"I Don't Run Unless Chased"

When the original P90X videos were filmed, instructor Tony Horton was forty-five years old. In a number of the videos, he mentions this fact in support of his argument that a dedication to healthy living – eating right and exercising regularly – will help combat the ravages of age. Or, to put it in his actual language, “That’s why a 45-year-old guy like me, going on 46, still looks like this.”

It’s easy to dismiss his claims as unempirical. After all, he probably has “good genes.” But exercise is perhaps the single best way to combat aging, extend longevity, and prevent chronic, age-related illness. (If you really need to see a citation for these claims, then, okay. Start here.) The simple fact is that exercise will keep you looking and feeling younger for longer.

When I was young – in my teens and twenties – people I knew used to make all sorts of comments about how running is “crazy.” They didn’t say it with admiration, they said it derisively or defensively. They made “jokes” like saying, “I don’t run unless chased.” Har har har. They exalted in their propensity to eat too much crap, drink too much crap, watch too much TV, and do too much nothing. Even in my thirties, people have made these comments to me. They continue to laugh and joke and be some combination of derisive and defensive about how much I like to work out.

But, as I write this blog post, I am thirty-seven years old: decidedly middle-aged, past my prime, and so on. That means that all the people who ever said these things to me are also middle aged, past their prime. We’re all showing the signs of age. But some of us are aging faster than others. I often get ID’d when purchasing alcohol. In one recent case, a cashier checked my ID, shook her head, and said only, “I wouldn’t have guessed it.” A coworker of mine once had a little freak-out session when she found out that I was married, with children. She demanded to know how old I was, and when I told her, she couldn’t believe it. Overweight and with mostly grey hair, she is only a few years older than I am. As a matter of athletic performance, I can still out-run most twenty-somethings and can probably do more pull-ups, push-ups, and sit-ups than most people.

I don’t mention all this to brag, because it’s not anything to brag about, in my opinion. I worked out hard all my life, and I continue to do so. If you want to know what that feels like – to be able to do certain things physically, and to be able to pass for ten or more years younger than your age, and to maintain high energy levels into middle age, and to not really feel your body slowing down as much as everyone else’s seems to – then you have to work out. It’s not too late for you, either. But work out you must.

All that is to say, I’ve finally reached the age when none of my peers are quite so interested in talking about how “crazy” it is that I run every day (56 consecutive days and counting!) or that I do P90X on top of that in the morning. It doesn’t seem crazy, because now they understand that it isn’t crazy. It’s wise. It makes you better off. And they now wish that they, too, had run when not being chased.


Update: I Feel Like A Superhero

I think it’s time I provided an update on my exercise situation. As you know, I have undertaken to run one hundred days in a row while simultaneously working my way through the famous P90X home exercise program. I had originally described this as “ambitious,” and perhaps it is, but as the days pass it becomes clear to me that I will actually do this.

That’s assuming I don’t fall victim to some sort of bad luck or act of nature. Let me just pause here to note that the flu is running rampant through my household, but between twin practices of quarantine and running the UV air purifier any- and every-where a flu victim may have been, I’ve managed to avoid catching anything myself. I also have just enough vanity to suppose that perhaps all the exercise I’ve been getting has boosted my immune system enough to ward off a lot of what’s out there. Fingers are crossed, though it’s looking good for me.

So how has it actually been going?

Yesterday I finished my fortieth consecutive run. When I first had the idea of running one hundred days in a row, I actually never dreamed I’d make it this far. To have run forty days in a row already feels like an accomplishment to me. It’s a long time without a true break. Still, I’m trying not to let my guard down here because, when I think about it, I’m still ten days away from the mere half-way point. I feel comfortable running every day now, I never feel like “today is the day I’m not going to make it” (although a day after seriously bruising my foot a couple weeks back, I sure came close). I pack my gym bag every day with confidence, knowing that I’ll be able to get a good run in, no matter how I feel.

That sentiment, I must emphasize, is a big change for me. No matter how much I ran before, I always felt as though I could just take a day off if I wasn’t feeling strong. Now I know that I can keep running even when I don’t feel strong. It’s a big mental shift to go from always having a day off in the back of my head to always completely knowing (in the back of my head), with surety, that I’m capable of running today. It’s as though the motivation to run and the notion of ability are no longer questions. I take it as given that this is possible, and the only matter left to consider is how hard I’ll choose to run. This is beneficial, to say the least.

Last Friday, I completed my thirtieth day of P90X, which marks the end of “Phase 1.” They recommend taking a set of “before” photos, and the a series of progress photos at days 30, 60, and 90, which I faithfully did. To my slight chagrin, my body has experienced almost no visible changes after 30 days. My abdominal muscles are noticeably larger, which is nice, but no one who doesn’t know me well would notice the change. As for my other muscle groups, I don’t think there has been much change to speak of.

At first, I was quite disappointed to see my 30-day photos. I had been working so hard, getting up early in the morning and “bringing it” during the workouts, that I felt like I deserved some gains. When I thought about it, though, I realized that I hadn’t been lifting heavy enough weights to have warranted a major physical change. After all, I am not starting from “zero;” I was already a physically fit person before I started. Many of the big 30-day gains seen in the many P90X before/after shots involve people who are starting from nothing or next to nothing. But even setting that aside, the first phase of the program focuses on bodyweight exercises and calisthenics – great exercise, but not exactly famous for helping a guy get “shredded.” Seen in that light, I realized that it was my expectations, not the program itself, that were out of line.

Still, there have been some major changes going on with my body. First of all, I think I am more flexible now than I have been in years – maybe ever. I can’t stress how important this is. Many of my muscle and joint pains, which were caused by tight muscles, have disappeared. My calf muscles are typically so tight that I cannot even feel when someone squeezes them, no matter how hard they squeeze. Now, they feel loose enough that I can use a foam roller and feel relief. My whole body feels more limber and agile thanks to my newfound flexibility, and it’s been a real positive change. Furthermore, the wrist pain I’ve been enduring for months now, which I attributed to the combination of desk work and holding my daughter in my arms all the time, has dissipated significantly as a direct result of the Stretch X workout video. It’s remarkable.

Another important change, which can be partially attributed to flexibility and partially to new muscle strength, is an improvement in my posture. Whether I’m sitting, standing, or lying down, my limbs and spine align into healthy positions. As someone who has always struggled with bad posture, this has been great. For one thing, a lot of people don’t realize how much better clothing fits when you have good posture; so I look a little better. (Vanity again, but alas, that’s part of working out.) It also makes long drives and long hours of desk work much more tolerable. My core and back muscles stay engaged and insulate my spine from the kinds of stress that’s common of people who spend many hours sitting.

