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IYI: I’m going to adopt a particular innovation in notation, created (as far as I know) by David Foster Wallace. It goes like this: most of what I’m writing is pretty straightforward and I’ll cover pretty much everything eventually. If I’m talking about something a little abstruse that’s tangential enough that it doesn’t warrant further elucidation, like, right away, then I’ll mark it “if you’re interested”—IYI—before the section to set it off. These are what I think are interesting or important, but not essential, qualifications or excursions.

Two of the things I’ve always been interested in are closely related — desirelessness and effortlessness. It wasn’t until recently that I was able to articulate their connection, in my mind, and why I think it can be so advantageous to cultivate both senses.

I have essentially two goals in life: to be happy and to make the world a better place. You can think of these as products. The first is creating my own happiness and the second is creating, fostering, supporting happiness in everyone else.

IYI: Defining “happiness” is pretty tough, but kind of important. I don’t mean contentment and I don’t mean short-term pleasure. The best definition I’ve come across for what I mean is more properly referred to as “eudaimonia” or “doing and living well.” Economists might refer to it as “utility,” although revealed preference makes the definition of utility endogenous, and I definitely don’t mean “whatever the underlying thing is that I’m evidently optimizing for,” because one of the things I’m trying to do is transform my utility function so that it becomes an eudaimonia-maximization function. As noted in the little part in the Wikipedia page that discusses Elizabeth Anscombe, this has the advantage of “ground[ing]  morality in the interests and well being of human moral agents …without appealing to any questionable metaphysics.” = Yay! IYI2: My personal morality differs from my prescriptive morality, so this is more a benchmark for me, rather than a standard to which I hold other people, about which more later, perhaps.

These seem reasonable enough that I’d like to teach Violet what I’ve discovered vis-a-vis happiness-production technologies when she begins to start thinking about how to produce happiness in herself and others.

If you’re someone who has ever struggled with motivation, then I find one of the easiest ways to be productive is to do things of value that don’t feel like work. One of the best ways to be happy is to want the things you have, and to extract as much enjoyment from them as possible. These approaches use desirelessness and effortlessness as inputs to production. I think of them as expanding on the intensive margin.

And this is why effortlessness and desirelessness are so useful and important on a personal level: A. they’re cheap, B. they’re sustainable, and C. they’re investments in human capital–improvements in production technology–so expenditure on them isn’t burned, it’s stored and reused. Like everything else, they’re subject to diminishing marginal returns, but when you think of the emotional depth and maturity of the average human being, I think we still have some pretty low-hanging fruit here.

For a parent, they’re great as well. They encourage your kid to seek internal validation rather than measuring her success by the amount of stuff she has or the amount of money she earns. They teach your kid to naturally follow a course to find interests that feel consonant with a coherent worldview, ethic, aesthetic, and eventually choice of career and lifestyle. Finally, for parent and child, they make it so you never get panicky or string yourself too thin, so you have untapped emotional reserves to ride out the vicissitudes of life.

At the same time, I think it’s important that these aren’t confused with laziness and self-abnegation. They sure are a nice alternative to solipsism or materialism or consumerism, though. One way to solve this problem, I guess is to want the things I will have, and to enjoy the wait.

So yeah: work to want the things I have and to want to do the things I must, and live my best life. More on my experience with this later.

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with backup vocals by JuneBug:

http://bit.ly/tpmoR (on YouTube)

[Edit – I totally wrote this yesterday but my computer’s power cable is dying, so I threw up my hands. So tonight, a two-fer.]

BC:AD
by U.A. Fanthorpe (born 1929)

(from Maggi Dawn’s excellent blog)

This was the moment when Before
Turned into After, and the future’s
Uninvented timekeepers presented arms.

This was the moment when nothing
Happened. Only dull peace
Sprawled boringly over the earth.

This was the moment when even energetic Romans
Could find nothing better to do
Than counting heads in remote provinces.

And this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian sect
Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of heaven.

