Saturday, August 25, 2012


What makes people happy?


People are made to love and be loved.  That's just the way it works.  If you are not loved, you feel the loss keenly.  But even more disastrous is not to love.  Not to be loved marks a painful wound, but one that can heal.  Not to love is a cancer that results in death.  The eternally lethal aspect of not being loved is that it may kill off your capacity to love.  

Much of society operates under the belief - hidden or overt - that leasing the new BMW 528i will make you happy.  Substitute food, an Apple iPhone, sex, cocaine, nice clothes, a new house, or alcohol, and you pretty much cover the landscape of public opinion about happiness.  At least, that is the impression you would get from either watching TV or reading a magazine.

You can substitute a pile of money for any or all of the stuff we crave, but money itself is nothing much.  It is just an equalizer that allows us maximum flexibility when satisfying our wants.  You can substitute power for all that stuff, too, but power is a kind of universal remote that allows us to dial up the satisfaction of our wants. 

For some, the relentless pursuit of money and power becomes divorced from the satisfaction of wants, and becomes a perverse "high" in itself, generating a toxic anodyne that momentarily dulls the terror of mortality lurking deep in their souls.

This is not to denigrate the lovely - an interesting adjective - feeling one gets from a new car, or from sex, or from a BMW.  It is just to say that none of these things has any lasting impact on our happiness.

Love is a very curious thing, in the general tumult of life.  If you understand love as it has been most deeply understood, it involves a surrender of self in favor of the genuine good of another.  The true love of a mother for her children always involves a willingness, at the deepest level, to ensure the genuine good of her children, even if it means sacrificing her own life.  The true love of a husband for his wife always involves the same thing.

We go painfully wrong in relationships when we think of love as something less than this.  We often think of marriage as a kind of "deal," involving a contract for mutual satisfaction.  Sadly, this model does not work.  It does not work because it is mistaken. 

Marriage, when practiced in earnest and correctly, does involve profound mutual satisfaction.  Yet at the same time it also involves profound self-sacrifice, a willingness to surrender one's own life for the sake of the other.  This willingness is not hinged on mutuality, or reciprocation.  It is an act of will and devotion that springs from an inward conviction and commitment to the truth of love itself.

The willingness to lay down one's life for the other is a litmus test for fully mature love.  Absent this characteristic, one is dealing with something imperfect and incomplete. 

This is one reason why monogamy is so necessary to fully mature married love, and why adultery is so highly toxic.  If I have a relationship with two women, and I sacrifice my life for one, the other one is left out in the cold, to put it bluntly.  The one for whom I have sacrificed my life may appreciate and benefit from the gift, but the other woman is left with nothing but a dead mate, and worse, one who died for another woman's benefit.  This is not heart-warming.

"Well sure, I love you, but if it comes to a choice between me and thee, that's a little unrealistic, don't you think?"  These are words that everyone fears to hear from their most intimate friends and loved ones.  The fear that this attitude is at the core of a relationship will chill it and eventually kill it.  People refrain from absolute intimacy, even with their sexual partners, for fear that they will discover or confirm that this is at the heart of the relationship.  They would prefer living in a superficial world where the truth is left unsaid, because the truth is so painful it is death itself.

I live in a society that panders to falsehood and mocks the truth of love.  My society grovels before its idols of sexual satisfaction, limitless greed, and ruthless power, but does everything it can to strangle love.  And every notch of the garrote, pulled tighter on the neck of love, is a notch closer to the abyss for the murderer as well as the victim.

If you would like to know more about love, there is a great book on the subject called the "Gospel of John," which is a short account and meditation on the life of Jesus Christ.  You may read it on-line, for free (it is in the public domain), or purchase it at Barnes & Noble for $1.99.  Most book-stores also carry the Gospel of John as part of a collection known as the "Bible," which I see is about $13 via Kindle and $17 in paperback. 

It is difficult to put down, once you've picked it up.  I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


I was sitting with a group of female relatives - cousins, aunts and nieces - at a family picnic this weekend.  Someone casually mentioned that Mrs. EO was in charge of meals at our house and I responded immediately.

