Archive for August, 2009

Building a Better Constitution: How to Combat Tyranny, Bureaucratic Drift, and Deviation from Original Intent

August 13, 2009 6 comments

I have grown very concerned at how far this federal Union of States has strayed from its original purpose, how an alliance of sovereign nations designed to raise an army to defend a continent has become a burgeoning country of its own, how the menace Abraham Lincoln declared martial law on his own citizens and conquered free lands, thus changing patriotic pride from that of “the United States are” to “the United States is”, how the statist tyrants Roosevelt and Johnson demolished the free economy which drives the world’s motor and replaced it with pseudo-socialist muck and bureaucratic tiers of wastefulness, how the federal reserve manipulates the value of real currency, and therefore real labor, thus playing the role of puppeteer to the puppets known as our lives, and how the bloated national system of regulations designed to “ensure our safety” contributes the bulk of all violent crimes every year by oppressing our rights to arms, drugs, and any other possessions we so choose.

None of the laws that made all of these actions possible are permitted under the Constitution of the United States of America. Congress was granted certain specific powers, and it was said very clearly (twice, in fact) that all other powers of regulation were to be left to the sovereign states and localities of the union. So it would be an ineffective strategy at this point to try to stop socialized medicine or interventionist warfare by crying out, “It is unconstitutional!” since we can clearly see that no one cares, and that no one has cared for a very long time, about the Constitution. Instead, we should consider how a constitution could be designed so that people would care, so that they would have to care, even centuries after the founders passed on. It is important to understand how the Union’s Constitution failed at keeping the federal government in line, and what must be done to prevent tyranny and drift from taking over.

It should come as no surprise to the rational-minded reader that the first step towards preventing drift is to remove the incentive for it to occur. In the United States of America, this incentive comes in the form of elections. To paraphrase Rush Limbaugh, “No one who wants to be president should be allowed to do so.” This is because there are only two reasons why a person would want to run for any high political office. One is that the candidate wishes to gain money or fame by becoming a political figure, enjoying the spotlight in the news media and public eye and reaping the fruits of excessive salaries and protection services. The other is that the candidate hopes to improve the lives of citizens or strengthen the nation by implementing reform policies that he believes will be beneficial. Both of these are terrible for the Union. Clearly a desire for money or fame will lead a president, legislator, or governor to take actions which are attention-seeking and destructive, not to mention the simple fact that a nation being led around by a bunch of greedy low-lifes is reprehensible in itself. But even more horrifying (and much more common) is the reformist complex, the president who thinks he can help people by implementing policies and changing the structure of the government. These people are passionate about morals, which means that they have a vision in their minds for how the world ‘ought to work’, and they will invariably use their political position to impose on individual liberties to achieve that end. Every enthusiastic, passionate leader with ideals has a concept of a better world, a way that people ought to do things, a system that ought to be in place. The problem is the government has no right to be implementing systems. The means of production, the types of communication, the forms of religion and spirituality, the allocation of resources, these are all things that people with ‘a vision’ try to alter when they get into the government, and that is why a person who wants political power must never be given it.

The vastly preferable alternative to elections is one that has been proposed only rarely by even the most daring extremists, and has never been tried on any large scale in history. Federal offices must be filled by random compulsory assignment. Each county must compile a list of names of all able-bodied, adult non-felons in its area, and randomly choose a name for each position that opens in the federal government (legislators, executives, and judiciaries alike). All of these names must then be sent to Washington so that one person may be randomly selected for each office. The citizens selected must then be forced under penalty of execution to fulfill their respective terms of service to the Union.

The responsibilities of these citizens would be exactly as stated in the Constitution, namely, to uphold and administer the law of the land. Since these are not people who campaigned on some virtuous crusade for reform, they would be able to function much like a jury in a criminal trial, coming to approximately objective decisions based on the letter of the law, not their personal values or ideals about how other people should behave. By having a large legislature composed of totally random choices, a fair representation of actual American people is much easier to achieve. No more would we be plagued by elitist Congressman whose salaries prior to becoming politicians were already five times our own. No more would the president always be a neo-religious figurehead with ‘a vision’ and no sympathy for reality. Would there be idiots in Congress? Yes. But they would be idiots in proper proportion with the total population (about 10%) as opposed to our current proportion (about 95%).

Under a system of compulsory random assignment, no one would have any incentive to appeal to the public eye, there would be no bias towards selecting wealthy and visionary leaders, there would be no ‘middle-aged middle class heterosexual Christian white male who loves his daughter and drives a Chevy’ bonus for Congressmen, and there would be almost no chance of serving a second term. They would simply be ordinary people, obligated by chance to fulfill what ought to be relatively simple administrative tasks. But then that leads to our next point, making government jobs performable by every man.

The federal government rightly serves only to maintain and command an army and occasionally mediate inter-state disputes, as might occur if a felon in one state escapes to another. The only task of the appointed bureaucrats, then, would be to hire the appropriate personnel, namely generals, and raise and allocate funding as the international threat level demands. The perfect constitution must somehow protect against the Congress attempting to undertake any tasks not directly relevant to the aforementioned functions. The way to do this is by explicitly stressing certain very key aspects of legislature:

All bills involving spending must have an explicit purpose. That is to say, the legislature cannot constitutionally approve any allocation of funds via any piece of legislation that does not at its outset specify the project to which funds will be directed and the intent of that project. Then all allocation therein must directly and demonstrably pertain to that project. Legislators who introduce bills which are determined by the courts to obscure the goals of their funding would be decommissioned and have their salaries retroactively revoked. For as long as any law remains in effect, its allocation of funding would be liable to be charged at any time if reason is found to believe that the funding does not actually direct serve the project outlined at the beginning of the bill.

All bills of any kind must have a particular objective outlined in a clause no longer than eighty words. Bills must consist entirely of this objective clause and pages of definitions and administrative procedures. All text that is not included in the eighty words must be defining terms or processes; no mandate or regulation may be present in any bill except in the first eighty words. In this way, we avoid bills that have dubious functions, or that are simply too long to read and understand.

All bureaucrats must be allowed to be charged at any time with violation of their duty to uphold the Constitution, specifically and directly, if it is discovered that they have attempted to obscure the purpose of a bill, alter the original intent of the Constitution, or otherwise avoid transparency in the legal process. If they are convicted of intentionally corrupting transparency, they must be decommissioned and have their salaries retroactively revoked. To prevent people from trying to get decommissioned to avoid serving their terms, an additional penalty of a year in jail should be appended to those who are convicted within the first year of their terms.

All taxes must be collected in the form of gold. Yes, gold. Money must not be drawn from our incomes before we see it. It must not be silently stolen away in sales taxes. The federal government, whenever it needs funding for a program, must send a bill to each American household with a specific weight of gold. That bill must include the name of the act for which it is allocated, and must include the eighty-word objective clause on the back side of the page. That way, every American will know exactly what his money is being spent on.

The bottom line here is pretty simple. Eliminate elections, eliminate the bias towards corrupt government. Make budgeting transparent, and make taxation explicit. Hold Congressmen responsible for trying to conceal their motives. When this happens, people will be able to serve their rightful function as watchdogs and maintain freedom and Constitutionality in these United States of America.

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The Fallacy of Virtuous Restraint

August 10, 2009 8 comments

Hello friends. Today I would like to discuss a long-established feature of ethics as understood in modern culture which is fallacious and flawed to its core, and that is the ancient practice of virtuous restraint. Virtuous restraint is the decision by an individual to refrain from pursuing a course of thought or action which he desires to pursue in order to achieve a greater level of virtue, which is a kind of ethical construct of purity of soul. Common examples include sexual abstinence and avoidance of consuming certain foods. In many cases, the actual action of abstaining may be a rational choice, but at the heart of the principal of virtuous restraint lies the assumption that rationality is not to be considered – that self-denial is a virtue in its own right.

