the sprezzaturist

Now, God be praised, that to believing souls gives light in darkness, comfort in despair.

It Was Cold This Morning

EVERETT, WA

It was cold this morning. Probably the coldest morning so far. I had gloves and a jacket over my suit, and I didn’t really feel it, but that’s not important. It was the first morning in months where the temperature actually felt like it mattered, like it was purposeful. It’s not like the air was just not warm yet—it was the whole world that was damp and heavy and icy this morning. And it wasn’t content to just mind its own affairs and let the living things be.

Every face on the road this morning was different. They’re always different from each other, unique, you know, but this morning they were different because they were all the same. It was like the wet, clingy air had wrapped each face in its hands for a brief moment to start the day with a chilly caress that then drove straight to the eyes and lips of every living person who wasn’t still asleep, blissfully ignorant of the fact that they’re even alive to begin with.

There were no windows rolled down either, that was different, except for the occasional crack to make room for bad habits and even then he didn’t really want the window down.        He had to have the window down if he wanted to live, which apparently he did. Of course, that’s human nature, to a degree. But still I wonder if there was a small part of him that would just have rather left the window up and been done with it all. The irritated posture of his lips and his dangerously unoccupied stare said yes.

That was actually every single face. I mean his specifically, obviously, but also every other face I passed or passed me or just tagged along for a bit or stared into my smiling face as we shared a red light, cursing me for being so unfairly happy at 6:34 a.m. on a morning otherwise defined by gray. What right did I have to not look like them? And to not feel like them. And to not be as clearly disinterested in everything as they were.

This didn’t stop. In two ways, as a matter of fact. The faces didn’t stop as I drove light after light. And I didn’t stop being happy at every single one of them, lights and faces. There was more, though, weighing on the minds of every human image I saw this morning. They were all angry at something and at themselves a little bit too, I think, because they were engulfing their coffee like they wished it was poison or aspirin or both, I’m not sure which.

But it was clear they knew something was happening—sooner or later. Maybe sooner for some. Others, not sure when, but still sure that. And it was so, so plain and simple, in a read-between-the-lines sort of way, that they didn’t want to think about it. Ignoring it was the best plan, and ignoring it took work and effort and distraction and then translated itself into a demon manipulating the features of faces already slapped about by the rude awakening of the natural world’s icy demeanor.

And, face it, we don’t always want to look at the pink heffalump in the room. Actually we drive ourselves inceptuously to the crumbling dirt of the brink of the chasm of insanity, convinced that the only way to think less about something is to spend more time thinking about not thinking about it. And the faces. That’s what they were! Their minds were so set on not setting their minds on that ultimate question that the coldness of the morning turned out being nothing more than a sweet, sticky lollipop tugged from the mouth of an entitled child, forcing his attention to the father, whose kindness in conferring candy had gone unappreciated all too often.

So the faces around me were not cold, not really. Warmth had left, and the Giver of warmth emerged again on the welcome mat of their thoughts, prompting the reminder of just how much they, truly, in their heart of hearts, knew yet refused to acknowledge; realized but declined to recognize.

It was indeed cold this morning. I saw it in their faces and smiled at each and every one of them. Because what they fought I embraced, and that which is the terror of their solitude is the joy of my existence. And that is why my gloves and a coat really didn’t matter. I was not cold this morning—because my life is lived in the arms of the Giver of warmth.

-JW

Game of Hunger: The Postmodern Dystopic Addiction

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Dystopia is not imposed—it is self-inflicted.  Cultural fascination with dystopian themes is not due to a proper awareness of its cause.  On the contrary, it is utter ignorance of the origins of cultural undoing that prompt our desire to create universes more dystopian than our own.  There is a certain comfort in knowing that our world is not yet as dysfunctional as it could be. This knowledge gives us leave to simultaneously entertain ourselves with the desperate courage of the characters we imagine, and find an excuse for us to refrain from exercising courage in our own lives. Granted, we feel inspired, even courageous, when watching an imaginary hero or heroine in a life and death struggle. This world we create, dystopian though it may be, is what we dream of—an opportunity to be a hero, an opportunity to prove ourselves to the world, an opportunity to lead boldly and fearlessly. We exit our dystopian fantasy comforted by the knowledge that it is extraordinary, other-worldly circumstances that make heroes out of ordinary people.

If we fancy ourselves particularly intellectual, we may spend a few moments at the conclusion of our dystopian adventure pondering whether we would be a hero if confronted by the same circumstances as our fictional hero or heroine. We may even have a moment of self-reflection during which we question our abilities, and perhaps acknowledge the doubt we rightly feel about our ability to imitate the heroes we admire.

