Life

If life isn’t difficult, at least a little bit, you may be doing it wrong.

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Nothing good is easy.

“Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications, and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, prov­ident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent, if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood; it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government will­ingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and sup­plies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures… what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?

“Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupe­fies a people, till each nation is re­duced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious ani­mals, of which the government is the shepherd.”~Alexis de Tocqueville

Pride, envy, cooperation and competition

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I graduate next week from the Army’s Advanced Leadership Course. I’ll have been here 56 days at that point.  I’ve learned a lot, and was successful; I graduated on the Commandant’s List, which is the top 20% academically of the over 200 NCOs in my class. The cadre evaluated our oral and written communication skills, as well as critical thinking and leadership ability.

But one thing in particular bothered me after a few weeks here. The competition between members of my platoon after about two weeks degenerated into back-biting and jealousy. One person told me that he felt our instructor showed favoritism toward me because on several occasions the instructor indicated to the class that I was doing well. I tried to quell the subtle and growing animosity by some by remaining humble and being helpful to them whenever I could. This mostly worked except for a few, who became particularly spiteful when they learned they were not chosen for Commandant’s List. I myself did not make it a goal to be on the list, only to do the best I could on each project and to project a personality and skill that would make people want me on their team, should they have to choose. The Commandant’s List was not only a construction of the cadre, but also of peer reports on the most capable in the class.

To be sure, there were many in the class who did not express jealousy or envy, which I find to be one of the most repugnant emotions in existence, particularly when displayed by men. Jealousy is an open admission of weakness and lack of self-confidence. if I find it growing in myself, I smash it down and look in the mirror to see the ways I can improve myself as opposed to wasting energy picking at someone else. Of course there are times that criticism of others is valid and needed. but tact and courtesy should be employed in those cases.

Looking back at my younger days and considering the effects of competition, I realize one of the reasons I did not perform well in junior high school was that I hated competition with strangers. I preferred a feeling of cooperation and camaraderie. Perhaps it was because I was searching for a family, a clan. At some point I had to toughen up. I began lifting weights and became very physically active. Slowly, my aversion to competition faded.

The first really difficult thing I ever did as an adult was attend the US Border Patrol Academy in Charleston, South Carolina. There, I was surrounded by people who’d had much more exposure to competition than I. Many people at the Academy were military veterans; I had a college degree and worked at a corner store at that point. Certainly nothing that challenged me, or made me take pride in myself. In the first half of my time in the Academy, I struggled. I didn’t put in the needed study time that’s required to learn a foreign language, as well as federal law. But at some point, things clicked, and I shot up in my class ranking in language skill. That was a turning point in my life. Never again was I to struggle in any academic setting.

Colonel Jeff Cooper said that pride was a key component in a good soldier. I agree. Pride drives us to despise being last. But I still place a high degree of importance on sportsmanship and humility. When we lose, we should gracefully give credit to our competition. This builds the team, the clan, the family. In the end we make ourselves more successful in doing this. Too much pride breeds envy, the feeling that somehow we deserve more than perhaps we do.

I yet live

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I’m still here. Currently at the Army’s Advanced Leader’s Course in Arizona. Needless to say, I have a lot of writing and explaining to do, as to my whereabouts in the last two months. That’s all forthcoming. For now, let’s just say from time to time the monks of old found it necessary to withdraw from the world to reflect on their own beliefs. 

Posts to begin anew in a couple of weeks when I’m back home. Until then, keep being skeptical of modernity.

Blogs, Democracy, free speech, and The Joker

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Recently, I banned a commentator from this blog. It was the first time that I’ve ever had to do this. And I recently boycotted another blog, which I have commented on for several years, and run by a friend of mine,because the same person I banned trolled there to the extant that the posts were monopolized by hatefulness, repeated and unwarranted antisemitism, as well as personal attacks on other frequenters of the blog. I declared that I would no longer comment on the blog until the offender was banned.

Several people who frequent my blog expressed disgust at the offender, who goes by the screen name, apollonian. Some hinted that I should ban him, and another poster stopped posting after apollonian stated he hoped they “suffered”. That’s when I decided to deploy the ban hammer.

I felt badly about boycotting my friend’s blog. First, I like several of the other posters, who also comment on this blog. I learn a lot from them. I do not blog and comment on other blogs because I think I know everything, even though my blog covers a wide variety of topics–more than on which anyone could be called an expert. I blog and comment to learn. Sometimes I will have a growing interest in a topic, and blogging becomes a way to learn by teaching, which is widely considered an excellent way to learn. Mostly I blog to make myself less stupid. Secondly, I felt badly because in some way it could appear that I am trying to force my friend’s hand in banning someone he does not wish to ban (he has a no ban rule).  However this is not the case. It is perfectly accepted practice to walk out of public forums in protest to what one party feels is an abuse of the forum itself. All the way from town hall meetings, to UN councils, this is standard practice.

Even in democratic forums, not everyone is welcome.  Democracy is not the abolition of common sense in exchange for tolerating all behavior. Democracy is rule of the majority, and to say it is anything else is to expect too much. Democracy is quickly hijacked by forces of idiocy and evil when those on the other side view force as inherently evil.  Some people refuse to ban others from blogs out of a “democratic spirit”. In the case of apollonian, this kind of thinking is like Batman letting the Joker run Gotham out of a sense of fairness, while everyone is begging the Dark Knight to take action.  The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Rises,  are two of my favorite movies of all time, for several reasons.  They analyze very well how democracy needs someone who’s going to step up, even when it means they won”t be popular and what can happen when envy takes hold and the mob rules.

