The Forecast Predicts Stormy Weather

Opinion, True Stories, Uncategorized

I haven’t updated this blog in a pretty long time so I figured I would get some thoughts that were running through my head this morning/afternoon. Grad school hasn’t made much time for personal or “creative” writing.There is not any particular “plot” to this, or maybe there is; it’s up to you. Pardon the frequent semi-colon use. And apparently I have 343 people following this blog. I don’t know who any of you are, but thank you, meaningfully and truthfully.

Did I ever tell you about the person I was named after? Maybe I will another time; that’s too personal for right now.

I went for a walk this morning around Lake Ella. I wore black boots, dark green denim pants, and a blue shirt. My roommate insisted my outfit did not match; I insisted I did not care. You can all eat roaches.

The weather predicts stormy weather for this afternoon. As a result, I was probably the only one walking around Lake Ella besides the girl who asked me to sign a slip which would allow the daughter of Bob Graham to run for Florida State Senator. I would have signed despite being neither a Republican nor Democrat, but I am not registered to vote in Leon County.

One lap around the duck inhabited lake and then I met with my roommate, her boyfriend, and his roommate at a Chinese Super Buffet. They went for hangovers; I went for companionship. I decided not to eat because it’s a Chinese Super Buffet – tautologies be damned. My companion’s immediate complaints upon finishing their food were, “I shouldn’t have eaten here. I feel disgusting.” This confirmed my hesitation about eating at a buffet restaurant where children are most likely slapping their snotty hands on the creepily creamy shrimp and awkwardly present macaroni and cheese.

After breakfast I returned to Lake Ella and continued walking with a copy of Walden in my hands which I never ended up reading. Typical, right? Reading Thoreau at Lake Ella. I saw a Mexican family that was at the Chinese Super Buffet.

The father wore a cowboy hat, cowboy shirt, and had two knives attached to his belt. He and his wife had five children present – I think all boys. They stood by the water and enjoyed their Sunday.

The capricious winds in the capacious environment precluding the storm calmed and grounded me. I thought of a girl I dated recently and wondered why I still thought of her. It wasn’t logical, but emotions are not concerned with logic.

I haven’t spoken with her in weeks and I know she has forgotten about me. That’s a typical recurring fate I encounter, a curse I can’t escape from, a repeating destiny.

Her mellifluous, melodious singing still haunts my apartment, resonating, echoing in that open space, that grey area between Self and Other, where we see the physiological effects discussed in Affect Theory. Memories haunt, and I know she is somewhere else, laughing, dancing, smiling. I still don’t know if she ever heard, understood, listened, or knew me. It’s memories all the way down, memories to fill that abyss. Echoes are always heard but never able to be grasped. They are an objet a that damages the psyche. They permeate like parasites and find their cures in addiction.

The forecast predicts stormy weather; it always has. I have inherited a particular gene structure, call it a fate, call it Fate, call it something we can’t determine or know or see in a microscope. It’s an inheritance by any other name and one defined by accursedness.

How do you tell someone you are cursed? Where’s the proof? It’s a feeling, and feelings are too underrated.

I know the Myer-Briggs personality type test is bullshit but I consider it to be similar to Wikipedia. You can’t use Wikipedia in a paper, but it helps to take a quick look for a brief summary of a subject. That being said, I fit the profile of an INFJ quite well. The test profile describes me better than I can describe myself.

Apparently we are only 1% of the population, the rarest breed, and one that is not easily understood. An additional note reads, “The INFJ individual is gifted in ways that other types are not. Life is not necessarily easy for the INFJ, but they are capable of great depth of feeling and personal achievement.”

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think I’m some unique fucking snowflake. But I do know I feel the world in ways I believe most people can’t. I feel in ways I don’t often find others capable of. I feel empathy sometimes to a fault. I meet people who claim to be empathetic and I soon discover they don’t even know what the word means. They can be as be enjoys as the next scorpion. Maybe I should stop here.

Have you ever met someone who displayed a particular set of personality traits only to discover you were deceived? In the beginning they were genuine and they listened; in the end they were fraudulent and solely self-concerned. These realizations can be disappointing.

But I do want to help people. When I see a person cry, hurt, or experience injustice, I have an overwhelming need to help them, save them, and end the oppression.

Did I ever tell you who I was named after? I still don’t think right now is the right time, but I will tell you that the forecast has always predicted stormy weather. Paradoxically, the capricious rains and tempestuous winds settle me.

The singing of someone long gone still haunts the claustrophobic apartment I pay rent at. I hear the singing of a spirit who has freed herself, already unfettered, but who I keep around as a matter of object cathexsis. It’s not a home and I’m not sure if I have ever had one in several years. I’ve just paid rent at a series of locations, moving quickly like the winds that rush across my skin. Another apartment, another haunting.

There is a claustrophobic inside and commodious outside. There is neither specificity nor generality. It is all just feeling and perception. The present consists only of memories. The memories consist only of perceptions. After that it is all confusion.

These topics are not easily discussed. You don’t just walk up to someone and tell them you are cursed. These are not medieval times where we can cure melancholia, the black humor, by bleeding a person out. Nor can we ascribe supernatural causes to events which are not easily understood. But to feel the world, and to understand what it is we are surrounded by, requires a sense of feeling, a sense, ability, and faculty that is rare and often misunderstood.

It’s really nice to meet you.

Let’s skip to the part where we reveal our skeletons. You already know I have no patience for the in between.

Before you I didn’t have any missed calls and I didn’t need to leave the porch light on. None of that will change with meeting you, I know; I’m sorry if I gave the impression I might think otherwise.

