“No matter what happens, guys, whoever gets nominated, we have to support them. Bashing Democrats is not productive. We shouldn’t make personal attacks on either Hillary or Bernie, and especially not on their supporters. If we do that, it pretty much guarantees that a Republican will get elected.”



“I don’t trust Hillary! She’s in bed with Wall Street and big business!”

“Bernie is out of his mind! Look at him! That ‘wealth redistribution’ nonsense sounds good on paper, but he’s delusional if he thinks it’ll actually work!”

“Hillary is a hypocrite! She talks a good game about criminal justice reform, but her husband’s escalation of the ‘War On Drugs’ is a big reason why we need criminal justice reform in the first place! A person would have to be STUPID to think she’s changed her mind on any of that stuff!”

“Bernie simply does not have the experience to run for President. Hillary is WAY more experienced with international politics, and only an IDIOT would want Bernie Sanders representing our nation abroad!”





Etc., etc., etc.



“It’s probably not gonna happen, but I would like to see Hillary and Bernie on the same ticket. They do have quite a few views that are pretty far apart from each other, but that sort of ideological tension would be good for the office of President and for our country in general. The GOP is obsolete, in terms of actual constructive policies, and they should be treated as such. Hillary and Bernie have differences, and they butt heads over these differences, but at least the issues they butt heads over are important issues, not like the personal attacks and reactionary nonsense the GOP butts heads with itself over.

Let’s argue over this stuff after they’re both in the White House, guys.




“It’s probably not gonna happen, but I would like to see Hillary and Bernie on the same ticket. They do have quite a few views that are pretty far apart from each other, but that sort of ideological tension would be good for the office of President and for our country in general. The GOP is obsolete, in terms of actual constructive policies, and they should be treated as such. Hillary and Bernie have differences, and they butt heads over these differences, but at least the issues they butt heads over are important issues, not like the personal attacks and reactionary nonsense the GOP butts heads with itself over.

Let’s argue over this stuff after they’re both in the White House, guys.



Today, January 22, 2016, I turn 36. I don’t pretend to be anything close to a “math whiz,” but “36” is the sixth square age I have been in my life (following 1, 4, 9, 16, and 25), and I won’t see another one until I am 49, assuming I make it to that age.

I am not trying to be morbid, for the record, I am just being realistic. I remember hearing in church years ago something like “we are only guaranteed the last breath we took” or something like that, and regardless as to whether anyone literally believes the things in the Bible or any other religious text, well, that statement is true. Life is a very fragile thing, and while I wouldn’t mind living a few thousand years or so, well, there is no guarantee that I (or anyone reading this) will still be here tomorrow. Or an hour from now, for that matter.

And again, that’s not me being morbid, that’s me simply stating a fact.

But to be sure, this sentiment has been echoed in at least a couple religious traditions over the years. In my own, as mentioned, and also in the Buddhist tradition. And not only in religious traditions, but in anti-religious movements as well.

But I don’t really want to write about religion right now. I want to write about myself. And it’s my birthday, and on top of that it’s my sixth square birthday, so that’s what I am gonna do.

If you don’t want to read about me, on this, my sixth square birthday, I would like to remind you that the entirety of the internet is at your fingertips. Surely you can find something to soothe your ennui, if my vain ramblings do not do so. To quote my favorite band from some time between my fourth and fifth square birthdays, “boredom’s not a burden anyone should bear.”

Speaking of that period, there was one particular event that happened around that time that time that sort of, well…just let me tell you about it:

I was a student at the U of A, Fayetteville at the time. Anyways, a group of Tibetan Buddhist monks was visiting the U of A. They were on some sort of university tour, or something, and anyways they set up shop (so to speak) in the student union. They were there for at least a few days.

Over the course of these few days — maybe even five days, like Monday to Friday — the monks created an intricate, multicolored, circular mandala entirely out of sand. They had bags of colored sand with little spouts on them, and one little section at a time, they added this or that little design to the sand mandala. I don’t know how many hours were spent making this sand mandala, or exactly how many monks contributed to its construction, but suffice it to say a lot of painstaking work went into it.

I (and a few other people I knew, one of which was letting the monks crash in her apartment on the edge of campus for the duration of their stay) went to see the sand mandala on that Friday, just as the monks were finishing it up. There were at least two — I don’t remember exactly — bald monks in saffron (or were they maroon?) robes, both manipulating the little sandbags with spouts, putting the final touches on the mandala, somehow creating sharp right angles and perfect curves out of flowing sand. It was truly an impressive sight to see; the level of precision was remarkable. “Remarkable” is actually quite an understatement, I just don’t know a better word to use. “Amazing” might be better.

Anyways, the monks finished up the mandala, then turned to the head monk — or abbot, or whatever the proper word would be — and he came over, inspected the mandala — which, remember, was the product of many hours of painstaking work — nodded his approval, then nonchalantly produced something like a shaving brush and smeared the mandala in one stroke from top to bottom, ruining it, mixing all the intricate multicolored designs into a crude gray swath.

The monks — the same ones who had spent the better part of a week creating this beautiful work of art — then proceeded to produce their own little brushes, which they used to sweep the remaining part of the mandala — the parts on either side of the head monk’s crude brush stroke — up into a little gray pile of sand. They then began putting small amounts of this sand into little ziploc-style baggies and distributing them to the crowd of people in attendance.

I gave my little baggie of sand to my academic advisor, I think as a Christmas present. Before I did, I wrote

“Beauty is truth, truth, beauty; but beauty is just an illusion…”

on it. When I gave it to her and told her where I got it, she referred to it as “sacred sand.” At the time, I disagreed that the sand was in any way “sacred.” The whole painstaking process of creating an intricate — and I do mean “intricate” — work of art over the course of a week and then destroying it was an illustration of impermanence, after all.

As a matter of fact, as I left the student union, and for probably a week or so after that, I contemplated how all of the buildings on campus, some of which had stood (and still stand) for over a hundred years, would one day be long gone and forgotten. Many people — architects, construction foremen, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, bricklayers, interior designers, etc. — contributed to the construction and maintenance of these buildings (just as the monks made their individual contributions to the mandala), and many students and professors and others enjoyed the fruits of their labor (just as many students and professors and others enjoyed looking at the intricate designs of the mandala), but one day, all those buildings will be gone, and soon after that, no one will remember their ever being there. It’s not really a question of “if” that will happen, it’s a question of “when.”

And to be sure, I hope that doesn’t happen for a really long time. Barring World War III or something, I don’t anticipate that happening in my lifetime or even another generation or two after I am rotting in the ground.

But just as I am only guaranteed the last breath I took, well, the point is nobody knows what the future will hold.

Although, I have to admit, at various points in my life, I have experienced what the French call déjà vu, and one of those experiences happened to involve Buddhism.

Before I go on, let me unequivocally state that I do not believe “déjà vu” is anything more than an illusory sort of sensation, and that my mention of it with regard to “knowing what the future will hold” was done out of literary convenience and nothing more. I needed a transition, so I used it as such.

Nonetheless, a sensation of déjà vu accompanied another notable experience I had with Buddhism. This sensation was most likely brought on by emotional stress, and anyways without further ado I will relate it here, briefly:

This experience with Buddhism was not from the Tibetan tradition, but rather from the Korean tradition. I am not sure exactly how these traditions differ from one another, although I am fairly certain there are differences.

I had been living in South Korea for two years at that point — I had only left the country twice during that period, once for a two week trip home over Christmas and once for a week-long trip to Japan — and was about to return home in less than a week. A Korean friend of mine, someone who I had been very close to at one point — died unexpectedly. My other experience with Buddhism was a memorial service for this friend.

This ceremony was at a small temple in a fairly secluded area. I was one of maybe twenty or so people in attendance, and I was the only person there who wasn’t Korean.

We were all seated on one side of the room, on the floor on little square pillows — I don’t know the Korean word for these pillows –and on the other side of the room, two monks in robes conducted the ceremony, which consisted of one of them banging on a big gong and reading Hanja from a long scroll, and the other one was doing other things, lighting candles, bowing to the large Buddha statue on a shelf in the middle of the opposite wall…it’s been nearly eight years ago since I attended that ceremony, and I don’t remember many details, other than time seemed to be flowing at an odd rate — I honestly have no clue how long the ceremony lasted; it seemed to last both a really long time and hardly any time at all, if that makes any sense — and that I had an odd feeling of déjà vu the whole time. Which was most likely attributable to emotional stress, as I have already mentioned.