There are less discussed, perhaps less mainstream instances of virtuous restraint which even more poignantly illustrate the concept, and the fallacy within, than the examples above. Consider the bizarre ritual of religious fasting, where a person chooses to abandon food for a certain portion of the day, to purportedly demonstrate his faith and achieve spiritual discipline. If this counter-natural behavior were only practiced by theists, I would not comment on its ludicrous nature because it is common knowledge that a belief in God drives people to do strange things. Unfortunately, being an academic, I have found myself repeatedly in communities of young intellectuals with Liberalism and non-theistic religion on their minds. In these circles, I have witnessed on many occasions people performing ritual fasting (primarily in accordance with Muslim faith) while actively professing to be without religion. When inquired, these misguided individuals will vaguely insist that what they are doing is ‘good’ because it involves ‘personal restraint’ and helps them ‘feel pure and connected’. Any logical person must be wondering what exactly that means

When broken down to the most basic level, what it actually means is this: These people believe that by depriving themselves of something that they rationally desire, they are committing an act of ethical righteousness. They reject the notion that a man exists for the sake of living his life to its fullest potential, in exchange for a limited and mystical kind of morality in which deprivation and smallness of experience are laudable traits. Why would it be morally righteous for a man to deprive himself of a life experience which he rationally desires? This can be true if and only if a man’s life is not his own to control and enjoy as he pleases. Thus, the fallacy of virtuous restraint, like all ethical fallacies, derives from the notion that a man is not entitled to pursue his ambitions and live his life.

Perhaps some protest that fasting is just silly, but that restraint from some other desire, such as sexual behavior, is in fact a legitimate case of virtuous restraint. But I challenge virtuous restraint not in one or two cases, but in principal. Sexual behavior is no exception. While there are many rational reasons to choose not to act on a sexual impulse, such as the potential consequences of illness, pregnancy, or social stigma, as well as that the individual performing the act may discover later that he was not actually wise in doing so, particularly if the sexual partnership proves to be short-lived and emotionally trivial, there is no virtuous justification for abstinence. What is the distinction? Simply this: A rational decision to suppress a sexual desire is one which avoids negative consequences. A virtuous decision to do so is one which is based solely on an attempt to achieve positive consequence of the restraint.

The naive teenager who is offered sex by her boyfriend of a week but rejects it is making a rational choice to avoid sacrificing her will and her emotional security to an individual who may or may not be morally worthy of her. She needs to be certain that she approves of this man and his life before she surrenders control of her feelings to him. But the grown woman who tells her serious partner, “I know I love you, but I want to wait anyway,” has no justification and no sense to her religious self-denial. Exercising self-control for the betterment of one’s life is a skill people must learn. But exercising self-control simply for its own sake is closely analogous to other kinds of control, like collectivist politics and religious indoctrination. It serves to satisfy a misguided, anti-human drive to have one’s life dictated by an arbitrary outside source. Arbitrary, because only an individual’s rational decisions have a distinct motive to them – the motive of self-preservation and self-satisfaction – while all other decisions are inherently without focus, without intent, because a decision that isn’t in one’s own best interest is a meaningless one.

The tragedy of the misconception of virtuous restraint is threefold. Firstly, and most perhaps superficially, it restricts people from enjoying their lives in a way which they rationally desire to do. Secondly, it taints the name of ethics, crippling a vastly important study whose results should be organized around critical theorems such as ‘Initiate no violence against others’ and replacing it with arbitrary, trivial stigma such as ‘Don’t eat pork’ and ‘Don’t have sex until the government gives you a slip of paper that says you can do so’. Thirdly, and most cruelly, it numbs the mind to the distinction between individualism and oppression, since it frequently manifests in so-called virtues taught to young children, who learn from a very manipulable age that they are to follow strange rules against their rational interest. Children, and all people, should be taught to pursue their goals and ambitions with wise caution, not self-restraining regret.

“No pleasure is a bad thing in itself” – Epicurus.

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A Challenging Number Theory Proof – May or May Not Rely on Induction?

August 9, 2009 2 comments

Prove that, for any positive integer N, there exists some positive integer X such that 2^N evenly divides X, where X is composed of N digits which are each either a 1 or a 2.

For example, if N = 2, X = 12, because 2^2 divides 12 and 12 is a 2-digit number composed of 1’s and 2’s.

If N = 3, X = 112, because 2^3 divides 112 and 112 is a 3-digit number composed of 1’s and 2’s.

It may be the case that this proof relies on an inductive argument, showing that it is possible to proceed from N = k to N = k+1 by adding either 10^(k+1) or 2*10^(k+1).

Alternatively, perhaps there is a way to convert an N-digit number composed of 1’s and 2’s into a binary representation by some systematic method that would make the proof more obvious.

Or perhaps we can combinatorially consider all possible values of such an N-digit number and systematically demonstrate that at least one must be the target value.

Good luck.

United States Tax Analogy

August 8, 2009 3 comments

Hello friends, here is something David Westbrook sent me. I thought I’d pass it along. It’s not profoundly in-depth, but it gives just enough real information to be an accurate representation of the tax system, and shows a little moral about going Galt. Enjoy.

The US Tax System explained – with Beer!

A brilliant explanation of the US tax system using actual percentages, the impact of a tax cut, and the public reaction that even Obama should be able to understand.

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.

The fifth would pay $1.

The sixth would pay $3.

The seventh would pay $7.

The eighth would pay $12.

The ninth would pay $18.

The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that’s what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. “Since you are all such good customers,” he said, “I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20. “Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes, so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men – the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his ‘fair share?’

They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody’s share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so –

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).

The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).

The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).

The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).

The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 ( 22% savings).

The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

“I only got a dollar out of the $20,”declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man,” but he got $10!”

“Yeah, that’s right,” exclaimed the fifth man. “I only saved a dollar, too. It’s unfair that he got ten times more than I!”

“That’s true!!” shouted the seventh man. “Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!”

“Wait a minute,” yelled the first four men in unison. “We didn’t get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!”

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. The next night the tenth man didn’t show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn’t have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D.
Professor of Economics
University of Georgia


And here is the blog in its original context.

A Mind-Expanding Probability Problem

August 7, 2009 5 comments

Three mathematicians play a three-stage game. In the first stage, they talk to one another about the strategies they are going to use to play the next two stages.

Then, in the second stage, they each put on a hat. Each hat will either be red or blue, with equal probability, and the colors of the three hats are independent. Each mathematician does not see his own hat, but he can see the hats of his two friends. The mathematicians may not communicate to each other any information about the hats, or discuss any strategies to use in the game at this point.

Finally, in the third stage, each mathematician writes down on a slip of paper one word. Each may write ‘Red’, ‘Blue’, or ‘Pass’. He may not show this slip to his friends or communicate any information to them in any way.

Now the results come in. All strips of paper are shown. If at least one mathematician wrote down the color of his own hat, and no mathematician wrote down a color other than the color of his hat, then all mathematicians are awarded an equal sum of money. Otherwise, meaning if no mathematician correctly identified the color of his hat, or if even one identified incorrectly, then no mathematicians get any money at all.

What strategy should the mathematicians agree upon in the first stage so that they maximize their average earnings?

Categories: Science and Puzzles

An End to Tolerance

August 6, 2009 3 comments

For decades, the new Left has been calling for an end to intolerance. Today, I’m turning the tables. I want to see an end to tolerance.

What I’m talking about here is not tolerance of skin color or sexual orientation or nationality. Rather, I am out to destroy tolerance of ideas, of religions and philosophies and political affiliations that have been, for far too long, treated as equals or as valid when they have no justification and serve only to injure mankind.

With the recent economic down-turn and the election of a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress, the new Left is having its way with the United States and reviving old socialist ideas with great zeal. Government spending, which has been spiraling out of control since the metaphorical fall of Newt Gingrich, has been glorified, where at least before it was resented. Taxation is also on the rise, as Obama’s divine plan to ‘balance the budget’ can be easily reduced to ‘tax more to pay for all of the wasteful programs’. Unemployment is rampant, academic institutions are losing their funding, and, as a consequence of the severe lending crunch, initiative and mobility in the economy are virtually non-existent by American standards.

Now, we can all admit that markets have cycles and hard times happen. But the magnitude of our current crisis indicates that this is not the result of some temporary shifts or a little frictional unemployment. No, my friends, this is the direct and obvious work of your beloved government and its regulatory laws, welfare programs, excessive taxes, and bureaucratic tendencies. To make a long story short, it is a consequence of statist socialism.

Statism, particularly socialism, is a flawed moral concept that is very easy to defeat with a few simple arguments. Consider, for example, that welfare programs are manifestations of the concept of taking property from people who produce it and giving it to people who need it. We can quickly see the idiocy of this practice if we simply ask ourselves what need has ever produced. Nothing. The labor of the farmer produces crops and the labor of the inventor produces innovative products and the labor of the factory worker produces manufactured goods. But the need, the desire, the wanting of people for things produces nothing.

Put another way, how often have you seen a person say, “I am hungry,” and have food suddenly appear out of the sky in front of them? Not often, I suppose. Yet, if that same person instead says, “I will work to produce food, or I will work to produce valuable products that I can trade for food,” then that person is likely to end up with a nice meal.

It is the producer, not the wanter, of a product who is entitled to own it, because it is the producer, not the wanter, who is responsible for said product’s existence. You make it; you own it.

But in the modern academia, this simple concept that whosoever is responsible for a good’s existence is entitled to use it as he pleases is often lost on those who are supposedly our brightest minds and our most powerful decision-makers. As such, it is way past time that we express our true feelings about the injustice of socialism and the new Left. It is past time that we stop using the word ‘tax’ and start using ‘legalized theft.’ Throw out ‘Congress’ and replace it with ‘Robbers.’ Stop treating your Liberal friends as if they are your intellectual and moral equals – they are not.

The next time you are told that you owe it to the under-privileged folk in the world to give your money away to charity or to the government, hold up your hand, and say, “This is my hand. It is attached to my body, and it is under my control. What this hand builds or produces is rightfully mine. To forcibly take away my property is morally equivalent to slicing off my hand.” The next time you have to file your annual legalized theft forms, send them in with a note condemning the insanity of coerced charity, labeling the collectors as the criminals that they are. When a person challenges you to a debate of economics, don’t treat it like it is simply a subject of numbers and green pieces of paper – call it what it is, assert your moral right to keep that which you produce.

I am by no means advocating brutality or assault against those who hold oppressive views. Even rudeness is not necessary – but sincerity is. You must realize that what is being done to your hard-earned property is a moral outrage, and, as such, you must be outraged. It is time for freedom-minded people of the world, and, especially, of the United States, to stop sitting quietly and docilely, indulging ridiculous notions that all ideas are equally valid or that socialism is just another way of doing things. You do not belong to a collective body, and your labor is an extension of yourself. Stop tolerating oppression. Rise up and revolt, if only in your mind. Perhaps some day fairly soon the time will come when that revolt will manifest in reality.

Snow – On the Topic of Grudges and Peace of Mind

August 6, 2009 1 comment

It is Friday, July Seventeenth, and it is snowing. Can you see the snow? It is not snowing in Raleigh. Today, it is snowing in Hell.

They say that at the end of time, when sinners have paid their dues to the world and life on Earth has ended, God will open his kingdom to all people, and after eons of trial, punishment, and trial again, all will be forgiven, and humans will sin no more. The fires of Hell will freeze over, and the Earth will be consumed in a series of massive quakes and storms, and eventually the old lands of pain and suffering will be abandoned, forgotten, replaced by a new system, a new world order in which all life is holy and good.

In fact, they say that even legendary fiends like Vlad the Impaler, Ghengis Khan, and Adolf Hitler will, after enduring unfathomable suffering to pay for their crimes, eventually learn to love and cherish their lives and the lives of others. They say that no sin is truly ultimate; that all people will learn, though some learn faster than others.

I wonder which is harder – for Hitler to make up for his crimes, or for us to learn to forgive him? I have never met a person who loves all life. I have known many to try, myself certainly included. But I have never met a person who could summon the courage to forgive the harshest crimes.

My strong belief in criminal justice prompts me to add the disclaimer that I am not promoting setting murderers free from prison. Rather, I am declaring the importance of purging our minds and hearts of resentful thoughts. No sensible person would suggest that crimes should go unpunished. But perhaps thoughts should go untainted, love should persist without hatred.

I have heard many people say that love cannot exist without hatred and good cannot exist without evil. But in the nicest way possible, these people are full of shit.

What is the purpose of feeling anger towards a person who harms me? It does not undo the harm that has been done. It does not justify the wrong actions taken against me. It does not make me more resilient to harm. All it does is make me more likely to be harmed again.

Ayn Rand said that when a man criminally violates your rights, you are justified in hating him for it. Maybe you are justified. But you’re certainly not wise.

I wonder how this comes across to people who were brought up around hatred. I wonder how a person who has been pushed around by bitter parents from a very young age takes to hearing that resentment is a useless waste of one’s life.

I know some people whose parents are never proud of them, no matter what they do. I know a few people whose parents intentionally seem to be proud of them or to care for them when the moment is right, only to smash their hopes into the ground all the harder the next time. The art of manipulation is easy enough to learn if you are quick-witted and able to detect others’ feelings. It’s easy enough to continue if you are totally heartless and numb to the pain you inflict on the people you break.

But is there really such a thing as a heartless person? Can anyone be numb to pain? Or was Rand correct, that destructive people are caught in a confused and backwards sort of existence where they think pain is the goal? Maybe if someone else feels more miserable than I do, it will make my life justified.

When God comes for his people, all monuments and memories of civilization on Earth will collapse into rubble as the continents rupture and convulse. Giant skyscrapers and mighty bridges will fall, and the intense effort put into constructing them will only serve to punctuate the irony of their inevitable demise.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

What does it mean for the mighty to fall? Why do people fixate on this phrase? Might and power, when exercised properly and justly, bring about great good. Surely we do not want goodness to end.

But goodness ends whether we wish it to or not. For as long as we are here on this Earth, a parasitic cancer creeps up around us at all times, looking for openings to attack and tear down the bravest and most beautiful of the human race. What is the nature of this cancer? What is its intention? Death and destruction are its goals. Doubt and fear are its methods. Guns and viruses are but superficial masks of the real enemy that captures good people, dragging them down and encouraging them to drag others as well. Cynicism is the cancer that kills great men, and self-doubt is the first symptom.

Good people start out with the premise, “I should do the right thing.” But if they follow up with the conjecture, “I cannot always be expected to do the right thing,” then they have swiftly excused any evils they may do as somehow inevitable. This oppressive self-doubt that says, “I’m not good enough to be beautiful,” and “I’m not capable of greatness,” not only serves to plunge the lives of potentially great ones into misery, but also permits them the leisure of dealing damage to those around them with a get-out-of-jail-free card, a slip that reads, “Please excuse me for my evils; I do not have enough confidence to do any better.”

Their next step is to declare that even if they COULD do better, it is not worth it, because life is miserable and people suck. Of course they do not see that life does not have to be miserable – seeing that would require courage and love, which they have already forgone.

