Secular Trinity

You live, and you grow, and you change. At some point you realize you’re an adult (for me, around age 25). You feel at that point you are not going to change anymore, although it still remains difficult to imagine yourself as middle-aged (and forget about “old”).

You feel “done” maturing, as if at 25 (or whenever) you will simply lock into place and be the “you” that you are now for the rest of your life.

There’s some anecdotal truths around this. For example, artistic tastes. I believe they tend to form as part of childhood and adolescence, and of course one’s taste matures and is refined by experience. But at some point, usually late adolescence, you have kind of “decided” what kind of art, music, film, philosophy, etc., that you “like” or identify with, and this gets rather chiseled in stone for many people. This is why, for example, Journey and Foreigner are still touring.

(Artists are an exception. They are always looking for the new. But given enough time, even they may lose their taste for the now.)

We’re amazed at how richly detailed our childhood memories are, our adolescent and post-adolescent memories. The time between age 6 and 21 seems a lifetime in itself, a kaleidoscope of change, when recollected at age 50. But the time after that, and all the way up to the present, seems a fleeting moment, punctuated by memories of only the most obvious junctures of change (career start, marriage, children, deaths of relatives, new job, big vacation, etc.). Personally, I can barely remember anything that happened between age 25 and 35, but I have a huge catalog of incredibly distinct memories from childhood and adolescence.

Science now has good evidence that there is a reason we have such vivid memories of childhood and adolescence—our brains are wired to create more permanent memories during these years. It would seem to go hand in hand with our greater ability to learn at a younger age.

And, as science has also proven, as you get older time does literally move faster. At least from the individual’s perspective. Gyp!

I’ve also noticed that physical aging is not a steady degrading of one’s appearance from “youthful” to “codger.” It’s a process with fits and starts. Nature, in her wisdom, seems to be most “interested” in us between the ages of 12 and 40. This makes perfect evolutionary sense if you think about it. And so, I don’t know if it’s by design or just a function of human aging, but it seems I did not age at all, physically, between age 20 and 40. I remember, when I was about 31, I walked into my first college class as an instructor. Some of the students laughed, and as I took my spot at the podium and smiled at them, some of them told me to quit fooling around and get a seat before the instructor arrived. I looked about the same as I did at 18. They ended up being a good class. (And that’s another thing – youth relates to youth. It’s not fair. A lot of things aren’t.)

Why this variability in physical aging, memory creation, and perception of time? I believe it’s because Nature has great use for us between the ages of 12 and 40 – to create and raise the next generation. I’m not saying that’s anyone’s “duty” by a long shot. Every life is valid. I mean that that is our usefulness to Nature, which is insistent that life will succeed, and indifferent to what happens after we help in that task. It is our “golden” time, the time when we are most vital, most animated, and most attractive. It’s all useful to be thus, in terms of evolutionary success. And when we get past that period, we are, I’m afraid, no longer so useful to Nature. We are free to stick around, perhaps to advise, but we’re largely relegated to being observers in the continuous cycle, the generational game that is center stage.

And then, when we aren’t looking, the fun begins.

There used to be an old joke about how when Dick Clark reached age 75 he was going to age all at once. Yeah, he was youthful for a long time. But then he wasn’t. And many are, as I was, slow to age. But to quote my old bud Robert Frost: Nothing gold can stay. Time is, as they say, the great destroyer. Or, if you’re a Jim Morrison fan: No one here gets out alive.

So now I do age. My face is fatter, my hair is thinner and coarser and grayer. My middle is more of me. My skin was perfect, now I’ve got more “character” in my face. I have a crown on what used to be a molar. I’m allergic to everything. My eyes are less bright and can’t see menus in dim restaurants. My body is, in general, less cooperative than it used to be. And I’ll be honest, it gets to me sometimes. All things being equal, it’s better to be young, healthy and beautiful. Right? Sure.

But all things are not equal.

Lately, I have felt a very odd transformation occurring. I can only describe it as being less “me” and more “us”. For my entire life, and largely based on my lifestyle, I’ve been a loner, even an outcast. It was always “me” and “everyone else.” It felt right, it felt safe and contained, and my personal philosophy had a lot to do with the idea of the “sovereign individual,” beholden to no one, bowing to no creed and no nation. I was (and am) a devotee of that famous iconoclast William Blake’s iconic statement: “I must create my own system, or be enslav’d by another man’s.”

That’s changed, at least in part. I would like to say it changed the day I married, but that would be dishonest. I was 28, still in Nature’s grip. I was not done figuring out who and why I am. I had a long way to go, and perhaps that was mutual. I suspect it was, and that’s fine. Nothing important is easy, nothing valuable happens in a moment (well, a couple of things). Building a life – an identity – I find it’s a lifelong process. And once I had decided upon my identity, way back then, it felt sound, but now it has shifted again.

Marriage is complicated, as the divorce and single-parent statistics attest. It’s not always worth it. And, most of all, the future – and our future selves – cannot be predicted, they will come to pass as they do, not as we will them to. So some fail. Marriage is a planned sacrifice of sorts, a giving up (eventually, if the union is successful) of a part of oneself, in order to accept being part of another self. I didn’t really understand this when our drunk minister, Reverend Fred, said the words in October 1990, that we were now “one.” I thought I did, but I didn’t.

Now I do. And not only do I feel I am truly not one person anymore, I’m not even limited to being two people. I can look at my daughter now, hear her words, witness her mature identity growing, and it grows like the acorn into a replica of the old oak. Really. She is a true part of the “us” that we are now, and there’s no competition regarding whom she is “more” like, because in a rather profound way we all seem to be the same person. Of course we are physically independent beings, with as much free will as anyone may have (or think they have). We have our own likes and dislikes, etc. But we do not go it alone, not at all. We are “in it” together, the “it” being life. We share it, as I have never before understood sharing.

No, it’s not readily explained.

But I know this: I’m no longer me, and it’s no longer me against the world. I’m us, and we’re us. And we are a world, within a world. And it feels better than anything I’ve ever felt before.

The Fallacy of False Equivalency

A while back I posted a Facebook picture of my wife and me at an inauguration event from 2008, saying this was the only “political” post you’d see from me until November. I think I’ve stuck by that. My posts regarding the bizarre proposals and threats offered by the GOP nominee are not political, they are warnings about the consequences of allowing fascism to take hold of a fearful and uncertain populace (whose fears and uncertainties are ironically exacerbated by the “law and order” candidate’s disdain for actual law and order).

But I have been frankly amazed at the contortions of logic being offered by those who see the election as more or less equivalent choices between two “nearly equally evil” candidates and, if one is to follow this logic, nearly equally “evil” outcomes should one or the other be elected.

I know this position to be baseless, and yet seemingly sincere individuals offer up this false equivalency as if I should accept such a glaring fallacy at face value. “Well,” so many people say, “Trump is terrible but Clinton is not much better.” Wrong. And I can prove it.

We’ve all seen the vast catalog of differences we are either voting for, or against, the differences that sophists and sour grapes types (and just plain ignorant people) would have you ignore because “choosing the lesser of two evils means we have already lost.” Wrong again, especially when there has been no proof of any “evil” actions or intent from candidate Clinton. For all the bluster and fake (i.e. political or apolitical/anarchist) umbrage spewing from the haters of all things organized and connected and global, they cannot offer a single piece of evidence linking Hillary Clinton to an actual crime.

False Equivalency – The Commercial Angle

Pundits with various political motivations for getting us to believe in a particular reality are relatively easy to spot. I think it’s important to point out the role of the press, and especially the new “social media” press, in helping generate this regrettably common notion, this false equivalency. It helps to employ critical thinking, healthy skepticism, and logical deduction when attempting to ascertain the source of what we consider to be “knowledge.” If we “know” something, from whom did we learn it? How reliable is that source of information? What is THEIR motivation in publishing the information? What do they gain if we buy their version of the truth, if we “believe” it?

If we don’t ask these questions, we risk becoming “vessels” for propoganda that has only a glancing relation (if any) to the truth. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that every single media source out there (including, and especially, slapped-up social media “news” sites) is a business, competing with other media for your attention and for the ability to influence the societal debate. Well, there’s no more compelling topic to Americans these days than a presidential election, unless it’s an “historic” presidential election. (Probably used to be boxing title fights, but times change). And there’s no bigger turn-off to potential consumers of media than a “non-story”, a done deal, a cake walk, yesterday’s news. In other words, the presidential election MUST be a horse race, and it MUST be neck-and-neck, or people will tune out the news media and go back to their first loves: American Idol, Netflix, and Facebook LOL cats.

So what is the media to do when one candidate is a traditional, qualified, highly educated, highly experienced former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, while the other is a crass, bigoted, ignorant reality TV star with exactly zero experience in government and zero commitment to public service?

You crank up the false equivalency machine, of course. You magnify the problems and potential disasters facing the “good” candidate, to the point that she starts to look as “bad” as the unequivocally “bad” candidate. You make what are essentially overprotective office management blunders (based on legitimate fear of domestic enemies) look like treason, while the other candidate engages in treason – actually requests a foreign power to commit criminal espionage against the U.S. State Department.

Her Convictions are Criminal?

Her “real” crime? Being in politics for her entire life and “playing the capitalist game” because – brace yourself – she’s been a government official in a country with a capitalist economy. So..lock her up for conducting foreign policy according to the President’s direction? Lock her up for changing her views on public issues from time to time, or for engaging in common political hyperbole, over a decades-long career? Lock her up for being the Senator from New York? Lock her up for Bill Clinton’s approval of a Senate crime bill in the 1990s? Lock her up for foreign policy missteps and failures that every administration and every Secretary of State experiences in an unpredictable and violent world? Lock her up for being a hawkish neoliberal? Lock her up for accepting speaking fees as a private citizen? Lock her up for her choice of friends? Lock her up for favoring her own candidacy over that of her primary opponent?

We’d have to lock up the majority of politicians for such “crimes.” Yet her opponent is breaking the law at this very moment – right now, soliciting campaign contributions from foreign nationals, which is illegal. It is happening right now. Is that just cute or something?

Compare and Contrast – For Real

Here’s just a few of the glaring, incredibly consequential differences others refuse to acknowledge or would have you dismiss as irrelevant:

Trump: “If I don’t win in November, it will be because they rigged the election.” This is perhaps the most dangerous thing any U.S. presidential candidate has said, ever. It is on the heels of his primary promise that there will be “riots” at the convention if delegates tried to challenge his nomination. It worked for the convention. But if Clinton wins the election (which Trump seems to be acknowledging here as the most likely scenario), he is basically calling for civil disobedience, for an uprising against an imagined criminal conspiracy. In the very, very likely event that he loses, he is signaling his white supremacist supporters to bring on a national calamity as retribution for his loss. At the very least this type of rhetoric (coming off the “Lock her up” theme of the convention) seeks to delegitimize a Clinton presidency before voters can even go to the polls. This, like so many of Trump’s insane statements, is unprecedented and indefensibly dangerous rhetoric.

Hillary has never tried to foment widespread unrest and violence in the event she loses. I’m guessing she’ll skip the “it’s all rigged” tactic as well – you know, since she’s running to be president of a democracy.

Trump: “They will follow my orders.” This is his response to a question from a reporter, referencing Trump’s promise to have the military “take out” the families of terrorists. To order summary executions would be an unlawful order, the reporter says, so how would Trump achieve this? His answer is a clear indication that he has no intention of obeying the law once elected.

Hillary has never proposed a policy that includes illegally targeting the families of terror suspects for summary execution.

Trump: “Ban all Muslims from entry into the U.S….monitor the mosques.”

Hillary is not proposing immigration bans and widespread surveillance of citizens based solely on religion, acts that would violate the Constitution.

Trump – to the Russians: “Please find the missing State Department e-mails.”

Hillary has not requested a foreign power to commit crimes of espionage against the United States in order to help her win an election.

Trump: “If Ivanka were not my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”

Hillary has never, to my knowledge, publicly mused about having a romantic relationship with daughter Chelsea.

Trump: No government experience whatsoever; no military service (draft deferments) or public service whatsoever; never elected to any office, ever. No evidence of any organizational or strategic aptitude whatsoever (trust fund/multiple bankruptcies). Extremely limited and self-deluded knowledge of world events (“I saw the Muslims celebrating in New Jersey on 7-11”), world leaders (will learn the difference between Hezbollah and Hamas “when it’s appropriate”), foreign nations’ priorities (praising the Brexit vote in Scotland, where it lost by a huge margin), and of course the U.S. Constitution.

As a recent Secretary of State, Clinton is fully aware of both world affairs and the priorities of world leaders. As an attorney and former U.S. Senator, she is likely familiar with the Constitution.

I could keep going on and on and on, but I think I’ve made my point. The notion that there’s “no difference” between these candidates is beyond laughable. It’s patently absurd.