Again, for some reason I can’t quite recall the color of the robes the monks were wearing. Most Korean Buddhist monks wore gray robes, at least when they were out in public, eating ice cream at Lotteria, begging (I gave a monk 10,000 won [approximately ten dollars] once when he approached me, bowing and asking for money, and in exchange he gave me a little parchment thing with a picture of Bodhidharma on it that I hung on my bedroom wall), or doing whatever monks do, but for the life of me I can’t recall if these monks at the memorial service were wearing gray robes or saffron robes or maroon robes or what.

I do remember that the food they served us afterwards — vegetarian Korean cuisine — was fantastic.

As you may be able to intuit, my deceased Korean friend and her family were/are Buddhists.

Am I a Buddhist? No. Anthropologically speaking, I am a Christian, more specifically Protestant, more specifically than that Southern Baptist. That is the religion my family brought me up in, and as I have neither formally renounced it nor have I converted to anything else, I am still a Southern Baptist, at least in the anthropological sense.

“In the anthropological sense” means that if an anthropologist a hundred years from now were to study Lawson, Arkansas, its former inhabitants, and their culture, she or he would likely discover that there was (or maybe still is) a Southern Baptist church in the middle of Lawson, and would from that deduce that most if not all of the inhabitants of Lawson during my lifetime (and for quite a while before and presumably after my lifetime) were Southern Baptists.

Do I believe all of the teachings of the church I was raised in, literally speaking? No. Not literally. I do believe that there is a lot of value in Jesus’ teachings — especially “love thy neighbor as thyself” — and I do try to follow teachings like that one, even though I don’t literally believe all of the things taught in the Southern Baptist tradition.

But am I an “atheist”? Well, in the sense that I don’t literally believe in the things “theists” are supposed to believe in, I suppose I am. For instance, I don’t literally believe that “God” is a conscious entity sitting up in Heaven passing judgement on everyone. To my view, if that were the case, God’s “will” goes, more often than not, directly against the teachings of Jesus: if everything that goes on in the world is literally the result of a conscious entity sitting up in Heaven controlling everything, then rape, murder, child abuse, torture, hatred, racism, sexism…if “God is in control,” as many religious people like to say, then these terrible things are not the result of the actions of terrible people, they are the result of the “will of God.”

This (heretical?) line of thought is an extension of the age-old question “from whence cometh evil?” It’s not a new line of thought by any means.

And if you believe God created everyone with their own special attributes and their own purpose, do you believe God created me and my inquisitive nature?

Do you believe God would punish me for asking questions, when it was God’s will that I be born with an inquisitive nature?

Perhaps you do. I don’t, but you might. And as long as you don’t take it upon yourself to enforce what you believe God’s will to be — people have been executed for less heresy than what I have just written — I have no problem with you believing that.

I was fortunate enough to be born in a country where religion is not forced upon anyone. And out of respect for the concept of “freedom of religion,” I don’t require anyone to hold any set system of belief (or non-belief) for them to be my friend. As long as their belief (or non-belief) makes them a nicer, more humane person, I really don’t give two rotten farts what they do or don’t believe.

But before I get into that, I would like to back up and further explain my position regarding “atheism”:

In the sense that I don’t literally believe in the things mentioned above, I suppose I could be considered one. But the fact remains that I don’t quite consider myself to be one.

What do I mean by that? I will attempt to explain:

Language is only a representation of things in reality. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but people have told me from time to time that they think I am a “good writer.”

Let me tell you the secret of being a “good writer,” one I learned from Mark Twain, George Orwell, Joan Didion, Harper Lee, Flannery O’Connor, Shirley Jackson, Kurt Vonnegut, and many others:

It is not necessary to use five-dollar words to be a “good writer.” It is not necessary to use a thesaurus to express yourself clearly through words.

And even though all of those writers used metaphors from time to time, none of them beat the reader over the head with them…if you understand my metaphor.

What you should understand about language — all language, written, spoken, grunted, whatever — is that language itself is a metaphor.

Let’s examine a sentence:

“Michael threw a rock through a window.”

Literally speaking, I did not do this (at least not today), but suppose I did.

Suppose you and I are walking down a sidewalk in any city or town anywhere in the world. Pick one.

Suddenly, I pick up a rock, throw it through a store front window, then run away, arms flailing, laughing maniacally.

You stand there, perplexed. Just a second ago, you and I were having a pleasant conversation about literally anything but throwing rocks through windows and laughing maniacally and that sort of thing.

Your phone rings. You answer:

You: “Hello?”

Your friend: “Hey. What are you up to?”

You: “…um, nothing, really.”

Your friend: “You sound weird…is something wrong?”

You: “I…I dunno, something weird just happened.”

Your friend: “What happened?”

You: “Well, Michael and I were just walking down the sidewalk, having a nice conversation, and…”

Your friend: “And what? What happened?”

You: “Michael threw a rock through a window.”

..and so on.

Your hypothetical friend in this situation is likely to be just as perplexed as you are.

But that isn’t really the point I am trying to make, though it’s in the same ballpark.

In this hypothetical situation, you saw me, with your own eyes, abruptly pick up a rock, throw it through a store front window, and run away, arms flailing, laughing maniacally. You heard the glass shattering, you saw the wild look in my eyes, you heard my insane laughter as I ran away, and you watched my arms flailing and my legs propelling me on down the sidewalk.

You can explain all of this to your friend over the phone, or you can tell your friend in person later, after you call the authorities and have me arrested, or you can write this story down for future generations to ponder.

But here is what you should realize: no matter how accurate you are in your descriptions, no matter how much detail you put into the story, no matter how open and honest you are in describing your emotions during this bizarre incident, there will always be a certain amount of difference between what you attempted to describe and how others interpret your description.

The scene you pictured in your head a few minutes ago, of me behaving like a crazy person, is not the same scene I pictured in my head as I was describing it.

It’s probably pretty close to the same, but it’s not the same.

What city were we in?

What were we talking about, before I went nuts for no reason?

On what side of us was the street, and on what side of us was the store front window I smashed?

What kind of store was it?

And so on.

Getting back to the point, I would venture that a “good writer” acknowledges that language is merely a representation of reality, and that what is important for “good writing” is that as many people as possible will understand it.

The more one ventures into the realm of five dollar words and abstract metaphors and similes and that sort of thing, the more one limits the number of people who are going to understand what you are trying to say.

But I have gone off topic somewhat. And to be sure, in continuing my point about atheism, I am delving into semantics, which is the opposite of what I have just advised “good writing” should be.

But as to the question of whether God exists…it depends on what you mean by “exists.” If you mean a literal guy in a literal Heaven and all, that’s one thing.

But what about things done in the real world in the name of God (or any other deity), or people whose lives have been turned around by religion, or people who make generous contributions to charity in the name of their own God…or for that matter people who fought wars in the name of God, or blew themselves up in the name of God, or any other deity…

My point is that despite there not being any way to scientifically prove the existence of God or Allah or any deity, these deities — even if they can only be scientifically proven to be ideas — have had and continue to have a profound effect upon our world. Both a positive effect and a negative effect.

So from this point of view, the question is not really “Does God exist?” From this point of view, the question is “What is God?”

If this line of thought is interesting to you at all, I would advise you to delve into the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche . I will leave this sort of thing up to him; he put a lot more thought into it than I care to.

There’s another conception of God that I would like to briefly outline before wrapping this up, and it has to do with both my own “Western-white-guy-studying-Eastern-religions-on-a-superficial-basis” phase I went through a while back, and also with what I have been led to believe is the philosophy of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, two institutions I don’t have any personal experience with but have read a decent amount about in a novel by one of the very few authors I have read whose use of five-dollar words is entirely justified.

My touristy exploration of Eastern religions led me to a couple of texts from the Hindu tradition, the Bhagavad Gita and the

(My theory that the Bhagavad Gita was written as a cultural response to the rise of Buddhism in India may or may not be expounded upon later; I just wanted to mention it here on my blog.)

I would rather mention a recurring theme in the Upanishads: the idea that “Brahmin is all, and all is Brahmin.” This idea is that all things are interconnected, and that every one of us is part of a whole, and not just every person but also every animal and every plant and every non-living thing.

