What is a Christian?(Socratic dialogue)

These are Socratic dialogues I had with myself in order to come to a better definition of what a true Christian is:

What is a Christian?
Definition 1:someone who believes in Jesus
-non Christians may believe in Jesus existing in some form, and they shouldn’t count.
Definition 2: someone who believes Jesus was the
Son of God and Savior of Humanity
-All of humanity includes non Christians who are not
saved, unless there is no point to being a Christian.
Also, some people will never convert no matter how
much pressure.
3: someone who believes Jesus was the Son
of God and savior of Christians.
-All Christians? What is a Christian?
This is a circular argument.
4:Someone who believes Jesus was the son of
God and that whoever believes this and tries
to follow His commandments is a Christian.
-What about those who are not Christians and
try to follow His commandments accidentally?
-What is the Son of God?
-What if they always fail to keep the commandments?
-What if they follow the commandments perfectly?
(1)They are not Christians. They are similar.
(2)He was immaculately
conceived by the Virgin Mary and God, and God’s
presence, which is love, infused him.
(3) As long as they repent for their sins and
are genuinely trying to follow the commandments,
they are still Christians.
(4)they are still a Christian.
5: Someone who believes Jesus was
immaculately conceived by the Virgin Mary and God, and God’s
presence, which is love, infused him.  and that whoever believes this and tries
to follow His commandments is a Christian. If they fall As long as they
repent for their sins and are genuinely trying to follow the commandments,
they are still Christians.
-What if someone takes a break from trying to follow the commandments?
-what if someone believes everything except the immaculate conception?
(1)They are only partly Christian, not of the most genuine, for that time.
(2)They are a subset of Christians but not in the mass of them.
6:Someone who believes Jesus was
immaculately conceived by the Virgin Mary and God, and God’s
presence, which is love, infused him, and that whoever believes this and tries
to follow His commandments is a Christian. If they fall, as long as they
repent for their sins and are genuinely trying to follow the commandments,
they are still Christians. If a person stops trying to follow His commandments, they
are not a true Christian for that time. If a person believes in the latter principles
except for the Immaculate Conception, they are not a typical Christian but are
similar enough that it is not incredibly important.
(end of refutations)

Repetition: What is a Christian?
1: Someone who loves their neighbor and theirself.
-they do not need to believe in Jesus to do that.
2: Someone who believes Jesus existed and tries to love their neighbor and
theirself.
-they do not need to believe Jesus was the Son of God to be a Christian?
2: Not in the direct sense. God is Love, therefore Jesus  was God because he
was Love.
-then can we not be God?
2: We can be much closer to God by loving.
3: Someone who believes Jesus was Love, as he was the Son of God and God is Love, and tries to love their neighbor and theirself.  It is possible be closer to God by loving, as God is Love.
-what if they fail to love?
3: It is primarily the trying that counts. Getting back up is more important
than falling down.
-what if they love and are not a Christian?
3: It is better than not loving. The essentialness of life is not strictly in being a Christian but in following the greatest commandment; love thy neighbor as thyself.
-what if thy neighbor is despicable?
3: they still must be loved, all other things considered.
-by whom?
3: It is beyond the reach of the inquiry; whoever is called to do it. The idealism in Christianity defends itself; trying to improve the world is preferable to practically surviving in it, not being a true Christian.
(end of refutations)
Therefore, I have two definitions of Christianity, somewhat different, that are difficult to refute:
#1   Someone who believes Jesus was/is Love, as he was the Son of God as God is Love, and someone who tries to love their neighbor and theirself.  It is possible be closer to God by loving, as God is Love. (took 3 definitions to get here)
#2 Someone who believes Jesus was immaculately conceived by the Virgin Mary and God, and God’s presence, which is love, infused him, and that whoever believes this and tries
to follow His commandments is a Christian. If they fall, as long as they
repent for their sins and are genuinely trying to follow the commandments,
they are still Christians. If a person willfully stops trying to follow His commandments, they are not a true Christian for that time. If a person believes in the latter principles
except for the Immaculate Conception, they are not a typical Christian but are
similar enough that the difference is not incredibly important. (took 6 definitions to get here)

The definitions, fortunately, are not strictly exclusive of each other although they emphasize different views.

 

 

What’s it like living with no electric lights?day2

The day started very pleasantly and I woke up an hour and a half earlier than usual. It felt like I had been sleeping under the stars, and I felt much more refreshed than usual.:)
1 day, 0 hours: Since I’ve been at some other places, I’m not noticing the lack of lights too much. In the day it’s not much of an issue anyhow and only one room doesn’t have a window. Guess what the solution is? Good old-fashioned ingenuity: when you’re in that room, leave the door 3 inches open. Simple.
Taking the trash out after it got dark was only half as scary as it usually is. It felt extremely bright outside!
1 day, 3 hours: watching Danish cartoons on the internet. Read an old book about the Yukon Territory in the wild days called This Was the North earlier. Evidently someone found a gold vein 15 miles up from a village but too much water came back too quick and he couldn’t get it all and he never found it again. It may still be there. I feel as if I’m in Scandinavia with the snow everywhere.

What’s it like living without lights?(experiment)

c

My first inspiration for this experiment was the reading of books by Mark Twain, Willa Cather, and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Their atmospheres of local life captured my imagination and the imagination of many others. Life back then seemed scarier, wilder, and much more magical and interesting. Secondly, I like experimenting with different lifestyles, particularly primitive ones.
Considering that most of humanity has lived with little light in the night-time, I wanted to see what it was like doing the same thing. Thousands of years ago people either made it around in the dark or perhaps used torches. More recently, in the Medieval era, they had candles, but the oil lamp was not generally used until the 1800’s. In the end of the same century, the light bulb was invented but was not put into common use until perhaps the 1920’s. Being that my generation is one of the first generations to not experience completely dark nights at all, this experiment was quite exciting for me.

Method:
Go one night without light bulbs or similar sources of light. Using a computer on the dimmest setting, or a dim flashlight two tea lights, is permitted. No TV, radio, phone, or anything else of that sort.

Before the experiment: Feeling the slight hum from the light bulbs and the variable resistor that powers them in the kitchen was comforting. Life felt normal and vibrant, at least in the artificial superficial way it is for most people. Whatever was happening outside frankly did not matter, and I could essentially do whatever I wanted without any obstacles at all.

