Sometimes I feel like there is nowhere left on Earth to discover. The days of Columbus and Magellan are over. Satellites photograph every square meter. The ocean floor might not be fully mapped, but from what is already known it is not likely to have much that is exceptionally interesting. It is also too hostile an environment for me to really enjoy myself there. This is when I remind myself that:
It also bothers me that so many areas are restricted – whether by government or by private entities. I figure everyone is entitled keep me from their backyard, but when hundreds of acres of wilderness are marked with no-trespassing signs, there is a severe problem. What purpose do I have on this Earth if not to explore? How can I explore when so much land was stolen away from me before I was even born?
Some areas are closed for ecological reasons, but they are only closed to humans – not other animals. This is discrimination! Some areas are open to the public but only for a fee. You have to pay to camp, dock, or even park your car! More and more humans are dumped into smaller and smaller spaces together but sometimes I just need to get away from people to relax and recharge. State parks are great places, but they often have rules against firearms, hunting, collecting, campfires, walking off trail, and alcohol. I wish I didn’t have to deal with people and their rules. Columbus and Magellan just went where they pleased. This is when I remind myself that:
Please read this and tell me what you think
It seems that society these days is quick to assign psychological labels to those that do not fit in. They are told they have ADD, OCD, homosexuality, bipolar disorder, or autism. Often, those with social difficulties self-diagnose without ever seeing a health care professional. Sometimes those so labeled receive tolerance and patience from others for their harmful, anti-social behaviors that they would otherwise never receive if they claimed to be normal. Other times those so labeled find their very legitimate observations and concerns rejected for being nothing more than manifestations of their addled brains. A busybody control freak and bully may excuse her behavior by claiming to suffer from OCD while at the same time a “normal” employee who finds it impossible to do his job when others keep moving supplies on him might be told to get over his OCD and stop complaining. Who gets labeled is often arbitrary and subject to confirmation bias. Those considered normal can have an “off day” that is quickly forgotten, but those considered abnormal have to carefully watch everything they do so as not to confirm what people already think of them. Once one has a reputation, there is usually nothing one can ever do to change it. These are my observations.
In Dunbarton Elementary School (circa 1988-1991) I had absolutely no inkling whatsoever that I was not completely normal as perceived by my peers. I was popular and it was others that my friends made fun of. Then I moved. In North Londonderry Elementary School (circa 1991-1992) the other kids rejected me first, before I ever had the chance to do anything stupid. I was ruthlessly made fun of. I moved again. In Highland Goffes Falls Elementary School (circa 1992-1994) I was mostly shunned. From then on I was gradually more accepted, but never again really connected with anyone at school.
So far my story is not unusual. Many people are picked on for being different, whether for a physical disability, an accent, dressing differently, wearing glasses, or even for being a twin. I understood the pecking order and that what constituted good fashion was based on circular reasoning. Those at the top set fashion so that anything they did became the new cool, while those at the bottom defined uncool no matter how well they copied those at the top. Since leaving school, I have heard the existence of this phenomenon corroborated by others. I have also heard from others that sometimes bullies pick on the uncool kids so that they will not be picked on by still higher bullies. The entire pecking order gives the schoolyard social cohesion and somebody has to be on the bottom. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are different, let alone that something is wrong with them.
In my case, my peers seemed to resent my intelligence. In Dunbarton, kids were naturally curious and tried to learn as much as possible. In Londonderry, kids hated knowledge and acted dumber than they were in order to fit in (this has been corroborated by someone who went there at the same time I did). That I was socially isolated meant that it took longer for me to learn new slang and to learn how to behave my age. It was not because of anything different about me, but only because of the behaviors of others that I didn’t always know what was common knowledge. It amused kids to ask me trick questions so I would unknowingly answer with innuendos. They had incentive to keep me uninformed.
In 1998, I began working at McDonald’s and this is where I quickly became popular again. Everyone else was like me and I had no inkling whatsoever that I was in any way less than perfectly normal. By the time I graduated high school in 2000, I was accepted as completely normal and my knowledge of slang and social norms had caught up with everyone else. I thought my trouble days were behind me forever.
This is where things began to get weird. In 2006 I began working at The Saint Anselm College Coffee Shop. Right away, I was categorized and labeled as something I wasn’t. I was told I was a whiner, a complainer, argumentative, crabby, clumsy, insensitive, hyper-religious, anti-sexual, indecisive, long-winded, and more. Others told me that I often misunderstood them, yet in every incident I was able to show it was in fact they that had misunderstood me – including when they failed to understand that I already understood them perfectly.
The nature of language is such that misunderstandings are inevitable, but there is a qualitative difference between my misunderstandings 1982-2006 and my misunderstandings 2007-present. In the past, misunderstandings were immediately recognized and cleared up. Whoever recognized first that there was a misunderstanding knew just what additional information was necessary to clarify. Since 2007, misunderstandings persist and there is no effort by anyone other than myself to reword things or ask questions. Other people simply repeat themselves louder and louder. It is the same whether I have misunderstood, or they have.
It was soon after these difficulties began that my father first suggested I had Aspberger’s. His supposed evidence was simply that I had had social troubles most of my life and that it took me a while to learn the social norms. Soon, others corroborated his sentiments. I had a hard time swallowing this. I thought that my past troubles had already been adequately explained in social terms rather than psychological ones. I know I don’t always know all the slang about sex and drugs, but that is partly because for a while I had no friends my age and partly because my parents never had the money to pay for cable television and would not have allowed me to watch “those” types of shows anyways. It’s not because I’m neurologically different; I’ve simply had different experiences. If there was anything wrong with me, how was it that I got along so well with others 1982-1991 and 1998-2006? Even since 2007, I have not had the same problems everywhere as if the problems are with me. Instead, I have one set of problems with some people and another set of problems with other people.
In any case, I didn’t believe I fit the symptoms profile very well at all. I’m not unusually sensitive to touch or sound. I know I am well within the normal range. If I have Aspberger’s syndrome, so does at least half the population. There were other problems with my father’s unofficial diagnosis, too. Many of my disputes with others center on a difference of philosophy. If I were to admit that these differences were nothing more than a neurophysiological abnormality on my part, this would allow others to dismiss my very legitimate grievances and observations. Should I turn my back on what I know to be the truth just to get along?
A Matter Of Philosophy:
People do not always get my jokes and I do not always get theirs, but this is not because I have Aspberger’s; it’s because many people are stupid. Whether there is enough information given or not to solve an equation without having to draw upon external sources is a matter of mathematical certainty. No form of thinking can ever give a single value for Y when the only information given is X+Y=67 and no form of thinking can ever fail to give a single value for Y when I explicitly tell you that Y equals only 25 and nothing else. In the same way, whether there is enough information given or not to understand a joke (or anything else for that matter) without having to draw on additional cultural knowledge is also a matter of mathematical certainty. That many people don’t get my jokes even after I explain them and I don’t get many jokes even after they have been explained only proves that many people are stupid, not that I think differently.
People tell me that I miss details that others notice and that this is a symptom of Aspberger’s. While anyone can sometimes miss a detail that others see, I will at least as often pick up on details that others miss (this blog is an ongoing example). The truth is that everyone has different interests and they notice and remember those details that most interest them. Everyone is different. A marketer and a professional cook are going to notice different things at a restaurant. Of course, it would be a problem if someone missed something important to the basic essence of something, but what the basic essence is and what is and isn’t important are matters of philosophy. Because I am so well-read, I see the world differently than the average person and I pick up on different things. Is it now considered a brain disorder to be educated?
People tell me that I am physically clumsy and socially awkward and that both of these are symptoms of Aspberger’s. I don’t believe I am or that I am even different, but isn’t gracefulness and awkwardness in the eye of the beholder anyway? Does there exist an objective way to measure it? We all have different tastes when it comes to beauty. We all have different philosophies of friendship and romance. Is one person’s opinion worth more than another’s? Most say no, but when it comes to my aesthetic values, I am told they are somehow wrong. I am told that valuing playtime and holding on to some aspects of childhood are signs of Aspberger’s. I am told that wanting a few close friends rather than many acquaintances is a symptom of Aspberger’s. I am told that having friends much younger or much older than me is a symptom of Aspberger’s. I am told that valuing creativity makes me weird. Even though I do not avoid eye contact any more than the average person, some people tell me I do and tell me that this is also a symptom of Aspberger’s. Even if that were true, what is wrong with that? My first crush avoided eye contact with everyone and I found it very cute. To suggest that such a thing is somehow undesirable I find extremely offensive for her sake.
I am told that I do not understand analogy, metaphor, symbolism, allegory, humor, or irony and that these are also symptoms of Aspberger’s. I believe that not only do I understand these things, but that I am a master of them. I’m a writer! They are my passion! When I fail to understand someone’s analogies it is because they have delivered them poorly, do not understand well what it is they are trying to explain, or do not understand analogies. More often, it is others that do not understand my analogies, though I know them to be good. Is there an objective standard to settle these disputes or is it simply a matter of philosophy?
I’ve also been accused of having only a few, narrow interests (another supposed symptom of Aspberger’s). I’ve never had much interest in sports, but I do enjoy math, physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, sociology, economics, history, and political science. In other words, I am interested in literally everything in the universe. How can I have narrow interests? I am told that science is a tiny part of the world and the subject of sports covers a wide array of things. There are many types of sports. What I consider one subject they consider several and what I consider several they consider one. Which one of us has narrower interests? Is there an objective taxonomy or is it all a matter of philosophy?
Some of my disputes with others turn on disagreements over ethics and morality. Wanting to get along, I generally conform myself to the cultural norms, but some norms are in dispute, norms change all the time, and some norms need to be changed. Should I stop doing what I know is right just because others think it wrong? Should I start accepting it when others are rude to me just because they think it is right? Are all morals and ethics just manifestations of our different brains, or do we sense a real Platonic realm of absolute truth? For that matter, did Plato have Aspberger’s?
I See More:
Some misunderstandings are because I see more, not less, than the average person. Because I see more than the average person, I am fully aware that the cultural norms are in constant flux and there is much disagreement on them. Because others are too dull to understand this and only know of the tiny little world they live in, they assume that I do not know the norms. Eye contact protocols are a very good example of this. I am aware that different cultures and different venues have different standards. If I settle on only one norm standard and take sides, which group should I alienate?
When taking a psychological evaluation or political survey, I can see that the questions are poorly worded so as to have multiple interpretations. In fact, it is a known phenomenon that political pollsters will ask questions a particular way in order to get the results they want to report. Sometimes when someone makes a statement, I have to ask questions to narrow down their meaning. Other people simply jump to conclusions without even seeing the other possibilities. This is one reason why the world is so screwed up. I see such miscommunication everywhere. Should I help to make things worse just to fit in?
In conversation, I normally have enough context to know what sort of information someone is looking for that allows me to correctly interpret their questions. Surveys are different. Questions are completely out-of-the-blue. Which of these things is not like the other? Which of these things doesn’t belong?
Sometimes I hold back judgment on purpose. When people begin to get angry with me, I don’t like to make assumptions why they are angry. For one thing, this can prevent me from learning what the real problem is and I know from experience how infuriating it is not to be listened to. For another thing, I don’t want to make the problem worse by insulting their intelligence, assuming they are only upset because they have made a stupid assumption themselves. This is usually the only reason I can think of for their anger (and I often turn out to be right – though not always). I like to give people enough rope to hang themselves so they cannot blame me. I also prefer to think the best of others as long as possible. Unfortunately, because I do not show I instantly understand someone’s problem, this only makes them angrier and it makes people assume I have trouble understanding others. I have read that extreme fear or anger can disrupt our ability to connect with others and make us “temporarily autistic.” Since I am always the last person to get upset in any conflict, I have strong reason to believe that the problem lies not with me.
I have noticed that the average neurotypical person is highly insensitive to the psychoemotional states of others, even when they sometimes have the same problems. Everyone is full of themselves. In contrast, I know people very well. I can put myself in their shoes. While I don’t believe I have any of the conditions myself, I believe I partly understand those with introversion, extroversion, Aspberger’s, autism, ADD, OCD, and bipolar disorder. I understand making sounds or movements to establish a sensory baseline and cancel extraneous signals. Everybody needs this to a small degree. Those with autism simply need to do it more. This phenomenon is what sensory deprivation tanks and acupuncture are based on. I understand that when others are angry it is not the time to confront them about it. I can tell when introverts are getting bored, annoyed, and fatigued with me, yet extreme extroverts seem to be oblivious to these clear signals. The average person cannot understand anyone even slightly different. This is the source of racism, xenophobia, and homophobia. This is why liberals and conservatives don’t get along. Should I become intolerant of others just to fit in?
From time to time I will read an article or book about Aspberger’s, communication, or emotional intelligence and I will always be struck at how well I am already following the author’s advice far better than anyone I have ever met. I have by far the highest emotional intelligence of anyone I know. I am absolutely certain of this. If you fail to see this, that only means you are too emotionally unintelligent to recognize it. That’s all there is to it.
I have said before that Aspberger’s is the new drapetomania. In nineteenth century America, it was said that some slaves had an irrational compulsion to run away. Rather than recognize that slaves were human beings with a common human yearning for freedom that anyone in their place would feel, they were said to have a psychological condition needing treatment called drapetomania. In the same way, much of what is said to be Aspberger’s is just the manifestation of healthy individuals trying to adjust to a sick society.
Us And Them:
My experience compelled me to study up more on what Aspberger’s was. It has many associated traits. Having few interests, being picky, and having sensitivity to touch are all supposed symptoms, but why were these attributes grouped together to represent what it means to have Aspberger’s? Why include physical clumsiness, avoiding eye contact, and the inability to learn and follow the norms? Why not define another disorder to include those very graceful and not at all picky, but still avoiding eye contact? What would those people have? The symptoms of Aspberger’s are not related to each other!
Basketball players tend to be taller than average, faster than average, and more coordinated than average. This makes them stand out as different – or at least it would if people paid attention to such things they way they do to symptoms of Aspberger’s syndrome. Why is Jordanitus not an equally valid neurophysiological disorder? For that matter, why not group together first language, hair color, and body-mass index? Everyone is different in some way.
There are so many thousands of attributes that people have that to be within the normal range on each and every one of them is itself abnormal. It is abnormal to be normal! Calling someone abnormal says more about us and which attributes we consider important than it does about those we label. What attributes must someone deviate in to be considered abnormal? Who stands out more in a group of Christian octogenarians? The only Jew or the only teenager? Who stands out more in a group of Arab women? The only Irish woman or the only male? It is all arbitrary!
I firmly believe that Aspberger’s syndrome is a completely arbitrary, gerrymandered designation. No one has Aspberger’s syndrome because Aspberger’s syndrome does not exist.
Those are my thoughts on the subject. I hope it helps more people than it hurts. Obviously there are some people who have some sort of problem and need help, but I don’t believe that calling it Aspberger’s makes sense. At least this is the way I see it. Tell me what you think and if you have had any similar experiences with labeling. What do people say about you?
Have you ever read a comic strip and been confused what was going on? Alex Norris makes comics where everything is labeled so you will never have that problem again, breaking life down into its simplest. Characters do actions with things that lead to results. It is a comic that anyone who does actions with things can relate to.
Sometimes treasures are hard to find. That is especially the case with Jay B. Starkey Park. It was an epic of frustration trying to find the place this March – a gem only the bravest and most patient of heroes could ever hope to capture.
The first problem getting there was that it's in an area far away from any major roads. Route 75 passes nowhere near it. I couldn’t even find any unpaved back roads that would lead me right to it. This left me with two options: I could first go south several miles, take the Skyway Bridge north to 19, and then take 19 all the way north up the peninsula to Ridge Road or I could instead take 75 north to Route 4, cross busy Tampa, take 275 south, attempt to cross several lanes at the knot of mangled roadways next to the airport, and then take 589 North and hope that a sign would tell me what exit to take since I could find none on my map. Since Pinellas Peninsula is always choked with traffic everywhere and Route 19 is dotted with numerous traffic lights, I chose the second option.
Just as I took the ramp onto 589 I saw that it was a toll road. This was not indicated on any map! Due to the uncertainty of knowing whether there was an exit leading to the east side of the park, I quickly got onto Route 60 and crossed the bay to take 19 instead. I didn't want to have to turn around and pay the toll multiple times trying to figure out where to get off.
That day Route 60 was even more crowded than usual. I was trapped in mind-bogglingly slow stop-and-just-stop traffic that ended up tiring me out. By the time I got to 19 I was exhausted and 19 was similarly slow. I eventually had to stop for lunch instead of eating at the park as originally planned and this delayed me even further. Finally after what seemed like days I reached Ridge Road and then Decubellis road to the west side of the park. The park demons had done their best to defeat me but I was determined to have the treasure for myself! I looked around for a sign.
At last I finally saw a sign for Jay B. Starkey Park. It pointed directly at a driveway to the left of the street where there was an open gate. Someone was just leaving. Behind this was some sort of building I took for a ranger station. I had found the park at last! Entering the driveway, I then saw the signs prohibiting trespassing, solicitation, and warning me I was being watched. This was a private residence! A private residence that looked like a ranger station complete with a park gate! The park demons had tricked me. I had been delayed even further. I was tempted to knock and ask for directions, but instead I turned around and decided to drive further down Decubellis.
I thought that the sign might refer not to the driveway but to the street at the very next traffic light so I took a left there. I drove along looking for a second sign to indicate the park. Finally I saw one but this sign pointed directly at an obvious residential neighborhood. I was on to the demons’ tricks by now; I knew it must refer to the very next street. I kept going. There never was another street. I drove and drove and finally decided that I must've been tricked again and the park was indeed hidden behind the residential neighborhood. I’m sure they must love park goers driving through there all the time (sarcasm). Unfortunately there was nowhere to turn around. I was stuck on a narrow, two-lane road with no breakdown lanes. High curbs prevented me from pulling onto the grass. Traffic both ways prevented me from stopping. I must have driven for three miles before finally stopping in a turning lane next to a gated community. This was where I was finally able to make a U-turn and go back the way I came. The demons would not keep me away forever!
The park entrance was indeed in the back of the residential neighborhood. Entering the park I saw nowhere to pick up maps and there was no one around to ask. That’s okay; surprise is part of the fun. I saw an ominous sign that said “hikers be prepared no water on hiking trails.” My first thought was that law prohibited carrying water bottles with you while hiking. Perhaps too many people had left behind their litter and ruined it for the rest of us. I once visited a restaurant on a beach in a different county where straws and lids were prohibited by county law due to the litter problem. I had to drink my soda awkwardly with ice cubes hitting my face until I was ready to bring back the guillotine. Could that be happening here as well? The park demons were trying to provoke me. I eventually decided that interpretation unlikely and my second thought was that I was being warned that the trails were dry and that there were no streams or mud puddles. In the past I have been warned of wet areas and I know some people enjoy water, so I thought the sign was a way of warning them not to get their hopes up. I eventually decided that interpretation even more unlikely and my third thought was that I was being warned not to expect water fountains or concession stands out in the middle of the woods. Since I have never heard of such a thing and only total fools would expect such a thing, I decided that interpretation the most unlikely of all. What’s next? ATMs out in the middle of the woods?
Now worried that I would be arrested if seen carrying water with me, I drove around looking for a trailhead. Eventually I stopped in a parking lot with a sign that said “trail parking.” The first trail I took simply went from one parking lot to the other. I had made a horseshoe turn driving in and the only trails leading from my lot simply cut across the woods to the road I had entered in on. The space between the roads was a web of interwoven paths. There was also a playground. Was this all there was?
On the north side of the road there were additional trails, but these turned out to be even more frustrating. They would go perhaps 30 or 60 feet into the woods before abruptly ending. Some of them were so unclear they may have been animal trails. Others terminated in clearings containing picnic tables. Others simply looped right back to the road. I went down one after the other. I was becoming increasingly frustrated and thinking the park was a complete waste of my time. Finally I found one trail that ran alongside the road for a long ways without going deeper into the woods. I was very disappointed. The demons had won.
Just as I was thinking of going back to the car to sit and read I found another trailhead that lead deep into the woods towards the south. This area looked promising. I followed the trail deeper and deeper into the woods until I was distracted by a side trail – possibly an animal trail – that led me to a paved trail in turn leading me to a paved road. There was a sign promising a scale model of the solar system a mile long. One sign represented the sun. It was followed by Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and way off in the distance was Jupiter. Across this road is where I picked up yet another dirt trail and then discovered paradise. I had found the treasure at last!
This is quite possibly the best park I have ever been to in Florida. It is my new favorite. The weather was amazing! It was just the right temperature and there was an intermittent breeze. There were stunningly beautiful zones of thin trees that let in much sunlight. In other places the brush was thicker, creating semi-secluded areas. The ground was soft and covered in crushed pine needles in most places. One spot to the side of the trail had pine needles piled up so thick that they made a sort of crunchy mattress. There were also places of white sand. I could not help taking off my shirt and shoes. It was too nice a day not to. I had no choice. The best thing was that there were no flies at all. I saw a couple bees that day but that was it for insects.
I eventually went back the way I came before going down a side Trail. This led to yet another trail that had some brush growing across the entrance. Generally parks don't like you to go off trail much but this very clearly was a true trail. It merely had been a while since someone had checked on it to see if it needed maintenance. I walked in a ways and encountered another barrier. This was followed by another and another. Trees had fallen across the path in different places. The bushes were overgrown. I have heard that snakes sometimes hide in bushes and so I beat each one before pushing through.