This is only a metaphor, of course. I appreciate this idea as a metaphor, not as a literal description of the universe.

But I think it’s a fitting metaphor, considering that everything in the universe consists of the same set of elements. I mean, didn’t some famous astrophysicist say that we’re all made of stardust or something? I appreciate the Upanishads on that same sort of level. Call me a religious nut if you want to, but the fact that we’re all essentially made of the same stuff and “connected” to everything else in that sense, well, it reminds me of the idea of omnipresence. Maybe one could conceptualize the universe itself as being “God,” and each one of us being a set of God’s “eyes.”

One could conceptualize God that way, if one wanted to.

The other aspect of this conception has to do with the concept of a “higher power” utilized by AA and NA and other such institutions. As I understand this concept, one does not have to believe in God in the religious sense to take part in this program, one simply has to acknowledge that there is a “higher power” that exists above and beyond one’s own self.

And pardon my being hippy-dippy about it, but if you happen to be reading this, whoever you are, whatever you personally believe; if I were forced to describe what my “higher power” is, well, my “higher power” is you.

And not just “you,” as in “you personally,” anyone and everyone who reads this, anyone and everyone I talk to, anyone and everyone I meet or pass on the sidewalk…

Also animals I interact with, birds singing in the trees, the snow that fell last night that is quickly melting…

The books I read, the movies I watch, the music I listen to…

All are proof that there is a universe outside of me, one that was here for a really long time before it produced me, one that will be here a really long time after I am gone.

So anyways, if you took the time to read this, thank you. For future reference, it was composed entirely on my Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone on my 36th birthday, from about 6 am to a little after noon, Central Standard Time.

Have a nice one.



(Here is the final Facebook “note” I am copy/pasting to my blog. It was written in November 2014. It’s still pretty much applicable, in my opinion. — MNW)

Hey guys…before you get yer panties in a bunch, let me state for the record that this is meant to be mildly humorous. But at the same time, hopefully, it will more or less ring true. Anyways, all comments are welcome, as usual.

Without any further ado, I will attempt to answer this burning question:


Let’s start with the Democrats, shall we? Ok, great:


Basic tickets cost a little more than the ones at the GOP stadium. This extra money is put towards stadium maintenance and basic amenities for fans, such as complimentary rain parkas.

Sky boxes and other high-end seating are open to anyone with the money to pay for them. These seats are significantly more expensive than similar ones at the GOP stadium.

No guns are allowed in or around the stadium.

The stadium and surrounding areas are policed by a light security team who only intervenes when it is absolutely necessary. Use of force is discouraged.



Regular tickets are a little cheaper than those at the Democratic stadium. However, a ticket does not entitle its holder entry to the stadium. A ticket entitles the holder to enter the parking lot/tailgating area, where purchase of a temporary, non-refundable tailgating permit is required.

Rain parkas are available from vendors, but are in limited supply. Regulations restrict vendors from buying enough parkas for all the fans, the theory behind this being something to do with supply and demand and the free market. Prices fluctuate, but tend to average somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 per parka. Bringing your own parka from home is strictly prohibited and can result in felony convictions.

Sky boxes and other high-end seating comprise 99% of the stadium’s seats. These seats (and all amenities entitled thereto) are financed through a quasi-legal series of transactions and are rarely paid for by the people sitting in them. The remaining 1% of actual in-stadium seating is given out via lottery. Winners are repeatedly told how lucky they are throughout the game, but are only allowed to actually sit and watch the game after they are certain the high-end ticket holders have plenty of refreshments.

All ticket holders are required to carry firearms.

Stadium and surrounding areas are heavily policed, and guards are encouraged to use deadly force as they see fit. An unwritten rule states that no fewer than one and no more than seven fans should be beaten and/or tasered to death on any given game day. This rule is widely held to be a useful deterrent against mischief, despite studies that suggest otherwise.

Pre-game prayer is mandatory. Prayer is led by one of the Duck Dynasty guys. Anyone caught without his or her head bowed during the prayer gets publicly flogged; failure to audibly say “amen” at the correct moment can result in a prison sentence of up to five years.



(This post originally appeared on my personal Facebook page as a “note,” which should be obvious to anyone who reads it, given all the references to Facebook it features. It was written in July of 2015, and it kinda sorta blurs the line between politics and philosophy, but since the subject matter was a “hot button” political issue at the time this was written, I am posting it under “politics.” — MNW)

As many of you have undoubtedly noticed, I joined a recent trend regarding my Facebook profile pic by using the rainbow gay pride flag filter thing. I’m not gay, for the record, but if anybody out there would stop being my friend if I did happen to be gay, well, guess what? You’re a shitty friend.

I applied the filter to show that I am happy about the Supreme Court’s decision regarding marriage equality. That’s why everybody who applied it to their profile pic did it.

There are several reasons I am happy about that. The main one is that I think that if two people of any gender love each other and want to commit themselves to each other through marriage they should be able to. Furthermore they should be able to without having to be secretive about it or worry about what the general public thinks about it. They should be able to be proud to walk down the street with their spouse without having to worry about being harassed by anyone. They should be able to have a nice romantic dinner at any restaurant they want to, or have a cake baked by any baker they want to, or have their picture taken by any photographer they want to.

Do you see where I am going with this? If you follow the news at all, you have undoubtedly seen several restaurateurs (well, pizza joint owners anyways) saying they wouldn’t cater gay weddings, bakers saying they wouldn’t bake cakes for gay weddings, photographers saying they wouldn’t photograph gay weddings, etc. These people justify their denial of service with a claim of “freedom of religion.” They claim that they believe it would offend the deity they worship if they were to provide these services to gay couples.

I would encourage any such person to re-examine their religious texts, and since most if not all of these people are Christians, I would encourage them to reconsider whether Jesus’ maxim of “love thy neighbor as thyself” would also apply to their LGBT neighbors. To my view it obviously does, but that’s my opinion, and ultimately that’s all any interpretation of any religious text is: opinion.

Sorry to burst your bubble.

But if that’s really and truly the religious belief of these people, I would encourage my LGBT friends and all LGBT people to simply let these people have their views. There are plenty of other business owners who don’t use religion to justify treating some people differently, and they need your business, too.

Again, that’s just my opinion. I think (hope) that that sort of bigotry will eventually die out on its own. But I may be wrong…it wouldn’t be the first time.

If you happen to support the people who want to deny service to LGBT couples based on a “religious freedom” claim, I suppose there’s nothing I can do to stop you. But I want to make something clear to you: your “freedom of religion” does not entitle you to dictate what other people do. Trying to suppress the actions of others based upon your personal religious beliefs is the opposite of “freedom of religion.” Trying to make laws based on your religion that dictate what people outside of your religion do is the opposite of “freedom of religion.” “Freedom of religion” means you get to believe anything you want, but it also means that other people get to believe anything they want. If you can’t understand that, I suggest you find a quiet spot and meditate upon it for a while.

But I went on a digression there. Another reason I am happy about the Supreme Court’s decision is that legally binding marriages ensure that when one person in the same sex couple dies, the other person will now be guaranteed to inherit the dead person’s estate. There have been cases where a gay couple lived together as a couple for years and years, then one would die, and the other would be denied all rights to the estate she or he should have rightfully inherited. I only learned about this fairly recently, when I signed a petition showing my support of marriage equality.

Anyways I am happy about that, too.

But back to flags: if anybody, straight, lesbian, gay, bi, trans, if anybody at all sees a rainbow flag hanging outside of a business, they are welcome to enter that business and patronize it. If a straight person goes in and starts preaching their hateful religious beliefs, they will likely be asked to leave, but otherwise they’re welcome.

The rainbow flag is a symbol of inclusion. As we have already noted, many businesses wish to deny services for people based on their sexual orientation. The rainbow flag means “my business doesn’t discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation.” If you’re a straight person, and you’re looking for a place to eat lunch or something, and you pass by a restaurant with a rainbow flag hanging in front of it, I encourage you to go in and have lunch. See if the people there ask you whether you’re gay or ask you to leave for not being gay. I obviously can’t speak for every business owner with a rainbow flag out front, but I can almost guarantee nobody will ask you to leave.

