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In our busy lives, it is easy to overlook those who are our constant companions. We see them day in and day out as fixtures in our everyday lives. When their relative health and vitality are maintained, they are often relegated to comfortable background noise in favor of more pressing or more interesting matters.

Weeks and months and years may go by like this, hardly noticing–really noticing–that they’re there, faithfully pining away for our meager scraps of attention. It is only at a time of crisis; a health scare, or inconvenient behavior that their presence comes fully into focus. And when they pass away, we are often left bewildered, asking: “Where did the time go?”

More positively, the quality time we invest in our companionship with others blesses us in ways of magical moments and memories. To establish a true, meaningful connection with another being is one of life’s great rewards. It may not be possible to devote as much time to them as we would like. Perhaps instead of striving for “more time” with our loved ones, we should appreciate when we become “lost in the moment” with them. Those moments where we lose track of time, all sense of self, and we are simply connected.

Our companions will not always be constantly with us. Eventually, they will pass on and we will be left with only memories. What matters is the meaning we give those moments of connection. And who can really calculate the value they add to our lives, especially when we leave our hearts open to receiving what they offer us?

No matter where we are or what our life situation is, we can experience magic moments. It’s not about having wealth or an abundance of time, but rather taking the opportunity to appreciate these moments as they present themselves. The real wealth is in the meaning we give these moments and their ability to inspire us.

I’ve always wanted to live in a place where I could step outside my door and walk along a country road and become lost in the pastoral landscape.

Flanked by corn fields, the dogs pull us faster down the road, noses carving the air as they follow invisible scent trails.

The crisp, pre-snow breeze carries the smells of wood smoke, rusty soil, and corn husks. A train wails somewhere in the distance. A farmhouse glows ochre from the setting sun.

Copses of trees stand as stark silhouettes against the darkening sky. They silently preside over the passing of another day. Is this day special for them too? Or is it inconsequential to these eldritch watchers of ten thousand sunsets?

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“I am as enthusiastic about others’ fulfillment as I am about my own. I avoid treating others’ successes as the cause of my lacks.” ~Stephen K. Hayes, How to Own the World

As today’s events have unfolded, I am reminded of the ugliness of humanity, from one citizen to the other. People are using the inauguration of our new President to jab hurtful things at each other. When Obama was that man, I admonished anyone who treated the sitting President as their own personal scourge. These people gave Obama power over them, if only in their tacit perception of him and the office he held, and he became the object of their scorn. “Why do you give him such power?” I would ask. “He is not in control of your life–you are.”

All the Obama doomsayers were proven wrong on Inauguration Day, January 20th, 2017. Whether you agreed with his policies or not, Obama didn’t turn out to be the gun confiscating, Muslim, Socialist Antichrist many were convinced he was. Not even close. But those who felt oppressed by Obama are expressing feelings of freedom they haven’t felt in eight long years. This belies a certain breed of insecurity on the part of these “oppressed” individuals.

It is easy to blame one man, or woman, or political party, or institution for our lacks in this world. It is more difficult to soberly embrace responsibility for one’s choices and actions. For that is where the true power lies; in our ability to choose, to take action, and to give context to moments.

Leaders will come and go. Institutions will rise and fall. Trends will be popular, then fade. What remains throughout all of this is you. You, as an individual have freedom of choice to believe what you want, to empower yourself to make decisions, which will impact the world you inhabit.

The question that remains is: What kind of person will you choose to be?

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“I believe in myself. I am confident. I can accomplish my goals.” ~Stephen K. Hayes, How to Own the World

To be at the start of something can be intimidating or discouraging. Whether it’s a creative project, fitness goal, or other life goal, the mere scope of the work that lies ahead can be enough to mentally derail me before the journey has begun. As I approach new goals, ranging from lofty and epic creative projects, to the more routine and prosaic daily life-oriented tasks, the basis for accomplishment is the same: Believing in myself and having the confidence to carry out these objectives. Everything stems from this beginning:

  • I must believe in my capabilities towards achieving more.
  • I must believe in my capacity for learning new and useful skills.
  • I must believe in my tenacity to fight against the pull of petty distractions, or self-imposed limitations, that would divert me from the path.
  • I must believe in my ability to see the broader perspective and course-correct when needed.
  • I must believe in my resilience to try again if I fail.

Belief in myself must be reinforced with real action. When I set a goal for myself, no matter how big or small, I am essentially making a pact with myself. If I can’t even follow through with the agreements I’ve made with myself, how can I trust myself or expect others to trust me? Confidence is built and maintained by keeping those agreements. Confidence is also strengthened through the act of accomplishment, to know the success from setting and reaching goals.

What happens if and when I get derailed? Go back to the basics. Return to the starting point of believing in myself, that I can accomplish what I set my mind and actions to. Work on keeping the personal agreements I have made with myself. Keep tasks and goals manageable, so that I may better succeed. Following through on smaller tasks leads to the confidence of taking on bigger challenges, which steadily builds the momentum needed to accomplish even greater things.

There are times when the road ahead  seems long, difficult, and unsure. Do I walk along the tried-and-true tested path others have worn, or do I carve my own path one step at a time? No matter which road I take, the journey belongs to me. And with the journey comes the choice to step out and venture down the road that will lead to a more meaningful life. The beginning point starts with making the choice to step out, setting my sights on the horizon of unseen future goals.

CH

 

 

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“I believe in my teachers. I show respect for all who help me progress.” ~Stephen K. Hayes, How to Own the World

It is easy, sometimes, to forget the long and treacherous road that brought me to this point in time. The older I get, the more “successful” I become, the more I seem to credit my own merits and a faulty sense of self-satisfaction when I look back at the processes that brought me here. But it is a narrow-minded recollection. Too much self and too little credit is given to the relationships, environments, and mercies that have helped shape me over the years.

When I truly open my heart to a broader vision of the past, I realize I could only exist in this manner through:

  • The careful guidance of those willing and able to nurture my development.
  • Trial and error of making mistakes or accomplishments and learning from them.
  • Those who have presented themselves as rivals or challengers along my path.
  • Those whom I have wronged who have extended grace and compassion towards me.
  • Extending knowledge by teaching others.

All of these things are teachers in some form. Beyond a formal education, teachers will present themselves throughout life, sometimes unexpectedly. Every moment is an opportunity for learning. It is when I think I know it all, or feel I’ve excelled enough, or have forgotten where I’ve come from that I risk missing out on a more meaningful life.

Life has plenty to teach me. When the teacher presents itself, I will be open to seek the opportunity to learn. This is how I will honor those who have helped me progress.

CH

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The opening pages of my journal begin with a precarious premise: madness. The mind is a largely unexplored landscape. Dark recesses hold many disturbing thoughts, which inevitably point to a type of dissonance. This can be explained as two competing voices fighting for dominance. Ultimately, which one will win?

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The Vesica Piscis depicts the joining or perhaps collision of two worlds. Similarly, hemispheres of the brain are joined in strange and mysterious ways.

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These brief glimpses into the mind are but the opening salvos of a deeper look at identity, personal madness, and family violence. Where the path goes from there…time will tell…

Five years ago, I embarked on an intriguing journey to create a journal. This would not be a place to keep mere words on a screen reflecting my thoughts and feelings, but a real, tangible, and in the modern patois, analogue, book of deeply personal writings. Most importantly, this would be a journal worthy of me.
I had taken a leather-bound blank journal someone had gifted me and begun work on this massive project. I cut and pasted in various bits of mementos, past journal entries, art, new writings and other ephemera. The deeper I delved into my journal, it seemed a greater story was emerging, a transcendental work that was at once bringing my past, present, and future together in some mysterious and amazing ways.
Through the years (and moving several times), I put the project on hold, always assuming that it would draw me back towards it like some sort of carpet-bagging comet heading towards the sun. The journal however, stayed neatly stored in my other art supply boxes and didn’t see the light of day since those early, intensive days in 2010.
I really had no idea back then that there was something called an art journal, a hybridization of classical art techniques, scrapbooking, journaling, and to some degree, paper engineering.
I learned of tried-and-true techniques others had pioneered with their journals, essentially turning them into magnificent works of art.
When I brought out my journal recently, I saw it with new eyes and once again understood its potential for becoming something far greater than a journal.
So I decided to rebuild it from scratch (even though I was 50 pages into the old one), employing some of these newly discovered techniques and experimenting with a few of my own. Here I will share some of my experiences of making my new journal. I will share the process, share my feelings about the experience, and of course, share some of the pages.
Instead of the book as a whole being one massive work of art, each page will be as well. Check back for updates to see the evolution of this truly unique vision in the works!

Conspiracies are all around us.“A wingnut is someone on the far-right wing or far-left wing of the political spectrum – the professional partisans, the unhinged activists and the paranoid conspiracy theorists. They’re the people who always try to divide rather than unite us.” -John Avlon

The latest string of gun-related violence has brought the issue of gun control once more into the forefront of national debate. We are a fractured nation over this issue, many of us fed up with the lack of progress towards a solution. The left-wing is clamoring for stricter gun laws, and the right-wing is screaming for more guns in public places. There are no easy answers, as the gun control debate highlights a much larger epidemic involving mental health, media violence, and civil liberties. It is a complex issue convoluted even more by the right’s persistent inclusion of paranoid conspiracy theories threaded within the subtext of its ideology.

The first decade of the new millennium belonged to the fringe left in terms of conspiracy theory. They promoted a deeply-held belief that the draconian machinations of the Bush Administration were part of an agenda to achieve nothing less than world domination abroad, and total subjugation of its own citizens domestically. During those years, the right-wing surged in power and influence. Left-leaning activists shouted from rooftops and street corners, warning us that our civil liberties were over and that George W. Bush had essentially “torched” the Constitution. Names like “Skull and Bones Society,” “Bildebergers,” and “Project for a New American Century” floated their way to the surface of leftist debate, and for a moment, our imaginations were allowed to ponder the possibility of a New World Order, complete with dictators Bush and Cheney at the helm.

Now that much of the dust has settled since the Bush Administration, we can see that a majority of the fringe conspiracy theories were unfounded and rather silly. Trust me, I hated the Bush years as they were happening, and I had indulged in my share of conspiratorial speculation. Over time however, I realized that my loathing of the Bush Administration had been for more practical reasons, such as its poor fiscal management, terrible foreign policy, and intolerant social agenda. During those years, I feared that we were regressing as a nation and that there was no end in sight to what was beginning to feel like the new normal.  Yet, as the torch was passed from one regime to the next, the world at large became a less-scary place.

After Obama was elected President, we were presented with a more tolerant and compassionate administration. More emphasis was placed on personal responsibility towards making our lives, our communities, our nation a better place. It seemed that the conspiratorial curtain of government abuse and mistrust had been lifted and exposed for the facade it was; a largely non-existent monster under the bed. Or, at least, that’s what I thought. It seems that a different kind of torch has been passed, from the left hand to the right.

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Once the purview of the left, conspiracy theories are now championed by the right-wing. The same group who had dismissed the left as being absurd and “anti-American” for entertaining notions of an Orwellian government agenda, now have a bevy of their own conspiracy theories. Ranging from the relatively harmless (the so-called Birther Movement), to the dangerously absurd (Obama wants to steal our guns), these theories have sadly become the new standard of thinking within the ranks of the far-right. Most of these theories have stemmed from the peculiar notion that Barack Obama is a socialist dictator who—wait for it—wants nothing less than world domination abroad, and total subjugation of its own citizens domestically.

For anyone who has kept up with Obama’s record as president, it is clear that he is neither a socialist nor a particularly fervent leftist. In fact, many of his policy decisions have put him at the center-right. Those who believe otherwise are either ignorant or are purposely obfuscating truth to create a more protracted reality. It is this group who now dwell in the lunatic fringes, refusing to live outside of the bubble that they have conveniently constructed around them.

These same conspiracy theorists, while claiming that the left is attacking their civil liberties (including free speech), use the very tools of mass communication to spread their delusional ideas. In other words, in a dictatorship, the right would not have the ability to freely share their ideology by use of a mass communications platform. So I think it is safe to say that our form of democracy—as flawed as it may be—is a far cry from a socialist dictatorship.

What I believe to be the undercurrent of all this, is the perceived shift of mob rule from right to left. The right-wing was disbelieving and upset over Barack Obama’s election in 2008, and never really got over it.  Obama’s reelection seems to have only angered the right more. Members of the extreme right express vehement (and sometimes violent) opposition to anything that Obama says or does. These misguided individuals cry out in righteous indignation that seems to be laced with—dare I say it?—racism.

Whether or not members of the right-wing are motivated by racism, there has been a discernible ideological shift from right to left. Rather than grow up, evolve, or progress, the extreme right ideologues would rather sulk in the corner at the kids table, commiserating about the good ol’ days when they held the power. This was none-so-apparent as the 2012 election, where the right proved their commitment towards outmoded ways of thinking. The right remained in the relative Dark Ages of social and economic policy, choosing to interfere in women’s reproductive rights and favor the wealthiest of our citizens, among other things. The American voters decided to stick with the President and with progress.

This has done nothing to diminish the resolve of the right-wing, which has only retreated further into the recesses of obtuse thinking. The real danger is when extreme ideas have infiltrated the mainstream and are no longer confined to the lunatic fringes of the party. Otherwise reasonable-thinking individuals parrot the vitriolic views of extreme ideologues who, if for no other reason, wish to maintain absolute control over how we think and what we do with our bodies.

When asked about the influence of fringe groups on the masses, Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski stated during an interview:

“In a country of 300 million people, you have to allow that there are a few nuts. Some of them speak out. Some of them have access to the mass media. And some of them have a lot of money. And that’s all right, that’s normal. But you shouldn’t take them too seriously.”

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Now as a nation, we are faced with the perilous predicament of dealing with escalating gun violence in a never-before-seen way. The right has ramped-up its response to its feelings of inadequacy by resorting to fear-mongering, agitation, and bullying. The news channels are brimming with angry members of the right-wing, who continue to promote a pro-gun agenda, their rhetoric seething with conspiracy theories. They maintain that the reason to continue to allow citizens to have access to military-grade assault weapons, is to protect against the impending martial takeover (someday) by our government.

Despite the various conspiracy theories that surround the gun violence issue, the fact remains that there is a very real connection between the gun lobby and the right-wing. The fact that many on the right choose to ignore or deny the pervasive influence that the gun lobby has over gun policy in the US, shows the complicit refusal by the right to adequately deal with gun violence.

Those who are committed to maintaining the partisan standard are, by nature, the very agents opposed to advancing consensus on what to do about gun control. This issue isn’t about right or left; it’s about protecting innocent citizens from criminals. It’s about understanding the origins of the problem and doing our best to make sure that these weapons of destruction don’t end up in the wrong hands.

 

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Life: what a wild ride! Looking back, I never thought I would’ve ended up here; looking forward, I realize I’m exactly where I should be. As I enter into this new phase of my life, I thought it appropriate to re-introduce my blog into the fray. For those few who have kept up with my little blogging experiment, the name ‘Bonesmuggler’s Beatery’ should ring a bell. Those early pages chronicled my observations of life as one part personal journal, two parts ranting social commentary, and a pinch of verbose dexterity tossed in for good measure.

