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EAGANBLOG ARCHIVE
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Enemies
A tree fell on my house once. It was a hundred-foot-tall Douglas fir. We were very lucky; no one was hurt, and the house survived. I am now wary of Douglas firs. They are a dangerous plant. But I do not hate them.

Nor do I hold a grudge against poison oak. That plant has been a lifelong source of misery for me, but I know it’s not seeking me out and doing it on purpose. Berry bushes have left thousands of tiny, painful stickers in my hands over the years, but I don’t take it personally. Right now, I’m sniffling and sneezing with all the pollen in the air, but I know the plants that produced that pollen are not out to get me. I would not (even if I could) decree that any of these plants be banished from the face of the earth forever.

Mosquitoes are another matter. Them, I hate. On some level, they know I’m a fellow creature, yet they go ahead and suck the juice out of me anyway. My juice! If the opportunity ever arose to dictate a species extinction, I just might pull the trigger on the mosquito. Same with gophers. Those bastards steal my food and destroy my garden even though they know it enrages me. The thought of a world without them makes me smile.

Yes, yes… I know. Each of these animals is part of the vast, intricate balance of nature that sustains all life, blah, blah, blah. You suggest that if I tried to play Jenga with the delicate stack of species and extract just one offending animal, the whole pile might come tumbling down, me included. To which a part of me wants to respond, “Yeah? Bring it on.”

But I would stop short of total annihilation, I think. What if, in lashing out, I caused some plant species to go extinct? That would be wrong. The plant kingdom is the nice kingdom, and it should not suffer for the misdeeds of a few sociopathic animals.

You see? I may be genocidal, but at least I’m not mean.
Give Me A Reason
I’m thinking about giving religion another chance. Thing is, I’m expecting religion to meet me halfway.

Please don’t get me wrong; I do not intend to abandon reason. I need reason. For one thing, if you’re looking to find the area of a trapezoid, it’s practically indispensable. It’s also handy for finding food and shelter and the best route downtown during rush hour. And, if you’re concerned about protecting yourself from your own runaway stupidity, a little logic can sometimes head off a severe public embarrassment (or an ugly death).

Reason can even lead you to some of the same conclusions you might find by a spiritual path. The golden rule is a good example. It’s almost an equation, isn’t it? Others will do unto you the way you do unto them (as long as you’re not dealing with a real jerk).

Still, reason is not a perfect tool. When it comes to the sometimes dark affairs of human motivation, it’s pretty much useless. It’s a weak defense against fear or greed or anger (much less love). Worse, it seems to be helpless before excesses of our own egos. In fact, it seems to embolden them. Perhaps the notion of a life guided only by reason sounds so grown-up, so worldly-wise, so smart that it lures us into believing we have godlike powers. Consider the colossal egos of those who are so dead sure of their intellects that they know there is no God. These people seem to have forgotten that they are smelly blobs of protoplasm squirming around on a mote of dust in a vast and mysterious universe. Jesus H. Christ, people!

My point is that we need spirituality as much as we need reason. Those dark motivations are among the gravest dangers we face in this world. Indeed, they are the forces that urge us toward oblivion. Unfortunately, most religions aren’t much help against those forces either. Most of them got started with some keen metaphorical insight into the human condition, but they soon fell prey to the vices and foibles of the humans who run them. That’s when we begin to see the proliferation of dogma and the spewing of batshit crazy articles of faith that we are told to believe or burn in hell forever.

That said, I am completely ready for some kind of spirituality to enter my life. I want to have faith. What I need from religion, as I have said, is a willingness to meet me halfway. And so, I call on religion — all religions — to openly renounce all the dumb rules and transparent bullshit. That stuff is a real deal-killer for me. I want a ticket to see the insights, but I insist that reason come along as my plus-one.

So…no virgin births, no arks, no devils, angels, or talking in tongues. No heaven or hell, no 72 virgins, burning bushes, parting seas, golden tablets, or sacred cows — and no magnetic control freaks with a personal pipeline to God. Just keep it simple, folks, and make it believable.

One last word of advice: go easy on the God stuff. Even if he does exist, the more you tell me how well you know him, the less likely I am to believe you.
Pass the Hot Sauce
I advise you not to read the most recent U.N. report on global warming. It hasn’t been published yet, but some of its findings have been leaked to the media. Let’s just say that your worst fears are well-founded.

If it were just me, I guess I wouldn’t be that concerned about the end of civilization. I’ll probably be dead by the time the worst effects unfold. It’s not just me, though. There are some people I really like who will live on after I go, and I worry about them. I even have a bit of an emotional investment in civilization itself. For all its failings, I really do hope that humanity can survive in comfort for centuries to come.

I wonder what the science deniers plan to tell their children and grandchildren when the truth is finally and painfully apparent. They bought into the facile explanations offered by the employees of Big Oil. They voted for the politicians who told them what they wanted to hear. They accepted the rationale that asked the least from them. Their chosen course of action called for no action at all. When the time comes for them to account for their own irresponsibility, their mouths will be filled with ashes.

But what about us — the non-deniers? What will we say to future generations? “I bought a Prius”? Okay, but what if we can’t afford one? Is there something else real and substantial that we could be doing — something we can offer with a straight face as proof that we are not weak and irresponsible? My history of driving semi-fuel-efficient vehicles might be offered as a defense, I suppose, or my strong track record of recycling. Still, the degree of sacrifice required for these acts might seem pretty thin against the background of a global wasteland.

I do have an answer, I think. It’s not a new idea, but for some reason it hasn’t caught on the way that hybrid vehicles and solar panels have, and that is surprising. Besides saving the Earth, my solution would also save money and promote good health. I’m talking, of course, about becoming a vegetarian.

In case you don’t know, cows are among the worst offenders in creating greenhouse gases — right up there between automobiles and termites. Like termites, they produce enormous amounts of methane, a gas with twenty-five times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. So, if I stop eating beef, there will be fewer cows — and less deadly methane.

Now that I think of it, though, my solution does have a major drawback. When the time comes for my accounting, my legacy might turn out to be somewhat less than noble: he stood tall and strong in the face of cow farts. That just doesn’t seem like enough. If I really want to occupy the moral high ground, I’ll have to take it up a notch.

I’ll stop eating beef — and start eating termites. That should pass the test of history.
Pick a Number
When I was about five, my older brother announced that 4 would be his lucky number. I remember this especially because that was the number I would have selected if I had thought to do so, and I was bitterly disappointed that 4 was no longer available. Once my brother made his declaration, I couldn’t very well take the same one. I settled for my second choice, 2.

In retrospect, I see that 2 was actually a pretty good selection itself. It finds resonance in the duality of the universe, it’s half curved and half straight, it tries harder, and it’s a Gemini, the coolest of all signs.

I imagine that right now you might be thinking that my concern about lucky numbers is pretty childish. I admit to that, but as I have matured, the importance to me of lucky numbers has faded. These days I am more concerned with identifying the best number.

The best number, you ask, cocking your eyebrow in suspicion. What is that supposed to mean? It’s interesting that you should ask that question, because it touches at the very core of this blog. Any search for the best number must, in my view, take a holistic approach. Does the number have an interesting backstory? Is it pleasing to the eye? What is its vibe? Does it play nicely with other numbers? Would you go on a cross-country trip with it? The more such questions can be asked about a number, the more reliable our conclusions will be.

If you are tempted right now to blurt out pi as your choice, I’m afraid that will not be allowed. It is certainly a good number, a significant number, but we are limiting this to whole numbers. Also, no imaginary numbers, negative numbers, or complex polynomials. Just good, old fashioned numbers, the way God counts them.

Let’s begin by eliminating from consideration all numbers over 100. Less is more, after all, and more is too much. We can also drop any number containing a 7. Too ugly. 66 and 99, conversely, are so sexually attractive that people tend not to take them seriously as integers. While I certainly don’t want to encourage the objectification of numbers, we cannot deny that these titillating numerals can be a distraction. And that can lead to mistakes in math, thereby undermining the most fundamental rationale for the existence of numbers — accurate counting. So we can’t really call them best; they’ll just have to settle for hottest.

Most of the other double-digit numbers can be bounced on account of their sheer ordinariness. 58, for example, would never be noticed at all if it didn’t look like a pot-bellied old fart in a homburg standing next to his young trophy wife. I won’t walk you through the rest; let’s just say these wouldn’t be numbers at all if they could have found work as letters.

I do want to move on to my candidate for best number, but I feel that we should pause to make special mention of 3. Many of you, I’ll wager, would put 3 in the top spot. There is no doubting the ubiquity of 3 in our culture: 3 little pigs, 3 wise men, the tri-county area, and about 3 million other examples of things coming in threes. Yet, I must say what is true: 3 is, in almost every way, derivative of 2: two humps instead of one, a similar list of things coming in twos, and so on. Like Pat Boone’s cover of Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti,” it is a very, very pale imitation. And yet 2 is not the best, either.

No, that honor must fall to…10. That’s right, 10. Try saying it out loud, with gusto. “10!” Doesn’t it sound like you’ve just won something? That’s because 10 is the highest score — a perfect 10! It is the ultimate, the most, the best.

Still, I am sensing skepticism. Consider this, then: 10 marks the first appearance in the grand parade of numbers of 0 (the 0 before 1 being a silent 0) — and 0 is the most beautiful, most mysterious, and holiest and of all numbers. 10 is the first double-digit number (which is sort of like reaching puberty for numbers). 10 is the basis of the decimal system itself. There are ten commandments — and those, we know, were decreed by God.

10, moreover, makes no claims as to its own luckiness. Such claims are left to prepubescent numbers who might doubt their own worth. 10 knows who it is and how to take care of itself. 10 is the team captain, the MVP, and a proven winner. Not only can it make its own way, it can make its own luck.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon