  If I am to truly enjoy Him I should enjoy His gifts in my life. I should enjoy my children and my wife. I should enjoy good food and drink. I should enjoy music and friends and knowledge. I should embrace the world around me with unabashed joy.
If I am to glorify Him I should show the agnostic and atheist world around me that there is joy in knowing the Creator. There is pleasure in His creation. Death is inevitable but it is not to be feared. It comes at precisely the moment God decides in His wisdom to bring it. And those that know Him and His salvation have even less to fear, because while that enjoyment begins in this mortal season it gets better in the eternal season.
I want to learn contentment this year.  Part of contentment is accepting change. Part of accepting change is accepting the inevitable. To accept the inevitable one, has to accept the ultimate inevitable: death. Only when I accept death and place it in its proper place in my mind will I be able to enjoy life with contentment and without tumult.
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Lessons From The Other Side

Early in our marriage we decided that we wanted to homeschool our children. Even before our lurch into libertarianism we were convicted that public schools are no place for the minds of our children. We were further convinced that one parent should always be present in the lives of our children. This means we made a conscious choice to live in a single income family.

For ten years our single income came from me. During this time our family expanded from two young lovers into two lovers and five crazy loinfruits.

(The loinfruits hate photos (and shoes), except for the eldest)

Two months ago when my seasonal employment ended we decided to do something outlandish (for conservative folks like us) and let Nicole work while I stay home with the kids.

After ten years of telling her what I think she ought to do in her home I am now the one running the show. And I am drowning in it. I used to think “that’s an easy job”, not as a comparison with my job, just as a mindless judgment. I used to give her all kinds of hints and tips that I thought were soooo helpful. “Why don’t you try doing this?” I would say, empathetically and sincerely. In reality, I had no idea what I was saying.

I am now the one who is one twitch away from snapping at the kids for running through the house like wild banshee after being told not to 59 times. I am now the one wondering why the laundry never ends or why the kids insist on using 5,000 forks in one day.

I am also the one watching a weary, exhausted spouse come home and turn off. The one hoping to have one decent conversation in the day because all they have dealt with is childish conversation with little people who can’t empathize at their ages. I’m the one knocking the children off of their beleaguered parent, telling them “Mommy is tired, be kind, leave her alone for a while and let her breathe.” All the while wishing that maybe Mommy could just take them away for a few minutes and give me some rest.

Being on this side of the stay-at-home parent dynamic has been one of the most humbling experiences since I broke my collarbone, two ribs, and a shoulder blade last year. I was laid up for almost two months, physically unable to move much due to the pain. I had to learn to swallow my pride and accept the help of others. While that was a physically humbling experience being a SAHP is an emotionally and mentally humbling one.

There is so much one hopes to accomplish in one day, and so many obstacles getting right in the way, that the day never seems complete enough. One drops into bed feeling like nothing was done and tomorrow nothing more will happen. While physically capable of accomplishing the goals, one never feels emotionally like the goals were met (even if they were physically met, which they never are actually.)

Thus there is a desire for empathy from the other parent who quite frankly has no clue what’s going on.  He or she has spent all day outside of the home and away from the children, oblivious to the chaos that has been occurring all day. While one may be physically fine, the enormous amount of emotional and mental support needed at the end of the day is staggering. There is an excellent reason God made parenting a two person job. Even if a single person can physically accomplish all of the tasks of parenting, housekeeping, and bringing in a family income, they often do so at the expense of their emotional and mental health. Super kudos to those that do by the way. Y’all are some special people.

Even working on dynamic firelines where one has to be concerned about getting burned up has not prepared me for the mental taxation of several tiny voices all demanding equal time and treatment. The overwhelming number of details one must keep in one’s head is staggering even when compared to the number of variables on a fire line.

This job is not the most difficult job physically, there are jobs far more physically demanding. This job is not the most difficult mentally, brain surgery is probably much more mental. I’d even be willing to bet that this isn’t even the most emotionally draining job out there. But cumulatively SAHP is the most difficult job I have ever encountered.