Well, maybe I did think, for a moment, when you smiled at me and looked in my eyes and held them in your hands. But I know I don’t need to check my phone to see if I have any missed calls to tell me where I won’t be this Thanksgiving.

You won’t have to tell me why. I’ll ask the skeletons what they think. I remember what I wish I could forget.

If Byron could drink from the River Lethe to forget the cursed past, I can share the same body of water for the same reasons. I look out my window: grey skies, naked trees, a storm fast approaching. I’m beating my heart until it stops beating.

Ye know it, and I cannot utter it

Maybe next time, if the weather is different, I’ll tell you about who I was named after. You will know this curse I have inherited.

I look out my window and see that the clouds are getting darker, the winds are gaining speed, and the storm will soon no longer be a neighbor but a resident. The rain is now pouring down like I should have stocked up on batteries and non-perishable foods. It’s all grey skies and naked trees. Memories and vague perceptions clouded by whiskey and Ativan. Raindrops collect on the window like perceptual misunderstandings, disfiguring visual perception.

The storm is confirming the prediction. The present is confirming the fate. The curse is predicting the future.

How to Find Validation in Capitalism

Opinion, True Stories, Uncategorized

I had been through this many times but that didn’t make it any easier there is us and there is them and I was them I anxiously stood in place knowing this moment was going to arrive my pulse rate grew quicker quicker quicker until it felt like my veins would explode beads of sweat formed and grew larger on my forehead they dripped down my bearded cheeks and somehow landed in my empty pockets I knew I would have to face this moment and be brave no matter what happened it wasn’t my first time but that doesn’t make the fear any less destructive hurry up I yelled in my head why was this taking so long it never takes this long it’s taking too long now there must be a problem I had been through this experience so many times, but this was worse because it took seconds longer than all of the previous ones how many life situations make seconds a matter of live or die terrorist attacks hostage situations but this shouldn’t be one of them stay calm I told myself I tried to make my body language appear normal even though there were people a panel of judges all around me who could tell I was moments away from a complete meltdown the wait lingered for what felt like hours people stood around me they were judging me before my verdict had been delivered eyes everywhere that knew my secret there are a lot of people in my position but that doesn’t make it any easier this was taking longer than normal and that exacerbated my anxiety I was a grown man filled with fear how can I be a 31 year old man who doesn’t fear a person breaking into his apartment who can change a tire throw a punch bench press more than his own weight and still be afraid of this very moment I put my hands in my pockets to clench my fists I squeezed my fingernails into my palms so hard I thought I would make myself bleed I didn’t care I deserved it I wanted them to bleed I was disappointed that my skin was so strong Still it had not happened I yelled even louder in my head, COME ON APPROVE ME I stared at a screen a screen that would tell me if I was approved or not would I be approved would I be validated would I be accepted what was my verdict why are you doing this to me I cried to the Universe I felt laughter I saw pain I heard judgment I smelled class division I vomited the contents of simulacrum

Then finally it happened

My debit card was approved at Publix

I quickly gathered my grocery bags walked out of the store and wrenched the collected sweated from my emptier pockets out feeling like I had gotten away for something being a member of them and reminded myself the battle is not over yet

Why is Gay Marriage Still Not Legal?

Opinion, Published Articles

“When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. When you separate yourself by belief, by nationality, by tradition, it breeds violence. So a man who is seeking to understand violence does not belong to any country, to any religion, to any political party or partial system; he is concerned with the total understanding of mankind.” – Krishnamurti

I had no idea he was engaged, but in 2011, when I found out he married the person he had devoted his life to for the last 15 years, I was elated. The two St. Augustine residents decided to marry for a common reason:

“We wanted to get married because we plan on being together for our lifetime and wanted to have a ceremony (wedding) to mark the years we have been together. Also to show our love and commitment to each other for the future.”

Simple and beautiful enough, but because Dan (who declined to use his real name or disclose his profession) and his partner are gay, they had to travel to Washington D.C. to get married, and then return to a state where their devotion is not legally recognized.

Dan and his partner are both handsome, successful, well-spoken, moral individuals. They lead a fairly quiet life and enjoy spending time with their families when not working. Most people seem to be fine with their sexual orientation, but it’s still a hot topic in contemporary America and one that has gained a lot of spotlight attention due to the November election and recent, polemical statements made by Chick-Fil-A’s CEO.

I agree with Dan when he says, “I feel we live in a country where you should be able to marry the person you love whether a man or woman.” Marriage is about love. For many people, marriage is a union between two individuals who wish to share their love and devotion for the rest of their lives, but for many others, it is the same love and devotion, but add the religious recognition.

And that is the basis for most arguments opposing gay marriage: religion. But if religion is the reason homosexuals cannot get married in America, why are atheists, agnostics, Muslims, or any other non-Christian allowed to? This seems a little silly considering many in the LGBT community are Christian.

Some other questions I have a hard time getting a reasonable response include:

Why are homosexuals denied the same legal rights and privileges that heterosexuals enjoy?

Should we, as voting citizens, minimize the significance of their lifelong relationships so that the government could tax them at higher rates, deny them health insurance, and withhold from them life insurance and social security benefits?

Should we deny them legal custody of their biological children based solely on their sexuality?

What if Dan or his partner experience a serious medical problem, but hospital visitation rights are not granted?

The above questions immediately polarize the nation. Arguing ensues, slippery slope arguments are pulled out, and soon enough the yelling is too loud to make sense of. Meanwhile, very few ever hear the voices or see the faces of people like Dan who are the very subjects of debate.

People often ask me why as a straight male I support gay rights. I find this question equivalent to asking me why 100 years ago I might support black or women’s rights.

Of course the issue of African-American and women’s right today seems like an odd comparison. Why should blacks or women not have equal rights? We grant them rights because they are human; they are people. Seems like common sense, right? Today, anyone opposing rights for these groups would rightly be labeled a bigot.

I believe that one day homosexuals will share the same rights as heterosexuals and that 100 years later people will look back with wonder as to why the LGBT community was not given what was rightfully theirs. As Dan says, “I think some Americans will always be split, but do believe it will be legalized.”

As stated above, reasons why homosexuals should not get married are abundant and usually religion-based. Scriptures are cited in condemnation of homosexuality, but are also often shouted in the faces of people like Dan who are simply trying to live their lives. In past times, scriptures were also cited as to why other minority groups were to be considered inferior and undeserving of rights.

Instructions on how to treat one’s slaves are in the bible (Leviticus 25:44-46 for one). Numerous instructions detailing and exemplifying women’s supposed inferiority are outlined in the bible (1 Timothy 2:11-14 for one). According to Deuteronomy 22:13-21, if a woman is not a virgin when she gets married, she should be stoned to death. Today thankfully, most people no longer weave these verses into their moral fabric.

This introduces a powerful question: at one point do Christians separate what the Bible instructs from what they actually practice? Certainly very few, if any, Christians have adopted a complete adherence to Biblical instruction, but the person who has would most likely be in jail for having stoned a person for breaking the Sabbath (Numbers 15:32-36).

While many of the Bible’s teachings are no longer regarded as being culturally relevant, why are other teachings still followed? Why are some instructions morally ambiguous, but when it comes to homosexuality, everything is transparent?

Why is homosexuality the hot topic in America when the Bible references its moral implications fewer than ten times (with no mentions from Jesus), but obesity is rarely discussed despite dozens of Biblical references condemning gluttony? Certainly obesity kills more people annually than homosexuality.

Many of us are aware of the arguments opposing gay marriage. Some claim it will lead to man and horse in unholy, bestiality-embraced union with tax benefits, but until horses gain opposable thumbs and are able to sign legally binding contracts, this humanity dooming, unconstitutional crisis remains out of the spectrum of possibility.

Others claim gay marriage will create homosexual children, which, while obviously presupposing there is something “wrong” with homosexuality, also does not make sense. Whether two men or two women, neither can biologically produce offspring.

In the case of a gay couple adopting children, there is absolutely no scientific evidence suggesting that a child raised in a homosexual household will “turn” gay. Why? Because no one makes the decision to become gay because it seems like a great choice to be mistreated, physically and emotionally abused, and denied love.

One of the most popular remarks against homosexuality is that it is unnatural. Firstly, homosexuality is not unnatural, but secondly, as human beings we do not make decisions based on whether something is natural or unnatural. Things that are unnatural include getting a haircut, driving a car, and watching television. Who is willing to give those up in the name of forsaking all that is unnatural?

A thorough examination on the issue of gay rights and gay marriage yields no support for those in opposition. Anyone opposing equal rights for another human does not deserve the rights they are attempting to withhold from others. It took us centuries to get where we are today; why are so many trying to slow our progress? Who can provide a legitimate reason as to why Dan and his partner should not be allowed the same rights as their heterosexual peers?

Today we look back and wonder, “Why didn’t we give women and minorities rights all those years ago? How full of confusion, misunderstanding, and hate were those people?” Future generations will wonder the same about us. They will be baffled as to how many reasons and how much propaganda could be dispersed to suppress a group of people. Unfortunately, it may be too late for Dan and his husband to enjoy the rights we take for granted today.

Sexual Assault: Time to Come to the Defense of Women

Opinion, Published Articles, True Stories

Recently a friend of mine was physically and sexually assaulted at a party. After she pushed the guy off her, he called her a slut and a bitch. While her friends came to her defense, no male did and the attacker’s friends encouraged his behavior.

When she told me her story, she concluded it by saying, “Apparently reacting to being grabbed by strangers constitutes being a bitch nowadays.”

There are more offensive details regarding this guy’s actions, but they are being withheld to protect my friend’s anonymity. Those details, however, would enrage any person who believes women’s bodies should not be violated.

There is already much needed societal and media attention paid toward rape and attempted rape cases, but rarely do we hear of cases where rape did not occur, but the woman was sexually assaulted by being touched, grabbed or something along these lines.

Is this because it’s too commonplace? Do many guys see this occur so often that it’s not worth mentioning and not worth defending the victim? Fifty four percent of sexual assaults are not reported to the police, but in how many was the woman actually defended regardless of police involvement?

Many women are already strong enough to defend themselves without the help of a nearby male, but certainly not all are. In many cases when the woman does defend herself, she is called some pretty derogatory things. As my friend already noticed, not only is the victim in these cases not defended, she is further victimized just for defending herself.

Imagine you are at a party and you witness a man physically or sexually assault a woman. Do you do anything? Do you passively stand to the side and consider it acceptable behavior? Do you feel too afraid to break from your friends, look like the “bad guy,” and actually come to the person’s defense?

Is being an individual really that hard? What if your mother or sister was assaulted? Would the blood that courses through your veins boil because the men present were either too passive to do anything or believed that assaulting a woman is morally permissible?

Encouraging or refusing to defend a woman who has been violated does not seem like the type of behavior of a highly cultivated, sophisticated and evolved society. It sounds like the behavior of cavemen, dragging their knuckles through the dirt and communicating in grunts.

What will you do the next time you see a woman get assaulted or violated? Will you do anything? Will you imagine that it’s your mother or sister?

Can we evolve as a society to treat each other respectfully? I hope so.

The Night I Drove Away From Prayer

Opinion, Published Articles, True Stories

You’re either in or you’re out: chosen or forsaken, saved or damned, the many or the few.

Some years ago I was in a Christian martial arts school. I wasn’t Christian, but it was a great school and it was confirmed every time I broke a rib or a foot or got a black eye. I liked it because it pushed me beyond my limits, further than I would have been able to go on my own.

Plus, it always felt cool to have a broken bone or a black eye. A spinning side kick that takes less than a second to execute that cracks a rib is a thrill and pain you won’t experience anywhere else (at least nowhere that you’re paying for it).

But like I said, it was a Christian martial arts school and I wasn’t Christian. I hadn’t accepted Christ. I had when I was a kid, but what does that mean? Lots of kids accept Christ into their hearts and they don’t know what it means. A person can’t know what it means when they are too young – they’re just repeating the words they’ve heard.

One Saturday evening, the leader of the martial arts school, who was also a pastor, was giving a sermon at a local church. They were doing one of those services that are geared toward youth where they draw you in with donuts, coffee, and pseudo-edgy rock music. To conclude the sermon he invited everyone to stand up and join him in a circle of prayer.

“Whether you’ve accepted Christ into your heart before or are tonight for the first time, c’mon up here and let’s pray,” he excitedly commanded through the microphone.

So everyone did. The masses left their pews and gathered around the leader in a circle. They eagerly walked up to the altar where he stood with his microphone and they put their arms around each other forming one large group. They bowed their heads in unison and listened as the leader spoke to God through a microphone.

When the Christ-acceptance prayer started I was still sitting in the pew, outside the circle of prayer. Everyone had left except for me and I awkwardly remained in my seat. I didn’t accept Christ into my heart before that night and I wasn’t going to that night either.

It wasn’t that I had any personal vendetta against Christ; it was that I did not believe the story of the Bible and therefore could not accept Christ as my personal lord and savior.

Some lighthearted, gentler folks out there might think if I should have gone up and there and joined in the rejoicing, but some of those lighthearted, gentler folks out there also don’t have a problem with lying.

That was my dilemma: should I lie and approach the group to “accept Christ,” and be a member of the chosen and saved, or should I be honest and stand alone, to be a member of the forsaken and damned, while everyone ascends to the prayer circle?

These situations are typically not easy ones. No one particularly enjoys lying and it surely makes uncomfortable situations easier to bear, but we all find ourselves situated in a moment where lying has more consequences than, “Sorry bro, it wasn’t me who drank the last beer.” How should a person react when he is confronted by a situation where he can only please the group by lying?

I didn’t want to lie so I didn’t stand up and join. I took my place among the damned, the forsaken, the wicked because it was the honest thing to do.

I have always felt on the outside of things. I have always felt like the underdog and thus, the forsaken and damned. I descended from the group. I stood up, walked outside, and got into my car. I left in the rainy, dark night while they were still praying, confirming my position among the few.

Do Atheists Have a Place in America?

Opinion, Published Articles, True Stories, Uncategorized

In the fall of 2011, I sought out a printer to print a collection of short stories I had written. The collection was entitled “Iambic Pentagram,” and contained a dozen short stories and essays, mostly satirical and humorous social insights and observations. One of the essays was called “Why I am an Atheist.”

There were two mentions of a Christian God in the essay. They were:

1. If I knew Jesus was truth, I would accept that truth. If I knew the Christian God was the God I ought to believe in, I would believe, just in the same way that if I knew any other possible God was the God I should believe in, I would worship that God.

2. I’m not mad at the world and I’m not mad at God. No matter when the world ends, hopefully God will know that with the rational mind he intended us to have led me to deny his existence.

That was my best and most genuinely honest approach at remaining open-minded and asserting to an audience that I knew would be partly Christian that I have no problem with Christianity or a belief in God. I simply do not believe in God. I understand that when some people hear the word atheist, they automatically attach a number of meanings to the word. For example, he must be a jerk and dislike religion.

I understand that. I have seen it happen and I have met the people who fit that exact description. But that is not me. And that does not describe many of the atheists and agnostics that I know. Have we not all met someone from a particular group that misrepresented the group as a whole?

Regardless of my “best and most genuinely honest approach at remaining open-minded,” the printer refused to print “Iambic Pentagram” because as the CEO of this North Carolina-based company told me over the phone, “You’re trashing my God and I need to put my foot down as a Christian.”

It would be difficult to argue the legal issue of his refusal to print my booklet. My limited understanding of legalities tells me that he had every right to do so. However, the fact that he blatantly misunderstood my statements as “trashing God” led me to believe that despite the safety measures I took, he still felt that as an atheist, I was anti-God and had a deep-rooted hatred for those with a religious affiliation. He was wrong.

Let us reverse the scenario. Suppose I were the CEO of a printing company which publicly also has no religious affiliation. One day, a Christian wants to print a booklet and one essay states, “I don’t have a problem with atheists, but my rationality has led me to conclude there is a God.”

That is not a controversial statement by any stretch of the imagination, but I were to refuse to print this person’s booklet, would it not make me seem like I am being a bit sensitive and perhaps anti-religious? Arguably, many more people would consider this latter scenario to be more unjustifiable as compared to the scenario that I actually experienced.

To get a better understanding of this issue, a 2007 Gallup poll showed that 53% of Americans would not vote for an atheistic presidential candidate. This statistic points us in the direction that there is a distrust of atheists in America. Unfortunately, the Gallup poll does not answer why.

There is perhaps a polarization in the American religious spectrum because oftentimes, the question boils down to, “Are they Christian or non-Christian?” In a sense, and of course not always, Jewish people, Muslims, atheists, and agnostics – and pretty much anyone who is not Christian, get lumped into the same category. In a Christian dominated country, this sense of polarization should not seem brand new.

Robert Sims, 22, a philosophy/religion and history major with a youth ministry minor at Flagler College identifies himself as a strict Roman Catholic. He said, “Ignorant and thoughtless people may certainly marginalize or negatively view the atheist or agnostic and vice versa. Unfortunately this type of person or this attitude tends to prevail as the majority among our contemporaries.”

Offering greater insight as to why the Gallup poll shows numbers that look unfavorably upon atheists, Sims stated, “I think that almost any person prefers people who agree with their opinions – be them religious, political, or otherwise – over people that do not agree with them.” This makes sense in a country where one practically must be a “strong Christian” in order to win a presidential election.

Jared Smith, 23, a Flagler College graduate with a degree in philosophy/religion and political science, has no particular religious affiliation. His response to this matter was, “In certain areas of the U.S. atheism is seen as a stigma, and I think that is a hold-over from the time when religion and morality were viewed as synonymous. But in more and more areas of the country, Christianity is becoming less of a presumption, and people are generally more open to their friends or colleagues being atheists.”

In the Gallup poll, just 7% of Americans would not vote for a Jewish presidential candidate and Mormons got a harder blow with 24% of Americans refusing to vote for them. The question of course then is, what often separates atheists and agnostics from those with a religious background? Why do the numbers jump to a startlingly 53% when atheists are brought into question? A person refusing to vote for an atheist or agnostic may easily claim that those who are not a member of a traditional organized religion (i.e. Christianity, Judaism, Islam) lack a moral fabric.

Many people not only find a moral compass in a religious environment, they believe it necessary to have a religion in order to have a moral foundation – and to not be associated with a religion means to be without morals. Is the statement “No God, no morals” a true one? Of course not.

I’m not saying that refusing to print my booklet is “religious intolerance.” But you have to ask yourself why people without a religious affiliation continue to be looked down upon by people with one?

Discourse on Embracing Love – Even Though it Will End

Opinion, Uncategorized

Imagine this: One day you wake up and find yourself in the same position you were the day before that, the day before that, and for that matter, the months before that. You wake up, you have to go to school or work, and you’re already late before you even started. But this day is different and you don’t know it yet. Because this day you find the one you will love forever.

Who doesn’t want that? Perhaps those with deficiencies for true love like psychopaths, cult leaders, and those who ascend to earth from the underworld, but otherwise, I think many of us have woken up on Sunday mornings with the hopes and desires of finding someone who will love us for us for who we really are. In turn, we will do the same. We will mutually love that person for the essence of their being.

When they are ill, we will bring them soup. When they are sad, we will comfort them. When they are tired, we will help them lay tired bodies to rest. In short, it will be a lot like a relationship with Jesus but add some awesome carnal relations. And in turn, we will have amazing experiences with that person. We will climb mountains, figuratively and perhaps literally. We will have as much fun and enjoyment with that person at a red light as we would at a theme park on our shared favorite holiday in the perfect weather – because we have gotten to the essence of that person.

Many would describe this as finding one’s soul mate. In a Socratic dialogue narrated by Plato, Socrates and Aristophanes discuss soul mates. Aristophanes claims that humans once had four arms, four legs, and one head with two faces. Zeus separated the two, condemning every human on earth to spend his or her life searching for their other half.

Any sane person would reject this story as mythology; however to add to this list of mythological stories worth discussion, I would include Disney movies and romantic comedies that suggest merely finding our “other halves” would complete us, make us whole, and seemingly eradicate and make nonsense of previous worldly problems. It was Virgil of course who said that “Love conquers all things.” But does love actually conquer all things? Is this fairy tale romance something we should consider worth pursuing because it is actually obtainable?
Probably not.

Many of us want to fall in love. We lay our weary heads against our soft pillows and fall asleep dreaming of the one person who we can spend our last scores with. The one person who will accept us for our flaws, our imperfections, our bad morning breath, our hatred for people who chew with their mouth open, our despise for those who hate the political party we also hate. We want someone who loves us for our idiosyncrasies.

Being human, this seems like a pretty good deal to me. Where can I sign up?

Not so fast. Let’s look at the fine print. We must face the facts and statistics. Most relationships will end before you die. Let’s forget that marriages where one or both spouses admit to infidelity is 41%, and may then end in divorce. Let’s forget that.

Let’s say you have found the perfect person. They don’t care that you believe that Newt Gingrich represents the pinnacle of rational personhood, that you love to play video games when they have something important to discuss, that the garbage hasn’t been taken out in months and there is no more room to sleep in bed because the rat’s nest has overtaken the sheets that haven’t been changed since New Years 1999. Love conquers all, right?

When considering our options and abilities to be with someone forever, we should look at things as they actually are, not how fairy tales and western cinema likes to get our hopes for. If you have a partner, chances are more likely than not that you two will break up before getting married. When considering marriage, don’t forget to consider that over 50% of marriages in the US end in divorce. Let’s say you and your life partner never gets divorced, circumstances still do not quite live up to the fairy tale standards we have engrained and embedded in our soft, delicate hearts.

