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-

The former life of Edgar Vincent had never been rife with ritual. In fact, he made every effort imaginable—and some beyond imagining—to avoid it whenever possible. Still, some level of routine did slip in, and Edgar couldn’t keep vigil forever. And so, by the time he met his demise at the age of 32, there existed a small collection of routines that Edgar had come not only to rely upon, but to fully endorse.

Primary among these, and holding the special distinction of being the only thing Edgar would commit to calling sacred, was his customary celebration of a job well done. As a moderately respected independent film composer, these moments were not uncommon, but Edgar reserved this particular celebration for only the most monumental of accomplishments. On such occasions, he would put on the first—and only—tie he’d ever owned in his adult life, sit down in his big old office chair, then crack open the most expensive bottle of scotch he had.

The scotch—purchased only just before a score’s completion as an anticipatory measure—would be consumed as he sat in contemplative silence, listening to the completed work with a broad smile painted across his devilishly handsome face.

Inevitably, this ritual would lead him out the door once the scotch and music were finished—Edgar possessed an uncanny skill for synchronizing these events—and off into countless adventures which he would never fully recall.

Further to the list of ingrained habits, Edgar was certain to call his dear friend Emeric at the earliest possible convenience each time he bedded a new woman. Emeric, never being fond of this particular ritual, had over the years begun to answer Edgar’s calls with less and less reliability, but Edgar remained unconvinced of any correlation, attributing it rather to Emeric’s apparent lack of courtesy.

Edgar would also call his mother on each major Christian holiday, and even did his best to conceal the pain in his voice when she inevitably harangued him with the meaning of the day, and what lessons he might take from it.

Most truly ingrained habits aside from these were minor, and were only noted by those who knew him well—who in truth were rather few and far between. He took a shot before sitting down in every bar he visited. He often drank high-end cocktails, but made a point to always request at least one small, subtle change. He avoided public washrooms whenever possible, although history—and police records—indicated he had absolutely no qualms with actual public urination.

However, among the various quirks and rituals Edgar had permitted over the course of his life, one of his most cherished had been his bi-weekly Saturday nights out with his inner circle of friends during university. This of course should not be taken to imply that drinking only once every two weeks had ever been the standard for Edgar—quite the contrary—but rather that even in the wild days of his youth, Edgar had still been certain to put that small slot of time aside to meet with some of his most valued comrades, and partake in some of his most enjoyed activities.

A goddamn drink would be nice, Edgar mused woefully. With each step, the soft white glow puffed up around his feet like billowing clouds, and he wandered blindly through the haze, his footsteps coming like old memories.

His head still swam, the inside of his skull scraping like sandpaper. From somewhere in his uncertain surroundings, Edgar thought he could hear a soft, delicate voice singing. Seems about right, he acknowledged, can’t have clouds and golden gates without some harp-brandishing asshole singers.

How did I end up in this hellhole? Racking his tired brain for answers, Edgar came up dreadfully short—still, logic could get him far enough.

Whenever Edgar woke up feeling this bad, he could be certain that at least one of the usual suspects were involved. Could this be Duncan’s fault? he asked himself.

It was a distinct possibility, given the length of their friendship and shared passion for excess. But it had been a long while since Duncan and Edgar really tied one on, and in truth, he’d long suspected that Duncan was slowing down.

Again his thoughts turned to days long past, and the endless shenanigans he and his friends had engaged in back at their old crawl, ‘The Scholar’s Lament’. It had started with just Duncan and himself, having grown up together, but it certainly increased from there.

There’s no way Emeric would have let things get this out of control, Edgar surmised. Emeric had joined the group some way into their first year of university, and while he’d never matched the unchecked hedonism of either Duncan or Edgar, he did bring a certain unspoken balance to the group.

Admittedly, he did pitifully little to stop me that time with the police horse…No, Edgar was certain that Emeric would have done something to prevent him from…How the hell did this happen anyway?

Continuing onward, Edgar struggled to shake the strange sense of déjà-vu that haunted each step, and although he could see nothing but the white fog everywhere around him, his feet moved as if they knew the way, and Edgar was far too dizzy to argue.

