Liberty, Independence, Rights, and Patriotism

I’m not planning on writing a great deal today, because I’m going to let other writers, of whom many of you might have heard, take up most of the space of this entry.  But I do want to preface that writing with a few thoughts of my own, some of which I may have articulated previously.

Next Tuesday is the 4th of July, on which, in America, we celebrate Independence Day, with much eating, drinking, and firework firing.  It’s a wonderful holiday, an opportunity to enjoy family togetherness in the summertime, and to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the United States, a pivotal historical event.  However, it should also be, I think, a time for Americans to reflect upon the origins of our country, upon the ideas on which is was founded, and what we need to do to live up to the hopes of its founders, whose reach—as does our own—often exceeded their grasp. Continue reading

The good/evil number line

During the last presidential election (some of you may remember it) occasional memes floated through social media making pronouncements to the effect that choosing the lesser of two evils (e.g. Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump in these memes’ cases) is still choosing evil.  These memes seemed often to come from first hopeful, then frustrated, Bernie Sanders supporters, but it’s a notion that’s by no means confined to such groups.  Ideologues of all stripes, from the religious, to the political, to the social-scientific and beyond, fall prey to the classic mental fallacy of the false dichotomy—the notion that the world is divided into two absolute, opposite natures, and that if their own ideas are pure and good (and nearly everyone, on all sides, seems to believe this of themselves), then any choice other than the pure realization of their ideas in all forms is somehow a descent into evil.  Many people implicitly believe that even to choose the “lesser of two evils” is somehow to commit a moral betrayal that can be even worse than simply choosing evil for its own sake.

I hope to explode this notion as the destructive claptrap that it is. Continue reading

You can ONLY get “Ought” from “Is”

There’s a notion held by many intellectuals—or at least those who are educated beyond some minimum level—that one cannot derive any moral “ought” in life from any “is” about nature.  This notion is attributed to David Hume, the famous and by all accounts extremely intelligent 18th century philosopher, though I haven’t read the original source material (and if I’m doing his ideas a disservice, I apologize profusely to his memory).  In general, the “Humeans” seem to accept the apparently dogmatic notion that the realm of morals and ethics is divorced from the realm of our understanding of the natural world, and that nothing that we could learn about the objective facts of reality could ever give us the answers to what we ought to do—ethically, morally—in our lives.

I don’t understand how so many otherwise intelligent people, Hume among them, could ever have accepted such a patently idiotic idea. Continue reading

A Message to the Makers of “Don’t Give Up” Memes

What follows is a brief message for the creators of Hallmark-knockoff style memes that say things like, “No matter how hard it gets, it’s okay for you to feel pain, to feel tired, to feel discouraged, to feel heartbroken…but don’t you give up!”  (These are often inscribed on a floral background, or some more abstract pattern that resembles a pseudo-Gothic wrought-iron fence.)

My message to those people is:  Fuck you.

I don’t know who these people think they are or what they think they’re accomplishing.  Do they really believe they’re helping people who suffer from depression, or who are going through other, similar disturbances or trials?  If so, then they really need to examine their own mental functions, because I fear they must suffer from a prolonged thyroid deficiency, or some other neuro-endocrine disorder.  Or perhaps they’re infected with the same inanity that makes so many think that by saying, “I’ll pray for you,” or “I’ll keep you in my prayers,” or worse, such idiocy as, “Pray for Manchester,” they are accomplishing anything in the world other than bolstering their own egos.  Continue reading

Don’t Try to Make Pronouns Number-Fluid

I want to begin with a very clear and definitive statement:  I firmly support LGBT rights, which are logically implicit in the very notion of human rights.  The right to pursue happiness is enshrined in the founding document of this country.  I have beloved family, friends, and personal heroes (living and dead) who are (or were) members of the LGBT community.  If a person is attracted to others of the same gender, or identifies with a gender other than the one with which they appear to have been born, then that person should be, and feel, free to pursue whatever individual truth is available and inherent to that nature, as with every other person in the world.  This is, of course, followed by the inescapable caveat, “as long as you don’t harm anyone else.”*  Since I have yet to hear of a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender person seeking the right to harm other people, I need not belabor that caveat.

But I will NOT refer to an individual, no matter what that person’s sexuality or identity, with a plural pronoun! Continue reading

A Voice from the Chasm

Hello, everyone—or at least everyone who’s reading this.  I hope you’re all doing well and having a wonderful Spring.  It’s been hot and muggy here lately, even for south Florida, but then again, warm weather is the reason I moved here.  I have no right, nor deep desire, to complain.

All right, enough pointless chit-chat.

I’m sorry that I haven’t posted anything in a while.  I’ve been very busy working on the rewriting and editing of “The Chasm and the Collision,” and that’s quite a task; it’s a long book.  Prior to editing, it weighed in at a quarter of a million words, so the tweaking process is a laborious one, albeit a labor of love.  I’m very excited about the novel, of course.  I think it’s a good story, full of mystery, friendship, adventure, discovery, wonder, and—most especially—danger.