First of all, be happy that you found someone you will never divorce. Congratulations on either finding love, or someone incredibly apathetic or invalid. But chances are pretty good that one of you will die before the other. That means you will have to spend years alone without your soul mate while you spend a torturous life on earth paying taxes and getting stuck in traffic behind people with ugly, foreign license plates.

I don’t know which is saddest: never finding someone at all, or your fairy tale romance ending at a funeral which costs thousands more than the engagement ring that signified eternity.

There we have it: most relationships will end before you die. If they don’t, your partner will die before you. Therefore, the most romantic event you can hope for is to die together, like in a car accident. Don’t worry. There will be roses aplenty at your funeral. And roses are pretty damn romantic.

Regardless of the existential crisis this thought may induce, giving up on wanting or striving to find your most ideal sense of true love, in terms that you have defined, still seems silly. Because a life without any love or shared emotional attachment with another being will always be more lonely than the existential abandonment that may tear you shreds in your soul mate’s absence.

While fairy tales are a joke and probably detrimental to our emotional well-being and our approach to conducting romantic relationships, I will argue that having someone for a month or a lifetime seems significantly more valuable than having no one ever. As far as a marriage ending up in divorce, I am still too young to determine that value, but I would imagine it depends on the persons involved. Even though you will leave this planetary realm the same way you came in, that does not mean you should not embrace every waking, savory moment with another person – if you are fortunate enough to have and make that work.

So go get ‘em, but remember that all things come to an end.

Where Should We Drink in St. Augustine?

Opinion, Uncategorized

You’re in downtown St. Augustine. You’ve spent the day pounding the pavement, beating the streets and soaking your socks in sweat. You took some photos at the Old Jail and the Castillo de San Marcos and none of them revealed a ghost in the background. You got stuck waiting for the Bridge of Lions’ drawbridge for so long you ran out of gas. You turned to your significant other, your friends, or if you are like me, you looked in the mirror and said, “Alright, it’s time for a couple of liquor drinks.”Now comes the critical moment where you need to decide where you want to get all liquored up. Where you go will depend on who you are with and how shallow you are.

If you are with your significant other, it’s recommended that you go someplace where memories can be made and cherished forever. Lucky for you, the human brain forms memories no matter where it is. But if you are going to form memories to be cherished as the decades go by, let them be in some place where there isn’t a conversation between men written on the wall of the women’s bathroom accusing each other of being gay.

Way to Impress ‘em, Stud

Setting up that first set of criteria immediately removes a lot of bars to visit, so let us be choosy about where we go from here. If your significant other is immediately attracted to shiny objects and impressed by status, I would recommend the overpriced Casa Monica. This small, quiet setting never features a band, thus allowing your significant other to hear the high price of the drinks you order and the sound of your wallet losing weight every time you close it after ordering another round. It’s small and ritzy, so dress to impress.

She Might Be a Keeper

If your significant other is someone who actually remembers your middle name before he or she knows your income, take said person to either the Tini Martini where you can enjoy an average priced drink overlooking the bay front, or Stogies. Stogies offers its patrons beer, wine and cigars. Naturally, being that Stogies is a cigar bar, you will leave smelling like an ashtray, but the nightly music is always great, the staff is always beyond friendly, and the owner, Jack, is personable enough to sit down with you, buy you a round or three, and talk the night away with interesting stories. Note also that the Stogies’ second floor is an eerie setting. The large room is as dark as the soul of whichever political candidate you don’t like, and has comfortable furniture and a chess board with missing pieces. It’s a favorite among locals as well.

Fuck it, Let’s Get Wasted

Earlier, I recommended that you go “some place where there isn’t a conversation between men written on the wall of the women’s bathroom accusing each other of being gay.” That’s not entirely true because sometimes you want to drink with your friends. Additionally, sometimes the best way to end the day is by loading up your belly with some cheap gin. Before I tell you about the bars you go with your friends, a story must be told.

I was at a dive bar next to the tattoo shop I used to work at a few years ago. A friend of mine who had just come home from his second tour in Iraq was drinking a bit heavily when he noticed a bro sporting a faux-hawk across the bar.

“I’m going to beat the shit out of that kid,” he sternly told me, taking another drink, resting his mug on the bar and then stepping up to approach him.

“This is fantastic,” I thought to myself, admittedly not doing my best at critical thinking.

My friend approached the guy and a loud argument broke out. Eventually, my friend was pulled off of him before a punch was thrown, and then pretty boy left. While I am glad that a fight never ensued, there is one thing I learned from that event: wherever I go, wherever I live, I want to go to a bar where a guy can get the shit beat out of him for having a faux-hawk. If this appeals to you, and it shouldn’t, then I recommend the Gigglin’ Gator, known to locals just as “the Gator.” The Gator is no doubt the origin of many DUI’s.

Here is how to best describe the Gator. Remember when you spent the day getting sweaty, walking around the various historic sites and tourist attractions? Remember when you saw a lot of sketchy people roaming the streets? The Gator is where those people are when the sun goes down. It’s like Tarantino’s “From Dusk Till Dawn” except the bloodsucking un-human creatures at The Gator can go in the sunlight. The drinks are priced well, and the dark atmosphere is reminiscent of a nightmare you never wake up from. Also, the past year has an impressive catalog of extreme crime. Don’t go to the Gator unless you have a gun permit.

