The Dangers of Dogmatic Thinking

People have had a lot of brilliant and noble ideas throughout the ages. The best of our intentions have—on our finest occasions—come through to provide us with incredible esoteric insights, high-minded ambitions, inspiring works of art, and other enlightened insights into the human soul and condition alike.

Then, we tend to wreck it all.

The legal system, for instance, is certainly a respectable and necessary structure for any society. Arguably, this system was created initially as a general system of laws, rights, consequences, and limitations on human behaviour with the intention of keeping the playing field even and the right to life and freedom secure. Laws were laid out to protect the sanctity of civilized existence, and the means to judge and enforce those laws were clearly defined.

So too with religion. While the source can be argued to death—and certainly has been—the foundation of most earthly religions is a set of considerations, principles, and inspiring examples of humanity’s spiritual potential. Most of these sacred texts address the nature of sin, self-control, love for one another, and other such entirely admirable ambitions.

So with such incredible aspirations, how does humanity continue to get it all so wrong?

Well, in short, we are creatures of habit. Worse yet, we adore taking shortcuts.

With most any system devised—and the two above are shining examples—we may reach fantastic heights in our state of being. But successive generations tend to skip out the hard work of exploring and understanding the nuance and reason behind such systems, and begin to rely on hard and fast rules instead.

These become mindless and dogmatic restrictions on human behaviour. More destructive still, they often become guided by a matter of precedent. Here, laws and religious tenets are continually reinterpreted to fit the needs of whoever is presently in charge of their interpretation. Then, these new bastardized definitions become the benchmark for further misinterpretation. The original good intentions are lost, and the guiding principles of law and religion alike quickly shift away from the nobility of human betterment, and become just another system of maintaining otherwise unjustifiable power structures.

In both scenarios, we see a series of great intentions written down in stone, then systematically misapplied, misinterpreted, and misused. Each new iteration of this misuse is then made sacrosanct, to be further abused and distorted. Eventually, we are left with none of the good effect, all of the high-minded self-righteousness, and very little of true grace or justice.

So what can we do to avoid these ever so common failings? Well, we can start by taking a very serious look at our own intentions. Growth and insight are never easy, and achieving any real sense of decency, grace, or virtue is seldom possible when taking the quickest path.

Without fail, the easy ways will lead to the most common of results, and with us people, that is seldom a respectable scenario. Rather, we must constantly consider the truth of our intentions. We must examine the reasons behind our needs and desires, and, rather than turning to dogmatic principles and knee-jerk reactions, we would do best to consider all angles, remind ourselves of the deepest principles we hold dear, and move forward not with expediency or—heaven forbid—righteous indignation, but simply with patience, love, and an ever-present sense of respect for our fellow humans.

This is what must surely lie at the root of all such systems after all, be they religion, law, or others. So to leave them out is a terrible oversight, liable to result in the enforcement of something else entirely.

-Brad OH Inc.

Gethsemane

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

The green of the trees,

Had passed to grey,

In the deepening dark of night.

I stood waiting,

For you to show,

And knew I would not fight.

I’d seen it all,

What was to come,

We had our roles to play.

To bring it here,

To share those words,

Then sweep it all away.

For no act’s worth,

Is known until,

The final die is cast.

We’d built this house,

And raised it high,

But now to make it last.

The night was still,

The rest were calm,

When you came through the gate.

With fear and fire,

You kissed my lips,

And forever sealed our fate.

-Brad OH Inc.

A Shameless Plea for Virtue

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green Desklamp

I work and hone and search and seek,

To find those things which I would keep,

Within my heart for times ahead,

When I make good the things I’ve said,

I’ve heard the call to love and grace,

But still I train to take my place,

For charm and fun I have my knack,

But my true calling I still lack,

Good Captain help me set my sails,

And teach where my own lessons failed,

To raise with wisdom, strength and heart,

To tend the light that now grows dark,

For what is strength and decency,

When shorn from faith and purity,

For pride and lust and greed and wrath,

All tempt me from my given path,

And when lost deep in the forest,

One path seems as good as the rest,

But still to make it right I know,

There are yet saplings that must grow,

And bring to blossom charity,

And set within me clarity,

That I may hold to what is right,

And cower not at fall of night,

So at the closing of the day,

This one and final thing I pray,

Of vices I have had my fill,

And wait with baited breath until,

Good lady take me by the hand,

And guide me to that Promised Land.

