The Measure of a Man

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I realize that I’m about to make some enemies, but you know what? I’m man enough to deal with it. What I’m not man enough to do is sit down, shut up, and take whatever life throws at me. I readily admit that I’m not man enough to hide how I feel about things behind copious amounts of booze. I’m not man enough to lash out and mistreat others because I can’t express myself in any other way. I’m not man enough to pretend I know it all, and walk around with a superiority complex the size of Texas.

Though the attached image displays a woman, the sentiment expressed applies to both men and women who act as though men with feelings don’t matter in today’s world. Both men and women are guilty of perpetuating the lie that men are nothing more than selfish children who only have the basic needs of food, sex, and sleep.

To the men who say “but that’s what I really am,” or who proudly declare themselves a ‘man-child,’ I say this: get some self respect. Really. Men used to be great philosophers, engineers, writers, inventors, and farmers. Now I’m supposed to believe that if I don’t drink, scratch myself, and play video games, that I’m not a man? Gimme a break.

The truth is, I do have feelings. I do have hopes and dreams, fears and nightmares, weakness and strength. And I embrace the good, and try to change the bad. The very definition of the human experience is change, growth, and learning. To limit, or actively combat personal growth is to become stagnant, dead, and repulsive. But that growth can only be achieved through not only admitting our weaknesses, but actively attempting to change our personalities and lives.

It’s not enough to say “I know I’m driving of a cliff.” You need to turn the car around. Society likes to reduce both genders to trite sayings and snarky one-liners. But life experiences are infinitely more complex.

For instance, I’ve been dealing with nightmares for months. Nightmares that magnify and emphasize feelings of loss and rejection. I wake up feeling hurt, sad, and unlovable. I go to bed at night in fear and trepidation. On a daily basis I feel alone. Oh, it’s gotten better with time. I have my good days, or even weeks. I love my job, I meet new people, and hang with friends.

But there are those days when all I want is the faithful love of a woman who will take me in her arms and remind me that I am loved by her and her alone, flaws and all. Lest I seem selfish, I also miss giving that sentiment in return. So no, I don’t feel bad because I am sensitive. I don’t feel bad because I want love again. I don’t feel bad about admitting my feelings and my shortcomings. That’s how real men (and women) grow.

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Business and Pleasure

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Hello everyone! This is simply a brief post to share with you my freelance copywriting and advertising service: The Sailing Scribe.

My goal is to reach out to small businesses, organizations, schools, libraries, or anyone else who wants to promote yourselves, your product, or even a special event. Please visit my site, and let me know what I can do for you!

Sex, Music, Movies, and Games

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With the above title, I’ve just described how the majority of Americans filter their news feed. This is a damning indictment, and not just because it showcases a moral decline. In fact, I’m not going to touch on the moral perspective of these subjects in any way. No, rather I intend to discuss what this means in the context of the perception of liberty.

I can almost guarantee that I’ve lost some readers through the above paragraph alone. And that’s the problem I see. It seems nearly impossible to have a serious discussion with friends, family, or neighbors about anything that does not touch on popular culture in some way shape or form. America has collectively become a nation that feeds on “infotainment.”

Of course, there are other subjects that people focus on beyond those main four. Everything from diet to exercise, to health and wealth, the majority of Americans filter their news through a personal lens, i.e. how does something affect me and me alone? Yet very few see this as a problem.

For example, If people heard that someone leaked NSA and CIA documents concerning the surveillance of American citizens for the sake of security, most people would call that man a traitor. Yet if it was explained that those programs allowed government officials to view naked photographs of said people, or “sext” messages, they would be up in arms, and glad that the informant stepped forward.

This has already happened, in the case of Edward Snowden. Very few even remember his name, and those who do deride him as a traitor. This is due to the fact that some of the information leaked deals with how the military is operating against Al-Qaeda and ISIS. However, what people fail to grasp is the wide reaching implications of our government spying on it’s own people.

And philosophical debate about real world issues such as this is considered radical extremism. Long conversations about one subject at a time are no longer done. Attention spans are short, people are easily bored, and news is consequently reduced to soundbites and GIF’s.

Yes, I have my movies and games that I enjoy, but I don’t filter my worldview through them. And you shouldn’t either. It’s time to let go of your favorite actors and television shows. It’s time to let go of your video games and rigorous health regimens. It’s even time to let go of your superiority complex over how hard you do or do not work compared to others.

Lest you think this issue is age specific, I see the same problem in older generations as well. From reminiscing about “how it was done in my day,” to blaming everything on the rise of technology and the evils of the internet, older generations have a lot to answer for as well.

