The Armchair Philosopher

  July 27, 2015 armchair “The armchair philosopher; the bane of a life less lived. And as they rise to meet the world, they are unaware their shadow in the chair remains.”
The Armchair Philosopher; such a curious species in their ever continuing attempt to create an obligation around the whims of babbling fancy and stilted airs of intellectual importance. Convolution and contradiction mixed with common quotes make for a murky soup of feigned scholarly pursuit, yet still they ride on the sails of intentional confusion. They’re not hard to spot, of course, with their shiny suits and brand new shoes nearly 10 years old and the more they talk the more they reveal the nonsensical nature of their thoughts and words. I’ll listen for a time to the droning deliberations, fascinated by the many indiscretions that counter the claims of above average intelligence. More often than not, however, a breath of impatience will usually meet my questions to them of “How and Why”. Time is of importance, though, and one to be shared wisely and cautiously. Standing to take leave I look down at my boots and smile. They seem more muddy and worn amid the glare and cage-like austerity that such a persons mind holds.
What is more wise then, but to open the door and head back into the storm?

Oh! The Places I’ll Go

by Jake Block
rfooth The human range of visual color perception is approximately 390-700 nanometers (NM) and we do quite well with it.  Colors are perceived by humans based on the light that strikes our retinas through “cones” which act as filters and collectors within the structure of the eye itself. There are three types of cones (red, green or blue,) and each of these cones can perceive approximately 100 shades of any given color, so, based on the average number of cones in the human eye, the average person can perceive approximately 1,000,000 shades (+/-).  There are a very few people who are born with an anomaly, in that they have a fourth cone, which allows them to further perceive color.  They are very rare, and only women can can be what is termed a “tetrachomat.”  It is estimated that in this world of almost 7 BILLION people, only about 1.36% of women may be tetrachormatic.
With all of this wonderful capacity of vision, what we can see in the spectral range of color is limited to the 300 (+/-) range of nanometers of visual range allotted for our species.  We’ve heard the terms for other ranges of visual perception, and brush up against them in various ways, but few ever really “see” these color ranges in any practical application in their daily lives.  Above the human range of perception is Infrared, in which colors reflect from between 750-950 (NM).  Dogs and cats are thought to have eyes that can detect this range of color sensation, but we need special filtration to see the dramatic colors of a world where our senses lose the red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet we are used to and find that in the infrared, a whole new paradigm of color perception applies.
Taking a photograph in infrared isn’t always an easy thing to do, because of the long exposure times needed to capture the subject on the emulsion of film, or to replicate the same effects on the digital format of the modern Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera.  The reason, in the case of the DSLR, is that they are constructed with a filter that BLOCKS the UV range.   In order to do infrared photography with a DSLR, one has to defeat the camera’s construction by either having the filtration built into the camera removed, or filter the broad spectrum of light coming into the camera to remove all but the infrared range of color.  Even so, exposure times can be lengthy, up to and even beyond the 30 second range or exposure, which churns through battery life due to the overworking of the camera’s electronic sensors.  My preference is to use filtration, as modification of the sensors severely limits the use of what can be an expensive camera.
THE PLACES YOU’LL GO! You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights. You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.”
— Oh!  The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss
The ultraviolet world is a darker place where one’s imagination can run wild, and with a few minor manipulations, even without the abomination of Photoshop, you’ll soon find that in this world of dark aberration, those whose sensibilities run toward a darker aesthetic will find much to enjoy.  Simple color bias changes that can be done on a good quality DSLR, and minor contrast and saturation manipulations in standard post processing suites allow you to form your world and dream.  Were I to be “The Creator” and begin this all anew, I might build the world and its vision on the prismatic colors of the rainbow for the masses who need bright and garish colors to stimulate what imagination they possess, but for those of us who appreciate a darker aesthetic, the shadows and murky beauty of infrared would be the realm we’d call home.

