Fossil Fuel Pipe Dreams

I got an interesting email today; it’s one of those well-meaning chain mails meant to change the world through grassroots consumer action. While it’s a very nice gesture, I fear that people aren’t really looking at the big picture. We continue to demonize the oil corporations and complain to our government without really thinking about the problem of oil on a WORLDWIDE PHYSICAL level. Oil doesn’t come back once we burn it, folks. It’s not sustainable.

Without further ado, here’s the email I received. Below are my notes on the original email, followed by my response to our raging American pulse.

This was originally sent by a retired Coca Cola executive (I’ll just point out argument from authority,) It came from one of his engineer buddies who retired from Halliburton. It’s worth your consideration.
Join the resistance!!!! (Indeed, fight the power.) I hear we are going to hit close to $ 4.00 a gallon by next summer and it might go higher!! Want gasoline prices to come down? We need to take some intelligent, united action. (United intelligent action like carpooling? Maybe reinstating some old rail lines?)
Phillip Hollingsworth offered this good idea. This makes MUCH MORE SENSE than the “don’t buy gas on a certain day” campaign that was going around last April or May! The oil companies just laughed at that (Did they laugh at it? Were a bunch of old white guys at a conference table laughing about this chain mail?) because they knew we wouldn’t continue to “hurt” ourselves by refusing to buy gas. It was more of an inconvenience to us than it was a problem for them. BUT, whoever thought of this idea, has come up with a plan that can really work. Please read on and join with us!
By now you’re probably thinking gasoline priced at about $1.50 is super cheap. Me too! It is currently $2.79 for regular unleaded in my town. Now that the oil companies and the OPEC nations have conditioned us to think that the cost of a gallon of gas is CHEAP at $1.50 – $1.75, we need to take aggressive action to teach them that BUYERS control the marketplace..not sellers. (Or in the case of a resource that’s not renewable–the AMOUNT we can produce kind of controls the marketplace too. Just a thought.) With the price of gasoline going up more each day, we consumers need to take action. The only way we are going to see the price of gas come down is if we hit someone in the pocketbook by not purchasing their gas! And, we can do that WITHOUT hurting ourselves. How?
Since we all rely on our cars, we can’t just stop buying gas. But we CAN have an impact on gas prices if we all act together to force a price war. (“Forcing a price war” is a ludicrous plan, because in the end, we’re still consuming just as much. This plan really doesn’t tell us to do much of anything except to make some oil companies richer than others.) Here’s the idea: For the rest of this year, DON’T purchase ANY gasoline from the two biggest companies (which now are one), EXXON and MOBIL. If they are not selling any gas, they will be inclined to reduce their prices. If they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow suit. But to have an impact, we need to reach literally millions of Exxon and Mobil gas buyers.
It’s really simple to do! Now, don’t wimp out on me at this point…keep reading and I’ll explain how simple it is to reach millions of people!!
I am sending this note to 30. If each of us send it to at least ten more (30 x 10 = 300) … and those 300 send it to at least ten more (300 x 10 = 3,000)…and so on, by the time the message reaches the sixth group of people, we will have reached over THREE MILLION consumers.
If those three million get excited and pass this on to ten friends each, then 30 million people will have been contacted! If it goes one level further, you guessed it….. THREE HUNDRED MILLION PEOPLE!!!
Again, all you have to do is send this to 10 people. That’s all! (If you don’t understand how we can reach 300 million and all you have to do is send this to 10 people…. Well, let’s face it, you just aren’t a mathematician. But I am. so trust me on this one.) 🙂
How long would all that take? If each of us sends this e-mail out to ten more people within one day of receipt, all 300 MILLION people could conceivably be contacted within the next 8 days!!! I’ll bet you didn’t think you and I had that much potential, did you! Acting together we can make a difference.
If this makes sense to you, please pass this message on. I suggest that we not buy from EXXON/MOBIL UNTIL THEY LOWER THEIR PRICES TO THE $1.30 RANGE AND KEEP THEM DOWN. (Ultimate problem: The prices aren’t going to just DROP to $1.30 like that. They would come down incrementally until people started buying from Exxon Mobil again. Picture this: you’re driving down the street, and you see Mobil gas for 2.19, and Sinclair gas for 2.29. Guess what? No one is going to buy Sinclair gas. They’ll buy Mobil, driving
the prices right back up.)
THIS CAN REALLY WORK!!!!! (This CAN work, provided the unswaying determination of 150,000,000 people to NOT buy gas that’s 10 cents cheaper. Good luck.)

That’s the end of the brilliant plan–punish Exxon and Mobil because they’re the biggest, and therefore, most evil company.

Now for my response…

I started watching television again, and I’m watching the TODAY show in the morning on NBC. I find we’re talking about the American outrage about increased oil prices. I flip the channel to ABC, I find the same thing. Everyone everywhere is flipping out about paying a few cents more per gallon, so they blame the oil companies, OPEC, our government, and any other convenient faceless organization we can find to make the claim that we’re being shafted.

But here’s the problem no one’s talking about:

Oil is limited. There is a finite amount of it on the planet. If we apply some some simple economics and a little bit of global vision, we see clearly why gasoline prices will continue to rise until gasoline is no longer a viable fuel.

First off, gasoline doesn’t just spring from the ground. I’m sure all of you know that. The process in a nutshell is exploration, foundation, extraction, transport, refining, transport again, and delivery. Along that route, how many employees do you think these evil oil giants employ?

So let’s poke a little…

Exploration–how much do you think oil companies spend looking for new wells? You would imagine they spend plenty–exploration of new resources keeps them in business.

Foundation–how much money do you suspect it costs to build, maintain, and staff a field?

Extraction–this gets trickier because as we reach the 50% level of the well, we find it takes more time and energy to extract the remaining oil from it. This means as we deplete our larger fields, the extraction process gets more expensive. Has anyone calculated these costs in?

Transport–pipelines at this stage, normally. Now, let’s think about this: a pipeline a thousand miles long and 10 feet in diameter–a pipel
ine with safeguards so that it doesn’t snap or critically leak. How much do you suppose it costs to design, build, and maintain that?

Refining–think about a factory the size of a city, A factory that’s worth well over $250 million. How much do you suspect it costs to keep this running?

Transport (of finished product)–Now you’re talking oil liners, tanker trucks, etc., all the way down to the guy that fills our gas station tanks here at home. How much money do those oil liners cost? How about the tens of thousands of tanker trucks filling our stations every week?

Delivery–the end product gas station. In order to make any money at all, the places we get our gas have to push the price up a little more. If they don’t, they’re not a viable business.

So, after all the employees and capital costs we’ve determined, try and put all of that together and wonder to yourself how much money it must take to keep all of those systems running.

Now let’s add another factor. DEMAND. This is another piece of simple economics. China continues to skyrocket in industrial development. Guess what that means? They need oil too. In fact, they’ve needed quite a bit more in the last decade, and they’ve needed even more in the last five years. This means that we’re no longer the single biggest crude drain on the world. Now we have another. So let’s review. Oil is STILL finite, but DEMAND has doubled since 1986. Guess what that means for prices, kids?

Now lets drive the point home with the spoiled child analogy. For quite a while, Europeans have been paying double what we pay.
See that little blue line down there? Yeah, that’s us. Now, consider where we get most of our oil: Not just the Middle East, but the confluence of the European, Asian, and African continents. So, is Europe closer or father away? Good. You’re doing well. Europe is within continental reach of the major petrol resources minus South America (15% isn’t a lot.) So if Europe is closer to the massive wells in the Middle East and Russia, what’s the deal? Why do they pay so much more?

Two things: influence and buying power.

Think about American involvement in the Middle East in 1940. Not much, right? Well, Texas still had plenty of oil in 1940. Around the mid-fifties, however, a geophysicist named M. King Hubbert told the United States Geological Survey (USGS) that US oil would peak somewhere around 1970. After that point, domestic oil returns would be less and less. He was laughed off by some experts and lauded by others. Over time, Hubbert has become marginalized and forgotten, despite the fact that he predicted the world oil peak would happen sometime around…now.

The scary part about Hubbert’s two predictions is that the first one was dead on. I wasn’t around in 1970, but I do recall some sort of energy crisis happening around the middle of that decade. Are you still following me? After the steep slope of the US oil peak, we had to go elsewhere if we were going to continue to satisfy our massive hunger for crude. What’s more is that around that time the Soviets were toying around with the idea of major pipelines for energy interests. Now we have competition for a major resource, meaning we throw money and might at anything that would secure those energy interests for us instead of the Soviets. Enter, Afghanistan. Later on, Iran. Later still, Desert Shield/Storm.

So what was I saying? Influence. Do you think we pay low prices because we’re friendly and everyone loves us? Do you think we’re being treated to a favor because of our great reputation? Let’s talk buying power.

When you buy in bulk, you get a break. It’s another given rule. Bulk means less packaging, less middle men, and less the seller has to worry about. When the Netherlands buys the amount of oil they need for a month, it pales in comparison to the amount of oil we need for a month. So guess who gets the better deal?

But that doesn’t mean it’s going to last forever. As China and India continue to industrialize along with the rest of SE Asia, we’re going to find a few other powers that are not only closer to the supply, but they also need a increasingly bigger slice of the pie to continue their growth. Guess who’s going to get the better deal a decade from now?

In the end, we have to stop crying about it and start carpooling. In the United States, the average empty seats in a vehicle work out to be a little over three. Because each and every one of us have our own vehicles, we get away with feeding a 2500 lb. beast to carry our 150 lb. bodies. We could easily eliminate 2 or 3 cars per 6 people driving, but we won’t.

Know why?

We’re American, and it’s our right to waste. It’s also our right to whine when we can’t get the same unfairly preferential treatment we’ve gotten from the Saudis for the past 30 years. It’s also our right to forget about the problem once gas drops a few cents again. The problem is greed, but it’s not just the oil companies’ greed; it’s ours.

The bottom line, after all this ranting, is this; the bubblin’ crude will not bubble forevermore, nor will it simply “run out” one day. It’s a curve. As we have less and less to pump out of the major fields, the cost of extraction goes up. As we spend more and more finding new fields, we find smaller and less voluminous supplies to tap. As we spend more time and money finding more oil, we get less and less to show for it. This doesn’t mean we’re going to run out–it means that eventually, it’s going to cost more money getting to the oil and distributing it than the companies can make selling it.

Unless we make a major breakthrough in solar power or find the elusive mythical secrets of controlled sustainable fusion, we’re going to have to change our lifestyles. Oil is not going to magically appear because we’re angry.

Let’s look at the bigger picture sometime before calling out the oil giants as the root of all evil. Let’s understand that if our politicians cap the price of gas, they’re not hurting OPEC, they’re hurting our local gas stations. After all, most oil companies are made up of (surprise!) private investors, many of them from this country, and many of them in the middle class.

If you’d prefer the government to regulate the oil prices, they’ll have to audit the oil companies. If they do that, they may as well control the distribution of oil. Now let’s look at our government and the people involved in it. Do you really want to cede control of our energy resources to them?

Berserker less. Think bigger. When you can do that, plea for the sanity of those around you.


My Teachers (Part two)

The second installment of profiles about the teachers in my life.

Gary Kincade
(Builder, Artist, Woodsman)

As is the cliched reaction from every male child of a divorce when their mother finds another “dad,” I was resistant to the idea of a lasting male role model. This isn’t just the fear of replacement or the fear of a repeat situation whereby another ground-level male influence is introduced and then taken away–it happens as a sense of loyalty to one’s own blood relationships makes itself known whether or not you understand it. I was just turning seven years old, and defiance, a reaction usually reserved for teenagers, reared its head sharply and quickly.

Though I’ve loved the outdoors all my life, this was still the age of Nintendo. Where Gary and I disagreed in our penchant for the outdoors was in structure…Hunting was boring to me. It required patience. Fishing was boring to me. It required patience. Whether or not I would find these activities interesting now is beyond me…it’s been so long since I held a rod and reel that I would have to try it again to see where my tastes lie today. The point was, rather, that my time outside was MY TIME, whether that meant navigating a streambed, playing war games with myself against imaginary assailants, or just running around tying rope to things to swing off of.

But firewood…there’s the lasting impression that will never cross my mind without making me chuckle. The splitting moll was one of my favorite tools as a kid, probably because of its close resemblance to a warrior’s weapon. At seven or eight years old, though, I was useless with it. My extra height couldn’t help me if my twiggy arms couldn’t lift and swing a sharp arc into a log. So I was asked to do what I could do with the firewood–stack it.

It seems funny to me now how many excuses I made trying to get out of rounding up some quartered logs and tossing them against a barn in an orderly fashion. Mom and Gary tried everything from incentives for doing it, to punishments for not doing it, eventually trying to come down to my level by using logic to explain why I should do it.

