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Posted by on Dec 25, 2012 in Blog, Essays | 0 comments

Christmas for Antitheists

Atheist Christmas

 

Can someone who doesn’t believe in the existence of God also celebrate Christmas?

Certainly yes.

Christmas, ostensibly intended to honor the birth of Jesus Christ, has become far more than just a religious holiday.  Cynics might even suggest it’s become the antithesis of a religious holiday.

Turn on the television set or visit a shopping mall during the week before Christmas and you know exactly what I’m talking about.  Commercials enticing you to rush out and buy a brand new Lexus aren’t very Christ-like.   The soccer mom in the mini-van who steals your parking spot isn’t thinking about Jesus, although his name probably comes up in some rather creative combinations of language.

It’s too bad really that the essential message of Christmas was hijacked a long time ago.  Modern Christmas would likely be unrecognizable to those who envisioned its oldest traditions.  It’s become the five human senses all pumped up on steroids.  That’s both good and bad.  Sure, everything tastes better and smells better.  Many of us feel better.  The sights and sounds of the holiday season are more beautiful than other times of the year.  But sensory overload isn’t always synonymous with happiness.  For many less fortunate people, this is a depressing time of year — and none of this has anything at all to do with faith or religion.

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Posted by on Dec 15, 2012 in Blog, Essays, Rants and Raves | 3 comments

When the Worst Thing is to Do Nothing — A Reaction to the Tragedy in Connecticut

 

WEIGHING THE OPTIONS:  TO DO SOMETHING VERSUS NOTHING

 

The horror of the Connecticut school shooting impacts us on so many emotional levels.

Just about everyone I’ve spoken to, or correspnded with, has endured a gambit of reactions over the past 24 hours since the tragedy — from shock, to anger, to sorrow, to (again) outrage, and ultimately (for some) to a renewed sense of determination.

Today’s column is a difficult one to write.  It’s probably the most complicated issue I’ve addressed, to date.  I admit experiencing a sort of “writer’s block” to this terrible tragedy, something that doesn’t strike me often.  The bottom line is — what is there to say?  What can be said?

But as the hours pass, I’ve come to realize that to say nothing is grossly irresponsible.  To do nothing, even more so.

Hence, I shall address the Connecticut tragedy in multiple parts.  First, there’s a purely emotional reaction to these unfathomable events.  As one might expect, these feelings are accompanied by a demand for action.  I’ve also included what I believe to be a few  partial solutions which seek to reduce the frequency and severity of these horrors.

Once again, this is a terribly difficult problem to face.  But we must look to these victims and honor their memory with something better than what we have now.  And then, we must look inside ourselves.  We must do it.  We must do it now.  Righteousness demands nothing less.

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Posted by on Dec 12, 2012 in Blog, Essays | 2 comments

The End of the World

 

 

Wouldn’t it suck to win the lottery right now?

Imagine pocketing the lump sum of $250 million.  Your dream of a big house, fancy cars, and a trip around the world has just come true.  You’ll never have to work another day in your life.  Then, on the way to the bank, a giant fireball suddenly appears up in the sky.

Kaboom!

There’s a potential Twilight Zone episode in there somewhere.

 

………………..

 

In case you missed it, the world is going to end on December 21, 2012.  At least, that’s what some ancient Mayan calender predicts, which marks the final day of a 5,125-year cycle.  Never mind these savages spent most of their lives running through jungles and commonly sacrificed virgins to the gods.  Today, some people actually believe these tribesmen possessed unique insights into our future.  Despite their civilization utterly vanishing without warning more than a thousand years ago, they have supposedly alerted us to the very day when life on earth will end.  Now, that’s impressive.  Hell, I can’t even figure out what time Monday Night Football comes on each week.

This is a lose-lose proposition for a shitload of people.  First, we’re all pretty much screwed if the prophesy comes true.  We can all agree on that.  I don’t see a lot of upside in the entire world’s population being sucked into a deadly black hole — although I sure as hell will be applauding when it’s Kim Kardashian, Howard Lederer, and Donald Trump’s turn to enter the giant celestial vacuum cleaner.  That’s almost worth hoping it will happen.

But if the prophesy is false, some people out there will have lots of explaining to do.  There’s going to be enough egg on the faces of soothsayers to make the world’s largest omelette, assuming we all miraculously wake up on December 22nd, and there’s still an earth under out feet.

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Posted by on Dec 3, 2012 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas | 4 comments

What Strength Really Means — A Story of Two Cowboys

 

Personal Note:  In the coming days, I’ll be posting stories of people and incidents that have inspired me.  Hopefully, these special people will inspire you, as well.

 

How would you define strength?

Ponder this question for a moment.

How is strength best defined?  Take a moment and consider the possibilities.

Okay, so perhaps you have an answer.  Now, permit me to have a go at this.  Perhaps by the end of this essay, you may want to re-think your answer and consider alternative ways that strength is revealed in our society.

Here’s my take.

Strength isn’t manifested in achieving superiority, nor by making others inferior.  Strength isn’t exhibited in anger or intimidation.

To the contrary.  Real strength is embodied in personal sacrifice.  It’s going out of one’s way to help a fellow human being.  It’s putting another person’s comfort above your own.  It’s dealing with the bad breaks in life and making the most out of them.  That’s real strength.

I still have a lot to learn.  I have a long way to go.  No doubt, I have inner demons to conquer.  But life has taught me it’s the small things that really matter.  It’s the small things in life that bring joy and nourish optimism.  Small things, like a glass of vintage wine, a meaningful conversation with family or friends, a comfortable resting place beside a warm fireplace, hearing your favorite Christmas carol, or watching a golden sunset.

Each of those things might not seem exceptional.  But they are!  They are indubitably rewarding.  When we look back at our lives, I think most of us remember the simpler things we have done and experienced that brought us the most happiness.

It’s also the small things that often provide us with the most profound lessons.  A seemingly trivial moment in the middle of the day can reveal a great deal about what’s really important.  Our values stem not so much from formal education or access to the most learned academics.  Life’s most meaningful lessons are taught in the classroom of daily life and come directly from one’s own experiences and observations.  Our values are challenged and often reaffirmed by things that happen to us every single day.

 

………………..

 

The National Finals Rodeo is in town this week.  Every December for the past 27 years, thousands of rodeo cowboys and cowgirls come to Las Vegas from all over the country — indeed from all over the world — to watch and participate in the national championship finals rodeo.  Up and down the Vegas Strip, it’s backed up bumper to bumper with pick-up trucks and horse trailers — with license plates from Oklahoma, Arizona, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Manitoba, Texas, and all points in between.  Cowboy hats are everywhere — whether it’s elegant Venetian or down-home Sam’s Town.  Almost every visitor has shiny new belt buckle and wears a pair of blue jeans or coveralls.  An “invasion” of cowboys would not be too strong a word.

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Posted by on Nov 20, 2012 in Blog, Essays, Personal | 1 comment

Listening to Your Inner Voice

 

Thanksgiving 2012 at South Lake Tahoe

 

Writer’s Note:  Tonight I had the great fortune of enjoying yet another extraordinary dinner and deep discussion with friends and colleagues.

Steve Schorr, Race and Sportsbook Manager at Harveys Lake Tahoe (pictured standing at center in photo) made the mistake of including me in his good graces, an invite that’s always sure to result in an assault on the liquor cabinet, several off-color comments, and a sink full of dirty dishes. 

Gracie, his longtime companion and our host extraordinaire for the evening (standing with Steve in the photo) served a dinner that would have made Henry VIII bust his pants. The only thing more pleasing than the fresh salmon and glazed lamb chops was the company.

On second thought, while the company was indeed wonderful, those smoked lamb chops served with a reduction sauce were pretty damned good. Sorry Steve, you’ve been upstaged by a slaughtered lamb.

Naturally, with good friends and wine comes interesting conversation. The following essay was prompted by our discussion.

 

 

Another dinner.

Another epiphany.

If we have a sixth sense beyond the known five, it’s probably instinct.

Think about that for a moment.

Instinct.

An inner voice.

A feeling.

Were I to define instinct, it would be perception which cannot be measured nor transposed.  But it’s real.  Just as touch is a tangible sensation — a neurophysiological process of transmission from body to brain — it’s not necessarily defined in the abstract.  After all, we see objects, we hear sounds, we taste flavors, we smell odors.  But touch isn’t quite the same.  Accordingly, isn’t it quite possible – even probable — that all the evolutionary tools we’ve come to master over hundreds of thousands of years are now manifested in a greater awareness of our surroundings and a dominion as to how to optimally react to stimuli?

Alas, this is what I call instinct.

It’s taken me most of my life to erase what amounts to fifty years of ignorance or indifference to instinct.  I’m hardly alone.  We’re all inundated with second-guessing and self-doubt.  Killers of human instinct.  Assassins of truth.  Which gradually leads to loss of confidence — and ultimately to sadness and depression.

Why is this so?

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