Thank you for visiting!

You are invited to read Marcus of Abderus and the Inn at the Edge of the World, the first novel in my fantasy adventure series. Visit the Edge of the World! Come for the view, stay for the adventure!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Conservative Liberalism-

I have Internet friends (and even friends in real life) who are Conservatives. I have Internet friends (and even friends in real life) who are Liberals. Some are so clear and well defined in their beliefs that it seems they have gone to some kind of school where they learned the proper vocabulary and concepts. Perhaps some of them did.

I really don't know if there is a title for what I am. Sometimes I agree with what conservatives say. Sometimes I agree with what liberals say. Often I don't really agree with any of them. Generalities make creatures such as lawyers, real estate agents, cops and many others seem to be a bunch of bad guys. It is not a particularly good thing to work with generalities. The bad press and  tendency of people to speak critically about generalized entities makes knowing anything useful about them difficult.

I can't imagine that this country could run even as well as it does if all politicians were the crooked and self-seeking creatures I see in my mind when I hear the word "politician." Not all cops are corrupt, that I know. I was one of that clan, though only a lowly correctional officer. I knew a lot of cops. They were people, regular folk with a difficult job that most of them did as well as they could. A few were not the best of people, but hardly the corrupt monsters portrayed in story and film.

I know my own heart and mind. I don't like a lot of regulation. I think it is needlessly complex and expensive, and a good crook can easily find a niche in which to dwell in a needlessly complex system. Yet I also recognize that an unregulated society is dangerous and life in such society would be difficult. Where is the balance? Nobody can really agree. Everyone has their own preference for a balance point, and it is rarely the same as everyone else's.

Take taxes, for example. Taxes don't bother me. Not if they are used well to meet real needs. Some complain that taxes are too many, too much. I don't really think so. I think that the resources gathered by taxation are very poorly managed, however, and so in that sense the tax burden is great. What is taken from me as my fare share is wasted and abused. I would gladly contribute to a well managed system. As it is, I am robbed and the money is poorly distributed and badly used.

Maybe taxes do bother me.

In the country I call home, the United States, we have a two party system of government. Oh, there are other parties, but two parties dominate and vie for control in every election. I don't like either party. The seem to me to be two flavors of vanilla, and not a premium vanilla. Two bland and uninteresting flavors of vanilla. Swap one for another, and you still don't have much.

Is one party conservative, and the other liberal? Which, then, is better? Must I choose between them? What shall guide my choice? I am not conservative, at least not so in everything. I don't think I am liberal, at least not all of the time. Perhaps I practice Conservative Liberalism. Or maybe a Liberal Conservativism. How can I know?

I recently read an article (or most of an article) on a possible genetic factor in being liberal or conservative. That would certainly be easier. I could have a test of some kind done, which would tell me which camp I belong in. Then I could buy the right t-shirt, and learn to shout the proper slogans.

If it was like grade school, back in my day, we could all line up. The Liberals and the Conservatives could take turns picking us. Then I could have the same angst as a consequence of being picked last, and one team or another would get stuck with me. I suppose I am glad it isn't like that. I don't ever want to do that kind of thing again.

In those days I chose to not even line up at all. I would just go out to the far end of the field and stand under a big tree, gazing through the chain link fence and wondering what might be out there beyond the horizon. Part of me is still under that tree, gazing through the fence at the horizon.

What might be on the other side of that horizon? I wonder...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

How to Win Against Depression-

If you are a depressive person, an individual given to the emotional state of depression, you have a battle to fight every day. You can win, but it is not the kind of win where the enemy is defeated and you can dance happily through La La Land for the rest of your days. The battle must be won over and over and over. A depressing thought, I know.

I am a depressive individual. That doesn't mean that I am deeply and clinically depressed all of the time. In that I am fortunate. It means that my mode of coping with some of the bumps in the road of life is to shut down my feelings. This tends to have a spiraling effect. When depressed I loose motivation and over time lose interest in most of the things in life that can bring joy. This leads to shutting down even more.

For someone seriously ill with depression there can be a decline in health, and a tendency to just stay in bed. Why get up? It is just not worth the effort. Whatever you do will lead to bad feelings, and who needs that?

Why do people get depressed? Some might be emotional habit. Much might have to do with heredity. Depression runs in families, and quite likely has to do with genes and the stresses of depressive family lifestyle.

What worked for me during the times when depression threatened to drag me down? The best advice I ever got was to "do something." Don't let the depression back you into a corner. Choose something to do, and do it until it is done. Small steps at first, but bigger ones can follow as the muscles of the will are stretched and coping skills are developed.

