I’m Sick of Liberals

Actually, I’m sick of liberals who do not have the virtue of justice.

Let me go back a bit.

I have witnessed people who were homeless be denied a place to stay. I have witnessed elder abuse. I have myself been a victim of abuse and sexual harassment–and I have a disability.

A lot of the perpetrators have identified as liberal.

I can easily go social media and see these and other people calling for institutional justice. But let’s be honest, if you call for a just government and are not yourself just in your personal life, you do not have the virtue of justice.

I understand that having virtues is tough. They are, in my view, ideals we should strive for. That is different from having moral worth. Everyone has that. But not everyone has virtue.

You can go on and on about how Bernie or Warren or, heck, even Joe Biden are wonderful. You can talk a good talk all day long. But if you don’t have the goods, to me you are nothing but a hypocrite preaching an empty sermon.

Working on yourself is tough. I know. For the past year, that’s all I have been doing. But sitting around and saying nothing makes me a bystander.

So, before you post that Black Lives Matter meme, make sure you’re not being an asshole in your personal life. I’m sure the BLM Movement will understand.

Wittgenstein’s Ladder: Philosophy as a Kind of Therapy

In Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, he ends with the following:

My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them—as steps—to climb beyond them. (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.)

   He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see the world aright.

I am not an expert on Wittgenstein, although I read him–and quite a bit about him–in graduate school. The Tractatus is Early Wittgenstein; whereas Philosophical Investigations is Later Wittgenstein. Between these two works, Wittgenstein took a break from philosophy, having climbed the ladder and thrown it away.

Philosophy has long been hearlded by many philosophers as a way to solve things that trouble us. In a way, a philosopher, on this way of thinking, is a soul healer. This view goes back to Ancient Greece, when some philosophers thought they could help the souls of people.

Was Wittgenstein doing a sort of self-therapy? Is the Tractatus a work of personal growth and adjustment?

It may well be.

On the view of philosophy we are thinking about, philosophers, too, can be perplexed. They may turn to philosophers before them–those lovers of wisdom–in order to “see the world aright.”

These days, we have psychiatrists and therapists. However, there are places in philosophy we can also turn for help. That’s not to say to give up medications and counseling. It’s to say that there have been extremely wise people before us in philosophy whose work may assist us in addition to the modern treatments we have these days.

Wittgenstein didn’t give up philosophy forever, although, when he wrote the Tractatus, he may have thought he was completely done.

I want to suggest that, if the Tractus is a work of self-help, it was extraordinarily brave. Making the movement toward growth, healing and personal development takes courage. To put one’s thoughts out there when one is vulnerable this way is also brave.

Sometimes, philosophy is exactly the place to turn for our problems. We might, after we have reached our conclusion, leave philosophy forever. Or we might, like Wittgenstein, come back to it at a later date, perhaps with fresh new ideas.

If Wittgenstein’s task was self-healing, that, I suggest, is perhaps one of the most important tasks we can ever do. On my view, mental illness can be a complex working of environment, biology, socio-economic class, and personal psychology. This is generally known as the Bio-Psycho-Social Model. (I was trained on this model when I worked briefly as a mental health case manager.) On this view, one of the things that has gone awry in a person with mental illness is cognition. These are mistakes or errors in thinking. In order to, as Wittgenstein says, “see the world aright,” we may go to counseling–or even, sometimes, turn to philosophy.

Once one sees the world aright, one has the ability to flourish, which, on my view, is the telos of human life. One can make sound and good judgements, make appropriate choices, and exercise virtues. So, Wittgenstein’s task, on the view I am putting forward, was basically the most important task a person can accomplish.

Philosophy–in conjunction with modern treatments–may help with mental health issues. Wittgenstein may indeed show us that. Once we have climbed up the ladder and see the world aright, we may be done with philosophy or we may eventually come back to it.

Socrates and the Virtue of Humility

Socrates was famously considered the wisest man because he knew that he knew nothing. In this blog post, I will suggest that Socrates had the virtue of humility.

These days, most philosophers work in academia and also mostly consult with one another about topics. Socrates was different. He went to ordinary people and asked them questions. Granted, he ended up annoying a lot of people and thus faced the death penalty for “corrupting the youth.” But it seems to me that Socrates had indeed reached a place of virtue and possessed the virtue of humility.

The virtue of humility is often confused with thinking you are nothing and having low self esteem. If humility were in fact that, it wouldn’t be a virtue. Socrates knew that in order to gain knowledge, he had to ask the people who knew. And that’s exactly what he did.

A philosopher, in Socrates’ sense, does not necessarily have any knowledge to impart. It’s other people—the ones out there working and doing the job—that have knowledge. Socrates was, then, humbling himself to other people by seeking them out and asking them questions.

As the wisest man, Socrates accepted his death. He refused to stop doing philosophy. We might ask, these days, if we want to go down the same path as Socrates. In general, people are still the same, and asking questions to ordinary people in order to gain understanding about things may still end up with us being the target of various abuse and mistreatment.

One thing we can learn from Socrates, though, is the virtue of humility. We can defer to ordinary people who have expertise in matters we don’t.

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.