Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tuesday AM

I have to mail in my taxes today. Turns out I owe money - I guess about as much as I expected to, but still, it's been almost ten years since I owed money to the government, and it feels kind of odd to be writing them a check instead of receiving one.

I am not opposed to paying taxes, although I wish I had more control over how the money is spent.

As I have mentioned previously, I've been reading my way through H.G. Wells' Outline of History. I am nearing the end, which is 1919, the year of the first edition's publication.

It's interesting to notice how much the Bush administration has conducted business along the lines of the royal houses and foreign offices of 18th and 19th century Europe. As Wells points out, America was once unique in the world because it repudiated the international intrigues of the European nations – intrigues which Wells says were largely inspired by Machiavelli's The Prince, which served as a handbook for several generations of European ministers and diplomats.

Well, that was then and this is now, and we seem to have proudly established ourselves as one of the Great Powers of the 19th century.

There is a Taoist parable about 'the useless tree.' This is a tree that is twisted and ugly – but because it is twisted and ugly, no one wants its wood for furniture or carriage-making. So the useless tree survives while the more attractive trees are cut down for their lumber. The moral of the story is, as we would say now, to 'stay below the radar,' and in doing so, keep yourself free from the intrigues and selfish intentions of others.

That's the goal I've set for myself. I don't think there's much hope of saving humanity from itself – the majority of people on this earth would rather have constant scheming, conflict and uproar, in spite of the misery it inflicts on their own lives. For myself, I would prefer to just be the useless tree and stay the hell out of their way.

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