One hundred and thirty years ago on this day, an ambitious young man stepped down from the front stoop of his home in Oyster Bay as a proud new father. A joyous occasion, indeed.
This February 14, 1884 was expected to be a Valentines Day to remember. And it was. But not for reasons anyone, least of all the bright young attorney, could possibly have envisioned.
The young man, then 25, lived and worked in New York City. He had a promising political career. He was well off, even prosperous by standards of the day. Married happily for four years and now father to a newborn daughter, future possibilities seemed to know no bounds.
But this day wouldn’t be remembered as a joyous occasion. Early that morning, the man was shaken to learn his mother died from typhoid fever. This crushing news was almost too much to bear, instantly transforming emotions of joyous fulfillment to utter despair.
The nightmare was only beginnning. Only hours after hearing of his mother’s passing, the man’s wife who had just given birth lost all conciousness. She slipped into a coma. Then unexpectedly to everyone’s horror, she took her last breath. Turned out, the pregnancy had concealed a serious disease within her body, and she died from kidney failure.
“People find heroes and madmen a perennial source of fascination, for they have no fear of life or death. Both heroes and madmen are indifferent to danger and will forge ahead regardless of what other people say.”
― Paulo Coelho
Introductory Note: Here are five short essays written recently, which all share a connected theme. Each could have been a separate thought and article. But I decided to leave them short as they were, and offer a “sampler” here.
Go ahead. Laugh.
It’s funny. We’ve all been stuck on airplanes and seen things like this.
But it’s also sad — and very, very wrong.
All too often, fat people serve as our punchlines. It remains open season on them year around. Everyone from Rosanne Barr, to Gov. Chris Christie, to the fat kid in your fourth-grade math class has been the defenseless target of wisecracks. It’s happened all of our lives, and it still goes on.
Why in the world do we do this? Let me put it another way. Why do we do this to people we care about — including those who aren’t even famous — who simply happen to carry a bit more weight than average? What gives us license to openly ridicule them? What makes this type of behavior acceptable?
Think about it. No decent human being would dare to make fun of someone based on their skin color. Or, because they have a physical deformity. Or, due to other factors largely beyond their control. But it’s perfectly acceptable in our society to laugh at fat people and make their lives as uncomfortable as possible. Can someone explain why this is so?
Any religion that forbids enjoying life is a fucking straightjacket. I mean, what kind of routine requires that you pray five times a day? Why doesn’t someone jump up and say,“how come we’re praying more than anyone else on earth, and we’re still the poorest motherfuckers on the planet?”
It’s time to get serious about ending global terrorism.
Let’s quit pretending we’ve got the tiger by the tail, because we don’t. Drastic times call for drastic measures, and I’ve got the perfect solution.
Open up a shitload of bars and nightclubs inside every Muslim country. Carpet bomb them with liquor. Just do it. Forget about dropping humanitarian leaflets and care packages. Ship in bar stools, announce it’s happy hour, and let the free-pouring begin. Then, turn up the music. Loud. Political extremism and acts of terror would dry up faster than the Cincinnati Bengals’ Super Bowl hopes.
Imagine what it must be like living inside a hard-core Muslim society. They’re basically giant prison camps. You’d go mad. Every sphere of daily life is suffocated by religion. Since drinking alcohol is strictly forbidden by the Koran, most of these countries don’t have a single bar or nightclub where people can go and hang out.
And that’s the problem.
You know what I want for Christmas?
That’s right. Absolutely nothing at all.
Please. I beg of you. I don’t want anyone going out and buying me a gift.
“What! Is this a protest against Christmas,” you ask?
No. I’m not Grinch. I’m not Scrooge.
In fact, I’m extraordinarily fortunate, which is what I am. Lucky beyond the stars. And if you’re reading this, odds are you’re lucky, too. Whatever the barometer is for quality of life, we are both incredibly fortunate to be within the top five percent of all the people who have ever lived on this earth. Maybe higher. Perhaps even in the top one percent. Even the poorest people living in Western countries probably rank in the top ten percent of all humanity that’s existed.