Wednesday, January 19, 2005


Why is opposition to war automatically supposed to mean weak on national security? A war might be the worst possible move for national security in a given situation. Look how we dodged direct conflict with the Soviet Union and China during the Cold War, and how we tiptoe around China today. Come on, you pro-war wussies, if you believe in it, you believe it all the way.

Maybe the hawks just like to pick on people they perceive as weaker. In the propaganda leading up to the desired war you can play up the threat, but if you seriously thought you might lose you start talking about diplomacy.

Defensive war, or reactive war, is a different matter. World War II, widely praised as the American military's finest hour, was purely a reactive war. We didn't jump in until jumped upon. Then we whooped ass, but we had to be dragged into it.

The use of force remains an option, but anybody who is enthusiastic about it belongs on a bar stool in some dive bar, waiting to pick a fight at arm's length, not running the most powerful nation on Earth.

Give me anti-war leaders. If war is thrust upon us, we should not shirk it, but let's not trash-talk. We should be bigger and more self-confident than that. If our leaders aren't confident enough to be in favor of peace maybe they have let the country get weaker than they wish to admit. But by making peacefulness contemptible they are admitting more than they might intend to.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Afterlife: Judgement

If we are to be judged after death, the entire life must be judged.

If we are all part of the body of God, we must all pass judgement on ourselves and each other.

If a life is to be judged, every moment must be witnessed.

The corporate God, in the form of everyone who has ever lived, must witness every moment of your life, just as you must witness every moment of every one of theirs.

No wonder it takes eternity. And you probably don't know until it's over whether you're in heaven or hell. No doubt your opinion will change by the moment as you see how much more or better someone did, or how much worse. And because every life touches every other life in some way, more, better, bad and worse all relate to the ultimate whole result.

As you add things to the list of those you would not be caught dead doing, remember that you already have been caught dead doing it. Only the living lack the full knowledge. The overseeing spirit already saw every single gross or mean or unworthy thing you ever hoped to hide. And it isn't some single entity. It's everyone. It's the worst naked dream you ever had, magnified more than a billion times.

Now, try to relax and have a good time.

It starts to make inhibition look good, doesn't it? If you wouldn't do what you're about to do in front of everybody, maybe you don't want to do it at all. If you already did it, do you quit and hope to minimize the effect, or figure it's too late, and persist? If you did it at all, it's on your permanent record.

The whole long process is going to be boring and disgusting most of the time. But if we really believe in judgement, it has to be done. It has to be done to everyone, thoroughly, by everyone. Every fragment of the collective spirit gets to do it, has to do it, no exceptions, or it isn't fair.

Life isn't fair. Could afterlife be a similar ripoff?

Of course we don't really know. But when your movie plays it will probably have the strongest rating the motion picture industry can throw at it. Think of it. Every single instant, lighted at least as well as it was at the time, with perfect sound, and maybe multiple camera angles.

This is why they say the good die young. If you hang around past infancy, the questionable acts just pile up. Once you hit puberty, forget about it.

We will all know exactly what odd habits you had. We will also get to see every cool thing you ever did. Hey, it could be a good thing. But if you are alive at all, you will have to accept that the perpetual audience is in the room with you all the time, even after you realize they're there. You might address asides to them. You might ignore them. But you can't get away from them.

If you accept that all points in time touch each other, the audience watches even as you live. But you don't get to watch them until you've finished living this life. So you can't be sure they even exist.

If reincarnation is true, you get to do this multiple times. And the audience gets to watch you in multiple lives. But, apparently, the system is rigged so you don't know you're coming around again and you don't remember witnessing the lives of others.

The concept of judgement fits many faiths. Humans like the idea that accounts get balanced, misdeeds punished, virtue rewarded. It's just a lot easier to take if the watcher is a separate entity, above it all. But what if it isn't? What if it is everyone you ever knew or thought about, plus all the other people who ever touched their lives?

You know what I feel worst about? Not the biological stuff, everyone has that. Not the acts of injustice or cruelty, which were accidental or ignorant. I feel guilty that all the billions of people are going to have to listen to me struggle with the violin, knowing full well that I had no chance ever to be good at it and it benefitted no one that I should try. They'll send me to hell for making them all sit through that.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Road Rage

Why isn’t there more road rage?

The roads are the place we are all forced to interact. A lot of your personality shows out there, whether you realize it or not.

Larger print on bumper stickers would go a long way to increase road rage. People could be more easily offended by the philosophies spread before them. Then again, small print probably contributes to a lot of annoying tailgating. I hate it when the light changes before I can finish reading the political or social commentary on the bumper of the car in front of me. But I hate tailgating more, so I always let the car ahead pull away.

I often wonder what travel was like before we turned the roads into race tracks. What was it like when riders on horseback, wagons, coaches and carriages shared the same track with trudgers on foot? Certainly we see movies depicting arrogant aristocracy and gentry riding brusquely past peasant pedestrians, but was it as routine as today, when armored vehicles claim the right of way by sheer ability to wound and kill?

