Crossroads

There was a brief time when I was contemplating a career in law. Indeed it was one of my motivations for relocating from Questa to Albuquerque in 2017. I had a vision in my head of becoming a defense attorney and advocating for Americans who lack the financial stability to ideally utilize our legal system. This brain worm infected my mind effectively enough to move me to New Mexico’s largest city and research how one gets accepted into the University of New Mexico’s law school. I bought the book LSAT for Dummies, attended a class about the feared admission test at UNM’s Continuing Education department, and was Googling financial assistance for prospective law students.

I think the singular test prep course at UNM was my first hurdle and what placed the first seeds of doubt in my mind regarding this potential career choice. The course was taught, not by a professor, but a lawyer (if my memory is serving me well he was a defense attorney for Bernalillo County’s Public Defender office). He may have been the most dry, uninspiring, and boring teacher under which I learned. The course was just one afternoon but his monotone voice was constantly lulling me to sleep. Perhaps it was the subject matter. If you can find me a teacher who can make test prep into an exciting learning opportunity then you should probably hire that person for your own entrepreneurial endeavors. The course took my mind from the idealistic vision I had crafted for myself back into the practical mechanisms of student life two years after I had completed my tenure as an undergraduate and it reminded me of the tedium that plagues American educational institutions. After that course I was less enthusiastic about returning to school.

For the next three years I would create a dichotomy in my mind dominated by a crossroads displaying my idealized versions of two career paths: one as a law student and one as a writer. In retrospect it was a rather silly conundrum since I was wasting time I could have been spending on either one of the two career choices. My advice to anyone placing such a dichotomous decision on themselves is to literally flip a coin. Whatever the outcome of the coin toss, you will know which choice resonates more with your desires after the reveal.

Today I like to think I’m developing a sharper eye for opportunities. I’ve moved back to the Questa area beneath the Sangre de Cristo Mountains for a specific deal on my housing that I would be an idiot to let pass by and I’m now working what might be a dream job to my high school self. In general life seems to be okay for me right now. I suppose my goal in writing this is to encourage anyone reading this who has yet to find some semblance of purpose to try setting up a long-term goal no matter what it is and aim at that for the time being. Changing your aims in the future is always a possibility but I think simply having something at which to aim your life is a good start creating a purpose for yourself.

Now I guess I just have one more thing to say.

Did I successfully channel a Hunter S. Thompson-esque vibe with this photo?

As an ongoing effort to adopt a more positive mindset I have been cutting some metaphorical fat from my media consumption. The following video is an interview which I think may help anyone who is looking to develop some self-discipline and create an aim in life.

Why I write.

The word “politics” is rooted in the Greek word “politika” meaning “affairs of the cities.” I think this root definition is important to remember because it is a reminder that any kind of political organization must begin locally and communally. Politics starts with your relationships with your neighbors, your mailmen, your store clerks, your food servers, your teachers, your kids’ teachers, your co-workers, your bosses, your employees, etc. Maintaining positive (or at least neutral) relationships with the people within close proximity to us is how we maintain empathy for other people and build a healthy democratic society. News organizations can make communication within a community easier but they cannot replace individual initiatives. There must be incentives for individuals to get out and forge connections with others.

I think there are aspects of American societies that can be re-organized to be more efficient in application. Decentralization is the key to efficiency. One aspect of our infrastructure that we can start to re-structure is our food sources. Specifically, making our food distribution systems as locally sourced as possible with intentions to reduce travel times. Community gardens can be a decent first step to localization as well as encouraging more people to grow their own household food whenever possible.

Decentralization is the key to efficiency.

Dylan R.N. Crabb

I like to revisit my own values periodically with the intention to maintain a fluid idea of who I am as a person. Here is a list of philosophical values which I hold fundamental in my mind (at 31-years-old):

  • Humanism
  • Responsibility
  • Sustainability
  • Equality of opportunity
  • Democratic-republicanism

I have developed a distaste for political labels such as “conservative” and “liberal” although I still have a romanticist fondness for the term “liberal.” It might be better to explain one’s beliefs in detail and let other people place you into whatever boxes they’ve created in their own minds. I suppose one important thing to know me is that I have no patience to play insipid social games with other people, I prefer to be direct and tell you whatever is on my mind. I don’t care how you think I should speak/behave/react, I will live out my one life to my preferences and no one else’s. I write more for myself than anybody else, not to please anybody but to release my punditry to the world in my own effort to make it a little less shitty than it was when I was born. Interviewing people is how I keep myself in tune with other people despite my inherently poor social skills. I feel like reporting news is what I was born to do on this planet and I hope that I help to educate the public regardless of the publication to which I am contributing.

