Ronnie Schiller

Amateur Author, Hobbyist Shutterbug

Everybody Has One

red seed pods

I’m in a horrible mood. The winters in Utah are long and brutal; everything appears to be dead for months. It’s the reason I want to move away from here, yet I am stuck until some kind soul buys this house. Hopefully, this will be the last dead season for me.

I am not an eager traveler. I am terrified of new places and new protocols. Every first experience is a chance to look foolish because I don’t know the rules, or where I am going. The anxiety preceding travel is far worse than anything I experience once I’m there, but it’s enough of an obstacle to keep me home. I don’t understand the desire of some people to see the world and break new ground. The idea makes me uncomfortable.

There is one place that I have always wanted to see: Galapagos National Park. I became fascinated by the location when I was studying biology in high school. I wanted to follow in Darwin’s footsteps and see the power and diversity of nature. I watched every nature video from Galapagos that I could find, and studied every photo. It was my only dream destination.

When I started birding and bought a decent camera, my desire to see the marine iguanas, birds, and wildlife of the islands doubled. I could look at photos taken by other people for the rest of my life. To be certain, the professional photos would be of a higher quality than anything I could shoot. My photos would be a reflection of my experience in Galapagos. They would be a shorthand for the sights, smells, sounds, and feel of the islands. Other people’s photos are the experience for someone who’s never been there. That’s just not enough.

Reality is rough on a dream. The expense of going to a remote destination is impractical. The cost of a cruise around the islands is equivalent to say, the purchase price of a domestic compact car.  There is no world in which I would ever have that sort of disposable income. To complicate matters, there’s constant talk of closing the islands to visitors to stem some of the environmental damage caused by tourism. Remember the guy that killed 53 sea lions by beating their skulls to mush with a pipe? That happened in the Galapagos. Horrific.

That, as they say, is why we can’t have nice things.

I imagine that everyone has one impractical, crazy dream. We all want for something that we can’t possibly expect to have or achieve. I say, have the dream. Let it hang around and entertain your daydreams like a thorn under your skin that you can’t extract. Tell yourself that one of these days, you’re going to sell the farm and go crazy with it.

I have a vision of the future that includes a withered old me talking about my biggest regrets. I hope like hell that not going to Galapagos is a big one. That would mean that I managed to get the really important things right.

Tentative Optimism

snowboots2014 has been a year of endings for me. I’m changing, and part of change is shedding old values and concepts to make way for something else.  Had all of these shifts been my own doing, the experience would have had less impact. I try to learn from life, so I choose to think of the stress as being formative in a positive way.

I gave up on the idea of being a writer. I realized that I have never written anything truly good or successful.  I’m not proud of my work. More importantly, I don’t feel like I have a better story in me, just waiting to get out. Self-published authors have to be their own cheerleaders, marketers, and agents. I couldn’t sell my work to anyone, at this point.

I stopped speaking to a beloved friend of over ten years because the relationship was harmful to my emotional health. I could have easily looked the other way and continued to rely on the familiarity of a friendship based on a long-standing lie. I chose not to. At this point, I’m still shutting down memories that didn’t hold up to the light of truth, but the door has been closed.

Music and podcasts kept me smiling when everything else was going sideways.  This year, I stopped listening to both for quite a while. My favorite podcast folded, and my work occupied any sort of free time I might have had to attend the Los Angeles Podcast Festival.   Likewise, my favorite band was performing in town and I missed it. I forfeited the ability to say I have attended all of their shows in town. It was a streak, but it has ended. I didn’t die, so it appears that I can live without celebrating the things I enjoy.

I surrendered to the fact that I work in a job in which I will never excel; I can attain sufficiency, at best. At worst, I face the potential to disappear into obscurity or be called out as dead weight on the team.  I gave up the idea of being the best at anything. Life can’t be a competition. While few people achieve greatness, many others get by just fine. That’s what makes an average.

I decided to sell my house and leave the state. That is not much of a loss, but it is another ending.

2015 has potential. It is a new, fresh year.

As soon as this house sells, I’m moving to a new state.  I will be living in a whole new circumstance. It could be great.

I’ll be close to a friend, there. Maybe I’ll find new hobbies.

Assuming that I live for another 365 days, I will have a full, new year to find new things that help me define who I am. My hands will be free from trying to hold onto the things I have loved and lost, and ready to pick up some new source of joy. If things go well, perhaps I won’t miss the things I lost in 2014.

Here’s to the new year.

About Free Speech

Brace yourself for an opinion that you are free to ignore to the same extent that I am free to ignore yours. That’s the point, isn’t it?

I have heard a lot of comments around what people are free to do or say according to the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. I wonder if anyone has read it. Let’s remedy that.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This is a contract between the government and its citizens. This says that the government will not intervene or abridge its citizens rights to speak freely, or practice religion insofar as that those practices do not hamper the basic rights of others.

Oh, where does it say you can’t interfere or curtail the basic rights of life and liberty? In the Preamble to the Bill of Rights, where it says that the amendments are part and parcel of the main document.

It seems to me that some people are reading the words of the founding fathers in the same way that they read their religious doctrine: out of context and poorly interpreted.  Note that I say “some,” because I am not an anti-religious crusader. I am opposed to people using false authority to hurt others.

The misinformed use two arguments based on this same amendment in order to bully LGBTQ members of the populace. The first is a perversion of the freedom of religion, and the second is a corruption of the freedom of speech.

Freedom of religion was granted originally because the Colonials were trying to put distance between the newly-formed government and the practices of England’s monarchy. The English were subject to a national religion because the King couldn’t produce a son with his wife, and the Catholic Church wouldn’t let him trade her in.  Pennsylvania’s delegate, George Mason, argued that the states would feel better about the government if they were to include a declaration of rights promising that the new government would not impose such controls.

Nowhere in that promise was the guarantee that the majority–or, in the case of Protestant Christianity in America, the vocal minority–would be able to direct the conditions of society.  It’s not even implied.

The Supreme Court of Michigan ruled against belief-based exclusion in 1890, in the case Ferguson v. Gies. From the ruling:

The man who goes either by himself or with his family to a public place must expect to meet and mingle with all classes of people. He cannot ask, to suit his caprice or prejudice or social views, that this or that man shall be excluded because he does not wish to associate with them. He may draw his social line as closely as he chooses at home, or in other private places, but he cannot in a public place carry the privacy of his home with him . . . .Ferguson v. Gies, 46 N.W. 718, 721 (Mich. 1890)

As much as I would love to see a Hindu slap a burger out of a Westboro Baptist member’s mouth as he sat in Toby Keith’s I Love This Fucking Place™, it’s not precisely legal. If the analogy didn’t click, I am saying that there is no legal basis for trying to interfere with the rights of citizens based on religious beliefs.  I feel like I shouldn’t have to mention that it’s really a terrible way to treat other human beings.

That’s my opinion.

Free speech is protected by the First Amendment, it’s true. That clause pledges that the government will not throw you in jail for stating your opinion. (How well that pledge has been kept is a tale for another time.) It does not, however, guarantee that anyone will listen to, or care about what the opinion is–even if you are of the opinion that the First Amendment makes it okay to belittle, insult, patronize, and proselytize. That’s still an opinion.

Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance. –Plato

I have stated mine in my own space. I don’t expect everyone to comply with my directives automatically. I wonder if everyone else could learn to do the same? Or do we have to keep hearing the echoes of this guy:

As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice.

–Adolf Hitler


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