Much grace should be given to the stay at home parent. More humility needs to be exhibited by the breadwinners of the house. These people are doing a difficult task, and probably the most important one as well. Cut them a little slack if you run across them out in the world and their kids are orbiting them loudly and perhaps a bit chaotically.

Which brings me to another point. 

If you see a father with his horde of children, don’t assume that he is incompetent or unable to handle them. Don’t assume that he was conned into “babysitting” his kids or that he is miserable (even if he is, it’s not likely to be because he is a dad.) Don’t look at him with pity or call him “brave” or “strong” (unless of course you would also do the same for mothers).

Men are capable of parenting. If you assume that the men you know are not up to the task, perhaps you should hold them to a higher standard. If you do see them struggling (as any parent does at times), don’t draw attention to their failures. Don’t make them feel like maybe they aren’t doing well by suggesting that they must be worn out or using the well meaning but much overused phrase “you look like you have a handful!” Give them some grace and maybe even a helping hand, as you should do for anyone you witness struggling through life.

Above all else, don’t give them a pass when they are genuinely being negligent. Don’t play the “poor incompetent dad, I hope his wife is coming back soon.” routine. If he’s slacking, call him out. If he’s spending most of his time staring at a screen or a magazine or book, while his kids are climbing the walls or destroying displays at the store, call him out on his lack of discipline. He can and should step up to the plate and at least try to engage his children in play or conversation.

Encourage fathers to hold their children to high standards in behavior and respect of others. Encourage fathers to discipline children and raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Encourage fathers to be vulnerable with their kids, play with them, empathize with them, let them know their father loves them and has feelings about them and about the world around him. The encouragement we need to give to fathers is part of the encouragement we need to give to all men, but I’ll touch on that another time. For now I’ll leave it at this:

Becoming a stay at home dad for this season has been an eye opening and humbling experience. All the folks who do this full time for years on end have my utmost respect. All of them need grace and patience as they navigate the hardest job in the world. Please give it.

Some Birthday Resolutions

Today is my 32nd birthday. When your birthday falls this close to Christmas and new years it tends to get lost in the stress of one and the excitement of the other. Because it is so close to the new year anyway, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Instead I try to make some resolutions for my own next trip around the sun.

Before I start on the resolutions for this year, let me count this past year’s blessings. This year I finally got my full time fire job. I was blessed to travel through 15 states and live in 4.i gained incredible experience in firefighting and friendship. I gained at least five new friends. I got to watch my children frolic and explore nature in the mountains and the deserts and the ocean. I grew closer to my wife and watched her grow in incredible ways. I learned to pace myself and trust in the Lord’s Providence. I saw many beautiful parts of creation. There are probably many more that I will remember after writing this.

This year was also a painful year. With blessings come the crucible fires of sanctification. We started off the year treating the depression that has plagued Nicole for as long as I have known her. This meant the trials of antidepressants and the struggles of adjusting to a wife that I had never known. Follow this up with a job offer in February almost all the way across the country. After accepting the job I made perhaps one of the worst decisions that I have ever made by buying an old rv from a squirrely redneck in western Florida. This choice led to thousands of dollars of debt and two months of beating my head against the wall trying to get the thing to run, not knowing if I should just turn down the job to stay with my family.

Given the stagnation of our lives and my career for the previous five or more years we decided to take the job and trust the Lord to reunite us when He saw fit. This meant driving alone to Utahzona and leaving Nicole and the five kids back in Florida. She worked on the RV as much as she could before one of her worst nightmares came true.

A report was made to the session of our church and they were bound by law to call the Department of Children and Families (CPS) to investigate. I got the call from Nicole while in training, followed by a call from our now pastor explaining how it had all come to that. They had tried to ensure they would be with her when the agent came but the CPS lady knocked on the door before they could get there. In five minutes the focus shifted from reunion to preservation.