And besides, a blog or forum is not a democracy. Allowing people who are disruptive, hateful, or senseless to run rampant out of a sense of ideology just ruins the experience for everyone else. I used to play a lot of table top wargames while growing up. Entire summer days were spent in this manner, and everyone had fun. If someone showed up that lessened the fun for everyone else, that person wouldn’t get invited back. A blog should not be taken so seriously as to equate to the politics of a nation. No one’s freedom is being denied them when they get banned from a blog.

We can see what this attitude of “open mindedness” has wrought for America. For decades now, those who fundamentally opposed what made America so strong, its industrial and military might, its meritocracy, its familial bonds, those people have been allowed to run rampant and spread the propaganda that all ideas and cultures have equal value.  But I’m going with Carlyle’s Great Man Theory. Great societies are not created and maintained by the random actions of a directionless populace. At some point, the Imperator is called to do his duty. That man is the one others look to emulate and set the example. America was fortunate enough to have been founded by a quiver full of great men who knew that liberty requires action. I believe the Founding Fathers would be appalled at the level of tolerance we show in America. Even Jefferson, that man of the people, knew when crushing action was needed, just as is recorded when he decided to take a military course against the Barbary Pirates. Jefferson writes:

protect our commerce & chastise their insolence—by sinking, burning or destroying their ships & Vessels wherever you shall find them

 

Gentlemen, Knighthood and Meaning

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the As a young boy, I was constantly reminded to be a gentleman. This meant opening the door for women, saying please and thank you, and keeping my elbows off the table at dinner, among other things. Despite a severe period of waywardness, my manners stuck with me.

We live in an age without a code. People, young men in particular, need a code in my opinion. One reason that men need a code is whether they realize it or not, a code provides a challenge, and thus a sense of accomplishment when the tenets of the code are met. A code orders people’s lives and can prevent arbitrary moral renderings. Of course there are dangers in a code, that it can become dogma and too rigidly enforced, legalistic. Furthermore a code implies a sense of honor, and thus strength and community, things that all men, some subliminally, desire. The codes of the past have primal power, pulling at the strings of Natural Law, reinforcing the things that all people know to be good and right. Even the codes of people we consider our opposites embody aspects of Natural Law; an example is Pashtunwali, of the Pashtun people in Afghanistan. This code requires Pashtuns to protect, house, and feed strangers, even at the cost of the Pashtun’s life. It also requires that blood debts be paid, thus the Pashtun blood feud.

The first code I remember is the Boy Scout Oath, which states the following:

On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.

The Boy Scouts do a tremendous job in instilling the spirit and morality that is happily the antithesis of the modern spirit and morality. The mention of God, Country, and morality is likely to bring a hurumph from our Progressive masters.

The second code I remember is The Nicene Creed. I was an alter boy, and I rather enjoyed it. I had an oath to swear, a holy cause, a distinct function and a code that was unapologetic.

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
Maker of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial
of one Being with the Father.

Through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.

On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.

He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

As a police officer, I raised my right hand in city hall, and recited the following code:

On my honor,
I will never betray my badge,
my integrity, my character,
or the public trust.
I will always have
the courage to hold myself
and others accountable for our actions.
I will always uphold the constitution
my community and the agency I serve.

Finally, when I enlisted in the Army, I swore yet another oath:

I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

All of these codes involve God, honor, duty, country, law, and truth, thus they are an anathema to the dissolute regime now at the helm.

I propose people should get themselves a code. A code provides meaning to life beyond the next trip to the mall. A code can help order a person’s life, and as Augustine stated: Peace flows from order. A code can also remind you that you have weaknesses. St Paul states that the intent of the Old Testament law was to show man he was inadequate. A code leads to introspection and a focus on the deeper meaning of life, love and death. A code can bring a higher meaning to a person’s life, something no widget can do. Since almost all old codes find their essence in Natural Law, a code is likely to help you get along with other people and to have a happier life.

For men, I propose the old Chivalric code and the American/British/renaissance code of the gentleman. The great thing about these codes for me is that they mostly adhere to Christian ethics while endorsing an active, even martial life style. This fits my personality perfectly. I don’t want to be a flaccid man or Christian. I prefer the way of David or Joshua.

We can even use some aspects of these codes to help us develop skills and past times. For instance,

 Along with combat training and courtly graces, a knight was typically taught to dance, swim, read poetry, play chess, to hawk and to hunt with a team, as well as fight as a unit in battle. Yet, in tournament and joust he was also tutored to excel as an individual. 

These guidelines can easily translate to the modern day. Learning to play chess, or improving one’s game is a great way to improve your mind and it’s a great past time. Swimming, and team sports are fantastic too. I took up fencing years ago and plan to do so again; it’s inexpensive, a great workout and has the martial quality I prefer. While poetry is not the soup of the day, we can learn to write and communicate better and more beautifully. Hunting wild game develops many manly attributes and of course provides food.

Robert E. Lee is an excellent example to follow when it comes to martial and gentlemanly prowess and here he describes his gentleman’s code.

The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman.

The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly–the forbearing or inoffensive use of all this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain light

The gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others.

The Chivalric code endorsed the 7 knightly virtues. They are as follows:[1]

  • Courage More than bravado or bluster, today’s knight in shining armor must have the courage of the heart necessary to undertake tasks which are difficult, tedious or unglamorous, and to graciously accept the sacrifices involved.
  • Justice A knight in shining armor holds him- or herself to the highest standard of behavior, and knows that “fudging” on the little rules weakens the fabric of society for everyone.
  • Mercy Words and attitudes can be painful weapons in the modern world, which is why a knight in shining armor exercises mercy in his or her dealings with others, creating a sense of peace and community, rather than engendering hostility and antagonism.
  • Generosity Sharing what’s valuable in life means not just giving away material goods, but also time, attention, wisdom and energy — the things that create a strong, rich and diverse community.
  • Faith In the code of chivalry, “faith” means trust and integrity, and a knight in shining armor is always faithful to his or her promises, no matter how big or small they may be.
  • Nobility Although this word is sometimes confused with “entitlement” or “snobbishness,” in the code of chivalry it conveys the importance of upholding one’s convictions at all times, especially when no one else is watching.
  • Hope More than just a safety net in times of tragedy, hope is present every day in a modern knight’s positive outlook and cheerful demeanor — the shining armor that shields him or her, and inspires people all around.

The Chivalric code and the code espoused by Robert E. Lee highlight two things that I believe are central to the success of Christian culture: The mixture of strength with mercy. These warriors were not bullies. Almost no where else in history do we see this. In almost all other places and times, the strong were taught that they had the right to crush the weak. But in Christian culture, the strong maintained the ability and right to defend themselves, but then also made society stronger by helping the weak and showing mercy.

Today, most people have no code at all. They have never established for themselves the rules of their own life, how they should treat others, the expectations they have for themselves on a daily basis. They float on a sea of meaninglessness and confusion. Their manners and demeanor are so atrocious that other people are unhelpful to them, and this causes the unmannered to revile those around him. But the strongest people of the past had codes. They ordered their lives.

I’d suggest all young men get themselves a code. Stop floating in the modern sea of meaninglessness, directed only by the lyrics of the attest pop song, or inane antics of a star on tv. I can’t imagine how a code of lasting power could possibly hurt your life when compared to what we have now.

 

[1]The Seven Knightly Virtues: by Scott Farrell

Be Polite

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It’s amazing what a person can get done by merely being polite, especially when dealing with cops and mid-level government bureaucrats.

We live in an age of barbarism, mistaken for something else because of technological advantage. Give Conan an IPad and he still wants to crush your skull with the pommel of his sword and steal all of your stuff, while uttering guttural grunts. Manners and politeness have vanished from a large portion of the population. Do parents even teach manners anymore, or is it considered undemocratic to teach your kids such remnants of the white patriarchy? Please, thank you, and excuse me work wonders. I remember recently while I was at a NY DMV trying to get my driver’s license renewed, and dealing with the typical cynical DMV worker, that she became very helpful and pleasant when she noticed that I remained calm, did not make demands, said please and thank you, and otherwise remained calm. This was in stark contrast to the people in front of me, who were of course argumentative, didn’t say please. In response, the DMV worker was short and sarcastic with these people. It’s easy to get a negative view of these low-level public officials but they deal with snotty, self-important people all day, and many of these people have absolutely no reason to feel self-important; they are of the typical breed of young American, assured that they are very important from their youngest days just because they  breathe air. Our family dog, a pug, breathes air, too. But I’ve reminded my wife that when the zombie apocalypse arrives, the pug will still be the first thing on the dinner table when the canned goods run out.

Same thing goes for cops. I’ve seen many people talk themselves into a traffic ticket. It’s the same people who really believe there’s no higher authority in the universe than them. Cops have authority. When people used to say to me that “if it weren’t for the badge and the gun, you wouldn’t be acting like this”, or some such thing, I’d agree. In such a circumstance I was acting as a person granted authority by the State of Maine to enforce traffic law. I did not have authority to control the diet of the person, their selection of television entertainment or their hair style but I most definitely had the authority to summons them to court for doing 50 in a 25 zone. Being polite to a cop will shock him. He’ll probably be caught off guard. All day long he deals with people ranging from outright savages, to snarky hipsters sipping latte’s and making donut jokes. He probably reads Drudge Report and sees the repeated headlines about the encroaching police state and its ominous militarization, meanwhile he’s sitting in his Ford cruiser, wearing a gun and other equipment he had to purchase himself and making 15 bucks an hour. There’s not even any prestige to the job anymore, and he’ll be reminded of that multiple times per day from people that in my opinion haven’t even earned the right to vote.

Cops should be polite, too. Often, police officers have built such a thick crust from years of dealing with degenerates and snarks, that they are the ones that cause the problem. It took me a few years to recognize how much a calm demeanor and politeness have an immediate tranquilizing effect on most people. Not all but most. There is a small percentage that just begs to get tasered.

Love Potions

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Recently, my friend, Dr. Michael LaBossiere, wrote a series of articles concerning determinism. In these articles he examines the possibility that all animal behavior, including human behavior, is essentially determined by hormones–impulses generated on the physical plane that are easily identified, their effects on the body leading to behaviors, such as in the realm of sex.

In two articles he uses the Vole, a gerbil-like creature, as his subject.  Voles are monogamous animals, a rarity in the mammalian world. Their monogamous behavior correlates with the secretion of oxytocin and vasopressin. And so, Dr. LaBossiere argues that the monogamous behavior of Voles is purely mechanistic, based on the addictive qualities of oxytocin and other pleasure-inducing hormones.  And so, if this behavior is mechanistic in nature, so are the human romantic ideals, such as love, honor, and loyalty.  The same argument can and is made for homosexuality, that it is not a choice, but an urge induced by a heretofore undiscovered  biological mechanism. Dr. Labossiere states that he believes in free will, but in his articles he seems to mostly argue for a deterministic world.

Before I endeavor to deconstruct and ultimately destroy the mechanistic view of human behavior (and it must be destroyed because, besides the fact that I believe it untrue, it is a danger to human life and happiness), let me reveal a bit of my history as a teenager and a young man.

I ran away from home 4 times before I was 16. Looking back, I consider that I was surrounded by adults that were dysfunctional and in some cases border-line insane.  I felt no love from the adults that I spent the most time with at that time. I did feel anger, hatred, enmity, and even an odd sort of competition and jealousy from them.  Their insanity was evidenced by their deep unhappiness.

An adept cut-purse, I stole voraciously, from book stores especially, and constantly conspired with other kids my age to relieve adults of the cash in their wallets. I lied constantly, skipped school regularly to the point where I had no idea what was going on in my classes. I began to fail and fail badly in school.  I enjoyed throwing rocks through windows and destroying others’ property in general and was arrested for burglary. Eventually, I dropped out of high school, and became involved with a woman who was 10 years older than I eventually siring a child out of wedlock.  My life was a disaster.  Mind you, that I was brought up Catholic, was an alter boy and a Boy Scout.  But the pain from home tore me apart, and before I was 14, I thought often of suicide.  I’ll be the first to admit that luck has a great impact on each and every one of us. Heck, as Kurt Vonnegut once observed, none of us even asked to be born so far as we know.  I don’t want to say there were no good times as a kid, but there weren’t many.  Even today when I think of my teenage years, I get nauseous.  But regardless of my circumstances, I am without excuse; I was an evil person. And don’t underestimate the age at which kids know good from evil.

Now that you know why I can never run for political office, let me indulge myself for a moment. Fast forward a decade and move further along in time after that. I graduated from college, became a police officer, and eventually joined the Army. I’m currently a staff sergeant in the US Army. My last NCO Evaluation report, written by a lieutenant, captain and major, states the following about my performance: “the most competent Senior Intelligence Sergeant in the Brigade; continuously remained well-versed on the evolution of conventional and asymetric threats…intellectual prowess and continuous mentorship developed Soldiers in analytical skills….promote to Sergeant First Class now…a top 1% NCO that always accomplishes the mission to the highest standard”.  

What changed in the last 25 years of my life? Did my hormones or brain chemicals shift to such a degree that my life did a 180 degree turn? And if they did, why?

Don’t get me wrong. All animals are influenced by hormones. Wild animals’ behavioral changes during hormonal shifts  are well documented. But it is humans’ self-awareness, reason and morality that sets us apart.  Even the much vaunted humaness of dogs seems to be overrated; dogs feel no shame, despite the sheepish look after Spot defecates in the hall.  In fact, humans seem to be the only animal that will behave in ways that spite hormonal tides.  Before I make the crux of my argument, let’s look at a couple of Dr. LaBossiere’s arguments. He writes that if fidelity is mechanistic, than humans are merely reacting to the pleasure provided them via chemical actions on the brain.

He states:

While fidelity is praised, one important question is whether or not is worthy of praise as a virtue. If humans are like voles and the mechanistic theory of human bonding is correct, then fidelity of the sort that ground pair-bonding would essentially be a form of addiction, as discussed in the previous essay. On the face of it, this would seem to show that such fidelity is not worthy of praise. After all, one does not praise crack heads for their loyalty to crack. Likewise, being addicted to love would hardly make a person worthy of praise.

One obvious counter is that while crack addiction is regarded as bad because of the harms of crack, the addiction that composes pair bonding should be generally regarded as good because of its good consequences. These consequences would be the usual sort of things people praise about pair bonding, such as the benefits to health.  However, this counter misses the point: the question is not whether pair bonding is good (it generally is in terms of consequences) but whether fidelity should be praised.

I feel these two paragraphs miss the mark, primarily because fidelity between man and woman seems anything other than an addiction–it seems like work.  People struggle to remain faithful.  Why do most people at least try to resist the urge to be unfaithful in marriage? Because they know very bad things can happen if they follow their immediate instincts.  Fidelity involves a crusade against our hormones (though there’s a lot more to sex drive than hormones).

JRR Tolkien wrote a series of letters to his oldest son, Christopher, warning him of the dangers of untamed sexual desire.

Faithfulness in Christian marriage entails that: great mortification. For a Christian man there is no escape. Marriage may help to sanctify and direct to its proper object his sexual desires; its grace may help him in the struggle; but the struggle remains. It will not satisfy him–as hunger may be kept off by regular meals. It will offer as many difficulties to the purity proper to that state, as it provides easements. No man, however truly he loved his betrothed and bride as a young man, has lived faithful to her as a wife in mind and body without deliberate conscious exercise of the will, without self-denial.

Tolkien’s view is precisely the opposite of LaBossiere’s; people struggle with fidelity, they are not addicted to it.

Before going further, let me state explicitly my thesis: the things that provide pleasure to people via increases in dopamine, seratonomin, and oxytocin can change over time, and they change primarily because thinking changes.  I used to gain pleasure from stealing and breaking windows. Now I gain pleasure from working hard, learning, writing, playing with my kids and physical training. The chemical reactions that cause me to feel pleasure remain the same, but the little understood mind changed greatly.  And I know why my mind changed: I experienced true Christianity.  I struggled for years after first experiencing it, but slowly changed over the years, like a metal refined by fire.  Consider a man who is overweight and out of shape. He does not exercise but knows he must for health reasons.  At some point his thinking on the matter changed and the seed was planted for future action. When he first starts exercising, he only feels pain. His body is telling him to stop. He is not deriving much pleasure from it at all. But he pushes through, and eventually morning runs start to feel good, his mind seems to work better, fat begins to melt off him. And so it is with almost all good habits. There is an initial period of discomfort. But as beings above mere wild animals, we can push through that pain using reason to form a vision of our goal.  After a while, we have formed a habit, and there is no longer pain, but probably quite a bit of pleasure to be gained from accomplishing what was once very difficult.

The French Renaissance philosopher Michel de Montaigne, a famous skeptic, disliked passionate feelings of love because he felt they interfered with freedom.  Many people are critical of the Christian views on sex and passion, they view (improperly) Christians as prudes whom dislike others feeling any type of sexual pleasure. This is not the case of course.  As its root, the Christian values concerning sex is about keeping one’s mind. W.B. Yeats once observed that he had witnessed more men destroyed by chasing after women then he had seen destroyed by alcohol. This from an Irishman.  Yeats and Montaigne understood that for man to act like Man, (big M intended), and not destroy himself, he must not follow every fleeting hormonal impulse.

Michel de Montaigne
Michel de Montaigne

As a man thinketh, so is he~Proverbs 23:7. And so as a person’s thinking changes, so do his habits. The ancients knew the power of habit. In fact, I believe it is the most powerful tool in existence when it comes to effecting human behavior. The first thing that I myself do when I want to accomplish something, is figure out how I can make aspects of the task a habit. This usually involves setting aside a time and place in which I always practice part of the task. I always write in the morning. I even learned a way of getting things done that aren’t pleasing: Just do one thing a day that you don’t want to do, but needs doing at some point. Just one thing. You’ll be surprised at how effective it is. And this is what I think of homosexuality: it is a habit, not something hardwired from the beginning in a homosexual’s genome.

Almost anything can become a habit, good and evil. Vince Lombardi said quitting can become a habit, Dale Carnegie said the habit of feeling sorry for yourself is the worst habit of all.

Aristotle said of habit:

Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.

In this article, I am primarily writing about physiological determinism, not cosmological determinism. That is, the idea that man does not have free will at all.  That is for another time. But it must be said here that determinism, is a major theme in leftist politics.  The belief, nay, the focal point, of this political system being that the determining factor in a man’s life is summed in the advantageous or disadvantageous situation into which he was born. That rich men are rich because they were born to lucky circumstances, and the poor people are poor because they were born to poor people.   But my interpretation of conservative politics, as I practice them, is to ask each person: What can you do right now to improve your lot and the lot of others? I see leftist politics as one giant antithesis of Carnegie’s admonition,  the leftist declares: The best habit is to feel sorry for yourself. And he hopes that men who don’t feel sorry for themselves, ie the men who make the world work, will give him some free stuff.  In other words, the view is self-serving, not “sympathetic.”

Finally, we must ask: How is the deterministic view helpful? If I truly am moved about like a puppet by hormones and impulses randomly bursting in my brain, what changes if I believe otherwise? But now ask yourself, what if we are not absolutely controlled by a domino effect of physiological input, but I believe and act as if I  am, what changes then? A great deal. A very great deal.

Terry Fox: Invictus

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“I remember promising myself that, should I live, I would rise up to meet this new challenge face to face and prove myself worthy of life…”~Terry Fox

It’s fashionable in our droll world so infatuated with egalitarianism to smirk at the aristocratic ideals of duty, honor and self-control.  But every few generations a person is born who smashes our odd combination of hubris and cynicism. A person whom, it seems to me, is specially crafted by God to show the world just how much we can bear and still move forward, still remain good, and how much we can still care about other people. When we see these people, we feel ashamed for our own weakness, our own bitterness, our complaints about the trifles we face.

Terry Fox was such a person.

Terry Fox:
Terry Fox: “I gave it all I had.”

It is also fashionable in our egalitarian world to believe that we deserve everything merely because we breathe air.  Being alive proves our value, and yet life, our society cannot be expected to require something from us. No, Terry Fox did not initiate a scientific breakthrough, he did not lead a mass movement that changed society and he was never interviewed by Oprah Winfrey. He was diagnosed with bone cancer at 18 years old. Eventually, doctors had to remove his right leg. Terry Fox, in an effort to raise money for cancer research, decided he would run from eastern Canada to ewestern Canada, a marathon every day for over 140 days, only resting 4 days in that period.  He made it 3339 miles on one human leg before stopping, the cancer having crawled into his lungs by that time. Speaking with his mother afterwards, he said to her: “Mom, I gave it everything I had.”  The Terry Fox Foundation has now raised over $500 million for cancer research.

I think we should pause and ask ourselves: Are we giving it all we have? Are we honest with ourselves? Am I even worthy of this life? The excuses can only go so far, and they do virtually nothing to better the world or our immediate situation.

In ending let’s look at a poem written by William Ernest Henley, a man confined to a wheelchair. His poem,  Invictus,  expresses the same spirit as did Terry Fox and St Paul: I have run the good race…..

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

The fruits of meaninglessness

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Without a vision of God, the people run amok. ~Proverbs 29:18

My friend, Bill, recently posted a comment in which he states:

FWIW, you have changed my mind on more than a few things, and one that I was very resolute about. I still have trouble digesting the emphasis on God in your posts though, not on an individual level but in it’s relation to society. It honestly seems like exactly the opposite of a position you’d hold so I’m missing something. Would love to discuss further some time 😉

This presents a very complicated issue, one that will require more extensive thinking and planning than are needed for most blog posts. I’ve thought about this what a post explaining my stance would entail, and felt that I perhaps would be too lazy to properly express myself, or perhaps merely incapable of doing so. My response could take a book, and there are many books written that would far surpass anything I could put down that would enunciate why I think that without God, society goes mad. Even as those who note society’s growing madness cannot fully grasp why this is happening. They still grasp at materialist reasons.

Several years ago, I gravitated toward Existentialism , not in a deliberate manner, not in a seeking for some “ism” to satisfy Man’s inherent need for meaning, though existentialism speaks primarily of Man’s need for meaning. The need for meaning is at Man’s core–without it he falls into madness, despair, self-destructive behavior, and loses almost all ability to examine himself. He becomes a ship without a compass, floating on a sea with no islands and no shores. His ship is quickly running out of food and drink. Even when I read of anti-theist movements like Bolshevism, there is the need for a driving force, a cause, a need to get up in the morning, for energy and drive.

Many who’ve read my writings or who’ve had cursory political conversations with me may believe that I am an ultra righter-winger, with no sympathy for the root of socialist or Communist thought. They would be wrong. My family on both sides was blue collar through and through. Welders, wood cutters, mill workers, union members. I know how tough physical labor is; I’ve done it myself on many occasions throughout my life, and I hated it; it was so boring all I could think of was the end of the day. Marx speaks to me at several levels. He talks about how the proletariat’s work is boring and provides only enough money to scrape by. Though I’d argue that my blue collar family did better than Marx would have predicted. My father, as a mill worker and welder, and my uncle as a boiler-maker, another uncle as a commercial fisherman, did quite well. The Communists and Socialists for the 40 hour work week and 8 hour days. People in Britain during the Industrial Revolution used to have to work 10-16 hours a day, 6 days a week. Believe it or not, being in the US Army made me more sympathetic to Marx, not less. I’ve seen how some managers and leaders will work people to death to make themselves look good, with almost no thought for others as human beings. On the other hand the Army has many traits inherent to a Socialist society, and these too create many problems. But in truth, I consider the US military to be one of the most un-American organizations in America. It removes too much choice, freedom of thought and audacity. It suffers its own consequences.

The people who fought for  justice for workers should be commended. There is a tendency toward increasing efficiency in any business, and often this results in people being treated as mere commodities. But not always, and I would argue that business can get more out of people and attract better people by treating them well.

One of the problems with the Manichean universe of Socialist/Capitalist conflict, is the belief that material needs are the basis for happiness. The Communists want us to believe that money is evil, and yet in many cases it is them who want the poor to have more money. It is they who primarily argue that money and the material comforts that it brings is what makes life bearable. Both Capitalists and Socialists argue almost the same thing. Almost. The big difference is that most free-market capitalists argue for freedom, that people should be free to get as rich as they please. It does not necessarily make a person evil to do so. Our nation is founded on basic freedoms, agreed upon in the Bill of Rights.

Even more important to me, is that Communism’s root is atheism. Communism expresses that Man’s only salvation is through materials, the exact thing that Marx explicitly railed against, but then built an ingenious argument for. Communists and their softer cousins, Progressives, expect too much from this life. The more you expect from this life, the more you will come to hate it. The more you come to find joy in small things, the more joy will be imparted to you.

Of all writers, perhaps Dostoevsky understood Man’s conundrum the best.

And so I seek a deeper meaning for myself and Mankind. Shredding all the money in the world, as the Communists want, will not bring nobility or contentment to humans. When I read the writings of the old Communists, Lenin, Mao, Marx, I’m astounded how men of such genius and energy could be so blind. Where did they get their energy? How could 75 years of hard living on this Earth give them enough motivation to fight so hard for something so transient? Where could they find the raw energy to commit such sustained atrocity, and to write with such power?

When humans drift away from the deeper meaning of existence, they almost always fall into self-destructive cycles. The West is abandoning God. The message is that only the uneducated and unthinking believe in God. And yet the further we drift from God, the more uneducated and unthinking we become. Our depravity, fed from an infinite well in a meaningless universe, was its own end. The message fed to us has been that freedom from God was the key to happiness. Much or our “art” is a celebration of our basest instincts, a celebration of historically aberrant behavior, drug use, arrogance, hate, raw sexuality, the pointless accumulation of money and trinkets.

Marx’ opening statement in The Communist Manifesto rings true, but it is not complete:

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

In truth, all men have striven for meaning. Take away God and provide Man with only raw materialism, and we find that what Whitaker Chamber’s said presents a much fuller picture of human history:

“Man without mysticism is a monster”

And so, since the powerful motivator of “The Cause” the ideologies like Communism provided men like Lenin has been replaced by vacuous nihilism. Without an external materialistic philosophy to drive him, Man turns from killing one another and turns to killing himself. But what proof do I have? Aren’t Americans more comfortable than ever? Maybe, but are they happier? Look at these statistics and decide for yourself:

How are we better off? Are we a more or less religious people than we were through the 30s, 40s and 50s?  We are in very concrete ways, more violent, depressed, and stupid. What more measurement could we ask for to prove our decline?  The first challenge of doomsayers such as myself, is not to convince of the correct medicine for our sickness, but to convince people we are sick at all. If the demise of civilization were apparent to everyone, it would never happen. But as TS Eliot noted, it’s not with a bang, but a whimper that we die.

Beyond the scientific facts is my personal anecdote. And in the true existentialist tradition, anecdote is important to me. It is important to everyone, even the most rational among us. Nobody lives his life day to day on scientific experiment.  We know that getting hit by cars is bad for us, not based on Newtonian physics, but because we heard of someone else dying when they were struck by a car. And our parents told us not to play in the road. in my own experience, people now are indeed dumber, coarser, less able to see themselves as the world sees them. Lacking manners of the faintest sort, they are loud, base, uttering curse works in virtually every sentence. Many are unable to write a clear sentence, gravitate toward the most brutal and meaningless of music and cinema. If you want to know where a society is headed, look at its art.  This brutal music is not admired despite its barbarity and coarseness, but because of it. Many celebrate the worst traits in humans, while scoffing at nobility.

Why all people in Western Society, even Christians, must face Nietzsche

Nietzsche predicted the downfall of the West.  He declared:

God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?

Nietzsche: “To make the individual uncomfortable, that is my task.”

Nietzsche, one of the few truth-tellers of the modern age. He is of the same blood line as Dostoevsky.  Nietzsche’s answer to the idea that God is dead and that we killed him with unbelief, is the construction of the Ubermensch , a human beyond the cares imposed on humanity by the inevitability of death.  To the Ubermensch, death, troubles, pain, mean nothing. The Ubermensch is able to find meaning in his life despite all of this. To Nietzsche, that is the only way to avoid utter despair and the logical conclusion of self-destruction: To become so strong psychologically, that none of it matters.

And that is why I, a Christian, still admire Nietzsche. He didn’t smooth things over for the atheists. He told them exactly what kind of world they would create. It would be a world, “beyond good and evil”, that is, evil. The classic Christian ethics would be tossed aside, and human psychology would be reduced to physiology.

And who has suffered first and foremost in our post-Nietzschean world? The intellectual elites in our universities, the libertine millionaires in Hollywood? No, it is the underclass. Our destruction is truly a grassroots movement.  There was a time in America when being poor was not synonymous with slovenly, greedy, thieving, bitter, uncaring, leading an unexamined life. I grew up poor and it was none of these things. There were of course exceptions, but now in many cases being poor is the direct result of a criminal mind.  And where did the criminal mind come from? It is the brood of a godless world. Unable to examine itself, a brute child who knows only the satisfaction and existence of its own passions.

We stand on the shoulders of giants. The slide to the bottom will not be instantaneous, but we have begun the journey.  The statistics that I posted above are but a small fraction of the facts displayed in several books that show where we are going. To some people, this decline will not be so apparent. America and Europe are, after all, not monolithic entities. Pockets of noble humans remain.  But even in many of these pockets, these noble humans have forgotten their Christian birthright.  And each generation’s memory lapses more.  And so, our society is not yet Somalia, but it is draining its well. As GK Chesterson stated:

The modern world, with its modern movements, is living on its Catholic capital.  It is using, and using up, the truths that remain to it out of the old treasury of Christendom.

Make no mistake, the pale horse coming is not at a full battle gallop, but trots slowly at the horizon.  Ask yourself, if America were to decline and fall, what would it look like, if not exactly what it looks like now when compared to our past?

We must understand, that in this predominately agnostic society we created, we also created people who must do one of two things:

  1. Ignore the fact that all humans die, and that our life on this Earth means nothing without the hereafter. 75 years is the mathematical equivalent of zero when juxtaposed with infinity.  Any number is zero when compared to infinity.
  2. People who acknowledge the meaninglessness of a life and thus intentionally subscribe to nihilism and destructive though immediately satisfying behavior. I myself would do heroine if I thought there was nothing beyond this life.

All societies that have tried to create an Ubermensch-by any other name- have brought almost unimaginable horror to mankind.  The Nazis were directly influenced by Nietzsche. The Communists attempted a humanist utopia made of men who lived beyond the natural needs and desires of humans. The mountains of corpses generated from these societies are a lesson that the atheists of our day try to sweep away with their postmodern cynicism.

In ending, my thesis is that our society is disintegrating in very concrete ways. And why is this? Because we no longer have a reason to live, to do good…to even try. 

Some have it, some don’t

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In his seminal book, “Good Calories, Bad Calories”, science journalist Gary Taubes recounts several studies which showed that starvation dieting did not work very well in helping people to lose weight, and that exercise, in his opinion, is unlikely the main factor in people losing pounds. One aspect of weight control that these studies doesn’t delve into is the roll that human will plays in diet. One area that I am at odds with Taubes is that people are relatively helpless victims in the obesity epidemic, swept away by a river of fate and bad science. I am also at odds with him on the role the exercise plays in weight loss.

Taubes recounts studies in which obese people were placed on diet of between 1500 and 1800 calories, and lost a paltry 8 pounds or so in 6 months or more. Yet the soldier I trained in Afghanistan lost 47 lbs. We did not count calories. He trained every other day, for about an hour. How was this possible? One of the faults I see in the studies that Taubes sites is an obvious one, at least to someone familiar with physical fitness. These studies, at least from what Taubes says, only monitored the weight of the subjects, and apparently not the body composition of the client. Muscle could have been increasing and fat decreasing, which is what most people want. He cites several studies which showed some people gaining weight while exercising, and some losing weight. This is actually consistent with what I saw in army basic training. Some people lost weight, one fellow gained over 20 lbs of good muscle. My weight stayed exactly the same throughout. I believe the body has a weight it desires to be at when exercise and diet are mostly correct. Thus the Russian studies involving kettlebell training that show some people lost weight and some people gained weight after training with kettlebells for some time. Some people needed more muscles, while others needed to lose fat. Kettlebell training set them right. Taubes believes that exercise increases appetite, thus causing people to eat more and gain weight. He quotes one scientists observation that a person has to climb 20 flights of stairs to burn off one piece of bread. Here, Taubes is again arguing against his own hypothesis, that obesity is primarily a hormonal problem in which excess insulin forces energy into fat cells for storage. Instead, he is making an excess energy argument in which he believes that exercise is insufficient in burning off consumed calories in most people. The problem is, Taubes’ insulin hypothesis could be right, and exercise could still help people lose weight, because exercise impacts blood glucose, insulin and the impact of insulin very significantly. Moreover, secondary hormones, which Taubes admits impact weight gain and loss (such as Human Growth Hormone and testosterone) though they play subordinate rolls to insulin, are greatly increased during and after exercise, even more so during intense exercise. I am not sure what kinds of exercise the people in the studies were doing, but not all exercises are created equal. Modern exercise science is pointing in a different direction from the decades of long and slow movements.

