My life as an 8-year old misfit

“Sorry,” the pastor tells me. “You’ll have to sit in the back pew again.”

It’s ok.

The holy wafers don’t look all that tasty.

It’s about ten o’clock on a Wednesday morning. I’m at school, shuffling my way to the back row of wooden pews. Outside, the weather is warm and inviting. Spring is in full force. The school year is almost over.

But for now, I’m stuck in here.

Oh right. I forgot to tell you. I’m at a private Catholic school. It’s called Holy Family. I’ve been attending this school my entire life. It’s a pretty great place most of the time. Our classes are small. Our teachers are strict, but fair. And they’re really good at teaching.

The one small complication: I’m not Catholic. Nor do I believe in God.

I’m also the only student among several hundred who hasn’t been baptized.

Of all the stunning gothic churches in the greater Chicago area, it figures that the one I’m in is ugly. From my seat, I can see stained-glass windows, the pastor’s dais, and the little metal box they call the tabernacle.

But this place has no towers, no sharp spires reaching for Heaven, none of the classic Catholic architecture.

It’s cold. It’s boring.

It’s municipal.

I can’t wait for Communion to end so I can go to recess.

The other kids file past me. They’re all wearing their special uniforms. Their robes are white and black, their shoes fancy. But for me, it’s the same yellow shirt and navy pants I wear every day.

It’s cool. They’ll have to change clothes before playing kickball today. I won’t.

Lounging in the back row, squinting to see what’s happening up front, I stick out like a sore thumb. When my friend Tricia walks by, I make her giggle, but both of us are quickly silenced by Sister Alvina. The nuns here are all-powerful. No one giggles on Sister Alvina’s watch.

Not even me.

Communion continues. It’s a quiet affair, considering the room is stuffed with parents, kids, altar boys, and nuns. I’m not really sure what the fuss is all about. I guess I’m not all that curious, either.

The kids march up to the pastor in single file, eat a pale wafer, and sip some red juice. The pastor says, “Body of Christ, blood of our savior…” and some other important-sounding stuff, and then it’s done. Next kid up. Next soul in line for Heaven.

Is it really this easy? I wonder.

Is that all it takes to get into Heaven?

If I didn’t love this school so much, I’d have begged out of this place.

My friends are being indoctrinated.

And they don’t even know it.

Oh well.

If today was the only day I had to sit in the back pew, everything would be fine. I can get over one little day. For an eight-year old boy, I’m as patient as they come. If I can sit still for twenty more minutes, I’ll be out there in the sunshine, kicking the hell out of rubber balls.

But this is the tenth time I’ve been stuck in here. Watching the other kids. Not allowed to dangle my finger in the holy water. Not permitted to wear the sweet-looking holy ropes. Not sure whether the red stuff in the pastor’s cup is Kool-Aid or actual pinot noir.

I might not know what pinot noir is yet, but I’m pretty sure I could use some.

If my dad were here, he’d probably remind me for the hundredth time about his decision not to have me baptized.

“…let you make your own choices,” he’d have said.

“…can change your mind when you’re older.”

The last few kids march past. They’re mostly Irish, just like me. They’ve got names like O’Conner, McDonnell, and Thompson. They don’t look at me today. I don’t look at them.

Everyone knows the deal.

I’m not allowed to play with wafers and sip fake wine because no one splashed me with the magic water. It’s all good. Any sense of curiosity I feel is dulled by my exclusion. The nuns don’t pity me, which is good.

But…

I’m pretty sure they’re wary of me. As if I’ve got a disease. I don’t belong here, and everyone knows it.

Finally, it ends. The pastor utters a few holy words, and the kids disperse. Across the aisle, Tricia’s parents smile and glow. I’m just glad none of my family are here. My expression isn’t something they’d be proud of.

I’m hovering in the grey space between sleepiness and boredom. It’s written all over my face.

A few minutes later, I’m outside. There’s not a cloud in the great blue sky. A field of suntouched grass awaits me and my classmates. We’re not thinking about holy wafers and blood-wine any longer.

It’s time for kickball.

And yet, as I await my chance to crush the bouncy red ball into oblivion, I can’t help but wonder. It’s something Sister Alvina said. It’s something Miss Calvin has repeated. And though they’d never admit it, it’s something most of my family has signed up for.

Since I’m not baptized, I’m not really a Catholic.

And if I’m not a Catholic, I’m going to Hell. You know – that place where the souls of the damned burn for all eternity.

I wonder if the other kids believe it. I question, even though they’re willing to play kickball with me, whether or not they think I’m going to roast forever in a fiery pit.

I guess it’s easier if we don’t talk about it.

* * *

To continue the story, go here.

My Daily Struggle With Not Giving a F**k

Nothing matters.

Nothing at all.

Don’t agree?

I’ll explain:

Objectively speaking, our universe is infinite. Our solar system, huge as it might appear, is no more than a tiny pinprick in the fabric of our galaxy. And our galaxy, as absurdly vast as it seems, is just a small puff of gas and dust in an ever-expanding cosmos.

How’s the saying go?

You’re a ghost driving a meat-covered skeleton made of stardust, riding a rock, hurtling through space.’

*

And the other saying? The one by Carl Sagan?

‘The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.’  – Carl Sagan – Pale Blue Dot, 1994

What does this mean? Well… It means the sum of humanity’s value to the universe is nil. And the sum of an individual human – I scarcely want to mention it for fear of insulting everyone. We’re small. Really small. To call us grains of sand on an immeasurably huge beach is unfair to grains of sand everywhere. We’re tinier than that.

We’re meaningless.

I’ll say it one more time so you know I’m not kidding.

We have no objective value. None. Nada. Zilch.

See that tiny speck in the middle right of this Voyager 1 photo? That’s Earth.

*

Should our smallness bother you?

No. Not really. Go about your life. Have fun. It’ll all work out in the end.

Does it bother me?

Yeah. A bit.

Before we go any further, let’s define something:

ni·hil·ism (ˈnīəˌlizəm,ˈnēəˌlizəm/)

  1. The rejection of all religious and moral principles, often in the belief that life is meaningless.
    synonyms: skepticism, negativity, cynicism, pessimism

Pretty hard to stomach, right?

And yet here I am.

Anymore, waging war against my instinctive nihilism is my life’s defining challenge. I know I’m not alone in this, but I do tend to focus on it perhaps more than the average person. As I grow older and my comfort level with having no meaning deepens, I feel an increasing urge to escape this world. And no, I don’t mean die. What I’m looking for is an escape from society. From people. From places. From things.

But I’ve got two complications. And therein lies the struggle.

Complication 1.  I enjoy this life despite its meaninglessness. When I’m able to forget my smallness (or at least set it aside) life tends to be fun. And while I realize not everyone is as lucky as I am to enjoy life, it feels pointless to carry any semblance of guilt.

Complication 2.  We’ll get to this one later…

Life is fun. Until it’s not. The exhaustive circle in which I’m spinning is often tolerable…except when society’s weight comes crashing down upon me. As an author and artist who makes his living with books and paintings, I’m obligated to have a presence in the world. I have a Twitter feed. A Facebook page. An Instagram profile. And although I pour my daily passion into maintaining these things, they aren’t me. They’re not real. They’re smaller than I’ll ever be, and I’m pretty tiny. They’re more meaningless than everything else, even though that’s impossible.

And when I stare out into the world, whether through the internet’s lens or with my own two eyes, my struggle deepens. I see the world we’ve created and I find it hard to feel this thing people call ‘hope.’ I suffer an existential ache – a deep, dark sense of ‘Why am I doing this? What do I hope to accomplish in this place?’

The politics. The wars. The murder. The rape. The ideologies. The people who talk as if they know many things…

I can’t stomach them.

Pop stars. The next big TV show. GIFs. Selfies. Hashtags. Political correctness. The latest, greatest iPhone…

I can’t make myself care.

Memes are stupid. And yet…

*

And so it goes. There’s nothing I can do to stop these things. I can no more slow society’s never-ending march than I can leap across the galaxy and settle alone on a planet far from Earth.

I’m powerless.

We all are.

Sometimes, our powerlessness isn’t evident. Lacking meaning, humanity invents things to amuse ourselves, to distract us from our insignificance. We’ve constructed pantheons of culture for the sole purpose of entertaining ourselves. We’ve unearthed every possible form of distraction, to which we flock the moment our daily work of survival is done. And, speaking of survival (which might once have been the truest form of human meaning) most of us really don’t struggle to survive anymore. We’re harder to kill than ever. We’re seven-billion and spreading. We’re able to grow older than ever before, all the while coming no closer to knowing our purpose in this universe.

Which might be a blessing.

…considering no purpose exists.

But for all my talk, for all my desire to wander off onto some far and quiet beach in the middle of nowhere, there’s a reason I can’t. I call it complication number 2, even though it’s not a complication at all.

It’s my son, the G Man.

He’s six now, and he doesn’t know much about this crap-stew we call life. For as long as I can, I’ll keep it that way. I’ll let him savor his childhood. He’ll see none of my cynicism. He’ll not hear me talk about about grains of sand, pale blue dots, or the hopelessness of choosing one side (of anything) against another. He gets to make up his own mind about these things. To indoctrinate him to my thought process would be to kill a part of his individuality.

I won’t do it.

And yes, I realize the hypocrisy.

I guess I’m not a ‘true’ nihilist. Or any ‘ist’ for that matter.

*

In the beginning of this article, I talked about humanity’s insignificance. Yes, it’s true. We’re insignificant, all of us. It’s not a belief. It’s reality, and there’s no going around it. And yet I can’t help myself. When it comes to my child, I don’t want to punish him by teaching him the brutal truth. If he learns it on his own (and he likely will one day) it’s ok. But I won’t be a mentor in this regard. I’ll allow him to invent his own meaning, just as many other billions of people do on a daily basis. If he wants to be religious, so be it. If he wants to dance with the rest of society and listen to Justin Bieber albums all day, ok. I’ll not try to stop him.

In doing so, in playing the part of unbiased, open-minded dad, I’ll struggle. I’ll toe the line between not giving a f**k and teaching my son to genuinely care about the world he lives in. It won’t exactly be pretending. I do care. And I do think the world can be a wonderful place. But at the same time, I’m acutely aware of ‘pale blue dot’ syndrome. We’re small. We’re pointless. The only reason my son has meaning to me is because I decided it would be so.

*

If there’s one thing I hope, it’s that my kid won’t be like me. Not that I’m miserable or full of horrid judgments for humanity – I’m not. But I’d like him to be free of burdens, free to decide what’s meaningful for himself. I want him to give a f**k. And truly, I hope this for all humanity. If for no other reason than life hurts more when we become aware there’s no prize at the end of the game, I hope my son gives as many f**ks as possible.

This is where I’m at. Stuck in the grey space between ‘aware of my meaninglessness’ and ‘willing to pretend meaning so my kid doesn’t become exactly like me.’ It’s an interesting place to be. I get to care, but not care. I get to glimpse hope through the eyes of another, and sometimes pretend his hope is my own.

There’s no meaning but what we make for ourselves.

And maybe that’s enough.

For now.

J Edward

A Thought for Every Thursday – Deep Space Drama Part 2

Each of this week’s questions center on space and humanity’s relation to the deep dark cosmos.

The questions are straightforward.

Your answers…not so much.

(Deep Space Drama Part 1 is here.)

* * *

Interstellar

 Suppose the world will end in ten years. From today until that time, everything on Earth will be normal. But once the tenth year rolls around, all life will end instantly.

You can save your family by flying alone to a distant planet and terraforming it.

You’d have to leave tomorrow, and you’d never see them again.

 Will you get on that spaceship?

*

Wormhole

 If scientists opened a stable wormhole that could take you to any point in the universe via spacecraft, and if you were given a round-trip ticket to use this wormhole to visit the location of your choice, where would you go?

Explain your choice.

*

Solar Sailor

 Suppose scientists built and perfected a spacecraft capable of extremely quick travel to every corner of the universe.

It’s a three-person ship. You can go anywhere and see anything.

The ship is limitlessly stocked with food and supplies.

The only catch: due to relativity, every year you’re away will mean twenty years pass on Earth.

Are you taking a trip? With whom? For how long?

*

*

* * *

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

Past Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

Until next week…

J Edward Neill

A Thought for Every Thursday – Deep Space Drama Part 1

Each of this week’s questions center on space and humanity’s relation to the deep dark cosmos.

The questions are straightforward.

Your answers…not so much.

* * *

The Final Frontier

 In the modern era, the United States government has allocated as much as 4.41% and as little as 0.49% of its yearly budget to pay for deep space exploration and related sciences.

Given the choice, what percentage would you spend?

*

We Come in Peace (or not)

 Imagine you are earth’s emissary to a strange, faraway planet. Upon landing your spaceship, you immediately encounter what appears to be friendly alien life.

What are the first three things you say to them?

*

The Few and the Many

 Imagine the world will end in five years.

The government’s plan is to construct one spacecraft for each family. Each ship can hold a family of four. The ships will fly to a nearby star system and drop you off on a habitable planet.

The problem: You and your spouse have four children.

 Stay on earth and wait for the end? Leave two kids behind?

Or convince your spouse to send the kids alone without you?

* * *

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

Past Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

Until next week…

J Edward Neill

A Thought for Every Thursday – Do you agree with these 5 famous quotes?

Regarding quotes…

Most quotes you find on the internet are probably mis-quoted, fake, or attributed to the wrong person.

It doesn’t really matter.

What’s important isn’t who said something or when they said it.

It’s whether or not that something is true.

Think hard on the following quotes and decide whether or not you agree with each one.

Explain why or why not.

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

 And here’s one just for sarcasm’s sake…

 *

For my part, I think these quotes (and pretty much all quotes) are misunderstood and/or appropriate only in specific situations.

In other words, almost nothing we say is true 100% of the time.

The context of everything must be considered.

But that’s an argument for another time…

 

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

Past Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

Until next week…

J Edward Neill

What’s 1 Little Japanese Maple Worth?

It’s the summer of 2016, and I’m poolside.

I’ve been living in a swanky apartment for a few months now. It’s about as close to Atlanta one can live without technically leaving the ‘burbs. I’m across the street from a high-end bar. I can hear the highway traffic roaring by.

But look, there’s still trees.

And no smog.

Life is pretty good.

The pool is packed today. Since the G Man and I started swimming here, the water has never been this populated. I count at least thirty kids and forty adults. Both poolside grills are smoking. It’s sizzling hot beneath the sun, but no one seems to mind. I’m lounging beside a beautiful girl, observing our sons as they splash the day away.

It doesn’t get much better than this.

The G Man and I love swimming so much, we come here every day. Sometimes at night. Sometimes even when it’s raining.

As the afternoon deepens, I’m enjoying conversation with my pool-date. Her son and mine have hit it off well. So well, in fact, they’ve been splashing, water-blasting, and half-drowning each other for the last three hours. We’re waiting for them to tire.

It’s not looking promising.

And so we sit, relax, and soak up the rays. We may look like we’re talking, but our eyes never stray far from our kids. Everyone else in the world can drown if they want, just not these two.

As it turns out, no one’s drowning today.

Whew.

But there’s still trouble.

A crowd of kids has gathered in the shallow end. They’re all several years older than the G Man, and they’re packing all kinds of heat – in the form of giant water guns. One kid has a pump-action shotgun blaster. Another has a water gun as massive as a military-grade RPG launcher.

At first, I think maybe they’re planning an assault on G Man and his new friend. I’m no helicopter parent, but if their plan is to bully my boy, I’m ready to dive in and fight everyone to the death.

Nope.

They’re not gunning for the G Man.

Their target: the red Japanese maple growing just outside the pool. It’s in a huge ceramic pot, and the kids are hosing down its leaves.

Thing is – our perfect little pool is filled with saltwater. Too much salt, and the Japanese maple will wither. And at the rate these kids are blasting it, the little tree doesn’t stand a chance.

Should I stop these kids?

Or would intervening precipitate an argument with more dads than I can handle?

I’m in my lounge chair, taking too long to decide. This is G Man’s moment. When his dad waffles, he steps up.

“Stop!” he screams at a pitch no one else in the world can match.

The kids all look at him. He’s a small guy, just forty pounds. Most of them are twice his size. He’s got no chance if it comes to blows.

They keep shooting.

“Stop!” he shouts again. “That’s salt water. You’re killing it.”

Ok. I’m kind of impressed.

I don’t remember teaching my son about the dangers of salt water to terrestrial flora. It may be that I once mentioned it offhandedly, that we grazed the topic during one of our epic-length scientific discussions.

Doesn’t matter.

He knows, and he’s pissed.

“Take your guns and go to the other side of the pool,” he instructs. The kids look at him like he’s just slapped them. They don’t know who they’re messing with. They don’t understand how one little kid could seek justice…for a tree.

I sit up, but I don’t intervene. Not yet. I want to see how far he’s willing to go to protect this lonely little tree.

“Water won’t kill it,” one of the kids says. “Trees like water.”

“Not salt water.” G Man glares. “The salt will get into the roots. It’ll kill the tree.”

He’s not calm, but he’s not shouting anymore. Standing his ground, he stares the tree’s attackers down. They’re still not sure what to do.

And while they stand in the shallows, pumping water into their guns, but not yet firing, one of their moms comes over. She takes G Man’s side and redirects the ruffians to the pool’s far side.

As suddenly as it began, the standoff ends.

The tree is safe for now.

When I wade into the water to console the G Man – and commend his bravery – I expect him to be angry at the other kids. They tried to kill a tree, after all. He and I have had a thousand talks about protecting nature whenever we can.

But he’s not mad at them.

He’s angry with me.

He tells me I should’ve, “Kicked all the kids’ butts.”

And maybe he’s right.

Maybe I should have.

The tree, just one life among the many at the pool that day, was worth protecting.

Someone had to stand up for it.

And so he did.

We may think we’re teaching our children.

But often they’re teaching us.

* * *

For more stories like this, go here.

J Edward Neill

A Thought for Every Thursday – The 7 Quickest Questions You’ll Ever Answer

Pop quiz, hot shot.

Answer each of the following using five words or fewer.

Go!

*

When is war the answer?

*

If you could only teach your child two lessons in life, what would the lessons be?

**

Is the best defense a strong offense?

*

Name one thing that truly, utterly terrifies you.

*

Is there anything in the world worthy of worship?

*

For $1,000,000, would you agree to never have sex again?

For $10,000,000

For $500,000?

*

The three worst things humanity has done over the course of history are:

____________________

____________________

____________________

*

 Can both of these be true??

* * *

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

Past Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

Until next week…

J Edward Neill

A Thought for Every Thursday – Life and Death Shopping

It feels shallow on the surface.

But your answers reveal much more than just how you’d spend a hundred bucks.

Answer it yourself. Share it with friends and family.

It’s…

*

Life and Death Shopping

 You have exactly $100 to go shopping with. What are you buying?

$25 – One ‘Kill Someone Else Instantly’ Card

$50 – No Enemies, Ever

$50 – One ‘Avoid a Fatal Accident’ Card

$25 – Get Away With Any 2 Lies

$50 – See One Single Event Before it Happens

$100 – Lifelong Wealth

$25 – Cure Any One Person’s Disease Once

$25 – Avoid Any One Emotion (name the emotion)

$75 – Immunity to Fear

$50 – Immunity to Pain

$25 – One ‘Change Someone Else’s Mind Permanently’ Card

*

 

* * *

Past Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

Until next week…

J Edward Neill

The Book of Wine…and Life.

In J Edward’s latest book, he promises to drain one bottle of red wine per chapter.

That’s the rule. 

There’s no breaking it.

 And while deep in his cups, he takes readers on a sometimes funny, sometimes poignant journey.  Playful yet serious, funny yet honest, the bounce between bottles takes readers on a stroll through everything. 

Dating. Religion. Politics. That one time J Edward and his friend built a dam and met the world’s most relaxed water moccasin…

 It’s all here.

One bottle per night.

Every night.

At least…that’s the idea.

Now Available!