————Start————-

0 Minutes: I was able to start at 7pm. Before that, it was starting to get dark, but I was too busy with my friends over to turn all the lights off. I had one on in the kitchen at half power and that was it.
A little light gets in from the streetlight outside and the neighbor’s house. It is similar to the amount of light from a full moon as we have some shades to blot it out. I really notice any change from the neighbors turning bulbs on or off, way more than I would before.
It feels quieter and less interruptive of nature. The fridge sounds very loud now. Outside, there is a slight city traffic noise but it is barely noticeable. Out the window the sky is dark but the neighborhood is very bright. Especially the insides of some people’s houses.
Walking on the sidewalk, I notice three times the brightness outdoors compared to in my house. Now I can barely see inside, between that and the computer monitor. Time for my eyes to adjust again. A half hour has passed, but it has already been full of experiences. Wanting to see a little more, I dug around blindly for some tea lights then failed and used my computer monitor as a beacon to find them. Putting them on a plate, I can walk around slowly and see some things. I am reminded of how much I like prepping and thinking about the apocalypse. It’s a bit of a hobby that I don’t take too seriously. This simulates the atmosphere of no-power post-apocalyptic situations. I cannot believe it’s only been 35 minutes!
45 minutes: Facebooking. Yeah I know it’s horrible. But more inspirational then some peoples’. I’ve spent hours weeding out negativity from it. And it’s my main method of communicating virtually.
70 minutes: finally got off facebook. Darn, time flies. I almost do not notice that the lights are off.80 minutes: Went to the bathroom. It was nice. I feel blessed to have running water. Found, with no light at all, a farmer’s almanac 2015 and read some. It’s hard to read with such little illumination; you have to put the book past it and avoid breathing in the fumes for the pages to lighten up enough. It’s not that bad though, I remember reading in the car in darker situations and surviving when I was little. At the end, some little hairs got into the candle and made a horrible smell. I don’t know what they’re from. Possibly my mini-persian silk carpet I was weaving on that table before the experiment commenced. Blew the candles out after making sure the lighter was working and at hand to use later when I relight them. I feel a tiny bit lonely.
90 minutes: played banjo. I realize how much staying up late is unnatural. It’s just stupid in nature; a completely manmade occurence. I would be going to bed 2 hours earlier than usual if I did this every night.
120 minutes: waiting for my mom to make dinner. online. It feels peaceful.
2.5 hours: Dinner was great. More intellectual conversation and use of archaic words than I’m used to. I felt like I actually needed a relationship with others instead of being my normal half-distracted self.
3 hours: Saw my friends and had some fun. I’m amazed how hard it would be for people to live without lights, how bored they would get and how suddenly all my neighbors would come out of the woodwork and stop pretending they don’t live in immediate proximity to other human beings. Also, if they didn’t have internet or TV, I believe you would see a lot of frazzled minds and then a sudden upswing of human relations and people actually partaking in real activities. How cool that would be. And I remember people in a remote town complaining that their internet got shut of for 3 weeks! Gosh!
4 hours: I believe I shall try this again tomorrow. Going to bed soon. Thinking about the future.
Goodnight!:)
Postscript: The biggest difference with this whole thing is not actually in being awake but in the fact that you sleep and wake up differently. I felt like I had been camping; rather excited and refreshed when I woke up instead of negative feeling as I sometimes am. It was very pleasant. When the daylight finally comes back, it means a lot more than it used to.

 

 

When The Earth Shakes II

When the Earth Shakes

part II
(link to part I)

“I don’t know where,” shot back Crimp, exasperated.
“You can’t just order a strike for nowhere,” replied Henry, starting to become annoyed.
“I know, smartass. How about a pickup at the corner of Oak Street and Lexington Ave, then?”
“Okay,” he replied. “I’ll be maybe three minutes.”
“Come on. You can do two; it’s urgent.” said Crimp. He hopped a fence to the right and ran to the front of the house, which was three buildings to the left of his own abode. The fence he had hopped was riddled with holes a moment later.
Crimp chuckled, knowing that the soldier was wasting his time trying to shoot the fence instead of pursuing him. He was already twenty yards away.
Not far up ahead, the houses turned into stores, and there was an opening to the building’s alleyway directly before the first storefront. Crimp saw the Snipa soldier coming around the front of the house just as he made it to the storefront. They both fired at each other and missed.
An instant later Crimp was behind the buildings, sprinting on. As he nearly came out the other end, the leader heard the running of the soldier not far behind him. As the other man aimed his rifle, Crimp shot at him and struck him in the arm. It knocked the man’s aim off for long enough for the Shank’s leader to turn left onto the busy sidewalk.
Only fifty yards away was the intersection were he was supposed to get picked up. Crimp booked it, using surprised strangers as cover so that he would be more difficult to spot. He saw Henry’s car off in the distance, driving as quickly as it could towards the intersection.
Behind him, a rifle roared, gunning down some of the people in between the Snipa ganger and Crimp. Crimp looked backwards and tried to get a shot off but couldn’t see what he was shooting at. The car screeched to a stop in front of the leader, but instead of getting in, he ran past and ducked behind it. Rifle bullets tore up the top left side of the car but did not hit anything important. They stopped coming suddenly.
“He needs to reload,” thought Crimp optimistically. He moved from behind his cover, aimed carefully and delivered two shots, dropping the other man. Crimp opened the door and ducked into the back seat of the car. They sped off quickly, burning rubber.
Crimp breathed heavily, and Henry chuckled, knowing why.
“That’s somethin’ ain’t it?” he said. Crimp was about to reply but only chuckled himself, letting off some steam. Henry had curly hair and was quite young, but smart. He had become disillusioned with the world and felt he didn’t have anything better to do than to join the Shanks.
As they kept driving down the road, Crimp had a bad feeling.
“And here’s the police,” observed Henry, all of a sudden. The cherries and berries flashed in their rear view mirror. Henry hammered the gas, went right between two cars, overtook them, and got onto the highway which was just ahead.
The police car was five seconds behind them. As soon as they were on an open stretch of highway, they saw the police car entering onto it as well. It was slightly faster than their own vehicle.
“Too bad they appropriated the military budget to the police,” complained Crimp.
“I guess,” said Henry.
Henry pressed a jury-rigged button which let out a pound of large jacks onto the road. Crimp looked back and saw the police car spinning out, with two flat tires.
“Didn’t take long, did it?” asked the leader. His associate nodded knowingly. They took the next exit and headed back towards Henry’s house, which wasn’t far from Crimp’s devastated building.
“I think we need to double down on the search for their boss. They probably have a big bunker somewhere or something similar.”
“S does?” asked Henry.
“Yep. We have to try harder. Tell your comrades to forget about the laws, use satellite imagery, increase radio and internet monitoring, outsource the labor if they have to, and tell them to comb over all the media reports, even from the little newspapers. Especially from them.”
“Good,” replied Henry. “I can’t remember more than three things at once, though.”
“We’ll be dealing with it soon anyways, so don’t worry about remembering every little thing. We can stay at your place for a moment, but I should get to my second house eventually.”
“The one that’s almost out in the country?” asked Henry, who had only vaguely heard about it.
“Yep,” said Crimp. “That one.”
The car stopped and the two men went inside. The leader loaded his revolver and Henry gave some orders over his radio.
It distressed Crimp slightly that the house had no bunker and didn’t even have reinforcing armor. But it was still better than the alternative; being out in the open.
“I can’t believe the repair company was in on it too,” said Crimp, frustrated. “Do the Snipas own everything?”
“Practically. Everything except what we own.” They looked out the window and saw a police car at a faraway intersection, racing towards where the first one had been, on the highway.
“Do you think anyone’s unaffiliated?”
“Not really, except the newest businesses we don’t have time to deal with.”
“I wonder if we can get the cops on our side,” remarked Crimp.
“Nah, some of ’em are already with the enemy and the others won’t budge. They love their job.”
“Yeah, it was a stupid idea,” agreed the boss. “Well, now that I have no assistant anymore, would you like to be one? Two hundred dollars a day, free food and lodging…”
“Hmm. Sure,” replied Henry, “let me just get some things together. Do you have a radio there?”
“Nope,” said Crimp. Silently, Henry seemed disapproving.
A few minutes later the two were on the road again. When they reached the property, Henry could hardly believe it. The house was just a tiny square. It faced the road directly, at the end of a dead end. Behind it was only wilderness.
“We’re really out there now. Why is this place so small?” laughed the assistant, unable to take it seriously.
“Because it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
They walked inside and ignored the top two rooms. To the left were two stairs and a heavy metal door. Crimp unlocked a lock on the wall and the door slowly slid to the right. There was gigantic bunker underneath, two or three times larger than the rest of the house, but it was just a single long room.
At the back of the bunker, lights illuminating it dramatically, was a huge milsurp machine gun with armor plating all around, particularly for the firer. It was a modified Navy cannon.
“Is that a 50-cal?” asked Henry. “It’s nice.”
“Nope,” replied Crimp.
“40mm?” pressed Henry.
“Nope. 76mm.”
Henry’s jaw dropped.
“And the whole section of the floor it’s on can raise to the ground level if you hit that switch. Don’t forget the earmuffs.” They were hanging on the top of the armor plating.
On the wall a few feet away was a pair of portable revolving grenade launchers.
“The one on the top is loaded with anti-tank rounds,” said Crimp. Henry raised his eyebrows.
“I suppose this place isn’t so horrible.”
After the tour, the pair set up Henry’s relocated radio. It took awhile, and they ran into some unforeseen technical difficulties, but were eventually successful.
As soon as the radio was running, Crimp messaged some of his contacts and got the word that good progress was being made in the search. They had the base locations narrowed down to just five.
“At the risk of being overly optimistic, I think this might work,” said Crimp.
“Maybe.”
They watched a sniper on the rooftops over one of the screens, but he merely waited there, seeming to have nothing to shoot.
“All units, avoid 118th ave and Chestnut Street,” he radioed. Someone replied that they were on their way there.
“That was a close one,” sighed Crimp. “They move somewhere different every day.”
“So how’s Susie?” asked Henry.
“Good. I last talked to her yesterday. It seems such a long time ago now, but I suppose it isn’t actually.”
“You like the blondes, don’t you?” asked Henry. Crimp nodded slightly.
“So why do you not have a radio but you still have all your screens here?”
“Money,” replied Crimp.
“I thought money’s no object for you!”
“That’s only what they say on TV.” Crimp winked. For the rest of the day, the Shanks associates worked like horses to find the base.
Early the next morning, Crimp woke Henry up and they started the day’s work. It did not take long before Crimp received a radio report stating that they had probably located the enemy base. It was a primarily-underground building that would take a lot of armament to damage, but it seemed to be the most likely candidate for the enemy HQ.
Just before the boss was about to authorize a strike, though, he received a text message from an unknown number. Warily, Crimp picked up his phone and read it.
Don’t even try to blow up the base; you’ll regret it.
Yours truly,
S