Could there be more treasure beyond these barriers? A gem within the gem of a park that this clearly was? Each barrier was easily passable for me but I knew would deter the average hiker. I knew I would not be followed. I hoped that there would be a clearing deep in the woods that would make a nice secluded picnic spot that perhaps I could show to someone else one day. The terrain was such that I put my shoes back on, but the air was so nice that I took off my pants for a moment to let it wash over me. It was too nice a day not to. I had no choice. Unfortunately the barriers began to annoy me and I got dressed again. I eventually gave up without ever finding the end of the path or a good place to stop.
Returning the way I came I went down yet another side trail for a long ways and then returned by a wider, straighter, sandier trail where I had seen people biking before. It was only upon returning to the trailhead that at last I found some maps and realized that I had explored less than 5% of the park! I was extremely surprised. It had felt like I had been out there all day. I was also surprised to find that the trail where I had found the mattress of pine needles was much shorter than the last trail that I took. It had felt like it was the other way around. The trail with all the barriers was not on the map at all.
Another surprise was that the wide, straight, sandy trail where I had seen people biking was labeled as a hiking trail whereas the narrow twisting trails I had explored on foot were labeled as bike trails. This is completely backwards! Bikes go fast and might unexpectedly cross and spook an animal going around those turns. More importantly, who wants to walk in a straight line? The wide hiking trails are incredibly boring in the extreme. If that was all I was expected to walk on it would not have been worth the time to drive there; it would not have been worth it even if I lived next door. It would not have been worth the two dollars I paid to park there; I would have to be paid to show up. It would not be my favorite park in Florida; it would be my most hated park in Florida. Fortunately, unlike at Alafia River State Park, the signs had indicated that hikers were welcome on the bike trails. That’s a relief.
There were all sorts of oddities for me to photograph. There were many live oaks, reminding me of Crews Lake Wilderness Park. I saw a lot of “tree balls,” reminding me of Little Manatee River State Park. I saw a tree with four holes right through it. I also saw this giant lever in the middle of one trail, which I guess must be the switch they use to turn the forest off at night.
I also saw some lichen and some strange roots.
I saw two gopher tortoises and their burrows were everywhere, reminding me of Weedon Preserve, Honeymoon Island, and Alafia River Park combined. As usual, they were very bold. I also saw two armadillos. One ran from me into the bushes just like at Camp Bayou and the other walked right up to me as if I didn’t exist just like at Weedon Preserve. I also saw squirrels, a woodpecker, a bright green lizard, a bright white mushroom, and a small snake.
I came across two mysterious structures in the forest. Could this be where the park demons live?
Then there were these magical gems I found able to grant love, happiness, and…I guess stripes to whoever possesses them. Since I had already found all this by exploring the wilderness, I left them behind for the next hero daring enough to penetrate the moat of frustration surrounding this vast, amazing, and beautiful domain.
Now outside the park again, I again experienced bad luck and frustration. The park was closed for several weeks due to a massive fire. It must be cursed. While posting this story, my browser crashed after every second photo I loaded. Some of the photos uploaded upside-down and I was unable to correct them. If you can brave the terror around it, it's a great place to spend a day.
This is a poem I wrote in 2013. I imagine all of my poetry set to music, but I am rarely able to come up with my own tunes. This one I imagine to the tune of I’m On Fire by Bruce Springsteen.
Come on little girl
Just take my hand
I'll make you a woman
And I'll be your man
The honor's mine
Oh, I'm on the line
I'll show you things
In a brand-new light
I'll take you places
Make you high as a kite
The honor's mine
Oh, I'm on the line
I know you think
You're second best
But I know different
From the beating in my chest
Come on girl
Don't take your time
Oh, I'm on the line
Sometimes I feel
I'm stretched too thin
As the days run on
And on without end
I'm stretched so fine
Oh, I'm on the line
The honor's mine
Oh, I'm on the line
There is a new way to support people at Patreon.com. By signing up and agreeing to a small monthly charge, your money will help struggling artists, musicians, and writers pay their bills, buy art supplies, allow them to continue enriching the world, encouraging, inspiring, and entertaining us, and will allow them to in turn support others to also know the joy of giving. You can peruse the website for artists that fit your tastes or promote ideals you agree with. It’s not a hand-out because these people are working hard on their material. There are generally also some perks for those who join. Think of it as paying dues to a fan club.
Let me tell you about my blog, WayOutLife.com. I plan on taking a road trip and reporting my findings on the blog, along with photographs of what I see. Since life itself is an adventure, I will also post things I learn about life and love, products and people I discover, musings on physics and philosophy, and observations on ethics and spirituality. At times I may touch upon controversial subjects. I know I don’t have all the answers, but I like to make people really think and question their assumptions. I also post poetry.
I am doing this for several reasons. I want to show God’s greatness both as creator of the world and in the things he does on a continual basis in my life and in the lives of others. I want to foster in others an appreciation of natural places and return a sense of awe and adventure to life. I want to foster in others an appreciation of other people. Humans are amazing creatures able to produce art and humor and there will be much of both on the blog. Instead of passing judgment, I want to increase understanding of people and their activities. I also seek to be encouraging – not by commanding people to be hopeful when all seems lost or by simply presenting vague and hollow assurances – but by describing concrete examples of good in the world. I also seek to raise awareness and understanding of the world.
Above all, I strive to entertain. I do this not only on WayOutLife.com, but by writing novels of science fiction and fantasy. I am currently writing a trilogy about the salvation and redemption of a time-traveling explorer and hero who in the end learns to face his own limitations. It will probably take at least until the end of 2020 to finish. After that, I plan on writing about other characters who overcome other personality flaws and hopeless situations. I want to give people hope. I also manage a fictional biology blog at FloraAndFaunaOfTheUniverse.com and a blog highlighting local charities and businesses at LovesTampaBay.com.
Unfortunately, filling my gas tank and my belly can be expensive, State Parks often charge nominal fees, and the state of Florida requires that I have car insurance. This is why I need support. If I can convince just 250 people to give me just 5 dollars per month, I expect that I will be able to live comfortably. This is not a handout because I will be producing material for the blog for the enjoyment and betterment of all. I am also enriching the world by writing a novel and making drawings.
I have even thought of being a missionary of sorts – and missionaries are usually paid. I have never been skilled at bringing up spiritual subjects and I realize that those that need to hear them the most will only see them as distractions from what is really bothering them in the moment. I have also never been skilled at initiating contact with strangers and I realize that most people are very suspicious of those who are. I believe that God is perfectly capable of providing me people to talk with, but there are no assurances in life. I could be dead tomorrow – as could you. By supporting me, you are taking a risk along with me. I want to help people avoid some of the pain I went through in finding God, but how? The blog is a good start. I expect to move beyond it, but for now it is a good start.
Basically, if you like what I write on the blog – if it helps you or you think it will help others – support me on my Patreon page. I welcome you as part of the team. If you don’t find use in my posts, don’t support me. It means that God is calling you to spend your resources elsewhere.
When I grew up, stalking was synonymous with surveillance with harmful intent. If you observe someone for a while to know when they will be out of the house so you can burglarize it, you are stalking. If you observe someone for a while to know when they will be home alone so you can kill or rape them, you are stalking. Stalkers never revealed themselves on purpose; they remained hidden. Someone who walks right up to your front door and knocks is not a stalker. Today, those who call someone repeatedly without getting a response are said to be stalkers – even when their identity and location are known to the recipient. Today, I hear people reinterpreting as pro-stalking classic love songs that used to be universally understood as romantic. Perfectly healthy, normal observation of those we admire is now considered creepy.
There is even a phenomenon known as social-media-stalking. This is when people read your posts on social media to learn things about you – even if they have no harmful intent. This is absurd. Why else would anybody post something other than wanting it read? Social media began as a way to meet new people online you had never met in real life and so that one could gain a following with little advertising money. With twenty-first century technology, we are all potential celebrities should we want to be. Am I stalking celebrities when I read their magazine interviews and watch their television shows? Why should I be the only one disallowed from enjoying their publications just because they don’t want to hear from me? Only a complete fool expects that what they post publicly will not be seen. I even spoke with a lady once about something she had posted on Facebook and she thought it was creepy that I had read it – even though we worked together, talked about the subject all the time, and I was already Facebook friends with her boyfriend!!! The silliness!!!
I look up people online all the time. Sometimes this is to get in contact with them. I have been in situations where I just wasn’t sure whether my messages were even getting through. This has required me to research my target’s acquaintances to find other ways of getting in contact. I never meant any harm and I wasn’t hiding myself. We were friends. In the years before cell phones were ubiquitous, I even looked up old classmates in the phone book of all places. Was this stalking? If it is so bad to look up information on people, why do phone books exist?
I have even heard it suggested that keeping pictures of someone is stalking, but who doesn’t keep pictures of their kids or their parents? Even if they don’t speak to you anymore? Even if they are dead? What if it is all you have left to remember them by? It is no different if you were “merely” friends or romantic partners. If you ever truly love someone it is never over even when it is over. Because you love them you let them go, but that doesn’t mean you ever stop caring. If you don’t understand this, you have never really loved.
If you love someone, you like to keep updated on what they are doing with their lives. If they will not tell you themselves, there is nothing wrong with gleaning the information from other (legal) sources. These are dangerous times for all of us when the “victim” alone is able to decide whether they are being stalked or not.
Related to this issue is the phenomenon of harassment. Often, this is in the eye of the beholder. I have been told by more than one person that if one doesn’t receive an answer after the first phone call, then one must never ever ever ever make a second phone call. Anything beyond this is harassment. This seems to be an unreasonably extreme position. What is the harm in contact? Isn’t that just free speech? The recipient is always free to ignore.
What is one to do if they never receive confirmation that their message was received? I’m not saying that one is ever obligated to respond to unsolicited contact, but so long as they do not, the sender is certainly under no obligation to stop. If I am wrong on this, there are quite a few credit card companies that should be in big trouble right now.
I hate to bother people, and traditionally when someone didn’t return my first call I gave up on them, figuring that we were never really friends. In recent years I have been told by some of these people that they have busy, disorganized lives, bad memories, and a tendency to lose contact information. They tell me I have to keep calling. I have also been given advice when applying for jobs to keep calling until I get an answer one way or the other. The bible tells us to keep on asking and we will receive. Modern popular wisdom tells us that if at first we don’t succeed to try again. I have been told long after the fact when it was too late that a woman used to like me, but I had given up asking her out because she had repeatedly told me she was busy. I believed she wasn’t interested. I can take a hint, but in this case apparently she really was busy. At what point should one give up?
Does one person’s right to be left alone always trump another person’s right to free speech? An individual is never compelled to speak or respond, but how can they compel others to shut up? Obviously there are limits. Speech that is intimidating, threatening, or excessively disruptive must be stopped, but no sane person can legitimately consider a passive written letter mailed every other month a form of harassment – even if they have been told to stop.
When you have long known someone and in a moment of anger they tell you to leave them alone, but you have reason to think it was just a bad time to talk, why not call them again the next day when they have had a chance to cool down? Is it really wrong to call and apologize? Even when it is clear that it is finally time to say goodbye for good, is it really wrong to make one last call to give your parting message?
I have read of several cases of one member of a romantic relationship (usually the woman) inexplicably and suddenly breaking off all contact with the other. What kind of person does that to another human being? What kind of person does that to those who care about them? In this situation, who is the real victim? Having one’s heart ripped out can make anyone a little crazy. You really do have to be some special type of cruel to side against those that just want to talk. In this situation it is only natural to worry about them and call to make sure they are okay. In fact, it sounds to me like the right thing to do. Aren’t humans psychobiologically designed to become emotionally attached? This is how love is supposed to work. What if they are in danger? I would hope someone would check up on me if I were in trouble. If anyone has a problem, it is obviously the one refusing to talk, not the one reaching out, yet over and over the psychiatric establishment tells us it is the caller with the problem!
Sometimes one person may be suicidal or addicted to drugs and the other is only trying to help. Should they just give up or keep reaching out? What if you know they have no one else and the only reason they push you away is because they can’t trust anybody? You probably shouldn’t force decisions on them, but isn’t the loving thing to keep on inviting? God never gave up on humanity, but sent prophet after prophet – who were told to keep preaching even after being ridiculed, beaten, and imprisoned – before finally sending Jesus. He kept “calling” for thousands of years. In contrast, human society is too quick to give up on people.
Our society shuts so many people out. We block those on social media that say something we don’t like. We cocoon ourselves in our little, tiny worlds with spam filters and we block specific phone numbers. Most people these days are incapable of dialogue or reasoned debate and simply shut down those they disagree with. This allows them to remain ignorant as they continue to hurt themselves and all those around them.
We harass the homeless for only trying to make a living by asking for change and doing nothing to harm anyone. Do they not even have a right to live? It is not only unfair to them, but unfair to those who would help them if they knew they needed help. Why refuse to listen? Mere words can hurt nobody. You can always refuse to give.
We regulate solicitation of street vendors to the point that in some places it is illegal. How can anyone be sure they don’t want what is being sold? For all they know it could change their lives. How are new companies supposed to get started before they have the funds for traditional advertising? How is anyone supposed to make a living? It used to be a perfectly legitimate job to go door-to-door selling vacuum cleaners or cookies. What happened?
Whatever happened to freedom of speech?
Pinellas Heritage Village is just that – an entire village of houses built between 1850s and the 1910s all around Pinellas County and carried there in the 70s and 80s. Most of them you can now go inside and see what they were like. They often have interesting artifacts laid out and two of the houses have docent tours. They tell you in detail how people used to live and what all the artifacts do.
The upper classes of the nineteenth century had some pretty neat kitchen gadgets, including the swiveling teapot and the waffle maker. I thought it was strange that the bed was beautifully carved on the side facing the room and plain on the side facing the wall. You’d think they would like to move things around once in a while but I guess people were very stuck in their ways back then. They lived in the same house their entire life. It makes you wonder how much dust is under the bed. Also interesting is that the rich used to have very long curtains that dragged on the floor because they wanted to show everyone that they could afford to waste fabric.
There was also a cabin that used to be out in the middle of the woods. It had no windows and the kids used to have to heat and pour boiling water through the spaces between the floorboards to drive away the animals that would otherwise take up residence underneath. It had two separate rooms connected by a wrap-around deck. It seemed cozy and I think I wouldn’t mind living there except for the mosquitoes.