-Brad OH Inc.

‘Edgar’s Worst Sunday’ Update #2

cropped-cropped-blogbanner13.jpgNot so very long ago, we let you know that the beta-reads for our upcoming novel, ‘Edgar’s Worst Sunday’, had come to an end, and the revisions had begun! Well, we’re now proud to share that said revisions are wrapping up, and all that now stands between you and picking up a copy at your local retailer is the small task of finding a suitable publisher!

At that time, we celebrated by sharing Chapter One of ‘Edgar’s Worst Sunday’ (Link), so we here at Brad OH Inc. thought it only fitting to share Chapter 2 with you today. We certainly hope you enjoy it!

Edgar's Worst Sunday Official CoverIn life, Edgar Vincent had always maintained one great passion—himself. A semi-successful composer, his rock star lifestyle suited him well, and his narcissistic outlook had always ensured he was a man with few regrets. Callous comments, thoughtless promiscuity, binge drinking, and excess sufficient to shame Caligula were standard Saturday night fare.

Sundays for Edgar had always been a painful haze of sickness and regret.

But when Edgar finds himself in the cloudy planes of the afterlife on one particularly bleak Sunday morning, he must put aside his ever-present hangover and try to figure out how he ever got to this point…and where he’s meant to be going now. But as Edgar traverses the spiritual realm, he comes to find that facing his death is hardly as difficult as facing himself.

However, heaven also presents Edgar with an unending smorgasbord of hedonistic entertainment, so he’s in no particular hurry to change his self-serving ways. After all, considering he’s already dead, what more could he possibly stand to lose?

 Edgar’s Worst Sunday

A Novel by Brad OH Inc.

-Chapter 2: The Local Bar-

[Text Redacted due to Contractual Obligations]

 -Brad OH Inc.

The Little Book of Bourbon

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green Desklamp

The stink of sweat, and the wet hiss of street cars. Saxophones screech from dark alcoves like debutantes that took a wrong turn.

Pedestrians rule the streets, beaten up cars working around them like Indians in a barnyard. New Orleans is a city alive in the truest sense—throbbing with its own potential, adorned in its own inequity like Joseph’s spastic coat.

Here, a man can drink on the streets—paved with cobblestone and flanked by sweaty brick buildings 300 years old.

Citizens crazed—with heat, booze, or lust I cannot tell—approach and talk cordially amongst themselves, and this stranger as well.

As the absinthe flows, the thick, cloying air lightens in tandem with the mood, and the night is alive with a thousand potential stories both new, and as old as the dry bones used by the Voodoo Mama just around the corner, ready to divine fortunes for a false smile and a real fee.

Some men look at a city and decide upon its potential early. They go to bed with the falling sun, counting the hours until they can rise to cut deals and exploit the less proactive denizens of this shared hell they inhabit.

Others rise late and party till dawn, seeing the promise of the city instead scrawled upon the cobblestone alleys and dark crevices of the establishments reborn at dusk; eager to meet and engage with the searing enthusiasm burning in a city alight in its own decadence.

For them there is no hell—and heaven is just a street corner away.

I struggle daily with an overwhelming compulsion to defy the norm, to taste and touch as much of life as time will allow while balancing an ‘acceptable’ life. Others fight for normalcy in a world fraught with turmoil. The most we can take from this is the weight of experience on the psyche, and the importance of mad rushes of varied tastes and flourishes of culture. Old cities like this are a natural extension of the social impulse…a thing lost in more modern complexes.

The Natchez steamboat screeches calliope tunes at me as I pass misshapen statues and covens of filthy pigeons. The $300 I came with has been reduced to a dirty pack of crumpled ones.

My knuckles are bloody—seafood or scuffles, I cannot be certain.

I stop to listen to a soapbox evangelist, the frenzy of vacation scaring off my familiar apathy. But his words are unfamiliar, unexpected. He says that religion is an affront to the spirit. God is an ideal. Original sin—as it is described, is the animal nature in us all, whereas God is the perfect goal we are meant to aspire towards.