—–

I wonder if every devout atheist is seized by the urge, when writing something that even remotely, tangentially, or obliquely proclaims the divinity of Christ,–the urge to issue a disclaimer: “I don’t actually believe this stuff; it’s what somebody else said.”

It’s disappointing. I like to think I’m made of thicker stuff than that. But the urge is there.

I just read this poem. It’s wicked good, I think, not so much in that it elevates, but in that it strips the Christmas story down into its constituents parts in such a way that it really makes it clear what is so transcendant and amazing about the story. It’s the original Horatio Alger story, only more so. From rags to riches becomes from rags to divine power and the glory of God.

The title is also nice–as a Westerner, my Gregorian calendar is (at least in intention if not in historical precision) set up such that the birth of the baby Jesus is when the calendar stops being the sequence {-%∞

From The Chemical History of a Candle by Michael Faraday

You have the glittering beauty of gold and silver, and the still higher lustre of jewels like the ruby and diamond; but none of these rival the brilliancy and beauty of flame. What diamond can shine like flame? It owes its lustre at nighttime to the very flame shining upon it. The flame shines in darkness, but the light which the diamond has is as nothing until the flame shines upon it, when it is brilliant again. The candle alone shines by itself and for itself, or for those who have arranged the materials. Now let us look a little at the form of the flame as you see it under the glass shade. It is steady and equal, varying with atmospheric disturbances, and also varying according to the size of the candle. It is a bright oblong, brighter at the top than toward the bottom, with the wick in the middle, and, besides the wick in the middle, certain darker parts towards the bottom, where the ignition is not so perfect as in the part above.

…There is a current formed, which draws the flame out; for the flame which you see is really drawn out by the current, and drawn upward to a great height…You may see this by taking a lighted candle, and putting it in the sun so as to get its shadow thrown on a piece of paper. How remarkable it is that that thing which is light enough to produce shadows of other objects can be made to throw its own shadow on a piece of white paper of card, so that you can actually see streaming round the flame something which is not part of the flame, but is ascending and drawing the flame upward.
[EDIT: man, isn’t that just awesome?]

From A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Chapter 1

…Meanwhile the fog and darkness thickened so, that people ran about with flaring links, proffering their services to go before horses in carriages, and conduct them on their way. The ancient tower of a church, whose gruff old bell was always peeping slily down at Scrooge out of a Gothic window in the wall, became invisible, and struck the hours and quarters in the clouds, with tremulous vibrations afterwards, as if its teeth were chattering in its frozen head up there. The cold became[19] intense. In the main street, at the corner of the court, some labourers were repairing the gas-pipes, and had lighted a great fire in a brazier, round which a party of ragged men and boys were gathered: warming their hands and winking their eyes before the blaze in rapture. The water-plug being left in solitude, its overflowings suddenly congealed, and turned to misanthropic ice. The brightness of the shops, where holly sprigs and berries crackled in the lamp heat of the windows, made pale faces ruddy as they passed. Poulterers’ and grocers’ trades became a splendid joke: a glorious pageant, with which it was next to impossible to believe that such dull principles as bargain and sale had anything to do. The Lord Mayor, in the stronghold of the mighty Mansion House, gave orders to his fifty cooks and butlers to keep Christmas as a Lord Mayor’s household should; and even the little tailor, whom he had fined five shillings on the previous Monday for being drunk and blood-thirsty in the streets, stirred up to-morrow’s pudding in his garret, while his lean wife and the baby sallied out to buy the beef.
.
Foggier yet, and colder! Piercing, searching, biting cold. If the good St. Dunstan had but nipped the Evil Spirit’s nose with a touch of such weather as that, instead of using his familiar weapons, then indeed he would have roared to lusty purpose. The owner of one scant young nose, gnawed and mumbled by the hungry cold as bones are gnawed by dogs, stooped down at Scrooge’s keyhole to regale him with a Christmas carol; but, at the first sound of
.
“God bless you, merry gentleman,
May nothing you dismay!”

Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action, that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog, and even more congenial frost….

Day 2 of Advent. I submitted my first dissertation grant application today, which is very festive in some sense.

I chose today’s reading for a few reasons, the three primary ones being that it is relevant to the season, that it is prose, and that it is very good prose. I have a bunch of stuff to say about the reading, but it’s really pretty tight, so I’ll leave it at that at this late hour and instead, explain a little bit about my goals for this lectionary.

My wife and I are both atheists who look back fondly on our Christian upbringings–we got a lot of really good values and some really fantastic traditions,–ethically, morally, institutionally and aesthetically. I think we both have had much more complicated feelings in the past, but the truth is that neither one of us really felt like the religion of our parents mistreated us or robbed us of some ability to think or feel.

What’s more, we think religion is really important, and that moral and ethical issues are paramount, and that traditions are something to examine, yes, and evaluate, but also to value and pass on. Unlike a lot of atheists–in particular, the hard core of atheism, as represented by Daniel Dennett, Chris Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins (to whom 10 points on the articulate thinking front but minus several hundred on the good PR, ya d-bags)–we think faith does more good than harm by a fair mark, although it could use a dose of humility in its prognostications, to be sure. We just don’t believe it any more, and haven’t for some time.

That said, I still like singing the hymns, and I don’t see any need to take Christ out of Christmas–I got into a discussion with Cheryl about how there’s a lot to be gained from leaving Christ in Christmas–whether or not you believe in his divinity (or even his historical existence, for that matter), the mythos inherent in the story of the birth of a child destined to save the world through his exemplary life of goodness and mercy is just so damn powerful.

On the other hand, the lectionary–which is a pretty cool tradition, gearing up for Christmas and all, (although obviously, the parallels to gearing up for the second coming fall a little flat with me)–doesn’t really speak to me and what Advent and Christmas are for me (especially the Old Testament bits with all their apocalyptic fury), so I decided to look for Advent-related and spiritually-minded flotsam and jetsam that will help carry some of my Christmas spirit on from year to year and out into the world.

I know it’s appropriation of someone else’s tradition, and to the extent that one man can harm the Church, and by extension, all its Parishioners, I apologize. I’m taking it anyway. It’s cool and I want it and you can’t stop me.

So Lectionary Day 2. Tomorrow maybe some Dismemberment Plan lyrics? Or actual scripture? Dec 7. is evidently some kind of Buddhist holiday so maybe I should read up on that and see how it dovetails. Let me know if you have any ideas!

I just had a few thoughts in the shower this morning and wanted to elaborate on my reinterpretation of the concept of sin. As I interpret sin, the idea of “original sin” and the “fallen state of man” have radically different interpretations, in that they become almost tautological. This is to say that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” is literally equivalent to the statement “Nobody’s perfect.” The denotation is pretty similar (although I don’t believe in the existence of the divine except insofar as it represents an humanly constructed ideal to which we all strive), but the connotation is incredibly different.

In particular, human conscience is fundamentally correct, but limited by our human fallibility. That human fallibility is the source of our essential triumphs, our ability to appreciate our brief existence for its scarcity, and our ability to work together to transcend our individual mortality and fallibility to be better version of ourselves and achieve greater goals than any of us could achieve individually before we shuffle off this mortal coil. By the same token, that fallibility is the source of many of our shortcomings, as we underestimate the risks inherent in future tasks and make bad decisions based on faulty information, and give in to time-inconsistency of preferences, and fall victim to our lacks of sympathy and foresight.

In my view, though, this “sin” should never be a source of shame–for one thing, without sin, we would each be perfect, and there would be nothing of interest. For another thing, and this is the really important one for me, perfection is simply not feasible–it doesn’t exist outside of our concept of the divine; it’s a stylized model, just like perfect competition or a frictionless vacuum. We don’t expect the world to feel guilt or shame for having friction or air–in fact, while a world without friction might make Newtonian mechanics a little easier to understand, it would be a fundamentally (and, since I love the world we live in, tragically) different world than the one we know and love. It’s not even clear what it means–it’s not internally consistent, because the source of friction is the electromagnetic forces that keep solids coherent and thus a projectile wouldn’t just take a purely parabolic arc in a frictionless world, it would also cease to cohere. All of which is why we ended up coming up with physical models that incorporate friction and electromagnetics and why scientists keep searching for better and more coherent models.

