Inky Blackness

I’m sorry, is my negativity showing?

Sometimes I lie awake in inky blackness, wondering why I can’t seem to get it right.

Which buttons do I push to get this whole thing to work?

How much do I have to grope around in the night?

Sometimes I wish I was an optimist.

And not just a long term optimist, but one who knows today is OK.

I want to be the optimist who knows he won’t forever be swallowed by a suffocating and inky blackness.

That’s not too much to ask, is it? That’s not a tall order once you are done tackling your anxiety.

Once you kill the thought that everything is not OK. Once you put to death the belief that your needs will not be met.

When those wicked thoughts are in their graves, then comes the optimism, right?

I am optimistically hoping so.

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All You Need is Love

“Love…is a many splendored thing.

Love… Lifts us up where we belong.

All you need is love…”

While Moulin Rouge might have been more of a lust story than a love story it at least gave us some memorable medleys about love (and was a darn good movie).

What is love? (Baby don’t hurt me)… Love, biblically is: patient, kind, not arrogant or boastful, selfless, forgiving, truthful, strong, trusting, hopeful, enduring, and everlasting… All the things that we as sinners seem to have such a hard time being.

Why is marriage so difficult? Because we aren’t loving. As soon as we lose our patience, or distrust our spouse, or hold onto a grudge about something s/he did, we are no longer loving. As soon as we decide we would rather selfishly sit on the couch then get in the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, garage, home office, or nursery and lend a hand we are no longer a loving spouse.

Why is parenting such a hardship? Because it is hard to be patient with three year old tantrums or a nine year old’s backtalk. It is hard to be kind when you have been working your fingers to the bone and your six year old demands some attention. It’s very tough as a finite creature to give endless amounts of discipline and instruction to little people.

Love is tough, it does not come naturally to most of us. Movies make it seem so easy. All you have to do is kiss and say some sweet nothings and your life will blossom with joy. Not so with reality.

In reality love is holding your pregnant wife’s hair while she loses her breakfast for the third time that day (for the record my gag reflex was too much. My wife was gracious enough to let me out of this halfway through her second pregnancy). Love is sitting down and helping your nine year old figure out her feelings or giving your six year old a much needed piggy back ride. Love is making your spouse lunch every day. Love is getting up and going to work every day (or staying at home to take care of things there) so your spouse can live out their gifts and talents (at home or in a workplace).

Love is ugly sometimes. It forces us to confront our own narcissism. It makes us crush ourselves so others may rise to greatness. Love frequently leaves us feeling spent and used. There is not always an immediate or even short term return on our investments.

But in the end (the love you take is equal to the love you make), love is worth every struggle and hardship. Every pain will be counted and rewarded.

God rewards our good deeds, and those done in love all the more.

Stop Fearing Your Own Voice

Kids aren’t afraid of their own voice.

I got an email the other day about writing in your own voice. We grow up being told in school how to write, and writing in your own voice is a big no no. You must write through a filter, just like good speakers talk through a filter. I can’t tell you how many “great” speakers truly grate on me with their speech patterns (Hillary Clinton and Obama both have a cadence that runs me up a wall).

It’s much the same with writers, there are some bloggers who I read once and think “never again.” Sometimes it is because they are too long winded. Sometimes it is because they are too stiff and formal, sometimes they are just trying to sound too fluffy for my tastes.

That article really got me thinking though. I filter a lot. (My 12th grade English teacher would kill me for using “a lot.”) I hold back so much out of fear. Mostly fear of the audience and what they might think, but also just fear of really being myself. (And “really”… she really hated that one.)

Whether it is writing or painting or picking a picture to post (don’t get me started on my guitar playing) I hold back. I don’t put my all into anything, I am afraid of it. I am afraid you will see me for what I am. You will see my flaws, my lack of talent, my lack of ability, or my ignorance. I fear that you will chuckle at me or walk away confused by me. I fear you will think I am a fool or a dork or any number of other pejoratives.

Perhaps I am all too aware of my flaws. Knowing them makes it all the more difficult to show my best. I am not the aloof kindergartner who actually believes his recorder playing sounds good (it never sounds good), I am a grown man who knows what he is trying for and exactly how far off the mark he is.

But just because I am not quite on the mark does not mean that I can’t show off my progress. I am getting ever closer to the mark, when I put in the effort. Whether it be in painting, in writing, in taking pictures, in playing music (that one’s in a holding pattern) or any of the dozen or so things I attempt to do in life, I am progressing.

Not sure if better…
Or just a change in style.

I need not fear my own voice or my own hand, for both are bound to improve with exercise.

And neither should you.

Judging A Book

Oh no, it’s that long haired hippie freak and his beard again…

What does your style say about you? Can someone really tell much just by what you wear or what you listen to? What do the various decorations you put on say to the world around you?

I walked into a country western store the other day. Everything in there was country, from the boots to the hats to jeans and the accessories. They even had redneck wine glasses. There was a guy in there with his son and they were both dressed to the hilt with rodeo garb. Needless to say my sandals, t-shirt, and long hair didn’t exactly fit in.

My wife works with a guy covered in tatoos. If you didn’t know him you would probably make an assumption that he has spent a bit of time in prison. Nothing could be further from the truth. He’s a hard worker who loves his kids.

I crossed paths with two guys in Wal-Mart who could have been drug dealers, but the well put together type. They were nothing but cordial when one of them almost ran into me. Definitely not the kind of reaction I would have expected if I had been judging them by their looks.

Even in church you meet some wiley looking characters. I grew up in a fairly well-to-do area where people dress up for church, and our church at “home” is filled with good-looking, tan, well dressed folks. It was a bit of a culture shock attending a mountain church. Mountain people live in a rough area, and they look the part. People come to church in jeans and graphic tees. They have mullets and scruffy unshaven faces. Some of them even smoke (gasp) in the parking lot. Yet they worship with sincerity and love God with all their hearts.

I love all these folks, from the tatooed characters in Wal-Mart to the well dressed folks in my home church. I may feel very conspicuous around many of them, and they may not always know how to talk to me, but every one of them is a person, created in the image of God, and worthy of love.

When we start judging people or expecting people to be just like us we risk alienating those who most need love. Christians stop spreading the Gospel. Imagine if Christ had avoided some of the people we do.

Now, this doesn’t mean we embrace sin. We shouldn’t be “inclusive” for the sake of political correctness or trying to make our church bankrolls bigger. Outright unrepentant sin should not be accepted by any true church.

But judging people by how they look and by their style is something no one should do.

Epiphany

Do you ever feel like you don’t know what you feel? Like you just have a blockage somewhere and you wish something could come along and clear out the pipes of your soul?

I don’t know if I have ever used the term “emotional constipation” on this site, but it is a phrase which occasionally pops into my brain. This constipation frequently occurs when I have nothing to worry about.

Anxiety is like fiber in that it really pushes all that emotional crap out into the world. It’s an extroverted emotion that wants to display itself and be the center of attention.

Peace on the other hand… Peace just likes to be. When I am at peace I tend to hole up and be insulated. I need no one to share with, no one to dump on. When life is stress free, nothing moves.

Stillness can be great, don’t get me wrong. But my natural inclinations are towards worry, so when nothing is moving I feel like a marble on a tabletop. I just roll wherever I am tilted.

This leads to conflict, I don’t know what I am feeling. Am I at peace? Am I secretly anxious? What should I be? Then I get meta-feelings about my feelings. Or non-feelings. Whichever happen to be occurring at the moment. Then I get all clogged up, not knowing which way to go.

How do I solve this blockage? Simple: stress. Writing, reading, sex, painting, singing, praying, a walk, running, weight lifting, forcing myself to do something intense, anything which puts a load on my body or my mind to the point where it just can’t hold anymore.

Some people need peace and quiet. I need a challenge.

Anarchy and Hobbes

Since I have free time now, I’ve been able to go back and re-read some of the books that influenced my political thinking. One of these books is “The World’s Great Thinkers, Man and The State”. It’s a compilation of political thought from Hobbes to Marx.

The contribution of Hobbes to this compilation comes from the second part of his work Leviathan:“Of Commonwealth”. In this treatise, Hobbes lays down the foundation on which the State is formed. Basically he argues that in order to live peaceably, natural man must come together in covenant and give up their individual rights to a sovereign who rules as their representative.