A good second behind The Gator for freaks of the night would be the St. George Tavern, known to locals simply as “The Tavern.” This is a good place to go if you are a hipster or simply on the run from the law. It’s dark and smoky enough to not be easily detected by anyone. My favorite reason for liking this bar is that the drinks are dirt cheap, matching the décor of the place. The bar is long and narrow, just like a cigarette, bringing me to mention that they are conducting a century long study on the effects of second hand smoke at The Tavern. You can’t stop in to ask for directions without leaving smelling like a burn victim. Both The Gator and The Tavern are like a trip to the human circus where they serve alcohol.

All of the Above Sounds Stupid. Seriously, Where Should We Go?

If there are not such harsh restrictions on where you want to drink like impressing your significant other or watching a knife fight in a parking lot, and you are actually just interested in a few solid, decently priced, well-poured drinks and good conversation, I highly recommend Scarlett O’hara’s, known to locals just as “Scarlett’s.” Scarlett’s is great because after the fiftieth time you go there, some of the staff remembers your name. Furthermore, the atmosphere is comfortable and the bar food tastes a little bit better than bar food. It’s a great place for celebration or relaxing, a fifth date, but never a bar mitzvah.

Warning: not all times at Scarlett’s are great. Sometimes they have a cover fee of two dollars. Cover fees and door men tend to attract a high bro population. If there is a bro alert, remember, stay indoors. Bros are known to produce horrible conversation, mimic wild apes and cavemen, and drag girls along with them who are as equally repulsive by their combination of four pounds of makeup, bleached hair that could scrub the graffiti from the women’s restroom, and conversation that ruptures eardrums by its sheer stupidity and shallowness. Also, a high bro population could spark the bropocalypse.

If this summary of bars has still not assisted you in where to go for drinks, just remember this St. Augustine saying that no one has probably said: “Whatever. Let’s just go to Scarlett’s.”

New Orleans, Decadence, Free Will, Determinism, Agency, and Vomit in the Streets – After

Opinion, True Stories, Uncategorized

Last week I told you I was going to New Orleans for a philosophy conference, the New Orleans Workshop on Agency and Responsibility (NOWAR). Being that it was my first time in New Orleans, I had a lot of preconceived notions about what to expect. Those potential misconceptions were:

•Enough frat boy and homeless person vomit on the streets to be able to “Hansel-and-Gretel” my way back to my hotel room.
•White tourists pronouncing New Orleans “N’awlins” with stupid grins on their faces and expecting me to play along.
•Vegetarian options at restaurants to include bread and water.
•That bread and water to cost as much as an actual meal because it was given a name to impress tourists like “Our Famous N’awlins Cajun Yeast Bread!”
•Random insane debauchery.

Here is the only thing I was wrong about: “White tourists pronouncing New Orleans “N’awlins” with stupid grins on their faces and expecting me to play along.” This could be because I spent each day, from morning until dusk, in the philosophy conference.

Below are my experiences based on the bullet points of what I expected to find in New Orleans and ended up finding in New Olreans.

Regarding: “Enough frat boy and homeless person vomit on the streets to be able to ‘Hansel-and-Gretel’ my way back to my hotel room,” and “Random insane debauchery.”

What actually happened:

Many people believe the apocalypse is going to happen while they are alive. If the apocalypse is ever going to happen, it will no doubt begin in New Orleans (maybe not; I have yet to visit Vegas or Harold Camping’s house on Thanksgiving). If it really does begin in New Orleans, it will begin in the French Quarter and will be appropriately titled the “Bropocalypse.”

The amount of bros in New Orleans seemed a bit high, but upon further empirical research, it was observed that per capita, the bro rate was actually quite average. It only seemed high when walking down the street avoiding the toss of beads from guys whose greatest thrill at night is encouraging girls to lift their shirts up.

While New Orleans is known to outsiders for its jazz and culture, it is known to people who walk down the French Quarter’s streets for its shitty, mainstream rap music, barely-clothed strippers in thresholds dancing to entice you to visit the unclothed strippers indoors (for more information, buy a Girls Gone Wild DVD). Free plastic beads will be thrown to you from second story balconies and, depending on your IQ, the music will be horrible enough to either pull you in or push you away.

My first thought after walking a quarter mile in the French Quarter was “As soon as I get back to my hotel, I’m going to burn my shoes so the STD’s in the streets don’t creep up through the soles of my shoes, through my socks and into my soul.”

The French Quarter’s streets are so disgusting that a century long flood of bleach would still not sanitize the centuries old streets. If you are the kind of person who occasionally likes to wash their hands before they eat, you may not like New Orleans. If you are the kind of person who would eat a McDonalds hamburger found wrapped up and ambient temperature in an alley, you might really like New Orleans.

Regarding: “Vegetarian options at restaurants to include bread and water” and “That bread and water to cost as much as an actual meal because it was given a name to impress tourists like ‘Our Famous N’awlins Cajun Yeast Bread!’”

What actually happened:

Ok, none of the bread I saw had a stupid name meant to entice tourists. I was wrong. Sue me.

Not every restaurant had no vegetarian option; some offered a lame chicken alfredo I could order without the chicken. Way to get crazy in New Orleans. Next time I might try the caesar salad with Italian dressing.

New Orleans is known for its seafood. That’s why if you want to open a restaurant in New Orleans, you will fail if you do not serve fresh catch and frozen shrimp. Another way to fail? Make sure your vegetarian options are a list as long as good Cher songs.

In most restaurants in New Orleans, note that checks at tables cannot be divided and distributed individually. Checks can only be given to the table as a whole or simply divided in half. This is fantastic news considering we can put a man on the moon but we can’t divide a check. On top of that, many places are cash only.

This city’s slogan should be “New Orleans: World Famous Tourist Destination…and cash only.”

One specific situation of ordering a vegetarian dish at a seafood restaurant my first night in the French Quarter (“Quarter” because it is only twenty-five percent of Hell) was the waitress forgot my food.

That’s ok. Mistakes happen and I don’t believe I am exempt from being the victim of these mistakes. In this situation, it was obvious the server was lying and said something about the kitchen being backed up. My entire table received their meal, including the two other people who ordered the same thing as me.

Again, that’s ok, mistakes happen, even lies, but here is where that mistake/lie became annoying: After politely inquiring as to my food’s whereabouts, I was told by my twenty-something white waitress on my first day in New Orleans, “Don’t worry, baby, I’m a feed you.”

I just drove nine hours. I have eaten only shitty gas station food all day. I know you don’t know that, but my stomach and brain do. Don’t call me baby and don’t tell me you’re going to do what I am paying you to do.

“I’m a feed you.” No shit. I don’t go to hospitals and ask what they do. Stop talking to me like you’re a stripper.

In conclusion, I learned a lot about agency, responsibility, free will, determinism, desire, volition, blameworthiness and psychopathy. I also learned that New Orleans was dirtier and more decadent that I had previously anticipated. I’m willing to give this fantastic city another chance, but I probably will not return unless it is for another philosophy conference or a friend’s wedding. After all, why return to New Orleans when there is still so much of the world to see?

After attending a three-day philosophy conference, what was my greatest lesson (after all, philosophy is the love of wisdom)? Spending five minutes walking up on the down escalator in the Intercontinental Hotel. Not only physically exhausting, but also mind-blowing.

I am not saying you should never visit New Orleans, but I am saying it does not matter if you ever do.
________________________________
1 – I’m sure the situation is not a matter of technology, but a matter of tourists being pains in the ass, but if I were to acknowledge that I could not make the joke.

New Orleans, Decadence, Free Will, Determinism, Agency, and Vomit in the Streets – Before

Opinion, True Stories, Uncategorized

I’m going to New Orleans tomorrow for a philosophy conference, the New Orleans Workshop on Agency and Responsibility (NOWAR).

It will be my first time there. It’s a notable experience because it is second on the list of “Places I Don’t Give a Shit about Visiting” right after Vegas. It’s second on the list because of some preconceptions I have about this downtrodden yet popular tourist destination.

I acknowledge these preconceptions could currently be misconceptions because everything I know about New Orleans I have learned from hearsay and movies. I presume New Orleans to be a place of decadence, filth, disgust, sin, violence, and bitchin’ Cajun shrimp gumbo. Aside from violence (NOLA is the nation’s murder capital) and bitchin’ Cajun shrimp gumbo, those are the only two reasons why it is second to Vegas on my list.

Reasons why I don’t care about Vegas:
•One Elvis was enough.
•Gambling is boring. Too many people think they are experts at gambling but their bank accounts disagree.
•Guys walking around in expensive clothing thinking they are hot shots living the “Vegas Life” do nothing for me. It’s like watching a child walk around in a Batman costume. You admire them for their vivid imagination of being able to convince themselves they are something more than human because of their clothing.
•“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” roughly translates from Neanderthal to Homo Sapiens as “I’m a fucking douche.”
•I don’t want to get married tonight, I don’t care about gambling, I’m not interested in prostitutes, and I’m not interested in giving away my rent money to some guy with slicked back hair who brags about his sexual conquests.
•This guy sums it up when he says, “Las Vegas: Like God Took a Shit in the Desert!”

Now that I’m done spewing hate on my (perhaps false) preconceived notions of Vegas, I will list my current (perhaps false) preconceived notions of New Orleans. When I return, I will detail what I actually experienced. That way, I can put my foot in my mouth online requiring me to do a lot of backtracking to avoid looking like more of an asshole than I did by posting this. So, things I am potentially falsely expecting from New Orleans:

•Enough frat boy and homeless person vomit on the streets to be able to “Hansel-and-Gretel” my way back to my hotel room.
•White tourists pronouncing New Orleans “N’awlins” with stupid grins on their faces and expecting me to play along.
•Vegetarian options at restaurants to include bread and water.
•That bread and water to cost as much as an actual meal because it was given a name to impress tourists like “Our Famous N’awlins Cajun Yeast Bread!”
•Random insane debauchery.

Aside from the decadence, sin, and violence of New Orleans (again, very potential misconceptions), I am excited to attend this philosophy conference. Subjects such as agency, responsibility, free will, determinism, etc. are incredibly interesting and I am excited to expand my knowledge on them.

As I mentioned above, I will detail my experiences when I return from New Orleans. I don’t particularly care if I am right or wrong about the above presumptions, because it will be an enjoyable, educational experience regardless.

Oh, it should also take mention that I received this email earlier:

I’m sure many of you have heard about the nasty goings-on in New Orleans on Halloween night: two people were murdered, and 14 were injured in gunfights around the city, and two such fights occurred in the French Quarter.

I want to reassure you that, while gunfights indeed happen on a regular basis in New Orleans (it isn’t just skating by as the murder capital of the U.S. on reputation alone), for them to occur like this in the area of the French Quarter is actually quite rare indeed (there have been only five shootings in the Quarter and entire surrounding area up to this point in 2011). I of course urge you to exercise caution while in town.

Side note: If you are thinking about robbing my apartment while I’m gone, know that the only thing more expensive than my laptop is my hundred-dollar Target couch that is more uncomfortable than a stadium seat, is stained with beer, and is covered in dog hair.