It is important to allow yourself to feel bad, as well. The urge to hide from bad feelings is at the root of depression. Numbness is the goal. Non-feeling. Good feelings are often fleeting. Bad feelings can linger, especially if they are linked to conditions in your life that seem impossible to improve. That need for numbness is often the root of the appetite for drugs, or excessive eating, or any number of other bad behaviors. Working through bad feelings is a skill that must be learned through practice.

Depressives often can be angry. Not just angry at something in particular. Generally angry. Mad all of the time, but at what they cannot say. Anger is an emotion easily achieve. There is some strange satisfaction in being angry. It is almost like happiness, but much more easily reached. Unfortunately, it will drain the life from you. Anger must be accepted, and mastered.

Action can help with the anger, and with managing the bad behaviors acquired to poorly manage the depression. Do things. Set a goal. I wrote a novel as my exercise. Day by day I added words and built a story. For someone else it could be making something. Woodworking. Knitting. Gardening. One of the best tools is helping other people. Engaging in life. Getting involved.

For the severely depressed, medication may be necessary. Counseling can also be a useful tool, and a good counselor can help with selecting and managing medications. Professionals are best, including many pastors and priests. Sometimes a very good friend can be an aid. The kind of friend who can help you move toward winning, not the kind who will help you justify bad depressive behaviors. Someone who can kick you in the butt, when necessary. A real friend.

Finding help and resources such as books and videos can be one of the somethings you do. Do something.

Victory can come only if you want to win. If you are satisfied in the numbness and the anger and endless justifications, you might not be ready to win against depression. If you are tired of being tired and needlessly angry and seldom finding joy in your life, you might be ready to begin the battle you will fight every day. One day at a time, you can win against depression.

Do something. Read up on the condition. Seek assistance, whether from your doctor or a community program or a support group. Take action, now. Take action, every day.

Do something.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Learning Stuff Can Be Fun-

When I was a kid I went to school. I learned the regular stuff that is taught, all of the way through high school. I even did a little college. Yet often the things I learned that I value most were learned largely on my own. Oh, I used the skills taught in school. You know, reading and such. Most of the time I used these skills to learn stuff I found interesting. Not necessarily school stuff.

I recall in elementary school going to an assembly. I don't know if they do those the same way, now. In those ancient days they had guests in to entertain and instruct. One guy did magic. He did a trick called the Die Box. I recall being fascinated. That was the idea, of course. Years later I studied magic and learned to do a few tricks. I even learned sleight of hand for vanishing small objects and creating illusions.

Steve Martin began his career in the Disneyland Magic Shop. According to his autobiography it was the performing he liked, more than the magic. For me it was the opposite. I did a little performing, but what I really liked was learning the secrets and practicing until I got some of them down. I have never been a good performer in the artistic sense. I have, however, learned how to learn stuff.

Most of it was on a hobby level. The idea of doing much of anything for the amounts of time necessary to earn a living at it seemed to rob an activity of it's magic. Work was work, and turning something fun into work seemed to be moving in the wrong direction. Turning work into fun would have been a great bit of magic, but I seemed to have failed in learning the trick of that.

I have enjoyed dabbling in wood carving, though I call myself more of a whittler than a real carver. It is an amazing hobby. I have played with calligraphy, the art of writing in its physical form. I have also done writing for content and style. Poetry? Yep. Done a bit. Some computer coding here and there. Languages, a little. Some photography. Other stuff.

Books and videos are fun to read and watch on the subjects which interest me. More than network television I prefer instructive and informative video. Lately it has been woodworking, from hand crafting to lathe turning wood. Fine furniture and art pieces. I would love to do a bit more of this kind of work, but so far work obligations and a lack of funds have precluded more than reading and watching videos. Even so, it has been fun.

Jillette Penn (of Penn and Teller) stated in a video visit to his home in Las Vegas that he loved to learn something new every year. At that time his hobby was learning to play slap-bass. That is the bass violin played so as to provide the bass in a small band. This is the instrument used before the invention of the bass electric guitar. Penn has a lounge in his house, a miniature night club, where he practices and performs. He said he enjoys practicing. I found that interesting.

For some people, exploring and mastering a specialty to the optimal height and breadth and depth that can be reached is quite satisfying. Others like to sample broadly, gaining some skills in a variety of arts and activities, yet constantly moving on to something new. I think I fit more properly in the latter category. There are a great many more things I would sample, if I could.

What am I exploring right now? Making beer, and loom knitting. Not at the same time, though a beer and some time working the knitting loom makes for a pleasant evening. Along with the loom knitting I have done a bit of crocheting, largely for finishing and connecting pieces. For beer I have played with the Mr. Beer system, and presently have a beer recipe I created in fermentation.