By the same token, I think sin functions much better as a descriptive concept–a heuristic device, really–that allows us to think about the negative space between intention and action, and allows us to engage with these ideas in useful ways. It’s tautological in that “sinful” means “less than perfect” which is to say “possible in our universe.” Wherever there is entropy, there is “sin” in this sense, and it becomes the source of all beauty and love, chaos and complexity and change. Without sin, there is no growth, no progress; all is stagnant and fixed.

So to the extent that “sin” is useful as a concept for thinking about human behavior, I like to make use of it, but I’d really like to see it stripped of its associations with shame. I think all human error derives from our very real and beautiful limitations, which we can come to embrace, accept, and occasionally transcend, but which should not be associated with guilt or recrimination.

Tonight’s class was really great–a revelation in a lot of ways. There’s so much to talk about, so this may come out a bit scattered.

I suppose I may as well start at the start and go over what we went over. We broke the ice by discussing our UU moment, and mine goes a little something like this.

I grew up Moravian, and really had a generally very good religious experience growing up. The Moravian motto is “IN ESSENTIALS, UNITY; IN NON-ESSENTIALS, LIBERTY; IN ALL THINGS, LOVE.” which is really a very UU approach to life, although I disagree with the Moravian Church about what, exactly, are essentials. During the confirmation process (I would have been about 13 or so), I had some doubts about the Apostles’ Creed. In retrospect, they seem kind of pedantic, maybe even contrarian, but they were really the start of my personal search for truth, so they are waypoints that are important to me. It was a real struggle, and I worked with my confirmation mentor, who I think was at least a little strained about how to help me through, and the end result was basically the idea that I had to have faith. At the time, I didn’t really know what faith was, but as far as I could tell, it mostly meant I should say the words, pray about it, and trust that things would come together later.

Since then, I have come to disbelieve the theology and cosmology of the Christian church (although a lot of the ethics and traditions remain dear to me) and have become what I call a devout atheist. In the earlier days of my atheism, I maintained some of the fundamental beliefs of Christianity–the dogmatism and the intolerance, for example, both of which I mean in a valueless context. Christianity is dogmatic and intolerant in ways that are, within its structure, quite morally sound, although to me they ring untrue.

When Cheryl and I first started going to the Unitarian church in Baltimore, I really struggled with it. Whenever a Christian or a Wiccan or a Buddhist would talk, and would ascribe any of their feelings to a belief in a divine power, I had to hold my tongue from shouting them down, or from trackng them down afterwards and trying to convince them that they were wrong and blind and if only they’d listen, if only they’d realize, then they’d understand that the way they were looking at things just didn’t make internal sense–it couldn’t be true–and then they’d know what was really true and they’d live freer and better and more moral lives.

Unitarians believe in a free and responsible search for truth, and I had an easy time with the responsible part (in some sense, at least), but a really hard part with the free part.

My UU “moment” came a few months back, when a ministerial candidate, speaking at our church, talked about her sense of the divine in nature, and how it sheltered her and reminded her of her connection to the world, and how that made the world make sense for her. I had become much less pugilistic and contrarian in the intervening several years, but it hadn’t really crystallized until that moment–just how far I’d come. Despite the fact that I felt no personal truth in her belief in a divine force surrounding us all, I felt nothing but joy for her and connection to her. Here was someone who had found a personal truth, a way of looking at the world that made it make sense to her–not only that, but it gave her a belief in the fundamental benevolence of the universe. She had found this faith in a way that was honest and forthright, by following her internal sense of the true and the good, and I was thrilled to hear her story of personal triumph, and her vision of a beautiful and embracing world. And despite the fact that I didn’t believe as she did, I was able to recognize someone who had found joy and hope, a fellow traveler on a similar but different search or path or journey. In that moment, I realize that I got it–I understood and embraced the free and responsible search, and saw what a world that held that tight would look like, with each person focused on being good in the ways that they knew how.