Nicole spent the hardest week of her life cleaning and disposing all of the clutter that had filled our home and our lives for the past ten years. Our church family sprung to action and acted with the most love and generosity that we have ever known. By the time the investigator returned our home was the best it had ever been. But the pain was deep and it left me feeling like I had abandoned my family and Nicole feeling much bitterness towards me and my hoarding habits.

I spent six weeks living as a bachelor in AZ before she finally gave up on the RV and bought a trailer. Ten days after that purchase and one very long trip with five kids, two cats, one dog, and one bearded dragon (who sadly did not survive the trip) we were searching for a place to park in Kanab, Utah at around midnight. We spent our first night together in a dirt pull off north of town.

The following day we moved to the Kaibab and began dealing with the problems of trailer life, namely lack of water supply, dump sites, or steady electricity. In time all of these problems were solved, and new ones came to light.
I dealt with difficult people at work and probably made my first enemy in life. She dealt with loneliness and fear that someone might attack her in the woods. There were some hairy moments in our marriage out there on that mountain.

Then came the unexpected death of Nicole’s granddad and the unsuccessful attempt to get her to VA for the funeral.I have never had to help her mourn for any family member and I am still not sure I did the best I could have.

Six and a half months of work and life on the Kaibab ended in October and for the first time since graduating college I found myself unemployed. Driving to VA with practically no money was a trip in itself. We made it in ten days.

Now I find myself a full-time stay at home dad while Nicole is (happily) working two jobs. This has been the most trying two months of this year as I learn a completely new job managing five hooligans while living in two houses and a trailer.

Money is tight and the mortgage is late, but for the first time this year we feel somewhat hopeful for what the next few months will bring.

My biggest resolution this year is to learn contentment. For as long as I can remember my focus has been on the negatives of life. I have always seen all of the wrongs and never the rights. I apologize for enjoying anything and feel like I should be ashamed of good feelings. I push down all the good and instead focus on all of the “shoulds” of life. Far too often my response to a blessing is “This should be____” or “I wish this was more____”.

This year I want to learn how to enjoy my blessings and be content with all that God has given me. I resolve to play with my children more. I resolve to love my wife more passionately and with more abandon. I resolve to take every day as a gift and work to glorify God in each one. I resolve to live life according to what is, and not according to what I wish it was. I resolve not to take for granted my work, my talents, my family, my friends, or my days here on Earth. I intend to stop saying “I’m sorry” when I enjoy my blessings and instead say “thank you.”

By the Grace of God I will do all of these things and whatever else He intends to teach me to do this year.

What’s This About a NAP?

For about 2 years now I’ve labeled myself politically as an anarcho-capitalist.

Most folks have never heard that label. Prior to that I called myself a more familiar label: libertarian. Looking back now I get the impression that I didn’t really know what a libertarian was back then. I just thought a libertarian was someone who valued liberty, and valued it more than the average run of the mill conservative. It wasn’t until I learned about the non-aggression principle and its broad applications that I fully understood what a “libertarian” is.

So, what is the Non-Aggression Principle or NAP? How should it be applied to society? Why am I an anarcho-capitalist and not just a libertarian?

Murray Rothbard defined the NAP this way in his essay War, Peace, and the State:

“No one may threaten or commit violence (‘aggress’) against another man’s person or property. Violence may be employed only against the man who commits such violence; that is, only defensively against the aggressive violence of another. In short, no violence may be employed against a nonaggressor. Here is the fundamental rule from which can be deduced the entire corpus of libertarian theory.”

In short the Non-Aggression Principle holds that no initiation of force is morally legitimate unless it is in response to another’s initiation of aggression or force. Any act of violence which is not self-defensive is an act of aggression, and aggression is morally wrong. Any act of coercion is also morally wrong. No one may coerce another with violence or threats of violence and maintain good moral character.

This is not controversial to most people or at least it should not be. Many Christians ask “Where do you find the NAP in the Bible?” To them I answer: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” And “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

To me the NAP is essentially a restatement of these laws as “Do not initiate force against others who have not initiated force against you.” And “Love your neighbor as you love yourself by not committing violence against them.”

