I Want to be Elected


The three-ring circus that is the republican campaign for president points out just how ridiculous our elections have become. Anyone with enough money can toss his or her hat into the ring and the media concentrates on the spectacle rather than substantive issues affecting our country. Candidates run to stoke their own egos rather than to serve the electorate. The whole process has become totally divorced from the jobs these candidates are running to fill, and once one election is finished, the next one begins in an endless cycle of fundraising and courting voters. There’s little wonder that people have totally tuned out the process, which, in many cases, allows the most unqualified candidates access to the most important offices.

Below are some suggestions for overhauling the process and for returning the focus back to the job and not simply the pursuit of it.

  • Campaigning cannot start before January of the calendar year in which the election will be held.
  • All campaigns will be publicly financed and all candidates will be allotted an equal amount of money.
  • No candidate may exceed the allocation of money received.
  • No private funding will be allowed either by the candidate or outside parties.
  • Debates will be managed by a non-partisan organization which will select the venue, moderators, and agenda, and will arrange all media coverage.
  • Any eligible candidate may participate in the election regardless of personal beliefs, political affiliations, or background in office.
  • All candidates receive the same treatment, consideration, and scrutiny from the media.
  • A primary will be held sometime between May and July in which any qualified candidate may run for any available office. The top four with the most votes in each race proceed to the general election in November.
  • Congressional apportionment of states every ten years will be governed by a nonpartisan council comprised of individuals determined at the city or county level.
  • Campaign ads must deal with the issues and refrain from personal attacks or ads which otherwise disparage another candidate outside the confines of his or her conduct in office.

Fun with Photoshop, Rocks

Same rocks, different filter. This was one of my first attempts at playing around with Photoshop Express on my phone, so I didn’t note the filters I used. I’ll have to recreate it and be more meticulous next time. Enjoy!

These were originally posted to Instagram, where I’m gmatt63. 


  

  

  

  

  

Guidelines for Writing, First Draft 

  
I have recently been considering a set of guidelines for writers and have come up with an initial set of principles, listed below. These are by no means comprehensive and will continue to expand and evolve as time goes on, but provide a basis for further discussion. I welcome comments, inquiries, and constructive criticism.

Don’t worry about telling the literal truth. Be true to the characters; be true to the story; be true to the artistic vision.

The writing should always speak for itself. Never explain; never apologize, but always be willing to edit for clarity.

A writer should always listen to what the readers say about a piece, because that tells the writer what the readers are hearing. If the readers aren’t hearing what the writer intended to say, the writer should take another look.

Never consider anything finished. Always look for ways to be more concise. 

Use only the required amount of words necessary to convey the thought. The goal is to say as much as one can with the fewest words.

There is no such thing as realism in literature. All language is metaphorical, even when it conveys the facts. 

Fun with Photoshop, Building in Marietta 

Same building, different filter. These were taken with my iPhone 5S and edited using Adobe PS Express for iPhone.

This is the original.

  

After I cropped it, I applied filters. 

First, Vibrant.

  

Next, Summer.

 

Aquatic.

 

Contrastpunch.

  

Finally, Glow.

  

Junk Shop, Chamblee, GA, 16 October 2015

I pass this shop all the time and enjoy seeing the variety of interesting items on the lawn. I’ve always thought, if I ever have a house, I’d like to bring some of the larger items home to jazz up the outdoors.

What yard would be complete without a giant chicken. It’s not the Big Chicken, but it’s big enough.

I’m also a fan of horses and have noted the one above every time I’ve driven past.

I can only imagine what’s inside. Perhaps someday, I’ll find out.

Free Will

 
A central tenet at the heart of many philosophies and religions is the notion of free will and how much it guides our daily existence. Are we free to choose our own course in life, or have our lives been written ahead of time by some unseen heavenly entity and we are merely following a script created before we were born? We must also question the idea of free will within the context of human behavior and the extent to which it is guided by our instincts rather than our intellect. The survival instinct, common to all creatures on earth, has two imperatives, survive and procreate, neither of which is dependent upon the higher brain functions necessary for the exercise of free will. Earthworms, for example, don’t appear to contemplate the existence of a higher being, yet have managed to survive, largely unchanged, for several million years.

One aspect of free will arises from the struggle between our instincts and our intellect, and the instincts have several billion years head start on the intellect. The instincts are like our autopilot, telling us, among other things, to eat, to sleep, to run away when there’s trouble, and to seek a suitable mate when the time is right. In most cases, when one finds himself or herself acting in a manner which can’t be explained logically, the instincts are often the culprit. Humans choose to view themselves as rational beings, guided by logical reasoning when, in reality, we’re driven by an instinct to survive just like every other creature on earth; find shelter, find food, eliminate the competition, and insure the survival of our genetic heritage at all costs. The effect humans are having on the environment and other species demonstrates how adept we’ve become at following this script. 

At the same time, humans have built a civilization based on laws which attempt to curtail the animal instincts and insure all people have the opportunity to benefit from the earth’s resources. Such laws often rely on compromise, and, in many cases, coercion to keep people in check. While these laws are founded upon the belief humans are essentially moral beings, it’s been my observation that humans are not huge fans of artificially imposed rules and regulations, and what stops many people from acting badly is the threat of legal retribution from society or moral retribution from a higher power. 

When the established order is overthrown, even temporarily, people are capable of hideous atrocities. We see evidence of this in riots following sporting victories when fans take to the streets for the flimsiest of provocations and create significant chaos and loss of property. When the stakes are higher, such as when people are fighting against social injustices, the reaction is even more violent, yet even when the cause of the initial conflict is justifiable, individuals still use the resulting chaos as a cover for crimes unrelated to the cause of the initial violence. Humans are opportunistic beings and look for every opportunity to turn off their higher reasoning even for a few hours. If one were to ask these people afterward why they behaved as they did, they most likely would not be able to offer a logical explanation.

For Christianity and its predecessor Judaism, Genesis, chapter three, tells of the fall of man which led to the acquisition of free will. In this account, the god YHWH has created a paradise in the form of a garden, in which the man and woman, sometimes identified as Adam and Eve, live happy lives, totally devoid of all the frustrations that accompany higher consciousness. They are given just one rule, don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. YHWH is so adamant about this rule that the stated punishment for disobedience is death. A serpent tricks the woman into sampling the fruit and she convinces the man to try it. Both immediately gain awareness, signaled by the fact they realize they’re naked.

From the account in Genesis, it is clear that YHWH does not know that the man and woman have eaten of the tree before observing their behavior and questioning them. It is also obvious that YHWH had no foreknowledge of what the man and woman were about to do and simply relied on the threat of retribution to keep them away from the tree. This portrayal of God brings up a crucial factor in whether or not humans are free in cosmic terms to chart their own course in life, that is, whether or not our destinies are known or determined by a higher power.

It would appear that the notion of free will is at odds with a belief in an all-knowing and all-seeing God. Such an entity is said to know us better than we know ourselves, which presupposes that this entity already knows the decisions we will make. If so, the concept of free will is simply not feasible. For those who will attempt to refute this argument, the question is, can God be surprised by our actions? If not, this implies our actions are pre-determined by God and we do not have free will. If God can be surprised, then God cannot be all-knowing and all-seeing.

If everything is predetermined by God, as many religions and philosophies hold, then we can conclude from this that everything is already working the way God designed it. All the debates about God’s will are irrelevant because we’re already living according to God’s plan. The outcome is already programmed into the equation and nothing we do will change it. If, as I believe, the outcome is not predetermined, then God is neither all-seeing, nor all-knowing, and humans have the free will to determine their own course in the universe. The entity we call God is just as uncertain of how it will end as we are. 

I believe the future is being written as we live it and no force in the universe knows the outcome. We are, therefore free to choose our own course, but only if we’re able to come to terms with how much our lives are still guided by our instincts. It has been shown that humans do have the capacity to overcome our basic biological needs when necessary. We can choose if and when we eat, and, when given the proper guidance and resources, whether or not to procreate, and the fact that humans are at times willing to sacrifice their lives on behalf of others demonstrates we can even overcome the ultimate biological imperative when circumstances dictate. Still, much of our behavior is controlled by forces often unnoticed or not acknowledged by us and this is the chief argument against free will. We need to come to a better understanding of how our biology affects us and fortunately, we have the capacity to do just that. If we can become more conscious of the forces influencing our behavior, then perhaps we can, at last, truly take control of our destinies.