Beware of Originalists

They hold an unrealistic and toxic philosophy that is dangerous for an ever-evolving society.

Originalists believe that certain documents (and apparently, they get to choose which ones) should be interpreted as they were understood at the time they were written. If it suits them. Oh, where to begin.

First of all, the documents they choose to apply this philosophy to are usually documents that have a legal and/or social impact upon us all, such as the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.  And when I say “us all” I’m referring to those of us who are living and breathing and viewing our world through our current cultural lens with our current scientific and technological understanding.

The arrogance of Originalists leaves me speechless. The idea that they have any clue how any document was understood at the time it was written if said document is more than a decade or two old is beyond the pale. If Americans can’t even agree on whether a life saving vaccine is in our best interests, how on earth can we assume that we can crawl inside the minds of a group of men sitting in a room in Pennsylvania in 1787 and accurately determine their intentions?

And a better question might be, why would we want to? For the constitution to continue to be of any value at all to us, it needs to change with the times and the culture that it purports to regulate. The constitution itself provides a framework of how government should be run. It lays out our (increasingly skewed) system of checks and balances, and also explains how the states relate to the federal government. That’s the skeleton of it all. But the amendments are the vital organs, the tissue, the muscle that keeps the constitution relevant and vital and up to date. At least that’s what amendments should be doing.

All our amendments came about because we have learned some hard lessons over time. We have changed and grown as a nation. We’re dealing with things that the founding fathers couldn’t even conceive of back then.

We learned that freedom of religion is critical to a country that wishes to allow human beings to explore their own spiritual belief system, rather than forcing us all into a rigid box where we’re told what to do and what we should believe without question. While many of us seem to actively seek out that sort of treatment these days, it’s increasingly obvious that checking one’s brains at the door does not serve us well.

The second amendment didn’t come along until 1791 and is about the right OF A WELL REGULATED MILITIA to bear arms.  The founding fathers were a group of privileged white men in 1787, who could never have conceived of a toaster oven, let alone an automatic weapon (the Gatling gun wasn’t even invented until 1861). It had not even occurred to these men men to put anything about arms in the original body of the constitution. Do we really think that those men wanted to make it okay for people to walk into classrooms and fire bullets that spin so wildly that they don’t just kill, they mutilate beyond recognition, and they do so at such high speeds that they kill the maximum number of humans in the shortest amount of time?

And from a modern standpoint, are mass shooters, or for that matter, any individuals, considered to be a well regulated militia these days? How is that possible? Why would anyone want to make that acceptable?

When you consider that bloodletting was still being recommended as a viable treatment option by some physicians in the 1920’s, do we really want to look at the constitution as a rigid document that requires a 1787 mindset to be considered valid? Similarly, would you want to only be allowed to pursue the happiness as described in the Declaration of Independence if you had to look at it from a 1776 standpoint? Back then, you were lucky to live into your 40’s. Do you think their pursuit of happiness would align with ours? Do you think they’d have had the same opinions about a lifetime appointment to the supreme court had they known that our life expectancy today would be double what they were experiencing?

We have outgrown certain things in this country. We should modernize our constitution to allow for the importance of civic responsibility and public health. None of us should have to beg for equal rights. None of us should have to be hesitant to assemble, for fear of being mowed down by gunmen. Every single one of us should have sole autonomy over our own bodies, unless said autonomy negatively impacts public health. Voting should be easy. We have no need for an electoral college anymore. Gerrymandering should be outlawed. There should be a way to keep the internet accessible to all, and yet somehow regulate the lies and the misinformation that runs rampant therein. We need to re-implement the fairness doctrine, but make it applicable to the ever-increasing number of ways that we can now communicate. We need term limits for congress. Judges on the supreme court should not be appointed for a lifetime, and for the love of God, they should be held to the same ethical standards as other lawyers. When there is a conflict of interest, it should be mandatory that said justice recuses himself from the case.