None of them worked.

This, actually, seemed to be a theme of my cooperation with anything having to do with Gary.

Gary and my Mother dated for about 10 years, if I’m remembering correctly. In those 10 years, Mom and I lived in many places, but none of them matched our farmhouse in Melmore, Ohio–where most of my early memories of forest and field were forged. We lived on a mountain in Bristol, NY, on the lake with my grandfather in Canandaigua, in a farmhouse in Hopewell, but none of the locations had everything that I missed from my childhood.

Gary lived in a chicken coop in Stanley, NY–remodeled to become a one bedroom, one bathroom home. Complete with a wood-burning stove, forest, farm, and plenty of open space to romp–that property in Yates County became my new Melmore, though I didn’t appreciate that at 8 years old.

Even given my resistance to male role models in that time of my life, I was taught to trailblaze. I was taught to clean fish and climb ravines. I was taught how to ride a snowmobile, how to shoot a gun, how to use a recurve bow, and how to get lost in the woods and enjoy it.

That I look back on those days so nostalgically means that despite my attitude in my early youth, it’s where I wanted to be. It’s where I needed to be. Most importantly, the lessons I’ve gotten from that time in my life stuck with me.

Now I’ve moved again, out of my apartment on Broad Street and away from the only traffic light in the Milford Borough. I’m renting a cabin on Log Tavern Road surrounded by stream and forest. The whole logs stacked next to a storage building were the first things that caught my eye when I went to look at the place. Old tumbling rock walls, a small ravine and a stream less than 1000 feet away, and 3 cords of unchopped wood. Heaven.

Now I wake up and watch the deer and turkey mingle in my backyard. I’m cleaning out the gardens and rebuilding the old rock walls. The funniest part about all of this is that I’m not sure I would see the same Elysium in front of me if I hadn’t been lucky enough to have Gary as one of my teachers.

I came for home for lunch this afternoon, but I wasn’t all that hungry, so I left the food preparation up to my roommate, Ben. I grabbed my gloves and headed to the woodpile in the front yard. I had about half a cord in a pile that I had split on Monday. I stacked what was there and started splitting again, before a funny power-surge style thought hit me…

10 years ago, no one could have paid me to do what I was doing of my own free will on my hour lunch break. No speech about the therapeutic benefits of chopping and stacking wood could have swayed me a decade ago as I approached my teenage years. So now, as I’m looking forward to completing the task of quartering this pine and cherry and moving on to raking out the small flowerbeds surrounding my house, I’m wondering how I would look at all of this if I hadn’t ever spent time with Gary, one of the first and most memorable of my naturalist influences.

Why I’m Registered Republican

(Note: this is begging
for a response. It’s written with holes in it because it was written in the passion of the moment. As the point of the essay below presents–if I’m wrong, tell me. Let me know how you feel. If I’m wrong, make me understand why. Become an American and make your voice heard. You can start with this blog post. It’s an easy first step.)

Though I’m not spiritually aligned with either party, I’m registered Republican.

Before you scoff at my decision at 16 years old to pre-register (so that the registration activated when I was 18) as a Republican, I have reasons grounded in my faith that humanity is generally good. I’ll follow that naiveté to my grave. I have to. To lose it is to become cold and greedy, which is ironically the face that the Democratic Party often places on the G.O.P.

I’m registered as a Republican because I don’t believe that forcing people into helping each other means that we’re being good people. It’s the same as the idea of heaven: if you’re being good because you want a reward at the end, you’re not being good at all. It works the same with social assistance: if I’m being forced to give a portion of my money away to be parsed under every federal social program in existance, I’m not really being generous at all. My reward is that I’m being left alone by the I.R.S.

I don’t believe that the government does any good when it’s sanctioned to coddle everyone, regardless of circumstance. This doesn’t mean I want welfare abolished. This doesn’t mean I want taxes abolished. It means that sometimes we need to be more innovative than forming another committee to make decisions about poverty, education, employment, and commerce on a federal, blanket-cover scale.

This follows because I have one stubborn (and quite possibly wrong) belief. (Hey, I’m young. Chances are that I’m usually wrong.) I believe that people can’t be helped unless they’re willing to struggle to lift themselves from the ashes. People go through hard times. This is what governmental assistance is for. My mother spent three years on welfare. My visits to the doctor were paid by Medicaid. Between the ages of 7 and 10, my health and shelter were made possible by the United States and New York governments. So now I’m a hypocrite, right?

Not exactly.

My mother continued her education at Finger Lakes Community College (the same institution that changed my mind about going into physics and woke me up as a writer,) and attained her Associates Degree. One year later, she found a job well-paying enough to sustain us, and she was once again a financial contributor to the system at large.

This is what welfare is for; a push in the right direction, not a financial I.V. to support the ambitiously brain-dead.

In my senior year of high school, my Participation in Government class was probably my favorite. I was opposed by my entire class for my stance on soft money, which I said should be allowed without limits. My readers are probably wondering if I was insane.

If I was, I still am.

My stance on campaign contributions is this– so long as the money is used for the campaign, I don’t care how much anyone donates. I don’t care how much corporations donate. Let the dollar signs fly. But now that I’ve fryed every Democratic thinker in my audience to red-faces and clinched-fists, listen to my reason for this line of thinking:

If, as a nation, we vote for who we see most on the television, who we hear most on the radio, whose flyers we get in the mail most frequently– it’s not the fault of the media. It’s not the fault of the campaign organizers or the campaign donors. It’s our fault as voters.

Without the dawn of the internet, I would have to cede that my line of thinking is wrong because candidates would have to trudge door-to-door or make phone calls that few of us want to answer, but in the information age, we can dig. The information runs across every spiral and spectrum, and on the internet we find voices of all kinds, rich and poor.

When I made $18,500 a year working for the food & beverage industry, my thoughts and words could be seen on the world wide web. . The information is there for the public to make a decision, and it’s no longer four television networks nor a handful of radio stations. I could afford to maintain a site with my poverty level income, proving that even a young, politically inexperienced blue-collar voice can be a visible, audible one.

If we were all fighters the way my mother is a fighter–if we were all political hotheads like I am to this day–we might be squabbling a lot more, but we also wouldn’t tolerate ignorance in our governmental offices.

I’m not just talking about our President. I’m talking about all of them, from the Federal Executive to the Mayor of Nowhere.

It’s not up to a soft-money law to elect our officials. It’s not up to a monopoly law to ensure a business is being fair.

I don’t expect that 200 million people would agree on any topic but this: the state of our nation–of our government, local, regional, state and national–is our own responsibility.

So I’m probably a fool for believing that people can be informed, responsible, and good-natured without being forced to do so by a rulebook–but without that belief, what exactly is it that I’m trying to change?

Stop blaming an entire political party. Stop whining about a single politician unless you’re actively pursuing their removal from office. Stop feeling useless. Stop denying your own right to a voice and your own responsibility to act. Start looking in the mirror.

And above all, take your own advice.

School of Thought

I call it the Crips and the Bloods on Capitol Hill.

I went to the GOP site today. The headline was:
“Dems’ Immigration Plan: Obstruct, Mislead, And Politicize”

The first thing I’m going to say as a nitpicking editor is that you don’t capitalize “and” in a title unless it’s the first word. However, the grammar of the GOP website isn’t the issue, which brings me to the next point.

Is immigration something we should be worrying about?
Is immigration the first thing on the minds of the Republicans?

Let’s talk military.
What about our tired Armed forces that the GOP keeps telling me to support?

Has the GOP supported our Armed Forces by allowing the current administration to carelessly deploy, redeploy, underprepare, and underequip?
Has the GOP supported our troops, or have they supported their own wreckless agenda?
What about those of us who want our boys home, to heal and to rebuild so that we can maintain the military superiority which the GOP takes for granted so disrespectfully?

Let’s talk what if…
The Hard Right Wing is classically isolationist. Where are the voices of that followed Pat Buchanan,
who told us to get out of the middle east and seal our southern border? I don’t support Pat Buchanan at all, but I’m posing these questions to those Constitutional Literalists who cheered “Go, Pat, Go…” How can you respect an Administration that defies your standards of civil freedom? How can a Constitutional Literalist agree with the Patriot Act? The Democrats may not have it right, but neither does the current administration. It’s time to unite with the others on the opposite end of the political spectrum. Put aside your differences and fight the greater corruption. This time the extreme left and the extreme right agree–our civil liberties are being threatened by an administration touting the destructive combination of fear, greed, and carelessness.

Let’s talk trade deficit.
Wake up, folks. The idea of a trade deficit is quite simple. We import more than we export.
This means that we pay more money out for recieving product than we get from our products being sold. Do you know what that means? Our industry is weak. Know what else it means? We’re losing capital. This isn’t rocket science.

Let’s talk federal deficit.
Record-breaking. Remember the good old days when Republicans were misers? Eventually, an economic death spiral is inevitable once a debt goes high enough. Again, simple economics. There comes a point when you’ve borrowed so much that your payments aren’t even enough to cover the interest accruing on the loan. Allowing any further loans would be sheer stupidity. What happens then? Money gone. I know, I know, the FDIC can guarantee the safety of $100,000 dollars. Great. What happens when the value of a dollar drops to 1/500th of a Euro? Other giant nations that have gone bankrupt have experienced much worse. Can anyone say “ruble”?

So tell me again about immigration. Tell me again how the Democrats are spinning it and clouding the issue of IMMIGRATION.

Now ask me if I care.

But I won’t strike the Elephant without slapping the Ass.

I went to the DNC website today. The headline was:
“DeLay Cuts and Runs from Texas”

The first thing I’m going to say as a nitpicking editor is that the Democrats seem to know not to capitalize prepositions and conjunctions in titles. Damn those smart ass collegiate liberals.

But, aside from better grammar, is Tom DeLay what we should be worrying about?
Is Tom DeLay the first thing on the minds of the Democrats?

Let’s talk leadership.
Definitive Democratic leadership. Hmm…I can’t find any.*(1) Let’s move on.

Let’s talk party singularity.
Again, I’m looking but I don’t see. Democrats seem to comprise all sorts of people who are awake on the issues. So awake, in fact, that they argue with each other over more specific differences within the party membership.*(2) As long as the whole of the party can’t agree that a milquetoast candidate is better than an unqualified one, they can’t ever be as powerful a party as the Republicans.

Let’s talk plan.
Too many cooks. Without some central party support, every Democratic plan will fizzle. And no, criticizing the Republicans doesn’t count as useful party support if you can’t agree and you can’t find a leader. Stop crowing about the Republicans that are going down in the flames of corruption. We see them. We hear about them. Shut up and do something constructive. We can’t always have the rarity of a brilliant, charismatic, down-home, Arkansas boy who grew up with the graciousness of the South and the poise of a Statesman to save us. *(3)

So that’s what I have to say. The Republicans are magicians and the Democrats are whiners.
Guess who gets the bigger audience though?


*(1) Well, there was Dean, but the “liberal media” destroyed him with one passionate speech. Wait a minute–why would the “liberal media” want to make Dean look bad? I’m not seeing a motive here…

*(2) We find a parallel with the Catholics and the Protestants. The Protestants subdivided so completely that the Catholic Church maintained as the most powerful and influential of the Christian Sects.

*(3) And don’t tell me s**t about blow-jobs in the oval office. Industry was better off. Technology was better off. Education was thriving. The world didn’t hate us. Our federal debt was shrinking. The future retired were secure (well, not really secure, but not as f***ed as they are now…)

My Teachers (Part one)

How did I get here?

More importantly, how do I keep going?

Teachers. Masters in their own right…and I’m talking about people who teach as their professional career and others that I’ve considered teachers, which include family, friends, other influences, even events and ethereal forces without a corporeal body.

The list could go on forever, so I’m going to do this in parts as they come up.

(Eos, Mother Earth, Goddess, etc.)

I call her fate because she guides me through life. When I say I worship “Fate,” many people misunderstand. Usually people take “Fate” to mean that I believe my actions are pointless because self-determination doesn’t exist–it’s exactly the opposite. Your “Fate” is your self-determination in the great dance with everything else’s self-determination. The greater body of the will of every living thing combined with the form of the dance steps– that’s Fate.

She’s always willing to teach me as much as I’m willing to learn. She’s there asking me to be with the decisions I’m making, whether they bring me high or low. Every time I feel inspired, every time I feel at peace, every time I feel the warmth of existance–that’s Fate and I dancing together–stepping, spinning, and dipping to the beat of the world around us. When something harsh or painful comes into my life, I’ve no happenstance to trace it back to but my own call to learn something from the situation.