True or not—this is not the point; the goal is soul, and perfection is a high watermark to all the savage bastards on this earth.

There is a great sense of ownership in this city. Men speak of renovations like child-rearing, and date each building with the care of tracking genealogy.

The ancient weight of history rests upon the streets like a shroud, cloaking the denizens in its comforting embrace, and a sense of community identity permeates all.

It was around 4:00pm, in a small jazz club off Bourbon, when I realized that I’d never leave this town alive if I couldn’t acquire a strengthened taste for straight liquor and twisted people. But there is something horribly sleazy about drinking fine Bourbon from kitschy party cups. Like hiding cocaine in an animal shaped children’s party balloon.

There can be no doubt that I am yet to find true equilibrium. The battle between the boisterous extrovert and the mumbling, cantankerous recluse wages on daily.

Also, I’m a big fan of absinthe.

It’s a funny line to walk—being tugged between the joys and regrets so inherent to a life well lived.

But if a man can persist, and persevere beyond the quagmires he so ceaselessly chooses to embroil himself in, soon enough the straight road may reveal itself.

And just like that, things were making sense again. The night must get dark before the stars appear again to light the way. And if they need still further darkness… it’s always waiting on Bourbon St. …just a breakdown away!

The Little Book of BourbonI’ve learned I lean towards an older crowd than my own age merits, more towards the 50+ blues crowd, willing to truly talk without any of the flirtatious pretension. But this knowledge does little to ease my mind.

A lovely lady lives behind the bar at ‘The Blue Note’ off Bourbon and St. Louis, and feeds me tastes of each drink she makes, providing shots for words as she purrs siren-like about her life and times in NOLA.

She was good, but he was better. She had the kind of angel voice and deadly looks that could with a word command a man into the sickest sort of depravities even he would never have imagined himself capable of. But he had the sort of prodigious talent, and plucked those strings with rhythm and precision sufficient to lift that same man to higher planes of self.

I’ve got to get out of this place. A city of saints and sinners in the truest sense—both more than willing to send a man off his rails and leave him begging for more while reeling with sickness and exhaustion… just as long as you tip.

But not just the tip. They’ll take it all. Your money, your ideals, your direction. Everything that separates a man from these goddamn flea-bitten apes you see on discovery channel as you drink your box wine and eat your cold pizza.

I’ll be dragged down for sure. Deeper than the determined bodies clawing their way up; jealous of those laying in the moldy crypts—spiting sea-levels and buoyancy for the sweeter rumours of voodoo and ancient evils.

No—they’re for another time. I’ll be down in the bayous, a bottle of Jameson clutched in my hand as the gators feast on my bones.

Elsewhere, a woman will stand alone, singing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ acapella as a man elsewhere strums out Beethoven on his guitar.

What am I rambling about?

I’ve got to get out of this place before I’m just a stain on its streets.

I’ve heard it said—both recently and before, that all the great things mankind has done have been the result of the powerful—corporations, empires, tyrants—these are the builders, and this I cannot deny.

But the stage is nothing without its actors, and the great stories and moments have always arisen from the fearless few willing to rise up and rage against the rat bastards with everything that makes us human and keeps us animal.

In the face of the depravity and madness I’ve faced, I still cast my lot proudly not with the world builders, but with the rabble and ravers of humanity.

I just need a woman with an eye for photography or an ear for music—either one will do.

I realized rather early on, but feel it all the more pressingly now, that this city must cease to fear the magic of the past and learn to harness that of the present.

A Guest Article by your Friend and Ours,

-Duke O’Brady

I Found God in the Drums of ‘Boléro’

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green Desklamp

This article is inspired by the classical piece ‘Boléro’ (Link), by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) (Link). If you aren’t familiar with that piece, it should be considered required listening for the article to follow. You can find it here (Link).

I listened to this piece recently, and found an unexpected intensity within its plodding rhythm. I hadn’t put the song on for any specific reason, yet early in, I understood the depth of the moment I was having.

It should also be noted, perhaps, that I was at the time firmly entrenched in my (11th?) reading of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Silmarillion’ (Link), a book to which I ascribe particular inspiration. So you should probably read that, too.

Nonetheless, my revelation started with the first beat of that oh-so-familiar snare-drum. Described as an ‘ostinato’, the pulsing rhythm of this opening drum continues throughout the entire song, remaining constant as everything else is thrown into chaos.

It struck me immediately as terribly spiritual, although it took me a while to articulate exactly why that was.

You see, in ‘The Silmarillion’, the one God, Eru Illúvatar, conceives of creation as music—performed by his angels, the Ainur. The Ainur sing his tune, but among them is the spirit Melkor, who sews discord into the song, and causes turmoil. Some of the Ainur join in Melkor’s discord, while Eru adds new themes to the music to counterbalance Melkor’s efforts.

In the end, when all music stops, Illúvatar offers the Ainur an opportunity to see what they have done, and creates the world and all existence to reflect the reality of his divine tune. Unto the Ainur he says, “Mighty are the Ainur, and mightiest among them is Melkor; but that he may know, and all the Ainur, that I am Ilúvatar, those things that ye have sung, I will show them forth, that ye may see what ye have done. And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.” (Pg. 17)

Since childhood, this story always struck me as one of the most apt and inspiring metaphorical representations of the divine will. And so, as I listened to the ever-increasing notes of ‘Boléro’ rising above and competing with the persistent drum-beat in the background, this was the idea that settled in my mind.

The Silmarillion goes on to tell of the events of Middle-Earth being a representation of the Music of the Ainur, and assures us that although great evil does occur, its power is limited, and in the end all things turn to the greater good. This requires a lot of faith, but it’s something I’ve held onto since first reading it as a young elementary school boy—hoping that it would prove true in our world as it does in this fantastical place.

Throughout the duration of ‘Boléro’, the snare drums maintain their eternal beat in perfect rhythm. Meanwhile, horns and woodwinds, strings and symbols are taken up against the drums. They increase endlessly throughout the song, rising to an incredible cacophony and very nearly drowning out the snare drums which are their source.

At times, the listener can barely hear the drums, but when the music changes, or when there is a brief silence in the din, they are ever to be found beneath the turmoil, just as they were before. Patient, persistent, eternal.

Taking this in, I couldn’t help but feel I heard God in those snare drums. The music rising against it was like the duelling theme of Melkor—want and greed and malice and destruction. These are present still in our world, and will often threaten to overwhelm the senses of those unguarded ears who know not how to find the consistency of Grace beneath.

Much like the confusion of the composition at hand, it’s easy to get lost in this world. These days, perhaps more than ever, the myriad distractions and temptations we meet each day are easily sufficient to overwhelm the senses and deafen us to reason and decency. It takes a concerted effort and a determined will for us to focus on what is right and just, when so much around us seems so dark and hopeless.

But of late, I have seen greater evidence of Grace and beauty in this world than I have long held possible. It’s buried no doubt, often times nearly beyond reach. And all the while the daily racket of industry, and want, and loneliness and grief compete for our ear, turning us away from the true rhythm of the world and focussing us only on ourselves.

But to miss the rhythm is to miss the point entirely.

For no matter how dismal the world can be, there is light to be found, and beneath the din there is the rhythm of Grace for any with the will to listen for it. Immutable and constant, it plods along as it always has, unaffected and undeterred by all the competing noise, and when the racket of distraction dies down, its beauty sounds out all the clearer.

I know it isn’t easy. The clamour of discontent can be deafening, and it is often all too easy to fall into this discord and march along with the madness rather than keep to course. But this is folly, for no matter how distant it may seem, for every evil there is goodness still. Where there is hate, there is also love. Where there is terror, there may also be found mercy. For the loneliness of a consumerist society there remains the comfort of the family home. There is friendship, and loyalty, and faith, and hope, and honour…for every conceivable darkness, there is a light which can still set things right.

The drums of decency pound on, and when the din of darkness rises too high for the ears to readily perceive them, all the more must we focus our hearts and minds to that eternal rhythm, and trust that all will unfold according to that divine beat.

