It’s true. I have been feeling guilty. I thought I caused the formula shortage.
I remember the date, the same as you do. February 25th. It was the day after Russia attacked an area of Russia held by a people called Ukrainians for the past 30+ years.
Can you blame me? I had a baby due in a week or two and, in a moment of weakness, thought, “I remember the toilet paper run of ‘20. I’m not gonna be caught without formula when the results of last night formally play out in six months.”
So I rushed to Walmart and purchased $500 of diapers and formula.
Essentially walk-lunging down the main vein aisle between groceries and large women’s lingerie, I finally made it to the diaper section. I was sweating, not from the exercise, but from fright, as I realized I’d need a cart for six or so huge diaper boxes, sizes ranging from 1-4, and didn’t know whether I could trust leaving them alone whilst I went back to find one.
Cart in hand, diaper boxes crashing to the floor with a volume that drew far too much attention to the supposed clandestine operation, I then thought, “And formula. My wife’s production slowed around the 6 month point with A- and so I should grab some formula.”
When I saw the $50 a can price, I balked and said, “I know what I’ll do. I’ll grab two today and then just casually pick up another each time I visit. Wouldn’t want to do anything crazy.”
Making my way back to the front, I over-waved to the Somalis who looked at me as I struggled to keep the items balanced in the cart. “Hi. Yes. That’s right. Keep your heads covered, ladies. Faces, too. Nothing to see there, just like nothing to see here. I just realized I have a baby coming! Stupid American dad is all! Haha!” I jested.
All the while I knew that, supplies in hand—bird in the bush, you know—my child would be a veritable uberman to their already disadvantaged offspring.
Credit card passed the chip detector test, and I was out the door.
Only one time did a box fall off the cart on the bumpy trip to the car, a fact which none of the passing meth heads seemed to notice, and I eventually made it.
My tiny, but fuel efficient, Nissan Versa Note could barely hold all the goodies. The backseat was certainly employed for the proud duty of transporting size 2 & 3.
Fast forward several weeks, through me declaring we are in WW3, pivoting to the realization that “Ukraine is not a country”, and suddenly, after seeing celebrity gossip unseat war and rumors of war, I began to hear there was a infant formula shortage.
Imagine my guilt.
Scratch that. Imagine my first gasp of guilt.
“Huo! Did I do that?”
Then some more time went by. Nights were filled with either heavy, short-lived sleep or EMS flights toting around ailing patients. (I might point out for your edification that one was a “mums the word” victim of a stabbing in only his underwear, which I took as a friendly reminder to “Be nice to yo’ wife, Pete…”)
But today the headlines got me again. So I googled it. What is causing the shortage, I wondered? Me?
The answer? Trump.
Lol. Or that’s what The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson had to say. (Babylon Bee too.)
The important thing is—still perfect.
I have yet to make a mistake.
Focus. We need to focus in order to “stay the course”. Without focus, there is no “course”.
Why are we here? What is the problem?
A while back, when Russia first invaded Ukraine, I posted a map as part of the six-step problem solving process I learned in the Air Force, and in which I still believe. In that post, I claimed we were on Step 2 “Gather the Data”. (Step 1 being “Recognize the Problem”.)
The problem, I said, was unclarity.
In gathering the data, clarity has begun to emerge.
(I love this.)
This is going to hurt some of you, so be ready. But it’s important to be able to speak simply.
Despite that map, Ukraine is not a country.
Ukraine is not a country. As for evidence, Look around. Their not being in NATO is one, probably the second largest, piece of evidence of this. The largest piece being the fact that no country’s military, including ours, is at war with Russia.
Remember, we’re defining the problem—by definition “defining the problem” is not jumping to conclusions. So calm down. Just because Ukraine is not a country, does not necessarily mean we skip the next five steps and “implement the solution”.
I don’t believe, and you don’t believe, that Ukraine is a country. Fact.
Ukraine is not a country.
So what does this mean? It means that we’re yet again merely providing weapons to the enemy of our enemy. Like we do in the Middle East, like we do everywhere else that isn’t yet civilized.
Kuwait: country. Ukraine, not a country.
New question: Does this mean that it’s not World War 3 anymore? Have I changed my tune?
I have. As the title of this post indicates, I am changing my tune for now.
Citizens of one country are not able to will another country into existence. We don’t put a border on a map and “ta da”—a country! It just doesn’t happen that way. Ukraine must assert itself, must manifest itself. Think gang initiation or all the scenes in movies where the friend group intentionally leaves a newbie to himself during a fight to prove that he is a man. Is the newbie proving himself to his friends or to himself? Both.
Ukraine, in essence, is the newbie. It has been since the Soviet Union broke up. And Ukraine is not yet a country.
Our actions, our help, are actually keeping Ukraine from becoming a country.
Settle down. I’m not suggesting we stop. Who knows whether Ukraine should become a country or not? Not me. And not you. Only Ukraine does.
So what does this mean for the concept of World War? And how has this focus helped us? What is our course?
World War, meaningfully, can only take place between countries. We were, I was, wrong to suggest this was a conventional war. That confession is the result of my “gathering of data.” As stated, it’s got to be an attack on a NATO member country. Let’s not kid ourselves. You don’t give a rat’s arse about the Ethiopian Civil War, or any tragedies in the other parts of Africa. Me, neither. Same thing here.
War has to be between countries. Either NATO on NATO, or some non-NATO country (almost a paradox—almost) on a NATO country.
The political question, then, is, “Does our support of Russia’s enemies increase Russia’s desire to attack a country?” The answer is, “Time will tell.”
What’s our course? Our course is no different than my course. The course is life. Abundant life. America lives on. If we begin taking actions that put America’s sovereignty in question, that’s a problem.
Does helping our enemy’s enemy put America in danger? I have to believe it does at some point. But if there’s anything we also now know, it’s that our enemy, Russia, is not as strong as some supposed.
How about us? Are we strong?
I believe so. And I believe we can be even stronger if we increase our focus.
Is Russia winning? Is Ukraine gonna last? Is the war about land or ideas? Finally, is the MV-22 simply and somehow too difficult to fly?
I often look at V-22 mishaps with greater interest than others as I had a chance at flying it after my venerable MH-53 was retired. I passed up flying it, I told myself at the time, in order to focus on my family, which ultimately ended in divorce anyhow. But an instructor I was with at the schoolhouse as a student died in a crash in one and they just seem to have a terrible track record, whether that’s real or not. They’re an awesome machine in any case.
Anyhow, the reason I’m sticking with my WW3 mindset is it helps me to focus. I have had many ideas floating around this noggin of mine, but none seem to offer gravity to the situation I believe that we’re in. And over the last several years, I have not found myself so easily dismissing the nonsense, the clickbait, and the ever-present distractions as I do during this world altering event.
Did you hear me?
I said there’s a positive side to living through WW3—the end of bullshyat. Put inversely, the positive side is heightened focus. Decluttering. A long overdue house-cleaning.
Even for me. Sure, I want to discuss whether it’s biblically sound for Christians to believe The Chosen is a bonafide evangelism tool in the same way that Uncle Sam approves of Top Gun, and why or why not? But that’s really not important anymore. 3 million refugees.
I do want to direct one criticism towards you and your unquenchable curiosity and presuppositional belief that “education-solves-all”: at this stage in the game only fools would be surprised to learn that other countries and other cultures believe different things about politics than us, to include time-tested and robust defenses of their notions. And only fools believe that ignorance of these differences lead to war, and awareness of these differences will somehow help end the war.
You’re telling me that Russian leadership and perhaps many Russian people believe the people are created to serve the State?! Get outta here!! And you think that I should remember that this is different than how we believe the State should serve the people? Crazy talk! I thought everyone on the earth was American. Now that I have heard some real life Russian explain that there is a difference in our two cultures’ political beliefs, in other words, now that I know there are people in the world besides Baptists, I am not worried. Whew! That was close! I thought the war would drag on forever. Glad to finally learn the truth and see the light and the end of the tunnel.
To be clear: this blog will remain focused on posts regarding WW3 until peace is declared and signed. I recommend you use the moment to declutter your life, digital and physical too.
Oh, and go to church this Sunday. Unless, that is, you don’t love the “last best hope on earth”—unless, that is, you don’t love the United States of America.
It’s not complicated.
I do stupid things, from continuing a first date after hearing, “I smoke weed every day,” to marrying a drug addicted whore, to impregnating said whore, to divorcing said whore, to paying thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars to said whore, because I refuse to live a life without control.
“It’s just a first date.”
“I’m not breaking up with you because of deploying, and I’m not leaving a listless whore behind so she can get lonely and cheat.”
“We’re married. Why not do the kid thing?”
“I am NEVER going to allow circumstances to develop which may lead to this feeling again.”
“No judge. No court. No third person is ever going to tell me that I owe a whore money. I don’t care if that costs me more money than otherwise. I would not be able to live with myself if it was within a universe where someone can tell me to give her money. She has to ask. Like the whore she is. That universe, dark as it is, makes sense to me. Now you know, so leave me alone.”
As I write this I cannot deny that the word “depression” is all over it. It’s embalmed in the stupid decisions, it’s buried in the stupid reasons. It’s born by the stupid title.
(It feels good to add that confession. Smart.)
I’m not depressed. I’m not. I love life. I’m a freakin’ professional pilot. I get to fly with the eagles for pay. In fact, just the other day I breezed past two bald eagles on different occasions while up at about 1000ft. Can you imagine being an eagle and just climbing up and up and up? I can. And I can imagine it more accurately than you because I know what the eagles never think about. For all its apparent freedom, the sky is a pretty restricted, rule-ridden realm of the planet–if you’re human. But if you’re the eagle? He just soars. And I got to see him do it, looking right and looking down.
They were each surreal moments and are now treasured memories.
I’m not depressed. But I am angry. I am angry at the LORD. I am angry that, in all his infinite wisdom, he has put this woman in my life. For what? Or, KJV style, wherefore? Why?
To be determined, I guess.
I have never met anyone else like her. I’ve met blacks. I’ve met Mexicans. I’ve worked alongside ex-cons. Studied alongside killers. Worshiped with immigrants. Pimped prostitutes. Laughed with liars. But I’ve never met anyone else like her.
I guess I should be happy she’s only one entity. It could have been worse.
Still, I wish I had never met her. She is a black hole of malicious nothingness wrapped in a wrecking ball. I cannot even begin to imagine what her parents think of her. And to hear our daughter speak of her brings sadness every time. Sadness, because she lies to our daughter.
She lies to our daughter. She lies to our daughter. Oh yes, she lies to our daughter.
The reckoning is coming. I cannot wait.
She lies to our daughter. Oh boy, she lies to our daughter.
Does she not know I taught our daughter to read? Not just to sound out the words, but to actually read.
No, I’m not depressed. I’m excited.
She lies to our daughter. The reckoning is on its way.
I have faced the reckoning. Probably five of them by now. Hers is on its way.
Who lies to a child? Maybe before literacy among the three of us doubled, it would’ve worked. But our daughter knows how to read. I made sure of that.
Right or wrong, I do stupid things to stay in control. But teaching her to read was not stupid.
I’m so tired of leaders who attempt to dupe us with this, “It’s a marathon not a sprint,” talk.
Everyone knows the only reason they say it is they know they are making unbelievable decisions with obviously disastrous consequences. The analogy fails for a few reasons, but the most glaring is that there are two elements to the races mentioned: speed and distance. An analogy works best if there’s only one element.
Maybe it is obvious to you, but I don’t even know which one they mean. Do they mean, “Don’t worry about my leadership, it’s gonna be bad for a long time?” Or “Don’t worry about my leadership, it’s gonna be bad for many more miles?”
I know, I know, you think there’s no way they mean “miles”. Okay. So let’s look at the time comparison.
The world record for a marathon is run at a pace of 2m54s per kilometer which is 174s. Divided by 10, that is 17.4s per 100 meters. The world record for the 100 meter dash is 9.58s—so about twice as fast a pace.
But by now I’ve thoroughly confused myself because I don’t see the point anymore. Is the leader saying “Recovery is going to take twice as long as you think?” If that was all they were trying to say, I’d think they could say it—and follow it up with data on how long we think it’s going to be and how long it’s actually going to be (and that it’s double). And then I get suspicious because if they won’t say the “twice as long” thing in plain terms—no analogy—then I want to know why.
As I figured this, it came to mind, that with a sustained 17.4 second hundred meter dash for an entire 26.2 mile marathon (421+ sprints), I hardly think anyone would suggest the marathon runner is giving less than his absolute best effort every single step, every life-giving breath—no different than the sprinter. Both men are running their absolute fastest for the duration of the race. Hmm. Duration. Are they simply wanting us to acknowledge the problem is a long one? Why not just say that? I know, because it doesn’t make sense. Because then they’d have to define the problem. Because in their inability to define the problem, they’d look weak. So rather than look weak, they’re going to try to dupe us. Here’s a sarcastic big thumbs up.
Now it’s my turn to use the analogy. Hey, leaders! We’re not stupid. But we also aren’t seeing all that you are. So you have some advantage. Please do your best—including the way you communicate to us. For now, stop using this stupid analogy as if it means something.
I’ve swung back-and-forth quite a bit during this pandemic. The two ends would best be characterized by denial and anxiety. Today something new is bubbling up. I’m beginning to feel like I’ve been bamboozled.
It started as I considered this notion of “essential”. Actually, it started by reading what exactly was “essential” according to the government, and seeing how markedly it differed from my previous understanding of the word.
Now, it continues to build as I focus on how this is exactly how a socialist economic system works: Central planning. In other words, someone, not me, decides what I believe is essential.
Before the pandemic, Americans were doing just fine determining what was essential for their life. If we made a lot of money, we couldn’t live without extravagance. If we didn’t make any money, we survived by driving for Uber.
We were never satisfied with our fancy cars and ever changing diets, or we were eternally grateful to be able to make more money at will.
Now, the government is both feeding us the horrifying information about the disease and determining which parts of our lives are essential. This is a problem.
More pointedly, I just want to repeat that Major League Baseball is essential to summer.
Hey, You! Sleepy-head! Wake up! What is essential to you?
This post is tricky for two reasons. Firstly, the child I’ve been observing could someday read it. Secondly, while it’s true that you’re reading this, I’m not sure you’re ‘literate’.
To cancel out any negative repercussions possible within the first reason, I want to clarify that my intentions are to simply record an observation that is interesting to me. There’s no judgement here. You didn’t cause yourself to be illiterate.
Regarding the second reason, I consider literacy to include the actual ability to imagine that you’re someone else. Literacy is not about lofting the sounds of symbols into the air. It is about understanding the author’s written ideas, their point-of-view, inasmuch as they can be understood by a reasonable person.
Quickly, then, the word of the day is “mimic”. That’s the best way I can think to capture the process. I have now watched for many months a unique-to-me case of an illiterate child growing up. They look just like us. Dress like us. Eat the same food. Drink the same beverages. But when it comes to talking, they exhibit a totally different pattern. Without having been read to in the womb, without having been read to as an infant, without having been read to as a toddler, without having begun to read in kindergarten, without having been reading on their own for the next three years, the illiterate child can only mimic sounds.
Think bird calls or mating calls–nature style.
I suppose in the pre-television/pre-entertainment-on-demand days this might have been an acceptable path to wisdom. But in our day, what this can mean is the child picks the reaction they like best–say laughter–and then begins to mimic or simply repeat the words which the characters uttered which preceded the laughter. Again, think about how a young animal might learn to imitate its parent’s audible warning or mating calls.
The important, and new-to-me, thing that I want to draw attention to is the lack of thinking. At the illiterate level, the child makes noises to obtain desired responses. Maybe crying for food, age-inappropriate jokes for laughter, coughing for a hug, gulping loudly for encouragement–all things that would be missed by a deaf parent.
Even more to the point, the illiterate child can start to use words instead of sounds, but–and don’t miss this–to the child the words are still merely sounds. They are empty words. If another set of words accomplished the desired goal, the illiterate child would use those. For the illiterate child, achieving the desired response is the only thing that matters.
Put inversely, coherence has no place. Truth has no place. Consistency has no place. Particulars have no place.
Again, for the illiterate child, achieving the desired response is the only thing that matters.
There is a flip-side, too. If I’m right, it means that for the literate there is something more in life.
My most recent pastor loves to commend believing in the Bible even when you don’t understand it. (Most recently, this was communicated in response to Old Testament saints’ polygamy.)
My father wants to write a book about the value of dreaming–not during sleep, but the kind of dreaming where you let your mind just freely choose a desirable future, no matter how likely, and then enjoy the accompanying sensation for as long as you can–even if it that future never comes true.
My wife is woefully unaware of Western Civilization’s most recent two and a half millennia of history, and simultaneously is one of the most happy and hopeful people I know.
My best friend, who is the most principled, and therefore inspiring, person I know, wonders if the coronavirus coverage and government and extra-government response is actually a strategic, coordinated, and intentional effort by those who oppose President Trump to prevent him from winning reelection.
Put another way, I think it’s time to escape for a bit. Will you join me?
I like to escape by focusing as hard as I can on something, anything that catches my attention. No more keyboard. No more blog. No more computer. No more news. No more family. No more house. No more job. No more planet. No more universe. Just me and the idea.
Today’s idea is making a vow.
The vehicle which delivered this idea to me is the passage in Judges where one Judge, Jephthah, vows to the LORD to sacrifice as a burnt offering that which comes out of his home upon his victorious arrival–if only the LORD will grant him certain victory. If you’re unfamiliar, his only daughter is “that which” comes out and he sacrifices her, with her encouragement.
I can imagine that some people would point to this story as reason to question scripture’s status as “worthy of study”. To them I would offer this reminder, “Jesus saved my soul. Jesus commended scripture. I’m sticking with Jesus.”
I can imagine that others would draw some ridiculous and irrelevant points about “vowing” and different “covenants” or more simply, “That was then, this is now–there is no need to dwell.”
Then, I can remember that at the end of a recent translation of Homer’s Iliad, or some other ancient classic, the critic commends it for containing characters who behave so inexplicably and unpredictably. In other words, the critic lauded the story for its messiness. The critic, I think, loved the story because it made the reader think, “Hmm. What would I do?” or “Hmm. Would I do the same thing? Have I done the same thing?”
Vowing is an interesting enterprise as it essentially brings into focus our integrity as individuals. Within “vowing” the group, the community, disappears.
In the account recorded in Judges, the situation’s tragedy is compounded by the daughter’s urging her father to keep his vow, his integrity–even though it would mean that she dies because of it.
Keep in mind that these people don’t know Jesus. There is no “personal relationship”. It’s back in ancient history and it’s over in a part of the world when what we call “theocracies” were at least normal, if not the norm. Also, keep in mind literacy rates in bible times and the chance that the daughter knew anything about Yahweh, other than he was her father’s god and some rote memorization of the most memorable laws, would be very difficult to defend. In other words, I think we could insert any other deity’s name and the story would present the same.
Despite all these words, I can’t untangle myself from the two questions, “Why make the vow?” and “Why fulfill the vow?”
Integrity. That’s why.
Okay. Escape over.
It was okay. But I got an email from H-‘s school district about COVID-19 during the attempt. Remind me to close that tab next escape-attempt.
The email contains a link to a “comic” on NPR’s website to use to help kids stay stress free. Pictographs? Really? We’re going to survive the pandemic because someone drew pictures?
What should schools do right now? The same thing they should always do, the same thing which they never do. Pack any children you can see into buildings and teach the kids how to read words. Make it clear that we expect everyone of any age to always fight through any sickness. Keep the posture that because of literacy, if you get sick in America, you don’t die. But most importantly, teach the kids how to read words. Teach the kids how to read words. Teach the kids how to read words.
We don’t need stress-free kids. We need literate adults.
And I just received another email.
I’m over it.
Two emails in less than one hour and four minutes counts as hysteria. This is embarrassing. Every single teacher and administrator involved in public schools should be embarrassed and ashamed for furthering this hysteria.
The New York Times recently published the diary entry of one Yale Professor Extraordinaire, Dr. Claudia Rankine. The title: “I Wanted to Know What White Men Thought About Their Privilege. So I Asked.”
Read it for yourself (if you’ve enough free articles remaining) here.
Or, if you’re short on time, and, like me, really don’t care what other people of any community think (I mean ‘ambivalence’ in the most noble way, of course), here’s the summary: Through many displays of academic prowess and charming intellectual honesty, Professor Rankine adroitly conveys earnestness. She really is curious. (Mind you, her judgement–and sentence–have already been pronounced.) But she really, really wants to learn. And so, what does she learn? She learns that White Men are aloof about their White Privilege.
Most of you know that I was an officer and pilot in the United States Air Force. As my uncle, himself a retired sailor, opined regarding my desire to join the Air Force as a pilot, “You will walk on water.” He was right. We pilots walked on water. (Incidentally, I’ve been tightening-up my understanding of the sky, and there is one very concrete sense in which we pilots do tread on water.)
That is to say, I believe this Jesus-like trait of mine is evidence that Professor Rankine would happily include me in her research sample.
Why did I read her piece if I really didn’t care what she thought? Well, I like to be a good communicator. I like to make people laugh. I like to be approachable. Mostly, I like to talk.
So I reasoned that maybe there are other “Claudia’s” living in fear of big, bad Pete. Maybe they are snooping around, cowering just out-of-sight. Maybe they are just waiting to pick up some cue that I won’t mind chatting about my not-just-internal narrative of White Privilege. I thought that maybe I could learn that if I wear the right clothing, or have the right glasses, or smile, or don’t smile, or stare, or never make eye-contact, or tap her on the shoulder as I cut in line, or have the right book out, maybe, just maybe, she’ll become courageous and chat me up.
But then, no. That’s not how fear works. Fear breathes; but it inhales only the decayed air of windowless rooms. Fear sees; but it is blinded by light. Fear feeds; but it consumes only lies. Fear is curious; but it never learns.
And so, sad as it may seem, I will be left unmolested. Because I am not afraid. But you, Professor Doctor, are.
(But you shouldn’t be! Just talk to me.)
(But watch out!)
It was the fall of two years ago, putting me shortly after my thirty-sixth birthday. I was in the midst of some men who were mostly fifty plus years old.
The particular interrogator I faced carried his ninety-seven years venerably. He was respected by all, by which I mean all jumped at the opportunity to serve him–even the seventy year olds who were twenty years his junior. Most often, if the short time I spent with him indicated anything, the service rendered was simply bringing a blanket to keep away the cold.
His topic of inquiry: Origins. Beginnings. Genesis.
He asked me because he had heard me say that I studied such things.
I didn’t know what to say.
Reader, don’t misunderstand me. I had my answer at the ready. Yet I was quieted by the emotional aspect of the stated query. This elder is about to meet his maker. Possibly that weekend. And he’s not only respecting me enough to see what I’ll say (though I have always suspected he’d cast a fool’s line), he’s maintaining his tight grip on the joy of investigation.
The content of his question eludes my memory, but it was something to do with the peoples of earth that the Bible characters met and from where they spawned. I told him, “I don’t know.” But I went on to tell him, “No one knows. Moses didn’t tell us. And we should be very careful when listening to someone who makes a claim otherwise.”
Today I will add that this, as with Paul’s comments on another profound topic within Beginnings talk, “This mystery is great.”
I couldn’t tell if he approved–of either my answer or me.
My reason for sharing this experience here is to give a glimpse into what I think is one of life’s pleasures which is unique to Christianity.