Perhaps my favorite “result” so far has been the increase in my sleep quality. While I’m not getting any more sleep in terms of total hours, I now get as much as two hours more deep sleep per night. My head hits the pillow and I’m gone, asleep until I wake up to my alarm the next morning. As a lifelong light sleeper, I’ve been really pleased by this change.

What happens next? Well, I started Phase 2 of P90X on Saturday. Phase 2 seems to place more emphasis on actual weight training, so if I’m going to see any gains to my physical size, I imagine they will come during Phase 2 for the most part. Over the weekend, I was also able to go for an eight-mile run – my furthest-distance run in at least two years. So I’m ramping up on both sides of my exercise regimen. That’s encouraging. I feel really fit. It’s a nice feeling, especially for someone in his late thirties. This is some of the best shape I’ve ever been in.

Another thing I’d like to try is making some additional improvements to my diet. I don’t have too many bad habits left, but my body is asking me to get rid of the few I do have. When I have so little room for improvement, it’s hard to give up on my one or two remaining “treats.” Still, it’s tough to imagine going on like this for months on end while still putting less-than-perfect fuel in my body. I don’t want to make too big a deal about this, because I know myself and I know I might not be able to do this. But it’s starting to be the last remaining voice in the back of my mind, the one thing keeping me from feeling as close to perfect as I’ve ever felt. I’m curious about that feeling, and I’d like to see what it’s all about. So, here I go…


Feeling Ambitious

As January comes to a close I thought I might provide a fitness update.

After reviewing my 2016 stats on Smashrun.com, I decided that, since I came in under 1,000 total miles last year, I ought to try for over 1,000 miles of running this year. That works out to be about 2.75 miles per day, which feels pretty reasonable to me. If nothing else, I need only have a year similar to last year, but without a big gaping break in June.

Reasonable goals are nice and provide good satisfaction when you reach them, but ambitious goals are even more fun.

I had a rather ambitious idea shortly after coming up with my 1,000-mile goal: What if I were able to run for 100 consecutive days, without taking any formal rest days. If I needed a rest day, I could just run very slowly or very low mileage, or both. Given how much I run, the challenge for 100 consecutive days of running is not physical, per se. I won’t find it physically daunting to go out for a run every day for one hundred days. On the other hand, ensuring that my schedule remains free and open such that I always have time to go for a run is quite another story. Keeping my will power attuned to a goal like that is also a major challenge since people like to take days off every once in a while. On a nice and sunny day, or a cold and stormy one, it’s easy to let the workout slide and go do something else. In short, running one hundred days in a row is a challenge that is more mental than physical.

It’s been going well. By the time most of you read this, I will have run twenty consecutive days, a fifth of the way to my endpoint.

Ten days into my project, however, there was another development. My wife because a Beachbody coach and subscribed us to Beachbody On Demand, the company’s streaming video service. It is essentially “Netflix for exercise videos,” if you will, and it comes with the ability to stream the world-famous P90X program. This is something I have always wanted to try, and having it “on tap” in my own home proved to be too great a temptation to resist.

As a result, I am now waking up at four o’clock every morning and working my way through a 60-to-90-minute P90X workout. And that’s in addition to my continued progress toward a hundred days of running.

Today I’m ten days into P90X and twenty days into my running goal. If all goes well, I’ll finish both initiatives on exactly the same day and I will have accomplished two reasonably difficult fitness goals at exactly the same time.

Ambitious? Yes. Will I be able to do it? I’m not sure. But if I do, it might be the most difficult physical undertaking I’ve ever managed. Wish me luck!


Narcissism And Truth In Politics

These guys are becoming an easy target these days, but in this case they happen to have saddled-up one of my hobby horses, so it's time to comment.

The topic du jour is "post-truth" and journalism. If you're committed to taking the written world only ever at face-vale, as the Sweet Talkers seem to be, then the question is why don't facts matter so much in politics? Why does the mainstream media so often publish lies?

The question not being asked - the question that actually contains the answer - is Why do I keep reading all these articles, even when the majority are ideologically slanted, many are factually incorrect, and the rest don't tell me anything I don't already know?

Well, here's a five-year-old explanation for you. It's got everything we're still talking about today: fake news, ideological polarization, and one important fact about the news you read:
It's easy to guess that the target demo for Fox & Friends is white women over 55 who have to get their teenage kids off to the methadone clinic and are perfectly content with a flip phone. "I don't need a touchscreen to fellowship with the Lord." Fair point. Gretchen Carlson is a standard example of what that demo calls a "well put together woman"-- heavy foundation, dresses that fit easily over Spanx and the hypercoiffed hairdo preferred by men who first ejaculated in the 1970s. I just got the shivers. Fun fact: Michele Bachmann was her babysitter back in the day. "Michele who?" Exactly. Remember how you were told she mattered, and you believed it? Kept you out of the game for 2 years 11 months, well done. Assange was right, the internet does make it easier for us to think for ourselves. 
What's not easy to guess, yet importantly true, is that the other target demo for Fox & Friends is everyone who viscerally hates that first demo. Do you think it upsets Fox that their footage is making The Huffington Post a lot of money? All part of the plan. The battle isn't Red v. Blue, but Purple v. You. You lose.
Post-truth means we have entered an era in which truth is literally unimportant to people. See for example here, which should give you just a taste of the overall argument against Scott Sumner's Rorty-ish tendency to say anything and everything as long as it advances his narrative.

It comes down to the reason people advance a narrative today. It used to be that the narrative was intended to persuade. Now the intent is somewhere between magical thinking (take, for instance, Trump's claim that God made it stop raining for his inaugural address) and quasi-religious team cheer-leading (take, for example, a "women's march" that has no clear policy objective).

Stripped to its essence, "public discourse" has gone from making claims to swearing allegiance to groups who make claims. That's identity politics for you. Note well the difference between "I believe in women's rights" and "I am part of the group that believes in women's rights." The first statement gives you something to talk about; the second statement is... well, I'd use the phrase "a mask," but others would use the phrase "moral grandstanding" What good is it to make claims and support them with evidence if you don't genuflect to our collective sense of identity?

Post-truth means that advertisers and politicians are the same people now. See how many SEO specialists write for think-tanks these days. It's not about the issues anymore, it's about branding. What's your brand? People don't vote according to their party, but according to their brand. That's why you've got Silicon Valley techno-libertarians and "libertarians for Trump." You'd think a bunch of people committed to principle - that is, you'd think libertarians, at least, if anyone - would be able to understand and sympathize with those who voted the other way. But that's not what happened. Why not? Branding.

To be sure, we all want facts to matter. But we just want them to matter. That doesn't mean they actually do. In the end, all these discussions are about branding, which is one reason why I spend so much time emphasizing the importance of results over theory. Political theory in the modern landscape is a "vanity project." It's not about what you believe, it's about how you believe it. Lew Rockwell and Roderick Long are both anarchists. Why does the first name make fans of the second name bristle, and vice-versa, if they're both committed to free market anarchism?

All anyone really cares about is their brand. It's a modern problem.


It's The Person, Not The Object

Suppose you’re trying to lose weight. You grab all the potato chips in the house, and you throw them in the garbage can, thereby ridding yourself of the temptation. You can’t eat what’s not in the house, after all, so you just rid the house of potato chips and that takes care of the problem.

On one level, this isn’t bad advice. If you have trouble overcoming temptation, then the next best thing is eliminating temptation. All the diet gurus recommend doing this. And maybe all you need to overcome your temptation in the first place is to go a few weeks without indulging in it. After that, the thinking might go, your cravings will disappear and your mind will recalibrate to a potato-chip-free lifestyle. Here’s hoping.

The fact of the matter is, though, that throwing the potato chips out doesn’t solve the underlying impulse control problem. It might help you lose weight, and it might help your palette adjust to new norms, but it won’t help you overcome your urge to seek instant gratification over long-term happiness. The only way you can beat that problem is by teaching yourself to abstain from potato chips even though you want to eat them. You’ll have to practice mindful self-deprivation. It’s not the potato chips’ fault. It’s not the fault of the mere presence  of temptation. It’s your fault. You’re in control. You’re steering the ship.

I was thinking about this in reaction to an interesting piece I read at OutsideOnline.com. In it, author Sam Robinson laments what the Strava app has done to his love for the solitude of running. Ordinarily, I would be inclined to agree. I, too, love the solitude I experience while running. Unlike Robinson, however, I do not allow my smartphone apps to interrupt that process. I don’t check my apps while I run. Even though they are social networks, I don’t allow the fact that people can see my stats to interrupt my thoughts as I run. Running has always been about solitude and meditation for me. Now smart phone app could ever change that.

But it’s not the app doing all this. That’s silly. If you’re so distracted by Strava that you can’t get a good long run in without feeling “connected,” then that’s a personal problem. If you can’t walk away from an internet argument, that’s a personal problem. If you can’t view Facebook without feeling bad about your life (as is true of many people who browse Facebook), that’s a personal problem.

We hear a lot about how technology is making our lives worse, but that’s a big of a ruse. What’s making our lives worse is our complete and utter lack of impulse control McDonald’s doesn’t make you fat, eating too much makes you fat. Facebook isn’t making you depressed, your jealous, envious narcissism is making you depressed. Strava isn’t taking away your solitude, your inability to forget about social networks for the 45 minutes required to get your run in is what’s taking away your solitude.

I write a lot about defense mechanisms on my blog, and this is one more to add to the pile. We lament the things we have trouble saying “no” to; we seldom lament our own inability to say no. Don’t focus on the objects, though, focus on your own shortcomings. You have to – that’s the only way to begin the hard mental work of change.


The Narrative Must Advance

There’s a concept that comes up at TheLastPsychiatrist.com: “writing your story toward an ending.” I like this concept, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.

The Last Psychiatrist, of course, frames his blog posts in the language of narcissism. He advises people to write their stories toward an ending because a narcissist tends to feel that he or she is the “central character” in a story about himself/herself. When I think about this concept, on the other hand, I tend to think of it in slightly different language: the language of narrative. We all craft narratives about the important things in life. For example, I met my wife at a friend’s house party on Canada Day. When I think back about that party, I think of not as a Canada Day party with my friend, but as “the time I met the woman who would become my wife.” That’s a narrative.

Another example of a narrative is the way we explain our life’s circumstances. Suppose your roommate left some dirty dishes in the sink last night and you had to clean them up in the morning. There are a couple of narratives that might play out in your head. One is, “Argh, my roommate never does the dishes and I always have to clean them up!” Another might be, “My roommate must have had something come up last night; I’ll help out by doing the dishes.” What’s important in this example is that the narrative you choose in a particular situation can have a big impact on how you feel about that situation.

That’s why I always encourage people to craft positive narratives for their lives. Maybe it’s unfair that your roommate didn’t do the dishes last night, but you’ll certainly leave the house happier if you believe you were helping your busy roommate than you would if you believed your no-good roommate never helps out. If you want your roommate to get better at doing the dishes, you’ll have to talk to him. That conversation will go a lot better if you go into it asking how you might help your busy roommate so that the dishes can get done, compared to an antagonistic intervention in which you accused your roommate of being lazy.

Narratives matter, because they influence our reactions and the ensuing series of events.

But life also moves on, and sometimes our narratives – even the good ones – don’t keep up with the changes we’ve been through. Suppose your roommate got a lot better at doing the dishes after your chat. If you don’t take the time to notice that your roommate seldom leaves dirty dishes in the sink, then the next time he does it – even if it’s the first time in months – you might react negatively: “Again!? We talked about this!” But in that example, your roommate will have done nothing wrong. It’s your narrative that’s the problem, not your roommate’s one-off dirty dish.

The key point here is that the narrative must advance. If this sounds familiar to you, it might because I’ve written extensively about a special case of advancing the narrative: The Myth of the Perpetual Beginner. One challenge a lot of novice runners have is that they never figure out how not to be novices anymore. The years go by, but their relationship to the sport stays constant. They never improve their form (to prevent injuries), they never vary their training (to prevent fatigue and stagnation), and they never get beyond the same old routes and group runs. To get to the next phase, where they might enjoy fewer injuries and have a more fun time running, they must learn to advance their narrative, and become “experienced runners,” or at least intermediates.

This concept, of course, goes well beyond the relative trivialities of roommates and running. The Gottman Institute has identified the narrative surrounding a couple’s relationship as one of the most important aspects of a marriage. It can go both ways. If your narrative is all about how your spouse leaves dirty socks everywhere and doesn’t appreciate you, your marriage will deteriorate. If your narrative is all about how you two have a legendary romance that thoroughly enriches you, the two of you will make more of a point to come together (“turn toward each other,” in Gottman’s language) during harder times. But, of course, if you happen to have accidentally created a negative narrative and you want to turn it around, the narrative must advance. You must work on creating a love story between the two of you, and allowing that narrative to become the next chapter of your lives.

It’s easy for relatively stable and established adults to have narratives that get “stuck.” You wake up, you go to work, you come home to family responsibilities, you go to bed. Repeat. Then on weekends, you fill your time up with hobbies, yes, but hobbies don’t always have narratives, unless we infuse them with on. If you like to write, you should work on a writing project, and finish it, and move to the next one. If you like to run, you should train for something, and then do it, and then train for something new.

In all aspects, our narratives must advance, or else we will never really experience the forward progress of a life well-lived. Or so I’ve been thinking lately.


My Resistance To Identity Politics

There is a lot of identity politics out there. It comes in various forms, and the liberal-tarians are all united on the fact that it is good to be an “ally” to victims of certain difficult lived experiences. But just as I have resisted the inclination to call myself a “feminist” despite believing in equal rights for women, I’m not ready to sign-on to the pleas of the likes of (most recently) Jacob T. Levy. The natural question is, “Why the heck not, Ryan?” and the answer is because the evidence and the philosophy just aren’t there to support the notion of identity politics.

But does it matter? The toothpaste is already out of the tube, as the saying goes. It’s only a matter of time before everyone in the LGBTQ community gets to enjoy the same kind of social respect that we pay to everyone else, and racism and sexism is always and everywhere deplored by everyone who counts for anything. No one takes a bigot seriously anymore, not in today’s world. Despite the lamentations over Trump’s allegedly white-supremacist agenda, society as a whole wants to move on from all this bigotry. In that environment, why shouldn’t I just be simpatico? I mean, why can’t I just be a nice guy and declare myself an ally of women, of LGBTQs, of racial minorities, of religious minorities, etc.? Why hold out? Do I want to make myself look like an asshole?

In other words, why don’t I just follow where the group leads me? What’s the harm in that?

Libertarianism – the belief that people by and large ought to be left alone to pursue their own slice of happiness – deserves a unified theory. It’s almost inevitable. Despite the attempts of many to divorce libertarianism from hardcore individualism, Aristotelianism, first principles, and unfettered market capitalism, libertarianism only makes sense as the fusion of those ideas. If you remove one of those things, then you are no longer left with a consistent, coherent political philosophy. Instead, what we end up with is a contradictory mess of personal whims and wishes; but you don’t need philosophy to just believe whatever the heck you feel like. Philosophy without consistent self-reconciliation is just word salad.

Thus, to wit, I don’t want to just go along with the crowd on identity politics because, doggone it, I’m an individualist. I’m not going to just accept any hackneyed idea just because a bunch of really nice people really really want me to go with it. That kind of blind susceptibility to situational influence is what produces the Lucifer Effect, and I’m not into that. While we’re busy pitting our various political identities against each other, we’re causing a real rift between and among groups. It’s not very hard to imagine the different ways the Lucifer Effect would take hold. It ought to be resisted.

I bring this up because it highlights the importance of individualism as an idea in general, but specifically with respect to libertarianism. Without the general principle that individuals ought to be left alone, we become a teeming mass of identity-factions, each more justifiably angry than the next. The function of individualism is to diffuse the claims of specific factions and to apply broad principles of freedom to all kinds of people, no matter what their demographics happen to be. In other words, the purpose of individualism is to prevent us from getting caught up in bigotry. Inventing a complex “intersectionality” of factious identities will only serve to pit factions against each other.

What we want is to treat all people equally. So long as we’re pounding pulpits over identity politics, we’ll never get there. Separate is inherently unequal. "All collectivist doctrines are harbingers of irreconcilable hatred and war to the death."


When Your Way Out Isn't A Way Out

I followed a link on Robert Murphy's blog, and then followed another link, and then somehow I found myself on The Other Side of the Internet. I don't recommend going there often, if at all. Still, "While I'm here," I thought to myself, "I may as well see if I can learn something."

I discovered an article written by one Sophie Gray, who, in an article tellingly entitled "Why I've Stopped Posting Ab Selfies to Social Media," opens with the following:
If you were scrolling through my Instagram account on July 15th you would’ve seen a feed filled with ‘ab selfies’ with comments littered underneath saying how I’m #LIFEGOALS and have the #PERFECTBODY.
Note the link to her Instagram account. We can already tell that this story is about to veer into sadness, but if Sophie can get a few more Instagram followers, then why not, right? She continues:
But if you were my boyfriend on that very same day, you would have seen a very different story. You would have seen a very different version of me. 
You would have been the one by my side as I stood crying in the baggage claim area in the airport. You would have been the one climbing into a rental car and embarking on a 38-hour drive home just because I couldn’t get on our connecting flight home. 
And guess what? My so-called enviable thigh gap and six pack weren’t the reason I wasn’t able to get on the flight.
It was because I had a horrible panic attack on our previous flight and was a total and complete fucking mess.
At this point, the average reader is keen to learn about how the relentless pursuit of physical perfection drove this poor woman into a melt-down. But Sophie never says that. In fact, she never says anything at all about what was behind her panic attack.

Instead, she self-diagnoses as someone who has "anxiety," and provides the unreferenced statistic that "1 in 5 people are living with anxiety." I haven't fact-checked that claim, because it is completely irrelevant. It's irrelevant to my blog post, it's irrelevant to her article, and it's irrelevant to her panic attack.

Sophie uses this statistic to do a quick calculation. She states (audaciously, in bold text) that she has 400,000 followers on Instagram (product placement again), and that this implies that 80,000 of them suffer from anxiety.

To Sophie, this means that 80,000 of her followers are suffering anxiety as a direct result of, or which is seriously aggravated by, her ab selfies. So, for their sake, she's not posting ab selfies anymore.

Well, gosh, I feel better now. Don't you?

It's possible that Sophie's desire to have lots of adulating Instagram followers drove her to a panic attack. It's also possible that her relentless pursuit of a perfect body drove her to a panic attack. And it is certainly believable that the combination of those two activities drove her to a panic attack. But if so, this means that Sophie's anxiety really has nothing to do with her followers. Changing her Instagram behavior might be exactly the right thing to do - for herself. So why does Sophie decide to do it for everyone's sake but hers?

It could be that she's just fishing for positive reinforcement from her nigh-half-a-million fans. Like, she's worried about how a change in behavior will affect her social media presence, so she wants to put the idea out there to them, so that they will say, "Yes! Do it! We support you!" Maybe she just needs that kind of adulation in order to make a positive change in her life.

But notice the difference between earnestly asking for support because you feel unsure of yourself and need to make a change, versus suggesting that it's really your support network who has the real problem, and that you need to make a change for them. Both activities feel like a positive change for the better, but while the former is an acknowledgement of personal weakness and an earnest request for help, the latter is a way of spreading the guilt around.

"I had a panic attack, therefore I'm going to do something so that you don't have one, too."

No, Sophie. You had a panic attack, so you need to make a change in your own behavior to prevent yourself from having another one. I don't know how many people have had panic attacks as a direct result of seeing her Instagram photos, but I suspect the number is much smaller than 80,000 and might even be close to zero.

Of course, Sophie has an incentive to ignore this. The thought that her Instagram followers don't think she's important enough to have driven them into a panic attack is, in essence, a narcissistic injury. It means she isn't as popular and important as she wants to be.

Notice the other ugly thing about this: A woman whose ab selfies are so glorious that they send people into panic attacks is still pretty marvelous, isn't she? So even by swearing-off her selfies she still gets to proclaim her superiority over her followers.

So she covers it with a self-serving story about how her ab selfies are driving anxious fans into panic attacks and that she needs to stop, for their sake.

My prediction: Sophie will stop posting ab selfies but will not stop being anxious.


Democratic Crack-Up Boom

The Washington Post is riffing on a common theme: the plummeting popularity of democracy as a form of government. Most people agree that this is a deleterious trend, and a lot of people have been writing about what it "means."

Before we jump the gun, though, I wanted to consider a possibility that people aren't talking about at all. What if the data isn't telling us what we think it's telling us.

Years ago, I had a friend who told me her mother used to feed her candy made of carob instead of chocolate. But here's the kicker: her mother told her that the candy was chocolate. So, for years, was not particularly fond of "chocolate," because what she thought was "chocolate" was actually carob. When she finally tasted real chocolate for the first time in her life, she loved it. And she's loved it ever since.

Now consider the modern political landscape, where elections seldom result in any kind of measurable change, where the candidates who win the popular votes don't end up in office, where all the real power is had by the bureaucracy, not the elected officials, and where it seems that no matter what the law says, governments mostly just serve their well-connected friends, business partners, and other insiders.

And consider that this landscape is what is known to most people as "democracy." If top-to-bottom corruption, staged elections, media propaganda, and kangaroo courts are what is currently known as "democracy" in this day and age, might young people's opinion of democracy reflect what everyone keeps telling them democracy is?

In other words, isn't it possible that people are losing faith in democracy because our institutions are corrupt and are no longer democratic? Isn't it possible that people now see how ineffectual their system is, and so they are rejecting it, whatever it happens to be called?

I think this is a possibility that ought to be ruled out before we write democracy's obituary.


Getting Fitter

Getting people from fat to fit isn’t even a cottage industry anymore. I’d speculate that it’s a multi-billion-dollar industry that ranges from short workouts of the day, like the ones you’ll find at Darebee.com, to hour-long video workouts like P90X. I just opened the app store  on my phone to discover pages upon pages of reasonably highly rated free fitness apps: Couch-to-5K apps, shortcuts to size, triathlon training, diet logs, and so on, and so forth. You don’t have to look very far to spend hundreds of dollars on fitness stuff faster than you can say “Take my money, you chiseled Adonis!”

Of course, we here at Stationary Waves have long since been of the opinion that, in order to get truly fit, one has to stop beginning and start becoming an intermediate fitness enthusiast. This will help you resist the urge to start over again and again, always from the novice level. This will help you progress to a point where you add a little more to your daily routine – because, after all, your routine is now a daily one. It’s part of your life. You made it! Fitness is a regular part of your life now. You’re no longer one of those people who need to get off the couch.

What you’ll discover at that point is that you’re working out daily, and you still don’t look and feel like Duane Johnson or Gillian Michaels, you still don’t run a sub-3-hour marathon, you still can’t do very many unassisted pull-ups, and the thought of posting “workout videos” on YouTube frightens you. In short, even after you’ve been working out for a long time, you still won’t feel like an expert or a pro. You’ll still feel like a beginner.

I’ve been training hard as a distance runner since my age could be expressed in single-digits – yes, really – and even I still don’t feel like an expert. The truth is, no level of fitness ever feels like enough. There’s always some additional challenge or barrier that you can’t quite achieve, that makes you feel like a complete rookie. So we try harder.

Speaking personally, I work out during my lunch hour at work. Optimistically, you could say I have 60 minutes with which to get a great workout in – and for the last several months or years I’ve been doing just that. But lately I’ve noticed something: in order to get fitter than I am today, I need more than 60 minutes.

Now, this makes perfect sense. After you’ve conditioned yourself to an hour a day, the only way to get a better workout is to either go harder for the full hour, or stack on more time. Frankly, I’m not sure I could go much harder for my daily hour. I want to be fitter – I need another hour.

And so I continue to flirt with my on-again, off-again relationship to twice-daily workouts. I know I need them, but they’re hard. They’re hard to do, physically, and they’re hard for a diabetic like me to figure out. They’re hard to keep up in light of all my other responsibilities in life. They’re just hard. I try it, I fail, and I give up.

But, darn it, I keep trying. Maybe this time’s my chance.


Concert Review: The Aristocrats (Dallas 11/29/2016)

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending The Aristocrats’ final concert data in support of their third album, Tres Caballeros.

Dedicated readers will note that this was my second Aristocrats concert. The first occurred way back in August of 2013. By now, August 2013 seems like a world away. My daughter hadn’t been born yet; in fact, she hadn’t even been conceived. The band was touring in support of their second album. I hadn’t yet warmed up to Guthrie Govan’s playing style. In fact, here’s what I charitably wrote at the time:
The promise of guitar virtuosity was immediately fulfilled. Govan played a Charvel and a Suhr; his tone was delicious, his hair flowing in the steamy Texas heat as he shredded his way into the heart that beatin [sic] frantically against the inside of every Dream Theater t-shirt in the building. YouTube doesn't lie; the guy was phenomenal...
 But by the end of the very first song, it was obvious that this show was to be the Beller/Minnemann extravaganza.
It was interesting for me to go back and re-read that concert review, not only to remind myself of how much I’ve grown to enjoy Govan’s playing, but also to compare my early impressions of the band to what they have become over the ensuing years.

They have kept up a grueling tour schedule, not only as a band, but also in support of other musicians. Most recently, they’ve toured Europe, Asia, and Latin America. By all accounts, the tour has been a success, and I can only assume this means that the Tres Caballeros album has been a success, too.

I mention their success because my first exposure to Bryan Beller was when he was playing with an obscure Dweezil Zappa band back in the 90s, and the first time I saw him in concert was when he played a clinic at a local guitar store when I was a kid. I’ve essentially watched him go from being an obscure nobody to being a member of one of the most exciting instrumental groups on the scene, with a fan base large enough to support three studio albums, various live releases, and a worldwide touring schedule.

This is pertinent to last night’s concert. Last night, I didn’t see a band featuring the bassist of an obscure band I liked in high school. I didn’t see that band with the internet guitar guru with lots of hair. I didn’t see a struggling jazz combo trying to scrape together a living playing the darkened corners of the prog rock scene. No, I saw a fully-formed, popular, well-heeled instrumental rock outfit at the top of a game that has brought them to significant heights. The played like the world-class music act that they are today.

This wasn’t true back in 2013. Don’t get me wrong, they were still phenomenal back then. But their set reflected their comparatively lower standing. For one thing, tickets were dirt cheap and they played in a dirty bar back then; this time around, tickets were in line with what you’d expect, and the venue was wonderful. For another thing, back in 2013, the band had a certain comedic charm that permeated the entire set list, injecting each song with a zany-but-creative spirit that felt intimate and small. It was almost as if we, the audience, were included in an exciting jam session held by great musicians, which is not far off from the reality of that concert.

But today – oh, today! – the difference was palpable. The core character of the band, that humorously flavored instrumental prog-rock/jazz blend they serve to their audience, is still what it always was. But the command with which they deliver it has changed. There is confidence. There is self-awareness. The band plays like they know the audience loves them. And we do.

So what does this mean, really? Well, first of all their chops, if you can imagine it, have improved. I don’t just mean that the band seemed tight. I mean that they’re playing at a level that I’m not sure any player can compete with. Each player individually delivers such an intense onslaught of virtuosity that it can be overwhelming when they all improvise something equally godlike at exactly the same moment.

Govan seems to have lost some of the self-consciousness I felt he had the first time around, and now commands the stage like the guitar god he is, effortlessly communicating with the audience while throwing down whatever the Muse moves him to play.

Bryan Beller doesn’t hesitate to solo. You have to understand that there is an old clip floating around on YouTube somewhere in which Beller takes a “rare” bass solo during a Mike Keneally & Beer for Dolfins concert. When he’s finished, Mike Keneally steps to the microphone and promptly acknowledges that the audience has just seen something that almost never happens. The solo is good, but restrained. I wonder how the modern-day Bryan Beller would react to seeing that video today. He’s become a god of bass guitar, and his solos, along with the rest of his playing, are phenomenal, confident, brilliant, musical, and certainly unrestrained.

Drummer Marco Minnemann also seems to have undergone a remarkable change. When I saw him in 2013, he played with a certain playful zaniness. His wonderful sense of humor is still there, but his playing now seems much more forceful – perhaps because he’s playing more technically now (maybe it’s just my ears?), or perhaps because he, like Govan, has grown into his role as a member of a world-class, exciting musical ensemble on par with the best of the best. He has nothing left to convince us of anymore, in terms of proving his worth. Now he just gets to play for us, so that’s what it seems that he does, and wonderfully so.

Conspicuously missing from the concert: the pigs. They brought out their trademark squeaky toys at a couple of moments, but for the most part stuck to their instruments. The squeaky toys were a great and important component of their old set, but the band played so well on their actual instruments that I hardly missed them. This, too, is demonstrative of their overall increased degree of polish.

The band played for perhaps two and half hours, so it was a long concert full of everyone’s favorite Aristocrats songs. By the end of the night, I loved them more than I already did, which was nice. So, for me, this new, glossy, world-class version of The Aristocrats is a wonderful development, and I can’t wait to see where the band goes next. It was a great concert.


The Left's Weird Special Language

Consent is mediated by power differentials along structural, informal, social, physical, intellectual, and other forces in clearly discernable ways. For grotesque example, if someone has power over one’s potential career trajectory, there is an incentive to feign consent to that person’s wishes, even if they do not explicitly leverage it in any way. The power is embedded even if it’s never spoken. This example is illustrative of the way that power interacts with all of our interactions and agreements, extending to more subtle and also non-sexual contexts as well.
What on Earth does this mean?

But there it is, an excerpt from this blog post, linked to by a social media friend of mine. As far as I can tell, the blog post aims to describe group dynamics within a particular set of social groups called "radical communities." The moral of the story seems to be that, despite the aim of most of these groups to promote equality of human worth, "power differentials" - i.e. informal social hierarchies - still exist within them.

On its own, this is a fairly vapid point. Human beings have hierarchical tendencies. What's interesting, though, is its peculiar terminology, which the author jam-packs into each and every sentence. It's as though the author of that blog post is writing in a foreign language.

Consider the first six words of the above excerpt: "Consent is mediated by power differentials." In that phrase, there is one "be" verb, one preposition, and three pieces of mindless jargon. As far as the average person is concerned, an equally intelligible phrase is: "Blargh is fruxled by glogg peqrum." It has the look and feel of an English language sentence, but without any insight into what "blargh" and "fruxled" and "glogg" and "peqrum" mean, it is mostly just a collection of nonsense.

So, for the uninitiated, let me attempt a translation:

  1. Consent: The act of stating that one's participation in a situation is voluntary and ongoing. When this word is used within "radical communities," it usually has a sexual connotation, i.e. giving consent is making it explicitly clear to others that one's participation the ensuing sexual encounter is voluntary and welcome.
  2. Mediated: I actually had to look this one up. Mediated ordinarily means helping to resolve a dispute between two parties. But not in this case. In this case, mediated means to bring about
  3. Power Differentials: This grandiose-sounding phrase simply means that the people in a social situation have a different status within the social hierarchy. There is a "power differential," for example, between a father and a son, although describing such a relationship in terms of its "power differential" feels like a bizarre concept to most people I know.
Putting it all together, we get this: Voluntary participation is brought about by the fact that some people have greater status than others.

That makes more sense, but now we have a new problem. The argument made in the blog post is that it's difficult for people to give valid consent in situations where "power differentials" undermine the less-powerful person's autonomy. This phrase, once translated, now means the opposite of what was intended. It says that consent is brought about by these power differentials. The author wants to say that consent happens easiest when people don't feel second-rate; what the author actually said was that their consent is brought about by the very fact that they are second-rate. Oops.

The author can be forgiven for making a little mistake with his/her terminology. In fact, any normal person out there would find it totally understandable to get lost in this thick, opaque jargon. But the author doesn't need to be forgiven because everyone within his/her intended audience knew exactly what he/she meant. It's only the rest of us who didn't get it.

This brings me to the point of my post today: There is a foreign language emerging among leftists that is utterly senseless to outsiders, which nonetheless dictates everything about their world view. Everything, right down to their ability to participate in a conversation voluntarily.

*        *        *

The media keeps trying to tell us that the current state of American politics has been brought about by the fact that social media enables us to spend all of our media-consuming time inside an echo chamber. We only hear ideas and opinions with which we agree, we never question our own side, and we certainly never fact-check it. 

But of course the media would say this: They want us to consume more media. We're already so saturated by our own echo chamber that we have no time for anyone else's echo chamber. How can the media get us clicking on more articles? By telling us that we need to consume more media in order to save America! That's not going to work. We won't be able to click our way out of this.

You can't learn Spanish by deciding one day to read a few Spanish-language articles every morning at breakfast, in addition to reading the newspaper. If you already know Spanish, then reading those articles might do you some good, but if don't know it at all, no amount of exposure to language is going to teach it to you. You need some means of determining the definition of words in order to practice understanding those words. That's why we start with elementary concepts when we learn a foreign language, and gradually build up to reading or watching the news.

Think about the implications here. The left is notorious for calling those who disagree with them "ignorant" and for pointing to shortcomings in the education system. This is no mere coincidence. It's not that non-leftists are uneducated fools, it's that they don't even understand the basics of the conversations the left has with itself. How on earth could a farmer in Middle America participate in a conversation about how to "mediate" "power differentials" in order to "empower" "consent?" The farmer isn't ignorant and he isn't a moron. The left is speaking a foreign language that means nothing to him. He doesn't understand it. He's had no exposure to it. He doesn't attend those kinds of schools, and even if he did, he would be more apt to study business, or agricultural science, or engineering, or any of the various other disciplines that do not ever use the new special leftist language. 

Just because someone doesn't know what you're talking about doesn't mean they have a problem.

It works the other way, too. This is made obvious by Middle America's perception of hipster beards:

Growing a beard is a very clear signal in Middle America. Most often, it means that you're preparing to go hunting, i.e. shooting live, wild animals with a gun or a bow-and-arrow. And most often this involves camping, which involves digging trenches and building fires and using tools and... changing a tire. In Middle America, wearing a beard is a signal of the most important aspects of manhood within that community. It's a symbol of having a certain amount of practical know-how that enables people to rely on you to get certain things done. Important things. Things you can't necessarily just call a serviceman to perform. 

But when a man in Middle America sees a hipster, basically the opposite of bearded Middle American, wearing this symbol, his reaction is to laugh at the hipster for all the same reasons: The hipster doesn't know how to change a tire, i.e. isn't educated. The hipster is the Middle American's version of a moron, someone who doesn't get even the most basic concepts.

To use the insufferable language of the leftist community, hipster beards are cultural appropriation, and distinctive cultures don't like to have their treasured symbols undermined and "subverted" through a condescending irony.

This is a valid perspective that any leftist can recognize when it occurs to any other group of people. But because this particular group disagrees with a lot of leftist public policy, the left satisfies itself by denigrating a legitimate response to actual cultural appropriation as "male fragility."

Can you imagine the audacity of having concocted an internally consistent, but highly exclusionary and - dare I say it? - marginalizing language that even has a special term for negating the criticism of the very people being marginalized? But what am I asking? Of course the left can imagine this. This is one of the core tenets of the belief system their special language is designed to describe.

*        *        *

The weird, special language of the left is a uniquely important problem here, because there are legitimate criticisms to be made about the way society operates - yes, including in those small Middle American towns where the word "beard" does not imply anything about a person's sexuality. 

The problem is two-fold. 

First, you can't slander someone and then ask them to be nice. You can't make fun of guys for going hunting and drinking Coors Lite and watching football and stuff on the one hand, and then on the other hand expect them to be receptive to a criticism of the way their society behaves. You can either make fun of people and be rude to them, or you can help them change in ways they are comfortable with. You can't do both. That's just basic common decency.

Second, you can't convince an English-speaker to have a change of heart by speaking to them in a language they've never heard before, including Chinese, Vietnamese, Gaelic, or the left's weird, special language. Despite everyone's best intentions you just simply won't be understood.

This second problem is proving to be really hard for the left. They can't seem to separate the important principles of their world-view from the weird, special language used to describe those principles. It becomes something of an existential struggle: If you try to describe equal rights for women without using the word "feminism," then leftists become incensed. "We need feminism!" Fine, but how are you going to convince people whose only exposure to that term has been a decided rejection of everything they happen to love about the women in their lives, who cook, clean, stay home, have kids, and don't necessarily get a college education? What will you say to people who don't understand your weird, special language?

And so, instead, the left too often descends into the first problem: insulting and condescending to the "rural" people who disagree with them. It's hard to make a persuasive case to someone from what we now recognize is a completely different culture, but it's easy to make fun of them for being foreigners. Ordinarily, the left understands this. But just try to get them to admit it if the "foreigner"  happens to be white, or male, or Christian.

I don't doubt that these whites and Christians and males are privileged groups. But you still need to talk to them


Psychological Rejection And The Election

This is a blog post for two of my friends.

The thinkpiece-writing world continues to struggle in vain for viable explanations of the Trump "phenomenon."

My preferred explanation that a popular television personality won an election by telling a lot of people what they wanted to hear. It's not even an American precedent. Remember Ronald Reagan? Remember Arnold Schwarzenegger? Al Frankin? We don't need a more complicated explanation for Trump "ism" than that. People got tired of voting for shysters in suits, even pantsuits, and decided to go for a TV personality instead. Plus ├ža change, plus c'est la meme chose.

But the explanations continue.

One of the more interesting explanations I've read about - from folks like Jeffrey Tucker, for example - is that the voting public rejected a Hillary Clinton presidency, along with everything that represents. The argument is that Clinton was the worst kind of Washington insider: secretive, cronyish, corrupt, and motivated more by her own private financial interests than by a desire to serve the public. She was said to have been cavalier about toppling Middle East dictators and plunging innocent people into failed states. She help the US government sell white phosphorus to Saudi Arabia, which it later weaponized and used in its campaign against Yemeni factions. She was, in short, the worst kind of Washington insider we could ever imagine electing. Or at least, that's how the argument goes.

For the record, given the small margins by which US presidential candidates typically win popular votes, I think this case is grossly over-stated. But it is a compelling story, at least.

In light of this concept, I started thinking about the reactions we've observed from people who worry about a Trump presidency. Yes, there are the protests and the occasional riot, but those are less significant to me than the tears, the candlelight vigils, the deep sorrow and pain that some feel at the prospect of a Trump presidency. There have been many credible reports of people in the transsexual community contemplating suicide. Children of racial minorities have reportedly been in tears, worried that the storm troopers will come for them, or for their parents.

One of the reasons I think we've seen this reaction is that, for many people on the left, rejecting a Trump presidency would have been the same kind of repudiation of a set of ideas that Tucker and others talk about when they say voters rejected Clintonism. Think about it: if your highest ideals involve racial and cultural inclusion, and kind and gentle speech, and a commitment to the idea that "rhetoric matters," then the 2016 election might have represented an important opportunity to reject the kind of racist thuggery that many of us believe has dominated American politics for a long time.

It's understandable, then, that such people would react as they have. Their opportunity for transcendence suffered a total defeat. And it was, make no mistake, a religious belief that they held, dressed up in all the same language and motives.

Well, they wanted a moment of transcendence, and they lost it. I don't think we should revel in their misery. I don't think we should dismiss their concerns or roll our eyes or turn it all into a meme, and the reason I think so is because tomorrow it will happen to us, whoever "us" is.

I'm an individualist, which means nobody agrees with me, and this sort of systemic moral failure happens to me literally every time there's an election. It's old hat to me. The faith some of these left-leaning people have in government has been lost to me for years, decades. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we were all less collectivist, less enthralled by identity politics, less narcissistic, less unkind, more open to hearing new ideas, more receptive to criticism, less inclined to reach for a Big Stick when someone stands athwart of our objectives? Wouldn't the world be terrific if it were a completely different place?

This is the sort of false hope that arises when people lack a true religion, and probably explains why I get along better with social conservatives than I do with social liberals, even though I am more inclined to agree with social liberals. Religious people already accept that humans are sinners and that the only way we'll experience Paradise is if the big man upstairs decides to extend us an invitation. Another way of putting this, in Lacanian language, is that social conservatives are better equipped to deal with lack.

Social liberals, by contrast, tend to be secular people whose only hope of experiencing a better world is to make it happen in the here and now. I sympathize with them, but they're doomed to be disappointed for their whole lives because they've failed to absorb Lacan. They can't deal with lack. When a person like Trump wins an election, it's a terrifying and humiliating defeat, an interruption in the great course of Progress, which they hope will lead them to Paradise.

It is a silly vision. And if you're an atheist like me, you're inclined to disbelieve liberal transcendence for the same reason you disbelieve the Judeo-Christian world-view: It's a nice story, but it ain't gonna happen.

At least the conservatives have their faith, though, and that helps them through the rough times.


What Do We Tell The Children?

A number of people have asked me privately what we should tell our children about the fact that Donald Trump is now the president-elect. This question seems to presuppose that children are waiting for us to explain something. They’re not. As difficult as it might be for some of us to understand, children really care very little about politics. Any attempt you make to provide an “explanation” for the outcome of an election, beyond the mere fact that more people voted for X than for Y, is an attempt to indoctrinate your kids. Don’t do that.

In a recent article in The New York Post, Karol Markcowicz writes:
Dr. Jonathan Friedman, director of psychology with The COR Group, advises, “Parents should make every effort to shield their children from the vitriol and mudslinging of politics, particularly during a campaign as divisive, salacious and ugly as this one has been.”

Amazing that this has to be said.

It’s hard to totally shield our kids from politics’ ugly side, but we certainly shouldn’t be the one emphasizing it to them to make our own political point. Friedman says “rather than communicating harshly about those with whom they may vehemently disagree, they can instead emphasize the importance of everyone having a right to express their opinion through their vote, and how sacred this right is to us all.”
Children need to be reassured and protected. If you’re wondering what to say to reassure them and protect them from the current political climate, then maybe you need to ask yourself why your children are already so invested in politics in the first place.

This is a particularly important message for those friends of mine who are teachers as well as parents. As teachers, we are entrusting you to present school curricula to our children. That’s it. We don’t need you to be friends with them. We don’t need you to provide them with a moral framework (that’s our job as parents). We certainly don’t need you to arbitrate the outcome of an election. We don’t need you to go out of your way to explain something to them just because they asked. A mature person in an influential teaching role ought to be able to say, “Most of us adults struggle to find rationality in politics; it is understandable that you kids are having a hard time. The truth is, you may never figure it out for as long as you live. The best we can do is wait and see what happens. If you have more questions, I encourage you to talk this over with your parents.”

Children don’t think the way adults do. To us, an election is about competing ideologies. We think that people voted for Trump because those people are racist idiots. Or we think people voted for Trump because the liberal elites aren’t listening to them. Or we think that Wikileaks and the FBI engaged in a conspiracy to topple Clinton. This is nuts. Ask yourself: do you really want your child to think like that? They are living comparatively idyllic lives. True, many of them will have to face discrimination, and many of them are dealing with it now. Do you really think you’ll be able to explain the eons-old faults of the human condition to them in the context of a single US presidential election? Please…

I don’t think people are truly looking for an explanation to give to the children. I think they are looking for an explanation to give to themselves. That’s perfectly understandable, but it’s important to remember that, and to avoid drawing our children into our own personal existential crises. That causes harm to them. They deserve better from us. We have to think through the complexities of the world on our own time, away from our children. Anything less puts them at risk.

The existential considerations we ought to be thinking about are incredibly important. I encourage everyone to please think them through. But if you’re not there, if you’re still struggling to make sense of it all, what makes you qualified to deliver a message about world politics to impressionable young children?

What should we tell our children? We should tell them, “I love you. Please don’t worry too much about these things. Please treat other people with kindness and respect. Please go outside and have some fun.”