I alone

(Title is, of course, from the song by Live. I’m a 90s child.)

“You’re not alone,” people always say. In your darkest, weakest moments, they’ll offer those three words as some sort of panacea. It’s intended to be a sympathetic gesture, an acknowledgment of your suffering. It’s meant as a comforting truth.

In reality, it’s nothing but another lie.

We, as humans, are alone in many ways. You’re born alone (unless you’re a Siamese twin) and you die alone (unless you’re a member of a cult or something). Whatever awaits us in the hereafter, if you believe in that sort of thing, we must face by ourselves. And the far more pressing concerns and pressures residing within our minds are likewise something no one else can help with.

That’s a simple fact. Nobody knows exactly what I’m thinking, as my words will always convey only a subset of what’s truly going on inside my head. Another person, looking at me from the outside, can’t comprehend that mass of thoughts, emotions, feelings, and concerns. And I can do nothing about that. To quote one of my favorite songs, “Stop saying, ‘I know how you feel.’ How can anyone know how another feels?”

We carry on with the illusion, though, because we’re human. We have a natural need to empathize. In that, emotions are contagious. Whether or not we intend them to spread, they will. The people who don’t feel along with us are rightly seen as abnormal: we call them psychopaths.

But that doesn’t mean those who feel these emotions along with us are facing the same causes we are. Not at all. They only get the effects, and those effects are very often prone to misinterpretation. Is he happy because he got a promotion? Because his wife’s pregnant? Or just because he watched a funny video? We can’t really say for sure. All we, as outsiders not privy to the internal monologue, can say is that he’s happy, but that’s enough for most people to feel their own burst of happiness. The same goes for any other emotion, sadness or anger or whatever you choose.

That’s why “you’re not alone” rings so hollow in my mind. My partner has said it on numerous occasions. So has my boss. In both cases, while I’d like to accept their words at face value, it just isn’t possible. I know that I have to face some things alone. I have to fight some battles alone.

For me, most of those battles are against my inner demons, that multitude I’ve discussed at length here. No one but me can see them, let alone fight them. As I know I’m not strong enough to do that in my current state, it leaves me in a conundrum.

There are battles we can fight together. The fight for freedom, for instance. But those battles are against external foes, people or groups or ideas we can point to as enemies. We can have a war against mandatory vaccinations, or against communism, or against progressives. Those are battles we can (and must) fight en masse.

The war inside my head, however, must be fought by an army of one. I can get advice and aid from others, but they can’t stand in my place. I alone must face my demons, whatever my friends and loved ones might say.

Human pride

June, as everyone not living under a rock knows, is Pride Month. It’s that special time of year when corporations across the country dress up their logos with the rainbow flag that gains colors faster than a box of crayons and spread vague, virtue-signaling one-liners about how they stand with certain people against hatred. Oh, and there used to be marches and stuff, but then Valentine’s Day used to be a Catholic saint’s day, too.

The original purpose of Pride Month wasn’t that bad…at least in theory. As a social movement to increase awareness of alternative lifestyles and relationships, it served a purpose. Of course, since the Oberfeller decision a few years ago, that purpose is now superfluous. Gay marriage is legal across the nation, the ultimate expression of acceptance. And that case also set a precedent: sexual orientation is considered a protected legal category under the 14th Amendment, so the entire “gay rights” agenda has been fulfilled. Equality is here. There’s no need to fight for it any longer.

Thus bereft of a goal, Pride Month has been left to a rather confusing pair. Commercialization is the fate of all holidays, really, so it’s only natural that a month-long celebration of once-forbidden love would find itself in the corporate crosshairs. But the movement was always geared towards the political left, so we now see the curious juxtaposition of anti-capitalist progressives on June 1 “standing with” the very global corporations they were threatening to boycott on May 31.

Both sets share the same desire, however, so it’s not entirely unreasonable to see this temporary alliance of convenience. For these groups seek to divide us for their own gain. Progressives thrive on conflict, as we know; their whole worldview is based on class warfare, on setting us against each other. Corporations, of course, are only out for short-term gains, but those most immersed in the “pride” culture tend to be the ones with captive markets and virtual monopolies. They can’t very well lose market share, but a few tweets can reach the small segment of the populace who would otherwise ignore them, and that’s just modern PR.

But using this month as a reason to incite further divisions in society or, worse, to cast those who are tired of the force-fed propaganda as hateful and loathsome, is a tragic miscarriage of justice, to say the least. Much like Black History Month, what was once a celebration has become an inquisition. It’s anti-human. It’s anti-equality. It is, to put it simply, a perversion of everything the various equal rights movements were founded upon.

Instead of worshiping what sets us apart, we should begin to embrace what we have in common. We should take pride in being human, because all of us share that. Whatever you believe, whatever you look like, whatever attracts you, you are human. You are one of billions, yet still unique in many ways.

Not only are you human, but so are other people. Everyone you love, everyone you know, is a human being, just like you and me. In a world where dark forces seek to dehumanize us at every turn, to fit the entire population into a number of mutually-exclusive categories solely to set us against one another, it’s important to remember that we are better than that. We can do better.

Within the last decade, we proved that by ending a restriction, a limitation of rights defined as inalienable, that had been in place for over 200 years. None of us is lesser because of who we love, and that statement is now the law of the land. True, we may not always live up to the ideals we express, but that is no reason to reject them. No, we must do better. We must strive to reach them, while knowing we will never quite attain the perfection and utopia we long for.

We are human. Our reach will always exceed our grasp, but that should not dissuade us. The pride we should celebrate is not that which separates us, and certainly not the idea that some of us deserve more because of who we are. No, our pride is in the knowledge that humanity can grow, that each and every one of us can contribute to that growth if we all work together.

Progress doesn’t care if you’re gay or straight, if you’re black or white, if you’re male or female. All that matters is being human. The only entry card to the clique of progress is your humanity. As corporations aren’t people, they’ll never understand that. As progressives stand against unity, they will always fight it. But we know the truth.

In this month and every month to come, be proud. Be human.

Dear agony

(Title for this post is from the Breaking Benjamin song of the same name, whose refrain you’ll see as soon as I finish this parenthetical.)

Dear agony,
Just let go of me
Suffer slowly
Is this the way it’s gotta be?

The simple answer to your question, Ben, is…no. No, it doesn’t have to be that way. But only if something good happens to give you a little bit of hope.

Over the past few weeks, it has.

For fifteen long months, I had suffered. I had all but given up. I’m not afraid to admit that. There were nights that I cried myself to sleep, days where I would hide in my room, not wanting to do anything but sleep. And if that sleep turned into the more permanent sort, well, I wouldn’t have been opposed. At least then the pain would stop, right?

Now, I honestly feel like a whole new person. While I’m sure a certain man in northern Virginia wouldn’t mind taking all the credit for that, it wasn’t just the job that gave me hope. No, landing that position merely gave me the spark. As I’ve said often, if I could get just one good thing to happen to me, all the rest would fall in line. And it might be doing precisely that.

The world still sucks, as we all know, but things are getting a little better. The ranks of those who question the narrative are growing, and they have grown large enough in my humble state to start putting the brakes on our slow decline into tyranny. Better would be throwing this train into reverse and getting us back to liberty: banning mask mandates, banning vaccine passports, opening schools and bars and sporting events. In short, living our lives, instead of cowering in fear. But any progress is good, even if it’s so slow that snails are outrunning us.

That is one belief I hold dear. Progress is good. Progress has given us immeasurable benefits, and it will continue to do so as long as we embrace it. Not everything new is progress, however. Anyone who has grumbled over an app update or yelled at a voice menu knows that all too well.

True progress is that which improves the human condition: longer lives, healthier lives, more freedom, more resistance to the ravages of nature, and so on. Unfortunately, it’s so often the case that we are told these things are bad. We’re defying the will of God or poisoning Mother Earth or whatever.

The worst of this sort of thinking became popular last year, when elites and their hangers-on parroted the line, “Nature is healing.” In effect—and, in some cases, in words—these people made the claim that we humans are a pathogen, and the made-in-China coronavirus was, in fact, a natural response to our overreach in some nebulous way. Of course, the same people say the same things about weather disasters, so you can’t take them seriously, but the sheer idiocy of such a statement never fails to annoy me.

My contemplations of the past year or so gave rise to technetism, but this anti-human religion gives it an enemy. And I feel it gives me a higher purpose, something beyond writing novels and computer programs. Common sense dictates that I reject the nihilism and doom-saying of the environmentalists, the pandemic fearmongers, and all those who stand in the way of progress.

However, a negative philosophy is no philosophy at all; this is my biggest criticism of atheism, and it fits here, too. It is perfectly fine to say that you don’t believe in something, but far more fulfilling if you can find something you do believe in. If you have to make it yourself, then so be it. Every movement began somewhere.

I choose to believe that humans are an inherently positive influence on the world, and on each other. We build, we create, we invent. We solve problems. We come together and make something greater. Yes, there are individuals (and large groups) standing in our way, blocking our progress. Impediments have always existed, though. They’ll never truly go away. What we can, and must, do is overcome them. The best way to start, in my opinion, is to be more sociable. Shake hands, hug, get close to one another again. Take off the masks and let people see that we are human beings.

There’s still a lot of agony out there. For me, it hasn’t all gone away over the past few weeks. But now I have enough positive influences in my life to see the sun peeking through the clouds. Now I have a reason to fight that extends beyond myself and those I love.

Maybe that’s all I needed.

May it be

(Yes, it’s a pun. You’ll just have to get over it.)

At the start of April, I felt I had nothing and I was going nowhere. It’s just that simple. A long time ago, I decided I wouldn’t sugarcoat things here, so I told the truth as I saw it: I began last month aimless and, to put it simply, hopeless.

Since then, things have taken a turn for the better. I have a job as a full-stack developer—basically what I was already doing, but with the added bonus that I’ll be paid for it now. My relationship with the woman I love is slowly but surely picking back up, and I believe it’ll soon reach new heights.

Best of all, Hamilton County at last rescinded its illegal mask mandate a few days ago. Now that this human rights violation is gone (a year too late, if you ask me), I can actually go inside again. I mean, I could before, but only if I went up to Dayton, which doesn’t have nearly the commercial variety of Chattanooga. Now, though, we have finally been allowed to regain one of the vital freedoms, the inalienable rights, we lost last year.

We still lack others guaranteed by the Constitution. Freedom of speech is useless if you’re blocked from using it at every turn, as anyone who criticizes the regime on Facebook or Twitter (or who tries to start an alternative) will quickly discover. Freedom of religion and assembly both normally require being in proximity to other people; Zoom calls just don’t cut it. The right to privacy (enumerated, in part, by the Fourth Amendment) has been in mortal danger for two decades, no matter which party claims to be in power.

To be sure, other places have it worse. Most other English-speaking countries are effectively country-sized prisons at this point: Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are the most notable. The Pacific states get to suffer both lockdowns and riots. Compared to the sheer horror of other places, rural Tennessee really isn’t that bad.


Lately, I’ve been getting a lot more philosophical. I attribute this to my precarious mental state, my disdain for the way things are, and maybe even the first wisps of middle age, a phase of my life I’m approaching far too quickly.

I won’t say I’ve become religious, because I still find most forms of organized religion to be far too controlling and irrational for my tastes. If I wanted that, I’d turn on CNN, not TBN. But I, with a little help from those closest to me, have been discovering a kind of spiritual side of myself that was buried deep within.

(One of the few perks of getting older is that you get to use a few certain phrases to start sentences. Here’s one of them.) For decades, I’ve wanted to make an impact on the world, a change in the way things are that bring them closer to how I feel they should be. I don’t believe I’ll ever be the kind of thinker who deserves to be named alongside Thomas Paine, John Locke, or Baruch Spinoza, three of my favorite Enlightenment-era voices, but I do feel I have something to contribute in that vein.

I’m calling it technetism: literally, belief in creation. Because that is what I believe in. Creation over destruction. If I’ve learned anything from the depths of the past year, it’s that. What I value most strongly as a person, as a human being, is the positive power of making something. Whether that’s a computer program, a garden, a baby, a house, a scientific discovery, or a new social order, as long as you’re creating something, you’re adding to humanity as a whole. If you only destroy, by contrast, you’re taking away from all of us.

Creation, then, is the central pillar, but not the only one. It’s flanked by two others that, to me, also represent fundamental aspects of being human: learning and exploration. Without knowledge, we can’t make the right decisions; learning is the way we acquire that knowledge. Exploration lets us grow our worlds and add to our experiences, ultimately with the goal of sharing them through creation, even if that creation is merely the making of a new friendship or a lifelong relationship with, say, a soulmate living 100 miles away.

All three of these qualities are sorely lacking today. Too many people are seemingly against the whole idea of learning, closing their eyes and their minds to anything but the propaganda doled out by their favorite news outlet. Exploration is actively discouraged from childhood, and actually illegal in many places at the moment, because our society has chosen the wrong path in prioritizing safety above all else. And finally, we have all seen the sheer destruction that has wracked our country since last May.

Someone has to stand for what is good in this world. It might as well be me. I’m a man of principle, and I will stand up for what I believe is right. I will speak out against the evils I see in society, and those bent on destroying it. I do this not to make enemies, but to remind you that we can all be friends.

We have more in common than we realize, because we are all human. Deep down, we all have that spark of creation within our hearts. It doesn’t matter if you think it came from God or evolution or whatever. It doesn’t matter if that heart is inside a white body or a black one, a male or female. We are creators. We are explorers.

I, for one, am going to act like it.