Learning stuff can be fun. What's next? I can't wait to see.

Time for a home brew and a few stitches.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Choose Life-

I have recently been watching a lot of Create TV. They have some programs on woodworking which I have wanted to see. Also some stuff on sewing, knitting, and crocheting. Ahem.  One recent program, indeed one I just saw for the first time today, is Growing Bolder. It is about crafting attitude, rather than wood or fiber products. The content of this program is much along the lines of my own thinking in recent years. The format is pleasant, and the programming is upbeat and positive. Nothing wrong with that.

The idea of finding and following my dream has been at the front of my thinking for quite some time. My personal ideals are such that following a path of responsibility is very important. I learned that there are dangers along that path. One is that there are many more needs out there than any single human can meet. Another is that those in need are not always careful of those meeting their needs. You can be sucked dry, and your life can become empty and meaningless even on a path of responsibility.

The answer to that is not to turn to a life of selfishness, at least for most people. I don't think that those who gravitate to a life of responsibility would easily succumb to selfishness, anyway. It is a matter of stewardship, of managing your self well so that you can fulfill your responsibilities. Selfless responsibility can stifle and even kill dreams, and dreams are what make us truly alive.

For those who are bound by responsibility for the diseased and infirm, the mentally ill and those who are ungracefully aged, the challenge of finding a dream and pursuing it is seemingly impossible. It is about this challenge that I have been doing a lot of thinking. How can one find their dream while carrying the burdens of others? Too often they struggle just to evade despair, even as they "do the right thing."

For me it was necessary to learn to fit the pursuit of the dream into the fulfillment of responsibilities. I do not think I am unique in this. Others must also find the time and resources to reach for the dream. There are some who are so driven by their dream that they shun responsibilities and leave dependents abandoned along the  wayside. Most of us can't do this, and that is good. Yet to abandon dreams is to abandon life.

I would love to have a master program to make it easier for everyone to find and pursue their dreams. I do not. There are too many twists and turns to life and the human psyche for me to answer the problem other than to say, 'choose life.' Encourage others to do the same. Throw a life ring to those drowning in despair, but don't let them pull you in with them. Always choose life.

Keep your eyes open. Helping others to achieve their dream might just enhance your own. Lift someone else's burden, from time to time, according to your own skills and desires. Even someone as socially challenged as I am can find a place to lend a hand, from time to time. Every once in a while, do something.

If you are burdened, let others help. Pride can be an awfully heavy thing to carry around. Just as there is no shame in helping others, there is no shame in letting them help. Sometimes it can be a great gift, letting others give.

Life is made up of little things. Choose life.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

My Imaginary Life-

No. Not that kind of imaginary life. Really. I hardly ever think like that. What I am writing about is what I imagine my life could be if I weren't caught up in a web of responsibilities and consequences from my prior choices. Life with sufficient resources to live as I choose, without considering the needs and wants of others.

It is not a life of opulence. I don't value bling. I don't long for big houses and expensive cars. Indeed, I dream right now of being in the desert of Southern California, living in my van. Wandering around those communities, exploring and just living slow and simple and at a very low cost. Why there? The winter temperatures range from good to manageable. The restrictions on just camping free are minimal. Resources and great empty spaces are near enough to each other to make it work.

This life I imagine is actually do-able, if I did not have the previously mentioned responsibilities. I have the resources to make this life real. I just choose not to do so, in order to care for those to whom I am committed. The people I love. I prefer to meet my obligations, but my mind drifts away at times to that [imagined] desert and a life of simplicity and much quiet.

I do not regret my life. It is pretty much what I have worked to accomplish. Still, at times my mind drifts off and I imagine my quiet camp near Slab City or somewhere near the southern terminus of US Route 395. Imagine. It is probably better this way. I have an imaginary retreat to which my mind can go when I find the consequences of my choices less than ideal. A Happy Place. A Laughing Place.

These imaginings are more valuable to me because I could do them, if I were to choose a selfish course and abandon my responsibilities. Life as a wealthy vagabond yacht owner might have greater appeal, but it is not achievable for most of us. Certainly not for me. I have a used van and camping gear. I am only a decision away from the high-end hobo life.

Therein is the value. I daily choose to remain and share my days with those I love. I choose to keep this way of life. It is a real choosing. It is not a real choice to abandon the yacht. I can't have one. To abandon a viable option is a real choice. I choose this life, and am happy in the choosing.

Most of the time. The rest of the time, I can imagine.