It is in those moments of pseudo-profundity that we make the error that we have just convinced ourselves that we would never make.  The heroes of a fantasy dystopia help us believe that we would do the same were we in their position. The heroes convince us that if we were confronted with the struggle they face, whether totalitarianism, anarchy, or another form of tyranny, we would be as courageous as they are. Until we are faced with a momentous challenge, or a dystopian society, we feel that our need for courage is diminished.  Our courage, both personal and collective, is sadly unused.  We have been inoculated against courage, by imbibing the belief that courage is not for the ordinary person, until they are confronted with an extra-ordinary challenge. It is this mindset that paves the way for the dystopia we perversely admire. Courage must be exercised every day, in small ways and in minor decisions.  Our admiration of courage in our own fantasies has given us an excuse to neglect its application in our personal lives, and collectively in our society.

The roots of dystopia are already visible. Entertaining ourselves with fantasies of courage in worlds even more dysfunctional than our own should not be an excuse to ignore the opportunities for courage that face each of us every day.

- BW

The Greatest Task

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The greatest task doth fast approach,
Prepared to rain its great reproach.
And all who hazard thru its path,
Feign their strength to meet its wrath.

We oft assuage our conscience mean,
With careful rage we stroke it clean.
The demons arch their back of thorns,
As felinae all others scorns.

So battle plods into the braegen,
And on it prods old fears to waken.
Waken, but, too soon while sleeping,
The demons rise, all saneness reaping.

Now morning grasps its being new,
No beauty found within its dew.
For spheres of silver that once shone,
Now lift aloft a heavy tone.

The beads that clothed the earth in beauty,
Now press the mind, tribute to duty.
The drops that know the past as thankless,
Are monument to dwelling anxious.

A glance ahead, time doth remain!
The siren call begins to wane.
Apathy its cushions branding,
All enthrallment now commanding.

Incumbancies doth evanesce,
As body, soul crave common rest.
And sublunary lusts’ elation,
Takes a hold in domination.

But then the words of others spoken,
Serve to render languor broken.
Refreshing anew to faculty,
Our duty’s true utility.

And zeal again doth raise its head,
The aspiration not left dead.
Our calling now, though momentary,
Will serve the goal auxiliary.

Thanks be for duty, it’s eye restored,
That life’s true end be not ignored.
And purpose summed as glory given,
That good works be not vainly striven.

So must we search our recondite soul,
Insuring aims be utmost whole.
For tempting tis the want to amble,
To a fray on which to gamble.

The pen is mighty o’er the sword,
Yet scorned of those who cherish war.
Let war come only when demand,
Be stout so to oblige the hand.

(“And that relates?” they all might ask,
“Art thou much prone to wag the flask?”)
They all will scorn who know not truth.
Twas mere a fable on the tooth.

So the moral of the extract be,
Consider well that thou dost see:
Duty excludes an insensible bask,
Contented diligence is the greatest task.

-JW

Of Course Liars Are Honest

“Good morning everyone. I’m going to spend a few minutes being deceitful and manipulative. Then I’ll take some questions.” Said no politician ever.

I apologize for the meme. But Hillary Clinton’s shocking antics during her testimony yesterday morning regarding Benghazi were the straws that broke the camel’s back. I should have started with this quote from Secretary Clinton:

With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night decided they’d go kill some Americans?

What difference, at this point, does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, senator.

The difference, Madame Secretary, is this: how in the world do the American people know whether they can trust you!? Because even NOW, you’re still intentionally deceiving them! “Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night decided they’d go kill some Americans?” NEITHER!  It was NOT a protest. It was NOT guys out for a walk one night. It was a terrorist attack. The administration admitted that (finally). The media admitted that (not that we need them to). The American people know it. And you have the gall to ask such a misleading, twisted rhetorical question. What an absolutely deceitful, perverse means of frosting your obviously disinterested attitude.

The saddest thing is that America’s upcoming generation believes every word that comes out of Clinton’s mouth.  Just last night, I overheard three young women gushing about how much they revered Hillary Clinton. Their ever-squeaky, end-on-an-up-note, valley-girl voices couldn’t speak enough of the glory of the wise and powerful secretary of state. I think they also mentioned something about Fox News not being news. You know, not real news.  Now there’s an original thought.

I’ve certainly wasted a good many hours trying to figure this whole thing out. Is the average progressive 1) delightfully evil or 2) ignorant and delusional. (Not that the two are mutually exclusive. And, come to think of it, the rub might lie right there.) Either way, I have wasted time over the question. But I’m tending more and more to think that the vast majority of progressivoids are delusional. Brainwashed.

Here’s why: these children have had the world explained to them through progressive lenses their entire lives. Think about it. Government education is dominated by progressives. The entertainment industry is dominated by progressives. The mainstream media is dominated by progressives. Higher education is dominated by progressives.

The current generation speaks liberal-eze in their sleep. They couldn’t think objectively if they wanted to. (Note that I don’t think conservatives are any different.) And, obviously, one who is brainwashed doesn’t realize he’s brainwashed. If he did, then he would not be brainwashed. But, maybe those who are brainwashed are also brainwashed into thinking that they are not brainwashed.

What I’m getting at is this: liberals, stop trying to convince yourselves that you’re objective. You’re not. No one is. We all have agendas. And, furthermore, stop vilifying everyone whose agenda is different from yours. (Shocker, I know, for the “tolerant” ones to ever be caught vilifying anyone else.) Stop demeaning anyone who suggest that the progressive politicians you worship might be lying about something.  Or hiding something. Or covering something up. We know you love them. We know you believe that their agenda will save us all from ourselves. But, in reality, vilifying everyone who disagrees with you and shrouding the rulers you worship in a veil of omniscience and infallibility simply shows how brainwashed you really are. After all, liars don’t tell you they’re liars now do they.

Political Foodfights

To be fair, while Romney certainly “won” the debate last night, I really found the whole thing to be like a slogan foodfight. (You know, where both sides appear to be saying grand-sounding things that are obviously “over your head” with complexity but in reality both are throwing gobs of mashed-potatoes and Velveeta at each other’s face.)

According to them, Gov. Romney and the President both laid out a veritable menagerie of “facts.” Interestingly, in the absence of physical evidence from the Congressional Budget Office, most of these facts were nothing but opinions to most of the audience. Take this interchange, for instance:

“Now, Governor Romney’s proposal that he has been promoting for 18 months calls for a $5 trillion tax cut on top of $2 trillion of additional spending for our military.”

“I’m not looking for a $5 trillion tax cut. What I’ve said is I won’t put in place a tax cut that adds to the deficit. That’s part one. So there’s no economist can say Mitt Romney’s tax plan adds 5 trillion (dollars) if I say I will not add to the deficit with my tax plan.”

Ok, really? Facts? Those were not facts. They were two factual sounding opinions. The President’s statement is a conclusion–a grand, macho, ice-bergian hunk of a conclusion. He wasn’t holding up any white papers or pie charts. He wasn’t even citing any agency estimates or bureau projections. It was a conclusion. His conclusion.

And Gov. Romney’s statement. W0w. He didn’t come close to stating a fact. No, he made a promise. Listen, I’ll try it: “Ahem, I will not rip you off when I sell you this used car. So there. You can’t tell me I will if I say I won’t.” Totally believable. You know, maybe he’s right. Maybe American’s are unnecessarily frightened of taking politicians’ promises at face value. After all, goodness knows that politicians are nothing like used car salesmen.

Seriously, though what bothers me most about Wednesday’s debate is that it was probably very unhelpful to the average American. It ended up being a contest of who can throw the most well-rehearsed, canned talking points at the other. I think that so many Republicans got caught up in Gov. Romney’s charisma and wit that they didn’t realize that 90% of the debate sounded like this:

“The President’s policies are going to hurt the middle class.”    *Queue impassioned, soulful gaze into the camera.

“Uh, Governor Romney, uh, actually, no, actually it’s your Scrooge-favoring policies that will hurt the middle class.” 

“Gee, yours have buried them for the last four years.”   *Mental fist-bump with Paul Ryan for great use of Biden quote.

“Um, no, well, it was really George’s policies, that you love, that left the middle class buried four years ago. And, uh, I inherited them. And I’m fixing them. Slowly but surely.”   *Why does everyone not understand this yet?

“Look, with all due respect, your approach just isn’t best. It doesn’t work.”  *This is so simple, why doesn’t he get this?

“Uh, well, actually, no; it does work. Your plan is the one that doesn’t work.”  *This is so simple, why doesn’t he get this?

“I’m a businessman; my plan will work.”

“No, it actually won’t.”

“Yes it will.”

“No it won’t.”

Seriously? Only once in a chartreuse moon did either of the candidates break down, in a logical, analytical manner, exactly how their approach will work. They restated their conclusions. Over and over and over again. Sure, committed Republicans followed Romney fine–he used some nice-tasting illustrations. And committed Democrats understood exactly what the President was getting at–heck, they’ve worshipped his soundbite soufflés for the last four years.  But, ultimately, those on the fence didn’t find much actual “debating” to help influence their decision.

Maybe I set the bar too high. Maybe I expect everyone to argue using clear deductive logic. True, if you plan on baking a great pie, you darn-well better know exactly what you’re putting in. Then again, I need to remind myself that formal logic has long been taboo in our country. Be prepared to be shunned if you dare to suggest that we adhere to any principles of reasoning to prove our point. No, illustrations and conclusions work much better. They’re more fun to listen to. And, the media loves having good, short soundbites.

So, let’s apply this to the rest of our lives, shall we? It’s dinnertime, and the dessert tastes bad–again. Don’t ask the chef to explain his ingredients. Simply state that the pie is stupid and throw the freaking thing in his face. Your friends will know how you feel. If the chef  throws some back at you (other patrons will enjoy this), his friends will empathize with him, and might even call you names. But ultimately, if you can throw more pie in his face, it’s likely that about 67% of nearby patrons will say that you won. They’ll say you were right because you made your point.

But we will never know what was wrong with the pie’s ingredients. And the pie will never be fixed.

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