Who is they? Do I refer to some outcast, some former friend who has changed and is not the great guy he once was?

No, I refer to all of us. We are all susceptible to cowardice, doubt, and immaturity. These seemingly forgivable traits are the direct cause of hatred, resentment, and pain. How does the cynicism take over?

There is an old saying that all men fear time, but time fears only the pyramids. For five thousand years, the desert winds have blown sands across the walls of the pyramids at tremendous speeds, battering the rocks with blinding, stormy weather that kills animals who stay exposed to it for more than a few minutes. If left out in the desert you and I would surely be scarab food the first time the going got rough, but there the pyramids stand nonetheless, immovable by time and nature.

I would like to be immovable. Imagine a person with ideals and values so firmly set in place that no matter the weather, if it rains and pours, if sand blows a hundred miles an hour, if the sun blazes down without a cloud for years at a time, this person can be relied upon to still be kind, fair, respectful, just. Imagine a person who never makes a mistake. A person who cannot be corrupted by stress, drama, circumstance.

And yet whenever I have thought I have seen this person, I have always been disappointed. Neither I nor anyone I’ve met stands up to this test of time. Eventually, people give in to the temptation to be cynical. Eventually, even the most loving of people choose to take resentment over forgiveness and bitterness over complacency.

What’s interesting to note here is that this doesn’t necessarily have any correlation to the difficulties that people experience in life. You might think that a person who has repeatedly stood up to temptation and maintained a calm and level head and a pure and loving heart would continue to do so unless the circumstances somehow got significantly harsher. But this is not always the case. Frequently, people with a good ‘track record’ somehow manage to make severe mistakes and fail themselves in the face of what are comparatively small challenges.

And this is when the mighty fall. When good people with strong wills are tempted by things they ought to be able to over-come, but do not. I won’t say ‘cannot’ – I will not grant that permission slip. We all have it within us to make the right choice, and yet we simply often do not.

And so I challenge all of us, and all people, to assume a greater responsibility for our actions, and a greater awareness of their consequences. Too often do we seek to give in to our anger and bitterness at the expense of our well-being and our friends’, and then purport that we were simply ignorant of the consequences of our decisions.

Why do we avoid saying ‘I love you’ to those we love when we are angry? Is it because anger over-rides love? Is this acceptable? Is this really how we want to be?

Why do we hold friends’ mistakes against them when we know they have tried their best for us? Is this really how we want to be?

For that matter, why do we hold anyone’s mistakes against them? Why can we not let it roll off our shoulders as the sand rolls off the immovable pyramids? Why do we let the shortcomings of others slow down our progression in life and weigh us down with distractions like rage and revenge? Is this really how we want to be?

Are we so bored that we have time to sit around and be mad at people who harm us instead of taking the appropriate measures to protect ourselves and then moving on? Do we have so little ambition and so little self-respect that we expend irretrievable time and brainspace on what cannot be fixed? Is this really how we want to be?

What causes a person to lose his way? What makes a boy born optimistic, proud, ambitious, turn spiteful, cynical, and destructive? What makes a girl born loving, kind, gentle, turn violent, bitter, and self-denying? I promise you that we are not immune to this cancer. I have seen the most beautiful people I have known crash and burn in a sudden and largely inexplicable reversal, a U-turn in life that marks the end of that person’s progression and the beginning of a new foothold for the infectious desire to drive backwards.

You’ve only got one life. Spend as much of it as you can appreciating what you’ve got. If you find yourself unable to appreciate, then at least stay calm and quiet until you can again delight in the joys that life can bring. Complaining solves little and hating solves nothing. Anger at the mistakes your friends make will only increase the chances that they make more and help slowly convert them into pessimists as well.

Above all else, keep your chin up and facing the winds that blow your way. If sand gets in your eyes, don’t curse at it, and don’t shut it out, because then you will not see the sun when it returns. Blink away the pain and stand strong against the storm; the desert will reward those who are consistently kind at the end of time.