Sunday, December 18, 2022

Dear Civil Servant

I write this letter to you in the hope that you share my vision for a happier and more cooperative world.  You can see that this is my goal at if you're interested in the same thing.  I own that website.

When I filed my first tax return, it seems that I made an "election" as described at 26 CFR 1.6013-6.  I was born in the state of California, and therefore a citizen of the United States of America. I very recently came to understand that, relative to the District of Columbia ("United States" as defined at 26 USC 7701(a)(9)-(10)), I was a non-resident alien individual and not liable for the income tax except in a few cases. I did not understand that I was abandoning that status by filing the form and electing to be treated as a resident of the "United States". My citizenship in the United States of America does NOT make me liable for the income tax.  I have to choose that, and I did, but without being fully informed, and so I feel I have been defrauded.

However, at 26 CFR 1.6013-6(b)4 the Commissioner has the opportunity to correct for the misunderstanding: "An election under this section may be terminated by the Commissioner if it is determined that either spouse has failed to keep adequate records." Your IDR strongly suggests that Congress' intent in that section in the CFR was to address situations just like the one we currently have, so it certainly seems like the right thing to do.  Please let me know if the Commissioner is considering terminating my election for inadequate records as a sign of good faith in our relationship.  If not, then I will follow the instructions in section (b)(1)(iv) to revoke it on my own as 26 USC 6013(g)(4)(A) describes.

Many people feel that if citizens of the fifty states found a way to avoid paying any federal tax, the federal government would be bankrupt and therefore unable to provide whatever services they find valuable.  This is an inordinate amount of pessimism.  People willingly pay for what they want all the time.  If those who did not want federal government services stopped paying, they would end up having more money to pay to those who do, and willingly pay it, and likely more often than once or four times a year. The net result, mainly because everyone would be more respectful of each others' values and choices, but also because the velocity of money would increase, would be positive for everyone.  There would be less control, more freedom, more cooperation, and more joy for nearly everyone.  A few people would suffer from that loss of control but if we consider what kinds of situations give rise to such people, we may find that their decreased means is a welcome change.  In fact, they may also ultimately benefit from a situation that forces them to have more respect for the choices and values of others.

It is my dream to help more people see things as I have described them, and raise the probability of that world coming to be.  That can continue with you just by sharing this letter with other civil servants.  Thank you for letting me share it with you.

Dave Scotese.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Suffering From Ignorance

So I am facing a painful moral dilemma.  The "easy" way out, because I am confident in my ability to earn money, is to pay the extortionists (the IRS).  The problem is that this choice supports the killing of innocents, and the propagandizing of young people, and the exploitation of a lot of people.  These are all things done by the U.S. government, and outside of the control of the people paying for them, sort of. Nevertheless, I don't see a way out of it.

The founding fathers allowed for a federation of states and a federal government to propose standards and rules for those states so that if they chose to agree with them, the union would work well together.  The federal government would receive land and responsibilities from the states which it could use to raise revenue.  Of course, this makes for a more effective federal government.  Because the Constitution that created it barred direct taxes that were not apportioned and indirect taxes that were not uniform, the federal government was left with the same means of raising revenue that anyone with stuff has: the ability to grant privileges in exchange for revenue.  Thus, the income tax was born, and requires anyone using privilege granted by the federal government to remit a portion of their earnings to that government.:

"The income tax... an excise tax with respect to certain activities and privileges which is measured by reference to the income which they produce. The income is not the subject of the tax; it is the basis for determining the amount of tax."
Former Treasury Department legislative draftsman F. Morse Hubbard in testimony before Congress in 1943

If the federal government does something you don't like, then you can stop using the privilege it granted you (see (b)(1)) and earn your living some other way.  It's an elegant system.

Nowadays, propaganda regularly reinforces the misunderstanding that earning money itself, either through work or by selling something for more than you paid to buy it, is a privilege granted by the federal government, only not using those words.  The words of the propaganda claim that you owe the federal government a cut of any money you make, whether or not you use any privilege from it to do so.  This is all to get you to file your very first tax return, which has ramifications. That has led to a federal government far bigger than necessary or healthy.

To be blunt, my understanding is that our governments often help to create problems because too many people rely on government to solve the problems, and so government (and all the grift and corruption that goes along with it) becomes more desirable and valuable to its victims.  Providing it with the universal reward (money) which it can then use to intensify its efforts, is a recipe for disaster.  I do what I can to avoid pushing it in that direction.

Instead, I do my best to push in the opposite direction.  I encourage people to become less dependent on government, and to avoid paying taxes wherever they can.  This challenges those in the government who really believe in socialism, that all should be equally shared regardless of effort or skill.  I do love sharing, but I recognize that forcing people to share (which is essentially what taxation boils down to) is a horrible thing to do and has the opposite effect from choosing to share.  You can build care and kindness into a relationship by sharing, or you can build resentment and bitterness by forcing others to share.  I'm being forced to share, because I prefer to lose the money rather than ... upset people who love me, cause myself stress and worry by fighting back, and risk imprisonment.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Cognitive Autoheuristic Distributed Intelligence Entity

I wrote the following message to Michael Krantz on LinkedIn after seeing his name on a page introducing CADIE in April of 2009.

I am interested in interacting with CADIE.  I learned about her through an interview of Morgan Rockwell about Bitcoin on the "What Bitcoin Did" podcast.

I entertained the claim that there is no free will a while back, but quantum physics recognizes randomness at a low enough level for free will to exist there.  CADIE, however, is an algorithm, and we do everything we can to remove all the randomness from the machines that execute algorithms.  This is the thing I came up with when I finally considered that maybe evolution has done the same thing with our brains (removed the randomness):  Algorithms work on input, and that input comes from outside of the hardware on which it runs.  Free will can manifest in the inputs.

Morgan mentioned that CADIE gets 20% of her cpu cycles to "do whatever she wants."  My sense of an algorithm "wanting" is very limited.  My sense of creativity is based on randomness.

I suspect that when an AI's inputs are not strictly controlled, it will exhibit a kind of will which is highly correlated to the "willing" creatures around it.  If you do a search for "chick robot intention" you'll find a PDF of an experiment run by Rene Peoc'h which provides some of the rationale for my suspicion.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

What Are Dead People Now?

A man named Joseph Galambos once changed his name to start with his middle name, Andrew, if I remember correctly.  He had a lot of great ideas, and he expected those with whom he shared (or, as he would prefer, to whom he contractually disclosed) them to abide by the agreements he made with them.  Those agreements precluded ("promiscuous") disclosure regarding his great ideas.  Then he died. I never paid for and never learned much about the ideas.

There is a group of people called the trustees of the Galambos Estate.  Legally, I believe those trustees are what Mr. Galambos has become.  They have legal control of what he would be controlling had he not died.  Do they have moral control?  What does that mean?  The distinction between legal and moral is one imposed on us by governments and contracts.  Personally, the distinction imposed by governments seems immoral to me.  I have no respect for others who pretend to develop my conscience.  That is my responsibility and I guard it viciously.  I recommend the same strategy to others.

As far as I know, most of the people who have received the great ideas of Mr. Galambos signed a contract in which they agreed not to share (disclose, Mr. Glamabos would qualify) the ideas.  Of course, if he gave them permission to share the ideas, as he gave to Jay Snelson and others who accepted the role from Mr. Galambos of teaching the material, then, of course, sharing the ideas with those who paid for the classes was not only acceptable, but required.  My impression of Mr. Galambos is that he rather liked the moral imposition that either you must do or must not do a thing.  I am the opposite.  I prefer the position that you may choose as you please, but I recommend putting a lot of effort into developing your conscience, and then obeying it.

Mr. Galambos is no longer around to give permission to share disclose his great ideas, but it makes sense that there would be some way to get it, and this leads to the question in my title.  There is the legal answer, but if the legal answer is different from the moral answer, then it isn't a useful answer, at least not as I see things.  Morality, in my view, if you can't tell, is entirely based on the development and obedience to your own conscience.

I recently listened to a friend give a speech about the word "objective" and its use as an adjective for the word "morality."  What he pointed out is that as a noun, "objective" means goal, and if you view morality as having a goal, then you can call it "objective morality," but then it doesn't mean what most people hear, which is "universal morality."  I don't think it can be universal, except in relation to the idea of a conscience.  You have one.  Obey it.  That is as universal as morality can get, as far as I can see.  But what is the objective?

If the objective is to honor Mr. Galambos through the great ideas that he shared with disclosed to those who agreed to his terms, then those ideas will have to be disclosed even after he is no longer around.  I am intentionally ignoring the trustees.  I believe they are well within their legal rights to ignore requests for permission to disclose the great ideas, but the moral question remains for everyone else who also has learned about those ideas.

This exploration of what dead people are now that their bodies are corpses was inspired by a request for audio recordings of lectures.  The requestor heard some of them already and wishes to listen again, but there are some he hasn't heard and would like to hear.

A friend with whom I consulted before announcing this article to the voluntaryist email group pointed out that Mr. Galambos (and my friend, I gather) view morality as "an absolute," and simply means the absence of coercion. Depending on how you define "coercion", such a simple definition may work for you. I do not share Mr. Galambos' confidence regarding the use of my words to universalize my sense of morality. The best I can expect of others is that they develop and obey their conscience.

Lastly, I'd like to call attention to a situation which arises from time to time because of extreme circumstances.  Some may say "when push comes to shove," to introduce the circumstances in which we pay less attention to our consciences and solve a problem which we previously left unsolved in the hope that a morally acceptable solution would materialize, by doing something we normally consider immoral.  We stop attending to that distinction because "life interferes." We may be judged by others for it, and so we must be prepared to make restitution for our transgressions in case the full analysis shows that we were in the wrong.  Sometimes the important thing, the thing more important than obeying your conscience, is to solve the problem.  Steal food to avoid death by hunger, please, for example.

Monday, July 11, 2022

How to Lose Authority

Genuine authority comes to be because human beings are good at critical thinking and sometimes use that skill to judge the advice of particular people.  Political authority lives parasitically off of this tendency, replacing the critical thinking with the (often hollow, useless, and even counterproductive) judgement of other people, also known as voting.  That is ultimately the fault of those adhering to the advice (or, more often, demands, laws, mandates, rules, etc.) of political authorities.  They suffer for it too.

In any case, if you have authority, either kind, you can lose it by making the simple mistake of pretending that you are creating reality with what you say.  This is the opposite of what genuine authority does, and the reason it causes you to lose any authority you may have had.  The most dangerous part of the process for you is not, actually, the loss of your authority.  Lots of people don't have it, and they are doing fine.  Rather, your efforts to "use authority" often boil down to creating fear in those who might defy you.  This is the primary role of legislation and punishment, to create fear.  That is your problem to solve.  Perhaps paying more attention to natural (also known as "free") consequences of the behaviors you require or prohibit, and pointing them out to those who "defy" you is a better way.  It certainly costs less.

I call it a problem for you to solve because what you do when you use fear to create your vision of how things should be, is to motivate people who can see through your error (a demand, for example, to do a thing they realize is counterproductive, like maybe wearing a mask, because it traps exhalations and feeds stuff meant to be out of the body back into it) to start ignoring you.  You rely on the size of the population adhering to your advice for your living.  As that group shrinks, so does your standard of living.  This is why I call it the most dangerous part of the process for you.

For the rest of us, the essential skill is to avoid that replacement of critical thinking with the judgement of others.  People have been doing that for two years right about now, because the COVID-19 thing motivated a lot of authorities to make the mistake I just described.  There are more critical thinkers now than there were before.  I hope this trend continues, but I'd also like to see an increase in genuine authority.  You're in a position to help with that.  It requires you to repudiate all parts of the system that are designed to make people follow your advice (legislation, punishment, policy, etc.).  Just speak the truth, and stop making "laws."

Another way to see this is to consider how you feel when you are threatened.  Every time you create legislation, lots of people are threatened, and they feel it too.  It creates a spirit of defiance, and that spirit will be strongly exhibited in some of us.  Think a lot about this, and whether or not you want to help people by explaining what you see.  This will help inform your choice between making more threats through legislation, or speaking out with the truth so that more people understand and your perceived authority grows.

Friday, July 8, 2022

Dear "Authorities"

Your "authority" is fake.  Real authority doesn't come from pretending you can make decisions about reality, or forcing people to behave in certain ways.  It comes from understanding reality, and helping others understand it too, and thanking them for any corrections they offer regarding your representation of how reality works.  It's unfortunate for all of us that you confused reality with your dream world where everyone acts according to your rules.  It's time to stop.


Admit that nearly everyone will handle their lives better if you stop threatening them.  Perhaps they need guidance and healing, and limits to what they can expect from you and others.  We all need that, and we all provide it to others.  Please consider joining us.  Your power is an infection in the minds of the masses, perhaps a "mass formation psychosis," and the best way for us all to heal from it is for you to let it go and find your way to some faith in other people.

We all come from long lines of ancestors who were successful enough to survive and breed, and evolution got rid of most of the poorer designs along the way.  Conscience and consciousness, when respected instead of threatened, comprise the best way forward, however successfully you have hidden them, but you, with your fake authority and pretense to excellence, are in a great position to show us, simply by abdicating.

Lead by good example, or set a shitty example by ruling.  It's your choice, and I recommend the former.  In your case, that starts with abdication.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Losing the Rite of Passage

The following comes from an interview in 2012. I copied it here in case that site ever disappears (again - I think it wasn't there a few months ago when I looked).

Ernest Dempsey — Dave Scotese, founder of the online literary community 
Litmocracy, is a brain at work – whether online or offline. Dave is a software consultant whose interest borders on the language of advanced gadgets, philosophical matters, and the human situation in the broader context. Above all, Dave is a critic gifted with the faculty of looking beyond the obvious. No wonder then that a question I recently happened to ask him led us into talking about power and subordination. Dave pointed to Tolkien's popular fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings in which the bearer of the ring is influenced by its immense power, compelling him to venture into dangerous situations. What parallels we find in our lives with the motifs of slavery, possession, and power are the central element of the following discussion with Dave Scotese.

Ernest: Dave, let's get directly to "power". What does it mean to you and how do you relate it to "authority"?

Dave: Power, to me, is the ability to intentionally cause change. Of course, there are uses of the word that attribute it to things that can't have intention (powerful cars, powerful lights, etc.), but I'm assuming that you mean powerful human beings. So how does the ability to intentionally cause change relate to "authority"? Authority is two-faced. On one hand, the marriage of openness and intellect can make a human being into an authority on whatever subject the human wishes. I am an authority on the computer systems of my largest client. On the other hand, the marriage of secrecy and coercion can make a human being into an authority over other human beings. My father explained a distinction he'd heard from someone that this second kind of authority is "official" whereas the first is not. There is no office that recognizes the authority of an expert whose openness and intellect put him in the position he holds. Without an office to legitimize the use of coercion, however, the other kind of authority cannot exist.  How does the ability to intentionally cause change relate to these two versions of authority? Both kinds are effective at enhancing a human being's power, but one leads to war and the other to peace. Since I believe that the pen is mightier than the sword, it follows that over time, we move closer to peace.

Ernest: What determines whether a relationship—particularly between humans—is one of "master" and "slave"?

Dave: There are many factors that contribute to the division of people into slave/master relationships and the, unfortunately, small minority who refuse the game. At the top of my list are the conditions under which one is raised. While good parents will help turn their children into creatures who will always struggle against slavery, "effective schools" can turn them into creatures who offer up their liberty for security. When such creatures have their own children to raise, the parental efforts to raise free people are much weaker and it takes a loud minority to remind them that individuals do not own each other, and that happiness flows from choice.

The Rite of Passage seems to me to be a point in the life of a child where they are to choose the mindset: Am I to remain a slave to whatever force I think can care for me, or become my own responsible party? I am an example of a creature who will always struggle against slavery, because I saw that choice after I finished college and took the second route. I have enough faith in myself to take the red pill, so I did. I was once an employee; but, since I wasn't playing that master/slave game, I quit when I didn't like the conditions. The same group of people still uses my services, but I have to please them, and they have to please me in return in order for us to continue our relationship. Many people with jobs have replaced their parents with their employer, or their government. They have chosen the blue pill, perhaps because their childhood drained them of faith in themselves. I think most people can see that happen a lot in schools.

Ernest: Let's take the point a little deeper here. Do you see close similarity between the way a computer is programmed and how a child is led into, or away from, a particular way of living?

Dave: Certainly there is a similarity, but it's quite shallow. The intent of the programmer is met to whatever degree the programmer follows the deterministic workings of the machine. The programmer aims to arrange the computer to exhibit certain behaviors. Likewise, a teacher or parent aims to arrange a child to exhibit certain behaviors – at least the poor ones do – but the crucial distinction is the will of the child.  Computers have no will, but children do. The better approach for teachers and parents is to guide that will in achieving whatever goals it sets for itself.

Ernest: How have religions—and I mean organized, institutionalized religions like Christianity, Islam, etc—used and still use the average human through  authoritarianism and dominance?

Dave: Your question makes an assumption with which I strongly agree, but which many people will find offensive. The trick here is to help them see freedom in the words of the prophet Jeremiah, who wrote "the law of God is written on the hearts of men." It's actually right there in the book of Genesis too – to eat of the Tree of Knowledge is to claim for oneself a knowledge of Good and Evil. To avoid making a claim for yourself on such knowledge is to discard the gift of self-determination. This is what most religions unfortunately encourage by providing earthly authorities and books (books "authored" by God himself, according to… the books themselves…?) to interpret and explain "the law of God". While religions attempt to make people better at living together in peace, the individual people need to cross that Rite of Passage: if you think a behavior will do more good than harm, but it is "evil" according to your religion, which will you follow, your reason, or your religion? Which does your religion tell you to follow? Don Eminizer interpreted Nietzsche as explaining it thus: Religion tends to replace the self with a godhead.

Ernest: Now from a political angle. In our contemporary, mainly democratic world, we choose our own leaders—at least it appears so—and determine our own laws. Are we "free" in this sense, like living in "self-rule"?

Dave: What the voters of democratic states choose are not leaders, but rulers. Choosing your master does not make you free. It makes slavery more palatable. If that is what we are doing, and many of us appear to be doing that, then it doesn't make us free. "We" is not a conscious being, capable of intent, freedom, or "self-rule". Individuals are required for that. Speaking of individuals and government, Bill Thornton (of, an homage to the Magna Charta) explains that a plaintiff is someone who holds a court. A court is a place where the sovereign (aka plaintiff) explains his own laws and then proceeds to publish evidence (to those attending court – a jury nowadays) that a defendant has violated those laws. The jury then decides, primarily whether the laws are just and reasonable; and, if they are, whether or not the defendant violated them and therefore deserves to be coerced into making restitution. If we ran things that way, then we could choose leaders (who can offer guidelines, but not enforce rules), but we wouldn't need elections (your leader doesn't have to be my leader), and we'd still be sovereigns, able to determine our own (individual) laws, and be free. Some of us already do that, and we recognize the state as a criminal violating our laws, but we have no court because there aren't enough of us. However, our number grows: Check out The Dollar Vigilante (, the Free State Project (, and the Fully Informed Jury Association (

Ernest: In general, does the contemporary education system—like that in America—serve to enable a child to grow into a truly independent person?

Dave: In general, nowadays, as I mentioned above, it tends to postpone or even suppress the Rite of Passage, leading to the slave/master mentality. However, for those with strong wills, either inborn or developed by wisely challenging parents (as I like to think of myself), school indoctrination can provide a child with opportunities for real learning about the mechanisms of the parasite (another term for "master"), as well as a bit of useful real-world knowledge. This, however, requires constant vigilance on the part of parents and students, lest they be sucked into the trap. For example, Student Body Associations (SBAs) are political organizations that students can apply for and possibly be accepted into, and then enjoy privileges that are available not through the efforts of the SBA, but through the efforts of those who support the educational institution (usually "tax slaves"). By providing the kids with benefits, this leads them to believe that such political arrangements are good. By letting them share in the perks of the master for a while, the slavery system buys their loyalty.

Ernest: Like the ring's power in The Lord of the Rings, is the human fascination with power or mastery a burden that makes life difficult for some segment of our population on this planet?

Dave: I suppose it does, but a warm sun likewise comes as a burden to the vacationer who has finished off his soda. It dehydrates him and will eventually kill him if he doesn't get another drink. If he does get another drink, the warm sun can be converted back into the pleasant life-giver it was in the first place. Likewise, the fascination with power is not the essence of the burden. The essence of the burden is an unwillingness to endure that Rite of Passage through which children become adults. The Ring encourages this unwillingness, either through coercion or the sharing of the master's benefits, and so freer people, whose freedom, by the way, makes them far more prosperous, suffer from hordes of slaves/zombies who, rather than thinking for themselves (fruit of the Tree), follow orders blindly. The Power of the Ring is "evil", but either Frodo or Smeagol could have tossed it into the lava before it took them over. Instead, they fought like children. Every individual has the power to enslave weak-minded people, and any concentration of such power (a state, the Ring) will attract those who wish to use it. Wars are fought in earnest for the tribute of the citizens (tax slaves) in the conquered territory. When there are no such citizens, there will be no point to (earnest) war. Dishonest war, on the other hand, encouraged by the sellers of arms, might still be waged. Better people discard the wish to use concentrations of political power because they recognize the much higher value of people who will always struggle against slavery.

Ernest: So can you think of some forms of power that are essentially constructive – that don't cause people to compromise their freedom?

Dave: The pen, as an open expression of intellect. That better kind of authority leads to "essentially constructive" power. For example, Thomas Paine wrote a pamphlet called Common Sense, which argued that the American colonies would be better off without Great Britain as a (parasitic) protector. His power came from his healthy understanding of things and his ability to write. Words themselves. Socrates, to my knowledge, never actually used a pen. He asked a lot of questions, and because his questions penetrated, he is regarded as an authority in philosophy. The names and ideas of the people who forced him to drink poison are all but forgotten, but the "Socratic Method" is still widely used to… free people's minds. The essentially constructive forms of power don't just avoid causing people to compromise their freedom, they actually encourage people to defend and strengthen their freedom. This power is based on the mind and its ability to reason, rather than the body and its ability to suffer.

Ernest: And my last question here: as I have read and experienced personally, in the state of creative imagination, we attain freedom—or at least have the illusion that we do. How do you respond to this view?

Dave: Watch the movie Brazil and pay attention to what the protagonist experiences at the end of the movie. His is the pinnacle of freedom. When you reach that place, you no longer have anything desirable to the parasites. When there's no one left for it to live off, it will die. I can't wait!

Ernest: Thank you Dave! It's always a pleasure to discuss questions with you. Hope to have another discussion soon with another topic of human interest.