Duncan is too serious now, and Emeric is too responsible. Edgar raced through a mental process of elimination. The list of suspects was dwindling, and as he worked to swallow down a liberty-minded bit of bile, he shook his head dismally and hedged his bets on the culprit. Fucking Jake, he concluded.

The youngest member of Edgar’s inner circle by two years, Jake had joined the group late, and only through sheer tenacity had he managed to be accepted at all. Still, he was dependable, and Edgar knew that beyond anyone else in his life, he could always rely on Jake when he wanted to get truly, righteously shit-canned.

It was precisely due to this ease of access that Edgar accurately considered himself quite the authority on the heinous Sunday mornings after a night out with Jake. All the tell-tale signs were there; the swimming head, the raspy throat, and the overwhelming senses of loss, confusion and regret. Still, even as the evidence mounted, something at the back of his weary mind struggled against the tightening noose of logic, and Edgar could not wholly commit himself to this explanation just yet.

Pulling another cigarette from his still-full pack, he trudged onward as he drew the lighter up to his mouth. With a flick of his thumb, the flame ignited, sending a soothing wave of nicotine coursing down his desert-dry throat.

If Edgar had thought he’d heard angels singing before, there was no doubt now. With a final step, the haze of fog peeled back to reveal a stout brown building with dirty windows and a flickering, neon sign: ‘The Scholar’s Lament’.

The chill which ran down his spine was accompanied by a long sigh, and despite his ongoing misgivings, Edgar could imagine nowhere else he’d rather be at the moment. The place had served as a sanctuary during his ‘academic career’, and it was in this very bar that he’d cemented most of the defining relationships of his life.

“Another round over here!” Stepping into the large, dim room, Edgar was immediately put at ease by a familiar voice. Gazing around the room, he found everything in place—exactly as he remembered. The unused popcorn machine in the corner, the sprawling bookshelves full of battered hardcover tomes beautifully bound with patterns utterly unrevealing of their contents…even the tiny shelf high up in the far corner holding an odd, miniature brass motorcycle.

Tinny, outdated music played quietly from beaten up speakers mounted above the long bar, and in the far left corner opposite the door was the ugly old ceramic statue of a student toiling over an invisible project, his forehead balanced on his palm in a show of deep frustration. The intricately painted statue, as always, was covered with countless years of intimate personalized graffiti.

“Hurry up!” Once again, the voice was Duncan’s, who sat beside the scholar and stared over at Edgar with an impatient smirk.

The call made Emeric turn, adjust his glasses, and send out that big, dumb smile he seemed to reserve only for the company of his friends.

“Hey Edgar,” he called softly, his voice barely making its way over. Edgar moved slowly, passing strangers as his mind raced with possibilities. How much did I drink last night?

Draped around the shoulder of the poor busy scholar was the long, muscular arm of Jake. How long has it been since we’ve all been together? Edgar wondered as he made his way methodically through the familiar bar. A year at least, maybe more?

Time was cruel to young men and naïve promises, and although the four of them remained relatively close, it was an especially rare occurrence these days that their schedules allowed all of them to get together at once.

Not all, Edgar corrected himself, not anymore.

The three familiar faces watching him from across the room burdened Edgar once again with the nagging suspicion that perhaps his entire situation was still, somehow, the tail end of the most elaborate joke ever pulled.

A splitting hangover, a walk through an inscrutable void, and a trail of doubt leading through a golden gate and ending at his old university hangout. Doubting his sense of reality was nothing new to Edgar, but existential questioning certainly was. How does one know if he’s truly dead? he wondered. The question was too heavy to hold in the tissue paper folds of his throbbing brain, and he let it spill out with no significant contemplation. If he was to unravel the mystery of the night before, the three men in front of him were the place to start. Those bastards.

If it was a cruel joke, he was certain he could rule Emeric out. The mousy little man, although clever, would never have the spine to play a trick on anyone, and Edgar least of all.

Jake certainly would have done it, but alone the drunken buffoon was about as practical as tits on a bull, and his ability to plan was even less functional. The ever-increasing complexity of the joke—if indeed it was one—meant Jake could not have done it by himself at any rate.

