One thing I’ve observed in life is that people are quick to place blame. They forget that some things are just accidents or bad luck. In their zeal for justice, they will assign responsibility to people who are completely innocent. Even in cases wherein the accused were in fact a cause of the misfortune, objections that there was no reason for them to have known or acted differently fall on deaf ears. Honest mistakes are not allowed.
I once received a ball as a present and promptly brought it outside to play. My friend and I took turns kicking it up the driveway and letting it roll back down. We had little control over its exact arc, but no reason to be concerned of where it might fall. After a while, my friend kicked the ball and it landed just the right way on the top of a barbed-wire fence, where it deflated and hung. It was an obvious accident that could just as easily have been made by me and I knew that balls kept in the safety of my closet are no fun at all. I was more amused by the event than anything. However, in my experience most people in my position would have blamed my friend. Most people in my friend’s position would have blamed the one who put up the fence. Those with the means to do so might have sued.
Sometimes there is also some human negligence involved. I loaned my bicycle to a different friend of mine who rode it around the corner where he collided with another friend of mine on his bike. One of the gears bent and my bike never worked after that. It was clear he was not as careful as he could have been, but how careful should he have been and what percentage of the blame was really his? If he had immediately come to a complete stop upon seeing my other friend, he likely could have avoided the accident, but there was no way to know for certain that he couldn’t dodge or that the other couldn’t dodge (they both dodged in the same direction – into each other) and he had only a fraction of a second to decide. Who among us hasn’t made mistakes of this nature? How many times have I been distracted by a bird or bug and taken my eyes off the road for a second, but nothing happened because no one else was around? Stopping our bike or car every time there is the slightest question of safety would mean we would never drive anywhere at all. Merging into traffic would be very much impossible. There is a such thing as being too careful.
In any case, some of the blame was also on the one my friend collided with. Neither of them were as careful as they could have been going around that corner. Some of the blame could also be placed on the manufacturer. The gear should not have bent like that in such a low-speed collision (they were both going just over walking speed). I’ve had my bike fall over before at similar speeds and nothing happened, but this one time something did. Sometimes it’s just bad luck.
As children, it seems we understand this. We can tell the difference between accidents and genuine malice. Sometime along the way to adulthood, we learn that we can hire a lawyer to trick a judge/jury and win a lot of money. It’s like the lottery! To protect themselves, companies print warning labels that make us laugh. Some make us sign waivers we worry will protect them from even legitimate grievances. Restaurants salt steps that aren’t even icy and put up signs to warn of puddles. I’ve always thought that anyone unable to see the puddle is likely to also be unable to see the sign. They could trip over it. Among my peers it was considered proof that all adults were crazy.
Property owners become very protective of their borders. One guy in the neighborhood was terrified that children playing in his yard might get hurt and their parents sue, yet he had rented out the downstairs apartment to a family with children. What was he thinking? The church next door was terrified that some of their shrubbery might be damaged and also attempted to crack down on play – even though many of their members were children. Where were we supposed to play? In the middle of the street?
There is no life worth living that is safe. The only life free of change is called death. Everybody has different levels of tolerance and I do not wish to impose my way of life on anybody; I just wish they would stop imposing on me.
I visited Ryan Park off of Lafayette Road in North Kingstown, Rhode Island on March 24th, 2018 A.D. It consists of a broad dirt road running through an open field area in the middle with forest around the edges. The road gradually tapers to a trail as it approaches the southern entrance on Oak Hill Road. To the east is Belleville Pond, which can be seen through the leafless trees in the winter. The park is actually kind of boring, but I had myself with me and he’s very interesting. This is how the park looked through my weird Dan glasses:
I originally took the central path from north to south. Many narrow trails appearing to be bike trails entered the woods on either side. The topography was very hilly – very much unlike Florida. In fact, many of the tiny hills were a bit too steep to have happened naturally and I thought that a mighty civilization of humans must have once dwelled there. No sooner did I have this thought than I stumbled across a ditch full of large stones of roughly uniform size. The race of humans must have been sorters. What was it that had caused their demise?
Further along the trail, I continued to see signs of the artificial nature of the park. If only I knew what these signs portended I would have left immediately, but fool I was I assumed they were only signs of past human activities. There were odd piles here and there of neatly stacked stones, logs, or tires. What was their purpose? Were they territorial markers? Did they have religious significance?
Reaching the southern extreme of the park, I turned east towards the pond. At first, it seemed unapproachable, as a dense border of reeds and marshland surrounded it, but eventually one path brought me to a row of wooden beams sitting atop the mud, allowing me to walk right up to the water’s edge.
There was quite a web of paths running every which way, and if I could not see my way through the trunks made bare by winter, I could have easily been lost forever. It was in this area I saw the first shoots of spring rising from the land in hopeful expectation of the glorious seasons ahead. In addition to pitcher plants by the pond, there were short plants with black leaves. In other places, there were patches of green briars with formidable thorns.
Again heading north, I began to hear strange speech, but could see no one talking. The language was eerie, the words rather like the sounds of a duck or a frog, yet it had a certain human quality to the pattern of speech. I eventually traced the sound to a large puddle, at which point the sound abruptly stopped the moment I appeared. There was no one to be seen. I was quite familiar with this phenomenon from my time in Junior High School. It meant that the hidden speakers had been talking about me!
Further along the path, I came across a baseball cap draped over a fallen tree. Someone had lost it somehow – but why had they not turned back to pick it up? Were they in a hurry? Were they being chased? A short distance further I saw a single glove. Did it belong to the same person? Why were they losing their clothing? What had happened to them? Further along I saw an empty can of diet coke. Now I knew something was wrong. Nobody gives away soda for free. I saw now that this was a dangerous area where unsuspecting travelers might be chased by woodland fairies who would strip them of their clothing and take food right out of their mouths! At that moment I remembered the strange voices near the pond and realized I might already be a target. I would have to be on my guard.
Walking quickly, I crossed a stream and happened to look to the left. This is when I finally understood. A recent windstorm had knocked over the trees – but instead of uprooting, they had pulled up the carpet beneath them – exposing the true nature of the park beneath! This was no park at all! No wonder the trees did not have leaves! No wonder the topography was so strange! It was some demented fairy’s idea of what they thought a park was supposed to look like so that they could trick and trap unsuspecting explorers!
I instantly broke into a run, screaming like a baby. I did not even stop to take a picture and have no idea how it got into my phone. As I tore through the web of crisscrossing trails, I began to worry that I might never make it out alive. That is when I saw the signs. Branches laid against trees spelled the letter “Y.” It being a letter used only by humans, I thought it might be showing a way out of the woods. I also thought it could be a fairy trick just to toy with me and prolong my suffering, wearing me out before they closed in for the kill. I had little choice; I took a chance and followed the mysterious trail.
I followed the path as it ran along the top of a tall, narrow ridge, its artificiality blatantly obvious now. How could I have been so stupid? I passed around an unusually large patch of green briars and went near another pond. There I heard the fairies speaking even louder than before. They sounded angry and I took it as a sign I was headed in the right direction. I ran and ran past more of the signs. I still don’t know how the pictures got into my phone…
At last, I found myself at the parking lot where I had come in and scurried to the safety of my automobile. The fairies would not catch me that day, and I would never enter that trick park again.
Life is an adventure. Life is magical. I often find fun and intrigue in mundane things by using my creativity to imagine alternate explanations for everyday phenomena. Could what appear to be mere coincidences actually be proof of a plot to replace world leaders with alien clones? This is the most common way I come up with my science fiction stories. While there is nothing wrong with this, the real world is interesting too.
I often like to think of natural places as full of mysterious fields of energy that can be tapped into with the right knowledge to perform interesting shows. I’m not wrong! Natural places are full of gravity, magnetism, and electric gradients! Trillions of neutrinos pass through our bodies every second. Individual particles maintain spooky connections through quantum entanglement. Ripples in the electromagnetic field are all around us. Those with the right knowledge and equipment can send and receive radio waves to communicate long distances. Under the right circumstances, there can be spontaneous discharges called lightning. None of these phenomena are fully understood. Even so, does knowing how magic works make it any less magic?