Walking travelers might strike up a conversation, as might mounted riders traveling at the same pace. You don’t see that with motor vehicles, at least since the CB radio craze died out. And even then it involved an extra device not everyone had.

Driving often becomes adversarial. Beat that guy to the intersection. Beat this red light, Get that parking space. Get around that slower car or truck. Scrape this tailgater off your bumper. Even if you are peaceably inclined, others bring the fight to you. Sometimes you just have to be a little aggressive to get through a situation and out of it so you can mellow out again.

In crowded areas, aggression becomes the norm. Even a minority of aggressive drivers can push the level of tension up, especially if it is a sizable minority. The more crowded the roads the tighter the molecules are packed and the more unstable the compound becomes.

Gridlock brings a temporary peace, of course. The compound is not inert, but the pressure on it stills the reaction. Release the pressure a little and the activity resumes, often more violently than before, as volatile elements boil.

Move in from country lanes to organized highways and city streets and the system is a lot like plumbing. Speeded-up movies of urban freeway traffic look a lot like the animations in commercials for drain opener. Stuff flows, stops flowing, then flows again. Is it any wonder people in traffic act like such shits?

I can’t foresee it changing much. If we get car-to-car intercoms, so we can strike up a conversation and find out if that other driver is actually a nice person who has some annoying driving quirks we would just add the verbal element to the confrontations that already develop.

Driving involves a lot of emotion. We want to flow at our chosen pace. Anything that changes that pace causes stress.

I find that using a bicycle for transportation helps a lot, because I can maintain my pace almost regardless of motor vehicle activity. If I can keep up, my small vehicle flows more nimbly through the traffic, even without illegal and aggravating messenger antics. If I can’t keep up, the maniacs with motors flow on by me, even delivering a helpful flow of air to pull me along.

Whatever happens, I know by how I feel physically whether I am doing the best I can. I’m free to ride as hard as I can endure, and corner almost with complete freedom to enjoy the shape of the road. The benefits of health and fitness just tag along with phenomenal savings on gasoline and insurance.

Winter puts me back in the car, mixing it up with the motoring public. I slip into the same style, tempted constantly to push or impede as my flow is disrupted by other opinions crammed into the road we have to share. I drive like an idiot through my favorite set of curves and tool along like a relaxed hippie on the scenic straightaways, a parade of fuming drag racers ignored in my rear view mirror. Little do they know they wish I was on my bike as much as I do.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Male-Female Relations

Ah, the feminine form. Look but don’t touch. No, don’t even look. Desire but don’t act.

In most social and professional interactions, the most basic polarity between the genders is supposed to be irrelevant to the exchange and, therefore, off limits. And rightly so.

If we simply adhered strictly to the cold, dry model of proper interaction there would be no population problem, because no one would ever bring the subject up.

Behavioral cues are no guide. Some of the most flirtatious women I have dealt with happen to be lesbians. The optimistic male perceives feminine friendliness as a sign they are receptive to further advances. The rational man realizes that happy, friendly women seem inviting because the man hopes to be invited. Let that analytical mind lapse for a moment and a man can slip into dangerous territory.

Young adulthood confuses the issue as young men who hope to impress young women meet young women who have not yet learned to be routinely unimpressed. The magic seems to work for a while. The reward is often unmatchable pleasure. The punishment can be severe, but any adventure involves risk. It seems worth it.

This deception perpetrated by our own bodies is the mechanism that has suckered us into reproducing for all our countless generations.

Maybe sperm and eggs don’t exist to reproduce us. Maybe we exist to reproduce them. We are what they build to convey themselves around. They’re inside, calling the shots.

Certainly the male creature seems to endure a constant internal battle between the brain cells and the sperm cells. Whoever is in the majority at the time tries to govern the body. The brain requires a strong police force to contain the socially disruptive forces.

The whole exercise becomes a lot more resistible when you realize that sex produces one or more of three things: babies, diseases and head trips.

The head trips may be enjoyable or not. You might not produce a child or pick up a disease in any given encounter, but the risk is always there.

Whenever two people are sexually attracted to each other they should ask themselves why. Man, why do you want that woman? Woman, why do you want that man? Man, why do you think that woman wants you? Woman, why does that man want you?

Doesn’t that take all the fun out of it?

Maybe that’s the point. It’s like putting a condom on your brain, a practical little pause in the tingling, headlong rush to slide mucous membranes together in pursuit of pleasure. Because maybe there’s more and you just haven’t acknowledged it.

Thought is never fashionable, especially when it delays or defeats pleasure, so no one will do as I advise. Just remember I said it when you’re on your belly in the middle of some emotional minefield, scrabbling desperately at the dirt with your bayonet, trying to find the safe route to crawl out.