Looking back on 2014, it seems I’ve done nine things in particular that are proving to have been good strategic moves for life. Here they are, in no particular order.
1. Throwing the football (and Frisbee) with my son, James. We live in an apartment over an historic storefront in a small town, and we have a small city park across the street. Since summer, James and I have gone out nearly every week, somewhere between 1 and 5 times to throw the football. This was the first real practice he’s had with it, and he’s done fairly well. He is particularly accurate at passing the football, it seems. The activity was good for the exercise, the skill, and the fresh air, of course. But it was particularly good to afford a chance for us to talk about whatever was going on at the time. Among other things, we thoroughly covered the material in some of the chapters of the book I’m writing—and I’d say that’s pretty cool when your 11-year-old son can spot a “my-side bias” or an ad hominem dodge on his own! James has become the dearest friend in these years.
2. Writing my book on Reality-Based Thinking. After a couple of years of heavy reading, I began to write in earnest in 2014—as time permitted. It’s thrilling to see the topic come together, and while I’m frustrated not to have more time to write, it’s very good to have lots of time to reflect on the topic as I go. The idea of the book—that we should use reality as our primary and constant guide for decision making (which means avoiding all cognitive biases, errors, hearsay, and deceit)—continues to prove impeccable with each passing month of investigation and analysis. I asked one wealthy individual I’m acquainted with for a grant for a sabbatical so that I can give the project the undistracted attention it deserves. We’ll see what he says! Oh, take my quiz here and see how you do!
3. Reading. This year I read (but not necessarily finished):
The Shallows (What the Internet is doing to our brains). Nicholas Carr
A Guide to Rational Living. Albert Ellis, PhDReality Therapy. William Glasser, MD
Reality Therapy for the 21st Century. Robert E. Wubbolding
Human Universals. Donald E. Brown
50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology. Lilienfeld, Lynn, Ruscio, Beyerstein.
Thinking and Deciding. Jonathon Baron
4. Efficiency in Living. We live in a tiny apartment and we still have roughly 25% too much stuff to fit into it! This time last year, we had approximately 100% too much stuff. So this was the year of buying bookcases and building shelves, of rummage sales and giveaways and so forth. Just today, I built a skillet rack for the kitchen. It holds roughly 12 pots and pans, freeing up some much-needed pantry space. Next comes installing a washer/dryer in a makeshift laundry room—and while that will be costly, it’s much more efficient than going to the laundromat. Two of the higher goals in all this are to facilitate healthier cooking/eating and our homeschooling. Since we spend so much time there, it’s a real downer if our home routine isn’t an efficient one.
5. Just Say “No!” In an effort to make time for what I think are the more important things in life, I walked away from a couple of business ventures this year. One was a website that I built in 2010 for the Paintless Dent Repair industry. Since then, it has become well-traveled, and useful for marketing. The other project included a revenue-sharing deal on a startup web/mobile app I helped to invent and to project-manage. Both were good deals for me, I suppose, but I’m just not interested in being the entrepreneur anymore. Indeed, the reason I thought I wanted to be an entrepreneur was so that I could make enough money to fund my own important social projects. But I learned that it sucks the marrow from the bones to life to try to be an entrepreneur. It robs me of the very thing I find the most fruitful—the time for reflection. So no more of that for me—for now, at least. I’d rather have fewer irons in the fire and enjoy life than to have too many in hopes that one of them might grow really hot someday.
6. First Annual Pelham Camping Adventure. In early July, we bought enough camping gear to furnish a small army and went camping on the Missouri River, north of Jordan, MT. Since we moved out of the country and into the mean ol’ city, we don’t get to enjoy the outdoors nearly often enough. And while I still have an
irrational dream of going camping several times a year, I think that a great practical solution is to plan one mega-trip each year and to be sure to enjoy it. We’ll definitely do it again—but a couple of weeks early in 2015. It was getting too hot by July.
Did I mention that I found a dinosaur bone?
7. Pelham School of Arts & Sciences. Kay and I officially opened our new school in September 2014. I did a lot of remodeling work earlier in the year to turn the studio into a nice place to work, with my priority being to get Kay up and running with piano lessons, while I continue to try to shift over from my career in Paintless Dent Repair to something I find more meaningful and satisfying. I have a couple of voice students starting soon. In one particularly keen negotiation, I traded a high school student some math tutoring for clarinet duet sessions! I bought a used clarinet at the local pawn shop and told her I’d tutor her for an hour in return for her bringing her clarinet so we could play duets together! I was amazed that after 30 years (since I last played clarinet), I still knew my way around the horn pretty well!
8. Yellowstone Boy Choir. Kay and I founded the Yellowstone Boy Choir this year. We wanted James to have an excellent ensemble experience, and it seemed the best way to do it was to build it ourselves. We have had a modest beginning, but I think we’ve learned enough in our Fall session to know how to plan for a successful future.