Originalism is an unrealistic and toxic philosophy that is dangerous for an ever-evolving society. Six of the nine current Supreme Court judges are originalists to some degree. They aren’t thinking about modern times or consequences when they make their rulings. That’s scary, don’t you think? While we’re modernizing the constitution, we might want to put something in there to require that it continue to be modernized, because if Americans exist in another 231 years, they sure as heck won’t want to crawl into the twisted minds that are holding the reins of power today to decide how decent people should live in their version of the present.

Like the way my weird mind works? Then you’ll enjoy my book!


Have We Outgrown Religion?

If it can’t keep up with the times, it should be left behind.

This is a thought experiment that I’ve been conducting with myself for most of my adult life. It will probably offend some people, as religion is a very touchy subject. Please know that I often write a blog post simply to clarify my own thoughts and get thoughtful feedback. I’m not trying to tell anyone what to think or believe or disbelieve.

Recently I came across an article entitled, “A 43,900-year-old cave painting is the oldest story ever recorded. Archaeologists say it might also contain the oldest known religious images.” By Kiona N. Smith. I’ve always been fascinated by cave paintings, so naturally I had to read on. (And I highly recommend that you do, too.) One passage really jumped out at me:

“Before we could develop religion, we had to develop the ability to think and talk about things that don’t exist in the natural, physical world. We had to learn to describe and imagine not just things we had already seen, but things no one had ever seen… In other words, we had to invent the concept of fiction.”

Was the author equating religion to fiction? Or perhaps she was describing the process of faith? I don’t know. Either way I found this to be a fascinating topic.

It is not unreasonable to consider religion to be a philosophical invention of sorts. Religious tenets came about to explain those things that we didn’t understand, and also to set forth a set of rules to define morality. Much of it has to do with a subject that most of us still struggle with: our own mortality, and the acceptance thereof.

The thing is, we’ve learned so much since the establishment of most mainstream religions. The invention of refrigeration alone makes most religious food restrictions unnecessary, whereas at the time they were critical to maintaining life. We’ve also invented planes, trains, and automobiles, so our horizons have expanded and we really don’t need to have such a tribal worldview. And the invention of medical devices, microscopes, telescopes, computers, the scientific method, birth control, and meteorology have changed the way we see our planet and have impacted the way we live upon it.

Because of all this, I find it impossible to live within a rigid, inflexible religious system that is more than 2000 years old, just as I wouldn’t take medical advice from that era. Any philosophy that isn’t living, breathing, and adapting to current circumstances and our increased knowledge base does not serve us well. The fact that the Pope won’t condone condoms, even in countries ravaged by AIDS, is just one example of this.

I think we’ve outgrown religion as it currently stands. If it can’t keep up with the times, it should be left behind. My opinion. You are entitled to yours.


An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book!

12 Things to Discuss before Getting Married

It’s really important to have all the hard conversations beforehand so that you know what you’re getting yourself into.

I’m getting married for the first time at age 53, so I’m hardly an expert on the subject. But I’d like to think that my age is a plus. I’m not impulsive. I believe in doing my homework. I am all about looking before I leap.

Lord knows I’ve seen enough marriages fail to get a strong sense of what kills them off. It’s really important to have all the hard conversations beforehand so that you know what you’re getting yourself into. It also helps to know the other person’s hopes, dreams, and expectations in advance, and decide whether you’d be willing to help them achieve them.

Here are a few things you may wish to consider talking about ahead of your big day:

Money. This one is huge. Is one partner bringing a mountain of debt into the union? It’s only fair to bring this out in the open. How will you handle finances? How much credit card debt can you tolerate? What level of discretionary spending are you comfortable with? What are your plans, if any, for retirement? What are your expenses? How will you cope with financial emergencies? What are your long term financial goals, and how do you plan to reach them?

Children. Do you both want them? How many? Do you already have some? Who has custody? What is your philosophy regarding discipline, and child-rearing in general?

What goals do you have for your future? Do they align? If you want to travel and your partner simply wants to retire and watch Jerry Springer all day long, that’s a problem. What do you consider to be a successful life? What is most important to you in terms of a future? Where do you want to live? What kind of home do you want to have? What types of vacations do you like to take? What are your priorities? What are your expectations?

Sex, Intimacy and Fidelity. It’s okay to be who you are. But it’s only fair that you spell it out. If one person is asexual, and the other expects a high degree of intimacy, that’s a problem waiting to happen. If your philosophies regarding fidelity don’t align, it’s a recipe for disaster. If one person hates public displays of affection, and the other feels rejected if her partner won’t hold her hand, this is the tip of a much larger iceberg. Is pornography a big part of your life or do you have any sexual habits that your partner might find unusual? Discuss what you need to feel loved and sexually satisfied now, or your marital ship will sink like a stone.

Individuality. You don’t have to be joined at the hip. You don’t always have to like all the same things that your partner likes. You don’t even have to have all of the same friends. Becoming a football widow isn’t a big deal if you have interests of your own. Are you both comfortable doing things alone? If you have different expectations in terms of togetherness and attention, it’s best to work that out now.

Vices. If you smoke and your partner does not, you should find out if that will become a deal-breaker. If you have a drug addiction, your partner has a right to know. How much do you drink alcohol? How much is too much? You should even put your quirky habits out there. One person’s quirk might be another person’s intolerable oddity.

Health. Does your partner take health as seriously as you do? Are there any ticking time bombs with regard to family health history that you need to be aware of? How will you cope with a medical catastrophe?

Religion. What are your spiritual philosophies? Atheists and Fundamentalists can marry, of course, but they’d have to be extremely tolerant of their differences. If one is expecting the other to make a dramatic, very basic shift, and the other person isn’t willing to do so, then that will be a problem. Also, what holidays are important to you, and how do you celebrate them?

Politics. I’ve seen couples thrive in spite of political differences, but if politics is a huge part of your life, it rapidly becomes a definer of the content of one’s character. And in this current atmosphere of division, it’s not like you can ignore the elephant (or donkey) in the room. Will you be willing to agree to disagree on the issues? It’s never a good idea to go into a relationship with expectations that your partner will change and come to his or her senses.

Family. Unfortunately (or luckily, as the case may be), when you marry someone, you marry that person’s family, too. Everyone has a few nuts in the family tree. Having insane in-laws is not necessarily a problem unless you discover, to your horror, that your spouse expects said crazy relative to live with you in his or her dotage. Will you be okay with that? What does family obligation mean to you? Best to figure that out in advance.

Communication and Conflict Resolution. How do your resolve disagreements? If one is a shouter and the other tends to withdraw, you’ll never be able to meet in the middle. It’s all about respect. Talk about issues before they get out of control. Listen to what your partner is saying. Nip things in the bud as often as you can. Don’t stuff things. Don’t get hostile. Don’t just hope things will go away on their own. Take the initiative. How do you plan to talk things out?

Cleanliness. Can you tolerate your partner’s level of clutter? Can your partner stand your obsessive compulsive need for a spotless home? And how will the cleaning tasks be divided? This is 2018. You can’t assume that both of you are on the same page regarding basic chores. Talk about it.

Communication about all of the above is key. It’s important to know as much as possible about the foundation on which you are building your relationship. A solid foundation leads to a long-lasting home.

Are there any other topics that I’ve overlooked? Please share them in the comments below!


Check this out, y’all. I wrote a book!

Live Your Dash

I was completely befuddled when I heard that expression for the first time the other day. But once it was explained to me, it immediately became part of my personal philosophical handbook. We should all live our dashes.

Imagine your tombstone. It will include the date you were born, a dash, and the date you died. That dash is your life. Your whole entire life, boiled down to one tiny symbol on a tombstone. That’s pretty sobering.

You are the only one who will know what that dash has meant, from beginning to end. Only you will have borne witness to every millimeter of it. The good, the bad, and the ugly. The joyous. The profound. The horrible. The intense. The amazing.