An Inch Becomes A Mile

by Jake Block
images I’m reluctant to have many “friends” in my life.  It’s not that I’m not a friendly person, and I suppose I like some people enough that I could call them “friends,” except I seldom do.
I’m a firm believer that one should be able to count the number of his close friends on the fingers of one hand, and throughout most of my life, I would have fingers to spare.  I have several  “associates,” and while they may have greater access to me than do others that “know me,” they seldom make my friends list.  Mostly they are people necessary for me to live my life and get things done, and it’s a symbiotic relationship.  They pretty much view me the same way and while we make each others lives easier, none of us are rushing to be at each other’s birthday party.  We don’t pick up the phone just to talk.  I don’t really care about the intricacies of their lives, or their children’s lives.  I’m just not that invested in their lives, and don’t want them to think that my life is something they should have much investment in, either.  A look at my Facebook list shows that I have 131 “friends.”  It’s a misnomer at best.
So, I’m satisfied with my “fist full of friends,” and these are people to whom I grant greater access to my life.  They might know me on a personal level, and we might exchange a phone call from time to time, visit face to face, travel together on occasion, etc.  I generally know more about their lives and they know more about mine, and we might exchange ideas from time to time on ways that we think the other friends might enhance their lives.  We give advice freely, although we realize that it’s the ultimate responsibility of those for whom the advice is given as to whether they accept and use that advice, or find a solution to their current dilemmas on their own.  These people have my promise of discretion.  What is between us in correspondence or in personal communications STAYS between us, unless they have given me permission to relate such communications to others.  If Sam is a friend and an employee who tells me, “John’s taking money from the till at work,” that confidence is safe with me.  It won’t keep me from firing John for being a thief, but I’ll never divulge where I got that information.  On the other hand, if Sam tells me, “I’ve been embezzling from the company for years,” it’s a different story.  “Friend” or not, Sam’s going to get fired… if he’s lucky.  A betrayal on a personal level like that would merit a severe ass-kicking, and THEN firing.  And I would have one more finger on which to count.
There’s an old saying that applies when considering “friends” in your life.  “Familiarity breeds contempt.”  No one expects their friends to start taking advantage of them, and the transgressions that happen begin innocuously enough, with nothing one could point to as being egregiously offensive, but like a cat who stealthily moves closer and closer toward that forbidden bird cage, there comes a moment when they cross the line.  Innocently, at first, just bumping up against the social boundaries of interpersonal relationships, perhaps speaking out of turn and intimating that they have your confidence to speak for them on a given topic… when that confidence will bolster “the friend’s” position, of course.  Eventually, they cross further and further across those lines in the sand, until they seem to think that they are somehow elevated beyond their actual station in your life, and begin to take liberties with expression, projections of ideologies, and sometimes, down right interference into one’s personal affairs!
Imagine, if you will, an evening in the springtime, sitting in the living room, watching a movie on TV, when the front door opens and one of the small town’s candidates for mayor simply walks into your house and begins his spiel.  Would you smile cordially while this man, basically a stranger to you, takes such liberties with your hospitality… a hospitality that, by the way, has not even been offered?  No, this isn’t a “what if” example.  This actually happened and no, I didn’t offer the man a seat and a drink.  My offer was closer to, “Get the fuck out of my house now,” as I reached for my gun on the table to my right.”  Totally inappropriate?  Of course.  Unexpected?  Certainly, but in truth, practically anyone who simply walked into my house without my permission would receive a less than joyous reception, at best.  Most likely, they would be shown the door in no uncertain terms and told that there is a doorbell on the door jamb, and if that was broken, knocking and waiting to be invited in is always appropriate.  I can’t think of any of my “friends” who would ever be so forward and disrespectful, but then they all know of my demand and expectation of privacy.  Still, there are people who just don’t get that the customs and courtesies of social conventions apply to them as well as the other 7 plus billion inhabitants of the planet.  Someone MIGHT get away with this level of disrespect ONCE, but never twice.
Now, in the mind of the transgressor, YOU have a problem.  After all, they are there to enhance your life by being your friend, and you should be grateful that they like you enough to assume that you would want them by your side 24/7.  Whether this is the result of not being taught boundaries as children, or being given the belief that friends deny friends nothing, we may never know.  Maybe it’s just some deep seated belief that their personal needs and desires supersede any boundaries or wishes that others may have relative to their privacy and need for personal space and time.  In any case, it’s a conflict that’s waiting to happen, and inevitably, one of their friends is going to show them the line in the sand that they shall not cross, knowing all the while that the insensitive, or dim witted lout eventually will.  Five fingers, no waiting… clueless friends need not apply.
It’s in people’s nature to take advantage when they can, push the envelopes of intimacy and companionship even when boundaries and privacy concerns have been explained to them over and over again.  It’s in their nature, and often we will give them that inch, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let them take that mile!

Leave the past alone.