I feel like reporting news is what I was born to do.

Dylan R.N. Crabb
Ryan Holiday is an author, a business owner, and the creator of the YouTube channel Daily Stoic.

Book Review: “The Tender Bar” by JR Moehringer

I felt a strange connection with JR Moehringer while reading his story even if it was just the moments he wanted me to see.

Last week, I saw a trailer for an upcoming movie called The Tender Bar. Something clicked in me with the story and, after seeing that it was based on a memoir, I bought the memoir from Amazon the next day.

I flew through the book in a week.

It’s a true story about an east coast boy growing up without a father. While he has a strong connection with his single mother, he also yearns to learn what it means to be a good man and searches for father figures around him. The book is called The Tender Bar because the author forges a connection with a specific bar in his Long Island home-town where he’s drawn to the men who congregate there including his Uncle Charlie. The coming-of-age story culminates when the author writes of a transformative scene with his father, looking into the mirror after the near-violent altercation the author exclaims to himself, “my father is not a good man but I am not my father.”

The Tender Bar is a touching story of a young man struggling to discover the secret to manliness, the secret ultimately coming from the one place he never thought to look when he was a child.

The movie adaptation will be released through Amazon this December. Directed by George Clooney and written by JR Moehringer and William Monahan.

El-Prado-in-Fall

A nice day out.

Autumn leaves fall from their trees, guided by winds of fate and atmospheric pressure changes, and I obsessively count each leaf through a window analogizing each leaf as one of my many failures falling from the absurdly high expectations in my mind. Autumn colors are beautiful but depressing since all I can think of is the metaphor of death as the land slowly succumbs to winter’s bite. Yet there is also comfort in the act of surviving the winter because it is a reminder of the resilience of humans, a reminder of the best of the human spirit for endurance and progress.

52, 53, 54, . . .

I’m staring out the window now simply counting the falling leaves.

56, 57, 58, . . .

The bell above the entry door jingles and my eyes avert from the window to a beautiful woman who just walked into Elevation Coffee.

A selfie in Elevation.

A glimpse into my mind as I sat at a Taos coffee shop enjoying a day off work.

Good & Evil (or a Lack of Self-awareness)?

The line between good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, 1973

How can a person protect himself from the evil within himself?

I believe evil is forestalled with focused and diligent self-reflection and improvement – questioning what you think you know, delaying judgment of others, assuming with whomever you speak that they know something which you do not, and recognizing humanity wherever you find it and in whomever you find it. Regardless of how much evil you witness around you, you can still make the world a better place by setting the example within yourself. Raise your own standards and show others how to love.

How does one show love (even to a complete stranger)?

Patience, gratitude, honesty, and mercy.

It takes courage to pursue justice and it takes temperance to acquire wisdom.

Remember the past, look towards the future, and exercise kindness.

American Education

By Dylan R.N. Crabb

I spent five years in a university under the assumption that a college degree was all I needed for a decent life as an adult but I feel as if I gained more life experience in the work force outside of the official academia sphere. This general feeling of dissatisfaction is not uncommon among college graduates and it doesn’t help that the cost of college tuition has more than doubled in the last thirty years (Bill McCarthy, PolitiFact, 2019). 58% of Americans say that college is worth current costs and 72% of Americans are in support of free tuition at public colleges and universities (Staff Report, American Public Media-Research Lab, 2019). So about half of Americans do not think college degrees are worth their price and a super majority of Americans are in support of making colleges cheaper in some capacity. I’m with the super majority who wants cheaper college.

Thinking back on my time in American schools, it’s difficult to credit any of that time with any practical knowledge of adult life. Perhaps the biggest contribution schools made to my professional development was knowledge of how to research information and how to distinguish between different sources of information. Practical specifics like job applications, tax documents, and rental agreements I learned on my own after I left the public school system. I think this is an issue worthy of our collective attention. Schools need to place more emphasis on the practical specifics of life especially junior high & high schools. A high school student should be able to navigate the fundamentals of independent living the day that he/she graduates. Basically, high school should be what college is now.

I think there are two primary strategies for reforming American education. The first strategy is to increase funding for public schools allowing for more opportunities for a wider variety of students as well as mandating free tuition for all citizen applicants and increasing pay for teachers. Taking the emphasis off test-taking and giving each student a more hands-on approach with a more personalized curriculum. The second strategy is basically the opposite approach, to decrease funding for public education forcing schools to re-organize and reallocate their budgets and strip down their curriculums with the intention of rebuilding public schools from necessities. Whereas the former strategy is a more Keynesian approach to public education, the latter strategy is a more laissez faire approach to public education.