It really was a transformative moment, a long way from duking it out over the Apostles’ Creed, and I couldn’t help but feel an immense affinity for the institution that we support and that supports us on our paths.

After the ice breaker, we talked about the course about what we were going to be learning. We talked a little bit about a liberal faith tradition as distinct from conservative or radical approaches to faith. A liberal faith tradition, as I understand it, is neither one where tradition is treated as the arbiter of all truth, wherein followers are to take the tradition that is handed them and accept it whole-cloth, and where the response to skepticism is explanation followed by an exhortation, or even a command, to exhibit religious discipline by searching their soul, using prayer and meditation to find a way to make peace with a tradition they find exceptionable. Nor is it an approach where all received tradition is treated as the bondage of ill-informed and cruel-intentioned forbears, each more determined than the last to lay the yoke of religion upon the masses, to control them–or as simply bunk, to be tossed out as valueless and misguided, mere epicycles on the spiritual orbits we have come to know as “true truth”.

Instead, a liberal faith tradition is an inherently moderate and contemplative one, where the traditions of the past are received and examined in good conscience. Those ideas which makes sense to our current believers are accepted and modified as needed to remain current. Those ideas which seem reprehensible or unhelpful are considered and modified, if possible, or rejected and repudiated, where to do so strengthens our faith.

The example we discussed in class is that of the idea of “sin.” A conservative approach to sin might rely heavily on scripture, on the language of the time and on the intentions of the writers. It might also rely heavily on historical church doctrine. To the extent that the moral content of sin might appear to be modified by changes in technology or political or social institutions, a conservative approach is wary of allowing changes to be made to the idea of sin.

A radical approach is likely to reject the whole notion of “sin” as a useless social construction of a bygone era, designed to make people feel guilty for behavior that threatened the power structure that existed at the time–an idea best left utterly repudiated, now that modern man knows better.

A liberal approach is more likely to try to make use of sin, if possible, as a way to bridge understanding–certainly the problems we face today can be informed by the wisdom of the past, and so perhaps sin is best thought of as an addiction–as self-destructive behavior that is at the crux of an internal conflict of intention within each person. While we may or may not believe in the concept of separateness from God, each of us might make use of the idea of sin to understand the world better.

The way I think of sin is informed by the use of the Greek word hamartia to denote sin in the New Testament. Hamartia derives its meaning from the idea of “falling short of the mark” and consequently has been used, by analogy, to mean separateness from God.

I view it as falling short of the mark in the sense that the mark might be thought of as the Path or the Tao–which, for the sake of explanation I can characterize this way: The Path consists of the future series of actions taken by an individual if that individual were purely good and omniscient. For Christians, this is essentially “What Would Jesus Do?” For Taoists, it is following the Tao.

I don’t really believe that the idea of “purely good” has any sensical meaning–a point upon which I’ll elaborate at a further date–but for now just run with it. Because human beings are not omniscient, we all inevitably fall short of the mark. This is, in my view, the source of the idea that human beings are essentially flawed, and the belief that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” In the Christian ethic as I have received it, this has generally come to mean that all people are inherently depraved in some way, and need to reconnect with God in order to be saved from their fallen state.

My liberal interpretation of sin–which seems to me to be a very useful concept indeed–is that we have a moral imperative to set unattainable goals for ourselves–our reach should exceed our grasp–and in so doing, we will inevitably fail to achieve our goals.

When I say this, I mean that we should use our internal conscience to envision worlds we prefer to the current one, worlds we conceive as being more perfect and more moral and more just than the one we live in, and we should strive to make this world more like the ones we envision.

By failing to reach that goal, we learn humility. By striving and succeeded in small measures, we earn pride. This process of pride at our successes and humility at our shortcomings builds character, hones our moral sense and provides us with a sense of empathy–for our fellow human beings who all must necessarily fail–and moral righteousness in our desire for a world of increasing justice and kindness.

It helps us to become less judgmental to see the world this way–we know that everyone must ultimately fail to be their best self in a real and personal way, and are more forgiving for having experienced it. There is an essential separation between making judgments about the acceptability and social permissibility of certain people’s behavior–and the consequent decision about freedom and imprisonment–and judgments about the value and worth of those human beings in a moral sense. By striving and failing we can learn to accept the necessary justice required for maintaining and protecting the rights and freedoms granted by our society while honoring the inherent worth and dignity of every person in a truly and radically compassionate way.

It also helps us to be less judgmental of ourselves. While we learn humility from striving and failing, falling short of the mark, in this sense, is simply a foregone conclusion. It is no reason to feel shame, nor is it an indication of our inherent depravity–all of us are moving steadily toward the target, as best we can. Our inner compasses are sound, but the nature of existence is that each of us is limited by our mortality, and as we are neither omnipotent nor omniscient, we can take pride in our successes without needing to feel shame about our failures. This belief in the concept of sin without requiring the concept of shame makes sin something that we can understand in a more coherent and human fashion.

That’s an example of my application of a liberal approach to faith. There’s lots more where it came from, as I hope to explore further, later on.

We talked about the things we UUs believe in, and the difference between framework beliefs and what I’ll call focus beliefs.

All UUs share framework beliefs, such as the belief in a free and responsible search for meaning or the belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

We don’t all share focus beliefs, such as the belief in the divinity of Jesus, or the belief in the reincarnation of souls–or even the existence of souls. It’s because of this distinction between framework and focus that I can be an atheist and a Unitarian Universalist.

We explored our beliefs further by looking at a column published several weeks ago in the AJC, written by Lorraine Murray. In it, she rejected the idea of a multi-denominational church that allowed members to “pick and choose” what they believed it, claiming that it led to a “wishy-washy” religion, which she called the “Church of Anything Goes.”

Rev. David wrote a letter to the editor in response, which was subsequently published, and he invited us all to read the article and try to articulate a defense of Unitarian Universalism in response. My response, to put it briefly (as it’s late and I should be asleep), is that my faith and the faith of the Unitarian Universalists I know is the least wishy-washy of anyone i have ever met–and certainly Anything Does Not Go. Unlike more conservative faith traditions, each member of a Unitarian Universalist congregation holds only hard-won beliefs, each of them open to question. There are no easy ways out, no “pray about it and it will come to you.” If you’re uncertain about life after death but fear mortality, there’s no one telling you, “Don’t worry, it says so in the Bible, so it must be true.” To claim that one can simply choose to believe–even against the voice of conscience–and then all will be cured seems to me an ultimately untenable approach to religion. Instead, Unitarians believe that each of us has to find  our own truth, and so we are each congregants and theologians both, striving to make sense of the world we live in. It is through the incredible strength of the thick and tightly braided rope of the world’s stock of wisdom and faith traditions that we are able to pull through to a fuller, more serene and substantial faith on the other side. By the same token, you won’t find many UUs who say “yeah, I kind of believe this, but not really, but I just try not to think about it too much.” That was not my experience as a Christian. Each of us is a seeker, with a moral responsibility to search and to support the search of others. To be part of a faith community that acknowledges and embraces the price and promise of that committed search is to be fully spiritually engaged.

I’m looking forward to next week’s class.

Hey kiddo,

The doctor says you’re a girl–he said it’s 100%, but I’d say it’s 95/5. I can’t wait to meet you, kid. Your mom and I have an idea for your name, but I don’t want to put it in writing until it’s for sure.