Leave the past alone, there’s nothing good about toying with the past when it’s still walking around on two legs. I should be writing this in my notes on Facebook. Cause it sound so silly. whenever I write something down, read it out loud, to see if it sounds right if it doesn’t than I rewrite it. I’m not the best writer, my grammar isn’t always in place. So forgive me for not having a head for university. But you know reading helps. I don’t like going on about the past because we’re supposed to learn from it so here’s to this note. I’m not going to go on about something I can’t change, all I can do is learn and listen. Atleast that’s what they told me in school. I guess they were right on some levels. But they can never teach you the ropes of life, you have to do that yourself.
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The Parable of the Parrot Philosopher

by Jake Block
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA It only cost a nickel.  Just five cents, right there on the street in front of Adam’s Pet Shop.  The beautiful, large African Grey parrot sat in his cage, watching passersby who, occasionally, would drop a coin into the slot on his cage.  Gears would hum and whir and a small door would open, depositing three pistachio nuts into Caesar the Magnificent’s bowl.  Caesar would waddle to the bowl in his awkward gait and snatch his treats, gobbling them down, then he would return to his perch and make his pronouncements.
“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” (Nietzsche)
The crowd would mumble in appreciation until someone else would dig deep into his pocket for a coin and the ritual would begin again and again.
“If one does not understand a person, one tends to regard him as a fool.” (Jung)
“The universe is not required to be in perfect harmony with human ambition.” (Sagan)
““Shallow men believe in luck.  Strong men believe in cause and effect.” (Emerson)
“La plus belle des ruses du diable est de vous persuader qu’il n’existe pas.” (Baudelaire)
After a few moments, someone would mutter “smart bird,” and the crowd would amble on down the street to Barney the Dancing Chicken or Wendy the Wonder Mouse.  And in the interim, Caesar would sit on his perch and stare at the world around him.  Occasionally he would scratch his neck with his taloned foot or pluck an errant feather that had come out of place.  He would drink his water and he would squawk at those who passed, always keeping a watchful eye on the door above his shiny aluminum food bowl.
One day, shortly after the pet shop opened and Adam set him outside for the day, a man came.  He had heard of Caesar in a far off town and he had journeyed to hear this beautiful grey bird’s words of wisdom.  He pulled out a handful of nickels from his pocket and deposited one after another, and Caesar would munch and proclaim…
“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” (Orwell)
“Cynical realism is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation.”  (Huxley)
“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.”  (Vonnegut)
“The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.”  (Mencken)
Soon, the man ran out of nickels.  “Caesar, you are such a wise bird,” he said, “What is the meaning of life?”
Caesar was silent for a moment and then clucked lowly.
“Caesar, what is God and where shall I find him?”
The bird stared at the man and shook his body, fluffing up his feathers in agitation, but still the man went on.
“Caesar, how can I be good in a world that seems so bad?”
Caesar waddled over to the little door above his food dish and pecked at it with his big, strong beak, then stared at the man who stood before his cage without nickels but many questions remaining .  After a moment of standoff, the man began to speak.  Caesar squawked wildly, spreading his great wings and flapping them towards this man before him… this man without nickels.  This man without pay.  His squawking became louder and he became more agitated until, at last Adam emerged from the store and told the man, “Get the hell away from my store and leave my parrot alone!”
Dejected, disappointed and sad, the man began walking away from the wise bird.  His head bowed, hands in empty pockets, be began walking back from whence he came.  A few steps from the cage, he heard Caesar mutter,  “What the hell do you want from me?  I’m only a parrot.
Sometimes the most profound of speakers is most impressive when he’s parroting the words of others, but when left to his own devices and asked to think for himself, he’s revealed to be just a parrot, dispensing the wisdom of others for nickels.  This, and nothing more.

The Parable of the Salmon

by Jake Block
When the urge came, the salmon was far, far from his beginnings as a “parr,” freshly hatched and taking in this vast new surrounding in the small pool of its birth and eager to move and find out what lay downstream to the depths of the sea, many many miles away.  But life moved on and soon the salmon found himself steadily swimming amongst the other smolt, adolescent by now, through the bright and bubbling spring waters, shallow enough to be warmed by the heat of the sun, to the river, deeper and wider, cooler and swifter.  Here, the salmon became carried away with the current, almost effortlessly making his way to… where?  Along the way, he learned many things; where the log-strewn waters along the shore might hide a morsel or two, or where the land dwellers might cast their steel barbs to catch an unwary fish.  He learned to survive in these increasingly hostile waters, and as his skills grew, so did his strength and ability and the rivers became just another larger pond, so he moved on.  Ever swimming, ever forward until the rush of the river, with its sweet water and plentiful bounty dumped him unceremoniously into tha salty, cold darkness of the sea.
The salmon learned much in the sea, and used it to thrive, avoiding the many perils around him, from other fish to commercial fishing vessels to the polluted waters that claimed so many of his kind.  There were times when food was plentiful, and times when hunger loomed as he grew and matured.  The sea was vast and wide, filled with peril and pleasure, but as long as one kept a cool head and never stopped moving, one could have a long and eventful life, happily swimming in his school of other salmon, occasionally interacting with other schools of salmon and sometimes, even tuna.  He was enjoying his life as a mature fish when the urge came, and he knew he had to return, no matter the cost, to the place of his birth; the place he must spawn, pass on his wisdom to the little ones and live the rest of his life in peaceful contentment.
So back he swam from the sea… back up the river, back up the streams, back to the headlands ripples and rapids, swimming mightily upstream, leaping higher and higher against the sheer drop offs, to where the cool and languid pools of his youth would be found.  And around him too were other salmon, all working hard to make it home, some falling behind and failing, but those with the will to survive and to complete this most arduous task of life forged on.  One last leap… one last thrust… and the salmon jumped with all of the skill and power left in his body.  He was unable to stop or change directions when he saw the jaws of the bear, fishing for his dinner in the fast running waters of the stream, picking him off mid jump and ending his life.  His last thought before the blackness came was, “Is that all there is?”
Being a Satanist in the world at large isn’t easy.  There are times it can feel very much like a salmon swimming upstream to spawn in the cool and still waters from whence it came.  But it’s what society will tell you that you are supposed to do.  Your duty and your fate will be reinforced by the social-indoctrination tools… schools, churches, and even families.  They’ll tell you that it’s your job to follow the script set forth by millennia of tradition within your culture… within your race… within your species, and most will comply.  Most will brave the jaws of the bears, the predatory beasts of the rivers and seas, and all of the dangers that stand against us, just to die peacefully in that languid pool of peaceful waters.  A life long lived until one simply sleeps forever.
But some how, some way, a few break off and resist the urges that call.  Some continue to find their adventures in the sea, where one must prove themselves on a daily basis.  Some find the struggle to survive more compelling than the urge to follow the programming that it is assumed is one’s nature.  There are some for whom the programming of society and culture simply don’t make sense, and they find more satisfaction on finding their own meaning of life, constantly asking, “Is that all there is,” while continuing to strive for more.  They bend and break the rules, often confounding others of their kind, opting for personal satisfaction and experience, rather than meeting the expectations that most find to be the essence of being, prodigal sons all, in their dutiful return to the fold.
Sometimes you survive the journey.  Sometimes you get picked off by the bears.  Sometimes, you simply journey on.

The Briefing

by Jake Block
dogtags In 1981, I was still in the military and openly a Satanist. Everyone in the squadron knew it, and to be truthful, as long as you did your job and kept your mouth shut, just like being gay, no one really cared. One day, I was working, preparing to move a large number of troops to an undisclosed destination, when my commander came into my office. I immediately came to attention for this man that I had come to respect. He was a no nonsense officer who laid it on the line and expected you to do your job. If you did, you were ok. If not, you had better be prepared for the consequences. It was uncommon for him to just show up during the working day, so after returning my salute, he said, “Go home. Be back at my office in one hour in dress blues and be prepared to brief the Wing Commander. Hit it. I was out the door and headed to my car. Briefing the Wing Commander usually meant you had really fucked up. But they wouldn’t need you in dress blues for that. Your ass could get chewed just as easily in fatigues. Reporting in dress blues was usually the stuff of awards, medals and honors… OR… you had REALLY fucked up, as in “Thanks for playing, pick up your lovely parting gifts as you leave.” Now, I was GOOD… but having to be honest with myself, I had done very little lately that ventured into the awards and decorations category. Still, I had done nothing that would make me think I was in deep shit, either. So I steadied myself as best I could and in one hour to the minute, I was standing at my commander’s door, knocked twice, and entered. Inside his office, he and the Wing Commander were sitting at his short conference table. In front of them were several regulation books, note pads and coffee cups… a good sign… when you’re in trouble, they don’t relax enough to drink coffee. Also at the table was the commander’s secretary, Mrs. Livenson who was tough as nails, but well known as a friend to the troops. She gave me a smile as I took three steps toward the table, halted with my right leg tensed and slammed my heels together with a SNAP, while executing my salute. “Tech Sergeant Block, reporting as ordered… SIR!” They returned my salute and had me stand at ease while the secretary read the agenda. “This meeting has been called to investigate and to find facts into the involvement of TSgt Block in Satanism, the Church of Satan and his long-standing request to be issued military identification tags reflecting The Church of Satan as his religious preference.” She paused. “This is not a matter pertaining to violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and no jeopardy exists. This meeting is to determine if TSgt Block’s involvement falls within the realm of military standard, and if it is compliant with order, discipline and proper military conduct.” My commander asked, “TSgt Block, do you understand these specifications as explained to you?” I answered crisply, “Sir. Yes, sir!” Then, standing there, looking at an eagle on my commander’s shoulders and the 4 stars on the Wing Commander’s uniform, the questions came. “Are you a devil worshipper?” “What’s the difference between devil worship and Satanism?” “Do you approve of drugs?” All fairly simple questions that any Satanist “worth his brimstone” should be able to field off the top of his head. Behind me, I heard a knock at the door and then, to my left, saw the familiar figure of Colonel Langen, the senior base Chaplain. Coming to attention, I saluted him as he took his seat next to the Wing Commander. He said, “A salute for the enemy?” Still holding my salute and awaiting his in return, I said, “I’m sorry to see that a fellow soldier would consider a comrade with a difference in philosophy an enemy.” The returning salute never came, and as he began shuffling in his briefcase for various items, I said, quietly, “I post, sirs, (I return to stand-by).” I noted that my commander smiled as he glanced at an obviously agitated Chaplain, and simply said, “Noted.” From that point on, for the next four hours, it was pretty much like Jesus being questioned before the Sanhedrin. The Chaplain clearly had an agenda, and that was to make me look like either someone using Satanism to thumb the eye of the military, a druggie using Satanism as a justification for illegalities under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, or someone who just didn’t “get it,” and was gullible and manipulable under his trained mastery of Christian doctrine. I’m pleased to say, he failed at all three, and I made him look like a fool on more than one occasion, and while it was a temptation to go for the easy joke and ridicule him, keeping my military bearing and professionalism served me much better. These three men had the power to destroy my military career, send me someplace where I would just be out of the way, or force me into hiding who I was, “going along to get along.” But it was important to me that I make my stand, to demand the same rights and freedoms that I would ask and defend for others, and symbolically, the issuance of official military dog tags was my way of doing it. Did I care if I would be given some recognition if I was killed in battle? Not particularly… I would be dead. Did I care to be singled out by being awarded the dog tags? No, because I was singled out by NOT being awarded them. It would have been easier and less invasive of my privacy never to have mentioned the matter in the first place. But had I not rolled the dice and taken my chances, I would have remained under control and, even down to the moment of my death in battle, destined to be what someone else wanted me to be, for when I enlisted in 1969, there was no option of “NO religious preference.” If you had none, one was assigned on your dog tags, because the square had to be checked off or the paperwork would be incomplete, and that was simply unacceptable. So now, many years later, I stood before the panel and stated my case. I stated it professionally and with knowledge of the subject at hand and, after four hours of briefing, questions and answers, I was told. “Thank you for your time. Return to work, and we will advise you of our findings.” I said, “Thank you, sirs,” executed an about face, left the Commander’s office and went back to mine. I heard nothing for several weeks, and pretty much had put it out of my mind. I had a job to do, and getting that job pretty much took all of my time. So I continued to work, day to day. Then, one day when I was supervising my troops working on a project, a voice from behind said, “Tech Sergeant Block, may I have a word?” I turned to see Tech Sergeant Riordan form the Central Base Processing Office. He shook my hand and said, “Can we go to your office for a moment?” Certainly, this was a common occurrence. In my mind, he was there to arrange a special movement of personnel somewhere in the system. So we went to my office. I had my admin assistant bring us a cup of coffee and as I settled in behind my desk, I reached for my note pad. TSgt Riordan reached into his pocket and came up with a set of dog tags and said, “I thought you might want to have these. They’re hot off the press.” I took them with a smile and shook his hand. There, with my name on them were the first dog tags ever issued with Church of Satan as the religious designator. It had taken almost 10 years to accomplish, but with enough effort, even the thickest red tape can eventually be cut. A small victory. A personal victory. And even though it was a victory won, it did not mean that everyone would have to accept me, but it did mean that officially, they could not deny me. Did it change the way I worked? No. Did it change the way I felt? Somewhat. Did it give me anything I really didn’t have before? No. But sometimes gaining something isn’t the point.

The Parable of the Spanish Sandals

by Jake Block
In Rome there was a Senator, a man of the people.  He had the ear of the every day Roman who did his job, earned his pay, and paid his taxes to Rome as any good Roman should.  He was known for his love of fine footwear, and especially beautifully made, carefully tanned leather sandals from the south of Spain.  This endeared him to his Roman constituents, who began to call him “Sandalia” in recognition of his fondness for Spanish footwear.
The Senator also had a love of the good life and had a wonderful villa in Rome and another on the Isle of Capri.  His beautiful wife Agrippina at his side, he had risen from being a simple soldier to a mighty Senator of Rome.  His life seemed charmed and happy until the day that he divorced Agrippina and the great Senator stepped down from the Forum to again be a simple soldier in the Army of his nation, giving up all of the trappings of privilege and comfort except for one pair of Spanish sandals.   Then, one day, while walking through Rome with his squad, he was surrounded by his former supporters.
“Sandalia,” they called, “Why have you divorced your beautiful and faithful wife?  Why have you surrendered your seat in the Forum to carry a sword and shield of a simple soldier?  They pressed him as he stood, helmet in hand before them, until at last, he stepped up onto a low wall, looking out over the small crowd and said, “My friends, it is true that I once had a much different life, and to you it seemed to be all that any man born of woman could hope for.  And yes, I did divorce Agrippina, who had stood by my side; the beautiful and dedicated Agrippina, in whom you see such elegance and perfection.”
He bent down and carefully unbuckled his meticulously crafted Spanish sandals and held them up for the crowd to see.  “Yes!  I had a life that was to your eyes perfect.  I had the perfect wife, the perfect position and to you they seemed ideal, but in reality, those things in my life were very much like this beautiful pair of sandals you’ve all admired.  They too are wonderful to look at, and seem to be the perfect fit for me.  They were crafted well, and serve their purpose, but only I can tell where they pinch.”
With that, Sandalia the soldier put his sandals back on and marched away with his squad.