If anyone could have pulled this off, it would be Duncan. In his prime, Duncan was the perfect foil to Edgar—returning every joke, answering every shot, and one-upping him with every misdeed. But Duncan was Edgar’s oldest friend and closest rival…if he’d done it, the crowd he assembled to witness the humiliating punch-line would have been far more significant.

Stopping in front of the table, his friends turned cheerfully to greet him. Emeric pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, smiled, and nodded in eager anticipation of Edgar’s acknowledgement. Definitely not Emeric…but he’ll be the first one to come clean if he does know anything.

Jake, his arm still cast about the ceramic student in a careless gesture betraying no affection, stared not at Edgar, but rather at the five shots presently being laid out by a waitress. An exceptionally sexy waitress, Edgar noted with restrained glee.

Duncan, meanwhile, was a picture of poise—sitting squarely against the backrest of his chair with his hands folded politely in front of him. He gave one stiff, formal nod as he spoke, “Edgar.”

No one moved…no one said a word. Emeric, Edgar realized with unease, failed to pass his shot up to him, as was customary. The bar waited in purgatorial silence until a jarring sound brought Edgar’s head around to the right, where a chair at the end of their table had been pulled out with a long, grating screech. Falling into it with a graceless but refreshingly characteristic plop, was Alex.

That was it for Edgar. His breath left him like a freight train making up for lost time, and he stood stuttering meekly. Edgar had known only Duncan longer than Alex, having met the latter in his first year of university. Together, the three of them had partied and grown; they’d learned life lessons, and shared things that were…unsharable.

Everything changed after university, however. As Edgar applied himself to music and worked his way into an industry that was every bit as nepotistic and elitist as he’d imagined, Duncan had lied, stolen, and even studied his way into the ranks of a prestigious law firm. Emeric had taken up a professorship at the very university they’d all studied at, and Jake, never having chosen a major, dropped out once his friends finished their tenures, but managed to finance his nights out with Edgar by taking up construction.

Meanwhile, Alex began to drift. An inspired painter and lover of wine, women and whimsy, Alex shared just about every characteristic of Edgar’s save for the latter’s respectable preference for hard liquor; that and his drive for success. While every bit as talented—even Edgar would admit that, albeit only to himself—Alex was interested only in the moment. He’d simply travelled about, never applying himself to any long-term goals.

The thing that really bothered Edgar however—and never more than this moment—was what Alex did when he’d finally come back to reunite with his old friends years later. It wasn’t that they’d ever lost touch—social media made that almost impossible—it was just that they had so much proper catching up to do. So when Alex ended up wrapping his jalopy around a tree after their first night out drinking and being carried away on a covered stretcher, it had put almost as much of a damper on the festivities as his sitting down at the table just now.

“Fuck,” said Edgar. Emeric smiled up at him, his pale hand extending a shot.

“Time to get drinking boy!” bellowed Jake, as he waved, and half-spilled, a shot under the nose of the eponymous lamenting scholar.

Duncan smiled with quiet repose.

“Good to see you, buddy.” Alex looked up with unabashed sincerity—he’d never lost that shit-eating clarity usually reserved for children and lunatics.

“But you’re…” The words stuck in Edgar’s throat, but his table seemed to care little for the immediate completion of clauses, and followed instead after Duncan’s example, watching with good-natured patience. “…Dead,” Edgar finally finished.

“Yeah,” Alex agreed, shrugging his shoulders as if to indicate that it was every bit the bummer Edgar seemed to imply.

“…And so am I.” Edgar needed no conductor to follow this train to its destination.

“Yeah!” Jake hollered with the drunken enthusiasm of a freshman at a strip club.

Emeric shook his head. Then, realizing the obfuscating nature of his gesture, nodded to Edgar in an exaggerated arc, blushed, and stared back down at the table.

“Afraid so, my friend,” Duncan chimed in, his calm voice chiding, “you really fucked up this time.”

“Thanks,” Edgar mumbled.

“Now don’t mope about it. It’ll happen to us all eventually.” While sincere communication was nearly a foreign language to Duncan, he did mean well on occasion.

“Happened to that asshole long ago,” Jake declared, thrusting a meaty hand towards Alex, and spilling the majority of his shot in the process.