A blog is good for many things, if only to give oneself a bit of a bullhorn aimed at the rest of the world. Well here I am (again)! I will once again add my voice to the cacophony screaming for attention (over here…listen to me…yes! Me!). I suppose I do have more observations of the weird world we live in, as well as some unfinished business to tend to. I yearn for the narrative to continue; I crave the spinning yarn that I began six years ago with ‘Bonesmuggler’s Beatery.’ But why am I calling my new blog ‘Chadstract’s Beat?’

The simplest explanation is that I needed an easier way for people to associate my blog to me. ‘Bonesmuggler’s Beatery’ didn’t exactly garner any name recognition towards the Chadstract.com mission. The Bonesmuggler handle actually sprouted from a very obscure inside joke between me and a few friends, but other than that, the name had little-to-no relevance towards my writing.

As far as ‘Beatery’ is concerned, the word ‘beat’ has had multiple significance for me. Beat signifies my reporting territory or terrain. It also implies rhythm; I march to the beat of my own drum. Beat is an homage to one of my literary heroes, Jack Kerouac, who is credited as being the “King of the Beatniks.” The word beat means beat-down, tired, but Kerouac attributed beat as a short form of the word beatific.

So this latest incarnation of my thoughts and feelings put into words will take the form of ‘Chadstract’s Beat.’ Here, I will continue my long-running narrative of the world I see, and delve into new territories. This blog will be the hub of my writing platform. It will complement my website Chadstract.com, my niche in the morass that is the Internet. My blog may not always be Shakespearian, but it will be a glimpse into a life–my life in words. And the best part about it is that this is just the beginning…

Disney, one of the most powerful media conglomerates in the world, has just purchased Marvel Comics, clinching yet another foothold along its quest for complete dominion over the minds of our children. Having virtually no rivals, the Disney Corporation has pervasive influence in cinema, cable television, the music industry, and now comics. What a terrible day for those of us who relished Marvel Comics for the ways in which it was very much non-Disney-ish. So now what? Are my favorite superheroes like Wolverine, Spiderman, and the Incredible Hulk going to become Disney-fied, interrupting their regularly scheduled battles with the forces of evil in order to break out in song and dance numbers by Elton John? Will we get to see the “softer side” of some of our grittier characters? In other words, will the standard “Disney formula” be applied to future Marvel projects, essentially making them more kid friendly? The fact that Disney now has domain over the future direction of Marvel Comics makes me sick!

Why am I outraged? Why am I picking on poor, innocent, kid- and parent-approved Disney? Well…if one has done their research, Disney is not that innocent. Disney has a history of inserting subliminal subversive messages into their films, as well as eroticizing minors on their cable programs and movies. Have we forgotten that it was “kid-friendly” Disney that brought us Brittney Spears, whom I consider to be the epitome of underage sex appeal, bubblegum insanity, and lackluster talent? What about Lindsey Lohan? Here’s another stellar role model from the mold of the Disney corporate pimp machine. Disney arguably has done some good for children, helping to instill values upon young impressionable minds, and has produced some relatively entertaining material over the years. But it is exactly these double-standards that make me wary of Disney.

As I stated before, Disney is pervasive, holding a near monopoly on children’s entertainment. I know of parents that absolutely trust Disney to “help raise” their children, because they believe that it is wholesome. One mother told me that she likes the Disney Channel because she doesn’t have to worry about the programming being a bad influence on her kids. But these are not the days of Walt Disney, before his cartoon creations became the juggernaut media conglomerate that it is today. Disney has long been taken over by corporate goons who use the Disney namesake to peddle their own agendas. The name “Disney” evokes powerful childhood attachments and memories, and to most, the fact that something is Disney, means that the product will be trusted. It is for these reasons that Disney has become so dangerous.

Innocence has been infused with smut. Storytelling has been relegated to a cheesy formula, designed to play on the nostalgia that Walt Disney created. How many more formulaic “kids movies” starring the tragically misunderstood heroine and her plucky sidekicks can we stand? First, Disney hijacks a bevy of Grimms Fairy Tales, retelling the stories without the darkest parts, and now they’ve hijacked Marvel Comics.

This is truly a sad day for comics fans…