Saturday, December 24, 2016

Baby, it's cold outside

Dear Hannah,

In the controversy over Baby, it's cold outside, one thing that seems to have escaped feminists' notice is the nature of a duet.  Perhaps never in the history of rape or music has anyone ever toured with her rapist to sing about him raping her.  And this is for two reasons.  The first is that singing about it would be painful for the woman.  The second is that it would be dangerous for the man.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

This week in hate

Dear Hannah,

The New York Times has a new feature titled This week in hate.  Listing a series of hate crimes dating back to November 16, it totally fails to mention November 28th, when a young Somalian man in Ohio ran his car into a lot of pedestrians, got out of said car, and then began stabbing Americans at random.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Social media: an apology

Dear Hannah,

In retrospect I may have "suffered" what is commonly known as a "lapse in judgment."  Any references on this Facebook account relating to the someone known as Richard Gere and any acts he probably did not commit have been removed on account of a) their slanderous nature and b) the impropriety of sharing the allegations themselves; and prove 1) that I can in fact be fouler in the pursuit of hilarity than I prefer and b) that I occasionally require some forgiveness for said acts of impropriety.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

In defense of socialists

Dear Hannah,

Let's say for a moment, hypothetically, that someone out there had a son and the son hit his head and hitting his head sent him into convulsions; and the going into convulsions sent the man's wife into a panic, and the panic sent her to the hospital, and the hospital sent her to a room.  And let's suppose that the room was empty, and she wondered where the doctor was, and the doctor appeared for five minutes and then disappeared again; and she was given no medicine, and she waited for three hours, and at the end of it all she was sent home without anything more than a recommendation to see another doctor -- and that almost a month later, after receiving absolutely nothing more than a recommendation, she received a bill.  The original charge: $1200.  The cost after insurance: $350.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Why everyone hates Ayn Rand

Dear Hannah,

There has probably, in the history of mankind, never been so enjoyable a teaching as Objectivism from so unlikeable a teacher as Ayn Rand.  Jesus was so magnetic that He spent His days ruining dinner parties and insulting His followers.  Despite this He was so fun that even the children loved playing with Him.  Joseph Smith was so popular with women that he felt forced to reintroduce polygamy to the Americas.  Mohammed was so interesting that he was illiterate and still ended up with one of the most propagated books in human history.  Ayn Rand's insults stung more than her teachings soothed.  The men who should have been her allies generally ended up becoming her enemies.    

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The perils of naming yourself

Dear Hannah,

One thing that I realized after reading an extremely Catholic essay by Anthony Esolen was that, in the war over gender pronouns and nearly everything else, it's generally a terrible thing to name yourself.

Monday, October 24, 2016

In praise of Milo Yiannopoulos

Dear Hannah,

I'll have to confess here that I hated Milo at first.  Something about the way he treated fat women.  He seemed cold, and vile, and low; and if you ever had an overweight mom or sister or even just a friend he made his jokes sting personally.  Not that I side with the people against "fat shaming."  In the end they aren't against shame but against health, and beauty, and good taste; and I think they deserve every bit of what they get.  But a fat person is just fat.  Not a crusader for evil but an underachiever in goodness.  They fail in a bikini but usually make up for it with a personality. 

This needs to be said just because it's controversial to say; and the truth is men like Milo come across as extremists because we are the extremists.  We can't even say fat is ugly anymore, even though almost all of us think it.  We came up with a rule and the rule said "everyone should feel good about the way he looks."  Milo went the opposite direction.  He looks terrible because he says we look terrible.  Fat people don't get laid and they die early but we feel good about ourselves -- for lying. 
 
So here comes the big question: why is Milo horrible if he's honest?  And why are we afraid of being associated with him?  When we take a deeper glance at ourselves, we begin to realize that the "horrible" bully like Milo, trashing gingers and Muslims and overeaters, is really more like us than we wanted to admit.  And if we were any other way, we wouldn't have survived long enough to be here in the first place.

We like to think of the two sides of ourselves as the angel and the devil on our shoulders, but the truth is that both sides are the angel.  What we refer to as the devil was never an evil force rebelling against our saintly side, but the side of us that judges things as they appear so that we can do what we need to survive.  And the other side of us, more commonly referred to as the angel, isn't actually an angel, but a herd instinct; the thing that knows we need people to survive, and asks us what we have to do to survive around people.  The former says fat and fit and ugly and gorgeous and brilliant and stupid and stylish and tasteless, and the latter says if you say fat or ugly you might lose some good friends.  Without our "bad" side we could never pursue our happiness.  We need it to avoid terrible people and terrible things.  Without our "good" side, we'd never know what we have to hide or sacrifice so that we can pursue it in a group.