Look, it’s easy to want to ignore the world around us, and confine ourselves to a certain group of people, and align ourselves with groups whose mission statements are easy to quote. It’s easy to get lost in the ever increasing ocean of pop-culture. But if we choose to continue allowing ourselves to be distracted away from issues that are “too complicated,” our lives will be caged by prison bars of our own making.

We must encourage philosophical debate among ourselves. We must form political and social ideologies that are not based upon “that one deep quote from that one movie.” Most importantly, we must learn to care about our fellow man, beyond our own limited circle of friends. I wonder now, at the end of the post, how many readers I’ve lost because I haven’t touched on some aspect of popular culture.

Three sided Issues

It has often been well stated that there are three sides to most arguments: Your side, my side, and the truth. Such seems to be the case in the latest news concerning “Net Neutrality.” It is considered by some to be a veritable godsend that will keep Internet Service providers, (ISP’s) from throttling, or controlling the flow of information online. Hailed as a blow for freedom, those who support the latest ruling see it as the “first amendment” for the internet, that all information, data, or whatever you call it, shall be treated as equal.

Others see Net Neutrality as the exact opposite, a blow to innovation and entrepreneurship, keeping the internet just the way it is and making it nigh impossible for fresh start-up companies to take root. Many also see it as government intrusion over, and regulation of, private businesses. Either way you look at it, the decisions made by the White House and the Federal Communications Commission are sparking widespread debate across the country.

Ah, but now for that pesky third viewpoint. You know the one. It’s the one that, as soon as it’s brought up, gets drowned in a unified chorus of opposition. That polarizing thought, that manages to unit two seemingly irreconcilable camps, not in agreement, but unbridled hatred.

Here’s the thing. People, generally, don’t ask questions anymore. Not real ones anyway. In fact the largest, most oft repeated question in the world today is simply this: “What’s in it for me?” There is no concern for our neighbor, our posterity, or even our own integrity. So long as something benefits us, or seems to, we’re onboard. And so it is, I believe, with this issue of “Net Neutrality.”

People are upset because they see ISP’s “controlling” the flow of information online. But what these people don’t realize is that content providers are trying to put heavier traffic onto a system that wasn’t designed for it. In order to keep up with demands ISP’s are having to build and maintain stronger, and better bridges to handle the increased load.

Here’s the problem. The content providers didn’t build, or have to maintain the “roads” they are using, and think ISP’s should have to provide them with the needed bandwidth and infrastructure at no extra cost to themselves. You know, the ones who are actually using the roadways more.

Allow me to shore up this analogy. I have several furniture trucks I want to use to move goods. You own the loading docks. Suddenly, you notice that I’m carrying bigger, heavier, and more furniture than others. Now what would your reaction be if I told you I expect you to maintain a larger workforce and run longer days in order to move my goods? Wouldn’t you tell me you expect me to pay more for better service?

If you decided to stop moving my goods, would you be the “evil” bad guy controlling the flow of furniture in the area? I don’t think so. Obviously, if I wanted to move more goods than my competition, I should expect to pay more for the service you provide. However, many content providers don’t see it that way, and think all content providers should only have to pay one rate, and still have the same delivery speed as their competition. So now, the rates will be kept high for faster speeds, and competition will fail before it begins.

Meanwhile, power will shift to the content providers, who will still need to figure out how the networks are going to handle the load. Both the infrastructure and bandwidth will still need to be in place to handle the load, and somebody is going to have to pay for it. In keeping with the analogy, a larger loading crew and extra pay is still going to be necessary. That cost will now be passed off to the ISP’s who will pass it on to….. who? The government says it will be free. However, I guarantee you that in this case “free” means taxpayer subsidized. It’s simply an economic reality. Somebody is going to have to pay the piper somewhere down the line.

However, stay tuned for the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would say, because that’s not all. There is another factor in this equation, that of government interest. Why is the White House concerned with, what is essentially, a market issue?

Ostensibly, because otherwise people won’t have access to the internet that they “need,” or “deserve,” and poor content providers would be stuck, having to pay higher rates, or suffering slower service for their customers. This would, of course, be a terrible injustice, and since the market can’t regulate itself, obviously the great and benevolent government should step in.

But let’s slow down the pony, and back up the wagon. First of all, it has always been a favorite claim of politicians that the free market can’t regulate itself. However, let’s step back and take a closer look at the “failed” free market of the internet. First of all, the market hasn’t failed. Yes there may have been some dust-ups and it is more than likely that some ISP’s may have gone for a major power-grab at some point, but that’s where competition comes into play. The internet has done fine on its own, and remarkable progress has been made already in the ability of both network and content providers to operate within the current framework.

Second of all, if we can’t trust the engineers and other people who work with the system on a daily basis to be able to work on the system, why should we trust a bunch of career politicians to operate it? Political winds ebb and flow, and today’s liberal politician may no longer be such a fan of the regulations being put in place today, if a republican administration gets ahold of the reigns.

However, the biggest question of all is still this: Why do politicians want in on this? Am I suddenly to believe that they don’t have their own interests at heart? Off the top of my head, it would certainly appear that the recent ruling is going to take power away from the free market, and drop it squarely in the hands of our beloved government officials. Yes, ISP’s will be blocked from regulating the market based on notions such as “supply and demand” or to put it more bluntly, the age old principle of “You get what you pay for.”

But the fact remains that Content providers will still be moving the same amount of data through the networks, and someone is going to have to account for that. Someone is still going to have to restrict, throttle, or even block some data somewhere along the line. And who better to decide what data gets restricted better than your friendly neighborhood government.

To be clear, this is the same government that decided to regulate banking, and gave us the Federal Reserve. What’s that called again when one organization is in control of an entire industry? Oh yeah, that’s a monopoly. Hmmmmm…… Not to mention that this is the same government which gave us the FDA, which has done not one thing to combat the amount of strange chemicals and other junk we put into our bodies. But they sure can fight farmer Joe for wanting to sell, or even give away, milk straight from his cows. (BTW, I’m not against junk food or cramming garbage down your pie hole if you so choose. I’m against a government organization which purports to be for the good of the people, but does nothing to combat real health issues, yet tells individuals that they can’t choose what to consume.)

So, to sum up, yes for a while your streaming services might improve, but in the long run somebody will pay more for it. Just look at the mandated healthcare fiasco. Mandatory coverage for all is already flat ruining actual coverage. People are being forced to do what some people see as “right” yet the system has not improved. People can’t see some doctors at all, others have to wait extremely long to even see a doctor, and people still have to pay huge sums out of pocket.

If, on the other hand, we were to cut out the middle man, like an insurance company, the market would right itself. The only reason a doctor can charge you hundreds for a 20 minute visit, is because insurance companies will pay such an outrageous fee. If that middleman is eliminated two things would happen.

First, responsible people would be able to save thousands of dollars, which they could put towards their own medical care on an as needed basis. As it stands currently, folks pay hundreds each month for services they don’t use, only to have to pay even more out of pocket when they do need care, because insurance companies won’t pay but a small portion of the bill. So imagine allowing an individual access to all the money he pays to his insurance company. You might say “Well, we don’t know for sure he’ll save it for medical expenses.” You’re right, we don’t. But I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that most responsible people would set aside the money. Most successful people have figured out the value of savings.

Second, medical care costs would plummet, now becoming affordable. No doctor in his right mind would charge a patient hundreds of dollars for a half hour visit, because he would lose all his patients to another doctor providing reasonable service. But when the government steps in and says “Yeah, we’ll pay that crazy amount of money,” doctors are all too happy to ramp up their costs. Same thing goes for the internet.

Finally, while some expect the government to be fair and impartial, most folks who’ve seen it in action know well enough otherwise. Ultimately, regulatory power will pass to the hands of career politicians, who maybe don’t like that one site that exposes their backroom dealings. Or hey, you know, that one video promotes a thought process we (government) don’t like. Let’s cut back on the sites who post it, so people can’t access it without waiting for a 5 hour buffer.

The point is, legislation such as this often has far reaching, unintended, consequences. And potentially throwing away freedom just to get faster download times and no interruptions on my video streaming service, seems pretty dumb.

Life of the first Tear

Before I share today’s musing, I want to go out of my way to state to my readers that I am not currently in, nor am I entering a depressive state. This new piece is simply an expression of a brief feeling I had the other day, and it is not something I’m dwelling on. I repeat, this story is not about depression or feeling suicidal! I simply do not want anyone worrying about me when they don’t need to be.  🙂   That said, here it is:

Life of the first Tear

The mystical pain that I feel inside as I float through the air on gentle breeze, the calm that I feel, I let loose, as water set free in its course. AH! This, this, the tranquil peace that ebbs and flows as tide under suns dark twin! The peace that it equals, I cannot abide, soothing hurricane within. I roll, roll, roll, down the mountainside, falling, falling, filling each crevasse with my pliable form, till fate o’er takes and I cease to be, save for the path I trod downward. Soon to be joined, yet not to be missed, better am I forgotten? Though this my fate shall ne’er be, each moment I am to be thought as that which friend heart hath brought out from the world of dark skies and rain. Up I arose from that flower of delicate beauty whose strength that of iron, whose passion burns hot as the sphere, yet in one instant, steam goes forth and brittle petals break, the heavenly scent becalmed by the path. Higher, higher, the better to be my fall, as I escape the womb which perceives, that which did behold the death of mother who birthed me, out of whom my form took shape. Peace, peace, for there is no peace for the soul who bears me in its hour, and the weight of a thousand suns is the curse of those who wander in the land, unsure. Fanciful thoughts be mine, of wishing myself not only departed, but better to never have been given form.

