Shedding grace with an Archimedean efficiency – by recording bedtime stories.

What if we could give underfathered children some of the attention, some of the affection, some of the moral guidance they’re missing out on? What if we could share with them some of your childhood?

Let’s start with a sad story:

Picture your own life at age three – but subtract the love.

How do I know there was a lot of love in your home? Because you can read me. I am tough sledding just as grammar, but I also frequently and intentionally put people through excruciating pain – like I’m doing right now. Only folks who learned deep emotional resilience in childhood can put up with me.

So go back to being an awakening child-mind, but take away all the interaction, all the conversation, all the shared events, all the affection – all the teasings and ticklings and snugglings – all the attention. One or both of your parents – or a grandparent or an older sibling – paid an enormous amount of attention to you when you were a baby, or, baby, you could not be here now.

Probably it was a lot of people: A couple or a few all the time, and many more now and then. And each one of those people was working – by intention or not – to cultivate your humanity. Virtually all children get at least minimally-adequate nurturance, since they are ultimately able to walk upright and to bathe nearly often enough. But those of us who are delighted to embrace the life of the mind – my way or any way – are beneficiaries of an enormous amount of attention we can never hope to repay.

So take all that away. What does your life look like to you? What does your future look like? Everyone is somewhere at the age of three. Had you been there then – tended to but never attended to – where would you be by now?

Why does fatherhood matter? Why does art matter? Why does empathy matter, for heaven’s sake? Yours is a cultivated mind. What you are today is what someone wanted for you to (more…)

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How to fight with your relatives over the Thanksgiving Dinner table.

I’ve thought for years about writing a Thanksgiving story — a feast-become-food-fight of ideas over the dinner table — but I’ve never done it. Too much too close for comfort perhaps. Meanwhile, I will give you something to be thankful for, this Thanksgiving and every day, that no one else is likely to mention:

Be grateful for your own fundamental solitude.

You are in this all alone. You were born alone and you will die alone, and the truth of the uniquely human life is that you spend every moment of your life alone. You share what you can with those you love, but when you keep your own counsel, you do it all alone. When you assert your truth in defiance of the mob, you do it all alone. When you bite your tongue to keep the peace, you do it all alone.

Your self — your self-abstracted idea of your life — is the cardinal value of your life, the one that endures as all other values come and go. You are sovereign and indomitable, the sole champion of your triumphs and the sole author of your errors.

You can’t fix your relatives. Alike unto you, they are sovereign and indomitable. I like to say that we get to be who we are, but the truth of the matter is still more stark: Each one of us is going to be who he or she is, no matter what.

You can try to persuade other people of the truth of your ideas, but this is a slow process, one fraught with frequent failures. The only immediate change you can make to other people is to change them from alive to dead — a lesson our statist overlords never tire of teaching us. That unhappy fact suggests a simple strategy for post-prandial political debates — and for casual conflicts of all types: If it’s not something you would fight about to the death, it’s probably not worth fighting about at all.

My attitude always: Cultivate indifference. I will not make the world more beautiful by making my own soul ugly. If I don’t care for the (more…)

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My Thanksgiving gift – to me: Anastasia in the light and shadow as a bedtime storybook.

Changing the world, one bedtime story at a time.

I built a printed-and-bound edition of the Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie story Anastasia in the light and shadow. That much is for me: It’s my favorite of the Willie stories, and it’s the one I want most to share with the children growing up around me. I’m publishing the story as a very tiny bedtime storybook in order to have it available to me to give as a gift.

And that joke is on me – twice. I usually buy Bruce Degan’s Jamberry for firstborn babies, because the poetry is so wonderful even when it hits tiny ears only as rhythmic sounds. And I myself have never been a bedtime-story reader. I sing children to sleep, illuminated only by night-lights.

But Anastasia is a bedtime-story even so, and I love it that it is read that way. It’s a good early reader, too, especially for children who have had it read to them many times, so the printed book is easy for small eyes to latch onto. You can buy it if you like, and no one here will weep, but that’s not the objective. You can get the story free from the link above, and I’m happy to share it in a bedtime storybook-ready PDF version.

You can call this a vanity on my part, and that’s fine. Of all the things I’ve written in my life, this is the one that stands the best chance of making an enduring difference in real lives. I’m delighted that I have it to share with children I love, and I would be thrilled if you were to share it with the same love for everything human beings can be.

There are half-a-billion children growing into their humanity right now. If you could show them what it means to be human, what would you do? Anastasia in the light and shadow is my answer. If you could get it into the hands – and minds – of some fraction of that vast legion of kids, you would be doing everyone a favor.

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#MyKindOfBenedy: Why not “Why Not Me?” as a second-chance-at-love romantic comedy?

The Judds’ tune “Why Not Me?” was covered on The Voice tonight, and you might-could listen to it while we talk about it:

The lyrics to the song answer the question in the headline: The song is The Chorus to the whole story, but the action at the moment the song is being sung is the second-act crisis: Boy is about to Lose Girl for good.

They were high school sweethearts or maybe even more to each other – best friends. He went off to rope the wind and she stayed behind, perhaps with the wrong guy. Now he’s back to stay, even if he’s not all the way sold on that idea. She knows how the story should end, and she’s putting him to the test. The refrain “Why not me?” sounds desperate, but in fact she is stooping to conquer.

As story, it’s “Thunder Road” inverted, which I think is fun. But as cinema, it’s a sweet rom-com aimed right at the sweet spot in the rom-com marketplace: People who are ten years late to the wedding chapel. Showing how to make that kind of romance endure happily will prove to be a growth industry.

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Why only unashamed egoism can save Western Civilization.

What are you fighting for?

Photo by: Michael Parker

It’s this simple: We will not defend what we have so long as we refuse to defend what we are: Rational egoists. We lose everything that matters to us because we twice betray what makes our lives work: We not only affect to deny our egoism, we fail to show our neighbors why it is the only possible source of human thriving. The change you’re looking for in the world can only come about when you resolve to live up to your own humanity – and help your neighbors live up to theirs.

You ain’t never been to a church like The Church of Splendor:

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Sharing the gift of everyday benedy: Profitting from commercial exogamy the Shark Tank way.

What better way to communicate the idea that hard work pays off than with an event devoted to making hard work pay off!

Imagine local ‘Shark Tank’-like events: What better way to communicate the idea that hard work pays off than with an event devoted to making hard work pay off!

I’m coming at the idea of benedy every way I can think of. It is the foundational story of human thriving because it is the fountainhead of human striving – which is a pretty little benedy just by itself.

I want for this story to take the culture back – which is the ultimate in post-modern absurdity since it is culture – but this is not simply a matter of concern to poets. Transmitting the idea that hard work pays off is a job that each of us must undertake.

With our children, of course and obviously. But I think we should be doing this with everyone. The West is falling because it won’t stand up for itself, but The West stands up for itself by standing up for itself – by publicly and unashamedly being itself.

And that’s why I love the television show Shark Tank. I normally avoid reality shows, since they exist to celebrate the worst in human behavior. Shark Tank is not immune to this, but the entrepreneurs themselves make up for everything. Here is a program devoted to self-interest, with avid strivers showing you step-by-step how they effect their striving.

It’s so rich in my kind of values, I’m amazed it hasn’t been destroyed (yet) by Marxist ideologues. Shark Tank is the closest thing remaining in the United States to an evangelical church: It recruits people muddling in the middle and puts them firmly on the side of human virtue.

And that’s a benedy that should be shared.

It could be this already exists. If not, it’s easy enough to set up. The big idea? Local Shark Tanks: In an underused hotel ballroom or restaurant dining room, local entrepreneurs seek partnerships with local investors. Call it an Investment Roundup or a Small Business Smackdown to avoid copyright issues, but once a month – or once a week – put strivers together with an audience and see what emerges.

Better businesses, yes, but (more…)

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To save the world, the West doesn’t need to export democracy, it needs to rehabilitate the family.

You set an example in everything you do. Every work of the mind is poetry first, the expression of the ideal. If you hope to live among people who live up to your standards, cultivate them – by cultivating the best in your own behavior.Photo by: Spirit-Fire

I sing the praises of The Clan Testudo – the adamantly father-headed home. If the goal of civilization is to thrive enduringly in civility, The Clan Testudo achieves that objective better and more-reliably than any other family configuration – this because it engenders civility from the inside out, from within the home, but also from within each person in that home.

There is no alternative to existential reality, so you will have played the hand you were dealt by your parents, but the folks who were dealt the best hands, overall, grew up in a Testudo home: Dad was the unchallenged moral leader – and his leadership was exemplary. Mom and Dad both had high expectations for the children, and they lived up to them – not alone because their parents shielded them from any awareness of alternative paths. The ideal was self-responsibility, and the children, in the main, grew up to be self-responsible parents – though, alas, not always Testudo parents.

That configuration, The Clan Testudo, is the modern expression of the Greek Hoplite’s freehold: The a-man’s-home-is-his-castle idea that precedes all of Western law. It was the union of Hoplite freeholders that gave birth to democracy in the first place, and that union was secured by the freeholder’s guarantee of autonomy – his liberty of action to manage his own affairs.

What makes the West the West is not democracy – nor any more-evolved states of rapacious predatory rent-seeking – but that Hoplite freehold. That family is our moral ideal – the source of all peace, of every plenty and of generation-after-generation of remarkable children. And the West falters and founders now precisely because we have systematically undermined the father-led home.

We make it easy for fathers to ditch their obligations to their children, and we make it easy for mothers to ditch their (more…)

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