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The First Step

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Whatever you do in life, the first step is always the hardest way to go, the most difficult of any step to take, and it will take the most effort to accomplish. Why? Because that first step will set you down a path that you might not understand, and you certainly can’t predict. No matter how much you plan, how much you prepare, that first step is going to take you in a direction that you may or may not be ready for, and it will broaden your horizons in a way that you never expected.

It just takes that first step to be off and moving towards a life that you might want, or at the very least, an experience that will help you to grow in one way or another.

Fear will happen, and it’s quite natural.

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There’s nothing wrong with being afraid of something new. There’s no point in trying to not be afraid of a new experience in life. But it’s important that the fear not be allowed to rule your decision to take that first step towards something that could help define the direction you’ll take from that moment forward.

Fear is nothing new, but it’s a cloak waiting to be shed so that you can feel the winds of change as they welcome you into their embrace.

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I’d Rather Be a Sinner with a Clear Conscience

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There are many believers out there that call this kind of talk naive and not at all realistic, and that’s fine. Those that use their religion to condemn others, to look down upon others, and to point the finger at others for reasons having to do with anything other than a lack of morals don’t often seem to realize how hypocritical they seem and that’s okay. Personally I’d rather be seen as a sinner that can look myself in the mirror and smile than a hypocrite that has to constantly beg, or at least ask, for forgiveness.

We’re not perfect and we’re not meant to be.

If we’re made in God’s own image as some would claim then it would indicate that God isn’t perfect either, no matter how many would seek to refute that statement. But we’re made in His image right? Oh wait, we’re “representatives” of his image, I forgot. That still seems to indicate that He is less than perfect. No? My reasoning still isn’t sound? Well then perhaps someone needs to spell it out for me. At this point however it would sound like a lot backpedaling rather than an honest and clear discussion. The idea that a creator can be perfect and create something that is imperfect is all well and good. But the idea that we’re made in His image in all ways seems like a silly thing to say.

If we’re made in His image in all ways then God is not only fallible, but He’s a sinner too. You can just imagine the arguments that would chime in from this one and I welcome them. After all, God is the biggest threat to humanity next to humanity itself, wouldn’t you think so? From the stories His wrath is something akin to a kid tossing an ant hill off a cliff to see who survives and who doesn’t. Okay, not the best example, but bear with me.

The reason I’d rather be a clear-cut sinner rather than a sycophantic hypocrite is simple: I can admit what I’ve done and ask for forgiveness, I don’t feel the need to pray that my sins are going to be washed away. Praying is all well and good, but the memory of those sins remain, therefore the act still happened, and the ramifications might still be felt for some time after. You can move forward and accept it, you can pray for forgiveness, and you can own up to what’s been done. But bending a knee to pray to God each and every time we sin seems a bit like overkill.

If we were to pray that every sin we’d ever committed would be expunged we’d spend every day in church most likely, or at least every day in prayer. That might seem all well and good for some, but I prefer to say thank you if my sins are forgiven and just move on.

You can be a sinner and still keep a clear conscience.

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Every single person will sin in their life at least once if not more. It’s not a question of if, it’s a matter of when. People are not born perfect. It’s not something that has ever happened or will ever happened, as human beings are not without sin, no matter who they are. You could be the most saintly, pure person in the world and there will be something you’ve done or said in your life that will be counted as a sin. Humanity is not made to be spotless when it comes to the morality of our actions.

But keeping a clear conscience is something far different. While we do sin, it is possible to make amends. It is possible to turn around and do the right thing. It is entirely likely that we might see the error of our ways and strive to do what it takes to reverse any sinful actions we’ve taken.

Sometimes being a sinner that can look at themselves in the mirror is far better than being a hypocrite that must imagine the face they see is one of a saint.

I Wish I Could Say This Is a New Development

Teens have been prone to being a problem for older folks for a long time now, and while it’s no valid excuse for anything that they do it’s still nothing new either. This incident that occurred recently proves that while some kids are taught to respect others and to mind their manners out in public, to a degree, there are still some that either aren’t taught the basic idea of respecting their fellow human beings or simply don’t care for their own reasons.

The story goes that the woman in the clip was suffering a breakdown and in response to her shouting at them after being ridiculed by the teens the woman was pelted with eggs and covered in flour. You can imagine that she was rightfully frightened and more than a little distressed by this as you can see her cowering in the clip above. What’s worse than this however, for the moment, is that the boys felt it necessary to take a group picture with them flashing signs as they stood behind the bench on which the woman was huddled, still terrified no doubt as she was attempting to just cower and hope that they went away.

Oh but it gets better.

The boys’s names were discovered and released and from that point on it was a complete hate-fest with hundreds if not thousands of people verbally bashing and attacking them online. Normally I wouldn’t condone hatred or verbal assaults of any kind, and in this case there is still a line that doesn’t need to be crossed, but these boys did in fact make their bed and should be forced to lie in it at this point.

While they were arrested they were also bailed out. The father of one of them apparently saw the inherent wrongness of this and marched his son to the police station to confess before grounding him indefinitely. As for the others, their parents have been heard to make one excuse after another for them as they try to impress upon those on social media that these are good boys that made a mistake.

The public isn’t buying it though.

Does anyone blame them at this point? If this were to happen to anyone else’s relative many people would have flown off the hook and demanded nothing less than incarceration with the stipulation that the boys’ fellow inmates be told exactly what they’d done to land themselves in jail. From that point it would be up to the first individual to have an issue with any young buck that would dare to assault a woman in any way and the boys would soon learn the full meaning of assault, battery, and shame.

As it is their names are being driven through the mud full force as people on social media have been making all types of threats, enough so that the mother of one of the boys has asked for police security. Imagine that, a teen helps to assault a woman and now he gets to cower behind the cops. It’s too bad the woman he helped to terrorize didn’t have anyone to stand in front of her to dissuade him and his buddies.

The kid’s mother is even worried that continued threats will ruin his upcoming 16th birthday party. Really?

The kid assaults a woman and he still gets a party? Judging by the reaction of those on social media and the fact that his name has been put into the wind he’s lucky he gets to turn 16 at this point.

This is why we’re hard on our kids, this is why we’re demanding at times. It’s not to be mean, it’s not to be cruel, it’s to teach them that as hard as it might be sometimes, compassion for others is important, and it’s vital to learning what it means to be a real human being.

Are Expensive Colleges Worth the Money?

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Summer’s getting on to its last month and a lot of students have to be wondering just what it’s going to be like to head off to college and start that new experience as they try to find a place in the world by gaining an education. Do any of them ever think that they might be able to do that without incurring the kind of debt that comes from taking on the average student loan?

Probably not, the glitz and glam that’s dashed away by the hard fact that college is actually WORK tends to erase all thoughts of this from their mind unless they’re the ones footing the bill. And because of financial aid, their parents, and various other factors a lot of students are going to be looking at a pretty hefty bill when their schooling is done and they have to find a job to start paying it back. Oh yeah, those lenders will want that money back once you’ve gained an education. In fact they’ll want it back quicker if you decide college isn’t for you and drop out.

There are ways around debt if you know how to look.

For instance if you apply for scholarships and grants there’s a good chance that you won’t have to pay back a cent, but going to school on grants and scholarships can only last so long as they only pay out so much and aren’t nearly as available in some areas as you would think. When all is said and done many students will still be going on financial aid and will start to rack up a debt. The smart ones however will learn how to start paying it off a bit a time in order to lessen the load when it finally hits them full force.

Expensive schools aren’t always better.

Remember in Good Will Hunting when Matt Damon punked the uppity, ivy-league know-it-all that tried to embarrass his friend? He made a claim that the guy dropped thousands of dollars on an education that could have cost him less than a couple bucks at the local library. While that’s hard to imagine it’s pretty much true, but it also implies that a person can teach themselves better than college-educated professors. Unfortunately folks like this, while they do exist, are rare. If we could all do such a thing then colleges might start shutting down left and right.

Or not. College is at times more than just an opportunity to increase your intelligence and have a good time. It’s a prestige thing, something that a person can claim on a resume, or talk about with others as in “When I was in blah blah blah”. It’s a bit pathetic if people have to brag about where they went to school, largely because the moment they say the name many people might be seeing dollar signs hanging over the person’s head like the dreaded monkeys from the Wizard of Oz.

To be quite honest you can get a great education for less money, but of course the prestige isn’t there. And more to the point people tend to pick their colleges based on several factors, and prestige is only one of them.

Believe it or not, trade schools beat out universities for success rates sometimes.

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Trade schools tend to be looked down upon since they aren’t quite as prestigious in the minds of some, even if the success rate is much higher in some instances. Trade schools teach more practical skills that people can apply before ever getting out of school, and the likelihood of finding a job is a lot greater sometimes. Quite honestly a student debt is still incurred much of the time but trade school graduates tend to pay off their debts a lot quicker since by gaining the experience their future employer wants they’re thinking a step ahead of the game. Unfortunately for those in universities and colleges the only real way to do this is to either already be employed and gain skills that are needed to advance in a career, or find an internship that will grant you the experience you need before graduating.

Otherwise those four or more years you spend studying could be little more than a lot of wasted money that won’t yield much when it’s time for you to get a job.

Universities are great and they can be a lot of fun as well as something impressive to show on your resume, but there’s no guarantee of a job after 4 years.

Imagination is the True Frontier

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Imagination is the greatest tool that any writer, artist, or human being could ever possess because it is limitless, it has no set boundaries, and it is as deep as the mind of the person who wields it. Granted, some people don’t have much of an imagination largely because they don’t exercise it, don’t know how, and quite possibly would rather keep their feet on the ground, metaphorically and literally. Don’t worry over those folks, they likely still enjoy the imaginings of others but won’t admit that they have their own thoughts rattling around in their heads about what they’d like to do, to see, and to experience in their own lives.

Imagination is contagious after all, the moment someone sees something they can’t help but think of what they might like to do with it, what they could do with it, and what might be possible. All thinking might not be imagination, but all imagination does come from thinking, at least in part.

The sky isn’t the limit remember, it’s just the view.

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Your imagination isn’t bound by anything. There is no need for logic unless you deem it to be so, and there is no horizon unless you make one to find. Within the scope of one’s imagination there are literally no limits, no boundaries that should hamper you or slow you down. The moment you can imagine something it becomes real in your mind. Even if it doesn’t translate to the world in which you live, it will remain in the world you envision, because it is yours.

Even the strongest imaginations don’t begin as much.

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If a small spark can start a fire, then the nurturing of that spark can create a blaze of wonderment that is the landscape of your own imagination, burning brightly within the depths of your mind where the eye can see as you explore new worlds that exist within your head and are waiting to get out. Let that bonfire roar within your mind as you imagine the lengths to which a tale can go, taking in the inspiration it brings and the spectacle it will create for others to follow as their imaginations are sparked by what you’ve done.

No matter how big or small, the power one’s imagination is enough to make the world turn. Use it well.

Why Animals are Better…and Worse

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Often this is an argument that falls on deaf ears since it tends to annoy some and anger others. But animals, be they pets or those found in the wild, are quite easily better than humans in many ways. Physically they’re better since quite often they’re stronger, faster, and have senses that the average human couldn’t hope to match. But they are also far more noble, compassionate, and understanding than many humans in this world.

Why would this be?

They have to be. It’s their nature. Animals understand that to survive, to thrive, and to move ahead in the world there are certain tenets of life that have to be followed without question. They don’t often have the luxury of ego unless it’s bred into them, they aren’t given the choice to be anything but efficient when it comes to survival. This means a number of things, but it means caring for their young, protecting their mates, and showing compassion towards others in an effort to survive.

Animals in the wild typically exhibit this towards their own species, but those raised in captivity tend to show a very big attachment to those that they depend on and even to other animals at times, eschewing the need to discriminate between species so that they might show affection towards whoever they desire.

The animal kingdom is by far a better place as the only real fights that occur are for dominance to establish a set order and for resources. Wars among different animals are not a thing.

Animals can be much, much worse than humans too.

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Animals in the wild, and even pets, are bound by their nature. While pets and animals in captivity might experience a desired shift in their behavior they will always be bound by genetics, and deep in their genes is the propensity for great violence and what humans see as cruelty to others of their kind and to those of other species. While animals don’t typically hunt or stalk other animals for anything but food, they are particularly vicious because of their nature, and to humans this bestial display that is seen is quite savage.

Yet still, animals are better than us in many ways because they embrace their nature, they don’t use it to justify the horrible things that must happen for their survival. When was the last time you saw a wolf apologizing for killing their prey because they threatened the wolf’s established territory?

Yeah, I know, but it felt good to write.

The Painted Actress (part VI)

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(continued)

Rockaway Beach, OR

February 4th, 2020

It was a couple of months after the ‘accident’ in which star actress Jaymie Bluevein had been killed and presumed lost at sea despite a desperate search to find her body, a search that had continued for nearly a month before it had been called off. She still remembered every vivid detail of the day, the look on Dylan’s face when she’d ‘accidentally’ bumped into the throttle when trying to make her way from the helm to where he stood in the middle of the boat to perform the kissing scene. The Twin Rocks had been just behind him, but the ‘accident’ that had occurred had seen her turn the wheel until the craft was more or less on a collision course that couldn’t be avoided as she’d then fumbled in her seat, acting like a teenager that had just gone through a rather difficult growth spurt and was learning how to use their limbs again.

Dylan had called her every foul name in the book he could think of at that point as he’d tried to regain control of the boat and turn them around. But she’d done her job and made sure that they were close enough that this couldn’t happen. The director had taken her advice that being as close to the rocks as possible without risking their safety would be a great shot. The only danger had been jumping out of the boat in time, and she’d done just fine. Dylan, as she’d learned, had managed to save his own ass without giving a single thought to her, which had earned him a great deal of criticism since the incident.

“It doesn’t matter how much time passes with tragedies, they’re still hard to hear about,” Nico said, lounging in a recliner behind her as Jaymie continued to watch one of the many entertainment shows that had decided to run a ‘special episode’ just to commemorate her memory. She should have been touched, but in reality it was all about the ratings for these shows and nothing about truly honoring the dead.

They couldn’t care less if she was dead, putting her face up on their screens was just good publicity.

“This was needed Nico.”

“I know,” he said with a sigh, “And I’m with you one hundred percent. But you know how hard that is to hear and to watch.”

She nodded, “I know.” Looking back to where he was lounging she asked, “So your wife and the girls have said nothing?”

“Not a peep.”

She nodded. It was nice being able to trust someone, especially since her own parents had never been much of a prize when they’d been alive. Nico had been her agent for most of her life now, and had taken care of her when her parents had been killed in a drunk-driving incident nearly two decades back. She’d been just a teenager at that time, and in truth she had grown up around Nico and his family since he’d become her guardian as well as her agent at that point. He’d been the only family she’d known.

“I suppose it’s time to put the next phase into motion then,” she said with a sigh.

Nico just smiled.

(to be continued)

Hear Me Roar (part VI)

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(continued)

Yuma, Arizona

November 3rd, 2020

She was about to descend the staircase, bag in hand, as she heard a tinny voice coming from the man she’d just executed. Her heart did a quick skip as she felt her nails harden again, thinking he still had a bit of life left in him and was raising his pistol towards her. But no, he was still very dead. It was the earpiece she could see now dangling from just over his right ear, the voice was coming from the bud at the end of the wire. Walking softly towards the staring, glassy-eyed corpse she knelt down, plucking the bud and wire from where was nestled behind his ear and listening intently.

“-you there man? Sound off. The back is clear, she hasn’t come out and we’ve got it covered. Sound off Marcus.”

She debated her next action for a moment, thinking that it would be foolish to go one way and yet believing that it would be stupid to try and get away at this point if the house was indeed covered from all angles. She had to wonder though if they knew every inch of this house or if the people that were coming after her were going in blind. Seeing as how they hadn’t managed to apprehend her so easily yet it seemed that they might have assumed she’d be easy to take out, and possibly wouldn’t know how this place had been designed. Her father, being a bit paranoid, had designed the plans himself and done a great deal of the work.

There was little way of knowing how deep their knowledge went however, so she decided to risk it.

“How many of you are there?” she asked, speaking directly into the ear bud. She didn’t know if there was another device that would convey her voice to the speaker, nor did she want to touch the dead man any more than she had to, but as the voice came back over the speaker she smiled faintly at the threat the man leveled her way.

“Who is this? Identify yourself or we’re coming in hot. If this is who I think it is then be advised, we’ve been ordered to detain you with extreme prejudice if need be. Come out now and there won’t be any need for that.”

“Your friend is dead,” she said calmly, “and if you persist, you and whoever else is out there will soon join him.”

She heard a chuckle over the line, then the man came back with “Listen to me you little brat, you either come out now or we come in firing. Understand? You don’t have a chance in hell of surviving, so make it easy for all of us, including yourself.”

Alexis chuckled in turn, “I’ve already taken down one squad. How many more will your employer be sending?” This bravado was not faked, she was feeling stronger now than she ever had, but she knew the next few moments were going to be the most decisive. She was going to have to play this just right.

“As many as it takes honey,” the man said, “What makes you think you can take us down now that we know more about you?”

She grinned a little wider, “When you hear me roar, you’ll understand.”

With that she stood up, dropping the ear bud before using her heel to crush it into the carpet. She felt it snap as the shift occurred within her body, strengthening her limbs and sharpening her every sense as she could hear the people outside now, the clicks and snaps of their weapons being locked and loaded, their footsteps as they approached the house. She could even hear the man outside speaking to the others as he directed them to cover the exits.

It was time to play.

(to be continued)

Religion is a Habit

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This is not an attack on religion no matter what it might seem like. I felt the need to get that out just so people might hold their bias for just a moment as they continue to read. Religion is not a bad thing when it’s practiced in a way that doesn’t harm or actively seek to tell people how to live their lives in a way that violates their personal beliefs or forces them to doubt who they are. Those that truly practice their religion are those that will tolerate, understand, and comprehend the differences between human beings and allow them to live as they wish, without judgment.

But the habit of religion is that far too often people will fall into the trap of believing whatever their religion tells them concerning life, other people, and the sins that are committed each and every day. Think about it for a moment, we sin multiple times a day according to the old scriptures, and many of us, even if we’re not aware, don’t seek the penance that might be demanded by the very religion that’s being clung to. Habit within religion is to keep telling oneself the old stories, to keep clinging to the ideals of that religion, and to go through the motions when it’s desired. Many people cling to religion out of habit and necessity rather than a true love for the religion and its ways.

There are many habits within religion that make very little sense some folks.

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The wealth of religious leaders and the money poured into religious institutions is just one habit of the billions of followers that is confusing, but it is also one of the most noticeable. You tend to see all sorts of religious leaders that have nice big homes, luxury-filled lifestyles, and churches that are grander than most homes of the parishioners that attend them, and you simply have to wonder how such a thing can come to be when the religions that they serve are based upon such simple precepts. Wealth is not a guiding principle of religion, is it?

Yet for all that, the habit to give over money to a religious cause seems to be one that people can never shake. The idea of giving so much and allowing religious figures to live in luxury, far removed from the people that look upon them with such adoration, is a habit that seems bound to ruin many people while it also continues to ruin the reputation of the religion that it supposedly serves.

A lot of people like to quote the Holy Bible, so here’s one they hopefully know.

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Sure it might be taken out of context, but it does highlight the idea that religion is a habit, and one that many people have opted to fall into for centuries and even millennia now. The disturbing part is that religion has, in some way, always been a part of humanity, a habit that is formed from the need to rationalize the world around us and how things work the way they do.

Wait, that sounds like a lead-in to science too…..

Will the Ends Justify the Means?

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Throughout his presidency thus far Trump has been known to be highly controversial and has said things and done things that have grated on peoples’ nerves and made them cry out for impeachment and a removal of a president that has been seen as an unbalanced embarrassment to the country. No matter who’s in the right and who’s in the wrong the man has proven that he’s less than acceptable many times when it come to the office holds, and yet there is a definite danger that comes with impeachment. If he is forced to step down, as many people want and are continuing to push for, Mike Pence is next in line.

Why would that be a bad thing you ask? Well to be honest Trump is a wild force that says and does things that people don’t fully expect, but so far he’s been harmless in his madness. People don’t take him as seriously as he wants them to as his actions and his words seem like those of a spoiled child attempting to get their way. Pence on the other hand seems like a predator just waiting to lunge, and a patient one at that. Such description might seem a bit harsh, but given his stance on how to operate and how much religion will seem to factor into it there seems to be a storm lurking on the horizon when it comes to the likelihood that he could take office.

Could Pence really be worse?

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Whether he’s planned it this way or he’s so dogmatically clueless as to think that Trump is actually a great decision for America in the long-run, Pence is no doubt wondering at this very moment just whether he’s going to get his shot at the oval office or not. He might not be a Frances Underwood from House of Cards, but he’s not too far from the mark either. He’s one of those increasingly rare politicians that sticks to the script and is very determined in his goals when it comes to getting things done. That should be an overall good thing to be honest, but it breaks down pretty quickly when you consider that as straightforward as he’ll be, his presidency could be mired in just as much controversy, though in a very different way.

Mike Pence is quite religious and relies on his religious beliefs. That’s great, that’s wonderful for him that he has something to believe in and something to hold to. But attempting to indoctrinate a country in which many faiths and religions have come together and state that his is the most important and this the policies that he feels go along with ‘traditional Christian values’ is what we’d be looking forward to.

Impeaching Trump would be akin to the feeling that you get when you scratch an itch, but allowing Pence into the White House seems like it would be the burning sensation that comes slowly but surely after the few moments of pleasure.

Would the ends justify the means then?