Lowercase Punishment

“Cruel and unusual punishment” is a relative term.

Today as I was driving back to work from my lunch break waiting at a red light at a major intersection consisting of 3-lane roads, there was this guy in a big pick-up truck who basically ran a red light in the midst of a lot of traffic. And I thought, “If only a cop was here to catch him…”.

Then I thought, “What if I had the power to obtain and punish him myself?…” The way I would want to punish him is by annoying him, for his crime of causing a potential wreck that could have affected a lot of people.

What if I could punish him without taking anything away from him? What if I could simply freeze his mind for one nanosecond in real-time, but in his mind, it would be for any amount of time I choose? Like I could freeze him for 20 hours in his mind, and everything he saw in that nanosecond would not move at all, like an annoying skip on a DVD? It would not affect his body or future at all. He would not miss anything.

Think of it this way: Sometimes you’ll wake up from a dream and it feels like you were dreaming for hours, even all night- but in reality, most dreams only last less than a minute. What seemed like hours was only seconds.

Now imagine having the power over someone to control their unconscious state for only a second, but during that fraction of a second, it would feel like however many hours, days, or years as you wanted. But the person’s eyes would be open so they had to look at the same thing during what felt like a long time.

The criminal would not age any faster than the rest of us. But if someone did something very bad, you could freeze their mind for a nanosecond in real time but 30 years in “dream time”. It would kinda be like purgatory, except the criminal couldn’t move around and nothing in sight would move neither. It would bore them out of their mind.  But we couldn’t let this power get into the wrong hands. Good thing I’m not a mad scientist.

For a similar post by the same author, read Capital Punishment, In Theory.

“Help us someone, let us out of here. Living here so long undisturbed, dreaming of the time we were free. So many years ago before for the time when we first heard ‘welcome to the Home by the Sea’. Sit down, sit down as we relive our lives in what we tell you.”
-Genesis/ “Home by the Sea” (1983)

“In the delusionary state, no wonder he’s been feeling strange of late. Nobody here to spoil the view, interfere with my plans…Steady, lads…and easy does it. Don’t frighten him! Here we go…”
-Paul McCartney/ “Mr. Bellamy” (2007)

“Such a mean old man…”
-The Beatles/ “Mean Mr. Mustard” (1969)

Like It, Love It, Gotta Have It Vs. I’ve Already Got One, Thanks

Fighting the urge to the live by the new American motto: If it ain’t broke, get another one anyway.

Like it? Love it? Gotta have it!

I can almost remember a time when I was a kid, where it was normal to really really want something for a long time and then when I would finally get it, my heart was content.  The newly obtained item gave my heart rest, and I was happy, as any kid should be.  Whether it was a new Nintendo game like Super Mario Bros. 2, or a bicycle, or a rare Ninja Turtle action figure like Splinter, April O’Neil, or Ray Fillet, I got what I had wanted for so long.  And funny enough, I never wanted a replacement after I received my prized possession.

But somewhere along the way, whether or not we can blame it on “typical capitalist American behavior” or the mindset of Generation X (I just barely made the cut- it’s anyone born between 1961 and 1981), it became normal to want a “new one” though the old one still works just fine.  Maybe just an innocent desire to keep things fresh.  Or maybe a potentially dangerous pattern.

My Italian grandfather was one of the most influential people of my lifetime.  Having grown up in an orphanage in Kenosha, Wisconsin (his mother died when he was young, and there were 12 kids in the family), he lived a minimalist lifestyle, only spending his money on his few children and grandchildren.  Hardly ever buying a new (used) car, new clothes, or new furniture.  Never buying anything name brand.

This way of thinking definitely shows up in my everyday life.  My wife jokes that I have more clothes and shoes than she does.  And it’s true.  Because I don’t get rid of them unless they’re literally rotted.  Like my old red running shoes I have delegated to only use for walking and riding my mountain bike on my lunch break.

It’s true that I own over twenty pairs of shoes that still look less than a year old.  But most of them are indeed at least ten years old, in actuality.  Because I have certain shoes I wear only if I know I will be outside or if there’s a chance of  rain that day.  Those are my “outside shoes”.  By wearing them instead of my “inside shoes”, it keeps my newer shoes looking new.

While I’ll never be as frugal as my grandfather (who when my mom was a little girl, reused dried out paper towels multiple times before throwing them away) I subconsciously try to imitate his lifestyle.

I can’t see myself ever buying a brand new car, knowing that it loses thousands of dollars in value as soon as the first owner drives it off the lot.  And I can’t see buying a different car until my current one costs more to repair than it does to actually buy another used one.

Not that buying a new car is any kind of moral issue, or that going on a shopping spree for a new wardrobe is necessarily evil, though it’s probably not a wise decision if it involves a credit card (I’m a Dave Ramsey fanatic).  But for some of us, that strand of “gotta get a new one” serves as toxic acid in our DNA.

It gets tiring hearing of men leaving their wives for another woman.  That’s definitely a familiar theme this year already in the media.  And while some could say, “What does to me if matter if Tiger Woods or Jesse James cheats on his wife?  Why is that national news?”  Because it does matter.

Not because we’re nosey.  But because in some sense, the reflection of the lifestyles of celebrities causes a subconscious call-to-response for the rest of us:  “Hey look, it’s normal, he did it.”

We have to either say, “No way, that’s not for me.  No thanks!”  Or “Well, maybe that’s not so bad…”

It shouldn’t be that hard to be happy with what we’ve already got, even if it’s not perfect.  And really, that’s a mindset that is often difficult to accept and adopt: Near-perfect is as perfect as life can really get.

Is the grass really greener on the other side?  Yes, of course it is.  But the irony is this: You’re already standing on the other side.  Somebody’s else’s “other side”.

You’re already standing on the greener grass.

"I don't care how... I want it NOW!" -Veruca Salt