I often like to think of normal rocks as having strange properties making them react with other substances in unexpected ways. Maybe they do! Chemistry is relatively well understood, but there is still room for surprises. Perhaps if mixed with just the right solution in just the right concentration at just the right temperature at just the right pressure something will happen that is not obvious.
I often like to think of the parks I explore as islands in a large sea. By using my magical powers/artifacts and standing in the right spot, I can grasp onto the mysterious currents of energy that will bring me through the air or water to the next island. This is almost what happens! I use a machine called a car to follow the roads. Some roads have higher speed limits than others, and they intersect each other in complex ways. Does being made of matter make the roads less interesting? Would my mysterious currents of energy be any less interesting if beings made of the same energy interacted with them as if they were solid? What is matter made of anyway? Does requiring stops for fuel to power my magical artifact make my car less interesting? Does the fact that the roads were built by a race of intelligent beings make them less interesting? Does the fact that off-road travel is also possible make the roads less interesting? Of course, in the real world we also have real islands and there are real ocean currents, not to mention the trade winds and the jet stream, so I don’t have to dream.
Other times I like to think of the parks I visit as whole planets. Does being small make the parks less interesting? Realistically, I don’t think I could ever stand to explore a whole planet. It would take too long before I got bored with it and wanted to move on. It would be too different from continent to continent to really get a feel for what it was like that made it different from other planets. Swamp planets and desert planets I understand. A single planet with deserts, swamps, jungles, tundra, oceans, plains, mountains, farms, and cities is just too much! It would take a lifetime to explore it! In order to hold knowledge in our finite minds, understand it, and enjoy it, it must be simplified by cleaning up the details that don’t fit our narrative. This is why I break the Earth down into manageable parks (and other places) with nothing in between as if they were planets separated by empty space.
I often like to think of trails as following mysterious flows of energy that prevent plant growth, but this is not too far from the truth either. I know that they are maintained by the actions of humans (and sometimes other animals), but does understanding how the phenomenon works make it any less interesting? Why were those paths chosen to begin with, anyway? Human psychology is still very mysterious.
What really causes fairy rings? No, they aren’t gateways to other worlds, but the world inside is different than the world outside. The world inside is dominated by a mysterious force called fungi, and nobody really knows how living cells function.
I also often like to think of animals as having a secret language of their own in which they exchange profound truths that we can’t understand. How do we know they don’t? We can never be sure of the full meaning another human brings to the same words that mean so much to us. Animal sounds could be much the same for them. Animals have senses and forms of knowledge we do not, trail scents and electrolocation being only some of the examples we are aware of. What about the examples we have yet to discover? What of the examples that animals deliberately keep secret from us? Could animals and angels be one and the same?
We already live in a fantasy world.
Related posts: Miracles Happen Every Day, Finding Adventure Close To Home, How To Find Interesting Things
Fun is the most important thing in the world. It may serve no purpose, but it is the purpose that all else serves. Why work if not to take care of the essentials in order to have more time for fun? Otherwise, you are only working in order to be able to continue to work, and that doesn’t sound very fun.
Why do people stop playing as they age? Do the games of childhood really stop being fun? Are they unable to compete for time with grown-up “games,” such as drinking or sex? Is it really more fun to sit on a couch watching others on a TV screen playing a game with a bunch of rules than it is to go outside yourself and make up the rules as you go along? Balderdash! Other people only stopped playing for the same reason I did; when we got older, people started to look at us weird.
If people wanted reality, they’d just look out their windows. People read fiction to escape. They don’t want to read about a character with exactly the same type of life they have. They want to read about characters facing challenges they will likely never have the opportunity to face. They want to read about discovering new lands, escaping danger, and conquering kingdoms. Fiction should be different from common reality – and the purest form of fiction is that which takes place on worlds which have never existed and features technologies likely to forever be impossible.