That dash will be made up of all your risks and opportunities and triumphs and failures. It will sum up all your achievements. It will mark your generosity and your selfishness, your inspiration and your despair. It will also include a lot of wasted time.

Try not to waste too much time. Make something outstanding of your dash. Live! Love! Travel! Experience as much as you possibly can.

Devour life. It’s the best gift you will ever be given. And the value of that gift will be what you make of it.

Live your dash.


Check this out, y’all. I wrote a book!

I Miss the Saturn Experience

I’ve had a lot of cars in my lifetime, but I’ve only bought one that was brand new. It was a 1998 Saturn SL2. I loved that car. Not only because it got me from point A to point B, but at the time the Saturn folks were embarked on this radical new philosophy in car sales, and I felt like I was on the cutting edge.

Back then, when you bought a Saturn you were joining a family. The list price was the price. There was no haggling, no pressure, no feeling like you might be getting ripped off. I found that extremely refreshing. And when you signed on the dotted line, every employee in the building stopped what they were doing and they came out and cheered. It made you feel like a rock star. Somewhere I still have a picture of me standing next to my salesman at that moment.

And afterward, you were still considered family. They had parties. Bar-b-cues. Classes. You got cards in the mail. People often went to Tennessee to tour the factory. When you took your car in for periodic maintenance, they knew you by name. They welcomed your dogs in the waiting room, and offered you doughnuts and coffee. When they’d finished working on your car, they would wash it and leave candy or a cut flower on your seat.

I was really proud to be a part of that, and I suspect that if Saturn still existed, I’d be a customer for life, even though the cars themselves weren’t sexy or innovative or award winning. I’m sure that had a lot to do with their downfall. But it’s a moot point. Sadly, Saturn is no more.

I don’t know which came first, their financial decline or their philosophical decline, but I did notice that in their last few years, suddenly there were no more flowers, no more parties, and no one took those factory tours anymore. It made me sad.

You just don’t see that level of customer service anywhere nowadays. Yes, all those little extras take time and cost money, but they are priceless. They are unforgettable.

I’m glad that I got to stand at the very pinnacle of the car buying experience, if only for a brief, shining moment. I’m not ashamed to say that when my Saturn was t-boned beyond repair, I shed more than a few tears. I would probably still be driving that vehicle today if it hadn’t been for that.

When I lost that car, I lost a family too. The fact that no other organization seems to be trying to create that kind of family feeling shows how short-sighted corporate America can be.


“You Deserve to be Happy.”

I saw that tag line in a Facebook advertisement for therapy, and it made me think of a conversation I had with a friend from Burma. He said, “In the West, you think you deserve happiness, so you get upset, depressed, anxious or bitter if you don’t have it. In the East, we don’t expect happiness, so we’re delighted when it comes our way.”

Like many things, it’s all a matter of perspective. And it is a good question. Why do we think we deserve to be happy? What makes us so special? Do we think we were born with some sort of golden ticket? “Happiness, Admit One.”

It’s natural to strive for happiness. But it might be healthier to look at it as a gift rather than a right. That way, when you don’t have it, you don’t feel like it’s some sort of failure on your part, and when you do have it, you’ll feel like you’ve won a prize, and can appreciate it all the more.


Rota Fortunae

A friend of mine challenged me to write a blog entry about the Wheel of Fortune. Not the game show, thank goodness, but a much meatier topic: the medieval philosophy about fate. So here goes.

You see this topic coming up over and over again in the literature of the time. They believed that the goddess Fortuna randomly spins this wheel to which we are all attached. If you happen to be on the less fortunate part of that wheel when it stops, well, then, you are in for some bad luck indeed. And, as the carnival barkers say, “Where she stops, nobody knows!”

I happen to have my own completely unsubstantiated theory about the origins of this philosophy. I think it was an invention of the people in power, whether they were religious or political leaders. As we all know, life in that era was nasty, brutish and short for the average person. If they had had time to lift their heads up and look about them, they might just have built up a healthy resentment for their plight, but most of them were too busy just trying to survive.

But just in case, it would be quite handy for the upper classes to be able to instill in the unwashed masses a belief that they had absolutely no power over their own destiny. If there’s no hope for change, there’s no point in bitterness. Resign yourself to your fate. Accept the fact that we’re all tied to Fortuna’s wheel. Don’t ask questions.

I find it quite interesting that when the wheel of fortune was mentioned back then, it was usually in reference to one’s run of bad luck. Unexpected death or illness. Loss of children. You never heard about the people who would have had to have been attached to the top, or “good luck”, part of the wheel when it stopped. I suspect those were usually the royals and the popes. Goodness, no, we don’t want to draw attention to them. That might cause the very resentment that the powers that be were trying to avoid.

I do believe that fate does have a role in my life. Some pretty horrible and pretty amazing things have happened to me that I did nothing personally to bring about. But I also believe that the choices I make influence the path my life takes. If I decide to turn left, I might meet the love of my life. If I turn right I might not. But I’m the one who decides which way to turn.

I don’t think I’m tied to a wheel. I view it more as a pendulum. Age and experience tells me that when things aren’t going well, it’s just a matter of time before the pendulum will swing back the other way. I derive a lot of comfort from that. But I don’t feel helpless. The pendulum is going to swing, yes, but I get to decide which plane it will swing on. That counts for something.

Wheel of Fortune

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On Being Enlightened by a Guru

Once upon a time I was a freelance editor. I suppose I still am, technically. I just haven’t pursued work in that arena for quite some time. I enjoyed it, yes, but mainly did it to keep the wolves from the door. The wolves are still out there, but my door is a little more solid these days.

Anyway, early on I was approached by an owner of an independent press to edit a new age book about enlightenment. The author, basically, felt that he was enlightened and had written a book so that others could reach that same state. He claimed to be “beyond ego”, and yet he felt he had all the answers. The book was basically one long conversation with a woman who was seeking enlightenment, but apparently was going about it the wrong way. The author spent the entire time explaining how wrong she was and how his way was the only correct way.

About halfway through our professional relationship, the owner of the press asked me my honest opinion about the book. It’s never a good idea to ask my honest opinion, because I’ll most definitely give it to you. So I told him that the guy came off as arrogant, egotistical and full of himself, and I therefore found it impossible to take him seriously.

That’s when I found out the owner had written the book himself under a pseudonym. I was mortified. My opinion hadn’t changed, but I was still mortified. And I was also politely told that clearly I didn’t have much experience with new age books, because that was simply “how it was done”.

I wasn’t fired, but he certainly didn’t thank me in his acknowledgements. Actually, he thanked no one. I don’t suppose it would do to admit that you needed any form of help or support if you are supposed to have all the answers.

What did I learn from this experience? From that day forward I couldn’t take any new age book seriously. I think it’s natural to seek answers and attempt to improve our lives, but I’ve never personally known anyone whose life was completely transformed by reading a book. Even followers of the most widely accepted religious tomes are inherently flawed.

It’s good to expose yourself to other philosophies, it’s great to be inspired by others, but it’s rather insane to think that one person writing one book is going to solve all your problems. Life just doesn’t work that way.

The world is full of gurus. I would like to think that many of them are sincere, albeit overly confident. Others see the weakness in people and decide to profit off of it. Either way, you should always maintain a healthy skepticism.

I sincerely believe that there are many paths, and each of us has to find our own, and while you may meet a lot of people who can impart wisdom to you on your journey, to fixate on just one is pure folly. Travel with caution.


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Things I Hope I Never Forget

The shock of having the person I loved most in the world die unexpectedly two weeks ago has taught me much.

  • Life is as fragile as a soap bubble. It could pop at any moment and that’s it. You’re done.
  • Because life is so fragile, it’s precious. You only get a little bit of it, so savor every single second.
  • Because it’s so precious, it is absurd to waste your time worrying about the little things over which you have absolutely no control.
  • Everything is a little thing, except for the people you love and the people who love you. Nothing else matters.
  • Nothing. Else. Matters.

I vaguely remember learning these same lessons when my mother died 23 years ago, but somewhere along the way I got caught back up in the minutiae of life and forgot these things. I hope I never do again. They’re important. They are the only things that really are important.

Once you start viewing life through this particular lens, all the petty crap and drama tends to fall by the wayside and things become really simple. Don’t take the people you love for granted. Appreciate everything and everyone that comes your way. But most of all, stop wasting time.



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College Later in Life: A New Perspective on Professors

The first time I went to college I was 18 years old, and I had struggled so hard to be there that I kind of looked upon the professors as Gods. They constituted this great pantheon of pedagoguery and I was eager to soak up whatever knowledge they saw fit to impart. I didn’t question their motives or their philosophies. I just feasted on the crumbs of their wisdom and considered myself lucky for the meal. But at the same time, I considered that meal an automatic golden ticket toward my unquestionable future success. Silly me.

Thirty years later when I decided to return to school, my perspective had changed greatly. I still had respect for the teaching profession. I always will. But the professors had become my contemporaries, and as such I could only view them as flawed human beings. And this time I took the knowledge they imparted greedily, like a person lost in the desert desperate for water. I needed this information to get on with my life. I needed it to change my fate. (Little did I know it would turn out to be a massive waste of time and money, but I’ve already covered that in my blog entry Back to School at 46.)

So when my Physics teacher turned out to be a sexist pig who was stuck in the dark ages, I wasn’t as shocked as I would have been decades previously. I was just massively irritated and felt protective of the younger students who couldn’t see the outrageous behavior for what it was: unacceptable.

Here are just a few of this man’s pearls of wisdom.

  • For some reason he got on the subject of the health food store where he shops. He mentioned that the clerk there was so good looking that, “ladies, you’d know just what to do with him.”
  • He stated that he wouldn’t sell his used vehicle to a female because if it broke down, a female couldn’t walk, whereas a male could.
  • He stated that he felt comfortable letting his girlfriend pilot his boat, because after all, it only has two gears, so a female should be able to handle that. (He was serious!)
  • He constantly called female students “Sweetie” or “Sweetheart” or “Honey”.
  • When one student apologized for missing class because her car broke down, he said, “You’re good looking, got all the guys around you, they’ll fix it.”
  • He told that same girl in a separate incident, “I’ll want an autograph when you’re Miss America in a couple years.”
  • Every single class, he would tell at least one female that she was good looking.

The general consensus of the students I talked to seemed to be that he was “creepy” because he was saying things that someone his age should not be saying to people their age. What they were not yet mature enough to understand, I feared, is that “creepy” is unacceptable.

After a great deal of soul searching, I decided that I had to report the guy because I doubted that the 19 year old girls in the class would have the courage or the life experience to do so. This man had been with the school for 20 years. He needed to be made aware that his actions were grossly inappropriate. He should not be allowed to make female students squirm simply because they needed his class and had paid good money to attend it.

Needless to say, my report caused a major uproar. I got called in to the Dean’s office and it wasn’t just the Dean sitting there. It was an entire panel. I told them the story, I answered questions. I gave them details. They asked me what I wanted to happen.

I told them I wasn’t looking to get anyone fired in this economy, and that in fact the man really did know his physics, but his behavior had to change. He needed to be called on the carpet, trained and monitored. They said they would do all of the above.

I honestly doubt it made much difference, but it made me feel better, and it also made me realize that I had come a long way since my first college experience.

And I have to admit I got a bit of a cheap thrill from the fact that the man got to read my written report and therefore learned that he’s considered a creepy old man. If he came away with nothing else, he’ll have that morsel to chew upon whilst he examines his crows feet in the mirror.

The truth hurts, sweetie.