“What the hell is this?” raged the leader, showing the message to his comrade.
Henry shrugged his shoulders.
“Perhaps they’re afraid of you, finally, after they failed with those last soldiers.”
“S actually knows my phone number?” said Crimp, exasperated. “I bought this phone explicitly because it would be hard to track.” He worked himself up to a bit of a rage.
“Did you not call the repair shop with it? Of course they know. Why doesn’t your assistant do these calls? I’m sure they have your voice profile.”
“But the only time I was on TV, they lowered my voice fifty percent,” argued Crimp.
Henry laughed, as he was more of a technophile than the boss.
“All you do is raise it back up fifty percent, and bingo.”
“Uggh. I’m sick of this.”
A message came in from the radio, changing Crimp’s attention.
“This is Blaise. Eighty percent chance that the location is correct. Also, we may have found a weak spot in the fortification. What are your orders, C?”
Crimp thought about it for a moment. Perhaps S was right that he would regret blowing the building up, or maybe he was just fooling the Shanks yet again. Either way, although Crimp couldn’t easily think of what could go wrong if they shot the base up, he knew something unforeseen might happen, and that could have bad consequences.
In a rare moment of indecisiveness, he asked for advice.
“What should I do?”
“Shoot ’em,” replied Henry, simply.
A moment later, Crimp slowly nodded his head and spoke into the microphone. He called his two friends with large cannons.
“We’ll need to use everything we have. Fire,” he said to the first.
“Wilco.”
On the other side of the radio sounded explosion after explosion. It went on for ten seconds straight. After that, he called the second one and the same events proceeded.
“Whoo!” yelled Henry. Crimp looked happy as well.
“I just wish we could see how well it worked,” the boss said, a tiny bit reserved. “I don’t even have cameras that show that area from far away. It’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere.”
Crimp made a weird expression and cocked his head. A very far-away rumbling noise sounded outside. Crimp immediately ran to the ground level and looked out the window. Almost a mile away, driving on the road as if it were a normal vehicle, a tank was coming towards them. There were five armored personnel carriers driving behind it, slowly overtaking the lumbering machine.
“Oh no,” said Crimp, desperation in his voice. He ran back to the radio and hurriedly put in calls for a strike at the intersection closest to his house.
“We’re out of ammo, we need to reload,” were the replies.
“Damn it all!” yelled the boss. “How did they find us?”
“They must have triangulated your position from the radio calls,” said Henry. “They were pretty obvious. Or maybe they found out what my car looks like from the police who chased us and found it with a satellite overnight. Or maybe-”
“Stop it,” said Crimp, ashamed. After a moment, he gave a command. “Be useful; go shoot them,”
They couldn’t use the machine gun as the rest of the house was currently blocking their line-of-sight, but it was possible to at least use the grenade launcher.
“I have to stay here and radio,” said Crimp, running over to the shelf and throwing the top weapon to his assistant. Crimp returned to the radio while Henry went upstairs and opened up a little gap in the front wall that was specially-made for such circumstances. It was just big enough to poke the barrel of the grenade launcher through.
Pink! Pink! Pink! went the firearm. The projectiles sailed through the air at a high angle and one missed, one glanced the tank, and another damaged a personnel carrier.
Henry shot three more times. He focused all his efforts on the APC’s this time, destroying a pair of them. There were only two APCs left.
“I need more ammo!” yelled Henry. A gigantic thundering sound was made and the corner of the top section of the house was decimated. Henry ran back to the basement, terrified.
“It was the tank, wasn’t it?” said Crimp.
“Yeah,” replied Henry.
“Are you alright?” asked Crimp, eyes focused on the radio.
“I guess,” he said feverishly, picking up the second grenade launcher. The tank fired at the house again, shaking its foundations and destroying the roof.
“I can’t go up there!” said Henry, breaking down.
“Shh,” said Crimp, busy with communications.
“Did you say you’ve reloaded?” he asked over the radio.
“Affirmative.”
“Great. Fire at the Columbia intersection. Now!” said Crimp.
Another tank shell tore up the house, collapsing it on top of the bunker entrance way. There was only one way out now.
Crimp heard the firing of his artillery far away and hoped it had been on target.
“Get up there!” said Crimp, pointing towards the 76mm cannon. Henry ran up and manned the gun. Crimp pressed the elevator button and then joined Henry. Slowly, the floor began to move upwards and the two roof sections split apart, opening the gun platform to ground level. The daylight poured in more and more every inch they went up.
“Let’s hope the strike got them all,” said Crimp, pressing a button which readied the cannon for firing. Since the house was so decimated, they could see some of the enemies up ahead. A piece of the house was still in the way, though.
Henry and Crimp put the earmuffs on. Crimp controlled the cannon and swiveled it to the left.
“Fire in the hole!” said Crimp. The cannon exploded, sending a huge shell through the house, collapsing it further.
“Well, now we can see,” commented the boss. Five hundred yards ahead, troops poured out of an APC. They could see that the artillery strike had demolished the other APC. The tank was still there.
“Damn!” said Crimp, adjusting the controls to point the cannon at the tank. He was angry at the aim of his associates.
He fired, and a huge cloud of smoke poured out of the barrel of the cannon as it shook from the explosion. The shot struck the tank on one of its tracks.
It seemed that the tank was immobilized but still functional.
A few soldiers started to fire their small arms at them.
They heard a thundering sound as a shell from the tank struck the ground right in front of the cannon, shaking everything and kicking up a giant cloud of dirt. The two men coughed and were unable to see anything. Crimp blindly adjusted the aim slightly.
“It’s now or never,” he said.
The boss pressed the fire button and the cannon went off again. They could not tell if it was a hit or not.
In the interim, a tank shell tore into the side of their cannon, sending a giant piece of metal flying off in the distance. Shrapnel from the impact flew off in different directions.
“Oww!” screamed Henry, grabbing his leg.
The haze started to clear up and Crimp noticed their aim had been slightly wide. He adjusted and shot again.
It was a direct hit. The enemy tank exploded in a crimson and ash blast.
“Finally!” said the leader. A few rifle rounds bounced off the armor and Crimp kept his head down more.
“My leg…” said Henry. It was bleeding from shrapnel.
Crimp took Henry’s grenade launcher and shot in an arc from behind the armor, taking out a few soldiers. Henry manned the artillery controls and nearly missed but took out one more Snipa. By the time Crimp was out of ammo, there was only one man left.
“Should we?” he asked. They watched the man run backwards, away from the fight.
“With the 76mm?” asked Henry. “No.”
“You’re right,” conceded Crimp.
Crimp took his shirt off and hastily bandaged up Henry’s leg with it.
“You’ll be alright, but you need to go to the hospital.”
“I can’t really walk,” replied the assistant.
“Lean on me,” said Crimp. Henry got off the platform and Crimp pressed the button sending the artillery back into the ground. Slowly, they made their way back to the car and Crimp took the wheel. They sped off to the hospital, making sure to avoid the road where the lone soldier was definitely still running away.
As they drove, Henry called for the hospital to ready a stretcher in front of the building.
Five minutes later, Crimp and Henry arrived and the nurses put the wounded assistant on a stretcher and wheeled him to the lobby and then the emergency room.
Crimp found an actual place to park, rested for a few minutes, then decided he should see how his friend was doing. The walk to the front of the building felt so normal that it almost made him nervous. For once, he found himself unworried about his rivals. The shock from the recent past had not totally cleared up, but he felt better overall. When he went inside, Crimp noticed a policeman eyeing him from behind the counter. He waited until the cop left and then asked a receptionist, under a false name, where Henry was. The leader walked there and stayed outside the surgery area while the doctors finished extracting a few bits of steel from Henry’s leg.
Crimp used the downtime to calm down, rest, read, and eat five crullers from Tim Horton’s.
He kept in contact with his associates through his phone. It sounded like the enemy was greatly weakened. They found little activity during the next two hours.
Before long, Henry was in a recovery room upstairs. Crimp sat next to him.
“So how did it go?” asked Crimp, wanting his opinion on the recent events.
“As good as it could have, except for your lousy timing with the artillery strike.”
“It’s not my fault,” said Crimp, offended. “I always time them perfectly. I know how long everything takes to make it work. The problem was that they didn’t have precise enough coordinates. I told Jimmy last month to map the streets everywhere out to seven decimal points, but he probably only did five. Lazy shmuck.” Crimp shook his head.
Henry laughed.
“Well, there’s not much going on anymore. They only found one sniper lately.”
“Yeah,” said Henry. “What are you gonna do now, see someone you know?” He winked.
“Susie?” asked Crimp, surprised.
There was a knock on the door. Forgetting The Rules for a moment, Crimp walked over and opened it.
“Speak of the devil,” he said. An attractive blonde woman with a handbag and a red dress stood there, looking at him. Henry laughed to himself, loud enough for Crimp to hear him.
“How are you, girl? Nice to see you,” said Crimp politely. She undercut the formality quickly.
“S told you that you would regret that decision,” she said, in a biting tone.
“What do you mean? It worked out in the end.” Crimp began to be slightly nervous, and his positive expression faded. Henry stared from ten feet away.
“It worked out for you,” she shot back.
“Do you want me to see you more, or have they bought you off, just like everyone else?”
“Not necessarily,” she replied. “I’m just done with the explosions and the war, and I want to live normally. This is the easiest way of making peace,” she said, quietly. Crimp shook his head hopelessly.
“So what are you here for, then?”
She looked right into his eyes. It was hard to tell what either of them were thinking.
Silently, Susie extracted a pistol from her purse and brought it to Crimp’s head.

 

 

When the Earth Shakes

When the Earth Shakes

part I

Jacob Prisgrim pressed of a hundred buttons on his remote and the television set flicked on. A blonde newscaster reported the story, not in a typical canned reporter’s tone, but with a hint of haste and genuine apprehension.
“In national news, the Supreme Court of the United States of America has ruled that the Second Amendment of the constitution is an ‘Unlimited and Inviolable Right’, and cannot be subject to change, the end result of the ongoing Davison vs. Picketts case,” she said.
That same piece of news had been repeated with the same urgency throughout the entire day.

— — — — —

A year later, things had changed.
Off in the distance, an earth-shaking, full sound boomed. The china in the cabinet rattled and the floor vibrated beneath people’s feet. Mr. Prisgrim sat on an old chair in his living room.
“There it is again, that infernal blasting,” he muttered under his breath. When the noise was over, he threw his coat on and walked out to the car. The engine puttered as he pulled out onto the main road. A few minutes down his side street lay the battered foundations of a house. His neighbor knew who used to live there. They had talked about the event several times since then.
“There it is, where the Forrests used to live. Why do the gangs around here have such bad aim?” complained the man. He kept on driving, with a bit of an empty feeling inside.
At the grocery store, a television by the counter showed another similarly decimated house which belonged to a low-ranking gangster in the Snipas gang. A voice droned on and on about how he had upset the adjacent criminal group The Shanks in some way, and how he had been killed by an artillery blast just one day later. A helicopter fluttered over the scene, recording the blackened remnants of wood, plastic, and the huge crater swallowing up most of the property and even some of the next house’s yard.
Evidently the neighbor of the gangster was going to try to sue someone to recover the money from her destroyed orchids.
Mr. Prisgrim humphed and frowned.
On another channel, the territory wars were being made into a reality show called Shanks vs. Snipas. It already was the second most-watched show on the air.

— — — — —

On the other side of the city, in one of several normal-looking but extremely fortified houses that he owned, sat the man known only as Crimp. He wore a tuxedo, taking his job as leader seriously. His hair was black, and gelled backwards, except on days where he didn’t do much. Those days were getting fewer and fewer.
Times had changed.
This wasn’t like a gang from five years ago; Crimp and his enemies were professionals.
More than a dozen monitors lined the wall, each showing the view from a different hidden camera around the city. On the table in front of him sat a HAM radio, which would give off security updates around three times a minute. He sat in a cheap chair; the only object in the room without the high-quality aesthetic of it.
From time to time, Crimp took a sip of extra old cognac. At times he simply drank Serbian mineral water.
Chore though it was, he enjoyed his time in his basement bunker. Aside from having persistent worrying thoughts of snipers, he felt nearly at peace.
“Damn, I’m late,” he whispered, turning on his swivel microphone and talking into it.
“This is alpha beta kilo x-ray kilo,” he repeated twice.
“10-4,” replied another voice, muffled slightly by static.
“What’s the word?” asked Crimp.
“Noodles,” replied the voice.
“10-4. Have you checked Highway 28, and made sure Maggonicelli’s has paid their tax?” inquired Crimp.
“Affirmative,” was the reply. “Twenty-four hundred for the month.”
“Perfect. Keep it up and you might get promoted. Alpha beta kilo x-ray kilo over and out.”
He turned the microphone off, but only a second later another voice was already coming in.
“Is this alpha beta kilo x-ray kilo?” it asked.
“What’s the word?” asked Crimp, in a serious tone.
“Noodles.”
“Affirmative,” said Crimp. After a polite pause the informant continued, copying the tones used by police on their radios.
“I have a tangent on Highway 87 heading northwards towards the Highway 28 intersection on the south side.”
“A Snipa?” asked Crimp, forgetting his clandestine protocol for a moment.
“Affirmative. Sausage. In about two minutes the tangent will be at the H-28 intersection.” The voice couldn’t help but sound slightly awkward for the first half of the sentence.
“Perfect. Lat and long?” asked the leader.
“41.8369° North, 87.6847° West. I repeat. Red hatchback, right lane.”
“Is there other traffic on the road?” asked Crimp.
“Not much,” replied the voice.
“Good.” He smirked. “We should avoid extra damages since what happened in September,” said Crimp.
“10-4. Good idea, C. Over and out.”
The boss repeated the coordinates to an associate a mile out of town who had a heavy artillery piece surrounded by a huge foam box to muffle the noise. Crimp observed the screen showing the relevant intersection and waited. The moments passed uncomfortably by before, at last, the car appeared, slowing to a stop at the intersection. It looked expensive.
The boss knew that this was the moment for action.
“Fire,” ordered Crimp. He heard the explosion a moment later through the other side of the radio. Three seconds later, the blast rocked the surveillance camera, suddenly sending the vehicle to a many-pieced end. There was little peripheral damage. The execution was perfect.
Crimp smiled, although he wished someone was there to see him. The adrenaline coursed through his veins as he watched police arrive at the scene in their huge armored vehicles. Three-quarters of the police force was now armored, the rest being reserved for pursuit.
A tank armed with a four-inch cannon even showed up for backup. Nobody found the Shank’s security camera. Their cover was intact.
Crimp grinned to himself, pleased at the result.
A few minutes later, he saw one of his highest-ranking group members on the screen. He was the second-in-command, and the most probable to take over if Crimp’s home defenses were breached.
“Joe,” Crimp said to himself. The man walked on the sidewalk towards the camera, which was mounted around the second story of a nearby building. He smiled at the camera and waved. Crimp nodded his head, appreciating the attention. He felt nearly warm for a second.
Joe’s head exploded and he fell to the ground, bleeding all over the sidewalk.
The boss took the sight in, unbelieving.