I’m not sure what exactly it means insofar as your life experience is concerned–I’ve never been a girl. I was talking to Mom earlier today and we got into a bit of an argument about the Stanford prison trials and the causes of it and we eventually realized that we agree–you will be given the opportunity to become a mental ninja. That may seem like a non sequitur to you, but that’s because you’re not a mental ninja yet. (Besides non sequitur is the new sequitur)

Nana and Dziadzi were there and very excited, if you couldn’t tell. We got more pictures of you, some of them skeletal, others not so much. There’s a whole wide world out here, kid, and you are in luck–it’s your oyster.

We just finished cleaning for brunch tomorrow morning and we were listening to The Dismemberment Plan and I thought of you when I heard:

You Are Invited

I got it in the mail one morning; there was no return address–just my name in gold leaf on the front. There was no time or location–there was really no info at all: no date, no place, no time, no RSVP, but it said,
“You are invited by anyone to do anything. You are invited for all time.”

I didn’t think much about it. It seemed like a really dumb joke, but later that week it was Friday, once again. So I took it down to a disco that wouldn’t have me in a million years. I flashed it once and I was inside with a drink. I really didn’t stay too long there, cause no one was having much fun. I made my way to a party all the way across town. It was thrown by the friend of an ex-thing. I wasn’t sure if I should go, but when I got up in the place there were smiles all up and down. I grabbed my ex in the kitchen; I told her I was sorry I came, but she looked at me with a glazed smile and said,
“You are invited by anyone to do anything. You are invited for all time. You are so needed by everyone to do everything. You are invited for all time.”

I headed for home kinda early–the party wasn’t all that great. I saw my neighbor out crying on his front porch. I stopped to see what his deal was; I couldn’t catch much through the sobs: something about a party and he didn’t go. I thought about it for a second, with the invite in my hand. I threw it down at his feet and I said:
“You are invited by anyone to do anything. You are invited for all time. You are so needed. If you really want to go, you are invited for all time…for all time…for all time.”

So anyway, kid–you are invited. No one can wait for you to get here. From me, I promise a life of gratitude. Sometimes, I’ll have to express that by grounding you, of course, but mostly just hugs.

Hasta pronto, Pickle.

Love,
Dad

It’s a gorgeous day out. I just finished the first draft of my first paper that actually might end up anywhere. We got to hear Pickle’s heartbeat today. There are 25 days until Opening Day.

And I have lots of ideas for brightening Pickle’s world. Most of them will never come to fruition, and that saddens me, but the fact that the kid is inspiration makes me feel more like I’ll be an alright dad. It’s especially important because I’ve been sad about the state of the world this week.

Listening to this NPR story: This I Believe by Yinong Young-Xu was palliative–I’m perfectly okay with contemplating our capacity for brutality or sin or hatred or what-have-you. It’s the failure to deny the temptation that hatred presents that drives me to despondency. It seems pretty widespread, and it breaks my heart. It’s one of the reasons I listen to public radio. They have a stated interest in providing information to listeners without seeking to satisfy advertisers or maximize ratings. That isn’t to say that they don’t seek to satisfy supporters or increase ratings, but they at least claim to be striving for another goal.

Not everyone cares about the quality of the information they take in, not everyone feels the need to achieve some level of moral satisfaction with the world and their place in it, and that’s fine. For those who do, though, I wish it were more conciliatory. I wish the discussion were more two-sided. I wish people would seek multiple sources for their information, maintain humility in their opinions, hedge when necessary when making proclamations, remain considerate of the humanity of their opposition, and give the benefit of the doubt to the intentions of those individuals who are passionate about their views, or passionate about remaining agnostic on an issue, if that’s the case.

There’s just so much unfounded certainty and baseless vitriol that our public discourse seems like one long, drunken bar argument a lot of the time.

And then I was in the waiting room with Cheryl and I had some ideas. First, I want to get a piece of posterboard and paint it chromakey green, so when the kid’s born, we can drop out the background and throw in some ninjas or alligators or scenes from Bionic Commando (COMMUNI-WIRE- CATE TAPPING). So that’ll be awesome.

Forgot to post this a while ago. The end of that post, I guess. My apologies for the negative tone. Embrazos al mundo.