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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The "War" on Christmas

First off - I don't want to get into the "JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON" vs. "Nuh uh, because PAGAN!" argument. I'd like to be respectful of whatever you believe.

I used to think Christmas sales in stores before Halloween were the worst thing about the Holidays. Not anymore.

The "War on Christmas" is being waged earlier and earlier and louder each year, and almost totally by the people who think they're being persecuted because the Holiday they want isn't the only one all winter.

I think it's great that people want to celebrate Christmas. Religious or not, Jesus was a pretty chill fella, and I think his birthday should be recognized, even it the day was moved to usurp the Pagan Yule during the Crusades.

That's not bashing, that's what happened. Pagans decorated for the Winter Solstice by decorating their homes with evergreen branches, as a sign of renewal, and the coming spring. That's all this "evil" Pagan ritual was - the shortest day of the year meant that every day afterward, there would be more and more sunlight. More life. The Earth was renewing. I have no idea how that's evil, but people are afraid of the word "Pagan" for whatever reason.

In the 16th Century - not that long ago, relatively, Germans began the tradition of bringing entire trees inside and decorating them for Christmas. Somewhere along the way, it became "their" idea. "Their" holiday.

As a race, humans have had to learn to read the sky in order to survive. To know and prepare for seasons. As a result, if there were a large enough culture uncontaminated by the rest of us since the dawn of humanity, and we suddenly discovered them, guess what? They'd have a big winter celebration too. The Earth is waking up.

"Holidays" is plural.
Back to Christianity, with the Earth waking up and renewing, why not use that time to celebrate Jesus' birthday, even if scholars' best estimates were April or June? It makes perfect sense.

One thing I like about Jesus was that he knew the spiritual value of remaining humble. I totally doubt that he, as person or Messiah, would tell people to "Shut up about everything else and tell me happy birthday for three months!"

December 25th is Christmas. Religious or not, it's a national holiday(in the U.S.). It is that day, even if you don't celebrate it, sure as May 5th is "Cinco de Mayo" or October 31st is Halloween(and my daughter's birthday!) There are plenty of other holidays, too - Thanksgiving, New Year, so that "holidays" used during the season is more correct. I don't tell people to wish me a happy birthday all of January and February, even though mine is in March.

This is why, on December 25th, I use "Merry Christmas", and non-specific days sort of around that time, "Happy Holidays".

No one is trying to take Christmas away. There are a few bad eggs that want to sour anybody's season, but getting angry about a perceived "War on Christmas" isn't any better.

Government entities cannot and should not be specific to a single religion. Even if they said "Let's be Christian", which specific interpretation would they use? It still might not be yours. As much as (I'm sure) you complain about the government being inept, do you want them to handle your faith like they do paperwork?

By playing victim to an imaginary war, and getting angry at people who don't...actually not even that - might not - celebrate exactly what you celebrate, exactly how you want it celebrated, you are the ones ruining the spirit of goodwill that every other culture wants to spread.

The only "War" on Christmas is in your head, and ruining people's goodwill isn't in the Holiday Spirit. In the tradition you claim of "giving" and "goodwill toward man", think about others. Stop being selfish.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Dear Internet:

Here's what bugs me on the internet right now:

If Mars were close enough to appear as big as the Moon, we'd all be dead.

Also, Mars doesn't have two suns. That's stupid.

"Chinese Feng Shui" is about arrangement of objects. It has nothing to do with the Western Calendar, and even less to do with sharing on Facebook. Also, any time a 31 day month starts on a Friday, there are five full weekends. Not every 823 years.

Facebook does not have a police force. Not even a "Drug Task Force". They'd lose too many subscribers if they did that.

That page that really wants to give you a free iPhone[newest version] is a scam.

Money is not donated for sharing pictures of fragile, vulnerable children like trading cards. Those pictures are used without the parents' permission, every single goddamned time, and the only thing it does is bring up the worst moment of a parent's life. Don't share it "just in case", or you're part of the problem.

If you only accept information from people who claim they vote the same as you, then you are easily led.


Sharing something online doesn't keep ghosts away. It doesn't affect your luck. God probably doesn't give a shit if you share something or not, either.


Mermaids have not been found by anyone, anywhere, ever.


"Ignore if u dont care" posts can't tell you if you care or not. They obviously don't care enough to use real words.


If a video contains "100% proof" in the title, it's just a ploy to keep you from thinking about it, even a little bit.


I don't have a girlfriend. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Vague Guide on how to Chase a Dream.

I was musing over New Year's resolutions, and I realized something:

I'm totally chasing my dream, just not yet...

We grow up expecting to put our best on hold. We're told "When you're older", "When you grow up" and "someday". These are soft, safe, indefinite periods of time that will just come to us. The days certainly do, especially "When you're older".

New Year's resolutions are smaller versions of this. We get a little hope in our eyes when we quantify something we want for ourselves, and tell ourselves we'll get right on it...As soon as this year's over. Why not now? Today isn't a round number. There aren't enough 1's in the date.

We're so used to putting things on hold. I want to lose weight, be healthy, and not want to die just because I stood up from the couch. I won't DO anything today, even though my desire to change is at it's most fresh. Even though right now would be the time to make the change.

With bigger changes, there's no reason to tell yourself to flip a switch. You know, I'll continue to absolutely abuse myself, but as soon as I see all those 1's in the date, I can change. I'll excercise 3 hours a day and only eat baby spinach and tofu! What you don't even let yourself think about is by making a little change now, say, getting out and going for a little walk, is so amazingly easy to do, we can't accept it as a step to change.

We aren't used to effort when it comes to our dreams. Dreams are happy thoughts. Putting them off until "someday" lets us imagine they could be real, without the risk of trying and failing. Real effort ending in failure is one of the most genuine disappointments in life. Another disappointment is what people choose to accept as failure.

"Everything didn't go as planned..." so what? That's just life. Did you learn something? Is your goal now unattainable, or even scarier, what if you got close but realized what you truly want is something different?

But, oh wizened Ben, how can I change my motivation?

Think about this: Person McPrimate wants to be a famous actor. He's pushing 40, and has never even pursued this dream.

Parallel World #1: Person joins an acting class. Person memorizes some Shakespeare. Person auditions for a few local plays, never cast. Gives up.

Parallel World #2: Person does nothing, aside from actively resenting award shows.

Guess which one is happier? World #1. He tried, he failed. He still learned a lot, met some new people, stepped outside his comfort zone. He never regrets not doing something.

Most of us could easily live in World #1, there's always something we can do to chase our dreams, even if it's just ask advice from someone who can give you advice on your dream. There's another world, though. The world in which Person never chooses to accept failure, eventually lands a speaking part, maybe another. He may choose to improve his skill. He may choose to try and get on TV, he may choose to stay on stage. As long as Person knows what he wants, he's always going to make strides in that direction, however big or small.

The only thing that separates any of these is choice. In what you choose to do or change, there may be a big step needed that you may not have the resources for, be it money, time or any number of things. A lot of us might be surprised that as much as we hold this excuse to be sacred and all-ending, there's always something we can do. If we can't do the big thing, that's no excuse to hold back on the little things.

Trying is hard. I'm tired...

You have to give yourself permission to take a step back. Sometimes we need to assess a situation, our wants, our needs, from another point of view. We might need a nap. We may need to re-evaluate. We may just be burnt out. Life happens to all of us. Give yourself some conditions, like sulk for two days and do (name an action) immediately after, even if I don't want to at the time. Don't feel bad about your vacation, and try to look forward to beating your own reluctance to take that action. Realize that if you do, you don't have to feel bad about needing your own time, and that puts less pressure from you onto yourself.

If you consider any trial a success or failure, make sure you learn something from it. If you need to be disppointed with yourself, make that disappointment count.

So, I've got some dreams to get to. Later on in life, I may regret not going for it sooner, but at least I won't regret not going for it.

Friday, December 20, 2013

My Experience: Instead of Ending it all, I'm Starting Again.

A few years ago, I was in a customer service job. I was good at it. I talked to people, and even better, I talked gadgets with them. I started zoning out and feeling dizzy most nights, and was asked to leave early quite often.

One time, on the hour and a half drive home, I blacked out for almost half an hour, and found myself quite off course, in the opposite direction of home.

I decided to see my doctor, and it was discovered that my *fasting* blood sugar was 599. My doctor called me after hours on a Friday, and had the pharmacy stay open a little late so I could get some meds and supplies, or else I would have to go into the hospital.

This began a period of change. Mostly for the better. Suffering from depression, I had always felt "not quite right" so I didn't even notice the havoc that daily fast-food lunches were wreaking on my poor body.

So, I figured, one more thing to deal with, I got this shit.

Change is always stressful, even if it's for the better. About the diabetes, it's been 4 years now, nearing 5. I got my diagnosis a month after my daughter's Rett Syndrome diagnosis.

Yeah, pile on the worries.

Sometimes, I don't feel the worry on the surface. It's always there. It still is. I know now how to let myself feel it, and get it out.

If I jump ahead, it's because this gets darker, then it gets better.

So, for a while I was out of work. After medical leave, I'd try to go back, and get asked to leave again. I was "hurting the company's numbers", though still doing a great job as far as the customer was concerned. I was using the knowledge in my head, getting things right, but not following "work flows". I couldn't focus on those. Not while talking to someone and looking up info for them at the same time.

I've always enjoyed the feeling of a job well done. I hadn't had that in too long at this point. I wasn't an earner. It was costing me money to go to work. I had to go out on short-term disability.

While out, things at home got tense, and I was kicked out of the house by my now ex. Don't worry about that, we're civil, even friends most of the time.

I stayed with my sister for a few months, then, near the end of this round of medical leave, I found a place to live nearer to work.

I moved, closer to work, but much farther away from anything familiar. I still had to deal with crippling social anxiety, depression, you name it. And I still just couldn't think straight.

I went back to work around the holidays. I was a mess. A bad phone call, and I'd be in tears, and I wouldn't even know why. Needless to say, I was asked to leave again.

So now I was rooming with someone I barely knew, almost two hours from my children without a car(their mother had it), and the holidays were upon us.

To top it off, I have Rheumatoid arthritis. I had a major flare up, so on top of it all, I was dealing with intense physical pain. That alone is hard to think clearly through.

I stayed in my room, sometimes all day, with the lights off. I've always been able to deal with a lot, as long as their was something, even small, that I could do or work on to make things better. There may have been something I could have done, but I couldn't figure what it was.

I thought about ending it all. My sister was good enough to reach out, but people's pity didn't help me at this point. I was low, and withdrawing more and more.

For a few days, I wouldn't let anyone even know anything was wrong. I was in crippling pain, and when people were there, I made sure I was sitting, and if I had to get up, it was when they weren't paying attention. I couldn't laugh at anything. Nothing had meaning.

I was so overwhelmed, I laid in bed for two days, only getting up to relieve my bladder. I felt so amazingly useless. I couldn't pay my rent, see my kids, or even go to work if it meant finding a new job. I was in no shape for that.

Finally, I went to the medicine cabinet, saw I had the better part of a month's worth of prescription sleeping pills, and some vodka. I swallowed the lot, and laid down, expecting never to get up. It didn't even upset me.

Fortunately, a few hours later, I felt a little wet nose on my face. My dog, London
Someone was rooting for me.
, was nuzzling me, wanting affection. I realized what I had done, gave my dog a hug, and I knew that if I waited, I'd just feel like I did the night before again.

I called 911. It had only been about 3 hours, and I didn't know if I'd make it otherwise. It turns out I'd have to take a few hundred of those pills to really do any damage, but I didn't know that at the time.

I was taken to the emergency room, questioned, and left there for most of the day on a hospital bed. They asked if I would go to a CSU - Crisis Stabilization Unit. I agreed, hoping removing myself from society for a few days would help me get my head on straight.

While there, I learned to make origami. My flare up spread to my right hand, so I made a swan entirely left handed.

I drew some. I found peace in that. The first peace I could remember in months.

I draw, I paint. I make wire sculpture. I play music. Mostly for myself, but in rare cases, I get paid for it. I found a sort of usefulness for myself.

Even though it's been nearly five years, and my head is back on for the most part, things do NOT change overnight. It's hard. It's hard to find what actions one can take. It's hard to see things in a better light. It's not impossible, and if you can manage to stick it out, and find what centers you, maybe find at least one person you can really connect with, you don't have to talk about your problems all the time. Just work on finding out who you are, and be that person. Work on that person. Make that person better. For yourself.
This guy can be your best friend if you treat him right.

When you do things to make yourself better, you are worth so much more to those who need you. However useless you can feel when the darkness inside almost wins, I promise, somebody out there loves you and needs you. Sometimes you just haven't met them, or made them. Sometimes, they're not human.

Whatever you do, be true to yourself. It takes time to really find what that means. It's not easy, and there can be so much chaos in the meantime. Learn to let go of what really doesn't matter so you can focus on what really does. If giving in to anger, hate, or sadness won't help you accomplish something, don't let it win. Do cry if you need to. Crying releases endorphins, our brain's natural mood stabilizer.

Health-wise, I'm healthier than I've been my entire adult life. I've got my strength back, and added some sexy man-muscle, I can even run again. Taking care of yourself is always worth it.

For me, this holiday season, I'd rate as my most stressful yet. Everything I've been afraid of, without going into detail, has happened. Yet, I'm optimistic. I've made changes, and I'm looking forward to a new phase of my life. I promise great things, and for once, I really feel it, too.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Magical Time of the Eighties

I realized I was officially old once I accepted that I liked the time in which I grew up. There was a tension to the times, no different from today, we just weren't as able to feed it. We were just getting an idea of the concept of globalization, we were naive.

The 80's was a decade of excess. More colorful excess than the 70's, which was a mostly brown, yellow and avocado time. The 80's brought us fluorescent color technology, bubble letters, and lots of triangles and checkerboard patterns. It was a visual assault brought on by marketing execs who were doing entirely too much cocaine.

Music was amazing. It was THE time to listen to pop music. Like today, people complained that modern music sucked. Like any other time, the best stuff stays with you and makes the past seem better than it was at the time. Electronic and Synth, which where mostly experimented with in the 60's and 70's, really hit big. People understood better what to do with sound. As with anything, there were those that would overdo it, but we got some of the most emotionally charged, yet deceptively simple music. 

For example, this always makes me happy, but don't look for any deeper meaning:

I should add, as obvious as it is, that computer graphics were in their infancy. Traditional art, therefore, led to one of the most amazing music videos(and songs) EVER.

We had movies. Oh my, did we ever have movies. The 80's brought us The Last Starfighter, The NeverEnding Story, Gremlins, Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, Labyrinth, The Goonies... so much good stuff. So very much. I could write several posts just on the movies, and several more just on the music.

Things were not ideal. There was tension. There was turmoil in the middle east. We had a president who wanted to take our guns who was involved in scandal. This is not a 21st-century invention. USSR was united and Germany was separated. We all had more nukes than anyone could survive long enough to use. We had the Cold War.

As much fun as the 80's reeked of, there was still a message trying to come out.

The political climate was just as dire in the 80's as it is today, we just didn't binge watch TV news or have internet. Though, in 1980 America boycotted the Olympics in then-USSR who had just invaded Afghanistan. The 1980 Olympic games were a failure. In 1984, with the popularization of cable TV, The US hosted the Olympics. We wanted to show what capitalism, done right(?), could accomplish. The Soviet Union attempted a boycott of their own. The US-USSR events were tense, it's the only time I remember real people showing real pride in their country. Not only did the US win some gold in the deal, but we started winning the "culture war" without even trying.

People got their first glimpses of American TV. People living in other places saw the American ideal. It was the 80's, we lived in excess. The rest of the world thought we must be such a happy, ideal place to live in(some did), and so began the "Americanization" of certain aspects of world culture.

This would set off events leading to the end of the Cold War, and the re-unification of West and East Germany. It turned out to be an amazing time to be alive.

Friday, October 25, 2013


I've battled depression most of my life. It's not just "being sad". I can be happy and still feel depression deep down at my most basic level. I can be truly happy.

Depression is like a magnet in my brain, skewing my world experience toward a negative view. I've come to understand it better, and I can tell when brain chemistry is messing with me. More and more of the time, I can tell that it's brain chemistry. Quite often, this lets me take action.

Action, rather than experience, seems to help more than anything. Having something nice happen is good, rewarding, but I can be sad just the same. Also, I notice that, having this "pull" toward negative thinking, when things are at their worst, I can be my best. When I act, no matter how slightly, I have some amazing inner strength that I don't always feel. When quantifying actions I can take, I get overwhelmed. There is a panic that sets in, and many half-formed thoughts that I haven't quite put into words are screaming in my brain. It feels impossible to act, to change things, and this is where the worst of it comes.

I've seen shrinks, therapists, and there are always plenty of people telling me to "just look at the positive". The thing is, despite how dark I get sometimes, I'm a pretty positive and optimistic person - in general.

I've gotten advice that I should have a circle of people I can trust. I hate that. If my brain is being irrational, I don't want to feed it by having friends help me dwell on it. I need to identify some positives, focus on them, and do something. The people I can trust are the people I can tell that I'm bummed, and listen to me when I tell them I'll get over it. Sometimes I need a hug, but rarely does a pity-party help anything or anyone.

I've never had success with "positive affirmations". I can tell myself anything I want, but if I don't feel it, it doesn't sink in. For some people, just hearing words and phrases over time helps. Maybe it would if I stuck with it, but if I feel worse telling myself something that I think is a lie, why should I continue along that path?

I got a great tip from a counselor years ago: To write down negatives in my life, and reword them slightly to bring out the positive.


I've got issues with being social. Don't get me wrong, I'm awesome, and a hoot to be around, but sometimes I'm too afraid just to be seen that I can't get outside. So, I write:

 "I'm a recluse" I don't always like being a recluse. As much as people can bother me at times, I really like you humans.

Then I think to myself what advantages this brings:
 "I'm a recluse, which gives me a chance to really know myself, and to share that when I manage to get out."

It sounds cheesy, but it's true. Being terrified of social situations has inspired a love of reading, spurred my artistic and musical ability, and generally let me do a lot of thinking about what my values really are.

Thinking along those lines, it's not hard to look at things in a positive light.

The worst thing that's happened to me(that I'll admit to online!) is losing a parent when I was 14. Awful stuff at any age. I miss my mother all the time, but I take a huge amount of comfort in being told I remind people of her. Taking into myself the best that I remember of her really brings me peace.

When I was diagnosed with diabetes a few years ago, I was bummed, but not for long. I rarely view that as a negative. It feels good to take even just a little better care of myself, and I don't know that I would have done it if I didn't have that little monster haunting me.

Things happen in our lives, it's unavoidable. We choose our own happiness, brain chemistry be damned. I don't always win the battle, but being aware of my own thinking, I've already won the war.

That's an easy thing to say when I'm in a great mood. The thing is, I'm not. I write this when I feel I'm at "rock bottom" - something I'll write more about when I feel I'm digging out of it - I feel a HUGE amount of sadness right now. I know that particular sadness is just brain chemistry, aggravated by change, the great stressor. I'm changing everything in my life. Again, I'll write about that later, rather than speculate on the future.

Things are changing.
Change is stressful, even if the change is good.
I feel a huge sadness, but I know it isn't real. Denying that I feel it won't help.
I've got some amazing things to look forward to.
Even if I didn't, I'd choose to look at the positives, and that is comforting.

In the surprisingly rare situation where being sad is the appropriate response, I give myself a little time to sulk. Don't let it take over, but I don't deny it. Sadness is natural. When it isn't the right response, I try to identify that, and it isn't always easy through the fog of depression, but I most always snap myself out of it.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Dear Faith

I have been witness to another horrible book-burning event posted on Facebook, based on religious intolerance. The people posting to the event have started to use the name and image of their daughter, to not only hide behind their religious label(I have to clarify, not actual belief, that's for another time), but to hide behind a child. Like the WBC, they like to incite hate and act up, arguably within the letter of the law, and then sue for damages when they can claim through litigation that they are the ones somehow being persecuted.

The event I may write about later, I may not. What I'm posting this time is for their daughter. It is also equally for those growing up surrounded by hate, and fearful of the outside world being just as hateful toward them. It's that kind of fear that keeps a child, who naturally is curious and wanting to explore, from leaving the perceived safety of their bubble.

Also, her name is Faith. I thought that ironic.

The "Free speechers" won't let me post to this event, so here goes:
Dear Faith:

 It seems like your page and image are being exploited. I honestly hope one so young is not already full of such hate.
 When a person has faith, they have inner peace. Be it Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Atheist, or those that think Kirk is better than Picard, faith is inside. It is something you have for yourself. Religion is how other people tell you to believe. It isn't in and of itself a bad thing, but people can easily exploit it to kindle fear and hate, and thusly blind obedience and loss of self. 

 I hope that you, in your lifetime, are able to look inside yourself and find the courage and strength to rise above external justifications based on your own, internal, fear of the unknown(afterlife?). I hope you rise above, and become a decent person.

  Though you are part of an inflammatory diatribe, and hate begets hate, you as a person have the ability to do what you feel is right inside.
 The reality of God, or no God, is not to decide or prove, but to have faith in. I accept my own beliefs are mine, and whatever lies after this life is based on choices I make. If I was wrong, I was wrong honestly.

 If you come to a point where you seek enlightenment, don't seek it out from those who offer it easily. Take a look at those with the most peace and love in their hearts, and learn from them. Read, and take in their lessons. Reject what your heart honestly feels is wrong. Embrace what you feel to be right. 

 Accept that you need to maintain the strength to change as you continue to grow. There are no easy answers, but if you accept growth, your inner faith strengthens.
 Anyone who has real faith, and that inner peace, will be more than willing to accept you, anywhere in this world. It is true of Christians, Muslims, Buddhist, etc.Those who seek to justify hate can hide behind the exact same labels, and make things sound easy, so long as you "think like me."

 Don't grow up in fear of the hate that seems to be directed towards your church, or the hate that is outwardly projected. You don't have to be a part of any of it if you have the courage. If you are willing to accept others, the whole world is willing to stand behind you. It's the harder path, but the view of humanity from that view is more beautiful than you can imagine.

The name that you have is a wonderful concept. I hope one day you embrace it, regardless of label, and have peace within yourself.

Benjamin Magno

 Feel free to add comments contributing, or polite disagreement.