Brandy by a 40W Bulb

Under the Green Desklamp…

Green DesklampNote: This is the third article in a series. For the first, click here, and for the second, click here.

I thought about going with ‘by Candlelight’, but that would be a lie. It’s far too much effort at a time like this, especially for such a trite gesture. The standard 40W Bulb above me will do just fine for now. The illumination isn’t the point. That was the old goal—those ambitions are beyond us.

Brandy—that’s where the real hopes lie. The table has already been set, and the time for debating the menu is long past. This is about mood, and in that regard Brandy does far more than a candle, no matter how many Dickens novels you’ve read.

Ideas are cheap these days, and often more trouble than they’re worth. The best of them sell at a dime a piece, and are discarded just as cheaply. Some things, after all, truly are as simple as they seem.

In a world of ever-growing gradients, we should not lose sight of the poles. That’s what really moves people these days—the extremes. The most popular ideas are always the ones that cause a double-take and violent eye-roll from the general masses. The more far out they are, the more attractive to the fringe idiots looking for meaning in the void.

Meaning—there’s another dangerous idea.

So far, the Brandy is doing a pitiful job of improving the mood, but it’s not entirely to blame. Besides, Brandy is bountiful. Give her time.

Against such inky dark, even the brightest candle may struggle. My old bulb blinks and buzzes above me like a fly. It works fine in a pinch, but there’s no telling when it will flicker out for good, leaving me to face the lonely night.

There’s a terrible weight to understanding that lies and lunacy sell. There are niche groups that will cling to anything, but have few sources for their madness. By appealing to them, a person is guaranteed an instant and significant audience. Any asshole willing to scream obscenities and hate will find an audience somewhere. There is no shortage of desperate, sad bastards sitting in dark rooms, waiting for a lightning rod to justify their whispered insecurities with bullhorn vitriol.

To hold such knowledge and refuse to misuse it is the task of the decent person and the fool. The lowest common denominator is always the easiest mark, and honesty has a lot of competition. It’s an active decision we must all make—to decide to be a small voice of truth among many, rather than the most famous liar.

Everyone dreams of being heard in some way. It’s the reason for all the statues, art, graffiti, and songs that fill the spaces between the skyscrapers and the box stores. But these pleas for relevance can be easy to miss on the best of days, and that’s the problem entirely.

These days, wild change seems imminent, but its direction is impossible to know. This way, or the other… so it goes. It’s a lonely time—pensive. Tumultuous might be the word, really. Whatever you call it, one cannot deny the feeling of living in the calm before the storm.

That’s a cliché to be sure, but there are hopeless lunatics out there who would glean great meaning from a little thing like that.

And so, with whatever mask of optimism we may cobble from the refuse scattered nearby, we scream into the coming storm. We talk about what needs to change, or what needs to stop. What needs to be created, or what needs to be destroyed. We’ll debate who we should help, and who must be hindered. We’ll argue over where our priorities lie, what freedom really means, and who we are as a people.

All that is fine. But it goes off the rails somewhere around that point. We’ll start to argue about who is a person, and what that means for those who aren’t.

We’ll fight over who should have a voice, and who needs to be silenced.

We’ll forget what truth is.

Everyone holds their own individual truth these days, and that shouldn’t be such a terrible thing in and of itself. But there’s a funny thing about truth—it doesn’t do well in company. It’s the same problem religion has had throughout the ages—it’s great for the believers, but when it runs into the non-believers, it tends to have a funny reaction.

When we cling too tightly to our own truths, we run the risk of devaluing the truths of others. After all, there can only be one truth, and anyone who disagrees with you makes it slightly more likely that you’re living an illusion.

That’s no easy thing to tolerate.

One Brandy, two Brandy’s, three… Is it Brandy’s, or Brandies? She’s a cagey one, and it’s impossible to suss out her greater mysteries.

The bulb is too bright, and does nothing to ease the tension in the air. After all, upon close inspection, some things look better in the dark. Still, the mood is improving. Sometimes, we just need to sit, and drink, and think these things through. If you don’t drink, pick a vice or virtue of your own—you sorry sap.

Maybe, as always, it comes down to definitions.

Truth is one thing, and opinion is another entirely. There is far more of the latter, but it masquerades proudly as truth just so long as it can get away with it. Someone once said that opinions are like assholes, but that person was most likely an asshole themselves. Just because everyone has an opinion doesn’t make them any less valuable. The same can be said of assholes, except for the afore-mentioned one.

The thing about opinions is that they need to grow and change. They need to be challenged and examined. When they’re valuable, they need to be shared, and when they are discredited they must be abandoned.

That should be common sense, but just like common sense, it’s a terribly rare thing these days. We confuse opinions with facts, and if we find anyone else who can echo and amplify them, we’re all the more convinced. Many of us become warriors in the service of our tenuous opinions-made-sacrosanct, and with the holy armour of ignorance we go forth to purge the world of naysayers.

The cycle’s as old as humanity itself. It all begins to make sense if you repeat it enough. That probably means the Brandy has done her job. I knew she would. Old friends always come through.

It bears repeating. Opinions—regardless of who shares them or how much encouragement they are given—are not facts.

Equally important, facts are not opinion. They are not up for debate—facts are immutable.

Mind you, we seldom know the facts.

Even science—that often-misunderstood attempt to learn—seldom claims it has the facts. Science works in theories and understandings, which might be adjusted at any time if new—and especially contradictory—evidence emerges.

The pursuit of facts is an endless road. Still, it keeps its eyes on the horizon, and a trusted map as its side. It’s a long journey, and there are many sights to see along the way. There are good ideas out there—valuable ideas that would help the world immeasurably. There are also facts—simple truths that should and must not be lost among the static of discordant opinions.

The Brandy is flowing now, and my fingers are flying. The buzz and glare of the light is all just background noise to my composition. Soliloquies and symphonies. Damn… it’s been a while. But the Brandy is reaching is limits. Or perhaps I am.

At any rate, I’ve said enough.

There is no shame in temperance. A place you’ve probably never heard of once said it best: ‘Know thyself’, and ‘Nothing in Excess’.

It’s good to remember the old truths.

One more drink then… To truth, and the hope that we may not lose our way in its pursuit.

-Brad OH Inc.

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