Now food is very important to me.  I like food, and I think food knows this, and I think it likes me in return.  We have a very simple, direct and rewarding relationship.

Mrs. EO's relationship with food is much more complicated. I've found that this is true for a lot of women.

Yes, she is generally in charge of making food, but no, she is not in charge of remembering to eat.  That would be disastrous.  How does someone actually say the words "I forgot to eat lunch?"  How do you forget lunch?  I've missed meals in my life, but forget?  Forget?  When I miss a meal I am acutely aware I am missing a meal.  Mrs. EO frequently mentions to me that she "forgot" to eat lunch.

As soon as I started talking about this the women at the table all began laughing.  Apparently they, too, had forgotten to eat meals.  Frequently.

This boggles my mind.  I just cannot comprehend it.  Not just one meal, mind you.  Sometimes Mrs. EO will tell me she is feeling dizzy and then say "oh, no wonder, I never ate today!"  This morning I mentioned breakfast and her response was "oh, I don't want any, I ate so much yesterday at the picnic."

Again, I find this incomprehensible.  You are saying that because you ate a lot yesterday you don't want breakfast?  No breakfast?  Today?  Because of food you ate - yesterday?

This forgetting of meals is not because she is saving someone from a burning house, mind you.  Instead, this forgetting of meals is usually generated by ordinary chores and concerns that whirl around in her head like an ornate circus carousel, constantly whizzing by, reminding her of the endless "to do" list that wakes her up in the morning and refuses to let go of her until the last box is checked at about 11 p.m.

The memory carousel.  Lots of horseys.

Right now Mrs. EO is sorting pictures, because this has been on her mind for quite a while and will not get off the carousel until she gets it done.  I must confess that 25 years ago, I would have even more to look forward to before sleep.  There would be midnight vacuuming and dish putting away.  There was the 3 a.m. kitchen remodeling episode involving Motown, a large piece of plywood, a circular saw and a bottle of wine. 

My "to do" lists typically consist of items one and two, at least, one of which I am not comfortable talking about on a blog.  The other always involves my next meal.  If there is a third thing on the list, the list is complete, and cannot be added to, or my brain will explode.  She, on the other hand, begins to be concerned she's forgetting something if there are not 20 things on her unwritten to do list, each of which can be pulled up on command and reordered or modified without in anyway affecting the perfect integrity of the list.

But then, she will forget to eat.  And this is where I shine.

I remind her.  Because I don't forget to eat.  Not gonna happen.

I remain astonished and mystified, after 30 years of marriage.  I think it is best that way.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Eternal Optimist's second daughter, Z, has been visiting with us the last week or two here in Big Coldtown (BCT).  She's married, and lives far away in a foreign and enchanted place.  She enjoys being back in the land of green vegetation and sarcasm.

Last Thursday she decided to go visit a friend in the City.  She started out "late" - by Eternal Optimist's standards - around 11 p.m.  This is not "late" by Z's standards.  Eternal Optimist is in bed by 10, most nights.  Mrs. Optimist, ever vigilant, sprinkled Holy Water on Z before she left.  She kissed her goodbye.

Around 1:30 a.m. a knock at our bedroom door roused EO from his slumber.  EO does not rouse well, but does rouse often during the night.  He does not have the gift of sound sleep.  He used to, but then he had a large family.  Whole different story, for another blog.  His experience has been that nothing much good happens after midnight, whether phone calls or knocks on the door.

"Yes" said EO, as diplomatically as possible, through his CPAP machine.  "It's Z, dad" came the answer.  "Yes" said EO, as kindly as possible, which probably did not sound terribly kindly, but perhaps came across as patient, EO hopes.

"My friend didn't have any place to stay tonight and I told her she could stay here" said Z.  Z has a very sharp tongue and a very big heart.  She picks up strays along the way. I figured we'd make the girl coffee in the morning and listen kindly to the story.  Maybe make her an omelet, too.  Always good to feed people after they've had some harsh domestic issue.