A Brief History Public Schools and why they Fail Kids

Before you eyeball the rest of this piece, let’s just get one thing clear, as I use my imagination to grab your shirt collar, put my face a half inch from yours, and give you my best drill sergeant dead-eye. This post is in no way meant to be comprehensive. It is simply a brief overview of the history of compulsory education. If you feel you can add to the conversation, please leave a comment. With that said, lets get to it.

 

The states’ control actually goes back to the early colonies when there were mandated state churches. Despite the fact that these were “Christian” churches, there was no real freedom of religion. The churches were supported by taxation, and thus, even if you didn’t attend, you still had to pay to support it. Even well after the revolution, state churches still were in existence. Baptist preacher John Leland was close friends with Madison, and helped get the first amendment into the constitution, after which, churches had to support themselves.

However, the states then took that same model, and decided that they needed to have tax supported schools instead of churches. Over time, and with the enormous power grab at the Constitutional convention, the Federal Govt. slowly took more control of the public school system, until it was finally in complete control.

Regardless, whether it’s the feds or states, I think they both need to stay out. No one should be forced to educate their child in a way that contradicts their personal views. I think local communities should allow parents to keep their children in the family unit 24/7 as was done throughout most of world history. There were always special colleges or universities for folks to attend at their own behest, and without institutionalized learning, people did fine, and accomplished amazing things throughout time. Barring that, at least in a local, community run school, parents could have a more direct impact on their children’s education.

Our country has been doing it the same way for over 50 years, and it has not worked. Our students cannot be educated, because they are penalized for failure. You need to be willing to experience failure if you truly wish to learn, and the current system stigmatizes mistakes, instead of utilizing them.

Outside looking in….

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So, today was……..different. I’m sure many of you have gone through this already, but yesterday was my first major holiday alone after divorce. I’ve got to say, this was a new sensation as it was not all bad, but it certainly wasn’t all good either. I’m no longer pining for my ex, for the first time I’m actually happier without her. I did miss my kiddos, but they were only gone for the day, so that wasn’t so bad. My family already had our Thanksgiving early due to a visiting relative, so I spent today with some close friends out of town. And while I was certainly glad to be there, and be included, I also had a chance to reflect on my past year.

For those of you who don’t know, a little over 1 year ago, I became ill with Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. I had to cut my pastoral training short and move from North Carolina back to my hometown in Minnesota for treatment. I could not work, so my wife at that time had to. It was during the height of my illness when she picked up a boyfriend at work and kicked me out, and began to spread lies about abusive behavior on my part. Since then, I’ve dealt with the concept of divorce, 2 attempts on my own life, and severe depression.

However with the help and support of family and friends, as well as a good church family and the aid of professional therapy, I have made the long journey of recovery, and now have a much healthier, and stable, frame of mind. I just started work at a job that I love, I see my kids every day, and life is getting better, and for the first time this year, I can honestly say that I’m looking forward to what the future holds.

With that being said, I was eager to see what the holiday had in store for me, and set out to see my friends. We talked, and laughed and I played with their 3 year old son, my little buddy and unofficial nephew. Eventually, a relative of theirs came by, with her husband and 3 kids. And it was at the start of the meal, where everyone was talking and laughing, and in general having a good time as a family unit, that I realized how much my situation had changed over the course of a year.

For the first time, I was not a direct part of a family. I was an observer, a single man without that special someone by my side to be thankful for. Again, I wasn’t pining away for her, part of me is glad to have her gone, as she has changed so drastically. But after 12 years of marriage, I found I was still struggling with some of the leftover anger and bitterness.

So to experience this feeling of being a spectator only was both painful, but also educational. I saw just how precious family connections are. I’l never take my kids for granted, and should God see fit to allow another special woman in my life, I’ll never take her for granted either. And as I watched the happy family, however dysfunctional, rude, and obnoxious they were, I saw the smiles on their faces and the care they had for each other. And I realized then and there that the so-called “American Dream” is truly a dream. What matters in life is not the jobs we do or don’t hold, it’s not the intelligent or foolish things we do, and it’s certainly not the broken relationships of the past. Rather, what matters is the people we allow in our lives as “family.” It’s the relationships, be they familial, or outside friends, that we have a daily opportunity to strengthen. And I’ve decided that this year, in the midst of tragedy, heartache, and pain, I am thankful. In other words, I’ve made the choice to be thankful despite my circumstances, because I have a relationship. It has been sorely tested over the course of this past year, but it has come out the other side strengthened and unscathed. I have a friend that “sticketh closer than a brother.” I’ve failed Him several times, but He has yet to fail me. There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus.