Post-Nietzsche: An Essay for a New Age

            There are very few of us who are virtuous. I fully realize that seems like a terrible thing to start an essay off with. You may wonder if you yourself are virtuous. Most likely, you will answer in the affirmative because you equate virtue with moral worth instead of an ideal state that is good for you and good for others.[i] This essay is entirely about chuffing off these modern moral concepts. It is about letting them go. It is about ushering in a new ethics. It is about virtue, but it is also about psychiatric and psychological health.

               Currently, approximately 1 in 5 people in the United States have a diagnosable mental illness.[ii] That is a lot of suffering. In this essay, I will argue that the modern concepts we use, often based on Christianity, lend themselves to our ill health. Sure, a lot of us need psychiatric medications no matter what concepts we live under. That’s probably for the best. But our modern concepts, too, get in the way of our flourishing.

               Along the way, I will discuss a need for new politics, as well. The politics we currently have—at every point on the spectrum—tries to bend ‘externalities’ to suit our poor state of health, rather than changing ourselves to flourish and be virtuous in a variety of political states.

               Although this essay makes progress, it is by no means the end of the line. As more people become virtuous, there will be even more insights to be shared.

               Throughout this essay, I will make sustained attacks on Christianity. Even though this morality with its modern concepts may have seemed like a good idea at the time—ridding us of a previously horrible morality—it will become clear that it needs to go. There is too much suffering under Christianity for it to be worthwhile. This is a loss. I am by no means arguing that we ought to be biased and hateful toward Christians or the modern concepts we live under inspired by Christianity. Instead, we should regretfully let this baggage go in the name of our health, flourishing and virtuousness. Humanity has a bright future ahead, but we must get rid of our modern concepts and take that first fearful step toward our health.  

               Currently in the United Sates, people are diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder using the the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).[iii] Although I am unsure in reality whether a practicing Christian can be sane, the DSM does not diagnose for any religious belief unless it is not within one’s culture or is very severe, unusual and interferes with daily life. This is because the DSM itself exists in and accepts modern moral concepts. If we wanted a manual that does indeed cover all forms of mental disorders, the DSM, then, does not cut it.

               Under Christianity—and the modern Christian concepts we use—individuals are strung around to and fro by their emotional states. Meekness is a virtue. People suffer from oppression and this wreaks havoc on their mental states. The saying ‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’ isn’t a statement of fact. Instead, it is a way to lick emotional wounds. People are not hardy under Christianity. They suffer deeply—even the strongest ones who help those who are even less fortunate. This is a terrible state of affairs.

               Going forward, I want to draw upon aspects of Ancient Greece. There are parts of Greek life, concepts, and morality that are vital to us today. One ancient way of life I want to draw upon is Stoicism. I do not want to accept all of Stoicism. At the moment, I do not hold an overarching positive moral theory. However, there are aspects we may draw upon that can be helpful and useful to us.

               One of these aspects is the notion of externalities. The Ancient Stoics held that there are some things within our control and some things that are not. The wise person knows what is in her control and what is not. Knowing this makes her judicious in her judgement. Presently, we often misjudge what we can control and what we cannot. After an upsetting political event, we lash out on social media, as if that did anything good for us or for others. All it really does is create rage within people and a feeling of helplessness because we are flailing at nothing. The event already happened. Our outrage on social media rarely does any good.  

               The wise person knows that externalities are not under her control.

               Once we see the problem and begin shedding our modern moral concepts, we will become wiser, more knowing, and more resilient. We will have a shot at virtue.

               It is possible to be an atheist, agnostic, Buddhist, or Jew and nevertheless use Christian concepts. Christianity is the overreaching worldview at the present moment. And it’s time to let it go. I fully believe that reaching back to aspects of Ancient Greece will be more fruitful for us as we move along from the mess we are in, which rarely gives birth to virtue and flourishing.

               For many of us, political life is extremely important. I do not think politics to be unimportant. However, we need a healthy balance. We need to attend to what’s going on the Washington DC a whole lot less. The key is to give politics just the right amount of importance in your life.

               I am writing this after the 2020 democratic primary. We almost had a democratic socialist presidential candidate in Bernie Sanders. That would have been a radical switch. Upon reflection, I think that healthcare for all is necessary because health contributes to flourishing. However, I do not think we need to bend our political world to suit our current wounds and that’s exactly what electing Bernie Sanders would have done. If we can heal, let us heal. If we are fit, we can live in almost any political system and have virtue.

               Growing psychologically takes time, effort and energy. It is my hope that we can begin the process of becoming virtuous by shedding our Christian concepts. In the end, after all, that’s the goal of human life.   

[i] I owe this insight to Daniel Callcut. Personal communication, May 26, 2020.

[ii] Accessed May 29, 2020.

[iii] Accessed May 29, 2020.

What’s the Difference Between Me and a Transwoman?

For the past several months, I have been following discussions among gender critical feminists. Some of their arguments I have been taken by. But, as I sit here six days after a major surgery, I have started having some questions.

I had a hysterectomy. My cervix, fallopian tubes, uterus, and one ovary were removed. Of my primary sex charaeristics, I now only have one ovary and my vagina.

Which made me wonder: How am I any different from a transwoman? Especially a post-op transwoman on hormone therapy.

Some thinkers, such as Colin Wright, seem to think that sex is binary and that it is determined by sex characteristics.

I am still a woman. Since the parts that were removed were diseased, I may now be even more of a woman, since the remaining parts I have are very healthy and functioning well. (As opposed to the dysfunction I experienced before.)

At the moment, I see no difference between me and a transwoman. I even went so far as to ask Colin Wright on Twitter about this, but as of yet, he has not responded.

If I am a woman and am no different from a transwoman, it follows that transwomen are women.

That’s a conclusion I’m willing to make.

If you can think of ways I am different from a transwoman (post-op, on hormone therapy), do let me know in comments.

Me, 6 days after my hysterectomy, healthy, happy and a woman.

My Hysterectomy: A Renewed Sense of Power

It has been three days since I had a hysterectomy and benign tumor removal. The surgeon took out my fallopian tubes, my uterus, my cervix and one ovary. I am currently resting as much as possible and healing up, but I figured three days have given me a sense of my emotional reaction to the surgery.

It’s not uncommon for women to experience sadness and a sense of loss after a surgery such as mine. I can no longer have kids. There’s a possibility that I will now hit menopause earlier than I would have. I am missing parts of my body now. A feeling of incompleteness often accompanies such a radical surgery.

In my case, however, I knew the surgery needed to be done. The tumor I had was a kind that grows very large. It affected one entire ovary. That ovary, the doctor said after surgery, was “big and gnarly.”

Because I had diseased parts of my body inside me, I knew they needed to be taken out. Removing them, then, does not feel like a loss to me. It feels rather like getting rid of dead weight. And the loss of my fertility feels necessary for my overall health.

Many women feel a sense that they have lost a part of their feminity after a surgery like mine. On the contrary, I feel my feminity has been distilled into the one healthy ovary I have left. That ovary feels as though it burns bright inside my body, emenating a large does of feminity.

What is it to have diseased parts, after all, that cannot function and affect the rest of your health? What good is a “big, gnarly” ovary?

I place my hopes into the one healthy ovary I have left. It functions well enough to regulate the female hormones in my body for now.

I cannot say enough about the quality care I received at the hospital. I know my doctor cares and saved the healthy parts of my body so I may flourish. I know, from the feeling I’ve had since I got home from the hospital, that the diseased portions of my body were wearing me down.

I am hoping for a smooth and uneventful recovery. But, for now, I am not grieving for the parts of my body that were removed. Instead, I am joyous for the remaining parts that are healthy.

When I Was 8

Back when I was about 8 years old, I lived in Paris, Texas. I had a teacher. I don’t recall her name. But I do recall a lesson she taught the class. She looked around the room and told us how we should be nice to one another. She told us we shouldn’t be mean. She told us we should treat everyone the same and that they should be treated well.

I had a pretty foggy childhood. I don’t remember much that I was taught. I don’t remember specific lessons. I don’t remember various teachers. But I do remember this: I eagerly looked around the classroom as if to say, “Did you hear that?!” I wanted everyone–everyone–to pay attention to that lesson. My teacher varified what I had thought all along. I thought it was the most important lesson I learned in school.

I have had many teachers and professors since then. There was never another time when my eyes lit up for a lesson like they did that day.

Teachers are important. It may be true that not everyone in my class took this lesson to heart, but it does go to show that, even in little Paris, Texas, a teacher has the potential to make a difference.

Being an RA for Reading Bernard Williams

Over 10 years ago, I was a Research Assistant at the University of North Florida. The task I was assigned was to help with the book Reading Bernard Williams. At the time, I was slowly developing a mental illness. Reading Bernard Williams was the last project I was able to complete in academic philosophy. Not long after its completion, I suffered my first psychotic episode. That was the beginning of a decade of struggles with schizophrenia.

I come from a working class background. I grew up in a small town in Texas. None of my teachers, growing up, really expected much of me. I was shy and awkward. I had so much anxiety I barely ate.

At the University of North Florida, I was exposed to many things and was given tons of opprotunities. I was stunned that I got to work on a book about a brilliant philosopher and help edit a few essays by other brilliant philosophers. It was beyond my comprehension.

While working on the book, my anxiety got to me. I read and re-read the select essays I was assigned to go over. Each stroke of my keyboard was filled with so much perfectionism that I felt tense in my hands, fingers and entire body. I wanted to do a good job.

I was overwhelmed with perfectionism. Eventually, it would over take me. Soon, I would be paralyzed with it. I would end up in a psychiatric hospital.

But not before I finished working on that book.

Dr. Daniel Callcut is the editor of Reading Bernard Williams. I had taken several of his classes. He trusted me to work on some of the essays for the book. I had read the likes of Martha Nussbaum for several years. I admired her. I never thought I would get to edit one of her essays.

But that’s exactly what I did. I copy edited the essay “The Women of Trachis” by Nussbaum, carefully going over each and every footnote. I handled my work with care. Possibly too much care. I was, after all, slowly going insane.

After the book was published, Dr. Callcut sent me a copy with an inscription on the title page. I removed that page and framed it. For the next decade, I kept that framed page in my bedroom on top of my dresser. On days that I felt like a loser, which came to be quite often, I would look at it and remember that I had a history of accomplishments.

If you happen to purchase Reading Bernard Williams, now you will know some of the toil that went into it. You will know what it meant for me to work on it. You will know what it meant to me as a young person who grew up in rural Texas. Working on the book didn’t drive me insane. Nothing I did in philosophy drove me insane. I have come to recognize that I have a brain disorder and am sensitive to stress. I try to manage my care properly. There have been times–in the psych unit or walking the streets barefoot during an episode of psychosis–when I may have seemed like all was lost for me all my life. I may no longer acutally be in academic philosophy anymore, but there was a time when I truly rocked. There was a time when I did excellent work on all accounts. When you read Reading Bernard Williams, you are taking in a piece of that time; the time when I did something great.

You never know that editorial history of a book until you look deeper. And you never know the wonderful things that can come from the disheveled people walking the streets.

Writing is Work: The Making of “Heist”

I have written my first short story due out on Amazon Kindle very soon. It is based on a dream I had. But, let me tell you, writing is work.

You might think that because my story was based on a dream that it would be easy to write.

It wasn’t.

My mind was encompassed for a week with thoughts. Often, I sat down and didn’t know what to write.

It was painful to write. Sure, it was also fun, but it took enormous effort to sit down and get it done.

Next time you read a work, whether its short or long, fiction or nonfiction, be aware of the pains the author went through to get ideas on the page.

I have always dreamed of being a writer. It was my dream as a child. I have always had respect for authors. But, with Heist, I have a new-found appreciation for the craft.

All Apologies

Over the past 10 years, I have had 11 or 12 episodes of psychosis. When I have a psychotic episode, I lose touch with reality and lack self knowledge. I am completely unaware that I am ill.

I have never been dangerous during an episode of psychosis (thankfully), but I have done odd and unusual things. Embarrassing things. Dangerous things, like walking barefoot in risky neighborhoods.

There are several people who have tossed me aside due to things I have said and done while suffering from psychosis. This blog post is for them. It’s an apology–even though an apology may be unwarranted.

For quite some time, I have thought that people who cast me out of their lives due to something I said during psychosis were discriminating against me. After all, the stigma of schizophrenia is often worse than the illness itself.

That may be true. Those people may lack awareness and understanding. They don’t get to see me when I’m with my doctors. They don’t know my mental health status. They don’t know what I will do next.

All these things have made people cast me aside.

Sitting here now, with over one year of recovery under my belt, made me wonder how I should respond to people who have shunned me due to my psychosis.

I’m not too needy right now. It’s not that I have a deep-seated need to have these people in my life. But, despite my having been truly and legally insane and thus not responsible for my actions, I am offering an apology.

I went to counseling for approximately two years. My counselor told me to tell people who have witnessed me psychotic that it’s not me, it’s my illness.

In a very real way, that’s true. Anyone close to me knows that I really am not myself when I am sick. I have tried several different treatments over the years and I think I finally found a medication that works. Right now, I am the healthiest I have been in 10 years.

Still, even if it really wasn’t me who said and did those things and I truly cannot be held responsible for them, they nevertheless happened. I don’t recall everything I have done, but I am sure my unwell self has made people embarrassed, uncomfortable and offended.

It wasn’t me who did it. Yet, it happened. And, since there is no one else to offer an apology for these things, I am writing this blog post to apologize to anyone disturbed by my unwell behavior.

I have tried for 10 years to bring my symptoms under control. I may have finally succeeded. If you accept my hand in friendship, just know I am doing the best I can.

On My Switch from Bernie Sanders to Joe Biden

Politicians are strange creatures. We should treat them as such. The philosopher Immanuel Kant famously said not to treat people as “mere means.” I contest that’s almost exactly how we should treat politicians: What can they do for us?

Which brings me to my switch from Bernie Sanders to Joe Biden. I switched because Sanders dropped out of the race and congratulated Biden on the win.

There’s tons of information swirling around about Biden. He sniffs little girls’ hair. A may have even sexually assaulted someone. The reasoning goes, then: How is he Better than Trump?

We can look at several things when we look at a politician. We can look at character. And we can look at policy. I tend toward the latter. I ask what a politician going to actually do for me and those I care about.

When I do the math for myself, I find that Biden is much better than Trump. Sure, he’s not as liberal as I’d like. My life probably won’t change that much under Biden. But it also won’t be remarkably worse, as it would be under Trump.

Donald Trump is a wannabe dictator. He’s wholly incompetent. Lately, during the coronavirus pandemic, he has blundered his way through all while congratulating himself. He wants to cut food stamps, if he hasn’t already. He wants to cut Social Security. He wants to make it harder to get disability. He has a long ax to grind against certain immigrants. In short, he wants to make my life and the lives of those I love worse. And he wants to do it while consolidating power for himself.

I’m not in love with Joe Biden. I think it’s possible he has done some of the things he is accused of. But, when it comes down to it, he is better than Trump. And that, my friends, gets my vote.

Getting Used to Peace During COVID-19: Advice from a Disabled Person

With COVID-19 spreading throughout the United States, many people, rightly, are practicing social distancing. If you are staying at home for any length of time, you may get bored. Many people with disabilities, such as myself, are already shut-ins. I can tell you that, over the 10 year period that I’ve been disabled, the hardest thing to get used to is peace.

I was a workaholic previously and kept very busy. Working is ingrained in Americans. It has taken me these past 10 years to get used to not being busy all the time.

Your situation is going to be different than mine. Your situation is temporary. Mine may be lifelong. But let me tell you, the sooner you get used to peace, the happier you’ll be.

Henry David Thoreau noted that people are busy, but they are usually busy doing mundane and unimportant things. His goal was to live purposefully, with intent, and do things that were important.

We can learn from Thoreau during the COVID-19 pandemic. No doubt, Thoreau had to get used to silence and, most of all, peace.

I’m not saying it will be easy. We are, after all, dealing with a global pandemic with potential economic consequences. But the sooner you get comfortable with not doing things that are unimportant, the more relaxed and happier you’ll be.

This doesn’t mean you can’t watch Netflix or play board games. It means there may be silences in your life right now and you’ll have to get used to them.

I wish everyone well during this time. And I hope other people, disabled or otherwise, offer advice to everyone about how to get through this.

Vote for the Luckiest

Back when I was in graduate school, I was an RA for the book Reading Bernard Williams. During that time, I edited a paper by Martha Nussbaum called “The Women of Trachis.” In that paper, Nussbaum discusses political luck. She notes that there’s luck and then there’s luck. What she means by that is that there are some things out of our control and some things within our control when it comes to politics and our well-being. Some things, like (currently) whether one gets certain cancers, is out of one’s control. Other things, like how much women get paid versus how much men get paid, are within our control. Nussbaum implies that the goal of politics is to maximize good outcomes as much as we can.

Given all this, I have advice for those in the United States who have not voted yet: Vote for the luckiest.

Don’t vote based on looks, personality, or the rumored character of a candidate’s supporters. Instead, look at each candidate’s policies and make your choice based on who is more likely to get good outcomes for Americans. This, following Nussbaum, is the goal of politics.

Currently, there are many things the government can do and can do better, in all likelihood, than the market. Think about affordable housing, the minimum wage or health care.

Cast your vote based on who would produce the best outcomes for Americans.