"That's fine" said EO and Mrs. EO, who was also half awake.

"I'm going to put her in my room" said Z.

"Okay" said EO, glad that Z was alive and had not had an accident, and already falling back asleep.

"She would like to say hi and thank you" said Z.

"That's okay" said Mrs. EO and EO in unison.  "We'll see you in the morning."  My eyes were already shutting.  The tone of my voice had probably deteriorated a little by now.

"She really wants to say thank you, dad" said Z.

Pause.  "Okay" I said, mustering all the patience I could.  Which was not much, compared to Mrs. EO, or perhaps most other human beings.  The stray leaned in our bedroom as I tried to sit up in bed a little bit and take my Darth Vader CPAP mask off.  It's very off-putting.  As the lights were not on, and I had no intention of putting them on, I wasn't too worried about my ratty T-shirt, unshaven face and matted hair.

"Hi" said a 20 something voice.  "My name is Rae . . ."

At the mention of her name Mrs. EO sat bolt upright and said "Whaaaaaaa.........?????????????" 

It was my oldest daughter, Rae, who had made a snap decision with her sister to fly out and visit us for the weekend!

What a wonderful surprise!!  The two of them just couldn't bear not to make it an elaborate scam, to boot.  They managed to pull the whole thing off without lying, either.  We talked until 3:30 in the morning.  I was my usual delightful self at work Friday, except that I mumbled a lot and drank a lot of coffee.  Come to think of it, I do that normally, so probably no one noticed anything different.

I am so impressed with my kids.  And I love them so much!

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Mr. Obama's July 13, 2012 speech in Roanoke, Virginia (a lovely town) contained a line that has become quite infamous, in just a matter of weeks:

"If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen."  

Mr. Obama's defenders insist that the line has been "taken out of context."  This phrase, "taken out of context," is a kind of warning bell when Mr. Obama uses his superpowers to change the meaning of words. 

In similar fashion, when Mr. Obama said that Obamacare was NOT a tax, while it was being voted upon, many took this out of context.  What he meant to say was that it WAS a tax, as his lawyers clarified during arguments before the Supreme Court.  

Here are 3 paragraphs of context from the President's speech: the paragraph in which the offending sentence occurred, as well as the paragraphs before and after:
There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me -- because they want to give something back.  They know they didn’t -- look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.  You didn’t get there on your own.  I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.  Let me tell you something -- there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.  (Applause.)
 If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. 
The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.  There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own.  I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service.  That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.  
In the immediate context, the sentence makes perfect sense, without lots of tortured explanations. Parenthetically, his facts are absolutely wrong about the Internet: it was developed by the military to ensure continued command and control in the event of nuclear attack.  Businesses came along and figured out how to use it for commercial purposes. 

In the larger context, Mr. Obama's speech advocated big tax increases for businesses because they benefit from all the great things government does, like roads and bridges.  It is only "fair" that businesses should give us even more of their wealth than they already do, through paying most of our taxes.  His offending sentence makes sense, again, in the larger context.

If what he meant to say was that "if you own a business - - you didn't build [roads and bridges that your business uses]," what was the point?  He just got done saying somebody [else] invested in roads and bridges.  He needed to say that twice?  Was someone having trouble with that concept?  BTW, the "someone" who built the roads included the business owners, just like everyone else, who paid their taxes.  so the whole idea makes no sense.  Twice.

Mr. Obama is Harvard educated, as we've been told many time by his admirers in the press.  If he did not mean what he said, then things get much more worrisome, because
  1. he is saying gibberish without being aware of it
  2. he has catastrophic difficulties using pronouns properly
  3. he was speaking in a super-secret language that only he and his followers can understand
As for the "firefighting" paragraph, no one's arguing against firefighting.  Mr. Obama's opponents argue against trillion dollar borrowed "Stimulus" programs that spend all the borrowed money on Mr. Obama's political cronies, like the bankrupt goofs that ran Solyndra.