I see Taubes’ view that exercise is ineffective as fatalistic and also as part of a society that wishes to avoid any hint of personal responsibility or control. Taubes repeatedly points out that in the past, obesity was considered a moral failure, when it may only be an endocrine problem. However, humans, as intelligent moral creatures have the ability to seek better ways. When Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they they became burdened with their sins. And so it is with obesity. While I do not judge overweight people, I do find it reprehensible when people want to blame everything but themselves for their weight condition. After all, it may be true that they do not know the current science of diet and exercise, and it may be true that what they have been eating is making it nearly impossible to lose weight. But the overriding and glaring truth that should be evident is that what they have been doing is not working. I am particularly unsympathetic to people in the US Army whom are chronically overweight. I see and hear the differences in these people when compared to the fit soldiers. Gary Taubes seems to say that willpower has little or no part in weight control. I beg to differ. Certainly, cutting out refined carbohydrates will drastically reduce appetite and thus reduce the need for will in controlling weight, but it takes willpower to make the first step, and it takes willpower, and force of habit forged through the daily application of willpower, to eat and exercise in a beneficial way. After a while, habit trumps willpower. Doing things the right way, over and over, we find ourselves unsaddled with the pain we felt in the past. As we get more fit, exercise is no longer painful, as we reach our weight goal, defending that weight is much easier than having to send our bodies into deficit in order to lose weight.

I’m not a big fan of most reality shows, but I do appreciate The Biggest Loser. The trainers don’t allow the participants to wallow in self-serving whimper parties and excuses, tactics which have served them well in an enabling society. I see this behavior in the chronically overweight and under-fit people in my office. When we do Army physical training in the morning, one fellow in particular will almost invariably start whimpering about this or that hurting. He gained about 20 pounds of fat while I was deployed (he stayed at Ft. Drum), mostly by drinking liquid sucrose multiple times per day (that health drink known as Gatorade) and because he simply can’t push himself hard in physical training unless someone else is there to make him push himself. My experience with soldiers such as this helped me to notice two common characteristics: 1) They have very low pain thresholds, 2) They are relatively immune to shame.

The longer I am an NCO in the Army, the less patience I have for these types. I’m not talking about the person whom is merely slow or fat, but the person whom makes drama out of his discomfort in hopes of gaining an advantage over the people that are suffering right along with him, the person who expects the world to do all the work for him. Some of these people are irredeemable. They lack introspection and dignity. Some people have it, some don’t elite military units figure out if you have “it” before they hire you. They don’t train you to have it. Last week while leading physical training with two of my troops, the overweight NCO I spoke of above said he had a headache after we got done doing sprints. It was the usual drivel fro this guy, and the more he does it, the more I want to run him until he vomits (which he did, three times, several days prior). I’m 13 years older than he is, and wouldn’t dream of crying in front of my troops after a hard workout. The more he cries, the more I will run him, and make him swing kettlebells until his eyes bleed. When he began complaining, I exercised my right as an NCO is the US Army: I used shame and salty language to motivate. I said:

I have no fucking sympathy. None. Unless you have an arterial bleed I have no sympathy.

For those not in the military, this attitude seems brutal. But this is the problem with Taubes’ thesis: He tries to remove willpower from the equation. Just as the creators of counterinsurgency doctrine have tried to remove willpower from warfare and assume that we just need to tweek our “inputs” a little more and the enemy will fall in line, Taubes thinks that people just aren’t eating the exactly correct proportions of macro-nutrients (proportions which no one can agree on). Willpower is one thing that sets us apart from other animals. We can see our wrongs and make adjustments. The idea that things are supposed to be easy every time, all the time is killing our nation. From the Occupy Wall Street proto-Marxists, to the softies recruited by our military, we think we should start at the top, and never suffer a moment of discomfort. To modern Americans, something is wrong when there is discomfort. We could be climbing Mt. Everest and wonder why we’re uncomfortable and what politician we can appeal to for help.

Part of the problem begins with the femininization of America. We are increasingly matriarchal. This partly due to the fact that people simply cannot stay married for long anymore. They can’t tolerate each other. Lower class couple abandon each other at an alarming rate; when you have no job skills and neither does your partner, and no faith in God, you find your husband or wife as intolerable as any other person. Fathers are abandoning the family, and are generally not respected the way they used to be. Studies show that men and women have different parenting styles. Neither is better than the other, but both are required in order to make children into fully functioning adults. Women tend to be more nurturing and protective, while fathers tend to encourage reasonable risk taking. Two days ago I was at the bus stop waiting for my 6 year old’s school bus. One mother scolded her 7 (?) year old boy for jogging on the grass around the bus stop, warning him that the grass was wet from dew and she didn’t want him to fall and hurt himself. I wanted to vomit, and probably would have had I eaten breakfast. This boy will probably grow to be an Army general officer of the current strain, claiming that fighting is dangerous and doesn’t win wars. The obsession with safety in the Army is indicative of the military’s feminization.

We are dying from the inside, growing softer. We, the whining child who wants dessert before supper. And this is how I see most civilizations dying, not a concrete edifice demolished by the enemy’s cannon fire, but a rotting decomposition, the infinitesimal linkages between our cells that the wise of the world could never completely grasp, slowly disintegrating, becoming a liquefied gelatinous mass which no longer resembles a living entity.

Carbohydrates matter–a lot. Will matters even more. Almost every person at FOB Warrior in Afghanistan where I was deployed, lost weight. Why? Not because they were watching their carbs, but because they ate less because there was less food available. Sure, as a result they ate fewer carbohydrates. But we can control our destiny. We can make adjustments. Willpower needs to be exercised like any other human aspect, in order to strengthen it. Sometimes we need to really push ourselves through painful workouts, just to build our will. Allowing ourselves to be hungrier than normal is an ancient way of exercising the will. I’ve always promoted intermittent fasting, not only for its health benefits, but because it changes our essence.

Seize your destiny. You are not a victim of fate, whatever that fate it. Understand that pain is momentary, it is a threshold through which all strong people must pass. The only way to be strong is to pass through the portal of discomfort, which it transitory. On the other side of that door is strength and freedom.