It's almost needless to say that society has a difficult time balancing the two forces within us, and that the complex arrangements we make for ourselves, and the innumerable webs of do's and don'ts we know as our culture, may oftentimes run too far one way or another**.  And it's the job of our intellectuals and social critics, above all, to let us know whether we've let one part of ourselves run too far over the other.  Too much toward the herd instinct, and we end up killing ourselves in an attempt to fit in.  Too much toward the side of inner judgment, and we end up poisoned by our wives and beaten up by coworkers.

Milo's place in the world is with the side of our inner judgment.  For dozens of years we've swung further and further toward our herd instinct, until the things we thought were sociable were not only suffocating but dangerous.  And in this respect he serves as a liberator; as the voice that everyone needs to assert their self-worth and their taste, and a refuge against the endless tide of things we said would be nice to a few, and were actually cruel to the most.  Milo isn't a saint, and thank God he never intended to be.  But he's a savior all the same, putting himself on a cross when the rest of us were stuck in our "sociability."   He's taking our beating when we should have been manly enough to take it ourselves. That's why I side with him.

What we can also appreciate about Milo is that he's actually interesting.  He's handsome.  He's brave.  He's funny.  He's stylish and original and dangerous.  And if you read someone modern like Mises or Hayek you might end up thinking they're brilliant (I dare anyone to read Human Action or The Use of Knowledge in Society and not feel like he's taken the red pill), you'll never quite feel like they were fun.  Hayek is on your bookshelf like medicine is in your cupboard.  Following Milo on Facebook is much more like taking drugs.

The majority of aging conservatives will never understand this.  Simply put, they're dying, and the remaining carcass of their movement, whose only trajectory as of late has been downward, has already long ago died before them.  The National Review is no longer run by Buckley; and its pages, despite being informative like many other modern works of conservatism, are boring, and sexless, and uninspired.  Milo will cover himself in pigs' blood like Marilyn Manson to get your attention.  He'll say ugly things to get you to think about beautiful things.  And although at the end of the day he reminds us that our judgement needs judgment to judge it, and that even truth requires some tact, he reminds us of a day when conservatives were known as liberals, and all the artists, all the rebels, all the people who terrified parents and started revolutions were talking about things like freedom of speech and unalienable rights, and turned the world over in search of their liberty.

I can't endorse everything Milo says or the way that he says it.  But I'm glad that he's saying it.  And if I'm not willing to say he's a sage or a saint or a scholar or even a great writer, he represents something much different from these and yet equally vital.  He represents the will to live freely and loudly and proudly in the face of oppression.  His shamelessness may be too shameless.  But in an age when respectable men are cowering beneath the shadow of the ugly and tyrannical SJW, what we need are not always polite and political men.  Sometimes, like even the Puritans rallied around the rascally Monmouth, and the Protestants rallied around anyone as uncouth and ugly as Luther, what you actually need is more of a bastard.

Your father,
-J

*Your mother and I were not only obese when we were teenagers, with my weight peaking somewhere around 280lbs, but were heavily influenced by what's commonly known as awkward teenager or ugly duckling syndrome.   Because of the teasing we got, we ended up fighting to be liked; and because we both fought to be liked, both of us ended up likeable.  To be cool or especially good-looking in your childhood is a disability -- especially for women.  To be laughed at by strangers while you're running at the pool may leave you with a complex -- and the complex may lead you into a lifetime of fitness.  

**As one example of cultural development, Persian boys in the days of Cyrus the Great were taught to ride a horse, shoot a bow, and tell the truth.  If he wants to get ahead, a modern American teenager is trained to drive a car, brush his teeth and lie to your face.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The American Dream and its critics

Dear Hannah,

Because I was in college I've done several things I wouldn't do now, at the top of the list being a beer bong with more than seven types of hard liquor, voting as a Democrat, and reading Michael Moore.  The latter of these took place after I quit railing cocaine and picked up some Chomsky, and involved a too-long book about something like Oprah Winfrey becoming president.  It was titled Dude, Where's My Country? because it was written for idiots.  One of the chapters stuck with me more than the one about Oprah, however, and it had to do with the fraudulence of the American Dream.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

On wankery

Dear Son,

I'm convinced that a major reason Americans are dumber than our ancestors is because so many of us are wankers.  A man's excellence is directly connected to whether he's spent himself sexually; and, from what I gather, the majority of American men have already wanked themselves dry. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Are women as good as men?