“Damn!” yelled Crimp, throwing his cup and a clipboard from his desk. The cup damaged a portion of his radio, making him even angrier.
“Goddamned snipas!” he screamed, throwing his chair in the opposite direction.
Bought from Ikea and made in China, it shattered when it hit the ground.
Crimp collapsed, hopeless.
“Why can’t I be as precise as them? It seems like as soon as I make one good move, they outclass me.” He knew they were called Snipas for a reason.
The life drained out of him as the gang leader lay on the ground. He felt slightly like his late friend Joe.
“My only benefit is all this huge artillery, but sometimes it feels useless compared to the tools they use… It’s like they’re ghosts; they know where all my cameras are, they use decoy houses and use decoy vehicles, hidden snipers…” Despite the ideas Crimp had stolen from them, they were always coming up with new, increasingly diabolical schemes.
“I bet that car wasn’t even the real one.” Negativity overwhelmed him. He had no good reason to think the car was fake, though, beyond gut suspicion.
“First it was Karl, then Morris, then Joe. I can’t take another one.”
He thought about calling on the radio to broaden and intensify the search for the enemy headquarters, but he would need to fix the radio equipment first. He brought his fist down on the floor, enjoying the satisfying feeling when it connected.
It wouldn’t take long for him to recover from the shock, though, for he had been in similar situations many times before.
Crimp took out his phone, an old but durable model. At least it didn’t spy on him like the new ones. He dialed and it ringed for a while.
“Is this E-Z Repairs?” he asked, in his regular tone of voice.
“Yes,” replied the man on the other end.
“I’m looking to repair a HAM radio, quite urgently,” he replied.
“What’s your name?”
“Umm… Frank.”
“Just give me a minute,” said the repairman. There was silence for an unusually long amount of time.
“Okay, what do you need?” he said, with extra vigor.
“Just a replacement for a transmitter part.”
At the end of the call, Crimp got up and opened the solid metal door to the ground level of the house. He made sure he had some extra bribe money for the repairman in his wallet so he wouldn’t tell anyone the unusual nature of the house. Still, something in him felt uneasy. His personal assistant was waiting upstairs.
“Louie, would you mind answering the door when the repairman shows up?” asked Crimp.
“No problem,” he replied. Louie was not an old-fashioned butler, but a typical semi-casual man who had knowledge of a vast variety of modern things. Crimp handed him three hundred dollars and left the room.
The leader waited in his bedroom in the top floor. There was a desk next to the bedroom door with one large drawer.
He looked out the window facing the backyard. It was made of three panes of bulletproof glass. He opened up the steel locking mechanism and felt the wind through his hair.
Someone knocked at the front door, so Crimp laid down by the top of the staircase so he could catch a small glimpse of what was going on. Louie answered the door and spoke with the repairman for a moment. They walked towards the bunker entryway and left Crimp’s sight.
The leader heard the repairman call up someone on his phone and say something like “Yeah, you can come.”
That’s when the mayhem started.
A few moments later, Crimp saw several armed and armored men rush through the front door and into the bunker.
“Shit,” he said, running to his desk, opening the drawer, and frantically pulling out a smoke grenade and an MP5.
There was a gunshot, evidently from the armed men and not from Louie as he had not been armed. Crimp sighed. This had been the third downed personal assistant in the last three months.
That’s why their salary was so high.
Crimp pulled the pin on the grenade and threw it down the stairs. It sent out clouds of whitish smoke. He threw his desk down there as well to trip them up.
Knowing their methods, Crimp supposed the Snipas would have scoured the whole house for him in a few moments even if he had not shown any evidence of his presence. They knew, at least vaguely, what he looked like, and it wasn’t at all like Louie.
The leader dropped his submachine gun out the window and it fell two feet onto the roof. An instant later, he went out with it, grabbing it again as it slowly slid downwards.
The neighbor’s roof was ten feet away from the edge of his own but much lower. He ran as quickly as he could and made the jump, but crashed with so much force into the second roof that he had to let go of his weapon. He just managed to be securely on the roof and avoid the threat of falling off himself.
“No!” he said as the gun fell twenty feet to the ground. He started to scramble to the peak of the neighbor’s roof.
To make matters worse, the Snipas in his own house had made it through the defences and were looking through the window. They saw Crimp and started shooting just as he disappeared beyond the apex of the second rooftop.
As most of the fire was directed towards the northern end of the roof, Crimp ran, low to the ground, to the southern end, and pulled his magnum snubnose revolver out from its concealment holster. Crimp popped out from behind the cover and saw one man firing his assault rifle from the open window. The shots ripped apart the other side of the roof.
The boss aimed the revolver sights carefully and took out the Snipa with a loud bang.
“Good thing I chose such a huge gun,” said Crimp to himself as he jumped to the roof of the next house over. From there, he decided to drop down to the backyard. After making it to the fence, he entered the alleyway and started running from the remaining soldier.
The second man could not be far behind in his pursuit.
Crimp took his phone out and called up his second-in-command, although he had been the third until a few minutes before, when Joe was shot.
“Hey Henry, it’s C. What’s the word?”
“Noodles,” replied Henry.
“Great,” said Crimp, still running, revolver in one hand. “Listen, Henry, it’s an emergency. Louie is dead and my location is compromised.” Just as he said so, a gigantic shell slammed into Crimp’s house, destroying a piece of it.
“Crap!”
The leader looked back and saw the second Snipa running out into the alleyway. He turned right and entered someone’s backyard as he opened fire.
“Okay… here’s your orders. Henry, I need a strike, now.”
“Where?” asked his friend, nervous.
Part II

A Critique of Marxism

A Critique of Marxism
On the shortcomings and merits of classical Marxism
Azure James Michalak

*
Just as right-wing classical liberalism dominated the 19th century and monarchy the 18th, the most influential force of the 20th century was Communism. Karl Marx’s teachings, after his demise, became a powerful force in great swathes of the world. His doctrine espouses, among other subjects, the avoidance of exploitation; the world proletariat community; the end of alienation and classes; gender equality; and public property. The situation in the world has changed in a multitude of ways since then, politically, economically, and technologically, however in some ways Marx was more than a hundred years ahead of his time.

Exploitation

A central tenet of Marxism is that in capitalism, the means of production is not owned by the workers, therefore they can be forced into dehumanizing positions as powerless underpaid cogs on the wheel of industry. This exploitation, supposed to give them reason to rebel against the capitalists, forms the backbone of communist theory. His vision of an ideal socialist state is where one is paid according to their needs and not their wants.
There are several psychological processes working against the claim that it is beneficial to be paid by needs. First of all, working is often done for the express purpose of receiving payment, not for the betterment of society, making the worker lazy enough to barely complete his job in order to get what he “needs”. Excess work, in opposite, does not seem to have any mechanism for remediation. In some socialist theories, all jobs have similar wages per hour, and this system seems in most situations superior to Marx’s “to each according to his needs; from each according to his ability” ideology due to its improved rewards for labor. Of course this does not mean there should be no social welfare for those who cannot work.
Exploitation in jobs still occurs but it is not an important enough hazard to make governmental communism viable, especially with its historical failings.

World Proletariat Community

This system of the triumphant proletariat was supposed to spread around the whole world, making nation-states as they are now known evaporate. As such, with no countries or nationalism, the world would unite as a unified proletarian group.
This may sound like a great idea in theory, but Marx seems to in some way fail to foresee the repercussions of a world of communism. Human greed would still be at play, and there would be a great chance of dictators, capitalists, and other misfits entering the scene. Because of the definition of Communism as the leadership of the proletariat, it cannot happen in nations without a proletariat per se, therefore it cannot not be global.

Alienation

Alienation is an important aspect of Marxist ideology, and comes in many forms, such as the alienation of workers from their own product, the alienation of workers from each other, and the alienation of the proletariat and capitalist classes from the other.
Marxism was founded in Industrial Revolution-era societies, which is now one of its largest flaws. Economic systems have changed significantly since then. Instead of employees and their bosses being direct antagonists, as they are in factories, they are more balanced in the dimensions of power, control, and at times, wages. There are now more tiers to the capitalist system than simply capitalist and proletarian, and many jobs are exactly in the middle. North America has moved from a disciplinary society (one where the wrong decision necessitates punishment) to a society where employees have, and appear to have, at least a small amount of control over their jobs. Minimum wages, insurance, and other employment laws have also affected the economic system. America is still the most classically liberal, with no parental leave from work, for example, but Canada and Sweden, among with many other nations, have at least a few socialist principles.
Because of this, direct Marxism, the uprising of the proletariat caused by their discomfort and agitation, cannot occur in most developed nations due to the comfortable conditions of the same.

Classes
The views of dissolution of classes are now in some ways out-of-date, in others just as important or moreso. Wealth inequality is extremely high, around the world and in America.  However, using the example of the ‘shapeless grey mass’ of the predominantly single-class Soviet Union, experiments in classlessness have not been totally successful. Even the Soviet Union and Pol Pot’s Cambodia still had some sort of class system, for example Shostakovich was paid more than the average worker and was much more famous, and of course the leaders of both countries and some of their cronies had access to more luxuries and privileges than everyone else. These could be thought of as fascist states instead of true communist communities, but judging from the difficulty and challenges posed in creating true communist nations, it is a rather hopeless situation. Democracies have had a much better track record. Treating everyone in an absolutely egalitarian manner is simply illogical, as genetics and physical differences cause people to have unique capabilities and distinctions.

Equality of Genders
Similarly to classes, Marx treated the genders in an egalitarian manner. “The less the skill and exertion of strength implied in manual labour, in other words, the more modern industry becomes developed, the more is the labour of men superseded by that of women. Differences of age and sex have no longer any distinctive social validity for the working class. All are instruments of labour, more or less expensive to use, according to their age and sex.” (Marx, Engels) It is interesting to compare this attitude to the rise of feminism since Marx’s death and observe that they coincide quite well. By inference it is clear that he did not approve of treating the feminine sex in many ways more politely then males, as many of his more traditionalist contemporaries did.
Communist sentiment in Soviet Russia involved the idea and practice of children being raised by society, not their parents. “But even if housework disappears, you may argue, there are still the children to look after. But here too, the workers’ state will come to replace the family, society will gradually take upon itself all the tasks that before the revolution fell to the individual parents. Even before the revolution, the instruction of the child had ceased to be the duty of the parents.” (Kollontai) Whether or not it was directly because of Marx, Soviet children were taught to prioritize Communism above all, rather than attaching themselves most strongly to their families. Aside from being unnerving for parents, in most circumstances would it not be better for children to get at least a large portion of their culture and routine from their mother and father? If freedom or nonconformity  is valued, the answer is yes.

Public Property

Marx was not a supporter of the capitalist notion of private property gained from the labor of others. ‘”The capitalist method of appropriation, which springs from the capitalist method of production, and therefore capitalist private property, is the first negation of individual private property based on one’s own labour. But capitalist production begets with the inevitableness of a natural process its own negation. It is the negation of the negation.” Here we have the three stages: the thesis—private property; the antithesis—capitalism; the synthesis—common ownership.’ (Beer) A number of drawbacks must be mentioned vis-à-vis private and public property.
Firstly, some property cannot be public due to sanitary or personal reasons. Secondly, with predominantly public property, there is little to work towards compared to in consumerist private-property societies, whether or not that is a benefit. No class distinctions rob people of the everpresent entrepreneurial drive in American mythology. Twenty-two percent of children in the UK said they “just want to be rich” when they grow up in a study with no leading questions.
Public property often has great merit but can be abused by people causing harm to the property or not treating it with the greatest care. This could be thought of with bicycles; if everyone borrowed the same bicycles for transportation, some would abuse them with racing and mud riding. On the other hand, with private property the only person harmed by misuse is the user.

Now vs. Then

When The Communist Manifesto was written, the trend towards classical liberalist, small government, production-based principles gave the author’s views a particular tinge. With today’s modern regulatory governments and service-based economies, there are no longer obvious capitalists disciplining their workers in the factory, for example, and the capitalist process has become more complex and bureaucratic. Unions have also changed the situation– Marx would probably be pleased with the improved conditions of the modern worker even though his life is still lived inside a capitalistic process. Although Marx taught that history is a history of class struggle, considering the situation-specific impetus for communism, it is an interesting question to wonder if Marx would be a communist if he was born now.

Analysis of Control

Looking at all the different economic systems from an unbiased standpoint, it seems that controlling every facet of the economy at a state level does not lead to the best results, as it causes shortages, maldistribution, and black markets. (e.g the Soviet Union and North Korea) On the other side, complete economic anarchy produces erratic results and the opportunity for worker abuse, environmental abuse, or dangerous products. (e.g parts of Africa and Asia).
As an example of free-market success, America did very well economically with a totally free market, including the institution of slavery, but it is obviously immoral from a humanitarian standpoint to run a country in that manner. The economic middle ground, on the other hand, encompasses many prime nations, to the left side in Scandinavia and to the right in England and Canada. A range of options in economic control can lead to healthy, first-class nations, when communism and anarchy almost always fail in this respect.

Social freedom follows generally similar rules. Stalin and Hitler’s rule, along with the rule of many other monarchs of the past, have caused many millions of lives to be lost from warfare, genocide, starvation, et cetera. Social anarchy and libertarianism have had their faults as well but have not generally caused such devastating problems.
State communism, with its state-controlled media, culture, and ideology, is rarely successful in truly leading the ideology of the people. Socialism seems more long-lasting or at least more humane, as nations leaning towards it now, even if they slowly change in their political beliefs, are quite stable with regards to treating people well.
Even when the US was more economically free, before the Great Depression, there was still quite a lot of social control. This caused a number of problems and repressions, especially among women, but also in the end made for a more vibrant and cohesive culture. A similar pattern can be seen in many areas with moderate social control.
No social control at all, in mixed locations, will cause a lack of a singular definable culture, like a more extreme version of Canada’s largest cities. It will also decrease homogeneity and impose few rules upon what people can or cannot do. Whether or not these symptoms are positive or negative depends upon the conservativeness of the observer.
Typically, however, it seems the best results can be had when nations have modest to moderately strict economic control combined with scanty to average social control.

Conclusion
Marxism in its past and present forms fulfills none of the above-listed criteria on freedom and ignores several human characteristics like greed, religion, and rebelliousness. In practice at least, and arguably in theory, it is an ideology far from perfection.

Bibliography
Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. The Communist Manifesto. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Project Gutenberg. Web. 21 Oct. 2015.

Marx, Karl. SparkNotes: Das Kapital. N.p.: n.p., n.d. SparkNotes. Web. 21 Oct. 2015.

Beer, M. The Life and Teaching of Karl Marx. N.p.: British Labour, 1921. Project Gutenberg. Web. 21 Oct. 2015.

Inequality. Digital image. Pew Research. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Oct. 2015.

Kollontai, Alexandra. Communism and the Family. Trans. Alix Holt. N.p.: Allison & Busby, 1977. Marxists.org. Web. 21 Oct. 2015.

Winter, K. (2014, August 5). Generation Greed? Three-quarters of children between five and ten believe money can buy you happiness. Web. October 22, 2015.

New Russian Western Book Preview

I am finishing a historical fiction novel taking place in Russia about the famous warrior-acrobat Cossacks. It has been a challenge but also great fun. I consider it an “Eastern Western,” primarily true to its historical context but also containing, in my opinion, that great Western liberty and spirit.

Глава 1 (Chapter 1)

Ivan Petrovitch Shostakov sat silently atop his horse, a proud chestnut-­colored animal from the Don river region. They were both perfectly still, as if taking part in a moment that, although eventually forgotten, could never be erased from the omniscient memory of history. Beyond them, as far as the eye could see, rolled a beautiful array of features; endless fields of tallgrass and feathergrass, splotches of sand, and rich black chernozyom dirt.

This was the Russian steppe.

Softly the white wind blew its murmuring song into Ivan’s ear, and softly the large clementine sun descended towards the horizon, that indefinable boundary between earth and sky.

This was his life; for he was a Cossack.

These were the moments, alone and at one with the world, which seemed to elevate a man’s life high above the realm of ceaseless labor, into a fleeting paradise. The sky turned purple and pink clouds drifted lazily across its never­ending expanse. There was not another person in sight and both freedom and danger were so very close. How Ivan wished to fly high in the sky with the eagles he often saw, free of all cares, enjoying at every moment the endless undulating landscape. Alas, this was far from the truth. The gelding pawed the ground impatiently.
“I know you want to go, Smetsky, but I need one more minute,” 
spoke Ivan. He was busy thinking about his wife and her long pregnancy. She was already due. Time flew by quicker than the starlings flew at night; in a flash everything was changing. “If I only had a son, perhaps we could be rid of debt by the time he comes of age. As much as I can work, it is still not enough to keep the family afloat. Maybe with some help, some extra money eventually, we could keep going.”

Their monetary situation had been going downhill for years, and even though Ivan and his wife Lucya had started out somewhat wealthy, now they had a number of debts and only a modest fortune. His ancestors had consisted of registered Cossacks, but now his family was a shadow compared to its former glory. They had one daughter before, named Vadia, who was now six years old. Vadia was an adorable, thin girl with dark brown hair, and she helped around the house with small things, but the fact was that she would be gone eventually and Ivan would be stuck doing all the work himself without enough money to hire any help if things continued along their current path. Ivan prayed for good fortune as sincerely as he could, and finished his prayer with the sign of the cross made with three fingers as was the current fashion.

Smetsky’s ears perked forwards. Ivan heard a rumbling far away on the horizon, barely existent but threatening nonetheless. The man looked diligently for its source but saw nothing at all. There was a slightly nervous energy in the air. He lived a distance northeast of Rostav­on­Don, in the transition zone between the primitive and untamed nomad steppe and the southern Black Lands of rich soil and plentiful farming. The Cossack had ridden out to the steppe in order to be alone and think without interference. “It’s time to go back now, Smetsky,” he declared, pulling the reins to the left and giving him a tiny bit of pressure from his right leg.

The horse cantered off, happy to be moving again. The fast rock of the speed and the grass hurrying by gave Ivan a familiar feeling of comfort. There was little he liked more than riding quickly, whether by himself or with other people. Ivan had been out by himself for many hours, and although he said he was hunting, that was actually just an excuse to be alone and clear his mind.
The Cossacks were formidable warriors able to shoot a hole through a playing card at a full gallop, ride standing up, or hang off their horses securely with only a foot in the saddle at that same blistering speed. Their skills at dancing and acrobatics were similarly masterful.
Ivan wore a long blue kaftan tied with a silk sash, a jambiya knife from Persia tucked inside. Atop his head was the traditional single long lock of hair, and atop that was his warm grey papakha hat, not that it was necessary to wear warm clothes at that time of year. At its lazy pace, the sun set further and the land began to darken. As he pressed on, Ivan passed by numerous hills and increasing numbers of human habitations. Eventually the lights of his settlement peered softly out at him. Ivan arrived at his town, Zernovoy, just as the sky was beginning to turn black. Millions of stars illuminated the heavens and there was scarcely a cloud in sight. The moon was nearly full, casting a soft glow the color of straw over the steppe and grasses. Ivan knew almost every star in the sky, and he could find his way home by their light or by the compass that seemed to naturally be in his head. He could not even remember getting lost once.

Ivan Shostakov dismounted as he entered the boundary of the village and walked with his horse past the houses of two of his neighbors. Smetsky followed him without the necessity of being led, as they had been close friends for years. Once they turned off the rutted road and reached his house, Ivan grabbed the reins and moved them forward, tying them to a small T­shaped hitching post.

The Shostakov’s dwelling was typical in style but larger than most of the others in the village. It had a thatched roof and white walls, and the inside was divided into three rooms and a root cellar. Something unknown made him very disconcerted, so the Cossack stopped for a moment as his horse’s ears perked frontwards warily. In the house they heard a dreadful moaning sound. There was a moments silence as the Cossack summoned up the bravery to take action.
Ivan ran inside.

His wife was giving birth, and the midwife was already there. Even before he heard anything, Ivan knew there was something wrong. Vadia was nowhere to be seen.

“What is happening?” he asked, terrified.

does life have meaning without goals? Essay

“Man is a goal-seeking animal. His life only has meaning if he is reaching out and striving for his goals.”

Political ideologies have a surprisingly differing view on the source quote. First of all, Marxist beliefs support worldwide egalitarian socialism as the end goal for humankind. The only way to make more money or move up at all in this system is by working faster or with better quality. In pure socialism, each day is essentially the same and every person is part of the same gray conglomeration of working-class citizens. Humanity is not generally pleased by identical routines, as happiness stabilizes over time, and in pure communism many people would either get bored or point out small flaws in the system and their life. It is always possible to have goals of some kind, however, even in a system that is one hundred percent authoritarian and left-wing. The goals change in this situation to either resisting the authority or being the best part of it one can. They are self-evidently different types of goals than the sort truly free people have, but they are goals nonetheless.

On the other extreme of the political spectrum, free-market supporters and free-market anarchists see a world in which everyone is theoretically perfectly free to set and reach goals, as there are no obstacles in the way of such undertakings. In contrast to Marxists, they agree almost perfectly with the source quote. Anarchies such as Russia during 1918 (before the Communists had much control) or Somalia in the present day seem to present varying challenges and have few absolute characteristics. Depending on the pre-anarchy circumstances of a nation, such as reliance on the government, or their level of technology, different events may take place. In Russia, society got along in a tolerable manner since they did not have to rely on the government for much in the first place. Actually, the anarchy was not horribly different than society was at the end of the Tsarist days. In Somalia, however, it is common knowledge that anarchy is not helping their situation as they have a serious crime and pirate epidemic. Odds are, some sort of government could take some steps to improve the situation in that country. Anarchy, therefore, does not seem to free people to live their dreams and set goals any more than liberal democracies do, except in anomalous situations.

Liberal democracies such as America and Canada give the people a huge selection of goals to choose from. They can set spiritual, religious, economic, self-improvement, or political goals with a high degree of freedom. On the whole, liberal democracies typically seem to have a larger amount of choice to set goals when compared to other political systems. But the motive of goals in the first place begs the question– does life only have meaning if one is striving for goals?

Personally, my life becomes somewhat meaningless and drab if I partake in the same labor everyday with no difference or objective as time passes. There is a pleasant, predictable quality and a certain amount of meaning to it but something is also lacking. When I worked on a dairy farm for a summer it was possible to see first-hand what it is like to essentially have the same routine every day, and it is pleasant enough, except when it goes on for years and at times turns into a prison. One of my friends who was in a prison would say the same thing; that in some ways it is tolerable to have little freedom but it lacks the energetic quality of liberty. It is not a terrible choice to have a predictable lifestyle with few goals, however, it is a much more human and satisfying thing trying to become an improved person, worker, or artist.

Symphony Movement no.1

https://musescore.com/user/4676656/scores/1216471

Available for listening here. I worked hard for long hours to write this, and it seems worth it in the end. My first real music score. There’s nothing like a real orchestra, even though solo instrument compositions are nice as well, so I wrote something for an orchestra. Or at least most of an orchestra minus a few strange instruments such as the bassoon.

Tell me what you think!:)