   
* * *

Reality is Best Served with Red Wine

Anecdotes and philosophy by J Edward Neill

That time I almost got murdered by an old guy in a Chevy

I’m nine years old, and life is pretty good.

For an early September day in the ‘burbs outside Chicago, the weather is stunning. The winds are milder than usual, and the great northern chill has yet to descend. My classmates and I adore it. A mob of us have just walked a few miles to school. We pour into the hallways just before opening bell. It’s a private school, and so the boys are dressed in matching gold shirts and dark pants, while the girls wear classic plaid skirts.

We look pretty slick, all things considered.

But…

The moment we pile into our classroom, we can tell something’s up. Miss Calvin’s late, and she’s never late. I hear people talking out in the hall. One of the voices comes from a man, a tall man. He’s wearing a police uniform.

That’s weird, I think.

After a few minutes, Miss Calvin and the policeman enter our room. No one asks us to settle down; we’re already quiet.

“Morning, kids,” the policeman says. He towers over Miss Calvin. He towers over everything.

“I’m from the JPD, the Joliet Police Department. Your principal and several of your parents have asked me to talk to you today.”

This is no big deal, I figure. We’ve had police visitors before. The message is always the same: don’t do drugs, don’t talk to strangers, look both ways when crossing the street.

I almost check out.

Almost.

“Kids, I’m here for a special reason today,” the officer continues. “You see, there’s been some trouble, and since so many of you walk to and from school, we think it’s important to have a little talk.”

At this point, the class is riveted. Even I, the class clown, am itching to hear what he’s about to say.

“Two children from the public school have gone missing.” He drops the bomb.

Gasps.

Open mouths.

Incomprehension.

“Both children were nine years old, and both were last seen approaching a late model Chevy Nova. It’s a smaller model, olive green. Other children have reported that the man driving this vehicle called the kids into his car while they walked home from school.

“And neither of the children has been seen since.”

He lets it sink in.

And then he goes on to explain that if any of us see a green Chevy Nova, we’re to get away as fast as possible. Most of us don’t know what a Nova looks like, but he describes it in detail:

“Small.”

“Sporty.”

“Loud engine.”

He also describes the alleged man inside the car. I’m only half listening anymore. Being a young kid, I’m sure this whole event will end up having nothing to do with me. I’m afflicted with the same sense of invulnerability most nine-year olds feel.

The only thing nagging me: the officer never tells us anything about the missing kids.

Not even their names.

The officer departs. The rest of the day is normal. We work on our multiplication tables. We play kickball. I manage to not get into any trouble. Everyone’s whispering about the man in the green Nova, but only for a while. Without knowing the missing children’s names, it’s hard for us to be afraid. The kidnappings are a thing that didn’t happen to us.

They happened to someone else.

We’re safe. Right?

A few days pass. Everything goes back to normal.

The weather stays nice. In fact, it’s perfect. We can’t remember the last time September stayed so warm, so sunny, and so ideal for walking to and from school. Late in the month, the same as every afternoon, I decide to walk home with my friends, Stephanie and Brenda.

We’ve walked this route hundreds of times.

Only…we’ve never walked it with a green Chevy Nova trailing us.

As we turn onto Lilac Lane, it’s Brenda who spots the car. Stephanie and I are too busy plotting out our afternoon’s mischief. We’d never have noticed a thing.

“You guys…” Brenda shakes us out of our daydreams. “Look.”

We glance to our left. There, just beyond a row of young oaks, gliding along the street at maybe five miles per hour, we see the ugly green car. We can’t believe it. It’s almost not real.

Brenda doesn’t wait for Stephanie and me to make up our minds. She bolts away from the road, skirt swishing as she vanishes between two houses. Within seconds, she’s gone.

Brenda’s pretty smart.

The car rolls closer. I’m trying to play it cool, as if my indifference can save me. Stephanie says something to me, but I tune her out. I think she’s shouting my name. It doesn’t matter. She takes off in the same direction as Brenda. Her house is the opposite way. I’m not worried for her. Everyone in our neighborhood knows everyone.

She’ll be fine, I figure. She’ll get home.

Still in disbelief, I finally give the ugly green car a good look. The man inside is older. He’s wearing a hat.

He looks exactly like the creeper the policeman warned us about.

I think I see him stop and start rolling down the passenger side window.

And I’m gone.

I’m a fast runner. Faster than Brenda and Stephanie. Faster than anyone in my class. In my neighborhood, among houses I know better than anyone, the old man has no chance of catching me. I’m gone in five seconds. I don’t even know which way I’m running. What’s important is that he’s gone, too.

You’re not stuffing me in your trunk, buddy, I think.

Not today. Not ever.

The next morning at school, we hear the announcement over our classroom speakers:

The man in the green Nova has been caught.

He’s in jail now, charged with several kidnappings. Not just the two kids from the public school. Several more.

The streets are safe again. Brenda, Stephanie, and I agree never to tell anyone about what happened.

But the thing that nags me for several weeks afterward:

No one ever says the names of the missing kids. I’m sure it’s mentioned on the news, but at our school, within our insulated bubble, no one ever speaks of it again.

It’s as if those kids never existed.

As if, because we didn’t know them, their lives weren’t as important as our own.

* * *

The story above is true.

Want more like it? Read Reality is Best Served with Red Wine.

J Edward Neill

A Thought for Every Thursday – Your Chance to Time Travel

In contrast to the deadly serious questions we’ve asked recently, we’re going to get scientific-lite.

Break out your beakers and glasses.

Let’s do this…

*

There and Back and There Again

 You’ve been given a time machine.

It will work three times before it breaks.

When and where are you going?

Do you use the final time to return to your present life?

***

Fight Club Time Machine

 Suppose you’re given the chance to travel back in time to fight any one historical figure to the death.

If you defeat them, the course of history will be changed in accordance with their absence.

The fight will be hand-to-hand. Your foe will be in their prime.

Whom will you fight?

*

Back to the Future

 You’ve built a time machine. It only goes one direction in time. Do you want to see how it all began? Or how it all will end?

*

 

* * *

Past Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

Until next week…

J Edward Neill

A Thought for Every Thursday – Are these famous quotes true?

Fact or fiction? Idealistic or realistic?

Each of this week’s questions centers on famous quotes from real life and literature.

And the pressure’s on you to answer…

*

Life Long or Die Hard

In Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar, the following line is uttered:

“Cowards die many times before their deaths;

The valiant never taste of death but once.”

 In other words, Shakespeare means to say that those who live in fear die a small death every time they back away from something that terrifies them.

Do you agree with this?

Why or why not?

**

That thing Thomas Jefferson said

 Are all men truly created equal?

If so, are they equal despite physical and intellectual differences?

If not, name the characteristics causing them to be less than equal.

*

Soul Armor

 J Robert Oppenheimer, creator of the atomic bomb, once quoted:

“In battle, in forests, at the precipice of a mountain,

On the great dark sea, in the midst of javelins and arrows,

In sleep, in confusion, in the depths of shame,

The good deeds a man has done before defend him.”

His point was that he hoped that all the good things he’d done in his life might shield him from the darkness of his bad deeds.

Do you believe a person’s goodness can protect them in any way?

*

 

* * *

Past Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

Until next week…

J Edward Neill

Water Under our Bridge

The year is 1992.

It’s raining now, just like I hoped.

In the heart of July, an afternoon that would otherwise be insufferably hot finds itself laid low by an unseasonably cool wind. The storms roll in from the north, dumping rain into the woods behind my tiny house.

Summer vacation. Can’t beat it.

As I stride between the maples and swaying pines, I know I’m living a different life than other sixteen-year olds. Most kids who attend Parkview High come from wealthy families, and are off vacationing at faraway beaches, mountain retreats, and golf resorts.

I don’t know anything about those places.

I’m right where I belong.

By the time Liam shows up, I’m thoroughly soaked. We hardly greet each other – just a shared grunt and a nod. We decide the day is too wet to enjoy our usual pastime of cul-de-sac Koosh ball, but far too perfect to flee inside and play video games.

“What should we do?” I ask Liam.

“Wanna play rain volleyball?” he says.

“Nah.”

“Wanna see if Tessa’s home? I know you like her, but she doesn’t know, so it’s—”

“Nah.”

“Ok.” He says with his hands on his hips. Liam’s a year younger than me, but at least four inches taller. He’d be imposing if he weren’t so skinny. “You got any other ideas?”

“Yeah,” I say. “See the creek over there?”

“Yeah.” He glances toward the narrow waterway trickling beneath a nearby bridge.

“Let’s dam it up,” I say.

He’s all in.

It begins. Without reservation, Liam and I descend to the creek. It’s a pitiful little thing, just eight feet across and six inches deep. Below the bridge, it trickles toward us through two huge concrete pipes. The pipes are big enough for us to walk through, but the dangling webs convince us we’d best stick to our side of the creek.

For now.

And so we do.

The thing about north Georgia is that it lies in the shadow of the Appalachian Mountains. The soil is mostly clay, and rocks are everywhere. Big granite stones mixed with quartz are strewn across the entire northern third of our lovely state.

We’re going to need some of those rocks.

That afternoon, Liam and I get the best workout of our young lives. We move hundreds of rocks, including several small boulders. We don’t have any tools. It doesn’t matter. The soil is rain-softened, meaning we’re able to pry rocks out with ease.

In just one little day, we build a two-foot high wall. It’s at least twenty feet long. The shallow creek slows and deepens. The water is up to our knees.

The hours slide past.

The outside world doesn’t exist.

We’ve never had so much fun in our lives.

“Again tomorrow?” Liam says.

“Definitely.”

Over the next few weeks, we meet below the bridge almost every day. Our parents don’t care – or really know. We’re both latchkey kids. His mom and my dad both work multiple jobs.

We’re as free as two teenagers can get.

Better still, it’s the wettest July we can remember. The rain crashes down on a daily basis, keeping the rocks loose and the creek flowing.

Our dam grows:

Two feet deep.

Three feet.

Up to our chests.

Deep enough to swim in.

We finish one dam only to start on a second. We’ve got a little waterfall going, tumbling from the tiny lake we’ve built into the pond we’re constructing below. Fish start showing up. Frogs, too. No one else in our neighborhood sees what we’ve built. The trees on either side of the bridge are too thick.

Sometimes I think this is as close as we’ll ever get to living meaningful lives.

Instead of planting ourselves in front of video games or getting into mischief – which Liam and I are known for – we’re building our own world in the woods. It costs nothing but our time, which we’re glad to give.

We expand our journey. We follow the creek into the woods. We even brave the pipes, using big sticks to clear away the giant spiders’ webs. We find a real lake downstream, complete with a snapping turtle. We claim a two-mile stretch of creek as our own.

And then one day, as we’re wading in our self-made pool, Liam looks at me with horror in his eyes.

I figure he’s just messing with me. We’re master pranksters, after all. It’s what we do.

But then I see what he sees.

A water moccasin, slow and serpentine, is in our pool. It’s swimming atop the water, winding its way between us. The water moccasin, otherwise known by its deadlier name – cottonmouth – looks calm.

But we’re frozen all the same.

The five-foot snake heads to our waterfall and slithers into the shallower pool below.

We survive.

After that day, we never stack another stone atop our dam. We never wade in its shallows again. And while we occasionally stroll along the creek and journey deep into the woods, our little lake is forgotten.

The school year begins.

The rain ends.

It all happens so fast.

* * *

Not all that long ago, I braved a trek back to my old neighborhood. Rocky Hill, it’s called, in the quiet suburb of Lilburn, Georgia.

Our dam was still there.

I wonder if the snake ever came back.

*

*

This story is true. It really happened.

For more like it, go here.

*

J Edward Neill

Creator of Coffee Table Philosophy

Painter of Shadows

A Thought for Every Thursday – 3 Absurd Scenarios

Let’s have a little fun this week.

In contrast to the deadly serious questions we’ve asked recently, this week’s trio will border on the absurd.

Three questions.

Three strange scenarios.

Go for it…

*

Magic Potion

Suppose scientists created a cheap and tasty beverage.

If you sip it once every morning, you’ll be relaxed, alert, and happy all day.

And you’ll sleep like the dead.

The only side-effect: whenever you’re under the influence of this beverage, your IQ is 10% lower than normal.

Drink or no drink?

*

Brain in a Bottle

 Imagine that scientists have developed a new technology for extending human consciousness.

After the body dies, a special device captures human intellect, emotions, and personalities. Bodies are replaced by humanlike robots, and brains swapped out for powerful computers.

Would you want to extend your life in such a way?

Why or why not?

*

Remember your Cardio

 A zombie apocalypse has occurred.

Society has utterly collapsed.

People are turning undead in droves of millions.

Considering the real-life location in which you live, what’s your plan for survival?

Think short-term and long term.

**

 

* * *

Past Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

Until next week…

J Edward Neill

A Thought for Every Thursday – Choose your God Carefully

Here we go.

More serious stuff.

This week’s questions center on religion and the pursuit thereof. Here at Tessera Guild, we typically stray from religious and political discussions.

Maybe these are non-inflammatory enough to sneak by our editors…

*

There Can Be Only One

 If tomorrow you learned that one of the world’s religions were absolutely and irrefutably true in every way, would you convert?

Assume this religion is not one you currently practice.

If you wouldn’t convert, explain why.

*

Describe your God

Set aside your current religion (or lack thereof.)

Imagine there is definitely one single god in charge of everything currently happening on Earth.

Given the modern world around you and everything you’ve observed within it, use five single adjectives to describe this god’s personality.

*

* * *

Past Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

Until next week…

J Edward Neill

A Thought for Every Thursday – We’re Probably ALL wrong

This week’s pair of questions center on truth, the discovery of knowledge, and whether or not people should be wary of those who claim they have the absolute correct answer to any of life’s mysteries.

 Question 1.

Think Twice

 French author André Gide once posed:

Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it.”

Do you agree with this statement?

Have you ever believed you knew a significant truth, only to find out later you were wrong?

And are you more objective as a result of that experience?

*

Question 2.

End of Ages

 Is it possible (or even probable) that ages from now, much of the science and philosophy we now take for truth will be revealed as false, and a newer, truer system of knowledge be put into place?

In other words, could many of the things we think we know be completely wrong?

Also…

Is it possible (or even probable) that the only period of time during which humanity will know the truth of everything (or close to everything) will be mere moments before the end of our existence?

* * *

Past Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

Until next week…

J Edward Neill

A Thought for Every Thursday – Choose Your Own Adventure

This week’s A Thought for Every Thursday question continues along on our recent path of asking serious questions.

Don’t sweat it. We’ll come back to the light stuff eventually…

*

Choose Your Own Adventure

From the following, choose which one you hope is what happens after your death:

  • People who exhibit sufficient good in life go to a heaven of some sort, while everyone else suffers a worse fate
  • When we die, all that we are is forever lost
  • Reincarnation; either as a human again or a different animal type
  • We ascend to some higher form of consciousness, meaning we’re no longer human, but we retain some of what we once were
  • We roam as spirits either forever or for a period of time

 

  • And now choose which one you believe is most probably the truth.

* * *

Past Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

Until next week…

J Edward Neill

A Thought for Every Thursday – We Didn’t Ask to be Here

This week’s A Thought for Every Thursday question continues along our recent path of asking serious questions.

We’ll come back to the easy stuff eventually.

…maybe.

**

This particular question is a favorite of mine.

More than most Thought for Every Thursday questions, I really, really want your answer.

*

We Didn’t Ask to be Here

 Since we are, none of us, responsible for our own presence in this world, meaning that none of us created ourselves or willed ourselves into existence, does that reduce any of our personal responsibility in this life?

In other words, every human alive was given life without his or her consent. We didn’t ask for this particular existence, and in fact, if given a choice, many humans might have chosen a different existence altogether.

Does not having chosen this life allow for a certain moral flexibility?

Or…

Must we accept a moral responsibility whether or not we asked for it?

And if so, why?

 

* * *

Past Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

Until next week…

J Edward Neill

A Thought for Every Thursday – Which ‘ism’ are you?

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it ourselves, we look to you for the resolution.

 * * *

This week, we’re tossing romance to the side and moving on to deeper, darker topics.

That means no more romance. Or love. At least not for a while

It’s a relief, as I’m pretty much the least romantic person to ever live.

**

Today’s two questions are centered on individual (your) worldviews, and whether or not people can exist without them:

Part I

 

 From the following, choose which one(s) you associate with your personal philosophy of life:

Cynicism – The purpose of life is to live with virtue and in harmony with nature (not what you thought it meant, is it?)

Agnosticism – Humanity knows nothing beyond that which it can touch

Pragmatism – The most valuable things are tangible and practical

Hedonism – Life’s purpose is to pursue pleasure

Capitalism – Life’s purpose is accumulate wealth for the benefit of yourself and your family

Theocentrism – God is a central fact of our existence

Nihilism – Life is without objective meaning, purpose, or value

Existentialism – The universe is unknowable, yet humans still have individual purpose and responsibility

*

Part II

* 

Is it possible for a human being to live without believing anything?

Meaning this person would have:

No opinions

No claims to knowledge without hard physical evidence

No spirituality

No philosophy beyond the material world

No religion

If someone could pull this off, would it be admirable?

Or is this an impossible state of mind for a human to achieve?

Hmmmmmmm….

* * *

Past Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next week!

J Edward Neill

A Thought for Every Thursday – Love by the Numbers

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it ourselves, we look to you for the resolution.

 * * *

This week, we’re concluding our discussion of romantic relationships.

That means no more romance. Or love. Or sex. At least not for a while. 🙂

*

The following three bulletins were pried from actual research performed in the realm of love and relationships.

After each research topic, we’ve added a simple question.

All you have to do is read…and answer.

*

Marriage is good for the heart

NYU Lagone Medical Center researchers surveyed more than 3.5 million Americans across 20,000 health care centers in the U.S. and found that married people, regardless of age, gender, or cardiovascular risk factors, have a significantly smaller likelihood of cardiovascular disease than those who were single, divorced, or widowed.

Question: If you were happily single, would the research depicted above be enough reason for you to seek a mate?

*

Healthy relationships, healthy minds

A nationwide population-based prospective study from Sweden examined the association between marital status and dementia. Those living alone were at a greater risk for early-onset and late-onset dementia. Swedish researchers also found that being married or cohabiting at midlife correlates to a lower risk for dementia and cognitive impairment.

Question: Assuming the above study is accurate, why do you feel it’s true that having a significant relationship delays or eliminates the changes for dementia?

*

Attitudes about couples

The National Health Statistics Reports describes attitudes based on surveys given to men and women, ages 15-44. In an eleven year timespan, there has been an increase in the percentages of men and women who agree with premarital cohabitation. There was a decrease in the percentages of people who agree with divorce. More men and women support same-sex relationships. Greater percentages of people also feel it’s acceptable for unmarried 18-year-olds to have sex if they have strong affection for each other.

Question: Do you believe it’s wise for couples to live together before committing to marriage? Or do you believe it’s morally wrong and should be avoided?

**

*

* * *

Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

A Thought for every Thursday – Wanna be a monk?

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it ourselves, we look to you for the resolution.

 * * *

So…

For the next few weeks, we’re going to approach a few deeper-than-normal topics.

Science. Religion. Meaning of life type stuff.

This week we’re discussing vices and indulgences, and whether or not certain behaviors reflect poorly (or not at all) on a person’s morality.

*

Wine

Liquor

Sex

Fine foods

Drugs

Just some of the things humanity indulges in.

For the sake of this question, let us assume none of these things are bad or immoral by themselves. While it’s possible the people overindulging in them might do harmful acts, the actual wine, sex, food, et cetera aren’t to blame.

That said, is a person who indulges in none of these a stronger person morally than someone who indulges in them often?

Does denial (or severe limiting) of one’s indulgences make a person better?

Or do indulgences have no bearing on a person’s goodness?

Best haircut ever….

* * *

Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

A Thought for every Thursday – Not the ending you expect

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it ourselves, we look to you for the resolution.

 * * *

For the next few weeks, we’re going to approach a few deeper-than-normal topics.

Science. Religion. Meaning of life type stuff.

Speaking of meaning of life type stuff, what if…

*

Not Quite What You Were Hoping

 There exist numerous theories regarding the meaning of life.

Some predict a divine afterlife.

Others believe in infinite recycling of our souls.

Some believe in very specific versions of heaven and hell.

And still others say there’s no meaning at all.

Everyone is guessing.

No one really knows.

Even so, the most common perception is that if there is a meaning, it’s probably a positive or at worst a neutral one.

But…

What if humanity one day learned our purpose is nefarious?

That perhaps humanity (or even all life) was engineered for a negative purpose?

Is it possible?

If you learned such a thing were the truth, what would you do?

Run!!!

* * *

Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

A Thought for every Thursday – Is Reincarnation Pointless?

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it ourselves, we look to you for the resolution.

 * * *

For the next few weeks, we’re going to approach a few deeper-than-normal topics.

Science. Religion. Meaning of life type stuff.

Today’s topic is reincarnation, and whether or not such a concept is even possible:

*

Reincarnation

It’s a prime tenet of the Hindu religion, and is referred to peripherally by several other faiths.

The idea:

Every human and animal has a soul.

Upon death of the body, the soul can inhabit a new body, thus beginning life anew.

Let’s imagine for a moment reincarnation is absolute fact.

Now suppose, due to some universal cataclysm, all life were permanently extinguished. It’s entirely possible, even if it happens many, many years from today.

If all the souls in existence were suddenly rendered homeless (no bodies to inhabit) would they simply wander the universe for eternity?

And would that make the entire reincarnation concept pointless?

* * *

Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

How to stop caring about (almost) everything

Don’t take the title too seriously.

I’m not suggesting you stop caring about your family, your friends, or your personal welfare. Nor am I saying you should be indifferent to things that really, truly matter.

But everything else?

That’s up for debate.

Maybe you’ve heard of it. These days, there’s a little thing called the internet. The big ole triple-dubya is pretty cool, right? It’s the fastest delivery system of information ever made. Crappy bandwidth notwithstanding, it delivers info at the speed of light. The trouble is, when I say ‘information,’ I’m using the term loosely. Because you see, the word itself implies a certain factual quality. Or at least it should. Or maybe it used to. But information doesn’t imply truth anymore, does it? Just because someone, no matter their credentials, publishes something to the ‘net doesn’t mean it’s true. Or unbiased. Or even based in reality.

Information isn’t information anymore.

It’s just characters on a screen. Usually hammered out by someone with an agenda.

And thus, maybe you should care about it less than you do.

Yawn a little more. Care about the internet a little less.

*

Think about these:

How many times have you seen an article stating someone famous just ‘destroyed‘ someone else famous? Meaning, they said something on the ‘net and everyone else chimed in with, “Oooooo…nice burn!”

How often have you read (or maybe even posted) a rant about some inconsequential (to everyone else) matter?

What percentage of your social media is consumed with one ‘side’ blasting the other?

How many people have you witnessed become aggressive, name-calling, angry, or just plain hyper-opinionated?

*

Let me answer for you: Every day. Too often. More than 50%. And almost everyone at one point or another.

Ah, the internet. Such a glorious place to live. But just because it provides a vehicle for everyone to speak to everyone else doesn’t mean humanity is suddenly enlightened. It just means it’s easier for us to run our mouths. To learn a little bit about a topic and claim we know everything.

The internet gives us a way to talk about stuff we don’t know much about.

So…

What’s a person to do?

Stop caring.

That’s right.

Just stop.

Or maybe…yawn a LOT more. Care about the internet a LOT less.

Here’s the thing about everything. With a few exceptions, everyone on Earth lives for themselves. I’m not saying everyone is selfish, just that everyone does what’s right and what works for them. Despite globalization, despite everything, most of everyone’s time is consumed with working, sleeping, eating, and surviving. Just like it was ten years ago. Just like forever.

Know what I mean?

Example: A politician threatens to shut down a coal mine for the noble pursuit of cleaning up the environment. Sounds good, right? Sounds progressive. But…do you really expect the coal miners and the vast network of people who depend on the coal industry to vote for this politician? No, you shouldn’t. The guy whose paycheck depends on shoveling coal into a furnace doesn’t care about noble pursuits or clean-air acts. They care about food. As in, on their table. They don’t care what Twitter says. And they certainly don’t care about you or me. When it comes to it, they’re gonna vote (if they care enough) for the person who opposes shutting down their mine. Even if it pisses you off. Even if it flies in the face of everything everyone else believes.

And so it goes. ‘Round and ’round the world.

People live for themselves.

If one group of people struts around the internet, trolling, name-calling, and otherwise tearing another group of people to shreds, does it matter? Is anything gained? And if the other group gets defensive (as is to be expected among humans) and fires back with verbal missiles of their own, does that mean anything? No. Aside from stinging a few butts, it doesn’t matter. At all. At the apex of the word-war, facts, truths, and hard scientific data lose all relevance. No progress is made. People’s hearts and minds don’t change. The battle is an illusion.

You wanna know why?

Ok. I’ll tell you.

Every person on every side and in every corner of every discussion is an individual. Lump ’em in a group all you want, but they’re doing what works for them. For their lives. For their families. There are no Red states. There are no Blue states. Those things are just colors on a map. What is there? Well…there’s a ton of people living their lives, doing whatever it is they think is best for themselves. It doesn’t matter what names you call them (deplorables, libtards, rednecks, elitists, et cetera.) Individuals don’t care, and nor should they. They’re trying to live the way they want. And in most cases, they’re living the only way they know how.

So what’s a person to do?

I’ll say it again: stop caring.

And while you’re at it, stop judging.

Yawn…wait….was there an election?

Ignorance. There’s a lot of it out there. In fact, everyone is ignorant. You’re ignorant. I’m ignorant. Humanity is ignorant. We know only what we see with our own two eyes, and sometimes even those deceive us. Like it or not, everything else is unknown to us. You might read about it or think you understand it. You might dive deep into some article you found online and claim to know about it. Guess what? You don’t. You can’t. You’re human, and the scope of your awareness is purposely limited by your biology. It’s in your DNA, baby. You’re meant to care about you and yours. And not much else.

Unless you’re IN it, you don’t really know it.

It’s a harsh reality, but the idea of unity and world peace are in fact, completely ignorant. Humanity will never be unified longer than a few moments at a time. The idea of peace on a planet with seven-billion human-beings (and climbing) is nonsense. We’re all too ignorant. We’ve no idea what it’s like to live anyone’s life other than our own. And yes, it’s true; some people are more ignorant than others. Some people are isolated, uneducated, extra-extra biased, or just plain unintelligent. And no, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make you or me better than them.

Pointing out the weaknesses of others has yet to result in meaningful progress.

And yet so many of us do it.

Once a human being has reached a certain threshold, once they’ve decided they no longer care what’s outside their bubble, it’s over. It’s done. It’s finished. The odds of a person changing their mind due to anything other than a life-changing event are almost nil. Fiery words exchanged on Facebook don’t change us, and actions don’t really change us nearly as much as we like to think.

You know what changes people? Trauma. The hard stuff. People being torn out of their lives and thrust into entirely new bubbles. Harsh life experiences are far more important than anything anyone can dish out online. The only way to chip away at ignorance is to live IN a situation. All the way. For a long while. And suddenly, after that happens, you’re in a new bubble. It might be a different bubble than you used to live in, but it’s still a bubble. And it might be you forget about your old bubble. It might be you become ignorant to something you used to understand.

So what should you do about this? How loud do you need to yell for the world to see your point-of-view? To shrug off their indifference and start caring about what you care about? To move closer to your bubble?

Nothing. Stop trying. Go play in the yard with your kids. Go work at soup kitchen. Take a walk alone in the forest. Pick flowers for someone you love.

And when you find yourself surfing the internet, surrounded on all sides by armies of ‘information,’ go forth with a new purpose.

Don’t be distracted by all the things everyone else tells you to care about.

Don’t get sucked in to the idea of ‘sides.’

Don’t start thinking your point-of-view is any more important than anyone else’s.

Because it isn’t.

Once you accept the smallness of yourself…and once you deny your urge to scream at the world for being horrible, only then can you be at peace. And only then can you stop caring about all the things that don’t matter.

…and start caring about the things that do.

J Edward Neill

Artist and Author.

For more deep thoughts, get into this.

A Thought for Every Thursday – Rewriting the Bible

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

You know the drill.

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Let’s cut to the chase.

I call this question Stone Tablet:

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Stone Tablet

 Imagine yourself standing atop a mountain.

Human civilization has just begun.

The entire world clamors at the mountain’s bottom.

They want you to create three commandments, which will henceforth be regarded as sacred.

Name your three.

Use the words ‘thou shalt’ as often as possible.

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Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

A Thought for Every Thursday – Three Questions for the Dead

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

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This week we’ll dig a little deeper.

…with a spade.

…in the dirt.

Answer me these questions three:

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Necromancy

 Suppose you’ve lost a child or a beloved spouse.

But you have a device capable of resurrecting them.

The only cost to using this device: you have to kill someone else firsthand.

Use it?

Or throw it away?

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Infinite Murder Machine

 If your child (or someone equally important to you) were in mortal danger, exactly how many people would you be willing to kill in order to save them?

These people aren’t actively trying to hurt the one you love, but are obstacles to survival.

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Closing up Shop

You’ve been assigned an almost overwhelming task.

Your current religion or belief system notwithstanding, you’ve been asked to create a new afterlife for all of humanity.

This afterlife will apply to everyone who dies from today until the end of time.

Describe in detail the post-death experience you’d create.

Will there be different afterlives for different people?

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Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

A Thought for Every Thursday – Human Algebra

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it ourselves, we look to you for the resolution.

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Human Algebra

Please complete the following equations using only one word in each blank space:

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______________ + ______________ = Happiness

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_______________ + ______________ = Sorrow

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_______________ + ______________ = Evil

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_______________ + ______________ = Love

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Keep your answers to yourself OR share with the world.

It’s your call.

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Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

A Thought for Every Thursday – Our Footprint

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, we look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

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This week is all about humanity at large.

I want to know how you feel about other people, the effects humanity has upon the world, and the meaningfulness of human activity.

They’re big questions.

You can handle them.

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Human Mathematics

 Choose which of the following people is most and least valuable:

A hard-working mother of five children

A powerful, yet honest and fair politician

A 45 year-old childless man who plays video games all day

An inmate on Death Row

A child with utterly debilitating Down’s Syndrome

All of these are people are of equal value

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Lions, Tigers, and Humans

 Is man the most dangerous animal?

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With Sugar on Top

 What is mankind’s greatest achievement?

What about yours?

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Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill

A Thought for Today – Seventeen Years The Wolverine

Welcome to A Thought for Today, a knockoff… er, homage of J Edward Neill’s A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every so often we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, we look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

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Seventeen Years The Wolverine
OR
I’m the best there is at what I do. But what I do is… play Wolverine… for 17 years…

Hugh Jackman played Wolverine in nine films. Three in the original X trilogy, three solo Wolverine/Logan films, and three from the new X series. Deadpool is the only Fox X-Men theatrical release that Hugh Jackman did not appear in (though referenced in the movie and during the promotional tour). Jackman stated that Logan (released 3/3/17) will be his final appearance as Wolverine.* For his work on these films, he’s received modest financial compensation (only enough money to buy nations) and two awards – Saturn and People’s Choice. Putting aside the money and assuming, after 17 years, Hugh Jackman really is retiring from Wolverine, what type of recognition does he deserve? In this day and age where 17 years in any job is unique, what would his service merit? If you were the 20th Century Fox executive charged with the fond farewells to Hugh, how would you express ‘thank you for all you’ve done’? A dinner and speech? An award? Solid gold Wolverine claws? Retiring the character (likely in favor of X-23)? Your decision, what does he deserve?

· X-Men (2000) – Won the Saturn Award: Best Actor category
· X2: X-Men United (2003)
· X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
· X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) – Won the People’s Choice Award: Favorite Action Star category
· X-Men: First Class (2011)
· The Wolverine (2013)
· X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
· X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)
· Logan (2017)

*Writer’s Note – I’d lay odds that Jackman will cameo in Deadpool 2. And Deadpool will sew his mouth up. And we’ll all laugh despite hating the X-Men Origins: Wolverine reference.

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If you want real philosophical questions from J Edward Neill, check out his A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

For more writing from Egg Embry, wanna-lancer, go here to read about buying a role-playing game resume.

A Thought for Every Thursday – The Human Lens

Welcome to A Thought for Every Thursday.

Every Thursday we’ll pose a question (or several) regarding a specific current event, a modern moral issue, or a philosophical conundrum. Instead of answering it myself, we look to you for the resolution.

It’s all in good fun.

Here we go…

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The Human Lens

Sixth senses aside, everything you know about the world, you know through the subjective lens of your human brain.

Meaning you only truly know what you see, hear, smell, touch, and taste.

You’ll never know what it’s like to see the world in the same way a cat does, or a bird, or a whale, or a bacterium.

Meaning you’ll only ever experience the universe from a human point of view.

And more specifically, your human point of view.

So…

Does this mean your experience of reality is unique, almost isolated in its filtered-through-a-human-lens nature?

Or does this mean that physical reality itself is different for every single living thing?

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Past A Thought for Every Thursday entries are right here.

If you like these kinds of questions, try these on for size.

If you prefer something gentler, go here.

See you next Thursday!

J Edward Neill