Dear Hannah,

At this point it can very safely be said that feminism, from its inception, was a bait-and-switch.   We know this because from the beginning feminists were telling us they were as good as men; and now that we've let them run everything they're telling us that they aren't.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Mothers and other villains

Dear Hannah,

It seems we have a conflict of interest.  Somewhere within the last couple of years you've decided life is intolerable without music; which is unfortunate because I think life is intolerable with it.  In this regard you came about a decade too late.  Sometime around 2008 someone stole all my cd's and I came to the realization that silence and I were better off than I thought; and my theory, to the best of my ability, has to do with the fact that the things coming out of my brain were more interesting than any music I could put into it.

Friday, September 2, 2016

A Room of One's Own: a review

Dear Hannah,

Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own has the honor of being the first time I've heard patriarchy used as a pejorative and haven't wanted to throw anything at anyone.  Most of the time a woman says patriarchy she's a nutcase, but none of that is visible here.  None of the blaming of "rape culture" for a man making a pass or a woman making a mistake; none of the irrational calls for an equal wage that isn't equal; none of the blaming society when a woman is fat and she knows it; and none of the crusades against slut-shaming when a woman is dirty and flaunts it*.  Virginia Woolf is sensible -- in a woman's way.  She's a hundred years old and a breath of fresh air.  If feminists knew where they came from they'd be embarrassed to stand where they do.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The case for Cat Stevens

Dear Hannah,

My original response to Cat Stevens becoming a Muslim and changing his name to Yusuf Islam was calling him a traitor.  My opinion, as with anyone else who trades England for Islam, is that he's still a traitor; but as there are many different brands of traitors out there, what kind of a traitor is the question we ought to be asking ourselves today.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Goodbye to the 68'ers


Dear Hannah,

Anyone who was a child in America during the 90's will tell you how he was repeatedly molested by stories about the 60's.  It was everywhere, back then; the 68'ers having all grown up and many of them gone into cinema to tell about how things were in the good old days of radicalism and free-spirits and new ideas and easy lays with pretty women.  The recollections were more sad than anything else, and every picture you saw had the miserable tint of nostalgia; not as though you were experiencing the 60's themselves, but as though you had missed it and it had been lost forever, along with somebody's youth.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Between the World and Me: a review

Dear Hannah,

Fear is the basis of this book.  Fear of the streets, fear of the schools, fear of the police -- fear of losing control of one's body, and one's life, and one's family.  Lots of men have lived it, but few have been able to eloquently explain it.  Ta-Nehisi Coates took the task upon himself and did it admirably here.  Between the World and Me is a painful search through race and history to understand the suffering of the black American.  Like most Americans, Coates quickly finds the reason for the suffering.  Like most of our Democrats, his cure is worse than the cancer.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Fire Next Time: a review

Dear Hannah,

I don't trust either the book-knowledge or the judgment of modern activists, so I'd originally intended to make Frederick Douglass or W.E.B. Dubois my introduction to black literature.  But skimming through an informal list of the Greatest Essayists of All Time and seeing James Baldwin pretty high on the chart, and also seeing him frequently and reverently quoted by Black Lives Matter, I decided to pick up The Fire Next Time and give him a go. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Some sympathy for the historical American jingo

Dear Hannah,

People ask us to walk a mile in a man's moccasins, but they never wonder what it's like to be chased by someone with a tomahawk.  Nearly everyone feels comfortable condemning Andrew Jackson for how he treated the Indians.  What they haven't felt comfortable doing is asking themselves how it would feel to be born in a country you didn't found and have a strange-looking group of illiterate, jobless, pagan wild-men show up at your neighbor's house and scalp all your best friends.  Whether or not this is Jackson's experience is irrelevant if this was the experience of many American settlers.  To have a savage at your doorstep, ready to strike at night and oftentimes beyond the reach of the law, would eventually affect your psychology in ways a modern man would consider "unfavorable."  The only good Indian is a dead Indian is a cruel thing to say.  But we wonder how many cruelties a man had to witness or hear about before he was capable of saying it*.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Random thoughts on the unpopularity of populism

Dear Hannah,

The fact that a party named after democracy can be opposed to populism is a phenomenon too appropriate for the times we live in.  Perhaps no other era has ever botched the idea of representation so badly; and we know this because the worst governments in the history of the world have almost all recently claimed to be republics*.  Even history's worst theocracies are less tyrannical than our leftist "republics;" and if there's anything to be learned in the matter, it's that allowing anyone to label himself is just as much a human right as our ability to judge him by it.  Is it from God or the Devil?  Is it of the people or over them?  The proof, I think, is in the pudding. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A bigger problem than plagiarism

Dear Hannah,

When a presidential candidate's wife, known for stumbling though broken English, gets on a stage and plagiarizes a speech, the most important thing to say about her plagiarism is that it probably isn't her plagiarism.  In fact, she probably wasn't aware that the speech she had given had already been given.  Her job, if she really was more than slightly involved in it, was to simply approve what was written, and then read it to the public.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Age of Bad Reasons

Dear Hannah,

The Atlantic asked its readers whether they think reason or emotions are currently running the nation, and I suspect it will end in catastrophe.  Not only because I lack faith in the people giving the answer, but because I lack faith in the quality of the question.

The most important thing to start with is that we can't reason without our emotions, because without our emotions we can't have a reason to reason.  There's no good reason to steer clear of anything that doesn't upset us, and there's no good reason to attempt anything that doesn't attract us (unless it's a means to another end that does).  The whole of our lives is based on emotions like sadness and lust and joy and disgust, and the question we really ought to be asking isn't whether reason or emotion is better, but whether one reason is better than another for the way we indulge our emotions.

Few people who use the word reason in the current sense are aware that there's no such thing as pure reason, except in an ideal sense used primarily by bad philosophers (see: Kant*).  What is reason, after all?  An ordering of multiple desires and an organized attempt at getting them, which means there are good reasons and bad reasons, and reasons that are useful for some people and very painful for others, and some that are good for almost all of us (think the right to own property) and some that are good for only a few (think a government of crony capitalism).  In short, what our Men of Reason miss is that the only way to reason with someone is by giving him your reasons and hoping he'll listen.  You can't make him reasonable by asking him to be "A Reasonable Man," because asking everyone to be reasonable isn't actually asking everyone to be reasonable.  It's asking them to have your reasons, and to be interested only in your interests.  

One reason The Reasonable Man is a joke is because he always assumes he's being reasonable.  He believes so strongly in his beliefs, that aside from the question of religion, he rarely questions whether he's basing any on blind faith.  He has so much faith in himself that he thinks everyone, if they'd really just think things through, would immediately agree with all of his ideas.  We have bad news for him.  Every baby is an atheist, the Schoolmen of the Middle Ages were obnoxiously logical, Neil Degrasse Tyson is actually fallible, everyone begins knowing nothing, none of us ever knows everything**, our future selves will disagree with our current selves on some issues, all of us are biased in some way or another, and each of us is prone to violating our consciences.  The ideal of reasoning, that we can 1) learn abstract principles from our past and use them to wisely plan our futures, and 2) that we can balance them with any contradictory principles and interests, and 3) that we can actually carry our principles out against any unforeseen obstacles or the possibility of personal weakness -- this ideal, I say, is a beautiful ideal, and one worth struggling for.  But it has almost always been only an ideal.  And the only thing that's gotten in the way of it is the people who thought of it in the first place.

The problem with the modern era is that we think too lowly about our feelings and too highly of our ability to reason.  I think this because our "men of reason" aren't our men of manly feeling and passion, and our men of manly feeling and passion aren't our "men of reason."  We believe that having access to information is the same thing as having wisdom.  We frequently ignore history, and we laugh at holding timeless problems up to the answers of the ancients.   We confuse nice ideas with good ideas. We confound newer things with better things.  We judge men not by what they can do, but rather by what they permit.  We believe too easily in our teachers and professors.  We refuse to really listen to the arguments of our enemies.  We think that scientists and statisticians can tell us more about ourselves than ourselves.  We live in an age of faith -- even if our faith is in the faithlessness of atheism.  We live in social superstructures theorized in books that few of us have read and even fewer understand.  We make fun of the Dark Ages and never wonder why we also don't have a Cicero.  We laugh at The Inquisition, and then jail heretics because they won't admit to the thirtieth gender.

We called the eighteenth century The Age of Reason, and now most Americans are too dumb to read eighteenth-century books. We're too boring to appreciate our great-grandparents' rhetoric.  We're too effeminate to feel the manly sentiments of our ancestors.  And we ask ourselves, in light of the above, whether this means that reason or emotion is winning.  Regardless of what the editors at The Atlantic believe, I'd say reason is winning -- and that we got where we are because we picked all the wrong reasons.

Your father,
-J

*I first delved into philosophy with the idea that every "big name" in the game would blow my mind.  Kant was among the biggest of the disappointments; Kant and Plato and Nietzsche especially -- and if it hadn't been for Nietzsche with his Thus Spake Zarathustra, Kant would have easily been the worst.

Aside from his almost comical preference for technical jargon, my opinion all comes down to his categorical imperative, which is most easily explained as follows.  If you can imagine a world which was perfect and completely devoid of anything evil, to know the categorical imperative you need only ask yourself what the people in it would be like.  Kant decided that a world would be better in which everyone told the truth all the time; and so he decided that telling the truth was something that could never be violated.  And so he said, with a totally straight face, that if somebody came to your door and made it clear that he was going to kill your friend who was hiding in your cellar, and then went on to ask you where your friend was, it would be immoral for you to lie to the killer.  That's what the categorical imperative means for us, and it's really all you need to know about Kant -- although I do believe his Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals was worth a read, and his preface to The Critique of Pure Reason was also excellent.  The Critique itself?  Terrible.

**When our theologians said that God was omniscient, they were laying the groundwork for His wisdom.  A God who knows everything about everything is not only able to accomplish anything, but to know what needs accomplishing.  There's no confounding variable or guessing in the interstellar sandbox.  Prophecy is possible because control of the future is possible.  We, on the other hand, are severely limited.  Our reason is only infallible insofar as we understand every single possibility, which means that if we are reasonable, our reasoning is oftentimes prone to surprises and failure.  All of our reasons are a matter of guesswork according to general principles; and the most reasonable of us are only better at guessing than others.  A good philosopher knows the general principles best -- and when it's best to break from them.  A good philosopher is the closest we will probably ever get to a prophet.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Officially the worst wedding speech I have ever given in a dream

Dear Hannah,

As the title has already given you an idea of what this is about, here is the speech which I actually gave about ten minutes ago in my dream:

Friday, June 10, 2016

On the death of Anthony Bourdain

Dear You,

Saturday, June 9th, the year of our Lord two-thousand and eighteen.

So you've found it.  This essay, placed neither at the front nor the back of this collection, was purposely hidden from everyone except a few adoring subscribers -- the die-hards.  It was hidden simply because I don't want anyone beyond a few people to read it.  I've thought several times about writing something like it and tossed it, only to find the subject resurfaced its ugly head again and again; and now that I don't know what to do with it I'm leaving it here -- with you.  The late-night blog searcher.  Perhaps one of my grown children or my wife finding it after I've passed.  Anyone but the casual peruser, the rando who found me on a third-rate right-wing magazine, wanted to see what else I agreed with him about, and tossed me aside when I couldn't deliver.

Anthony Bourdain passed this week.   Whatever's been gnawing at him these past few months or maybe his whole life finally got him and he hung himself.  Left behind two ex-wives, an eleven-year-old daughter, and a few million bewildered fans who loved him for his easy-going manner, his grace in conversation, his worldly knowledge, and what appeared to be a heart of gold.  Tired eyes, but a kind soul.

Truth be told he really did look tired.  Like the kind of man who'd done a lot but seen too much.  The kind of man who takes others around the world and shows them all the interesting stuff in all the strange places -- which is what he did for a living, and why the world fell in love with him.  He didn't love the world back.  He was entertained but not smitten.  He was 61 years old.

Matt Walsh, following Bourdain's death, immediately wrote an article about our suicide epidemic:  the typical Christian conservative piece -- artless, obvious, the whole gist of it in the over-sized, lousy goddamned title -- "maybe your kids don't respect you because you don't spank them" or "what really lies at the root of our suicide epidemic."  The kind of title that appeals to the man looking not for a new perspective, but a confirmation of his current one.  Walsh's perspective is that Americans wouldn't commit suicide if we'd only adopt his Christian perspective.  He never considers that the reason we don't believe in it is because we don't believe in it.

The truth is that Walsh is boring as hell but, like most Christian conservatives on most of our issues, he has a heck of a point.  The big thing you have to consider when God leaves the picture is whether or not you'll off yourself.  Without God there is no end here but a bad one.  You can get it over quickly and on your own terms but you can't end it nicely; and what the future holds, the death of a spouse or a child, the fall of a great nation, tragedy after tragedy leading to a black, cold, sun-dying-out oceans-rising-up everything-you-know-going-down-the-drain after-today, is absolutely terrifying.