Now let’s back up to 1967. Prior to the Supreme Court decision made then, states could ban marriage between interracial couples. And I wasn’t alive yet in 1967, but I imagine there were quite a few restaurateurs, bakers, photographers, etc. proudly displaying their bigotry by refusing services to interracial couples. And they likely justified their bigotry using their own personal interpretations of religious texts.

I don’t know if any of these business owners flew any flags — they most likely just put out crudely scrawled signs with misspelled racial epithets on them — but if these bigoted business owners were to fly a flag to signify that they didn’t cater to interracial couples, what flag could they have possibly flown?

Can you think of one?

I can. I don’t know if that flag was ever actually flown in such a context, but it would have fit pretty well.

The Confederate flag was created to signify white supremacy. This was explicitly stated by the person who designed it, and it was flown over states that seceded from the Union based on explicitly stated (and recorded) ideas of white supremacy.

During the 150 years since the Civil War ended, it has been flown by the Ku Klux Klan and many other white supremacist groups, also as a symbol of white supremacy.

And yeah, many people in the south fly the Confederate flag as a symbol of being proud of their heritage, and not as a symbol of white supremacy. And if you’re one of those people, fine, you have free speech, you can express yourself any way you want to.

But imagine this scenario: you’re white, you live in the south, you own a restaurant, you fly the Confederate flag outside your restaurant, and it’s lunchtime.

There’s a black person walking down the street, looking for a place to eat lunch. She or he sees your restaurant, and it looks nice enough, but there’s a Confederate flag hanging in front of it.

A couple doors down, there’s a competing restaurant. Their food is essentially the same as your food, and prices are also essentially the same. There’s a rainbow flag hanging in front of this restaurant.

If you were that black person — or for that matter any nonwhite person — where would you be more likely to eat lunch?

Again, I don’t presume to speak for anybody other than myself, but I know where I would have my lunch, if I were in that situation. I’m a straight white southerner, and I’d rather eat at the place with the rainbow flag.

I’m not saying the white restaurant owner in this situation would treat any nonwhite customers differently. What I am saying is that flying that flag out front might create the perception that the white restaurant owner would. Like it or not, the Confederate flag has been used time and time again as a symbol of exclusion. Time and time and time and time again.

Nobody can control how other people interpret the language and symbols they use. I couldn’t stop two or three people from unfriending me here on Facebook recently, presumably over either the rainbow profile pic or my various rants about the Confederate flag.

Am I glad those people unfriended me? Frankly, no, I am not glad. I wish the lines of dialogue were still all the way open between us here on Facebook. I wish they had stuck around long enough to read this, at least.

But I can’t control them or you (whoever you may be) or how you interpret what I write or say, or what symbols I use. All I can do is try to be as unbiased and fair as I can be. I would encourage everyone to do the same.

Have a nice one, wherever you’re having it, whoever you’re having it with.



(The following is another “note” from my personal Facebook page, one I wrote in June of 2015 after randomly coming across this article online. Suffice it to say I had been reading a good bit of David Foster Wallace at the time. — MNW)

As the woman featured in the article says, it is not unusual for a person’s appearance to change significantly between the ages of 16 and 27.

But because she was a well-known character (apparently) in a well-known movie (or series of movies; I have never seen any of the movies from the series in question, so I don’t know if she was in one or more than one of said movies), her physical appearance, at least as it appears to be to all of the fans of this movie (or series of movies) has (had?) attained a sort of psychocontextual stasis in the minds and/or collective unconscious of the fans of the movie and/or series of movies in which this woman played what I assume to be a significant role. As I mentioned I have never seen any of the movies in this series, other than a few minutes here or there when this or that (and it seems like maybe more than one at a time) cable network(s) was/were showing movies from the series in question. And I hadn’t the foggiest notion of what was going on in these few minutes I saw, but to be fair I kinda got the impression that if I had read the books this series was based on, these nonsensical few minutes I had seen might have made sense, if only in an overly contrived and (at least to me, remember what opinions are like) uninteresting sort of way.

This woman — who like all of us is a biological entity which ages and changes over time — was associated with a character from a movie (etc.) that has become ingrained into the minds and/or collective unconscious of a significant percentage of the general population. This significant percentage of the general population, however, has a static (in that their only identification with this woman is limited to however much screen time she was given in the series in question, etc.) mental image of this woman, one which is not realistic, considering that the image or visage or whatever of this woman changes not only over the period between ages 16 and 27, but also on a daily basis, often fluctuating between opposites with regard to this or that physical trait.

This fluctuation is not gender-specific or even species-specific. Men also change in appearance over intervals of time, as do all other animals, as do all other plants, as do all other living things.

So it may or may not be expected, within the conscious and/or subconscious mind of a moderately evolved and therefore self-aware organism, that a psychocontextual (I just made that word up, as far as I know) sort of “stasis” might be something to be desired.

Like how a photograph — even a duckface selfie — which captures and holds the image of a self-aware organism in a digitally encoded image file, one that can be retrieved later and looked upon as a yardstick of progress, or proof of success, or growth (in either the “physical changes that occur between the ages of 16 and 27” or “I was not as good of a person then that I am now” or vice-versa or in any other sense) is really just a representation of one temporally frozen (“static”) moment, but somehow it acquires a psychocontextual life of its own, in the form of memories associated with it.

“I was never happier than I was in this picture.”

“This picture was taken during a very dark period in my life.”

“I can’t believe I paid money for that shirt.”

Et cetera ad infinitum.

We want to hold on to things we love.

Such as the character this woman portrayed.

Why is “The Internet Going Crazy” over what this woman looks like now?

Because to the internet, this woman is not a biological organism subject to the everyday changes biological organisms undergo, to the internet, this woman is a series of images, quotes, and interviews and whatnot.

Seeing her appearance change, such as it did — even though this change is not in any way unusual for any biological organism to undergo over the course of eleven years — creates cognitive dissonance in the minds of the people who recognize (or apparently don’t recognize) this woman from her appearances in the series of movies mentioned earlier.

What do you think? Is psychocontextual stasis something to be desired, or something to be avoided?


A: that is something to be desired

B: that is something to be avoided

C: it may be necessary to strike a balance between “psychocontextual stasis” and its opposite, whatever you want to call it

D: I don’t understand the question

E: get out of here with that, who the hell cares?



(The following is another “note” I originally posted on my Facebook page in June of 2015. I do not own the copyright to the Buddhist text transcribed here, I just like it a whole lot and want other people to read it. If the copyright holder would like for me to remove this post, I will do so post-haste.  — MNW)

I posted a while back that there were only two philosophers that I had any interest in. Those two philosophers, I said, are Socrates and Nietzsche. The reason these are the only two philosophers that I am interested in, I said, was that their philosophies were not based in proclaiming what is moral and what isn’t, and that sort of thing, their philosophies are based in questioning things.

The Socratic Method is essentially asking every question you can think of, and then questioning the answers you are given, and then questioning the answers of those questions, and so on, until the person you are questioning sees that their argument isn’t as rock solid as they thought it was.

Similarly, Nietzsche’s “Philosophy of the Hammer” expounded upon in “Twilight of the Idols” set out to figuratively smash to bits every philosophy Nietzsche had ever encountered. And I don’t remember exactly how this was put in that book, but Nietzsche invited readers to figuratively smash his philosophy to bits as well.

This sort of approach is basically the approach I take toward everything. I apologize to anyone out there in Facebook land who may have been offended by that. I mean well, I promise, no matter how annoying I get.

Anyways, I am not really here to talk about that, I am here to say that my earlier claim that Socrates and Nietzsche were the only philosophers I had any interest in was not entirely true. Those two are merely the only two philosophers one is likely to encounter in a philosophy class, or at least one that focuses on western philosophers.

I like Jesus’ philosophy a whole lot, for example. If everybody – heck, if every Christian – took “Love thy neighbor as thyself” seriously and applied it in their day to day lives, the world would be a much better place. The same goes for the Sermon on the Mount…except for that bit at the end about giving a divorced woman a “certificate of divorce” while the man doesn’t have to have one. That’s sexist as hell, and reflective of either Jewish or Roman law at the time, most likely. At any rate, if you ignore that part, there’s some excellent stuff there.

I also like some Hindu philosophy. The idea “brahman is all, and all is brahman” is pretty cool, I think. I read this in the Upanishads a few years ago, and it’s basically saying that all things are connected, from the sun in the sky to the ground under your feet. It may be a stretch, but I think it’s kinda cool that here and now, a few thousand years after the Upanishads were written, we now know that everything in the known universe is in fact constructed out of the same set of elements. The Bhagavad-gita is also pretty cool, if you don’t take it too literally.

I am also a big fan of Taoist philosophy. Prior to my finding out that actual Taoists in China have a whole system of saints and sages they pray to – which is much more similar to the Catholic system of saints than you may realize – I actually considered myself a “Taoist.” (Pausing for you to get that chuckle out. Feel better? Great.) I am a huge fan of Lao Tzu, especially the Tao Te Ching. It’s like every philosophy I have ever read, distilled down to short little passages. Chuang Tzu is another Taoist philosopher I like a lot, though I haven’t read much of his writings.

I also like Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence (ahimsa) a lot. I do my best to adhere to it…but nobody’s perfect. I don’t physically abuse anyone, but harsh words can also be a form of violence, and for a person such as myself who spends a decent amount of time discussing things and arguing online, it is sometimes hard not to just say “OH MY GOD YOU ARE STUPID YOU STUPID STUPID IDIOT” or something.

(By the way, sometimes that’s all you can say. I am not trying to act holier than thou toward anybody here, I am just blathering about my own personal philosophy and philosophers I like. Feel free to apply Nietzsche’s Philosophy of the Hammer to any and all of this. Pick my philosophy to pieces, smash the idols I am presenting to you. I want you to, believe it or not.)

I also like Buddhist philosophy a lot. Anyone who peruses my “notes” should see this easily. I can’t really explain it to you, but whenever I am feeling low, reading Dogen’s “Mountains and Waters Sutra” makes me feel better. It may read as absurd nonsense to you, with its talk of how dragons see water and how there are mountains in mountains, but it usually brings me out of a funk when I am in one.

Anyhoo, the reason I am writing this is to share another bit of Buddhist philosophy with you all. I first read this in a Penguin Classics book called “Buddhist Scriptures” that was given to me by my very good friend Derek Jackson. It’s all or part of something called “The Buddha’s Law Among The Birds,” or Bya Chos, but I am not sure of the language it was originally written in.

Before I post it, I would like to point out why I think “demons” are mentioned in the intro. It isn’t because reading this will turn you into a demon or anything, it is simply reflective of Buddhism’s all-inclusive nature. In other words, the dharma is for demons, too. If demons learned the dharma, Buddhists might think, demons would cease doing demon-y things. There are figures in Buddhist mythology called Bodhisattvas. Bodhisattvas are beings that could have already achieved Buddha-hood, which is supreme enlightenment and freedom from the cycle of rebirth, but who chose to return to Samsara, the world of desire and suffering that we all live in now. The Bodhisattvas, so the myth goes, returned to Samsara in order to bring more people toward enlightenment. One Bodhisattva legend I read was about a fellow who willingly went through all the hells in Buddhist mythology, just to try and save the souls suffering there. “I will not accept Buddha-hood until all the hells are empty,” this person said, in the myth or legend or whatever you call it.

You don’t have to literally believe any of that, by the way. I don’t, and I am not asking anyone else to. But I would be lying if I said Buddhist philosophy hasn’t had a positive influence on my life. And what I am about to share had a pretty big impact on me when I first read it, make fun of me if you want to. It won’t hurt my feelings.

And one more thing: don’t read this and think it’s just being pessimistic. “Pitiful” does not necessarily imply anything negative. The point of this – at least my reading of it – is to instill compassion in the reader.

I betcha never thought a bird might pity you…it’s possible, eh?

* * *

The Lord Buddha has said:




In order to teach the Dharma unto the feathered folk, the holy Lord Avalokita, who had transformed himself into a Cuckoo, the great king of the birds, sat for many years day and night under a large sandalwood tree, immobile and in perfect trance.

One day Master Parrot came before the Great Bird, and addressed him, saying:

Greetings, O great and noble bird! For one whole year, until to-day, You’ve sat there crouching, motionless, In the cool shade of a Santal tree. So silent, dumb and speechless; Does something anger or disturb your heart? When, O Great Bird, your trance has ended, Will you accept these seeds, the fine quintessence of all food?

And thus replied the Great Bird:

Listen then, O parrot skilled in speech! I have surveyed this ocean of Samsara, And I have found nothing substantial in it. Down to the very last, I saw the generations die, They killed for food and drink – how pitiful! I saw the strongholds fall, even the newest, The work of earth and stones consumed – how pitiful! Foes will take away the hoarded spoils to the very last, Oh, to have gathered this wealth, and hidden it – how pitiful! Closest friends will be parted, down to the very last,

Oh to have formed those living thoughts of affection – how pitiful! Sons will side with the enemy – even to the youngest,

Oh to have given that care to those who were born of one’s body – how pitiful! Relatives united and intimate friends, Children reared, and riches stored, All are impermanent, like an illusion, And nothing substantial is found in them. My mind has now forsaken all activity. So that I may keep constant to my vows. Here, in the cool shade of a santal tree I dwell in solitude and silence,

In trance I meditate, from all distractions far removed. Go thou – repeat this speech of mine

To all large birds, and to all feathered creatures!

The Parrot, skilled in speech, then rose from the middle of the ranks, and, swaying like a bamboo hurdle, saluted three times and spoke as follows:

Greetings, you great and noble bird!

Though you are weary and disgusted with Samsara, We beg you, give a little thought to us! Ignorant and deluded creatures that we are; The effects of many misdeeds in our past Have tied us to this suffering, bound us, chained us. We beg of you the good Dharma freeing us from suffering, We beg the light dispelling all our ignorance,

We beg from you the Dharma – the cure of all defilements, Birds of every kind assembled here,

We beg of you the good Dharma that we may ponder on it.

The Great Bird then spoke again as follows:

Smoke a sign of fire is,

The Southern cloud a sign of rain. The little child will be a man, The foal a stallion one day.

Deep thinking about death will lead to the unique and worthy Dharma. The rejection of attachment to the wheel of Samsara, the belief in the retribution of all deeds; mindfulness of the impermanence and mortality of this life – these are signs that we approach the unique, worthy Dharma. O Birds assembled here, is there anything of this nature in your minds? Tell me then your thoughts!

Thereupon the Golden Goose rose, shook his wings three times, and said: “nan stud nan stud,” which means “that prolongs the bondage, that prolongs the bondage.”

To remain from birth to death without the Good Law – that prolongs the bondage. To desire emancipation, and still deserve a state of woe – that prolongs the bondage. To hope for miraculous blessings, and still have wrong opinions – that prolongs the bondage. To neglect those things that turn the mind towards salvation – that prolongs the bondage. To give and yet be checked by meanness – that prolongs the bondage.

To aim at lasting achievements while still exposed to this world’s distractions – that prolongs the bondage.

To try to understand one’s inner mind while still chained to hopes and fears – that prolongs the bondage.

All you who thus prolong your bondage within this ocean of suffering, Try to grasp the meaning of my words, for they will shorten your bondage.

Thereupon the Raven with his great wings rose, made a few sideways steps, and said “grogs yon grogs yon,” which means “help will come, help will come.”

When you have been true to your vows, help will come in the form of a happy life among men. When you have given gifts, help will come in the form of future wealth.

When you have performed the acts of worship, help will come from the guardian angels.

When your solemn promises are made in all good faith, help will come from the love of the fairies. When you are alert at the sacrificial festivals, help will come from the Guardians of the Dharma. When in this life you learn to enter into higher meditation, help will come from the future Buddha. Learn therefore to gain these virtues, for help comes through them.

Thereupon the Cock, the domestic bird, rose, flapped his wings three times, and said “e go e go,” which means, “do you understand that? Do you understand that?”

Whilst you live in this samsaric world, no lasting happiness can be yours – do you understand that? To the performance of worldy actions there is no end – do you understand that? In flesh and blood there is no permanence – do you understand that?

The presence, at all times, of Mara, the Lord of Death – do you understand that? Even the rich man, when he is laid low, departs alone – do you understand that? He has no strength to take the wealth he gathered – do you understand that? Our bodies, so dear to us, will feed the birds and dogs – do you understand that? Wherever the mind may go, it cannot control its fate – do you understand that? We are bound to lose those we love and trust – do you understand that? Punishment follows the evil we do – do you understand that? Wherever one looks, nothing is there substantial – do you understand that?

Then from the centre of the ranks rose the Parrot, skilled in speech, and said:

Listen, you beings of this samsaric world:

What you desire is happiness, what you find is grief.

While you inhabit a state of woe, salvation is not yet at hand. Thinking on this must make me sad.

I now recall the good, the unique Law;

Hear it, you denizens of this samsaric world, Perennial for time without beginning. Because its benefits are so immense, Let us here recall that unique Dharma: ‘These ills in our state of woe are but the fruits of evil deeds, The karmic outcome of your own accumulated acts; For you and only you could make them.’

So now strip off the veil that clouds your thoughts: This life, like dew on grass, is but impermanent, And your remaining here for ever out of question. So here and now, think on these things, and make your effort! ‘The pain from heat and cold in hell

the hunger and the thirst which Pretas feel,

All are the fruits of evil deeds.’ So has the Muni spoken. Here, from within my heart, I make the vow To shun all evil – to achieve the good. From deep within my heart I seek my refuge In the Three Treasures ever changeless, Never failing, never fading,

Our precious ally through the whole of time.

In my mind, now free from doubt, is faith established. Resolved to know the holy Dharma,

I now reject all things in this samsaric world. And so, you great and noble bird, We, this assembly, beg you grant us Your esteemed instruction, teach us to understand the nature of all life!

So he spoke, and made three salutations.

Thereupon the Cuckoo, the Great Bird, spoke as follows:

Birds, large and small assembled here, well have you understood. In all the speeches you have made not one has denied the truth. Well have you spoken, well indeed! With undistracted mind keep well these words within your hearts. And so, O birds assembled here, the large birds and also the youngsters lucky to be here, hear me with reverence and attention!

The things of this samsaric world are all illusion, like a dream. Where’er one looks, where is their substance? Palaces built of earth and stone and wood, Wealthy men endowed with food and dress and finery, Legions of retainers who throng round the mighty – These are like castles in the air, like rainbows in the sky. And how deluded those who think of this as truth! When uncles – nephews – brothers – sisters gather as kindred do, When couples and children gather as families do,

When friends and neighbours gather in good fellowship –

These are like meetings of dream friends, like travellers sharing food with strangers. And how deluded those who think of this as truth!

This phantom body grown in uterine water from a union of seed and blood – Our habitual passions springing from the bad deeds of our past, Our thoughts provoked by divers apparitions –

All are like flowers in autumn, clouds across the sky.

How deluded, O assembled birds, if you have thought of them as permanent. The splendid plumage of the peacock with its many hues,

Our melodious words in which notes high and low are mingled,

The link of causes and effects which now have brought us here together – They are like the sound of echoes, the sport of a game of illusion. Meditate on this illusion, do not seize on them as truth! Mists on a lake, clouds across a southern sky, Spray blown by wind above the sea, Lush fruits ripened by the summer sun – In permanence they cannot last; in a trice they separate and fall away. Meditate on their illusion, do not think of them as permanent!

When he finished speaking, the birds all rose with joy, danced a while through the air, and sang their songs.

“Happiness be yours and gladness too – may you prosper!” said the Great Bird, happy that he had come there. “Cuckoo, cuckoo,” he sang, “the light shed by the Dharma of the Birds brings me happiness. In joy and gladness leap and sway together in this graceful dance! Sing your songs and may you thrive!”

“May you prosper, may you prosper,” he said, happy to be in that plentiful land. “Cuckoo, cuckoo,” he sang, “I am happy because the essence of the Dharma of the Birds has enriched you. In joy and gladness leap and sway together in this graceful dance! Sing your songs, and may you thrive!”

“Cu ci, ci ci,” he said, glad that all these hosts of birds had come together. “Cuckoo, cuckoo,” he sang, “I am happy because I could give you the Dharma of the Birds. In joy and gladness leap and sway together in this graceful dance! Sing your songs, and may you thrive! Sing your happy songs which carry far! Dance your greatly joyful dance! Now you have won your hearts’ desire.”

All the birds sang happy songs, leapt up and danced with gladness, and wished each other good fortune and abounding joy. They then accompanied the Great Bird for one whole day, and the great bird without mishap returned to India. On their way back, the birds of Tibet slept all together under a tree. The next day, when the sun of Jambudvipa arose, thrice they circled the tree where they had met, exchanged their hopes for another such joyful meeting, and each one, satisfied, returned on wings to his dwelling place.





                            A play in one act


                            Michael Nathan Walker




Copyright © 2016, by Michael Nathan Walker





Kris Anyoneson:                             A Person
Pat Quicumque:                              A Person




Literally anywhere in the world.

The present.




Scene 1

SETTING: The setting of this brief tragicomedy is not static; this aspect of the production is left entirely up to the director and/or production designer. Mise-en-scène and costume design are intended to reflect the local customs of wherever the play is being performed in a noncommittal, generic sort of way. Literally any place where two persons might speak to each other is acceptable, and creativity in this regard is encouraged.

AT RISE: KRIS ANYONESON and PAT QUICUMQUE are both at center stage, perhaps waiting for a bus, perhaps sitting on a bench, perhaps standing, perhaps sitting at a table in a restaurant facing each other, perhaps sitting at a table in one of their homes facing each other, perhaps standing and facing each other, perhaps sitting on a couch next to each other; this aspect of the production is also left entirely up to the director and/or production designer, and creativity in this regard is encouraged.

So, have you given much thought to the upcoming election?

Yes, I have.

Me, too. I think I am going to vote for H. Sapienza. Sapienza’s policies are agreeable to me personally, and they reflect the worldview I have developed for myself. I think my worldview is a pretty reasonable one, and therefore I want to vote for someone who reflects my own worldview and promotes the ideas I believe in.

You poor deluded fool! Your political opinion is incredibly self-centered. I don’t mean to be condescending, but your choice of candidate reflects very poorly on you as a human being.

Luckily for you, I am not the type of person who takes offense easily, Pat. You may not have intended to sound condescending with your previous statement, nonetheless it could easily be interpreted by a reasonable person as not only condescending but downright insulting. But being that we are friends, I will refrain from responding in kind and ask you to clarify your position.

I apologize, Kris! I did not mean to come across the way I apparently came across! It’s just that matters such as these are important, and I feel compelled to speak of them in terms which reflect this importance! Please accept my apology!

Apology accepted. Now please, explain your position.

But of course. When people base their voting decisions upon their personal worldview, they are harming society as a whole. They are putting their own personal interests above and beyond the greater good.

The greater good, you say?

Yes, my friend, the greater good. That which benefits everyone, that which rises above the petty concerns of individuals and benefits society as a whole.


Oh, it’s much more than interesting, my friend, it’s essential! We must stop thinking of ourselves as individuals, and start thinking collectively! We must make sacrifices in order to benefit everyone equally!

That certainly sounds reasonable.

Reasonable, indeed! Now do you see the folly of your worldview, you poor, deluded soul?

Well, no. No, I don’t. And honestly, I am having a hard time believing that you are not trying to sound condescending.

Again, I apologize! But as I mentioned before, these matters are too important to act blasé about them! We shouldn’t sink to the level of the animal and base our decisions on creature comforts alone…

Alright, that’s enough of that. I have listened to your point of view, the least you can do is listen to mine.

No need to be rude about it, my friend. Please, state your case.

Well, Pat, I didn’t just wake up one morning with my own personal worldview. It’s something I have developed over many years, through many long hours of study and personal reflection. And frankly, I resent your implication that this worldview is somehow shallow and deluded.

I didn’t mean to be insulting, Kris.

Right. You keep saying that, so you obviously believe it to be true.

Obviously. I just think you should be less self-centered when it comes to your political views.


You should think of the greater good, what is best for the most people, when you choose a candidate.

I suppose it’s hard to argue with that.

Indeed it is, my friend, indeed it is.

Indeed. I just have one question for you, Pat. Who gets to decide what constitutes the greater good? Where should I go to find out what the greater good actually consists of? Who should advise me on how to act on behalf of the greater good?