When I’m not feeling right with the world, this is when I’m sitting on the bleachers, trying to convince myself and the world that I can’t dance. Whenever that happens, Lady Fate is always beckoning me to get on the floor and move my feet. She knows, as well as I do (though I deny it sometimes,) that we can dance in every moment. As the amalgam of all I see and hear, Fate is my ultimate teacher.

Joe Nacca
(English Professor)

I was a junior in high school determined to avoid English 12. With my Mom’s help, we fought our way through a loophole that would allow me to take English 101 (Composition) and English 102 (Literature) at Finger Lakes Community College over the summer before my senior year instead of sitting through the entire next school year.

My plan was to eliminate English classes from both my high school and college careers in one fell swoop. Back then, my plan was to be a physicsist, and the requirement of English for a B.S. in Physics was a simple one-two punch. Like a Jan-plan course, the schedule was compressed…three weeks composition, three weeks literature. In 6 weeks I would be finished with English for the rest of my life.

Looking back at this now, I realize my favorite high-school teachers were my English teachers. I had no idea why I wanted to rid myself of language and literature so early in my life. It must have had something to do with fervently pursuing the sciences; I felt words had no place in my future.

Joe Nacca changed that. Going to a college English class for four hours a day seemed like a curse to me, but I kept telling myself it was for the greater good. If I sat through this class for 6 weeks, I would be done with it forever. Then I met Joe, grey hair flopping down to his shoulders and a button down dress shirt. He was an immediate paradox. What made even less sense to me was that I was enjoying the class. We had one major essay to write each week, and I was given the opportunity to express myself through whatever topic I wanted. After three weeks, I was starting to produce critical writing all my own…long after the class was over, essays became my primary form of expression. But it wasn’t over. After I completed English 101, I was introduced to literature that made me realize how much I loved the art of the story. It wasn’t the works that were important though, it was how they were delivered to me. In a college setting, we were asked our opinions, and people responded. There was a living forum of responses from the students, and a man just as passionate moderating the class.

Though I doubt I would be studying particle collisions at CERN, I also doubt I would have the same passion in expressing myself if it weren’t for my attempt to escape from the literary world. My subsequent classes with Joe Nacca were the tipping point leading me toward a future immersed in prose. In my senior year of high school, I withdrew from Calculus II, never to return to the world of hard science again expect in an armchair hobbyists capacity.

Just two of my many teachers in life.

Why I Don’t Kill Ants

The carpenter ant has been in my bathroom all winner. Sometimes I’ve seen one, crawling along a surface slowly, feeling it out as it walks along. I always wonder if the neural net of the ant is enough for him to remember the texture of what he’s walking on, or if his eyes find patterns in the odd visual matrix of the insect structure that allow him to decipher my display of curiosity. The ant is one of my great teachers. To understand life as it is lived in a community, to surrender oneself to the event of society, one looks to the ant.

I’ve seen two or three at a time, a couple times at different parts of the bathroom. I’m wondering what they’re eating. Colgate shaving cream? Listerine? Dial soap? I don’t get what brings them to the bathroom.

Moisture, maybe. Endless water. One was sitting on the tip of the faucet head, standing next to a small bead of water. I started brushing my teeth before I noticed him. Scrubbing my teeth, I watched him panic, struggling to cope with the radical change in his environment He circled once around the front and was swept away by a bead leaking between the seams of the filter. It took me a second to realize what happened, and I was too late to stop the faucet. It sounds funny now, but at that moment it didn’t seem ludicrous to me. I wanted to help him. I wanted to save that ant.

There’s a reason for that, the same for this essay.

We can learn from our teacher both as an ant and as the ant.

Learning from our friend as an ant, there was a reason I felt that drop into the sink. In the moments of panic—in a radically changing situation—his dance was mine. Fear in a fluid situation feeds the trend. That’s a very good one. No fate is so tricky as consumption by fear.

Learning from our friend as the ant, from the spirit of the species, we look to our part of the spirit that needs attention. The personality of the ant is a call to community, to perseverance and hard work for the good of the all. In every ant I see, a call to remember togetherness. Remember that you cannot survive alone. You are part of something bigger, but at the exact same time, self-determining.

Does this make sense? I’m adding it to my evidence that says free will and fate coexist.

So we’ve taken two lessons from our departed brother, vigorously investigating the strange human world of plastic and metal to sip from the endless beads of clear water. We thank our spirit brother and return to lady Nox for rest.