Today, couples all over the Western world are purchasing Hallmark gift cards, boxes of chocolate, expensive dinners and otherwise feasting from the trough of holiday commercialism. Within the next nine months, the human population might experience a peculiar spike. One thing is certain — none of those whipper snappers will share my genes.
But tomorrow is Singles Awareness Day. A time to soberly reflect on the tens of millions of souls who are buying themselves flowers or sitting alone at the bar giving a toast to their own health. Though it is fortunate to be loved, one must learn to love themselves first.
So to all of my unattached readers, I gift you with a list of seven historical figures who, despite (or even because of) their frustrated romantic desires or their sheer lack of interest, revolutionized the world.
I’ve returned to a hobby I picked up during my college years: designing computer games. As I’ve learned more about how to make a great game, I’ve also learned a thing or two about human nature.
Even in this era of HD graphics and complex story lines, the rooted premise of any great game remains fairly simple — “get from point A to point B,” or “kill these badguys,” or “defend your castle.” Gain levels, earn experience, grow stronger. Win, win, win.
A game is most addicting when the player is formidably challenged and yet rolling on a momentum of victory after victory. That’s the moment when the player loses himself in the game and forgets to feed the dog, along with his daily troubles and life’s anxieties, destroying enemies and achieving victory. Thus your mission as the game master is to generate this rush as long and often as possible.
Friedrich Nietzsche new about the philosophy of video games before they were even invented. “Happiness is the feeling that power increases — that resistance is being overcome.”
It is around this time of the year — when temperatures plunge below zero, the wind bites at your face, and snow piles around the roads in towering muddy ramparts — when I consider my choice to remain in Chautauqua County, the land where I was born and raised.
In the Book of Exodus, Yahweh vows to Moses via a burning bush that he will deliver the Hebrews from their suffering and enslavement at the hands of the Egyptians, and guide them to the Promised Land, a place that was allegedly “flowing with milk and honey.” But it wasn’t filled with milk and honey — just dirt, rocks, trees and lots of scary pagan giants. It’s my theory that this Biblical story has pervaded our culture so subtly that it has caused a psychological phenomenon we’ll coin “The Promised Land Complex.”
It is simply this: when life grows difficult or tedious and we feel enslaved by our circumstances — a bad marriage, a bad job, a bad neighborhood, or low self-esteem — the idea pops into our heads that packing up and moving somewhere else will solve our problems. I’ll be the first to admit that I was struggling with a strong itch to hitch.
You may have noticed that this column took a hiatus; it wasn’t just because of the hectic holidays. I was overwhelmed by the bulk of fan mail piling on my desk and filling up my email inbox, and my schedule was booked answering phone calls from enthusiastic readers. I even considered retiring — why proclaim my views anymore? I had changed the minds of every newspaper reader within twenty miles. Everyone agrees with me. Mission accomplished.
Truth is, I’m tired of the opinion war. It’s as if the nation and the world is frozen in a icy block of eternal, unresolved discussion. Teetering on the edge of an all-out catastrophe.
I suspect that the increasing polarization of politics coincides — if it is not caused — by the near-omnipresence of social media. News can be tweeted or blogged faster than newspapers can publish it. Conclusions are slanted and warped toward our agendas before we can assess all of the facts. Smartphones wait in our pockets like revolvers in holsters, prepared to be drawn the moment an angry rant or a vociferous meme rears its ugly head.
Over the weekend, I went to the theater to watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I’m no fanboy, but it’s nonetheless an essential classic for any cultured American. While I enjoy the franchise a lot, there’s something about the films that’s always brought me vague disappointment — something that reflects the decline of Western Civilization.
For those readers born in a galaxy far, far away, and hence clueless, in the words of Obi-Wan-Kanobi: “the Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together.” There is a light side and a dark side of the Force. Wielders of the light are selfless, merciful defenders of the galaxy, while the dark side is stronger, cooler, and prone to light-saber-thrashing temper-tantrums.
The Force poses what philosophers call a false dichotomy, an informal fallacy involving a situation in which only two limited alternatives are considered. The options are typically positioned between two extremes — in the case of Star Wars, the Light and the Dark Sides — when in reality there are infinite shades of gray.
Since I am neither a parent nor plan to be one, it is merely my amateur opinion — based on personal observation — that teaching children to believe in Santa Claus is as close to child abuse without spanking them.
First and obvious, it is a lie. It ruins your trustworthiness as a parent. It promotes credulity. It is utterly devoid of imagination. What a strange and corrupt world this is, where lying to children is deemed beautiful and magical, encouraged by our cultural institutions and endorsed by a host of stop-motion animation films.
Teaching children the myth of Santa Claus is bribery. If the child is well-behaved, she will be rewarded. If the child is naughty — which could easily translate as nonconformist behavior — the she will not receive gifts on Christmas. Rarely do we teach universally preferable behavior simply for its own sake.
Yet another mass shooting, this time in San Bernardino, California. It triggered the predictable outcries for gun control, while others accuse these voices of “politicizing tragedy.” Meanwhile, an op-ed from the Los Angeles Times cynically observes that “Perhaps this is the gruesome price of freedom.”
I have never fired a weapon beyond a BB gun. My knowledge of firearms is minimal. However, there was a time when I briefly brandished my friend’s empty, military-grade shotgun. Black and cruel, the metal was cold in my palms, and I was aware that I held death itself in my hands. I wanted to smash it across the pavement, grind the fractured pieces under my heel like poisonous bugs, yell at my friend for ever purchasing the accursed thing.
As a hunter and gun-owner, my father recognizes the complexities of the gun debate. “A twenty gauge shot gun is all you need to shoot a deer. Anything stronger, and all you’re asking for is an accident,” he said.
Students of San Diego University hold a “Shit In” to raise awareness of the evil powers of the patriarchy oppressing the campus restrooms.
Oh boy. The feminists are at it again. So far, they’ve won a woman’s right to vote, equal pay, same-sex marriage — an impressive trophy case. Now they’re taking on the patriarchy’s next stronghold.
You guessed it. Public restrooms.
Feminists are pushing for college campuses (their intellectual strongholds and breeding-factories) to tear down all gender-binary restrooms and install mixed-gender restrooms. This, they ambitiously dream, will liberate all transgender people, and finally put those dastardly, trans-phobic patriarchs in their place!
Please know, I respect the issues with which a transgender must face. I can’t imagine the torturous games of door number one or door number two you must play if you don’t fit in either sexual binary, and the resulting embarrassment if you choose wrongly. But attempting to satisfy a sliver minority through imposing totalitarian policies on everyone? That will generate many more problems than the comparatively minor one it will solve. The number of transgender people is unknown, but we can be certain without doubt that us privileged, arrogant, ignorant cisgenders vastly exceed them.
Racism is alive in America. The hacker group Anonymous recently published the names of over 1,000 KKK members, many who turned out to be politicians. A white man murders nine blacks in a Charleston church. Racial tensions envelope Missouri University in chaos. It’s positively retrogressive.
Consider that there are fringe factions who believe, in the 21st century, that the Earth is flat. There are even more people who believe the United States never landed on the moon, despite the wealth of physical evidence left behind. And it is downright appalling and confounding that human beings, after centuries of a bloody civil war and progressive reform, still divide themselves based on skin pigmentation.
Or do they?
Behold, the face of tyranny!
Breaking news: the Super-Patriotic Party of Benevolent Carnivores won the election. Now every American citizen is required by law to eat a big, juicy slab of steak every night for dinner, subsidized by the government. Don’t the polls reveal that 96.8 percent of Americans consume and approve of consuming meat? Go democracy!
“God evolved our incisors for a reason,” said the new president whilst gnawing on a chicken wing. “Our right to eat greasy tons of meat is protected by the Constitution.”
The new regime cracks down on vegetarians and vegans. Clerks who refused to sell government-issued steak to their clients have been arrested, and one vegan was allegedly shot and killed for attempting to stab police with a fork. Meanwhile, scalps are scratched and eyes squint as nobody is able to point out exactly what part of the Constitution covers American dietary rights.
This fiction reflects the reality of the prevailing drama surrounding Kim Davis, a Kentucky County clerk who was jailed for a week for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses.