Archive for the ‘jeremy styron’ tag
I am continuously looking for ways to improve the site and make it more usable and accessible for readers. As such, I’ve recently added a few upgrades.
First, readers will notice that I’ve added a “Related post” plugin, which, when you click on an individual post, the right sidebar will show other posts on related topics.
Also, I’ve added a footnotes plugin that will eliminate the need to continuously name the source in the actual text. Referenced sources will now appear at the bottom of each post, and they will be numbered inside the text, as per any nonfiction book or essay.
The largest change I’ve made is adding the IntenseDebate plugin, which makes commenting on posts easier and more hands-on. I attempted to add this plugin on an earlier version of WordPress, and apparently the two weren’t quite ready to meet face-to-face, and adding the plugin drastically changed the look of the site. Now, things seem to be running smoothly.
So, by all means, feel free to comment and engage in the conversation, and I will do the same. All comments are approved so long as they are not spam, potentially libelous or racist in nature.
I also touched on this here, but for those who may be interested or curious, here is the passage from which the “Our Daily Train” portion of my blog gets its name. It is the portion in John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” in which Satan is tempting Eve in the garden. In this passage, Satan, the serpent, has “glozed,” or flattered Eve in his temptation of her.
As it turns out, I came to love the eloquent writing and utter weightiness of Milton’s epic poem while at Clemson University as part of Lee Morrissey’s flock of enrapt literature students. He has subsequently become the chair of the department at the university, and good for him. Here is the excerpt, but I would encourage one to at least read Book IX, or if one prefers, and more enriching, the entire poem (The final portion of the passage demanded my attention so much that I highlighted those three words in my copy of “John Milton: A Critical Edition of the Major Works” [See picture]):
His fraudulent temptation thus began.
Wonder not, sovran Mistress, if perhaps
Thou canst, who art sole Wonder, much less arm
Thy looks, the Heav’n of mildness, with disdain,
Displeas’d that I approach thee thus, and gaze [ 535 ]
Insatiate, I thus single, nor have feard
Thy awful brow, more awful thus retir’d.
Fairest resemblance of thy Maker faire,
Thee all things living gaze on, all things thine
By gift, and thy Celestial Beautie adore [ 540 ]
With ravishment beheld, there best beheld
Where universally admir’d; but here
In this enclosure wild, these Beasts among,
Beholders rude, and shallow to discerne
Half what in thee is fair, one man except, [ 545 ]
Who sees thee? (and what is one?) who shouldst be seen
A Goddess among Gods, ador’d and serv’d
By Angels numberless, thy daily Train.
After a short layoff, let me continue to address the interesting question posed by this blogger about the role of government in the various issues of the day. Here, I will take abortion.
This issue touches on one important irony in political thinking in America. While the Democrats have long been proponents of professionally performed abortion, at least to some degree, since the landmark Roe vs. Wade case, Republicans have largely been against it, no matter if it’s days right after conception or into the third trimester. The irony, of course, is that many Republicans play the small government card when speaking on certain issues (gun control, deregulation of banks, for examples) and the large government card on social issues, like abortion and gay rights. So, which is it? Is the Republican Party generally for less government or not?
But back on point, the Constitution, obviously, has nothing to say specifically on abortion, but as it turns out, James Wilson, one of the founders said, if but briefly:
With consistency, beautiful and undeviating, human life, from its commencement to its close, is protected by the common law. In the contemplation of law, life begins when the infant is first able to stir in the womb. By the law, life is protected not only from immediate destruction, but from every degree of actual violence, and, in some cases, from every degree of danger. — “Of the Natural Rights of Individuals”
The hinge word in the above quote would be “stir,” which is was likely pulled directly from English common law of the same time. Do embryos “stir.” I don’t think so. Wilson probably meant before the mother began feeling signs the baby was moving inside. The English government allowed abortions for a time during this period before the embryo “quickened,” which I take to mean before it ceased being a clump of cells and began taking on a human form in the womb. Or, perhaps, this definition was similar to Wilson’s. Eighteenth-century folk, steeped in centuries of religious tradition and an infantile scientific one, had no better way to tell when embyros began taking on more humanlike forms, other than when the mother started to feel it.
So, three periods of pregnancies, not available to our founders, must be addressed when looking at this issue: early-term abortions (months one-three), mid-term (months four-six) and late-term (months six-nine).
Of the first term, there’s no doubt that the fetus begins to develop human-like traits well into the first period. But in the first days, when women usually find out they are pregnant and realize they either can’t afford a child, or another one, they hopefully decide to seek medical care at that point if they don’t want to, or can’t, go through with the process. At this point in the pregnancy, early in the first term, you are talking about aborting a group of cells. A three-day old embryo is a blastocyte consisting of 150 cells that, indeed, are more than 100,000 cells fewer than what is contained in just the brain of a fly. Do human blastocysts have brains or souls? Can they feel pain? No. The moment of conception is not the point at which a group of cells (which of the 150 cells would the soul belong to?) receives a soul, if those exist, despite what some have been told or believe. As Sam Harris rightly notes, when you scratch your head, you just laid to waste a thousands of potential cells that could have produced life, just like the blastocyst.
(As a side note, opponents of stem cell research have done much harm in their stupified and unlearned attempts to stifle research of this kind, which could help those suffering today and now be alleviated from symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, diabetes and a host of others. It’s egregious and immoral that some often favor the well-being of undifferentiated cells to actual living, breathing, suffering human beings.)
It’s usually not until the second month when this group of cells begin forming something resembling hands and a bodily form. It can be argued that embryos become “human” when they develop a brain (or maybe a heart in the second trimester). That’s fair. But in these last two developmental stages, abortion remains a viable option in the case of rape or likely malformation. I don’t know that I would go further than that, however. An abortion in the second or third trimesters purely for convenience, I believe I would stand against, without contemplating the thought of whether or not there was a soul in the child, and citing ethical responsibility on the part of the parents.
The abortion question also begs another: What about miscarriages? Miscarriages present another problem, at least from arguments of faith. If God is in complete control, he has the distinct power to “bless” the parents with a healthy birth, and he also has the power to see that the baby is born healthy, or not. He also has the power to govern over the entire delivery process. It’s plain as day: if God hasn’t this power, and stands by while a fetus with a supposed soul is miscarried (we call it abortion if done by doctors), he’s not omnipotent. One could argue, from faith, that miscarriages are one of the results of living in a fallen world, but does God have complete control or not? I’ve heard it claimed he does many times, but if he does, he’s got an odd way of showing it. Thus, we say he moves in “mysterious” ways to give a non-answer to questions like this and to dodge the simple logic of it: he’s either in complete control and in complete awareness of the millions lost, or he’s not.
In response to a reader request, I have added a plugin to this site which will allow you to receive an e-mail notification if someone replies to one of your comments. As you see, the “subscription” via e-mail is already available for the site from the link in the top right portion of the page, just below the Technorati link. But to receive a notification about a specific comment, simply click the box below your comment.
As always, thanks for reading!
The following is authored by my friend, Corey Rotella, of Wilmington, N.C., (once a resident of my hometown, Greenwood, S.C.) in which she outlines her struggle with alcohol addiction, subsequent AA meetings and her better life outside the bottle:
By Corey Rotella
And so it begins … the unwinnable battle with the alarm clock. I hit the snooze button one more time, debating whether 10 more minutes of sleep was worth it. Finally, I muster up the energy to swing my legs around and hop down from the top bunk. I guess I should clarify, at this point, that I am not a 10-year-old kid, but a 32-year-old woman (although this is, admittedly, debatable).
I try not to wake my roomates as I stumble clumsily into the bathroom. I wonder if Congress will ever consider passing a law forbidding people to work before dawn. Doubtful. Oh well, at least I’ll get to see the sunrise. That’s something for which to be grateful. Gratitude is very big in recovery. It’s the alcoholic, and it’s addicts’ chemotherapy. All these thoughts filter through my mind as I brush my teeth. I throw on my life-affirming Charlie Brown scrubs and make my way to the kitchen for a cup of joe and some much-needed nicotine (two more items to put on my gratitude list). Meditation time. Time to embrace my inner zen. This is a work in progress. My mind and serenity go together as naturally as Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Pressley, but I do my best.
I live in a recovery house. This is not as glamorous as it sounds: five emotionally fragile women living under one roof and sharing two bathrooms. My best friend here has been here the longest and is the house manager. She somehow manages to deal with all our bullshit, work a full-time job and go to school without messing up her hair or chipping a nail. Now that’s talent. It’s not always a pretty life, but it’s very rarely boring.
I work in an assisted-living facility that will remain nameless to protect the innocent as well as my job. Officially, my job title is personal-care assistant, but due to my blatant inability to say, ‘No,’ sometimes I’m a housekeeper, sometimes I sit with residents in the doctor’s office, sometimes I’m in laundry and sometimes I’m the resident toilet plunger. The sanest thing about the facility are the residents, and some of them are diagnosed schizophrenics. I’d thought I’d seen it all in my 10 years of active addiction, but I was mistaken. Life is just as bizarre when I’m sober. The fire alarm randomly goes off, and we have to evacuate 70 people, some with severe cases of dementia – no easy task – and the whole place is run by a 24-year-old, who is probably still doing keg stands at sorority parties. That being said, I love my job. I get to leave work exhausted in a good way. I have the privlidge of being in these people’s lives, and when I leave for the day, I may be messy and frustrated, but I’m also fulfilled.
So how does a girl, who hid for years in the back bedroom of her grandmother’s house drinking cheap vodka and watching bad TV, who was shot at looking for crack in a shady neighborhood at 4 in the morning, who was also arrested for being an accessory to shop lifting (I was a get-away driver, a different story for another time) now have an interesting, frustrating, bizarre, fulfilling, confusing, fun, sometimes, lonely, but always sober life?
Well, there’s no easy answer, or I’d be making the talk show circuit. I come home from work to whatever drama is going on at home: who’s eating who’s food, who hasn’t done their chores, yada yada yada, which, in turn, makes my small, annoying headache become a brain-buster.
Whining in my head is one step away from whining out loud, and I’m not about to take a trip to self-pitysville: population one. I know too well where that road leads, and really, I have nothing to be upset about. I have a job I love that never bores me. I’ve been reintroduced to my sense of humor, and I am learning not to be afraid of hope. Don’t get me wrong. I still have my shitty days, where I freefall through fear, loneliness and anxiety (my nuerotic suit of armor, and man, is it heavy.) That’s OK though because the house I live in, all the women in it, and all the people currently in my life, act as a safety net, a trampoline, and that makes free-falling a little less scary.
Time to call my sponser, Linda. What can I say about Linda? She has a lot of sobriety, and it’s good sobriety. There is a difference. I learned that in my first few meetings. She is smart, funny, down to earth, unpretentious and human. There are a lot of reasons that I like her as a friend, but my reason for loving her as a sponser is a selfish one. She makes me stop apologizing for being who I am and does not try to force me into a box. God, Buddha, Muhammad, Gus … whatever artist created this abstract painting called life put her in mine, and for that, I will be eternally grateful because without her, I would still be in that back bedroom, drinking, God knows what, and hoping it’s not poison. I was a coward. But not today.
I tell Linda that I’m feeling good, and I’m going to my home group and everything’s groovy. It really is. I don’t even have to convince myself. Somedays are easier than others. Reaching out is my home group, and it is my idea of Utopia. Black people, white people, young people and old-timers all getting together to talk about our joy and triumphs and pain and loss, the extraordinary and the mundane and how we deal with all of this without the use of alcohol. As crippling as alcoholism is, I sometimes wonder if it isn’t my greatest blessing. Where else can you find such a cross section of society working toward a common goal?
When I arrive at the meeting, I see the usual crowd. Bonnie, impeccably dressed as usual, Ammie, my big-hearted, enthusiastic Republican friend (Come on, everybody has one), Sydney, a spiritual, funny guy with his wife, Kathleen, and Sandi, whose sardonic wit would make Dick Cheney laugh, with all standing around smoking and chatting and laughing. There’s a good crowd tonight, and I remind myself to listen to what people share and do my best not to let my mind wander. If I share, I try not to pick apart what I say and critique the meeting like the Siskel and Ebert of AA. Some days, I’m better at this than others.
After the meeting, I go home and take a hot shower and wash away the negative and focus on the positive. I change into my pajama bottoms and my ninja monkey T-shirt (ninja monkey T-shirts promote good dreams) and climb back onto my top bunk. I think about my life now and breathe a sigh of relief tinged with a little fear. A few good people, a little faith and a series of seemingly unfortunate events led me out of that back room and into my life. I have work to do, amends to make and people, including myself, to heal. So much change is exciting and terrifying, at times, but life’s a balance. I’ve come to believe that those of us who have such depths of emotional pain have an equal capacity for joy, and I would rather live life on life’s terms than exist on my own. I close my eyes and say, ‘Thank you and goodnight to God, Buddha, Mohammad, Gus,’ … whoever created this crazy mosaic that is my life. I’ll sleep well tonight. Tomorrow a new adventure begins.
For the first 30 days or so of recovery, I thought the work involved was simply not drinking. Every conflict, triumph, mini-crisis and bad hair day I faced, I chose to deal with soberly. Of course, this was not without its drama.
“To drink or not to drink, that is the question.” Whether it is nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune …” The lights were up on the stage in my mind, and anytime I faced any emotion without the help of liquid courage with it’s comforting numbness, I was more than happy to take a bow for an audience of one, namely, myself. Little did I know that putting down the booze was merely the interview process in this job called life. There are no days off.
For me, it is absolutely necessary to know why I want to remain sober. Avoiding jails, institutions and death is a great fringe benefit, but it is not enough to keep me sane. Why? Because, without purpose, living sober is more frightening than death. I’ve tried to quit drinking to avoid the consequences of my actions to no avail, so it is time to change my perception.
In order to understand where all this Yoda-like enlightenment came from, I have to go back a-ways. I found myself in treatment, after calling the police to help me get my car out of a ditch that I drove into … while drunk with an open container of vodka in my car. Needless to say, that offense landed me in jail again. Ironically, I was in a community theater production at the time with two defense attorneys, the town magistrate and a judge. No one said that God doesn’t have a sense of humor. Anyway, that was how I wound up at Hope Valley treatment center. I went there with the vague notion that I didn’t want to wallow in the futility of life anymore. I didn’t want to hide from everything and everyone anymore. I didn’t want to hide from myself. These were vague, abstract thoughts that were shrouded in fear, and they were nothing more than notions that floated through the back of my mind. It wasn’t until I was there a few days that I had, what they call, a moment of clarity (Yes, they do exist, and I was a skeptic, so trust me). I was standing on the porch of the treatment house not thinking of anything in particular, when I was struck by a feeling of such hope and love that I was filled completely. It was the feeling that I would get every spring when I was a kid, only much more intense, and it was in that moment that I decided that if a 100 percent effort could keep me sober, than I was willing to try my best. This was a huge deal for me, since I have never tried my best at anything in my life to that point. That moment is one of the few events in my life that I do not analyze; I just accept it because it gave me my hope back and therefore it gave me a life.
So for the rest of the day I was happy; genuinely happy, which is not something I had felt in a long time. Happiness, though, comes with its own special brand of anxiety. Joy, like all emotions, is fleeting, so, rather than go with the flow and enjoy the moment I was worrying about when it was going to end and how I was going to screw it up. That’s insanity, but I didn’t know how else to be.
What I had when I left treatment was determination, hope, a ton of information about alcoholism, and a bed in a recovery house. It was enough. After years of drinking and hiding and watching Dr. Phil, I probably would have gone into sensory overload if I had anymore on my plate when I was introduced to reality.
I was told to go to meetings, and I went, willingly enough. A lot of people I know in the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymus will tell you that their first reaction to meetings and the people was based in anger. Anger that they had to be there, anger that they couldn’t drink and anger that they were surrounded by welcoming, happy people who would smilingly call them on their bullshit. I wasn’t angry when I first started attending meetings. I was dubious. While I appreciated the smiles and the welcoming vibe I felt in the rooms, it all seemed a little too “Kumbaya” to me. Even as I heard parts of my own life story being told by others, who have had similar experiences, I was skeptical. The idea of following what I considered to be rules barely disguised as suggestions did not particularly appeal to me. I thought admitting powerlessness was a way of avoiding responsibility, and that made no sense to me because I did that for 10 years in my active addictions. All the talk of God made me uncomfortable. It seemed a little cult-like.
The truth of the matter was that I was afraid of the unknown. As pathetic and weak as I felt in the alcoholic haze that had been my life for the past 10 years, at least I knew what to expect. It was familiar. There’s a certain amount of comfort in familiarity, no matter how masochistic it may be.
Fear or no fear, I made myself a promise that I intended to keep … a 100 percent effort. I knew that if I wanted to stay out of that back bedroom, I was going to have to readjust my thinking. So I began to listen, to really listen in the meetings. I realized that AA is a truly successful democracy and everyone has a voice. Admitting powerlessness does not negate accountability. Rather, it makes us focus on the only thing I have control over: my own behavior. Those “suggestions” my sponser gave me are not only designed to help me stop drinking, but also to teach me how to be a decent human being. The program embraces empathy and love, healing and hope, and it does not discriminate. It is because of this that millions of people, myself included, have discovered that we don’t have to face recovery alone.
I say “face recovery” because my real work began after I had around 30 days of sobriety under my belt. The fog cleared enough for me to feel emotions that I had long buried. Years before, I picked up my first drink. I used to visualize putting whatever negative emotion I was feeling in a big, black chest, chaining it and dropping it down a very deep well. I felt everything so intensely: joy, pain, fear, loneliness. As a child, I wanted so badly to be an adult because I thought they didn’t feel pain since I never saw them cry. I had definate fears of abandonment. I wanted to be “good” but never felt that I measuered up. At 19, I got drunk for the first time. I remember looking in the mirror and thinking, “So, this is what it feels like.”
In my early twenties, alcohol was helping me cope. By my late 20s, I was trying to cope with alcohol. By the time I got into treatment, I had lost the only thing of value I have ever had: myself. Alcoholism and addiction had taken me down dark and twisted roads into a barren, apathetic, deadly hell of my own design. I’ve taken the leap of faith necessary for my sobriety. No one tells me what to believe. I am only asked to believe in something greater than myself. I can do that.
Without alcohol, I am forced to face my fears, pain and anger head on. That’s OK because wherever I’m headed is better than where I was. Without alcohol, all those emotions and baggage that comes with my past can become my guide for my present and lessons for my future. Without alcohol, I can walk through all that I’ve buried, sometimes painfully, and embrace the Me that was always there underneath.
Welp, folks, I just renewed the registration on this domain for another year. I had a free credit somehow or another, so it didn’t cost anything, and as an added bonus, you get to see me babble for another year! I know you couldn’t be happier.
I was watching a Christopher Hitchens interview today from 2002 (I know, I apologize. I keep harping on this crass Englishman, but I’m fascinated with the guy.) Anyway, he was saying that at some point in his life, he came to realize that he was a born writer and that he really couldn’t imagine doing anything else. That the career of writing was really decided for him, not by him. And that struck me as something I could relate to.
English was the last gasp. I did not know what I would do with an English major, even after graduating college. I just took the wise words of a professor of mine. He told me to just study what you enjoy. And I did enjoy that, at least. I was inspired by John Milton, Shelley, Keats, Emily Dickson, Bronte, and others, and later, Thomas Wolfe, Jack Miles, Stanley Fish, Kurt Vonnegut, John Steinbeck and others. I had early aspirations of going on to becoming an English professor. This would, of course, require graduate school somewhere other than Clemson. And in order to stay closer to my family and friends, I declined that option and started working at a retail store in Clemson to make ends meet. But we’re getting bogged down. To make it short, a journalism instructor at Clemson University (S.C.) saw something in me, I suppose, and gave me a favorable recommendation, thus allowing me to get an interview with a local newspaper in Clayton, Ga.
My future aspirations would lead further than this blog and my current position. I would like to do some writing for a major magazine on the topic of either politics or religion or history … or perhaps, a well-read online publication, by way of a weekly or monthly column, if the opportunity ever presented itself.
But back to writing as a career. I think at some point in the latter part of 2007-08, I came to the realization that a writer is what I am, like Hitchens and others. I think before then, I was just trying to scratch by, have fun and the like. Although, I was attempting to write some (bad) poetry and fiction in high school, so the interest was there early on.
Today, I take a certain pleasure when I am in the company of fellow writers, like the editor at the paper for which I work. And I don’t mean pulp fiction writers who crank out 10 novels a day. Those folks aren’t writers; they are entertainers. I mean people who appreciate the language and have something meaingful to say through it, like Milton, Wolfe, Paine, Locke, Vonnegut and others.
At the expense of this getting too long and to catalog the renewal of the domain name and this site for another year, here are 15 of my favorite posts from the last year and four months, beginning in May 2008. Thanks for reading!
A few notes on browsers, snow and hacks …
Insomuch as this is possible, I try to use alternate browsers, products other than Microsoft. Of course, the company makes this as difficult as possible in its seeming attempts to blanket a monopoly on PCs, browsers, operating systems, the Internet and the rest of it.
At home, as my whims dictate, I alternate between Safari, Firefox, Opera and Explorer. The former three are actually the least dependable as I have run across numerous Web sites that either cause them to crash or where some script on the Web site fails to work and the Web site suggests I change browsers. I have the most recent versions of all the browsers (except Explorer, ironically), so it seems to still be a matter of compatibility against mighty Microsoft. That said, I know some would disagree with me about the dependability of alternate browsers — and I don’t like admitting it either — this has just been my experience thus far. Of the alternate browsers, I think Opera is my favorite, though the least compatible with a wide array of Web sites, while Firefox I would probably judge to be the best all around.
Since snow doesn’t just conjure up images and memories of the holidays — indeed, it snows in many, many places in America from November-March — I think the WordPress snow should be an available option through the rest of the winter. Since the ability to see and enjoy snow here in South Carolina is mostly fleeting, the scripted snow is something of a treat for us Southern folk. Folks up north are probably less amused as they look out the window at a freshly shoveled white pile.
Because of all the php included in the packages, I have found WordPress blogs, those run on external servers, like at www.jeremystyron.com (shameless and redundant plug, since the content there is the same as here) and Joomla sites to be quite a bear when it comes to locking them down to security compromises. This is something that was fairly new to me as I attempted to develop a site for a retail client, but I am learning. After finding bunches of erroneous code in numerous WordPress files, I upgraded to 2.7, created a .htaccess file and tried some other methods to lock things down. I still have to run through some steps to do the same over at the Joomla site.
First: I pass by a neon church sign everyday on the way to work that reads, “Let’s make Jesus famous.” Now, I don’t claim to be a biblical scholar, but I’m pretty sure Jesus doesn’t need anyone’s “help” to become famous. I’ll try to snag a picture of the sign soon.
Second: Work was a nightmare today. A frustrated construction worker *intentionally* ran over a freaking fiber optics line on purpose and downed all AT&T phone and Internet access for the whole town. Nice. This caused me and a fellow I work with to book it to one of his friend’s house to download some wire (AP) stories on a wireless connection, then take it back to the office and finish laying out the newspaper. This was a pretty ghetto way of getting things done, but we had no choice. I got done at about 11:45 p.m. so it was only a little later than usual getting out.
Third: Work will be a triple nightmare tomorrow if the Internet isn’t back up. We put out a super duper issue for the weekend edition and rely heavily on the wire (and the Internet) to pull stories to fill the newspaper.
Fourth: It’s documented science, but it mesmerizes me that we are 93 million miles away from the sun, and yet, even from that far away, it has the power to burn us and give us skin cancer. At 93 million miles away, it is still 100 degrees here. That is remarkable to me. By comparison, earth is only about 25,000 miles around the perimeter. And this is just one of many amazing things about the cosmos.
Fifth: I’m going to play Counter Strike: Source now. Enough mind-blowing for one day.