Mr. Obama's speech sounds like some kid smoking pot while trying to write his sociology paper:
'Cause like, dude, we all helped with that business, you know?  Like, its like a fire, you know?  It's like a fire, man.  A FIRE.  We all helped put out the fire.  Which helped your business, dude, cause it didn't, like, burn. Remember that?
I don't remember any government helpers when I owned and ran a business.  All the risks were mine, all the taxes were the government's.   I'd had some good grade school teachers, as Mr. Obama mentioned.  I'd driven on the interstate system a number of times, but then, I'd also paid a lot of taxes and tolls, and so had my parents.  So I figured we were even.  No one mentioned I would have to pay vigorish on all that later.

Luckily I did not loose my shirt before I found out I wasn't very good at business.  It gave me a healthy respect for good businessmen and women, though.  Mr. Obama thinks they are just lucky freeloaders.

He is grossly mistaken, but that is not surprising, given his limited resume.  He has been a community activist, a politician, and a writer of self-laudatory fictions.  It is not shocking that he thinks businesses are parasites living off the hard work of the rest of us.  Nevertheless, he is quite misguided.

Mr. Obama's speech veered between opacity and nonsense.  We've all bordered on incoherence, but Mr. Obama has help from speechwriters and teleprompters.  He should hire new speechwriters and get the teleprompters serviced.  His explanation of what he really meant to say reminds me of Humpty Dumpty, in "Through the Looking Glass:"
 "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."
 "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
 "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master      that's all."
 Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again.
 "They've a temper, some of them—particularly verbs, they're the proudest—adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs—however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That's what I say!"
Hope, Change, and Impenetrability: Obama, 2012.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


For those that don't know it, August 1, 2012 was "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day."  If you missed it, be sure to go and get some chicken and support these nice folks, who generally stick to cooking.   Recently they've been criticized by the mayors of Chicago and Boston because of remarks by Chick-fil-A's president, stating that he believes marriage is the union of a man and a woman.

Apparently this is un-American, and the mayors of Beantown and Chicagoland had to let Chick-fil-A know that they wouldn't be getting approvals to do business in Boston or Chicago, not with that attitude.  

You have to admire the moral courage of these two mayors, bravely standing up to a fried chicken store owner.

Rahm Emanuel, mayor of Chicago, said “Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago values.  They’re not respectful of our residents, our neighbors and our family members. And if you’re gonna be part of the Chicago community, you should reflect Chicago values.”  Emanuel is also co-chair of President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign, and President Obama's former chief-of-staff.

Here's a reaction to Emanuel's remarks from Cardinal Francis George, of Chicago, drawn from the Catholic World News:
Recent comments by those who administer our city seem to assume that the city government can decide for everyone what are the “values” that must be held by citizens of Chicago. I was born and raised here, and my understanding of being a Chicagoan never included submitting my value system to the government for approval. Must those whose personal values do not conform to those of the government of the day move from the city? Is the City Council going to set up a “Council Committee on Un-Chicagoan Activities” and call those of us who are suspect to appear before it? I would have argued a few days ago that I believe such a move is, if I can borrow a phrase, “un-Chicagoan.” 
“The value in question is espousal of ‘gender-free marriage,’” he continued. “Approval of state-sponsored homosexual unions has very quickly become a litmus test for bigotry; and espousing the understanding of marriage that has prevailed among all peoples throughout human history is now, supposedly, outside the American consensus.” 
 “Was Jesus a bigot?” Cardinal George added. “Could Jesus be accepted as a Chicagoan? Would Jesus be more ‘enlightened’ if he had the privilege of living in our society? One is welcome to believe that, of course; but it should not become the official state religion, at least not in a land that still fancies itself free. Surely there must be a way to properly respect people who are gay or lesbian without using civil law to undermine the nature of marriage.”
"Was Jesus a bigot" is a phrase that rather lingers in the mind.  What Rahm Emanuel and others are saying is that to the extent Christian teachings conflict with the views of the government  they must be - and deserve to be - suppressed.  This is the premise of the HHS mandates.

So eat some chicken in support of our religious freedoms.  And avoid Chicago, which is on pace to have 500 murders this year.

Chicago values, indeed.