There was also a train station, a schoolhouse, and a church. The church I had thought had a very interesting story. It was actually picked up and dragged intact by a hurricane at one time and then another storm many years later took its roof off. Later it was fixed up and moved to its present location.
There is a little mini-museum visitor center near the entrance giving a little bit of the history of Pinellas County. It was very big in the sponge business. A sponge press was used to press the air out of the sponges to pack them into bales for shipping. Later it became a prime tourism spot and St. Petersburg was among the first cities to actually have a tourism department the specialized in marketing the city.
I learned a little bit about the parks in Pinellas County and how they began too. People used to just put their dead wherever or else they had a family plot but then when the land changed hands the records were lost so at some point they started to put the dead all together in one place. These first cemeteries were well maintained and in time people began to visit often to get away from the cities. When the first parks were created, they had to put up fences to keep out the chickens and pigs both domesticated and wild that used to roam around all over the place.
I found it very interesting. I like history. I like seeing how the stories of different people and things are all interconnected in subtle hidden ways. This place is just as good as any history museum only much much much bigger because it's like a whole bunch of museums in one – each one a treasure. You can walk around there almost all day. The village is free courtesy the city of Largo, Florida.
11909 125th Street N. Largo, FL 33774
This is a poem I wrote in 2013. I imagine all of my poetry set to music, though I am rarely able to come up with my own tunes. This one I imagine set to the tune of Sweet Loraine by Fred Stobaugh.
Oh dear Deirdre
Where did you go? What happened to ya?
Oh dear Deirdre
Are you happy now? What have you done?
Oh dear Deirdre
Do you ever think of me, now that I'm gone?
Oh dear Deirdre
Do you think you know why we had to stop the fun?
Oh dear Deirdre
There are so many things I want to tell ya.
I thank you for the good times. I thank you for being you.
I really do wish you well. I wish you luck in all you do.
We never said goodbye. Well, I guess there's no point to say it now.
Oh dear Deirdre
I thought I had more to learn. I want to know your favorite flava.
Oh dear Deirdre
If our paths ever cross, what will you say? Will you speak at all?
Oh dear Deirdre
There are so many more things I want to tell ya.
I hope you've no regrets. You only did what you had to do.
It was never part of the plan for there to be a me and you.
We never said goodbye. Well, I guess there's no point to say it now.
Oh dear Deirdre
I'll say a prayer, a prayer for ya.
Oh dear Deirdre
When we meet in heaven, what will you say? Will you speak at all?
Oh dear Deirdre
There are still so many more things I want to tell ya.
“If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life. And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose or forfeit your own soul in the process?” – Luke 9:24-25
“Another said, ‘Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.’ But Jesus told him, ‘Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.’” – Luke 9:61-62
One thing I have observed in life is that people die, things run down, and opportunities are missed. Any one of us might die tomorrow and never again have the chance to do what we have put off doing out of fear. What have you always wanted to do? Would you do it if you knew you would die before you would be able to suffer the consequences of having done it? Why not go out with a bang?
I want to try a great many things and by so doing also be an example to others of how God protects and provides. God invented fun and he wants us to have fun, but many do not understand this and I want to show them by example how fun God can be.
Unfortunately, several of the activities I have in mind are illegal. They have no business being illegal, since they harm no one. It is only a matter of bullies with guns who call themselves the government attempting to control our lives. I am left with the question: Do I want to spend the rest of my life rotting away in boredom wondering whether I could have got away with it? Or do I want to go out with a bang? I am still undecided, but I am leaning towards the latter. The government can only imprison or harm the body, but I destroy my own soul when I choose to do other than what I want to do.
I know too that if everyone were to copy my example the government could not possibly stop all of us. Of course, if everyone were to copy my example, that would include the government. It’s time for a change.
One thing I have wanted to do and get off my bucket list is to watch a sunset on the beach while sipping hard cider and then tenting the night right there, waking up to the sight of the ocean with the dawn. Unfortunately, I have never been to a beach at which both alcohol and staying overnight were not illegal. I’m sure they exist somewhere, but I’d rather be spontaneous than plan such a thing. I’ve even been to a beach where they served alcohol in an open-air restaurant right on the beach, but put one foot on the sand inches away and you were a criminal. What silliness! I have put this idea off, but life is too short to put it off much longer.
When travelling, I want to stay somewhat spontaneous. Opportunities will catch me by surprise that are too good to let slip by. It will be impossible to be prepared for everything. Restaurants are expensive. It would be nice if I could catch some of my own food. Learning how to catch and prepare fish is hard enough without worrying about what I am allowed to catch in which season in which state and where and when to go to apply for a license and how much it will cost. It is so much easier to just do it and hope I don’t get caught.
Campgrounds cost money and have been known to fill up on me early leaving no open spots. I have no problem sleeping in my car in some parking lot; if I’m tired enough I can sleep anywhere. It doesn’t bother me much. Unfortunately, many parking lot owners frown on this and police have been known to patrol for loiterers they can wake up in the middle of the night and harass for no good reason. If I was made of money, I could always find a motel, but I’m not made of money and I shouldn’t have to anyway.
I assume I have a right to live, and this requires making a living. A great way to do this is to manufacture items for sale or trade, but selling them requires soliciting customers, and this is prohibited virtually anywhere I would care to do it. I stayed in a park once that did not even allow one to have a passive sign. Why prohibit something that harms no one? That is not only unfair to me, but to my potential customers as well. There is also the problem of income taxes and sales taxes, requiring that I keep detailed records of what state I’m in at the time and where the materials came from. I find such things so tedious that I tend to just estimate my numbers and make sure I always keep some reserve money. If the state really wants to know exact details, they need to do the work themselves. I’m not up to it. Do I not even have the right to live?
Since I am guaranteed to get into trouble, how will I defend myself? Every state has different gun laws and they do not accept carry licenses from other states the way they do driver’s licenses. Many museums, parks, and other places I want to visit do not allow firearms on the property. A few will even scan you before entering. The only way to stay out of trouble is to remain defenseless, which sounds like the very opposite of staying out of trouble if you ask me. If the government won’t even allow me to defend myself, what incentive is there to listen to them at all? I refuse to cower in fear from the government the rest of my life! Then again, the only reason I wanted to carry a gun in the first place was because I was afraid of criminals. I refuse to cower in fear of criminals either! Guns are heavy, bulky, and require constant vigilance to keep away from children. I don’t like them.
This life is temporary so I’m going to make the most out of it – and because it is temporary so are any punishments the state might try to place on me. I don’t care anymore. I will not worry about these things any longer. Chances are that if I’m just a little patient, I will be able to find legal outlets to meet my needs. Even when not, chances are I won’t get caught as often as I think anyways.
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, Your Majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up’” – Daniel 3:16-18
You can support my adventure by buying my books or by opening a Patreon account and tipping me for the great work I do on the blog.
One thing I’ve observed in life is that many people are too quick to give up on others. In marriage, they promise to cherish until death, but then go on to get divorced or have affairs. In politics, they are quicker to attack an opponent’s character than to explain why they believe the way they do. I have heard Christians tell me that atheists have willingly turned against God and been given over to a depraved mind, making them unreachable. They tell me not to answer a fool in his folly and not to cast my pearls before swine. The thing is, I used to be an atheist and I was reached because I knew some Christians who never gave up on me. If they had followed the popular advice, I might still be an atheist. Besides, the bible also says to always answer a fool in his folly lest he be wise in his own estimation. There is a lot of advice out there that passes for wisdom but I find questionable.
When it comes to lost friends and lovers, we are told not to hold on to the past and find new friends and lovers to replace them with. While sometimes people return to old things because they haven’t let go of the past, other times people return to old things to create a new future with them. We are told that anything we set free will come back to us if it was ever truly ours, but if your strategy is to wait to see if they come back, what happens if they also have the same strategy?
We are told not to move mountains for people that wouldn’t raise a finger for us. This is a terrible idea. Every once in a while, we all need somebody to go out of their way for us, just so we know it’s more than a relationship of convenience. The corollary to this is that every once in a while, we need to go out of our way for others – especially when they don't deserve it. If I always gave up on people who gave up on me, I'd soon have no one. Everyone lets me down sometimes. If everyone only cared about those that cared about them, how would caring ever begin? Sometimes when people hurt me, I give up on them, and then sometimes people hurt me in a way that is so ridiculous and over the top that I realize just how messed up they are and then all I want to do is help them. Why take revenge on those who are already miserable?
We are told that negativity and pessimism is contagious and we should stay away from toxic people, but everyone is negative sometimes – usually with good reason. It is better to hang out with negative people than to hang out with zero people. It is not good for a man to be alone.
We are told to spend time with those wiser than ourselves in order for their wisdom to rub off on us. It is fine to want to hang out with those wiser than yourself, but if they follow the same advice they will not hang out with you.
In the realm of politics we seem especially prone to giving up on each other, but we might agree on more than you think. To learn more, check out my book The Nutcase Across The Street.
Points to ponder:
“If a shepherd has one hundred sheep, and one wanders away and is lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others and go out into the hills to search for the lost one? And if he finds it, he will surely rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.
“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the fault. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. If that person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. If the church decides you are right, but the other person won’t accept it, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.” – Matthew 18:12-17
“Those who reject other Christians are wandering in spiritual darkness and don’t know where they are going, for the darkness has made them blind.” – 1st John 2:11
“So if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” – Matthew 5:23-24
“If I warn the wicked, saying, ‘you are under the penalty of death,’ but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible, demanding your blood for theirs.” – Ezekiel 3:18
Separated from Honeymoon Island by a monster hurricane in the 1920s, Caladesi is reachable only by boat. I took the ferry over from Honeymoon State Park. Posts mark out a safe pass through the shoals and birds of all kinds sat on these and watched me pass sometimes as close as thirty feet away. After we docked, I ran off into the woods to explore the trails.
There are some decent-length trails that pass through sandy areas of palmetto and cabbage palms. Towards the south, these give way to wooded areas carpeted by pine needles. The trails are intersected by a few service roads leading to restricted areas. What are the authorities hiding there?
Other than the birds on the way in, there were few animals around that day. I did see one large snail in one of the coves. I photographed it through a narrow gap in the brush at the end of one of the short side trails. I also saw the twin pine, which is a large tree with two trunks joined by a saddle-like structure that people apparently like to photograph themselves in.
I walked along the beach on the west side next. Since it was February, it was too cold to go swimming that day. Along with Honeymoon Island, Caladesi is known for the large numbers of beautiful shells that wash up on its shores. On this particular day, the wind and surf were up and most shells were broken. One discovery I made was the squeaking sand. In some areas, the sand would squeak as I stepped on it. This has never happened before. Apparently, this phenomenon occurs under very narrow humidity conditions with very round sand grains and is much more spectacular in other parts of the world. I was lucky to have encountered a weak case of it on Caladesi.
The island is equipped with restrooms, changing stations, and a concession stand as well as some great picnic areas and pavilions.
This is a poem I wrote in 2013. I imagine all of my poetry set to music, though I am rarely able to come up with my own tunes. I am still trying to come up with something decent for this one.
I was going to write a song
It was going to be long
I gave up
How do fluids flow?
How does grass grow?
What makes water freeze?
What makes dogs sneeze?
How does blood clot?
How does food rot?
How do eyes see?
How do we disagree?
Who invented steak?
Who invented taste?
How do bees fly?
How big is the sky?
When was the dawn of time?
Who can name all primes?
Who knows when you lie?
Knows the digits of pi?
How many atoms in your purse?
How many in the universe?
How far to the farthest star?
What really is a quasar?
How many galaxies?
What makes gravity?
What is quantum topology?
What is space-time geometry?
I was going to write a song
It was going to be long
Words are just inadequate
So I gave up on it
I've barely scratched the surface yet
Who let it all go?
Became an embryo?
Came down to Earth?
Lived through a birth?
Covered by goo?
Crying for food?
Bound by space and time?
To ancient Palestine?
No roads paved?
Limited in sight?
To wavelengths of light?
Surrounded by greed?
Lust, hate, and need?
By both friend and foe?
Striped for you and me?
For his enemies?
So sinners could be free?
Nailed to a tree?
So they could live in peace?
For all eternity?
Could a greater love be?
And even this falls too short
I'm just going to stop talking
I still want to travel. In late 2016 I began to have thoughts about being a missionary of sorts. After all that I had been through in my struggle with religion, the stress of life, and for finding meaning, I wanted to help others in their own spiritual walks in a way that I could not simply by writing books. I thought that maybe I could meet and help people while out on the road. I had many doubts. After all, I have always had a terrible time initiating contact with strangers. I usually have nothing to say and the very few chance conversations I have remain very shallow. They never lead to friendships. I have always believed that one should not force an issue before it is time or interrupt the flow of the conversation to make an irrelevant point. I would only discuss religion/spirituality with someone who had actually displayed some curiosity first. Otherwise, I might turn people off. In any case, if I’m not excited and comfortable about something, it will be impossible to even explain it well, let alone get others excited. I’m also not likely to meet very many people while roaming around the woods alone. Most of all, I wonder how I will pay for all this.
Of course I know that if God has sent me to talk with someone he will also provide people for me to talk to. I know that if God sends me to travel he will also provide for my basic needs so I can continue travelling. I am reminded of the story of the colt (Matthew 21:1-3) and the story of the disciples carrying nothing (Luke 10:1-11). I also know that the trip might actually be for my benefit instead. Perhaps God is trying to teach me something. The question still remains whether God is sending me at all. How can I tell?
“What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.” – Hebrews 11:1
“There are many rooms in my father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly.” – John 14:2
Over the years I have heard of many things that people take as confirmation of God’s plans. They speak of coincidences, of confirmations from scripture, of confirmations from other people. I have received none of these. I also know there have been many times I did have these things and was sure I had God’s direction only to have things go horribly awry and I then quickly lost interest afterwards. I even began to get confirmation that God was leading me to give up and move on to something else. I can trust no prophecy ever again.
At the same time, I know that God has already directed us all to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19). Why must God be more specific? I often worry too much over receiving clear instruction than simply trusting that God’s love will cover me no matter what stupid decision I make. I fret over whether or not to give the homeless money in a particular situation and forget that God has already told us to give to all who ask (Luke 6:30). I fret over whether to ask a particular woman on a date and forget that God has already told us to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:27-29). God has already told me that he will supply all my needs (Philippians 4:19). Can he be trusted?
I have to do something, even if only to break the monotony. I seem to be spinning my wheels going nowhere. What fun is life without risk? I’d like to live in such a way to be an example for others that God can be trusted to care for us, but does that mean I should jump out of an airplane without a parachute just to prove a point? We all know from experience that God does not always supply all our needs. Even the most basic needs for life often go unmet. People die. This is a historical fact. The difference is that I have no strong desire to go skydiving to make it worth the risk. On the other hand, I do have a strong desire to go camping that does.
Ultimately I don’t know God’s will or whether he will provide for me, but at this moment I just don’t care – and this is how I know. That is the paradox of faith.
“How do you know what will happen tomorrow? For your life is like the morning fog – it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” – James 4:14
The point has not been lost on me that missionaries are often paid and that if I call myself one, some people may sponsor me. If you feel you want to send me support, you can sign up for a Patreon account and pledge as little as five dollars per month. You can also buy my books. The thing is, I have no idea whether God will provide people to talk with or what I might talk about. This might just become a camping trip. It may end in disaster after only one month. Anything could happen. I am certainly open to spreading the hope of the gospel, but I am open to however God might use me. Should you send money, you will be taking a risk along with me. I make no promises. We’ll see together how God will use the experience.
Not only are people different, they are on different paths of growth. Many do not understand this and are quick to judge. It has happened before that I have been in situations that caused me to question my old habits, yet people who do not know my past speak to me as if I am slow to learn things that they learned long ago. They tell me that if I just follow their advice, then everything will work out, but my old habits were identical to their advice and after many years of failure led to the present situations. They do not listen.
Some people were impulsive as youths and now need to learn patience and prudence. Others were fearfully hesitant and now need to learn to take risks. Both think they have finally “seen the light” and teach everyone around them not to repeat the mistakes that they made. When these two types of people meet each other it is the source of a lot of friction.
Some people have always accepted what they could not change and now need to learn how to take a stand for once. Others have always changed what they could not accept and now need to learn how to settle down, recognize their limits, and live at peace. Neither are good at finding the balance between the two, yet try to tell others how to live.
Some people have always been dependent on others for their happiness and now need to learn to be strong alone and not worry what others think. They have strived to please others but have never really been happy. Others have always done as they pleased and now realize that our deepest need as people is to connect with and serve others. They have always lived to please themselves but now find they have no one to share life with. The two groups are always trying to give each other advice not to follow in their footsteps.
Every situation is different, every person is different, and every path is different. What path are you on?
I discovered Sylvia Engdahl on the Independent Authors Network. She writes the Children Of The Star trilogy, made up of three books (This Star Shall Abide, Beyond The Tomorrow Mountains, The Doors Of The Universe) previously published traditionally.
Children Of The Star might be the best novel I’ve read since Foundation’s Edge by Isaac Asimov. It is my new favorite. It is similar in many respects. There is a mysterious and reclusive group (the scholars) subtly guiding society. There is mention of telepathy. There are secrets that must never be told or else they would endanger the survival of the entire human race. There are secrets inside of secrets inside of other secrets wrapped around and twisted through still other secrets. Everybody has secrets they aren’t telling the others.
It goes much further than sociology and political science. The book is heavy on spirituality. The main character, Noren, learns through his heartbreaks the meaning of faith in a way I would not have even understood myself just six years ago. There are also moral dilemmas on every other page, such as when and when not to interfere in the affairs of other cultures, reminiscent of the prime directive from Star Trek.
The only thing I can say against the book is that at times it seemed to drag just a bit while Noren thought through every possible facet of an issue before making a decision. The book is more philosophy than action. At the same time, this additional detail really helped me to identify with the character and feel everything he went through. In the end, it becomes worth it.
Engdahl also makes excellent use of foreshadowing.
It may be an art museum, but it’s actually a history museum. There are paintings and sculptures from Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas – some over 500 years old. It is impossible to get through it all in only two hours. With its high ceilings, fancy wallpaper and mirrors, and incredibly diverse collection, the museum is a work of art itself.
I have too many favorites. I saw amazing glass work by Richard Ritter and Frederick Carder. I saw a rough-surfaced abstract by Enrico Donati (1909-2008), who is reported to have used coffee grounds, sand, and vacuum debris in his work. I saw masks and figures from Nigeria, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. I saw a stone figure of god-of-death Michtlantecuhtli (I love that name!!) from Mexico dated sometime between 1100 and 1500. It had slits to allow incense smoke to rise out of it. There was even a gold bird from Costa Rica. Since many of the artifacts from that area were used to make noise, it is hypothesized that the eyes were originally tiny bells whose clappers have fallen out. I also liked the Jain shrine with its intricate woodwork and tiny figures behind the windows. In the seventeenth century the central doors would have opened to reveal one of the twenty-four holy men in Jainism, but they must have been busy when I went (LOL).
255 Beach Drive NE, Saint Petersburg, Florida
This is a poem I wrote in 2013. I imagine all of my poetry set to music, though I am rarely able to come up with my own tunes. This one I imagine to the tune of She’s So Cold by The Rolling Stones.
You're a caramel apple girl
I want a caramel apple girl
Sweet and tangy
There's nothing else I want in the world
I want a caramel apple girl
Young and sweet
Good to eat
Let me have some apples please
You're a caramel apple girl
I want a caramel apple girl
Putting two and
There's nothing better in all the world
You can't get enough
I can't get enough
You're my only caramel apple girl
Give me your apples
Give me your apples
I want a caramel apple girl
You're a caramel apple girl
I want a caramel apple girl
Sweet and tangy
There's nothing else I want in the world
I want a caramel apple girl
Young and sweet
Good to eat
Let me have some apples please
I can't get enough
You can't get enough
I'll get you some more apples, girl
Maybe we can share
Our sweet sweet snack
Take the caramel - make it swirl!
I like your taste
And I like your plate
Tastes like nothing else in the world
I want a caramel apple, girl!!!
I want a caramel apple girl
Rainbows are seen opposite from the source of illumination. There do exist secondary rainbows that require the light rays to make more turns, but these are often too faint to be seen. However, one day I looked straight up to see a rainbow around the sun (which was behind a cloud). What’s going on? Could it be formed from ice crystals instead of water droplets? Why have I never seen these before?
A while ago I read the 2003 book Finding God Where You Least Expect Him by John Fischer. It is about the current state of Christian culture.
Fischer argues that Christians have too much isolated themselves in fear of “the world” when they should be engaging it, not only to expose evil, but also to expose good. God is everywhere and in everything, not only in “Christian” music and “Christian” books. Worse, most Christians have ceded their authority to discern right and wrong to the professional clergy, accepting much of what they say uncritically. This is why so many are against the Harry Potter series but haven’t read it. They edit out swearing and nudity in movies while leaving in suggestive or violent themes. Meanwhile they miss clearly biblical themes in secular movies and complain when a “Christian music” artist doesn’t mention Jesus enough in his/her songs.
He further argues that American Christians in general have unbiblical attitudes against the physical world (which God created and said was good), especially the human body and basic human psychology (including negative feelings of any kind). By ignoring the bad, they lose the opportunity to learn of an even greater good, such as redemption.
By withdrawing from the world, the Godly influence they could have had is gone. Could it be that the reason our public schools have so many problems is that whenever possible, Christian parents remove themselves and their Christian kids to send them to Christian schools, which also draw away Christian teachers from the public school system?
Instead of keeping quiet, maybe we should keep reaching out.
My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.