Sea of Lies

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green Desklamp

I listen ‘cross the open sea,

The wind comes faint but clear,

The message I have longed for still,

I seek but do not hear.

The clatter of the steamers,

The bouncing of the dories,

Confused and contradicting voices,

All telling different stories.

I strain amidst the clamour and din,

To sort the idle chatters,

And parse them out and crack the code,

And hear what truly matters.

The voice is there, the words unformed,

Hang on the winds gale,

And promise me to someday share,

The end of my own tale.

That quiet beneath the roar,

The plodding maelstrom,

Tugs unceasing at my mooring,

And lures me far from home.

But still the promise lingers,

From deep beneath the fray,

An island out amid the waves,

Upon which I might stay.

-Brad OH Inc.

One Tin Soldier

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampI’ve never had any real talent when it comes to music, which might cause one to think that music class in elementary school was a squandered opportunity for this particular writer. Not so.

I always appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the creation of music—and had the opportunity to experience a great deal of fresh sounds and bands, which fed more naturally into my deeper passion for story-telling and metaphor.

I recall one moment in particular, likely around grade 2, which stood out to me as an exciting introduction to the incredible narrative potential of music. My small class had filed into the music room, and sat in a semi-circle upon the cold, carpeted floor. There, we waited in silence as our teacher played us an old song, ‘One Tin Soldier’, by ‘The Original Caste’ (Link).

The song tells the story of two different kingdoms—one on a mountain, and one in the valley below. The people of the valley have heard legends about the glorious treasure kept by the mountain people, and demand the mountain kingdom surrender their riches immediately. The mountain folk welcome the valley people, and offer to share all they have. Needless to say, this proves insufficient for the violent valley tribe—who slaughter the mountain people and take the prize all for themselves.

When the battle has ended and the mountain people all dead, the warriors from the valley turn over the stone to reveal their prize—a simple proclamation of ‘Peace on Earth’.

The chorus of the song—repeated throughout—brings home the terribly apt message for us kids who may still lack the nuances of literary interpretation. It says:

‘Go ahead and hate your neighbor

Go ahead and cheat a friend

Do it in the name of heaven

You can justify it in the end

There won’t be any trumpets blowing

Come the judgment day

On the bloody morning after

One tin soldier rides away’

These lines reverberated loudly through my child-mind, and continue to do so to this day. They are a poignant reflection on the folly of using God to justify atrocity, and seemed a sacrosanct truth to my youthful and naïve little brain.

I admit, it still feels like it should be as self-evident now as it was then, and I should expect to look around and find the lesson here to be well and thoroughly applied all around the world.

Sadly, this certainly isn’t the case. To the right and the left, every side of the political debate calls upon the name of God to justify their vitriol and hatred—encouraging increased violence and tighter control to continue their war against the dreaded ‘other’.

This ‘other’ of course, is on a holy and justified-from-on-high mission of their own.

It’s a strange situation—that the entire world stands ready to tear the throats from one another all over the assumed intentions of a God who has up to this point made no clear endorsement of any of this childish bullshit.

Where does this leave us? A sorry state, to say the least. With everyone feeling justified for every vile thing they do, and trumpeting the name of God about as if that undoes the sin of their actions, there is little room for somber reflection or moral consideration. When we self-justify by appealing to a greater power, we thusly strip ourselves of the responsibility of our actions.

God is never an excuse to act unjustly—and it is an especially cowardly and desperately ironic excuse to attempt.

Again, the lyrics come to mind.

‘You can justify it in the end…’

Good luck with that.

We will, before this age ends, be faced with many more bloody mornings no doubt. But at the least, let us face them with self-certainty and personal empowerment. Let us act for ourselves and our own values—with consideration and compassion for all others. That—and that alone—is acting in the name of God, no matter what name you choose for him.

All else is the purview of Tin Soldiers—hollow and blood-soaked—who ride away with hopes despoiled and fates long-sealed.

