Monday, January 31, 2011

My Village

My village is beautiful. Small and fragile, it lies in a valley lush and fertile. It is filled with color and song and laughter. It has no great history or heraldry, but it is built on plain ideals and and modest hopes for prosperity, though the steeple in the village square can be seen for miles by anyone who knows where to look. All who see it know this village is a place of uncommon nobility.

My village is rich. The population is gentle and simple, and look past their lack of wealth in favor of treasures within. Those from other villages may often scoff at my own citizens, because of what they don't have, or how they spend their free time, or who they choose to invite within the gates, or how they act when they are unseen, among themselves, but this does not matter. The people in my village know and love and accept each other as-is.

My village is imperfect. Despite the altruism of the day, the night is occasionally characterized by crimes both petty and horrific. It causes pain, to be sure. Not every crime is immediately apparent. The village is not without its dark secrets. What makes the village unique is that every perpetrator regrets his crimes as soon as they are committed. It's true that the people you hurt the most are the people you love.

My village is imperiled. Whether from those who threaten subtly from within, or malicious warlords without, or natural disasters, at any time the peace and beauty enjoyed by the citizens can be violently snatched away. Though it has weathered destruction before, the barricades built to protect it from this thing or that erode too quickly. All that will hold it together if the unthinkable happens are the bonds between the people therein.

Pray for my village, and I will pray for yours, and we may yet survive this life. SCWA

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The General's Campaign

‘Twas another successful campaign. The General sat atop a hill and surveyed the landscape. Before him, countless white tents filled with men who knew not the worthlessness of their lives. Behind him, burning paths of destruction, each dotted with bloodied, uniformed corpses surrounding a single, beautiful victim. Holding back bitter tears, he turned away.

* * * * *
FFF-55 Vol. II.

Friday, January 28, 2011

To Live Is to Die

When a man lies he murders
Some part of the world
These are the pale deaths
Which men miscall their lives
All this I cannot bear
To witness any longer
Cannot the kingdom of salvation
Take me home 

(Metallica/Paul Gerhardt)

Thursday, January 20, 2011


My attempt at a "flash fiction Friday" post: tell a story in exactly fifty-five words. More here. Enjoy, if you can.
FFF-55 Vol. I.

* * * * *
What happened was tragic, to be sure. And though she pretended outwardly to be unfazed, she wore her trauma like a spiny armor, preventing anyone from coming near her vulnerabilities ever again. Bitterness wound its way about her heart and head like a serpent. In the end, her distance from us was the real tragedy.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Square One

13 August 2010 (Unfinished)

Well, here we are again. I'm making another run at finishing my education.

For the record, the primary reason I'm doing this isn't for the betterment of my self, my family, or my career. I'm doing this because, year after year, I stubbornly put something related to a degree in my annual objectives at work. And, year after year, I fail to meet that particular objective. I've now run out of viable excuses that will hold off the suspicions of not taking my job seriously enough for Salt Mine, Inc. to keep investing my annual salary. It's time to move.

Of course (for the record), I know the potential benefits of betterment for my self, family, career, etc. Sort of. I know them the way I know the contents of a book for which I've read summaries, or seen a movie version, or read the dust jacket over and over. I know what the book is about, who the main characters are, the plot, etc, but I still can't say I've read the book, and I'm missing all the intricacies and details which are truly essential to understanding it. It's the same with the benefits of finishing my degree. I don't really know them because, well, I haven't taken this step yet.

Not that I haven't tried. At the age when I was supposed to be finishing school, I was foolishly trying to work full time also, mostly because I had no idea how financial aid was supposed to work and neither did my parents. Bless them, they gave me the benefit of the doubt that I knew what I was supposed to be doing. And why shouldn't I? I'd just graduated from a prestigious college-prep boarding school. Also, I was tough, a real man finally stepping into the world. Unfinished, yes, but ready to grow and accept my role in life, whatever it may be, however unprepared I was for it.

The truth is that I had a wondrous ruse set up around myself. I was building/living the life I thought I was supposed to have at that point, not knowing the first step in how to get there for real. While most of my friends were off at some university (all but one person in my graduating class went to college right away, and that one guy had a law degree and had built and sold at least one financial firm in NYC by our ten year reunion), I believed I was experiencing 'real life' at 'ground level.' I considered most of my high school classmates pretentious, and wanted no part in how they saw the world. And though I fantasized about driving fancy cars and being able to buy expensive electronic things, those were really just fantasies, the way people imagine maybe they'll win the lottery one day. In truth, I didn't have any real interest in rising above the means and lifestyle to which I became accustomed in my parents' house. I was settled on a long, solid middle-class, blue collar life.

Maybe that's true. It's what I think being honest with myself means now. Another part of being honest with myself is saying that I was absolutely scared to death to step outside that box. Forget not knowing how to do it, I had no idea what was beyond those finite borders except a swirling vortex I wouldn't recognize and couldn't navigate. I knew other people had more things, went more places, spent more money, smiled and laughed more often... but I didn't know why, and I certainly didn't ascribe any of these things to their life experiences or education or income. The real truth is I was solidly, staunchly ignorant of what an adult life entailed. It's embarrassing to think it in such plain terms now.

And then, life happened to me. Between working 40 hours a week, and carrying 12 credit hours, I eventually was kicked out of the College of Engineering because I couldn't hold the minimum GPA and couldn't pass Calculus II. But I still had that 40 hour/week job, and I was in a relationship with an awesome girl who really had her life together, and I supposed that maybe I just needed to take a break. A tiny voice inside me told me then that if I stopped enrolling, semester after failing semester, I'd never go back. It was mostly right.

I know now that maybe the years following my academic charlie foxtrot were necessary to get myself together. At that point in my life, I'd spent all my 20 years building an impenetrable wall around myself. I grew up in an addictive home, watching my mother be emotionally and sometimes physically abused, and watching my father exist as a functional drunk. Our house was a terrible, dysfunctional drama made rich with beautiful hints of the real people my parents were under their codependent and addictive personalities. Needless to day, even in my twenties, I had a lot of emotional growing up to do. It didn't help that I tried doing it as a married man. But thanks to so many, many people and things, I started to uncover the festering state of my emotions, I started healing. I started to see that, not only could I really become the man I imagined I'd be, or that I could start to make real choices along the way, but that I could exceed my own expectations. That I should exceed them.

I gave myself permission to be happy and successful. It's a journey I'm still on, and a struggle I still put myself through, but I wonder what my life would be like if I'd been stubborn (or smart) enough to finish school way back then, get my Bachelor's degree and a good job, get married and have a family, and all the rest without actually discovering and starting to solve my emotional problems. Would I be having this same conversation with myself, but from the other side of the table? I will never know. Another very important lesson I have learned throughout this process is that I only get one chance at every day, and when it's gone, or when 100 or 1000 of them are gone, they're gone for good.

But now, here I am, back at square one, responsible for educating myself in order to fulfill a promise I should have made to myself twenty years ago. That promise wouldn't involve any wives or children or career plans, but if kept would more than satisfy any new responsibilities I may have to the aforementioned. This new attempt, forced upon me by my self-inflicted job objectives, will be my third and smallest attempt. I am not looking at degree programs or minimum requirements or planning graduation dates, I'm just looking for a math class.

That's right, a community college math class to not only get my feet wet but refresh so many of the skills I'll need to pass technical and science-y courses required for the eventually planned degree degree and graduation. It's appalling to me that I'm really no different than any of my graduate-degree holding coworkers in that I've forgotten how to take derivatives and integrate the area under a curve, but unlike them I'll be asked to re-learn these skills and re-prove proficiency. And that's just the math. Once this baby step is taken, I need to begin again at the point where my previous two attempts left off.

So I've started this process of learning how to get back into school. I'm looking at course catalogs and tuition and fee schedules. I'm reading up on financial aid. I have to contact my old institutions to get transcripts, work with my company on reimbursement, and make appointments with counselors. Most of this will have to be done on my own time. I don't even have time to cut the grass each week.

Not only is this process arduous and inconvenient, it's scary as hell. I'm finding the more I understand needs to be done, the more terrified I become. And it's humbling. The thought that I, at this age, not only have to go through this crap, but am having difficulty understanding it, is making me way less than happy. As I look at each website and print out papers and forms, I find myself hiding them from view because I don't really want people to know what I'm doing, let alone ask questions. I know this is for my betterment, etc., but so far this is proving to be one of the most difficult things I may have to do this year.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Beforethoughts: On the Road...Again

10 January, 2011

Once more I'm picking up the baton and trying to finish this race. My head is a fog of mixed feelings.

You see, what I've done is get myself a math course at the community college. Math, specifically Calculus II, was my nemesis in my First Attempt at Big University. The math program at BU was notorious for "weeding out" the less successful engineering students (my major at the time). I came in with a strong high school math background and went right into Calculus I. I passed, but with a grade typical of that time in my life, characterized more by my family and personal dramas than the traditional college experience. I went into the next course, Calculus II, and failed miserably. Four times.

I took as many gen ed courses as I could in the meantime, and everything in my curriculum that didn't have Calc II as a prereq. After two years, I'd run out of money and, more importantly, gumption. I guess I was a pretty classic college dropout. I knew it wasn't uncommon, and I was still more accomplished than many of the people I was working with, so didn't feel too awful about it. I began to focus on building the life I had.

That part of my life is still progressing; it constitutes what has been and will be the core of my time on this Earth: personal discovery, healing, family, career. I am proud of what I have, both in the sense of who I've become (so far), and what I've managed to 'collect' along the way. My internal trophy case is admirably full for a man my age, especially in non-material accomplishments, but one shelf is almost completely empty. I've been keeping that space open for twenty years; it's time to earn something to put there.

I'm starting to get a little panicked and a lot philosophical about what it will mean to be back in school. On one hand, I'm going through the familiar embarrassment of needing to go back at all. I'm 20 years out of high school and I still haven't finished a degree. Also, the course is elementary level for the ultimate goal: a Bachelor of Science. I have five more math courses to take, and I'm not even sure taking them at community college will do any more than boost my confidence in the subject. And if Big University doesn't allow the transferred credits, I'll have to repeat the courses there before I move into core curriculum.

On the other hand, I'm excited to actually be on the path again. Some fortune cookie I had once said something like the worst false step you can take is no step at all. That the direction I've been moving for a really long time. The idleness started with discouragement, continued with a straw house of security on existing accomplishment and skill, and has since been perpetuated by fear of looking like a fool. To satisfy the people around me who try to get me moving, and also satisfy the parts of myself that know damn well they're right, I talk big, make token plans, and ultimately use whatever seems most valid at the time to excuse myself for not acting. Now, if I can get over that hump and get into a routine of progressive coursework, I may actually get myself a degree.

The prospect simultaneously excites and scares the hell out of me.

I have no idea how a degree will change things. (Well, I have some idea, professionally, but zilch in ever other aspect). I concluded a bunch of years ago that it wasn't fear of failure that held me back, but fear of success. Because success always comes at a price. I have a good (enough) thing going to live a decent, modest life as long as I don't plan too big and nothing terrible happens, like the economy crashing, and waves of nationwide unemployment for instance. The fact is, unless faced with a real threat of loss of security, making the extra effort and upsetting everyone's routines doesn't seem worth the short-term trouble, and the long-term is too far away to make sacrifices. What I concluded is that even if I woke up one morning with a (real) PhD on the wall, without having actually gone through the motions of earning it, I still would be afraid of change.

Why? I know much of it has to do with self-confidence. Much of me believes I already have more than I deserve [link], and labels my inaction as Humility. In other words, you keep to your place in life and be happy you have so much already. Other parts of me don't want to stick out, are afraid to ask for more, fear the inevitable questioning of even legitimately earned credentials. Most of the reasons are rediculous. I usually play the role of smart underachiever, a big fish in a little pond. I fear that when I move to the big pond, I'll be a pretty small fish--really nothing special at all.

I know better than to seriously believe any of these things are truth. I've been a professional for years, and done work impressive, and in some cases superior, to people around me with advanced education and experience in my field. There's nothing stopping me from making the connections necessary to move up in my career, and the older I get the more I realize I have not only the technical expertise, but also the common sense and the people skills. There's nothing stopping me except one thing.

My boss calls a degree a ticket to the dance. I've seen over and over again that this is true. Although sometimes I get a temporary guest pass, and sometimes people will step out to interact with me, it doesn't matter that I can waltz my ass off in the lobby, I'm simply not allowed in the ballroom.

I do know of one change that will happen when I finish a degree: a huge weight will be lifted off me. What kind of man will I be when I no longer live with the fear of being judged an imposter, a charlatan who pretends to have legitimate and valuable skills? What will it feel like, for a moment in my life, to feel like a success in the one way I have always felt like a failure?

I am determined to find out. On your mark...

Friday, January 14, 2011

For Posterity: Liberty Fleet Charter

I found this rummaging through old things that used to be important to me. For anyone who wasn't directly involved in this particular phase of my life, it will be a terribly boring read. Best to use that "Next Blog" button up there.


Mission Statement

Liberty Fleet is a free Star Trek play-by-email role playing game (PbEM RPG) that exists to provide a fun gaming atmosphere free from favoritism, prejudice, or bias for any reason. Participation is open to all able writers regardless of experience or talent, except those who demonstrate some malicious intent toward the Game or one of its writers.

Articles of the Fleet
I. The Liberty Fleet Council
A. Definition: Liberty Fleet shall be administered by the Libert Fleet Council, a small body of writers composed of the Game's creators and designated leaders. Ideally, the Council will be made up of an odd-number of individuals.
B. Responsibilities
1. The Liberty Fleet Council makes all decisions that affect the Game as a whole. The Council will also be the final authority on issues that affect more than one platform, but not the whole Game. Decisions are made on a majority vote, unless all Council members decide a unanimous vote is appropriate.

2. The Council will appoint the Commanding Officer (CO) of all platforms.

3. The Council has final authority over selection of Executive Officer (XO) candidates for all platforms.
a. When the XO candidate will serve under a CO that is a member of the Council, that member must abstain from the vote for XO selection for his/her platform.

b. If the XO candidate is a member of the Council, he/she must abstain from the vote, and may not participate in any debate or discussion during the selection process.
C. Membership
1. Council membership is voluntary. Any member may terminate his/her membership at any time, but is expected to give reasonable notice to the rest of the Council.

2. A Council member cannot be removed under reasonable circumstances without first being given ample opportunity to explain questionable or objectionable actions. Removal is by majority vote of remaining Council members.

3. A Council member who takes any hostile actions against the Game or one of its writers, or blatantly acts against the Mission Statement, may be removed from authority by remaining Council members immediately by unanimous vote.

4. If an opening occurs in the Council membership, remaining Council members will make invitations to fill it at their own discretion.
II. Platforms
A. Definition: A platform (sometimes called a "sim") is a fictional vessel, station, or other unit to which a unique group of characters is assigned. Each platform operates as an independent unit of Liberty Fleet within established regulations set by the Liberty Fleet Council.

B. Crew: Each platform will be made up of a group of writers collectively called a crew. The crew can be broken down into three types of characters:
1. Command Staff: Each platform will have command staff made up of a Commanding Officer (CO) character and an Executive or First Officer (XO) character.
a. Commanding Officer (CO): The CO is the responsible for the platform as a whole, and is the platform crew's representative to the Council.

b. Executive Officer (XO): The XO is responsible for the platform's crew as a single unit, and is the crew's laison to the CO.

c. The CO and XO may not be written by the same writer.
2. Department Heads
a. Depending on the platform, the crew will be divided into one or more job-based departments, each having a leader called a Department Head.

b. Department heads report to the XO, are responsible for the crew in their departments, and act as a laison between the XO and their crew.

c. If a department has no real Department Head, its crew report directly to the XO.
3. Crew/Staff Writers: These constitute the main body of writers in the Game.
4. Although the positions described are held by characters, writers of the command staff and department head characters hold real and enforcible responsibilities and authority, within established regulations set by the Liberty Fleet Council.
III. Writers and Characters
A. Writers
1. The Game's collection of writers are understood to be the backbone of the Game, and are therefore treated with the utmost respect, keeping in mind that no person is to be treated any differently than any other person.

2. Special arrangements to develop and/or mentor certain writers may be made from time to time, at the discretion of that writer's command staff or department head.

3. Occasionally writers will be recognized for unique achievements and/or contributions to the Game.
B. Characters
1. Writers participate in the Game by means of their characters, fictional people invented by the writers and assigned to a platform that are involved in the various storylines.

2. It is understood that characters are not real people and will not be treated as such. A definite separation between writers and their characters should be recognized.
C. In the case of platform CO and XO, the writers of the characters in these positions hold legitimate authority over the writers on their platforms, and have a final say over the rank, position, and transfer of the associated characters. Only the Liberty Fleet Council can override this authority.
IV. Conflict Impartiality: While the Liberty Fleet Council and its appointed moderators strive for total fairness, in the event of a conflict involving one of the Game's creators, Council members, or command staff, it should be understood that, due to personal relationships between the aforementioned parties, both preexisting and formed in the course of gameplay, no purely impartial conclusion can be reached.
V. Amendments: The Liberty Fleet Charter may be changed in whole or part by amendments to provide for varying circumstances as they arise, and to enable Liberty Fleet to adapt as necessary.
Adopted this 2nd day February, 2006, by the current members of the Liberty Fleet Council:

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Self Preservation

A person I love is going through an identity crisis. My texted response was as thoughtful as anyone can get in two 180-character blocks, but I still don't think that's near enough to either encourage her or express thoughts on my own identity crises.

Evidence of such a crisis usually presents itself in ways that are several degrees of cause-effect away from any actual deviation from True Self. Life happens, you make changes. Assuming you know yourself at time zero (who you are, what you enjoy, how to get where you want to be in life, and making progress toward that goal), everything that happens along the course of said progress requires a re-evaluation, and subsequent re-definition. Any list of major life events that apply to most adults old enough to know what I'm talking about will include things like leaving the parental home, educating oneself (or failure to do so), learning how to gain and lose friends, learning how to gain and lose partners, choosing a career, buying a home, getting married, and having a family. That awesome twenty year old you used to be, who had the whole world in his/her hands and could go anywhere and be anything, isn't around anymore. Now you've got responsibilities to provide for and expectations to meet, maybe to more than just yourself, and if any of the decisions that led to those responsibilities and expectations were anything but 100% satisfying, you've made a course correction away from the Goal, and you usually don't even realize it until you see how far away you've moved.

A ship navigating even one degree off course will not only completely miss its intended destination, but find itself in completely unfamiliar territory, if it travels that way long enough or fast enough. And by the time the captain realizes the mistake, the further he's travelled along the wrong course, the larger the correction necessary. Life is the same way, except you can't turn around and go back to where you made the wrong turn.

There's no way to get back to time zero, no way to put a hand on the wheel before you made that first bad choice, or the choice that was good for the time but ultimately didn't pan out the way you thought (or hoped) it would. (Besides, do you really think you'd still like the same things and people now that you did when you were twenty?) Now, you have to deal with the "who" and "what" that you currently are, whether you like that person or not. True, journals, photographs, yearbooks, and old friends are invaluable resources in researching that lost Self, but lamentation is futile, and usually discouraging enough to shame away all the newly realized thoughts of self-realized disappointment. Get back to your life, you'll say to yourself, you're doing fine with what you have, you can't afford to make changes now. And so you do. Until the next time you're slapped in the face with a reminder that life is not the way you want it to be. It's hard to remember that, even if you think your current self isn't worth the trouble it would take to change, the destination self IS.

So, can you afford not to make changes?

It's a question I've faced multiple times since my mid-twenties. I am still asking myself, in varying aspects, if something is the way I want it, and if the answer is "no," the next question is what am I going to do about it. This happens more often than not, and I usually don't have an answer to the second question right away. I have routinely asked this about my friendships, marriage, finances, job, mental and emotional health, and how I see my body. I tell the people around me who are old enough to question these things and understand them that I don't have to go to work every morning, I don't have to come home every night. Nothing is stopping me from getting in my car right now, withdrawing every dime I can get at an ATM, and driving until my car dies. Of course, that's not the plan (today). I know I have this choice, though, and infinitely more like it, and that alone is free-ing in itself. But despite all the things I don't like about myself and my life, I know that without all the things I'd sacrifice to make some of the drastic changes I've considered, I'd be even further behind than I am now.

I'm taking baby steps, and I know I'll really never stop, never reach an end point in this journey. Until my body gives up on me, that is. Maybe that's just the rationalization for my lack of progress thus far, but if it's what gets me started I really don't care. There will always be books to read and apologies to make, arguments to start because they were never finished, and people to whom I've never expressed the real love I have for them. The plan is that I'll get to a little of that stuff today, and if all goes well, I'll get another day to get a little further. And so on. And though there will be a hundred things that get in the way every one of those days, I know this is the only practical course I have, unless I want to get in the car and head to an ATM...

So to my dear loved one, I wish you all the best. You are not alone, nor shall you be at any part of the journey you want me around for. SCWA

Monday, January 3, 2011

On Fairness and Deserving

1. I am not a pundit, an economist, a sociologist, an anthropologist, or a professional or student in the fields of history or ethics, nor do I have an in-depth understanding of how most non-American, non-Western societies of the world work. Don't read my words as if I'm pretending to be or have any such things.
2. You probably aren't (and don't) either, so if you think I'm off the mark, you probably should keep it to yourself, lest you either (a) make yourself look like a self-righteous tool, and/or (b) expose yourself to the criticism of the thousands of readers my blog has daily.
2b. Really, the blog has exactly 5 readers that I know of, but they'll still chew you up one side and down the other if you flame me, because they're my friends.
3. This entry is heavily fragmented and parenthesized, and was edited with minimal correction of the flow of thought with which it was written. Deal with it.
4. [standard blog disclaimer]

I had a little discussion with my kids in the car over the past weekend, in which I tried to explain a tenet of the world every parent is forced to eventually admit or vainly try to hide: life isn't fair. I elaborated by saying that most people (globally, anyway) have far less than they deserve, while a few people have a great deal more (in some cases, vastly so).

Which begs the question: is the concept of deserving anything even valid?

My desktop dictionary defines the word DESERVE to mean "to be worth of; merit." goes a little further:

    de·serve [dih-zurv] verb, -served, -serv·ing. –verb (used with object) 1. to merit, be qualified for, or have a claim to (reward, assistance, punishment, etc.) because of actions, qualities, or situation: to deserve exile; to deserve charity; a theory that deserves consideration. –verb (used without object) 2. to be worthy of, qualified for, or have a claim to reward, punishment, recompense, etc.: to reward him as he deserves; an idea deserving of study.
For the purposes of this discussion, we'll be going with the first definition, "used with object."

We've already started the discussion at a basic level: a definition. For the moment, we'll keep it just that simple. My daughter, who is seven years old, understands what it means to deserve something as well as she'll ever need to. Indeed, what child does not occasionally exclaim to his/her parent "IT'S NOT FAIR!"? Kids do this because they've been taught by their environments that each person in a more or less equivalent position (siblings, in my example) has a right to expect more or less equivalent goods and services. This idea doesn't get any more complicated above the minor sibling level: it is universal in not only minivans and households, but workplaces, neighborhoods, governments, etc.

Of course, these environments in which kids learn that this is a reasonable expectation has, in almost every case, been falsely created and maintained by parents (you, me, them, and even our own). If my brother Johnny gets a piece of chocolate, I ought to get one too. If his is bigger than mine, I have a right to question it, and get justifiably upset if the heinous injustice isn't corrected. These are fundamental truths in society and are well understood by all humans under the age of, well, two hundred. Of course some societies, families, etc., have evolved to suppress this behaviour (bless them!), but those are definitely the exception as opposed to the rule, and so are not being considered for this discussion.

Even above the parent/child/family level, anyone who's grown up with this innate sense of justice intact thinks this is as natural as turning around to see someone who is behind you. As adults, the expectation is perpetuated by human management of almost every kind.

So how is it, then, that the world has turned into a place where a tiny fraction of the world's population controls such a huge portion of its resources?

(This is a rhetorical question for which I have no explanation. I'm sure, somewhere out there, there are political scientists and economists who could explain it to me, but that isn't the point. I suppose the statement of the question to begin with is merely my own voicing of "IT'S NOT FAIR!")

We regularly live and work in an adult world where the exploitation of inequities between this one and that one are accepted, perpetuated, and forgotten about. So why do we tell our children that, and even act ourselves as if, this isn't true? Because deep down, we know the kids are right. Aren't they?

Even the founders of the government of the greatest modern Democracy on the planet penned it into their charter document: "...all men are created equal..." Well, see there? All *men* are created equal. All white men that is. All white men above a certain age, who own a certain amount of property. Now we're getting into the answer to that rhetorical question... but again it's beside the point. The point is, somebody tried to make the statement generically true to a generically large extent.

But it can't be true.

This excerpt from the Declaration of Independence only speaks to the ideal we'd all like to believe: that when a person exits the womb (or before, based on other beliefs you may or may not have... I'm tangent-crazy here!), he or she is (more excerpts here) "endowed...with inalienable rights..." This is based on the assumption that every person has equal faculties and resources. That notion, of course, is absurd (but you can't tell a budding nation of colonists pissed off at King George III that, can you?)

Let me set you straight, now, on my own beliefs. What I've said so far is that no two people, as much as we'd like to believe otherwise, are alike in what they want, what they can do, or what they have available to do it with. If they were, we'd be like one of those utopian planets from a Star Trek episode. And that's just silly. When people make broad comments about being created equal and such, they are drawing a line of expectation to which everyone will be considered, even if a person's natural position in faculties and resources places them below that line. In such a case (theoretically), allowances are made to compensate for the difference. Even when theory doesn't provide (and when does it ever, when acting alone?), everyone acts as if everyone protected under Jefferson's masterpiece is the same. I understand and appreciate the intent here, as ignorant as the assumption is.

Let me also set you straight on this. Though I'm quoting the Declaration of Independence as evidence that the concept of "deserving" is universal, I'm not just talking about America or Americans, even though we/they do seem to embody the concept of entitlement quite well. Just as all children laugh when feeling joy no matter where or how they're raised, all people feel this inside them. Look at any revolution or civil war that's ever occured in any nation at any period in human history, and try to tell me otherwise.

It is my own personal belief that every person ought to be able to explore, and consequently pursue, whatever it is that makes him/her happy, so long as it doesn't hinder anyone else from doing the exact same thing. To an extent, this is largely the case, thousands of laws notwithstanding, both in the home of the brave and abroad. Who among us doesn't know people who see themselves as living below (or above) their standards, even if those standards seem an extreme of largess or poverty to others? I know men who makes ten times my salary and never seem to be satisfied with their lifestyle, and some who make less than a third who are happier than I think I've ever been. I'm willing to bet that whether or not a person thinks he/she is getting what he/she "deserves" corresponds more to how satisfied said person is with what he/she already has than how much money he/she makes, how much stuff he/she has, or his/her social position.

My crudely drawn conclusions here are that
(1) nobody really deserves anything,
(2) everybody has to make their own way in whatever life they've been given,
(3) real happiness is attainable almost irregardless of the life anyone's been given,
(4) a person's happiness depends more on that person's perspective than his/her abundance or lack thereof, and
(5) with the right attitude and resources, any person can change his/her surroundings sufficiently to gain the privelege of re-evaluating his/her own happiness.

As to the question of how one acquires the resources mentioned in conclusion 5, see the above rhetorical question earlier in the post. Live long and prosper.