It’s Hard To See The Big Picture When Your Head Is Up Your Ass

by Jake Block
You know the type.  They have such a limited world view that nothing other than the smallest piece of the pie matters, and that small piece is theirs.  Now, the rest of the pie might be green with mold, but all our gourmand can think about is that sliver of pie, seemingly not yet infected, and the whole world around him is consumed in that one slice.  They’re the kind of people whose minds and attention spans are so limited that they can’t be bothered with anything except that special interest of theirs, whether it be politics, sports, the cost of gasoline, opera… you name it.
Most people aren’t so trivial as to become all consumed with their slice of pie, and can generally hold a decent conversation on a variety of topics.  But when the conversation becomes invaded by the addled jibber-jabber of these one-thought wonders, you might as well just give it up for the day and find something else to fill your time, because subtle hints won’t deter them, nor will ignoring them or even confronting them with the fact that all they ever talk about is their special interest.  It might slow them down for a moment or two, but they lack the ability for even short term change.
The worst of the lot are the political junkies who wear their assigned labels like badges of honor; liberal, conservative, right wing or left, Republican, Democratic, Libertarian or Independent.  If one says that the sky is blue, it will be fodder for the political spin that they can put on it.  They can give you a million reasons why the country is in its current fix, conveniently rewriting history so that their particular politician or political party had nothing to do with it, even if there are recordings, both video and audio, of their candidate making damning statements on any subject.  Revisionist history knows no political bounds and seldom bears much of a relationship to historical accuracy an often even common sense.  Don’t confuse them with truth and accuracy for their minds are made up and they are wholly invested in maintaining their version of events, else they might have to admit that they have swallowed just as much of the Kool Aid as the other guy.
Religious fanatics… you gotta love them… could pretty much be painted with the same brush, and fortified with the smugness of attitude that comes from being ultimately right in a fundamentalist kind of way.  ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALISM is EVIL and denigrates women, forcing them into subservience to men “makes them wear beekeeper outfits,” covering themselves from head to toe.  “Obviously,” says the Christian fundamentalist, “this is wrong and not in keeping with the word of GOD.”  Yet, if you look at Fred and Martha, you’ll see that Fred rules the roost in his “right” Christian home, they know that in Ephesians 5:22 – 33, they are told:  “22: Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23: For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24: Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.  25: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26: that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27: that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28: So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29: For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30: For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31: “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  32: This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
Islamic or Christian Fundamentalism is simply the opposite side of the coin in a situation that the coin is paper thin and there really isn’t much difference after all, leaving plenty of space for a very Satanic third side option that embraces much more of a realistic male/female paradigm than either of these faith based systems could ever conceive.  But that third side can never be seen unless one can find a way to defocus from the other two and look at things with fresh eyes. In order to gain new perspectives on anything, one has to be open to the possibility that their preconceptions taint any evidence that can cause doubt within their faith based beliefs.  Simply put, one has to develop the discipline to allow themselves to set themselves apart from a situation in which they might be intimately involved, in order to see things as they actually are, rather that what we wish them to be or what we have been told that they must be.  This, my friends, includes the “born agains” of whatever stripe, political, religious, atheist, pragmatist, vegan, you name it.  If your WERE “that,” but now you are “this,” you’ve run up against a roadblock in your thinking that you simply can’t wish away or dismiss.  If you need to reference what you are vs what you were, then it negates the reality that HUMANS do things within AND without religious constructs, so in order to see change, one must see people as simply that… people.  Then we can work on the inequities that they take upon themselves. It all begins with being able to see the big picture, vs that small sliver of pie we feel is uncontaminated by the whole.  Truth be known, the pie itself is contaminated… the degree to which your slice might be contaminated is up for debate and will always remain in question until we can back off and analyze it dispassionately.  You can do that best when your head is in the bright light of day and the fresh air of impartiality much better than the darkness and myopia of the inside of your own ass.

Tell Me Something Good

by Jake Block
swami “Apollonius of Tyana:  Tomorrow will be like today, and the day after tomorrow will be like the day before yesterday. I see your remaining days as a tedious collection of hours full of useless vanities. You will think no new thoughts. You will forget what little you have known. Older you will become, but not wiser. Stiffer, but not more dignified. Childless you are, and childless you will remain. Of that suppleness you once commanded in your youth, of that strange simplicity which once attracted men to you, neither endures, nor shall you recapture them. Mrs. Cassin: You’re a mean, ugly man! Apollonius of Tyana:   Mirrors are often ugly and mean. When you die, you will be buried and forgotten, and that is all. And for all the good or evil, creation or destruction, your living might have accomplished, you might just as well never have lived at all.” — The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao by Charles G. Finney Do you want me to tell you what you want to hear, or do you want me to tell you the truth as I know it?  Most people don’t want to hear the truth, no matter what they might tell you.  They want you to validate what they already think.  “Mitt Camp” fortune tellers in the carnivals have made their living doing exactly that for hundreds of years.  So have the “death talkers” on television who claim to talk to the dead… your auntie Jane or my uncle Ralph will always be right there on call to tell you something good from the vast beyond.  Some of these people can be pretty slick, and some of them are about as believable as a lottery ticket with the guaranteed winning numbers for half off the ticket price… this is actually a scam that some people fall for, believe it or not.  All of these “feel good” scams are geared toward those who need to be told something good, so that they know that everything will be ok. Life isn’t like that.  Sometimes things WILL be ok in the end, and other times, there’s going to be hell to pay, and you’re going to get the bill.  Seeking answers from someone who has no “skin in the game” doesn’t really make much sense.  At best, they’re going to try to mollify your senses with platitudes or mitigations, because it will ease your mind and give you some sense of release from the nagging doubts and fears that accompany every physical or mental trauma.  Usually, you’re going to have to wait it out like everyone else and trust the opinion of professionals in whatever field your current dilemma falls into, and really, isn’t listening to the doctor tell you that he does or doesn’t think that lump is malignant a lot more valid than Aunt Becky’s anecdotal evidence of “the guy she once heard about who worked at the hardware store and thought he had cancer, but it really turned out to be a hive of bees in his thigh?” You want me to tell you what you want to hear, but like Apollonius, I just don’t work that way.  If I respect you enough to even give you my opinion, trust that it will be one that I believe myself!