Even that seems reasonable to most decent people, so what’s the big deal?

The controversy of the Non-Aggression Principle becomes evident when it is taken to its logical conclusion and applied outside the sphere of individual interaction.

According to the NAP, all coercion is immoral. All non-defensive force is immoral. If those two statements are held to be true and they are taken to their logical conclusion, how can we tolerate an individual or an entity holding a monopoly on aggression?  If the The State is nothing more than a coercive monopoly of aggression, how can we not rationally call for the abolition of the State? How can we support an entity whose entire purpose is to coerce society into following it?

Many answer these questions by assigning privileges and rights to the State that individuals do not have.

Is there some right or privilege inherent in the collective that the individual does not have? Do entities composed of individuals possess moral authority that the individuals do not? If the government derives its authority and power from the individuals under it can it have authority that the individuals themselves do not? More particularly, does it have the authority to aggress in violation of the NAP? Can government break moral axioms just because it is the State?

Leftists and Neoconservatives alike would have to say “yes” to those questions. If they disagree they would have to oppose the pre-emptive wars we are currently waging in the Middle East. They would have to oppose the violence inflicted on citizens through the theft known as taxation. They would have to oppose stringent regulations on the free market that aggress against the rights of producers and consumers. In order to support the State as it is, one has to assume the State has some higher moral authority than the individuals who give it its authority.

Old Right Conservatives and Libertarians would say “no” to the questions above. Old Right Conservatives more in foreign policy than elsewhere. Broad application of the NAP is what makes libertarianism different from other political ideologies. Within libertarianism, however, there is a great deal of infighting about just how far the NAP goes.

What makes a libertarian? In short, a libertarian is an individual who believes the Non-Aggression Principal to be axiomatic and strives to mold the political structure of society into a voluntaryist structure and not a coercive one.

Some who claim the libertarian mantle are nothing more than statists in practice. They want “freedom” but only at the point of a gun. These people are basically war-lords, concerned with protecting their own liberty and property, everyone else be damned. They have no problem with a monopolized entity of coercion as long as that entity is them.

Some neo-cons are notorious for calling themselves “libertarian” but neo-cons cannot hold to the NAP consistently. They may rightly oppose the aggression of the State against committers of victimless “crimes.” But when they also support the aggression of the State against foreign nations, not in self-defense, but as preemptive “security”, they violate the NAP and forfeit their privilege to use the label. Aggression is aggression, and it is all immoral under the Non-Aggression Principle. Fully realized, the NAP allows for no exceptions. Aggression of any sort is out. If we have to use the State to “enforce” freedom we are violating the NAP and are no longer worthy of the libertarian label.

There are also “libertarians” who are perfectly happy with the government extorting money to provide for the greater good. As long as government sticks to building roads and schooling children but stays out of the bedroom or the private lives of individuals, these people are perfectly content letting the State coercively take money from individuals to distribute it as it sees fit.

True libertarians fall into two camps, or somewhere between them. On one side you have the minarchists, those who believe in a small, limited government, given to the task of justice and defense. On the other you have anarchists, those who believe that no central authority is necessary for such things. What generally ties the two together is free-market capitalism. What distinguishes them has much to do with how they view the free markets ability to provide EVERYTHING as opposed to NEARLY everything.

I won’t insult minarchists and call them statists, but most of them have not taken the NAP to its rational conclusion. They still cling to the idea that one small entity needs to hold a monopoly on coercion in order to provide justice and defense. They still support the most coercive part of all societies.

While most minarchists I have met would like to uphold the NAP in all areas, most have never seen a private justice system or an effective private defense firm and for practical reasons believe some centralized entity must exist to provide them. They are pragmatists, which I can’t necessarily fault them for.