Alex offered only a comical shrug and an exaggerated pout.

“Sorry about him,” consoled Emeric.

“Let’s move on from all this unpleasantness, Mr. Vincent. Here we are after all, together again!” said Duncan.

“Don’t call me that!” Edgar snapped.

“Sorry Eds, didn’t mean to ruin your afterlife.” The self-assured smile on Duncan’s face had been custom-designed long ago to raise Edgar’s ire. It worked without fail.

“Drink, you losers!” Jake hoisted his near-empty shot glass into the air.

“The man is crass…but he isn’t wrong,” Duncan admitted, holding up his shot in turn.

With a gentle clink and a uniform motion, the five reunited friends tossed the liquor down their throats. Jake scowled darkly into his empty shot glass—seeming to suspect it of being withholding—as Edgar took the chair beside Emeric. His attention lingered briefly on a final empty seat near the wall beside him, an unbidden question playing through his mind before being forced out by another.

“Holy shit…” The consideration only struck him that very moment, “…Are you guys all dead too? What the hell happened to us?”

“Afraid not, mon frère, you’re on this journey alone.” While he enjoyed toying with Edgar, Duncan’s intentions were beyond dispute. He could always be counted on to tell Edgar what he really needed to hear, and—to Edgar’s endless frustration—to remind him of things he would sooner forget.

“He is!” Jake’s finger shot across the table again, sloppily jabbing Alex in the eye and eliciting a yelp.

“Watch it dude! I’m dead, that doesn’t mean I don’t feel.” Alex rubbed his eye as Jake nodded proudly.

“If you’re not dead, how are you here?” Edgar demanded. “And how did both Alex and I make it to heaven for fuck’s sake?”

“Maybe this is actually hell!” Jake leaned forward as he spoke, placing his palms flat on the table as his eyes turned to saucers.

“Oh wow,” Alex said with a chuckle, but no one at the table was willing to bite onto Jake’s attempted epiphany.

Edgar grimaced over at Jake, who only lowered his eyes in an ill-fitting display of humility. “Now that that’s out of the way, can we focus on the guy who just fucking died for a second? Explain to me how you guys are here.”

Gulping uncouthly from his wine, Alex leaned over and placed a small hand on Edgar’s forearm, “What would heaven be without friends, buddy?”

“You I can understand, but what about the living ones?”

“Alex might not be wrong.” The tips of Emeric’s forefingers circled his temples as he spoke, and were soon lost in the coarse red wire of his hair. “It wouldn’t be very heavenly if you had to sit around just waiting for everyone else to die.”

With a sudden motion, Jake’s hand flashed over in a wide arc and knocked the glasses from Emeric’s face with a loud crack. “This isn’t all about you Emmy, you selfish prick.”

Emeric stuttered self-consciously before reaching down to gather up his glasses. Jake searched the faces of his peers for affirmation of his good deed.

“That was thoughtless, Emeric,” Duncan agreed—the sarcasm in his voice readily apparent to everyone but its intended target. Jake beamed.

Edgar watched Duncan take a long sip from a glass of caramel coloured liquid…brandy, Edgar knew. At least one of my friends has class.

“I’m glad you shitheads are here,” Edgar admitted, “…and for this bar. Heaven isn’t half as bad as I’d have guessed…especially when I saw those ungodly obnoxious gates out there.”

“No doubt about it. I can hardly imagine how all those Christians can stand it,” said Duncan. This sent a gale of laughter around the table.

“I don’t suppose their heaven would be like this at all.” Emeric was dedicated to the quandary now, and seldom allowed himself to fall into the languid humour which Duncan and Edgar both loved so much.

“What is eschewed on Earth is denied beyond it…if I’d known that I would’ve been far less abstaining,” said Edgar.

“And here twice as soon,” came Duncan’s quick retort.

“How did I die anyway?” Edgar wondered aloud. “Do any of you remember anything?”

He was met with blank stares.

“What can I get for you, handsome?” The voice came from beside him, and turning, Edgar saw a stunningly beautiful server leaning in to take his order. Not the same one as before, it struck Edgar that this one might be even more unnervingly lovely. Heaven, he decided right then, would suit him well.

“Scotch,” he answered with a well-practiced smile. “Your very best,” he finished, after briefly considering the occasion’s special significance.

“Of course, sir.” The woman curtsied deeply before she turned; a trite gesture, but sufficient at least to allow Edgar a better view of heaven than he’d had up to that point.

Finishing his wine and glancing over his shoulder to ascertain the whereabouts of his next drink, Alex returned Edgar’s attention to more practical matters. “Can I bum a smoke from you?”

“Come on man, you don’t even have your own smokes in heaven?” Edgar rolled his eyes, but reached into his back pocket without any true resentment. Removing two from the pack, he handed one to his needy friend and lit the other for himself.

“I’m just going to go ahead and assume I can smoke in here.”

“Heaven ain’t so different after all,” Jake declared with a guffaw.

“I just ran out,” Alex grumbled defensively.

“I don’t run out anymore,” shared Edgar with a delighted smile. “It’s like a fresh pack every time I open it up here.”

“Well, you are in heaven,” Emeric spoke softly, the better to dull the redundancy of his input.

“And yet my friends remain beggars?” Edgar laughed aloud.

“You are the company you keep.” Jake smiled broadly, then poured the remainder of his beer down his gaping maw.

“I believe you’re thinking of ‘what you eat’.” Duncan spoke in an incredulous monotone.

“But I’m not even hungry.” Jake was confused.

“Jesus guys…I’m beginning to dislike heaven again. Is it like this for you too, Alex?” Edgar asked.

Alex twirled his empty wine-glass absently between two thin fingers. Finally catching his attention, Edgar was answered only by an uncertain gaze.

Emeric glanced about inquisitively, eagerly soaking up every clue he could as the waitress brought out Edgar’s drink.

“You’re as useless in heaven as you were on Earth, Alex.” Edgar spoke from the side of his mouth, skillfully managing to simultaneously sip at his scotch and take another drag from his cigarette. “This is fucking perfect. I’m dead, and I’ll never even know how I died.”

“Hey, I’m sure it’ll come back to you eventually.” Emeric set a comforting hand on Edgar’s arm.

“You know what the real kicker is? I was just about done writing the score for ‘BHI’!”

Duncan turned his attention to the bar as Emeric nodded sympathetically. Alex stared vacantly into his empty glass, while Jake drifted off—his lips wrestling with some unspoken debate. This continued as Edgar drank in silence. After some time, Jake’s struggle overpowered the apathy of his friends, and brought them all around to gape at him in dumbfounded awe as he continued opening and closing his mouth in exaggerated movements.

Ultimately, it was Duncan who broke the silence, “‘BHI’—it’s an acronym you fucking idiot, stop trying to sound it out.”

“‘Basic Human Indecency’. Don’t you remember the documentary Edgar was scoring?” Emeric always sought to play the peacemaker.

“Watch it Emmy,” Jake threatened. Edgar slumped down into his seat—his forehead finding a comfortable perch in the palm of his hand.

The table was quiet a moment, as each man considered what Edgar might need. “Don’t be so glum, my pitiful pupil.” Duncan reached over and gave Edgar a loving punch on the shoulder, then held up five fingers to the waitress behind the bar.

Looking up at the statue across from him, Edgar managed an ironic laugh. “Sorry guys, it’s just a bit much, you know. ‘BHI’ was going to be my master work. I was finally going to show those fuckers exactly why I’m the best. What my music would have done for that script—it was really poised to make an impact. The entire project will probably fall through now. Heaven…shit!”

Edgar lit himself another cigarette, intuitively passing one to Alex before being asked. No one spoke as the server brought out the requested round, placing them before each man in turn—Scotch, Beer, Brandy, Wine, Rum and Coke.

“How can a group as incompetent as all of you be here with me, if you’re also still alive?” The question straddled the line between simple rhetoric and pleading sincerity with painful uncertainty as Edgar finished his first scotch and moved on to the next.

Duncan only smiled. It was not a demeaning gesture, nor even mocking. He just smiled over at his friend, and allowed a moment to pass.

Edgar looked over to Emeric, who nodded reassuringly. He was seldom much help, but ever the most eager in the attempt.

Alex, as always, stared off in esoteric repose. “I imagine somewhere down there people are gathered around your body. How can you be there, and here as well?”

“Wait…” Jake leaned in, the furrow of his brow revealing the enormous exertion of his thoughts. “Am I dead too?”

Edgar had to laugh. It was hard not to love the dumb bastard. Jake was loud, obnoxious, and stupid as a brick. Yet of all Edgar’s friends, he was the most unflinchingly loyal. Like a giant dog with a mild learning disorder, his unabashed consistency had always been a great comfort to Edgar. “No,” he answered his friend, “I’m sure you’re just fine.”

“That might be going a bit far,” Alex interjected.

“You’ll get it all figured out soon, Eds.” Duncan rarely committed any statement to a single, candid meaning, and it was always a profound surprise to Edgar when he did. “And whatever happened for you to end up here, I’m sure it was sufficiently heinous to make us all proud of you.”

“Even more than the night with the ‘Slip-n-Slide’!” Alex spoke from deep within his wine-cup, his satisfaction with the reference evident in its giddy delivery. This sent another gale of hearty laughter around the table—even Edgar took part, despite a long eye-roll and fervent shake of his head.

“Thanks,” Edgar replied to Duncan after the laughter subsided. His voice came in a scratching rasp. “It’s all such a blur. I know it was Saturday night, and that I was drinking. I have a few brief patches of memory, more like feelings really…I remember being very unsure, then a sudden epiphany washing over me.

“What really puzzles me though is how I ended up in heaven with you guys. What could I have possibly done to merit an afterlife of friends and booze?”

“That’s a good question.” Duncan smiled as he spoke. “For you to make it to heaven, your final seconds must have been monumentally heroic.” Despite their shared penchant for what more refined men might consider depraved situations, Duncan looked at Edgar as a brother, and would never speak ill of him in earnest.

“What would I have possibly done though?” Edgar mused. “Could I have sacrificed myself for someone? That sure doesn’t sound like me. But still, heaven…something doesn’t add up.”

“You didn’t go to heaven.” Jake finished his beer with a mighty swig and hammered his empty mug down on the table. “You’re dead and that’s it, moron. Now you’re just living out your own fantasies—easy as that, you dumb motherfucker.”

Emeric was visibly aghast.

Alex giggled with what he hoped would pass for nervousness.

Duncan arched his thick eyebrows and attempted to conceal the keen curl working up the sides of his mouth.

The idiot has it right, Edgar knew.

“You die, and the first thing you do is come see us…” Jake trailed off breathlessly…slowly doubling over the table as he rattled the cups with his braying laughter. “I knew it,” he managed, before losing himself entirely.

In the bottom of Edgar’s glass, only a mouthful of scotch remained. Between his fingertips, the orange ember of his cigarette slowly approached the filter, and sitting about him were his closest friends and confidantes. They watched him in silence—Emeric with his nervous squirming, Alex with his detached stare, and Jake gazing obliviously around for recognition of his insight. Duncan simply waited with a faint smile, a sparkle in his eye betraying the excitement with which he anticipated Edgar’s response.

“Thanks guys, I needed this.” Edgar smiled, finishing the last of his scotch while snuffing his smoke out on the tabletop, leaving a long black streak.

“So what are you going to do now? You must have a lot to process.” Emeric sipped slowly from his Rum and Coke as he waited for an answer.

Edgar’s attention wandered about the room, slowly tracing its way over the curves of the servers. “Well,” he offered with a smirk, “if this place really holds anything I can dream up, I fear my time with you guys is done for now. I’ve seen the Golden Gate already, so that’s one tourist trap down. Now, I believe I’ll go see about some angels.”

Emeric shook his head as a gleeful giggle burst from Alex’s lips. Duncan nodded his knowing approval, while Jake continued laughing boisterously to himself. “Anything he could dream of…and he ends up at a table with four dudes…”

Edgar rose with conviction, a broad smile splitting his face across the center. Turning, he crossed the floor of the bar with a swagger, and passed through the heavy wooden door into the brilliant white glare outside. It wrapped about him like a blanket—a disorienting haze that was at once vivid and vague.

It made no difference; Edgar knew exactly where he was going…

 -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.