-Brad OH Inc.

Why You Should Seek Contrary Friendships

purelyspeculation‘Socially Constructed Realities’ (SCRs) are the assumptions we all act under subconsciously. They may be assumptions about how the world works, how people are, why we do what we do, how we should act, etc. By nature, these are formed within us due to the society and culture we grow up in.

They help us to anticipate outcomes and react quickly to key events. They also limit our ability to learn, as we often practice ‘selective noticing’—noticing things and interpreting events in a way that only reinforces our current notions, while discounting anything which challenges them.

With the internet, it is easier than ever to find groups of people who fit exactly into our predefined SCR’s—Facebook alone is replete with large groups for even the most wildly absurd types of people—Flat Earthers, conspiracy nuts, Juggalos, Trump supporters, etc. The problem with this is that by surrounding ourselves with people who operate under the same assumptions as we do, we limit our ability to have these assumptions challenged, and thus stunt any potential for intellectual growth.

Essentially, we deny ourselves the experience of other viewpoints while reinforcing the limitations of our own. This is a terrible abuse of our inherent potential. It creates greater polarity between people, leading to division, group think, and more often than not, hatred.

This is not to say we shouldn’t enjoy the company of like-minded individuals, which is of course a very important element of a healthy and balanced social life. But we must be cognizant to avoid doing so to the exclusion of all differing viewpoints—as doing this prevents our learning and growth.

Rather, we should challenge ourselves to find those with radically different SCRs, and seek (with patience and respect) to better understand them. Often, we may find this allows us to better understand ourselves as well, as it enables us to more effectively assess and challenge the assumptions driving our own worldviews.

So find those you disagree with—who challenge all that you hold dear. Question them and learn from them. Assess the assumptions that drive your actions, and consider the differing views of others. Do not enshrine yourself in the familiar, but search for the radical, the different and the seemingly absurd. This is the path to self-actualization, and ultimately, a more understanding and respectful society.

-Brad OH Inc.

Homeless

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampI press my back against the cold stone of the bridge and take a long breath. Soon, I hope, I will rest.

The night is cold, and the fragile white light of the moon settles indifferently upon my open bed.

Tonight, I am homeless.

It isn’t the first night, and it won’t be the last. The day’s warmth still lingers in the grey cement of the support beam, and I know that despite everything, this night will be better than others.

It’s been coming for a long time. I’d been drifting—circling the drain for longer than I can recall. I knew where I was headed, but not the way to change the course.

All my life, I’d been told that working hard would get me ahead.

My hands are calloused, yet I feel far behind.

I’d been told that treating others with kindness and dignity would surround me with friends.

When I smile at strangers, they look away.

The homes around me are bright and warm.

The heat bleeds out of the bridge, and the chill sets into my bones.

I can talk to anyone—and do more often than not. People tell me that I’m so very like them—like I could be one of their friends, or someone they grew up with. I’ve heard it from vagrants, and students, and businessmen and politicians and cooks: ‘You’re just like me.’

But I am alone.

I have no tribe, and nowhere to go.

I have a reckless devotion to duty, but no one to serve.

I can walk with anyone, but rest with no one.

I’m very much like them, yet not quite enough.

I have owned property, held jobs, and loved well. I’ve never felt at home, found my purpose, or been certain of being loved in return.

The world can be cold indeed, and as the sun sets, it is sure to be colder still.

It’s not shelter I long for. Not in the end.

They say that ‘home is where the heart is’. They say it all the time.

There is nowhere I could call home, and so this bridge will do.

Tomorrow, I may find those things, and have my doubts dissolved. Tomorrow I may find that the promises of my youth were, at long last, true indeed, and that there is love and kindness and decency in this world. I may discover that virtue still burns in the hearts of man, strong enough to warm the depths of even the most frigid night.

Tomorrow, all those things may finally happen.

But tonight, I am homeless.

It is the least of my concerns.

-Brad OH Inc.