Bourdain tried romance, the standing eye-to-eye with a woman he loved and holding her hands and promising to love her until the day that he died; he tried it at least twice and it failed him.  We have no idea whether his 11 year old daughter loved him and respected him, but considering his stylish fatherly appeal we can only assume the best.  He made millions and was followed by a nameless, faceless horde of adoring followers whose love he probably suspected and at any rate couldn't feel, got near the top of the Anglo-American celebrity game, realized he couldn't go much further, and decided to stop where he was.  In his mind there was no God to welcome him, no Father to judge the bad guys he toured around the world to and met face-to-face, no love which overwhelmed all the hate he saw, no magic to reverse the course of the universe.  He turned off the world like a light switch, and has passed into God-knows-what but probably oblivion.  We miss him and he doesn't miss us.

We have no idea what effect his death will have on those who knew him.  We know Kate Spade killed herself right before him but don't know what effect it had on him.  We know his death sends a signal to those around him that life can be dark and success is fleeting and for many of us it's garbage -- even if we live far outside the dump; even if like Solomon we're living in a palace.  We know that getting to the top and reaching the bottom is often the same thing, and that the relatively pain-free struggle somewhere in the middle is the best place to be, and thank God our dreams are just beyond our reach so we can't shatter them.  We've known the top is a lonely, disappointing place ever since we read Ecclesiastes; and that the end of the book was a reminder that everything is pointless unless there's something beyond what you can see.

The idea of slitting your wrists or blowing your brains out is a comforting thought in times of distress, but this isn't something you tell your children or your wife or anyone you want to keep going -- anyone you need to keep going.  In theory, alone in your room with your problem du-jour, suicide is a great option.  In practice, like free love, it's terrible.  And it's fun to imagine that all the best people would keep going and the worst of us would kill themselves; and maybe we might encourage the worst of us to do it.  But this is rarely the way things work out.  In truth the best of us kill ourselves and the worst of us go on being the worst.  It's what makes them the worst.  The brazen acceptance of worstness.  We lose Robin Williams and Anthony Bourdain and get left with Harvey Weinstein and Judd Apatow and Lena Dunham.  The angels have hearts that are too heavy to fly.  The pigs in the mud have nowhere to fall.

So we encourage our loved ones to go on living and make a blanket policy out of it.  We say suicide itself is the enemy and create hotlines for anybody whatsoever when we really just want to keep somebody particular.  We value the lust for life because we love a few others, and wonder whether we're among the "few others" others want to keep going.  The policy has nothing to do with whether life is worth living, or whether all life is precious, or whether it's less painful to die than go on.  We argue this way because we don't have any other way to argue.  Please stay with us isn't for the criminal but for our family.  We say suicide is sad and it is -- because those who commit it are either a waste or don't know what a waste is.

I've gone through two times in my life when I was very serious about killing myself, first when I lost my first love and the second when I lost my first God.  The fact that I'd get over it both times and go on to be happy was completely unknown to me each instance, and beyond this completely unfelt.  Hope can be lost before a future is lost.  We have no idea what's around the corner and think that because we don't know it we can't have it.  Pain is so real and despair is so touchable that they can outstrip not only our memory but our imagination.  We become blind to the possibility not even of happiness, but of not being in pain.

Many of us don't make it past this point and end it all there.  But it isn't ended there.  Had I ended it the first time I would have put a hole in my parents' heart, and that hole would have never gone away.  Had I ended it the second time, my despair would have been transferred, in addition to my parents, to my wife and my child.  Suicide ends your pain by paining only the people who love you.  The question the suicide asks is not whether he pains his loved ones, but whether the pain of death is unavoidable, and which of them feels it first.