Well, Kris, I’ll tell you what I think:




(The following was originally posted to my personal Facebook page as a “note” on April 29, 2015, a few months before this blog was started. It was written in response to inflammatory language being used to describe people protesting several controversial legal decisions involving US citizens who were killed by police. I am reposting it here because it’s still relevant, and for ease of access. Because while I hope there will be no more incidents like the ones that inspired this post, well…let’s just say I hope I never have occasion to share this again. — MNW)

The year was 1999. The date was Saturday, November 13. I was a sophomore at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

The Razorback football team was playing the much more highly ranked Tennessee Volunteers at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville. I had student tickets for every home game (they were sold in a little booklet before the season started, and it seems like each ticket was a dollar apiece), and even though I was fairly certain the Hogs were going to get creamed by Tennessee, I wanted to walk the couple hundred yards down to the stadium from my dorm and watch the game.

But I had a part time job, and I had to work that day. I considered blowing work off, and a couple friends encouraged me to blow it off, but I decided to go to my job and work. As I said, I figured the Hogs were going to get beaten, anyway.

So I went to work. I was a cashier at a fairly large retail store across town from the U of A campus.

But this particular Saturday, for whatever reason, there were a whole lot of cashiers scheduled to work, and nobody collecting shopping carts from the parking lot.

Maybe the cart pushers skipped work to watch the game. I dunno.

At any rate, I wasn’t on a register that afternoon and evening, I was pushing carts.

And as an aside, next time you’re at a big retail store with a huge parking lot, for the love of all that’s decent, park your flipping shopping cart in a flipping cart corral. Pushing carts is a hard enough job without having to walk all over the place collecting carts people were too flipping lazy to flipping push fifty flipping feet to a flipping cart corral. But I flipping digress.

And after a few hours of pushing carts past impatient drivers and people standing in the way for no reason and that sort of thing, I got to thinking “I took a job as a cashier. I didn’t sign up for this crap” and whatnot. And after I got off work a few hours later, sweaty and worn out from performing a job I did not sign up for, I was roundly pissed off and ready to go to bed. My only solace was that somehow the Hogs had upset Tennessee 28-24.

And so I went back to campus, parking like a half mile or so from my dorm, slogged back up the hill to Yocum Strokem, and went up to my room.

The exact details of this evening aren’t clear, but some time after I got back to the dorm, maybe even the next morning, my roommate and other friends from my wing of the dorm started telling me about the celebration I had missed out on.

After the clock ran out, after the Hogs won a game nobody expected them to win, fans rushed the field and tore down both goalposts. The goalposts were then carried to Dickson Street (an area just off campus with bars and restaurants and places like that), where they were propped up and climbed on and photographed and people just got drunk as hell and had a big ole time until the wee hours of the morning.

Me, I was sleeping in my dorm room, aching from pushing flipping shopping carts all day.

Before I get to the quasi-political point I am going to make with all this, I would like to say, unequivocally, that going to work that one Saturday is one of my biggest regrets in life. It’s one of those “if I had a time machine” moments, no doubt. I don’t hold anything against anybody who took part in those celebrations, I would have been right there with you, had I not been pushing flipping shopping carts all flipping day.

But having pushed said shopping carts in lieu of watching a football game and tearing down goalposts and carrying them off gives me a nitpicky little advantage regarding recent events that I am positive will make at least a few people mad at me:

I can say, with a totally clear conscience, that I have never participated in a riot of any sort.

Before anybody starts cussing at me, let me remind you that this was a riot I would have taken part in, had I not been pushing shopping carts on the other side of town. I don’t hold anything against anybody for having taken part in this riot; actually I am sorta jealous of the people who did.

Take away all your misty watercolor memories of those golden college years, take away how much fun you had that day, take away all that sort of stuff. What happened that Saturday in November of 1999, there in Fayetteville?

A mob of people (many of whom were intoxicated) destroyed public (or at least university) property and created a public nuisance until the wee hours of the morning.

And why? Because a football team won a football game nobody thought they would win.

Sure, nobody got killed, and I am confident at least a few people got arrested for public intox and/or being a minor in possession of alcohol; sure, there have been riots after other sporting events that caused way more damage…

But a riot is a riot. And if you find it morally acceptable for sports fans to destroy property after a sporting event (this happens when home teams win and when they lose), but somehow find rioting after controversial legal decisions and/or killing of citizens by police morally abhorrent…

Do you see my point?

I am not talking to any one person or group of people. I am talking to everyone.

And just to remind you, yes, yes, a thousand times yes, if I had a time machine, and I could go back to November 13, 1999, I would totally blow off work and probably spend the night in the drunk tank after climbing up a stolen goal post down on Dickson Street. I’m not saying anybody was wrong or immoral for taking part in that, I would have, too, if I hadn’t had to work that day.




A: “Hi everyone. I am a member of (minority group). I would like to talk about my experiences as a member of (minority group). I would like to hear about the experiences of other members of (minority group).”

B: “Hi, A. I am B. I am also a member of (minority group). My experience has been [etc].”

C: “Hey guys, I am also a member of (minority group). My experience has been [etc].”

D: “I am not a member of (minority group), but I can tell you: you guys have got it all wrong!”

A: “Excuse me, D, um, you’re not really adding anything to this conversation. You don’t really know what it’s like to be a member of (minority group), so don’t pretend like you do. If you’d like to listen to us, that’s fine. We encourage that, actually, but please refrain from making comments that don’t further the discussion.”

D: “OMG you are racist! You hate (majority group)! I can’t believe you are treating me this way! I was just trying to say that people in (minority group) and people in (majority group) are exactly the same, and so are their experiences! There is no difference! My experience of life is exactly like everyone else’s, even people who are different than me!”

A: “Maybe if you’d just shut up and listen to us, you’d see that there are in fact differences in the experiences of people from (minority group) and people from (majority group). I agree, people are all basically the same, but our experiences aren’t.”

D: “I can’t believe how terribly you’re treating me! How dare you have a conversation where I am not the center of attention! You are a racist! I am appalled!”

B: “A, please block this person, so we can continue our conversation.”

C: “Yeah, as long as D is here, we’re not getting anywhere.”

D: “I am being discriminated against because I am a member of (majority group)! OMG I can’t believe you guys! You are such hypocrites!”

A: “…and blocked.”

B: “Good.”

C: “Great.”


D, enraged and genuinely offended, takes his imagined mistreatment to his own forum:

D: “OMG you guys! Seriously! (Minority group) is racist! They wouldn’t let me in their discussion about what it’s like to be a member of (minority group), and I was totally trying to contribute to the conversation you guys!”

E: “Typical. They talk about ‘discrimination’ and then discriminate against us. Hypocrites!”

F: “Hurr durr shoulda gave a trigger warning!”

G: “You invaded their ‘safe space’, huh huh.”

D: “[South Park clip]”

G: “Hahahahaha that is so sweet!”

H: “Um, guys, I read that conversation, and D was kinda, well, being a dick. D just kinda butted in with something that didn’t have anything to do with what they were talking about, then wouldn’t shut up when they asked him to. I eavesdropped on the conversation, and I learned some new insights about what it’s like to be a member of (minority group.)”

E: “But they wouldn’t let you in the conversation?”

H: “I didn’t really have anything to add. I just wanted to listen.”

D: “OMG you are such a pussbag you stupid pussbag! I was totally making a good point about how racist they are, and you come in here all ‘look at me, I am sooo tolerant of others and politically correct, ooh, I’m so nice to everybody’. Pussbag!”

G: “Huh, huh, regressive leftist, huh, huh.”

D: “[South Park clip]”

E: “This is a common occurrence among those individuals whose misguided notions about ‘equality’ lead them to self-loathing practices such as the one so pitifully illustrated here. It is obvious to anyone with any sort of moral sense that all conversations should be open to everyone, and that reason demands that all discussions remain open to all people, no matter how offensive their point of view may be. Forsooth, ’tis a sad day indeed when the so-called ‘liberals’ and ‘intellectuals’ in our grand society forsake their own will in a futile attempt to crawl across the desert of ‘political correctness’ to reach the elusive and illusory oasis of ‘multiculturalism,’ which everyone knows is a false idol only fools seek.”

F: “That is soooo deep, dude.”

E: “Thanks.”

G: “[Meme]”

H: “I kinda think you guys are blowing this out of proportion.”

D: “[South Park clip]”

G: “TRIGGER WARNING! Hahahahaha!”

E: “You are so misguided, H. Those people in (minority group) are all pathetic. They create an echo chamber where only their own views are allowed. They exclude all other viewpoints. And you are pathetic for your idiotic pandering to their blatant assault on freedom of speech.”

H: “Well, they were talking about something we as members of (majority group) don’t have any experience with. I mean, come on. None of us are professional baseball players. If a group of professional baseball players were talking about their experiences as professional baseball players, would any of us have anything to contribute to the conversation?”

G: “But there are professional baseball players from (minority group) and (majority group).”

H. “…yeah, but that isn’t really the point.”

D: “[South Park clip]”

E: “But you have to work very hard to become a professional baseball player. You don’t have to do anything but be born to be a member of (minority group).”

H: “That isn’t the point, either.”

F: “[Meme]”

H: “Look. All I am trying to say is that different people have different life experiences. And personally, I find it enriches my own life to learn about what life is like for people who are different than me.”

E: “You have done nothing but allowed yet another anti-intellectual echo chamber to flourish. This is why ISIS exists.”

H: “What?”

F: “Regressive leftists are the real terrorists.”

D: “[South Park clip]”

G: “Echo chambers are bad, mmmkay?”

D: “Hahahahaha”

E: “Echo chambers do not produce anything of value to a rational society. They are the antithesis of rational discourse, and they contribute to a society where everyone must be pampered and treated as if they were special little snowflakes whose opinions are priceless gems that adorn the tiara of that syphilitic whore called ‘liberalism.’”

F: “Dude, that is sooooo deep.”

E: “Thanks.”

H: “Guys, speaking of ‘echo chambers,’ has anyone else noticed that I am the only dissenting opinion here?”

E: “Yes, but D, in his infinite wisdom and patience and respect for rational discourse, in the hopes that true freedom of speech will not perish from our illustrious  society, allows wildly deluded people like you to comment here as well. I salute D in his continuing use of intentionally offensive words, despite the fact that he knows better ones, and furthermore if I want to tell a member of (minority group) or (minority group) or even (minority group) that we are all human and that my experiences are exactly like theirs and if they don’t think so they are stupid then I’m gonna, and if I want to make fun of trigger warnings traumatized people ask for I’m gonna, because while I am not a licensed psychiatrist I know that what is best for me is best for everyone.”

D: “I agree with E. We are right. I was totally not doing what you said I was doing to those racists who excluded me from their conversation you guys.”

G: “I am sorry you had to go through that, D.”

F: “You’re all wet, H.”

E: “Guys, don’t be too hard on H. One day, he will see that we are correct in our arguments, for we, my friends, are guided by Reason. Reason is the only thing that guides us, not these piddling self-interested petty little discussions conducted in echo chambers by pathetic fools who cling to antiquated notions of identity politics and rape rational discourse with the foolhardy and bittersweet poison they call ‘political correctness.’”

F: “You are the smartest person alive.”

E: “Thanks.”


H, tired of being berated, returns to the previous discussion, reading silently.

A: “…well, that was a nice discussion, guys.”

C: “Yeah, after we got D out of here.”

B: “I don’t understand why people like that have to butt in all the time.”

A: “People like what? You mean members of (majority group)?”

B: “No, not all members of (majority group) are like that. But some of them are, and man are they annoying.”

H: “Hey guys, I am a member of (majority group), and I have been following this conversation. I hope you guys don’t mind. I learned some things today that I would not have learned otherwise, and my worldview is now a little wider. Thank you for that.”

A: “That’s cool, H. You’re welcome!”

C: “Glad to have you.”

B: “Nice to meet you!”









So it’s the new year, and I have already broken a few resolutions. For one, I resolved to limit my time on Facebook and other social media with sort of an “office hours” approach, and I have yet to do so. These “office hours,” when the plan is implemented, will likely be early in the morning – an hour or so some time between 5 and 7 am, ideally – maybe half an hour during lunch – noon-ish – and then another hour or two later in the evening.

This sort of approach is undoubtedly already followed by many of my Facebook friends. The hours I have listed here are based around a normal 8 to 5 workday schedule. As I am not currently employed full-time in such a fashion, I have a tendency to spend far more time than that on social media.

And as I am (ostensibly) a “blogger” and “author” (first novel yet to be finished), I need to think of those activities in more of a workday sense than I currently do. Or at least for the duration of time I am able to get away with not having a full-time job, ha ha. I am hoping to make at least a little money off of the novel I am working on, but in all honesty I am not optimistic. It isn’t that I don’t have “faith” in the quality of the novel itself – personally I think it’s pretty decent – it’s just that my taste in fiction doesn’t exactly line up with mainstream tastes. And anyways I don’t want to spend hours and hours and hours (and hours and hours and hours) working on something that I myself would not personally enjoy reading. I would rather do something else to make money, I mean.

But anyways, I suppose we will see what happens. As I have stated before, if it sells ten copies, I will consider it a success.

Moving on, I have so far kept up with a couple other resolutions. I have been eating better – I have had a salad for lunch every day this week – and I have been drinking less alcohol. The only alcohol I have consumed since January 2 – so I celebrated the holiday with a glass of wine or three, sue me – has been in the form of NyQuil, and also DayQuil, if it’s got alcohol in it.

I also exercised a little, before the cold started dragging me down. Not a lot, just a few squats, a few chin-ups, a little dumbbell stuff, not much.

I have tried to be nicer. I have tried.

Anyways, what I want to express with all this blathering is that these are things I have decided to do to improve myself. I am not preaching at anyone. It is none of my business if you – whoever you are – do or do not choose to adhere to any sort of “self-improvement” plans like the ones I am attempting to adhere to.

If these things prove to be beneficial to me, I may or may not recommend that you do them yourself. If I see that you are struggling or suffering or whatever you want to call it with the same things I am struggling/suffering/whatever with, I may recommend them. As a matter of fact, friends of mine have recommended things like this to me, and my “resolutions” were influenced by these recommendations. And I am grateful to these friends, more so than I can really express here.

But – and this is a big “but” – I can’t force you to do the things I do. I can’t force you to change anything about yourself or your behavior.

Why not?

Put simply: I am not the boss of you.

And conversely, you can’t force me to do the things you do. You can’t force me to change anything about myself or my behavior.

Why not?

Put simply: you are not the boss of me.

And if you are thinking that this all sounds like hippy dippy drivel, and that I am probably woozy-headed from the DayQuil I took just a while ago, well, no comment.

What I am getting at, in a roundabout way, is the concept of “Freedom of Religion.” That is to say, the freedom to follow any religion you choose, or to not follow any religion at all.

I am not “anti-religion.” Many religious people may think that I am; I am not. I am all for religion, if it is something that enriches your life and the lives of those around you.

Because if you are happy and content, the people around you are more likely to be happy and content. If you are happy and content, you are less likely to bring negativity and turmoil into the lives of those around you.

This goes for me, too.

This is why I have made certain resolutions for the new year. To better myself, and thereby to be less of a drain on the people around me.

But the problem with religion – every religion – is that more often than not, adherents to whichever religion do not use their religion to improve themselves. More often than not, adherents to whichever religion use their religion as an excuse to try and change other people.

They don’t use religion as a means of self-improvement, they use it as a means to condemn other people.

I personally don’t care what religion you adhere to. As long as you use your religion to look inward, to improve yourself, I support you.

However, the moment you begin using your religion to project – the moment you begin attempting to force other people to adhere to your religion – then we have a problem.

I have written about this many times. I have said this exact same thing more times than I can count. But to repeat it once more:

Your religion is for you. It is something you follow to guide you in your life. If that is how you approach your religion, I support you, and I won’t ridicule you for it, and I will discourage others from ridiculing you for it.

And if you tell people about your religion and the positive impact it has had in your life, I will support you. But if you start trying to force people to follow your religion, you lose my support. If you start condemning people because they don’t follow your religion, you lose my support.

And if you start abusing people because of your religion, all bets are off.

Another resolution I made was to write every day. So far, most of my writing has been done on Facebook, which kinda sorta negated my resolution to spend less time on social media. And I had hoped to make more, well, focused blog posts than this one, but as I mentioned I am a bit woozy-headed.

But anyways, to repeat it once more: your religion is for you. Use it to improve you.

Otherwise we have a problem.

Thanks for reading.

May the Force be with you.