-Brad OH Inc.

Regarding Religious Freedom

purelyspeculationOver the past several months, Religious Freedom has been one of the most prescient topics in the minds of many. People nationwide are having full-fledged meltdowns at the idea of baking a cake for a couple who view things differently than they do (Link), and a pea-brained Kentucky clerk has managed to convince a bunch of hysterical nitwits that she’s some kind of martyr (Link). At the same time, we observe mass hysteria at the entirely misguided notion that Sharia Law is coming to the West (Link).

Happily, much of this uncertainty is being put to rest even as we speak. With the passing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) (Link), the Western World has done much to define how we will soon interact with the very populations we claim to fear the most.

The RFRA was passed in part to ‘protect’ Christians from being forced into such heinous and sinful behaviours as baking cakes for loving couples in a public bakery, or issuing a marriage-license at the county registry. See, to be expected to do your job for any member of the public interested in utilizing your services has of late been perceived as religious-persecution. If this is true, then the only thing we can glean of the religious convictions held here is that they demand first-refusal rights for persecution itself.

Yet the ploy has been working. While there can be no argument made that people in any civil society must be free to worship in any way they see fit (assuming no harm to others), we must be careful about the extremes we go to in protecting these rights, and more especially, the ways in which we define them.

Over the next few years or decades, we will inevitably see a great influx of Muslim immigrants—and understandably so (Link). Just as we must for any influx of people, we will need to learn how to coexist with these folks; setting up fair and equitable boundaries which allow for their comfort and ours alike.

Much as we see in ‘China Towns’ and other such cultural hubs, some level of independence must be afforded to any emerging population. Yet many in the west are understandably paranoid about the active assertion of ‘Sharia Law’ on our soil.

Now at the present, I consider this a hysterical over-reaction, but the current machinations of the right wing are actually doing much to strengthen the possibility.

As the religious right defines its adherence to age old biases as a ‘fight for religious freedom’, and asserts new laws protecting this notion, they are laying the groundwork for similar legal enforcements of other religions—one expression of which could conceivably be Sharia law.

Protection to practice religion is a fundamental right in any decent country, but it must be clear that this will not be limited to the most popular religion—nor should it. Everyone must be afforded the right to practice as they choose—so long as it does not affect another. Passing laws that allow Christians to refuse the sale of a product on an open counter to a gay person sets a terrible precedent: one that the courts could (and by rule of precedent doubtless should) use to justify the banning of ‘infidels’ from Muslim operated stores, and other such seemingly inconceivable rulings. If this is not the precedent we want to set for our growing minority populations, then it mustn’t be what we practice for ourselves. Any public storefront should be available to all—just as a non-Asian citizen is not barred from entering a restaurant in Chinatown.

As we go forth defining the ways in which we legislate behaviour and respect, we would do well to bear in mind the broader implications of our attempts. Currently, debate rages over the display of the Confederate Flag (Link), and this is another example of how our rulings on local issues will do much to define our interactions with foreign influences. Ultimately, the Muslim community may have an entirely legitimate claim that depicting the prophet Mohammed constitutes a hate crime under the same sort of laws which prevent Nazi sympathizing and holocaust denial in much of Europe. This is a slippery slope to be sure, but one we must navigate nonetheless.

The question is—where does it end? Common paranoia paints a picture of an America destitute of pork products, while strict public dress codes are enforced by threat of corporal punishment. This certainly may seem absurd to anyone who is not a strict adherent to Islam. Equally absurd to the non-Christian population is the notion of getting up-in-arms over a rainbow on a cake.

If it bothers you, consider simply looking away when you see men kissing (or women kissing…or anything else you may see). Alternatively, consider simply choosing not to order the pork option on a menu if it is against your religion. Such concessions as these are ones we have to make for the simple fact that we live in a society. And that moreover, is the essential point here.

The most effective place for Religion is to help us in coping with society, not in controlling it. As long as we continue to insist otherwise, it is imperative to remember that the way we define our relationship between the law and our currently-dominant religion will ultimately define how we interact with every other religion as well.

So for the sake of us all, let’s keep an open mind here people.

-Brad OH Inc.