There are three types of people: workers, defenders, and artists. All three are important. No society can survive for long without the whole set. Workers keep us fed and keep the lights on. Without them the defenders and artists would starve. Defenders respond to special events such as fires, broken pipes, cancer, or war. Without them, the workers and artists would be killed. Artists build and create. Without them there would be no technological progress. Without them there would be nothing to defend or to work for. Without them there would be no entertainment and nothing to make work, defense, or life worth doing. Without them there would be no purpose to life except its own continuance.
It is said that idle hands are the devil’s workshop, but they can also be the workshop of heaven. The most creative ideas often come when we aren’t trying to come up with them. The greatest insights often come from outside the field of study they apply to. Sometimes taking a break can help you get more done in the long run.
Learning is inherently fun. Every kid knows this. The young of every mammal species are driven to learn. There is no need to “make learning fun” unless it was first unnecessarily made into a chore.
Under the American system of justice, the accused are assumed innocent until proven guilty. This is what a trial is for. This isn’t just a concoction of those that write the laws; it represents a fundamental component of logic. How else other than a trial can the truth be known? Unfortunately, it seems that most people are quick to judge – both those in the jury box and those at home. In many arenas of life, people have no concept of the burden of proof. It never ceases to amaze me the assumptions that people make without evidence, people who then insist it is up to me to prove them wrong. I am just as easily fooled as anyone else when tricked or lied to, but at least my starting point is to believe nothing.
If people required evidence before jumping to conclusions, racism would be impossible. People would understand that millions of members of a particular race being clearly inferior has no bearing on whether a particular individual of that race is inferior. All people are individuals first and are artificially assigned group status second. Are all men created equal? I don’t know, but no one has ever proven to me otherwise. Thus, I have no choice but to continue to treat them as such. Equality is the default. Since politicians are flesh-and-bone beings like ourselves, I cannot recognize that politicians know better how to run our lives than we do ourselves. The burden of proof is on them to show they know better and that we can not be trusted to run our own lives.
I have many political beliefs accumulated over the years from absorbing information from multiple sources, but ultimately my political philosophy is best summed up as saying I have no political philosophy. I’m not always against starting new government programs or passing new laws, but nor can I be for them unless I am given a reason to believe that the benefits outweigh the costs. This rarely happens. The burden of proof is on those introducing new measures, not on those holding to the status quo. This principle dictates that we should not start anything new until the idea has been fully vetted and shown to be necessary. Those wanting things to stay the same have no equivalent obligation to explain their position.
I question the utility of every measure not because I am a utilitarian but because that is what someone without a political philosophy would do. I question any changes to the status quo not because I am a conservative but because this is also what someone without a political philosophy would do. This is sometimes made complicated by the status quo being built up from past deviations from sound judgment, and on these issues there can be legitimate disagreement and dialogue, but this only applies to those changes which reduce the amount of established propositions. On those issues concerning the addition of new propositions, I cannot support them until I see the facts. This is not a matter of having a libertarian political philosophy; it is a matter of logic.
Libertarianism is the default.
I love truth. Rather, I love what I perceive to be the truth. While not all beautiful things are true, all truth is beautiful. When stated well it reaches its purest form. I will sometimes meditate on some precept for hours without getting bored. While I rarely read books twice, and I make an effort to seek out new ideas and viewpoints I do not share, sometimes I just enjoy the comfort of hearing someone else speak my exact thoughts.