He gives a long list of rights to this sovereign, most of which are not rights which individuals have. This begs the question: “How can the sovereign representative be conferred rights which the individual man does not possess?”

The individual does not possess the right to levy taxes on his neighbors to pay for a road or the defense of his personal property. He does not possess the right to censor by force his neighbor’s thoughts and beliefs. He does not have the right to put his neighbor to death simply for disagreeing with him. How does he transfer rights which he does not have to his representation? Surely that representative should be restricted to the same limitations as those whom he represents.

Hobbes argues that natural man is in a perpetual state of war, which necessitates the formation of bodies politic to “keep (men) in awe, and to direct their actions to the common benefit.” It seems to me that he essentially gives to the sovereign the freedom to act as an exaggerated natural man, using violence and war to institute the “will of the people”.

The formation of Commonwealths does not relieve man of the problem of war, it merely elevates war. War is perpetual in the Commonwealth, as the sovereign must use violence and coercion to keep “peace” among the subjects.

Even if the original covenant was made voluntarily, as Hobbes describes it, it surely cannot be binding to future generations of those who did not personally assent to be subject to the sovereign in power. Force must be initiated to keep those subjects in line, force which is not in the rights of individuals to use.

While I concur with Hobbes that natural man is prone to violence, I disagree with the premise that natural man should bind together to give another natural man or group of natural men the authority to wage war for them. It seems predictably dangerous to do so. Concentrating the violent tendencies of natural men into one central power does nothing to end war, it just makes war a regional thing instead of a local matter between individuals.

I believe that a better state of being exists when individuals retain their own rights. Even Hobbes understands that man will cooperate in order to better his position in life. There is no reason to believe man has to centralize power into the hands of one man or group of men. Man cooperates just fine without the use of coercion or warfare.

Anarchy is not lawlessness. It is simply a lack of centralized force. Anarchy does not plunge us back into warfare as Hobbes contends. It places us back into the position we were in prior to forming commonwealths, that is, a state in which we may voluntarily cooperate and form whatever agreements we wish with our fellow men, without coercion.

From my reading, Hobbes makes a better case for why we shouldn’t form commonwealths than for why we should support them.

How Am I Doing? A Self Evaluation

12794957_606729339481271_4354189481332581264_oNo music and art this week. Just a bit of a sit rep.

People love a story. Most of my blog posts have not been stories though. I don’t always start with a problem, keep my readers on the edge with some rising action and tension, and finish with some well learned lesson about life dictated perfectly to make people feel warm and fuzzy inside.

No, my prose is more blunt, beating my readers up and leaving them feeling dreary and worrisome. That is, if they make it to the end.

So how is this blog going? Well, I can’t say it’s as good as I want it to be. But things never should be. It’s going about as well as to be expected on a free site and un-promoted.

My Steemit blog is doing well, thanks to photo contests and the ability to take advantage of the generosity of others who resteem my posts. I’m up over 580 followers as of right now. And it’s making me a little bit of money that one day I’ll be able to buy a coffee with.

My Studio blog has gotten quite a few hits and likes. Eventually that may turn into print purchases. Eventually. May.

But I don’t care. I don’t blog for popularity. I blog for catharsis. As soon as I start blogging for numbers my writing suffers and my few readers are left bewildered about where the quality went. You may notice a few weeks here and there where my posts don’t come with any regularity. Those are the weeks where anxiety has shut down my mind and a concern for impressing others induces a writer’s block from hell that cannot be cured except by a shot of liquor or a pipe.

How am I doing personally? Well. That is a daily answer. It depends on what you are measuring. I suppose I could say overall I am better than I used to be, but most people should be. If I wasn’t I would be concerned.

If it is my health you’re concerned about, I have been working out, I’ve lost some weight, and I haven’t been sick for awhile. I did just buy some reading glasses and I have a few more grey hairs, age is beginning to show.

If it’s my progress in trying to get more focused that you are concerned about, that answer is a bit more complex. In some areas I am achieving focus. In others I am not. It seems to be a teeter totter: when one increases the rest decrease.

Right now I have three weeks to get a truck repaired, a trailer roof fixed, a house cleaned, a trailer packed, a van running, and all the nonsense packed for a summer on the other side of the country.

I am stressed to say the least.

So you may not see much from me in the next few weeks except for a few status reports on our new adventure.