I however, am no pragmatist. I’ll cling to my principles even if no practical example of said principles exists. In order to maintain consistency, I will take the NAP to its logical conclusions, therefore, I am an anarchist. I believe the free market is capable of creatively providing all services and products known to man. It may be difficult to work out the logistics of some of these services (mostly because we are so used to them being monopolized) but it is certainly worth the effort if we are to be consistently moral people.

If all non-defensive force is immoral aggression, what should we do when an individual or an entity holds the monopoly on aggression? To me the answer is clear: we abolish that monopoly and replace it with a fully voluntary economic system. We become anarchists. This is the only consistent application of the NAP.

Before the NAP

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As I have stated before I grew up a conservative. This meant that I was pro-war, even when I was not entirely sure what the war was about. It didn’t seem to matter much, what mattered was “supporting the troops” and “being proud of my country.” Now, I’m not going to bash troops or be some kind of pinko commie, so cool your jets.

Some of my earliest memories of war was watching the CNN coverage of the first Gulf War. We watched endless coverage of green tinted night vision video of missiles being launched and things blowing up. We tied yellow ribbons around our trees and the antenna of the family minivan. We were proud of our soldiers and proud that our nation was at war.

As I got older, America always seemed at war, and with the exception of some of our involvement in Bosnia (that was a Clinton war) we always seemed to support it. When I watched the towers fall in 11th grade I felt the same desire to invade somewhere and take revenge as everyone else did that day. My college days were spent writing letters to the editor in support of invading this country or that and making bumper stickers that said “War for Oil? Who Doesn’t Want Cheap Gas?”

The only war I might have been opposed to was the Vietnam War, and that was only because my favorite singers were hippies. It’s hard not to sympathize with really good musicians. (Though shockingly I never became a pinko commie like them.)

Those are some embarrassing years for me.

I’m not entirely sure when I was introduced to the Non-Aggression Principle or NAP. It may have been a gradual change, it may have been after listening to one or two Tom Woods podcasts. I honestly don’t remember. All I know is that now I am totally on board with the NAP and because of that I don’t support offensive or pre-emptive wars anymore.

But it isn’t just aggressive war that I oppose, it’s all forms of aggression.

State aggression takes its form as taxation, the prosecution of victimless “crimes”, compulsory public education, business regulations, inflationary practices, et al.

Social aggression can be as subtle as racism, sexism, or other forms of bigotry. It can also be as obvious as rape or abortion.

The NAP even extends into my personal life and how I relate to all people, including my own children. I have learned to see people in a new light, much of the “Us v Them” attitude has gone out of my life. I no longer see people as one group or another, but as individuals deserving of at least my respect as humans. Even growing up I believed all human life had value, because every person is made in the image of God, but it seems I never had any problems with bombing them into oblivion. Now I see every person as a neighbor and potential economic ally.

Is the NAP biblical? Isn’t Anarchy just chaos? Doesn’t Romans 13 say we should have a government? Who would build muh roads? All of these questions and more I hope to answer over time.

There is a meme out there that says something along the lines of “I became a libertarian when I was introduced to the NAP, I became an anarchist when I realized there are no exceptions.” This is pretty much true for me.

In my next post I’ll explain the NAP and what it means to me.

My Brain

Before we go too much further, it may be helpful to describe my brain.

Most people think linearly, like so:

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These people are Power Point.

My brain however is like this:

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I am Prezi.

I made friend maps before Facebook invented them. Just to see how everyone was related.

Every bit of data that enters my mind has to be connected immediately to another bit of data, or it probably won’t stick.

And when I have a conclusion to get to I tend to stop and make a connection everywhere. Everything in my mind is somehow connected to everything else. That’s why it takes me so long to change my mind on something. That’s also why sometimes my posts may get rambly. I promise I am going somewhere!

Part of the reason I started this project is to learn to focus and stay on a single track. That doesn’t mean that when I start tagging my posts you won’t see a million different topics tagged, but it hopefully means you’ll only read about one topic at a time.

So bear with me. I’m learning to control this brain of mine. Someday maybe it will make sense to everyone…

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