I recently read On Liberty, by John Stuart Mill, published in 1859. To summarize, he argues that opinions are private possessions – not fit things for control by society, whether by government coercion or peer pressure. As an extension of this, the expression of opinion should also be free. Towards the end, as an extension of this free expression, he argues for all manner of private activities to be free. He carefully parses purely private activities from those that do involve society at large and gives examples where liberty can be misapplied, answering every possible objection. He uses big words and very long sentences, yet his writing is understandable and beautiful. Check it out for yourself:
“If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. Were an opinion a personal possession of no value except to the owner; if to be obstructed in the enjoyment of it were simply a private injury, it would make some difference whether the injury was inflicted only on a few persons or on many. But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.” – John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
“But neither one person, nor any number of persons, is warranted in saying to any human creature of ripe years, that he shall not do with his life for his own benefit what he chooses to do with it. He is the person most interested in his well-being: the interest which any other person, except in cases of strong personal attachment, can have in it, is trifling, compared with that which he himself has; the interest which society has in him individually (except as to his conduct to others) is fractional, and altogether indirect: while, with respect to his own feelings and circumstances, the most ordinary man or woman has means of knowledge immeasurably surpassing those that can be possessed by anyone else. The interference of society to overrule his judgment and purposes in what only regards himself, must be grounded on general presumptions; which may be altogether wrong, and even if right, are as likely as not to be misapplied to individual cases, by persons no better acquainted with the circumstances of such cases than those are who look at them merely from without.” – John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
“If the roads, the railways, the banks, the insurance offices, the great joint-stock companies, the universities, and the public charities, were all of them branches of the government; if, in addition, the municipal corporations and local boards, with all that now devolves on them, became departments of the central administration; if the employes of all these different enterprises were appointed and paid by the government, and looked to the government for every rise in life; not all the freedom of the press and popular constitution of the legislature would make this or any other country free otherwise than in name.” – John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
Unlike most people, I love being corrected. I always have. This is because I am head-over-heels in love with truth. I want to know things. I don’t want to believe in falsehoods and I don’t care who gets the credit for discovery. I only care that the facts get out. It not only bothers me when people disrespect truth, but when other people are actually hurt by their ill-informed actions. Those in positions of authority (whether parents, teachers, employers, or government officials) are especially problematic. They hurt me, they hurt others, and most importantly, they offend my beloved facts and logic.
If I ask questions, it is not to make you look foolish; it is so I can learn and understand. I don’t mind questions. If I interject some random fact into conversation, it is not to show off; it is to educate, entertain, and better everyone involved (including myself). I don’t mind hearing interesting news. If I call out your lies, it is not to hurt you; it is only to defend those you hope to take advantage of. I hope that others would defend me in the same way.
While I have many opinions of which I am sure, there are many more things on which I merely lean one way or the other, and many more things on which I have no opinion at all. My lack of commitment to one school of thought or another is neither a rejection of that school, nor is it submission to a rival school. It simply means I do not know. I am perfectly happy to have a mystery still unsolved. I would rather not know than “know” the wrong thing. I am forever learning.
All truth is the same truth. Good science will agree with good religion and vice versa. Each is a different path to the same thing. So it is with philosophy and math. All form a single, coherent world. I do not compartmentalize contradictory worldviews. Not everything can be true. Just as science can tell us how a dandelion “works,” science is also a perfectly legitimate way to understand how God works. Theology is the dissection and measurement of the spiritual world.
I am not a mindless follower of others. I do not join groups first and then adopt their positions as my own second. I arrive at my own conclusions first, and rarely, if ever, get around to joining a group at all. The reputations of those who agree (or disagree) with me mean nothing.
I love debate. What better way is there to test the truth of some idea than run it by another person who tries to shoot it down? Debate is first a fact-finding exercise, and only an opportunity to look smart a distant second. I’ve never denied having an ego, but where the truth is concerned, it is the farthest thing from my mind. I never defend “my” position; I defend the “right” one. If I am ever wrong, the best way to defeat me is with facts. I don’t think you’re wrong because I disagree with you, I disagree with you because you’re wrong.
When I observe others debating some issue, I might not always know all the underlying facts or the educational credentials of the speakers, but I can always recognize unsound reasoning when I hear it. It matters not who is loudest or who was the better actor in pretending to believe their claims. By seeking out and listening to every side of every issue, I learn which set of foundational facts everyone agrees on and then discard any conclusion that does not follow from the facts. This way, while I cannot tell when someone lies outright, I can spot half-truths and spin miles away.
I am often called arrogant or argumentative and it happens at the most surprising times. All I want to do is learn and I sometimes assume that others want the same. This gets me into a lot of trouble. I am told that I always think I’m right by people who also always think they are right. The irony is lost on them. Really, I just want to see the truth prevail.
Hopefully this clears up some misconceptions.
My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.