9. Solving Some Bible Puzzles. If I could get it funded, I’d jump at the chance to be a full-time Bible scholar. In fact, one of the reasons I’m not “farther ahead” in my career than I am is that I have invested a great many hours in extensive Bible study over the last 30-or-so years! Anyway, this year I took the time to solve (to a fairly high level of certainty) a couple of mysteries I had been pondering for some time.
- The Punishment in Eden. God had promised Adam and Eve that in the day they ate of the forbidden fruit, they would “surely die”—or so say many Bible versions. But the Hebrew says what we could literally translate to “you will surely die-die”, which is an expression meaning “begin to die”. And this fits perfectly with the rest of the narrative, in which Adam and Eve had had access to the Tree of Life, which presumably kept them immortal for as long as they would eat of it. After their sin, however, God drove them from the Garden and the next thing we hear of the Tree of Life is that it is found in “The New Jerusalem” (heaven) in Revelation 22. Absent that life-sustaining fruit, they lived out their days and died of old age, outside the Garden.Interestingly, when Satan broaches the topic of the forbidden fruit with Eve in Chapter 3, she does not accurately repeat God’s warning that they would “die-die” (begin to die). Rather, she says (Genesis 3:3) that if they ate of the fruit or even touched it, they would “die”—which means to drop dead. How was it she got this wrong? Was she not there when God gave the warning? Had Adam been careless in passing this along? Was she not paying sufficient attention to catch the difference between “begin to die” and “drop dead”? I don’t know if I’ll ever find enough information to answer these questions, but they are indeed intriguing!
- The Timing of the “First Resurrection”. Revelation 20 mentions a “First Resurrection”—a limited resurrection of martyrs who would reign with Christ for “1,000 years”—and then after that, a major resurrection event in which Hades/Sheol would be emptied out and those in it would be dispatched either to the “Holy City” (heaven) or to the Lake of Fire. Interestingly, there is a limited resurrection mentioned quite explicitly in Matthew 27:52, having happened at the time of Jesus’ resurrection. “And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.”This bears a striking resemblance to Ezekiel’s “Dry Bones” prophecy (Ezekiel 37), wherein the physical bodies of many were to be reconstituted from their graves and then restored to life with the original spirits of that once lived in them. (Many mistake Ezekiel’s prophecy to be about the Second Resurrection, and thus expect their physical bodies to be resurrected, but no such thing is promised regarding the Second Resurrection.) So was this Matthew 27 event the same as Ezekiel’s “Dry Bones” event and the “First Resurrection” of Revelation 20? I think so.Hebrews 12:18-24 speaks of the following as already having been in place at the time of this writing: “…you have come to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, … and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect…” How did those “firstborn” (from the dead) get to heaven if they were not resurrected from the dead and taken there already?
Secondly, of Jesus’ ascension (which happened in Acts 1), it was said: “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (Ephesians 4:8). Regarding “he gave gifts to men”, this refers to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost in Acts 2, which had long been prophesied. But what about the part where “he led a host of captives”? When would this happen? Well, we are told that it happened “when he ascended”. And when was that? It was in Acts 1. So what captives did he take with him that day? Wouldn’t this bit a fitting reference to those “many holy people” he had rescued from Hades/Sheol in Matthew 27, just weeks before? I think it would.
Further, I believe those same people referred to as “the assembly of the firstborn” in Hebrews 12:18-24 are the ones it calls a “great cloud of witnesses” in 12:1—right after having named many of them and described their martyrdom in Chapter 11. So I believe the First Resurrection has already happened. I had previously believed this was likely the case, but on fewer points of evidence than I now have for it.
I feel generally frustrated with life because of four particular factors:
- My career is seasonal, unpredictable, and unfulfilling. If I had no other interests, it would be tolerable, and perhaps even fun, but it has faded significantly as my philosophical horizons have grown.
- My book (and the promotion of it after I publish it) is the most important project I have in the works. This really needs to be my full-time “day job”, and I just don’t have the funding for it. So until I come up with something, I’ll just have to keep chipping away at it while wishing for an early 2015 hail season.
- I’m not having enough fun. I do several things that I can enjoy, but few of them at gratuitously fun. I’d really like to have a small vocal ensemble—like maybe a barbershop quartet—that I could sing with every Friday evening in the Town Square for whomever cared to listen. It’s quite hard to find the talent with the time, however.
- I’m still not finished getting everything “ship-shape”—that is, “a place for everything, and everything in its place”. (Thanks for teaching me that, Uncle Bill!)
It’s quite a luxury to be a philosopher and an advocate for social reform. It’s extremely hard to do as a working-class man. I strain ahead at it anyway, though, because of the great value I see in what might be done. Fixing any of the four irritants above will certainly put me in a better place at the end of 2015. So we’ll see how it goes!