A separate issue with American education is not the schools themselves but the civil society in which they exist. I think a particular attitude has developed in the American consciousness around educational institutions: that the institutions are beyond criticism with the belief that a college degree is the only way to to make one’s life “successful.” While I agree that more education can only be an improvement to a person’s life, I do not believe that institutions should hold a monopoly on education; a school and an education are two different things. A good education begins with parents and/or family fostering an inquisitive mindset into children. One idea my mother drilled into me in childhood was to never be afraid to ask a question. I think this invoked a curious nature within me about what kinds of questions to ask which people. Curiosity towards the world around you as well as curiosity regarding how the world has been is necessary for an informed populace. Parents need to be more active in their children’s development and push them to ask questions, perhaps even challenge their teachers.

A school and an education are two different things.

I do not believe that any one institution (be it educational, governmental, etc.) deserves a people’s absolute and unwavering trust. Any person is susceptible to corruption and, by extension, any institution is susceptible to corruption. It is healthy to question any decision especially if it comes from a position of authority. Wirelessly connected computers and the world wide web have increased access to information on a scale never before seen in human history but despite that, I fear humans are becoming even more ideologically reclusive. It’s as if too many choices in news media is causing people to retreat into their own comforts and biases further balkanizing the political landscape. There must be ways for communities (and the broader society) to foster curiosity and encourage people to step out of their comfort zones. My advice for now, to anyone reading this, is simply to watch less and read more.

Rediscovering Books & Repeating History

Computers may have ruined my literary attention span. I used to devour books in my childhood but, since I discovered the World Wide Web, I’ve not been as much of a reader of books; I read a lot of news articles and journals but physical books have sadly been fading out of my life. I would like to reverse this trend.

One of my favorite things to do in a quixotic rediscovery of books is coffee shop camping – simply go in to a coffee shop with a book, order a coffee, sit at a corner table, and lose yourself in your book for a couple of hours. Obviously there are a few safety measures to take when coffee shop camping during a pandemic (bring a mask and perhaps a bottle of hand sanitizer and keep a reasonable distance from other people). If the shop is too crowded, maybe turn around, and come back another day. You may find coffee shop camping to be incredibly rewarding for your mind.

My latest literary endeavor is a secondary source of American history, The Elusive Republic: Political Economy in Jeffersonian America by Drew R. McCoy Ph.D of Clark University. At its core, it’s a book about the philosophical foundations of America’s Founding Fathers as well as that generation of people. McCoy references many familiar names such as Samuel Adams, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Adam Smith and describes common ideas from that time period revolving around Britain’s apparent corruption and a growing necessity for the colonies in America to break away from the empire. The ideal was for the colonies to become a model for “republican virtue” on the world as well as a trading source of raw, agricultural materials for the rest of the world – an ideal that I think still has merit for modern humans.

The philosophy behind the republican ideal of an agrarian republic is an interesting theory on the development of human civilizations and describes stages through which civilization advance. These philosophical “stages of civilization” are:

  • hunting;
  • pasturage;
  • agricultural;
  • and commerce.

Whereas hunting is the most simple form of civilization and commerce is the most complex, hunting is also referred to as the “rudest” stage of civilization. The republican ideal and a prevailing theory in colonial America preached that the agricultural stage of civilization was the most ideal for liberty because it was the stage of civilization that was most conducive to the human propensity for productivity (the Protestant work ethic) and allowed for the greatest degree of happiness in individual citizens. These supposed stages of civilization was a part of an Enlightenment-era effort to apply a scientific process to human sociology.

This supposed scientific method for sociology largely comes from the French philosophe Montesquieu and his French and Scottish contemporaries including:

  • Claude Adrien Helvétius,
  • Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, Baron de l’Aulne,
  • Adam Ferguson,
  • Henry Home, Lord Kames,
  • John Millar,
  • Adam Smith FRSA.

The dilemma amongst purveyors of classic republican theory in colonial America was how to maintain virtuous simplicity throughout the republic’s cultural zeitgeist in an effort to prolong the agricultural stage of civilization, staving off the corrupting influences of the later stage of civilization. This dilemma provided republicans with a convenient justification for westward expansion to provide a surplus of land to “virtuous republicans” looking to establish homesteads for their ideal America.

Is it accurate to classify 21st century America as in a post-industrial stage of social development?