I also, of course, have not yet been able to quit my proverbial day job, so I do a great deal of my writing and editing on the train during my commute, and sometimes at lunch time and at lag times at the office.  This places some inevitable limits on my output.

But I don’t like going for so long without having written on my blog.  For one thing, on a purely mercenary and commercial level, to keep people interested in what one has to say, one has to keep saying things.  That in itself is not an adequate reason to write, however.  A vastly more important consideration is the fact that I do, in fact, have a great deal to say.  My cell phone’s memo app contains a list of a few dozen article ideas that rage to be released, and one cannot forever keep an untamed idea in captivity, lest one kill its spirit.

So, I’ve decided to designate Thursdays as my day for writing non-fiction.  There are many topics—political philosophy, science, creativity, art, popular culture, and even spirituality, to name a few—on which I have thoughts that I’d like to explore.  Therefore, henceforth, on those days on which we all pay our respects to the god of thunder, I will take a break from writing fiction and devote myself to producing blog articles such as this one.

This doesn’t mean I’m necessarily going to release these articles on Thursdays specifically, or every Thursday.  Though I tend to write quickly, I don’t know that I can do justice to all the topics I have in mind, and to whatever others continue to pop up, in one day of a week.  Nevertheless, I will do my best to keep my output asymptotically close to that idealized mean.  I suppose it’s just possible that, if the fit strikes me and I simply cannot control an article that forces itself to be written, I may even come out with more than one in the occasional seven-day period.

Those of you who anticipate my next book with bated breath need not fear, however!  The rest of my week will continue to be devoted to my first and greatest love:  writing fiction.  In fiction, we are given the chance to experience the world through the lives and minds of others, albeit imaginary others.  This is not only one of the most wonderful sources of joy humans have ever created, it also allows us to practice seeing the world from others’ points of view.  This skill, or habit, or whatever one might call it, is crucial for helping us get along with our fellow humans, with some of which we will inevitably have differences.  Especially in the fractured political climate of present day America, this seems to me to be an ability we could all stand to enhance, myself included.

Einstein is quoted as saying that imagination is more important than knowledge.  Despite the apparent implicit assumption behind many Facebook memes, just because some famous person—even some famously very smart person—said something doesn’t make it correct, or even sensible.  In this case, however, I think the words are true (though knowledge is certainly crucial as well).  The human imagination is not only our first and greatest virtual reality device; it is also a remarkable virtual laboratory, in which we can experiment with actions, as well as with ideas and points of view, some of them different from whatever might have occurred to us previously.  To read what another person has written is to have them thinking inside our heads.  It’s truly remarkable if you stop and ponder it, and something most of us take for granted, yet it’s something that, as far as we know, only humans can do.  It is a tremendous, perhaps the primary, source of our power…and it is also, I think, one of the most important tools to keep us from abusing that power.  And fiction is perhaps the most potent rough-hewer of that tool.

Perhaps more crucially, though, it is simply a wonderful and mostly harmless joy.  And a life without joy is, I think, worse than no life at all.

I look forward to writing more and to receiving any feedback you might wish to give me.  I’m on Facebook and on Twitter (the former more than the latter), but I would especially love to read your responses in the comment section below, after any article that strikes you as interesting, provokes thought (or outrage), or in which you disagree with me and want to point out why.

In the meantime, and as almost always, I wish you all well.


The Chasm and the Collision is now underway!

Cover picture2

It is with great personal pride – and some degree of amazement – that I hereby announce that I have finally finished (minus a few tidbits here and there) the rewriting of the 676 handwritten pages of “The Chasm and the Collision.”  It turns out to be about 240,000 words long.  That’s a lot of chicken scratching!  It’s the second of the novels I wrote while in Florida State Prison (West Unit), and is certainly my longest novel so far.  Itt still will be, even after I trim it down during the upcoming editing (which is going to be no mean task).  So look forward to a story with some meat on its bones.

I’m thoroughly excited about this.  Even more than all the other books I’ve written, this was a labor of love, dedicated to and inspired by my kids.  They were in middle school, or near middle school, when I started writing it, and the main characters of the story are middle school students.  Of course, now my kids are both in high school, but hopefully they’ll still appreciate the story.  Actually, it’s probably a book that’s better for young adults and adults, anyway.  It’s long, obviously, but that’s a well-precedented fact for fantasy adventures.  It is also, at times, somewhat dark (as are all my stories, though by no means is it too dark for the average reader…anyone who can tolerate Harry Potter will certainly not be put off).  It does, however, have not one single instance of profanity, despite several occasions in which it would certainly be called for and excusable for the characters.  Now that took restraint on my part, as anyone who’s read my other works would know.  It was, however, the recommendation of my late father, and it was a good one.

Of course, I will be delivering further bulletins as events warrant (though why bulletins need their livers removed I don’t know), and I will take the time to post some of my musings and meanderings on unrelated subjects when I need a break.