Your fellow traveler in life, dear reader, in happiness and occasional despair,
-J         

Monday, June 6, 2016

How to love yourself like a man

Dear Hannah,

Richard Baxter, a minister I consider to be the greatest of the Puritans, once wrote in The Reformed Pastor that a deathbed conversion was likely to be fake.  The reason he knew this was experience.  He would visit lots of people on their deathbeds, get a profession of faith from them, and then lots of them refused to die.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Thoughts on the Dark Ages

Dear Hannah,

The Huffington Post has gone too far by calling Jesus transgender, but the Romans called Christians cannibals and to me getting called transgender is a step forward.  The problem with Christians isn't that they cross-dress but that they cross-count.  They think one is three and three is one and if you didn't agree with them in a whole millenium they'd kill you.  They think bread is body and grape juice is blood and if you didn't assert it they'd light you on fire.  Whether this is better or worse than dressing up like a woman isn't a matter of opinion.  What the Huffington Post claims is kinder than what Christians have actually been.  No -- you don't call Jesus a she-male.  But beyond this you don't murder a good mathematician.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Winston Churchill's easy mother

Dear Hannah,

Whether or not Winston Churchill's mother had more than 200 lovers as George Moore told us, she had enough lovers to find him favor wherever he went and whatever he wanted to do.  It appears almost as if he owed his career to it.  To those of us familiar with shows like Downton Abbey or the Hornblower series, a sex life as promiscuous as hers seems almost anathema to the stiffness of Engish manners and the rigidity of their morals. And yet that's the sex life she had.  If it was only her we could leave the matter and go on to other issues; but as any act of sex takes at least two, it's safe to say she wasn't alone.  She was with the king -- and many other prominent men in England, Germany, France, America, and apparently the English colonies.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Why we still go to church

Dear Hannah,

Somebody asked me this week why I plan to raise you in church when I've publicly left the Christian religion.  And since it might seem insincere for me to leave a religion while being a part of it, even telling the pastor and others that I'm an apostate, I suppose somebody deserves some kind of an explanation.

Friday, April 22, 2016

A defense of my almost indefensible language

Dear Hannah,

A very kind gentleman has written me this week and asked me why I used the term "blow-job" in a letter to a three-year-old girl.  One of the reasons I can think of is that these letters aren't actually written to a three-year-old girl.  They're written to you, of course; but which version of you is a matter of utmost importance.

Friday, April 8, 2016

A waste of Cicero

Dear Hannah,

One time, when Cicero was in the middle of an argument with Metellus Nepos, Nepos questioned Cicero's nobility by repeatedly asking who Cicero's father was.  Cicero, knowing that Nepos's mother was easy, replied that I'd ask you the same question, but your mother's made it very difficult to answer.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

An objection to my latest essay on Spike Lee

Dear Hannah,

My editor (God bless him) has rejected the last essay on the grounds that I was unfair to Spike Lee.  The fact that Spike Lee is unfair to everyone else is absolutely beside the point if my editor was right; and since I believe a sense of fairness is what separates men like me from Mr. Lee, I've decided to give him something of an apology.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Concerning the first 30 minutes of Spike Lee's Chiraq

Dear Hannah,

I just finished the first 30 minutes of Spike Lee's Chiraq, which I expected to be a good movie with a bad message, and was surprised to find that it was a terrible movie with a decent message.  For years we've heard Spike Lee's name associated with filmmaking, and had every reason to believe it's because he's a good filmmaker.  Now that I've seen part of his film I realize I'd only heard about him because he's a loud filmmaker.  Like the Black Lives Matter movement, he's someone to be watched not because you want to watch him but because black people want you to watch him.  It's notorious in the world of entertainment that any publicity is good publicity.  Spike Lee is well aware of this, and as he lacks the talent to make us love him, he's had the prudence to have us hate him.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Some obscure sayings of Solomon and Franklin

Dear Hannah,

Many of the wisest sayings may be unclear to any but the wise. Reading Ecclesiastes, you might be tempted to take in much wisdom is much grief, and assume that wise people grieve because they know the way things might have been.  Knowing the way things ought to be done, of course, leaves plenty of room for grieving about things going unnecessarily wrong; but no more room than the average fool has when he considers the way he thinks things could have gone right. The nature of ignorance is not to know little or nothing, but to believe we know rightly when we actually know wrongly.  The idiot faces exactly the same frustration as the genius.  He says the world is a mess because nobody listens to him.  He feels powerless to fix it.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Jesus texting

Dear Hannah,

All joking aside, I can't be too hard on Ms. Young and her Jesus Calling for the very simple fact that I've been in her shoes.  I've had a couple of instances in my life when I thought I was speaking for God Himself, and both of them turned out not only to not be God, but to not even be the best version of me.  If you can imagine actually believing in God and then realizing you'd been speaking wrongly for Him over a series of years, you might imagine a knot developing in your stomach.  And there's a part of you that wants to blame it on the people who told you God said it, and there's another part of you that blames yourself for thinking too highly of your thoughts.  Either way, you find yourself unwilling to do it again -- especially after the second time it happens; and beyond this you become extremely skeptical whenever anyone claims to be preaching the will of God too.  At least, that is what you do if you have a conscience and you think.  For people like Ms. Young and the majority of the "spirit-led" women in the church, it's obvious to me that they think very little about anything at all*.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Paul the Apostle

Dear Hannah,

HG Wells once wrote in his Outline of History that Paul was responsible for refashioning the Christian religion.  From what I can tell this seems to be unfair.  Not only because there were twelve actual Apostles to keep him from doing it, but because Paul had a very different mission from Jesus Himself.  The whole purpose of Jesus was to start the Christian religion.  The job of Paul and the Apostles was to figure out how to organize it.

Monday, February 15, 2016

A note on the generosity of Myanmar

Dear Hannah,

I refuse to accept that Americans can be second-place in anything -- even in obesity.  It just means we haven't given it our best.  We've all seen our southerners, and if the Mexicans can beat us in gluttony they can beat us in anything.  There's only one trophy I'll allow us to get in silver, and it happens to be the one we got for philanthropy.  The Charities Aid Foundation reports that we've been beaten by Myanmar, and all I can say is good for us.  The only reason Myanmar ranked higher is because the people of Myanmar are dumber.  The only way we could be better at philanthropy is if the CAF ranked us worse.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Against positive news

Dear Hannah,

Westerners watch too many shows about serial killers, but there are way worse things to be obsessed about.  What we have to worry about isn't that people are sharing stories of people murdering people, but that people are sharing videos of people helping other people.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Thoughts on the Academy Awards

Dear Hannah,

Anyone tolerant enough to have seen the first 20 minutes of Birdman knows that the Academy Awards are a matter of opinion -- and the opinion is sometimes a bad one.  This is because, despite what the people at the Academy Awards want us to believe, there's no way to judge a film other than by the way it makes you personally feel.  There's no science of film criticism, and (whatever Jeremy Bentham said) there will never be an accurate mathematical formula for measuring happiness.  The question should never be whether the Academy gave an award to the right movie or people.  It should be whether they gave the award to the right feeling.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

A timely rediscovery of Aaron Burr

Dear Hannah,

Nearly everyone knows that Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton, but almost nobody knows that Burr was wanted for murder while he was the vice president.  Few people are aware that Aaron Burr was even the vice president at all; and fewer would expect, given the historically serene nature of contemporary politics, that an American vice president has ever been wanted for murder while in office.  Nixon nearly went to prison for eavesdropping.  Bill Clinton was impeached over a series of consensual blow-jobs.  Because of the Hamilton affair, Burr was wanted by two states on charges of homicide.  He essentially spent part of his vice-presidency in hiding.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Joe Rogan vs the Book of Genesis

Dear Hannah,

People love to talk about Mother Nature, but they rarely capitalize on our being Her children.  They never consider that maybe like everything else in the universe we're doing what She intended -- even in doing the things She never would have done without us.  Even in destroying what we perceive to be natural.  They call it the state of nature when we haven't done anything to change nature itself.  They say that things are natural before we touch them and unnatural after we do.  The birds make their nests out of twigs, and the twigs are considered natural when they're made into nests -- and only because the birds never think of doing anything else.  A government, unlike an anthill, is considered alien; almost as if it was made out of spirits and miracles or mutants and toxins.  A condo is a blemish and a hornet's nest a necessity.  We recognize everything as natural except everything we do.  We recognize everything as necessary except what we need.  We secretly believe in the divinity of man.  We consider him and God the only foreigners in the universe.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Well-behaved women

Dear Hannah,

My favorite feminist slogan is well-behaved women seldom make history -- because they've forgotten that almost nobody makes history.  Among women, the number of people who make history is even fewer; and the number's even smaller when considering their jackasses.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Concerning "Dear White America" in the New York Times

Dear Hannah,

The great irony of a hunger strike is that it does nothing to prove the morality of the hunger striker.  It does everything to prove the morality of the man he's striking against.  Millions of horrible people have been willing to die for horrible causes, and we have only been the worse for it.  Far fewer have been willing to save the life of a suicidal enemy.  And if you do happen to go on a hunger strike and win, the only thing you've done is proved your enemy cares more about you than his cause.  You can only win a hunger strike against a person who cares about people.  You can only defeat your enemy if your enemy is actually a saint.  Gandhi may have saved the Indians from the English -- but how successful would he have been against Al Qaeda?