Quotable Monday: Bitter or Better

“I am I plus my circumstances.” — Jose Ortega y Gasset

Truer words are rarely spoken. Someone else said that life’s circumstances can make you bitter, or better. The choice, I believe, is yours.

Worst case day: I get fired. The choice is mine as to whether I am sad and wallow in self pity, or whether I take the opportunity to do things I couldn’t do while looking for a new job – maybe finding something better than I had before.

Bad things happen to everyone, it doesn’t matter if you’re a good person or a bad person, at some point something bad will happen. If nothing bad has happened recently, then now is a good time to prepare, because there is probably an onslaught coming. Also, just because you don’t see bad things happening to other people, doesn’t mean they aren’t suffering too – maybe they’ve already made the decision to be better, rather than bitter.

I am I, plus my circumstances. How I deal with that combination, however, is entirely up to me.

Quotable Monday: Revolution

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.

Have you ever read the United States Declaration of Independence? It’s an interesting read if you can get through it.

I realize I have clipped a section for my purposes, but I strongly encourage you to read it in it’s entirety for context.


As a quick backstory, for the non-Americans (or those who have forgotten), the United States was born of people who migrated from England (among other parts of Europe) and was initially an English Colony. King George III was being somewhat of a douche towards the colonists. After much agony inflicted by the King, they decided to separate, to declare their independence.

They outline their complaints against the King and his government: refusing to approve laws believed to be for the common good, forcing his government into accepting his will, dissolving the government on multiple occasions for refusing to accept his views, for placing armed troops among them [the colonists] and protecting them from trial for any murders they commit, cutting off trade, imposing taxes without consent, depriving the right to a trial by jury, etc, etc.

The point is, at some point, the common belief of the people becomes that the government has long ceased to meet their needs, and that change needs to happen. When the government has long proven it’s unwillingness to listen to the people, then according to the Declaration of Independence, it is the duty of the people to rise up against the government and replace it with a more suitable form.

I’m not suggesting a violent overthrow of the government as it stands, I’m certainly not suggesting that the current system of government is being nearly as oppressive as King George III was all those years ago, but I think the United States is long overdue for a discussion on the purpose of government, the duty of government, what the people want and expect from the government, and then action to create a government that is of the people, by the people, for the people.

After watching what is going on in the Occupy movements, I see a group of people who are wanting to start the discussion, but none of the right people are listening. It’s time they stood down their security forces and listened to what their constituency are peacefully requesting. After all, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” – John F. Kennedy

Quotable Monday: What a Girl Wants

“Women don’t want to hear what you think. Women want to hear what they think – in a deeper voice.” — Bill Cosby

One of the many things that attracted me to my wife is that she is not a stereotypical woman. I’ve been in trouble before for mindlessly agreeing, for not having my own opinion. I am encouraged to think for myself, and to have independent thoughts that don’t necessarily coincide with what she thinks. In matters of important decisions we usually come to some kind of agreement, in other matters we may decide that I am going to go one place and she is going to go somewhere else and we’ll have a great time, see each other later.

This is a trend, it’s something I really believe, but men, think for yourselves even if it results in conflict with your wife or girlfriend. If it’s something you just can’t get past as a couple, then maybe you need to re-evaluate your relationship. Same with you girls.

Quotable Monday: Conformity

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice.” — Albert Einstein

This also references my earlier Quotable Monday entry on blind faith. I always have trouble when I run into people who, when asked questions about things, just speak information they don’t understand.

I ran into this issue on IRC not too long ago, when talking to someone who was making the absolute federal minimum wage of $2.16 (or whatever it is) an hour while driving for a pizza company. When asked about what they made, they referenced Florida as being “under maritime law.” This didn’t make any sense to me, as I assumed that I would have known something along this line a long time ago, and so I went for a talk with my buddy Google.

I confess that in this talk I did learn things – mostly related to the exception to the $7.55/hr federal minimum wage (as it applies to people who normally receive tips in their line of work), but at no point did I find any reference to the State of Florida combined with Maritime Law.

So I challenged the individual, and asked plainly: Is that just what you’ve been told it is? And the answer came back with a resounding “Yes.”

My problem isn’t with people who conform by their own choice, my problem is those who fail to consider the options, or make their decisions without making so much as an attempt to think for themselves. Letting other people think for you is, in my mind, an assault to the freedom of choice that you were given. This also applies to the “non-conformists” who have chosen their path simply because it’s not what other people are doing. Believe it or not, you’ve let other people think for you by rebelling against them.

If you are in the military because you considered your options and it was what you decided to do, that’s awesome. If you are in the military because you were told to, or it was expected of you, and you just accepted it, not so cool. And the same applies to other fields too. It’s totally fine for a feminist to decide to stay home and be a housewife. It doesn’t go against the core principles of feminism which (as I understand them) are about giving women the right to choose. If you’re staying home and being a housewife because you wanted to, go right ahead. If it’s merely because it is the socially accepted thing to do, maybe you should reevaluate what it is you want from life.

I’m not going to apply this to every person in every religion or social setting, I’ll leave that to you to consider.

Quotable Monday: Unemployment

“What is a danger is that we stay stuck in a new normal where unemployment rates stay high, people who have jobs see their incomes go up, businesses make big profits. But they’re learned to do more with less, and so they don’t hire.” — Barack Obama

This has been one of my chief concerns with improvements in technology and efficiency over the last few years. It is probably basic economics, but if you have a group of 10 people, each of whom is responsible for producing something for those 10 people, then they have a small balanced economy.

Say you have someone whose job is to provide and maintain housing, and someone whose job is to provide food, and someone who oversees medical needs. You can introduce currency to allow them to pay each other in a standard manner, but if they each have a job then it is a fair system.

Now, introduce another 10 people. That means there are now 2 people who can perform each job, but an extra 10 people that require the service provided. It remains balanced and in ratio.

Introduce more people, and in theory the ratios will stay in check. Until two things happen. Firstly, too many people get educated to do one job, which leaves a gap in areas with untrained workers and creates a surplus in workers for other areas. This means people have to settle for a job they don’t want, or aren’t trained for. Secondly, and this is the bigger problem, is that technology is discovered or new methods of doing work are implemented which now allow the job that was done by 5 people to be done by just 2. What are the other 3 people going to do? Unless they can find a niche business opportunity (and let’s face it, how many of those survive for any period of time?) then they are doomed to unemployment, which is what I fear is our problem today.

And so I cannot help but agree with our President. Those who have jobs will likely keep them, those who own companies will probably succeed. Those who are on the street with no opportunities on the horizon will likely be left there.

Quotable Monday: Criticism

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”– Winston Churchill

What is your natural reaction to criticism? What do you do when someone comes to you and tells you that “you’re doing it wrong?”

When I am approached and told I need to get my act together, my natural reaction is one of bitterness and resentment. If I am in a position of power, such as a moderator of a forum or a chat room, my instinct is to remove the person who is offending me simply because I don’t like them. This, to me, is a selfish abuse of power.

Here is something to try. If you are in a position of power, chances are people will criticize you. Either because you did something they disapproved of, or you failed to act when they expected you to. We’re human, so we make mistakes like this a lot. Next time it happens, don’t make a snap decision. Don’t remove the problem, but consider their argument. Consider the possibility that they are right, and you are wrong. Humility can go a long way as a leader, and will go a long way for your followers who look up to you.

And if you are in a space where no criticism is ever directed at you or other staff members, maybe you should consider why – are people afraid to speak up? Are they afraid to voice their concerns? If this is the case, then perhaps it is time for change.

Quotable Monday: Christianity without Christ

“In answer to your inquiry, I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, and heaven without hell.” — William Booth

This is something that has bothered me for a long time. I think it is one of the things that leaves me questioning my beliefs in “Common Christianity” and puts me outside my circle of friends a lot.

We like the idea that if we say a prayer and ask forgiveness, our sin doesn’t matter anymore. While in a sense this is true, it’s not that simple. It’s not OK to say “Yes, God, I know I did this bad thing, but I’m sorry and I ask you to forgive me,” as we get ready, walk out the door and do whatever it was all over again. It’s not OK to claim Christianity while ignoring the parts of the bible you don’t like, whether it is to love everyone equally, or to give to the poor, or other more controversial things.

It’s OK to accept anyone into the church, but it’s not OK to allow them to serve in ministry when they have sin they refuse to acknowledge or address. It’s OK to teach about the wonder of heaven, but it has to go hand in hand with the risks of the other option.

Quotable Monday: Do it Anyway

“People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway. If you do good, people may accuse you of selfish motives. Do good anyway. If you are successful, you may win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway. People who really want help may attack you if you help them. Help them anyway. Give the world the best you have and you may get hurt. Give the world your best anyway.” — Mother Teresa

This one was on my Facebook a couple of weeks ago. Often I find that I don’t want to help people, and often for social reasons. Most commonly it is because I have a valid reason (not having money to give, etc), but I’ve also avoided helping out of selfishness, or because it was inconvenient. Mother Teresa said that despite the risks, we should do it anyway.

Quotable Monday: Question your Faith

“Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.” — Thomas Jefferson

One thing I’ve noticed a lot here in the US is the blind faith in Christianity (or twisted forms in one way or another). Especially when witnessing, we seem to make assumptions that non-believers will blindly accept our claims of the bible as being the word of God, or even the existence of God. Our duty to them is not to prove it, but I also don’t believe that we (as Christians) should have a blind faith in what we believe, nor should we expect non-believers to simply agree with us on these terms alone.

Quotable Monday: Depression

“Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.” — C.S. Lewis

I have suffered from depression, and it was not a fun experience. Fortunately mine is more situation based (IE, it only rears it’s head when things get really bad). It’s only been bad enough to warrant medication once, and I hope I never get that bad again. I’ve noticed it a few times when money has been so tight I couldn’t see a way to fix it, and also when the seemingly endless search for new or extra work has been ongoing for a while.

Many others, can probably identify even better with this than I. For that I am selfishly thankful.