Dear America

purelyspeculationDear America,

It’s time we had a chat. I’ve been thinking about it for some time—stewing and chewing my lip and hoping the feeling would pass. Sometimes, after all, it’s best to wait things out; give it some time, let emotions cool, and perhaps things will just settle down.

It’s gone on long enough now.

It’s nothing major mind you, and I’m certainly not looking to make a ‘big deal’ about this, but there’s something you do far too often to overlook. It’s insulting, disingenuous, and, dare I say, egomaniacal.

So let’s just have it out right now. America, you really, really need to stop claiming it as your solemn duty to protect the world. Freedom is not your export.

As the world watches you plunge into chaos with sorrow and trepidation, it seems a terrible injustice to hear you continue to describe yourselves as world-leaders, while simultaneously chastising the state of the world. Be clear about this—if leaders you are, then you must take full ownership of the bad along with the good.

You have made a commodity of greed, and the pursuit of vice has long overtaken those of liberty and happiness. If you are a role-model, it is primarily for bombast and falsehood—for yelling and kicking dirt and ignoring reason until everyone else gives up on you and you sit alone to wallow in your own petulance.

You speak of freedom and democracy in the same breath as economic-sanctions and drone strikes. You’re like the oversized moron on the playground preaching about self-restraint by playing ‘stop hitting yourself’ with the runt.

It’s not as funny as that analogy may lead you to believe.

It is an insult to the world at large to be chastised about morality by rat-fink purveyors of calamity such as yourselves—it’s beyond ironic, it’s downright pathetic.

But it’s not just about us and our hurt pride. It’s not even only about the importance of owning up to your actions—although this is certainly a laudable goal as well. It’s about you, and the inexpressible importance of being sincere with yourself.

As it stands, you live in a state of terrible cognitive dissonance. Calling for war while praising your mercy, and condemning greed while lining your coffers through the toil of those with less.

It is time you set aside the false braggadocio and face your true self America. Be honest with who you are—own it first, and then decide if you wish to change. For without facing our true selves—we cannot ever hope to be at peace.

Of course, if recent headlines are to be trusted, perhaps taking a good hard look into the mirror is exactly what America has been doing of late. The question then becomes, will you like what you see? (Link)

-Brad OH Inc.

You Know Nothing About the Moon

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampI got a strange phone call the other day. A friend of mine phoned to point out that he could see both the sun and the moon in the sky at the same time.

Certainly, there was nothing unusual about this other than his desire to call and tell me about it. But—he then pointed out—the moon had a shadow on it.

He didn’t need to say anything more; I saw the problem immediately.

All my young life, I’d grown up with the simple understanding that the dark spot or ‘shadow’ on the moon was caused by the Earth blocking out some of the light from the sun—essentially throwing its own shadow across the moon and hiding part of it from our sight.

I remembered—I was certain—elementary school teachers explaining this concept to us in great detail—likely using plasticine models, and perhaps a flashlight. It was, at any rate, a scientific ‘fact’ I had taken as sacrosanct my entire life.

In that one phone call, the idea was demolished entirely.

If I could see both the sun and the moon, that meant the sun had a direct line to the moon—unobstructed by the selfish machinations of the Earth. Therefore, the shadow across the surface of the moon could not possibly be caused by the Earth, as I had always understood.

Suddenly, everything I thought I had known about the lunar cycle was in shambles. This may seem like a small loss to anyone who gives even an average amount of consideration to the nature of celestial bodies, but I have a particular affinity for the sanctity of knowledge, and I found it quite troubling indeed.

Immediately, I set off to correct my false understandings and learn the truth about this now mysterious phenomenon. It took no time at all, and my understandings were soon corrected to incorporate this newfound information,. But I was nevertheless left with an unpleasant taste in my mouth.

Asking around over the following weeks, I soon discovered—to my small comfort—that I was far from alone in my naïve misunderstandings—in fact, I could scarcely find any other person who knew the truth about how the lunar cycles worked.

Do you?

No, probably not.

But you thought you did.

Most everyone I talked to thought the shadows on the moon were created by the Earth—just as I had so very recently. Simple fools!

The truth is, you see, that the dark spot on the moon is caused not by the Earth, but by the moon itself. Depending on the moon’s position relative to the sun, one half of it will always be fully lit (the side facing the sun), and one half will be dark (the side opposite the sun). The lunar cycle we witness is a product of the angle at which we view it. If the Earth is between the sun and moon, we will look back at it and see it fully illuminated. If the Earth is behind the sun and moon, we will see little of it, as we look towards its unlit side.

Finally, it the moon is somewhere between those extremes, we will see part of its illuminated side, and part of its dark side—as was the case on the day in question. (Source).

Once again, the function of the lunar cycle made sense. The world was right again.

…or was it?

No. Not quite. In the end, I was left questioning far more than just the moon. I’d been so confidant in this understanding. In fact, I would have likely gone so far as to say I ‘knew’ how it all worked. How then could I now remain confident in anything else I thought I knew, upon learning firsthand the fleeting transience of my knowledge?

It made me think of the nature of knowledge itself, and how much of what we claim to know is truly only suspected, or worse still, believed. It spoke to me of information bias and the ubiquity with which we cling to false truths.

Socrates once asked, “Can we ever truly ‘know’ anything?”

No, I suppose we cannot.

-Brad OH Inc.

The Brad OH Inc. Happy Times Children’s Blog Post

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampI’m afraid I must apologize in advance. I don’t have any cute cat pictures to share with you, nor will I be indulging in any hilarious memes. I have little talent for the sort of viral content which is so popular these days—I find myself grounded in my age, and can offer little in the way of contemporary distraction.

But that’s not the only apology due to you, and that is in fact precisely the purpose of this article. Certainly, you have a great deal to entertain you—the myriad distractions and novelties provided for you surpass by far the offerings of any generation prior. Sadly, you may grow to find that dependence on such toys often stands in the way of imagination—that lauded gift given to you by birthright and discouraged by reality. Do not let it wither within you—for the future depends upon the imagination, hope, and problem solving skills of your generation.

We welcome you to this world with open arms and sagging spirits—excited for your arrival at the same time we are shamed by the condition of the world we present.

Fear, distrust, and desperation are the leitmotifs of our present day. The distractions you will be subjected to have already taken their toll on us, and the failures of my generation will be the chief inheritance of your own.

The deceptions you face will inevitably be even stronger than those which sundered us from decency and good sense. You will be tempted by greed, misguided by vice, placated by contentment, and pacified by placebos—a constant stream of assurances that if you bury your head in the sand and allow time to slip by, everything will be ok in the end.

Of course, that is not the case.

It’s not an enviable situation we leave to you, and that is the reason for our apology here today. But with it, I offer something else, and that is encouragement. Perhaps a challenge even, for I expect you will find that far more enticing.

Be better than us. Expect more—not for yourself, but from yourself and all others as well. Demand that your generation rises to the incredible potential it holds in secret, and refuse to accept anything less than the beauty of which you are inherently capable. Pursue science, and knowledge, and faith, and justice. Do not blindly accept the systems around you, or fail to seek answers where there is doubt. Question all, and where you find the accepted answers do not satisfy you, question further still.

Find new answers—or create them. Evaluate what you have, challenge what you’re told, and never settle for less than you are capable. Change systems, laugh loudly, and tear down political structures which are meant not for your benefit but your containment.

Scream, bang walls, and rage like only youth can. Get in the faces of your elders and show them that you can do better—remind them of the truths you take as sacrosanct—which they have long forgotten. Be better than us—it will be a shame which we can happily bear in our twilight years, watching with unbridled pride as our failures are buried in history and your victories shine all the brighter for the difficulty through which they were achieved.

And through it all of course, remember to have fun.

-Brad OH Inc.