The classic republican ideal for early America revolved around financial independence for each citizen through land ownership. We have to remember that citizenship and civil rights were limited to a select group of people in 17th century America but the ideal was fairly progressive for the time considering it was a divergence from the strict gentry and titled nobility of the old European societies. The ideal was for “virtuous citizens” to become land owners and establish themselves as productive members of society through industrious farming. The antithesis of this ideal was that settlers might become disconnected from the rest of the nation and devolve into a lower stage of civilization in their isolation. The republican solution to this antithesis was to expand public infrastructure to keep frontiersmen connected to the fledgling republic’s internal markets.

Is it possible to maintain the classic, republican ideal for an agrarian republic but with a large post-industrial economic sector?

Reading about 17th century America, I’m noticing similar concerns to the issues that plague 21st century America – worries over large populations of unemployed, skepticism towards immigration and fears over emigration, concern for future generations and changing trends, etc. The predominant political debates seemed to be over the preservation of the agricultural sector versus the growth of the manufacturing sector with the democratic-republicans (Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, etc.) on one side and the federalists (Alexander Hamilton, Robert Morris, etc.) on the other; the fear being that an excessive manufacturing sector would lead to “superfluous luxuries” and ultimately “corruption in government” and “effeminacy in citizens.”

How often do we hear politicians today chastise the population on accusations of degeneracy and a lack of personal responsibility and “masculine values?” It’s funny how history tends to repeat itself.

R&R in 2021

Happy Friday, people. This new year is starting out with a bang, isn’t it? We’ve just witnessed an attempted “rebellion” against our dying empire (a pretty pathetic rebellion at that) and now we have a new strain of this pandemic-causing coronavirus. I guess we can always raise our steins to the next year.

I suppose the next big thing we can look forward to is the day our outgoing moronic president gets kicked out of the White House (only to be replaced by another aging, corporate moron). POSITIVES!

At least we might get some competent disaster relief for this pandemic. I’d be happy with a large stimulus check so I can buy a new computer. The hundreds of billions committed to fighting Covid-19 would be good too.

Of course, every other industrialized nation is still wondering why every American citizen is not guaranteed healthcare but one step at a time I guess.

But enough politics . . .

Instead of dwelling on the negative, we need to at least make an attempt to find whatever it is that makes us smile on this godless planet. Life is what we make it so let’s try and make it a little less shitty. The start of a new year is a good time for self-reflection, it’s a logical place to stop and think within the overall passage of time.

What if we used this new year as a challenge to try and make something? Anything – a fictional story, a memoir, a poem, an anthology of poems, a piece of music, a short film, a documentary, any piece of art that makes you smile.

After all, we’ve got nothing else to do.

Let us use this year to rest, heal, and recover from the previous shit show.

What holds people back?

Take the right turn in Duke City and you can find anything.

The feeling of “living just enough for the city” as Stevie Wonder so elegantly phrased it is becoming more common in American cities.  Housing prices are soaring above wages and the gap between the working lower classes and the upper affluent classes is stark but opportunities remain.  There are always opportunities for the less fortunate, it just requires a little creativity.

I commute to my job on public transit and every day I see people who look as though they are going hard times – not well dressed, poor hygiene, a little spaced out (possibly on a foreign substance) – but they all seem to be able to scrape together enough money for a bus ticket.  What’s even more amazing is that most of these people have a smartphone in-hand with ear-buds or headphones on their heads.  Regardless of how my lower-class peers are able to afford these small luxuries, I don’t think they realize the kind of opportunities they can access with these devices alone.

A mobile phone can provide one with organizational tools for planning a day and recording other phone numbers for future reference (the start of any entrepreneurial endeavor) as well as grant you access to an internet connection via any public library or city-owned building.  Are most people even aware of the existence of public libraries these days?

I’m not the most entrepreneurial or business-minded person but I can still hold a job and keep hold of some money; it doesn’t take a lot of thought or effort.  What is holding so many people back?  Drugs, mental health, an inability to utilize money effectively, obsessive personalities combined with addictive (or even criminal) behaviors?  I genuinely want to know.

7-Ways-to-Stay-Motivated_v3-01-1

All I ever needed?

When you feel burnt out from your daily grind, a short vacation can be rejuvenating.  My train ride north two weeks was one such get-away.  On my way up to the quiet parcel in the middle of bum-fuck-nowhere New Mexico, my mind was shrouded in an eerie mist of negativity.  On my way back down south, I was much more content with myself.  It was just a weekend away from my city but it was just enough of a change of scenery to reboot my attitude.

There is a peculiar tranquility and a sweet serenity to these mountains.  I’m afraid the Southwest will always be my home.