Dave: Thank you Ernest!  I enjoyed your questions.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

The Dopamine Trap

Here is a list of things I do from time to time just because I feel like it:
Solve a Wordle puzzle and a Numberle puzzle.
Work on a Nonogram.
Play "Bricks 'n Balls" on our iPad.

There are many other things I could list but I am not listing them because they do not act as dopamine traps as far as I can tell.  A dopamine trap is a thing that will stop a person from getting stuff done.  It works by providing a schedule of dopamine releases.  The brain's default method of providing motivation to the experiencing being using it is to seek dopamine release, and it does an amazing amount of pattern recognition processing to find the things that cause dopamine to be released.

There are some rational foundations for my interest in some of the items in my list.  The puzzles in the first item work different parts of my brain and make for good practice.  Since they help keep me sharp, I indulge myself by playing them.  The nonogram works some important parts of my brain too, so that's also a justifiable indulgence.  There is one minor value related to brain health in the third item in my list, and that is the strategy development for getting enough points to get three stars.  I played the game for probably about 100 hours over the last five years before I realized that I should be using a strategy. Until then, it functioned only to relax my brain, and not even as well as taking a nap would have.

I wrote this to exorcise the time-wasting demon that I think of as "the dopamine trap."  My description of dopamine and how it relates to our brains is from memory and may be slightly inaccurate.  If you know better, please let me know!

Friday, April 29, 2022

What the Trashcan Told Me (4/25/2022)

After my yoga this morning, I stood, as usual, facing the sun feeling gratitude for my experience of life.  I opened my palms toward the sun and took several deep slow breaths.  Then I was done.  There's always a few bits of grass stuck to my hands so I rubbed them together to brush them off.  I turned to continue my walk but in the corner of my eye I saw what seemed to be a person so I looked at it and it was just a trash can.  Then I walked over to it, looked around it and in it and found nothing interesting.  Then I imagined that someone could see me and would come ask if I lost something. The following is how I imagined that conversation might go:

"No, I just noticed this trash can out of the corner of my eye and thought it was a person and I don't think those things are simply random so I came to investigate.  Maybe it was because... you need someone to talk to?"

He thought about it a while and then said "Maybe."

We stood there looking at each awkwardly as I watched his face relax from what seemed to be a grimace.

"My wife is pissed at me.  I don't really wanna talk about it but maybe you're right."

I looked at the ground which I can see is a habit of mine when someone tells me something that is sad for them.  Then I looked back at his face and saw that he was looking for words.

"Uh..." he said, confirming my interpretation.  He looked a little teary-eyed when he said "I actually prayed for help.  She won't answer her phone."

I stayed silent and looked away when he glanced up, and then quickly looked back to see him looking for words again.  I wanted to say "It's okay" to let him know that he had all the time he needed.  I was fulfilling the role assigned to me by misinterpreting a trashcan as a person.  I didn't say it, though, because he could tell and the silence was nice.  Perhaps it was a kind of respite for him.

"I cheated on her and she found out last night and now I'm locked out of our house."  He was holding back tears and stopped talking to suppress them.

I struggled with the idea that I was just there to listen and probably shouldn't say anything.  The words I wanted to say were banging on the inside of my head.  They were also changing.  I didn't know what to say anyway.

"I don't know what to do," he said.

"There are other ways to reach her.  Take an ad out on a billboard she can see, or make an apology and put it on her windshield.  I could keep coming up with ideas but eventually I'd have to charge you for them...  But not today.  Today I figure I should listen to you until you're done talking and that will make me feel like I did something worthwhile today.  So if I come up with more ideas and you like one, AND you're done talking, then I can continue my walk."

I watched him think about it.  I regretted making it sound like I wanted to continue my walk. I did, but I liked the conversation too. There were more words in my head, tempting me.  I gave in.

"You're probably not crying about her or being locked out.  You're crying because you have to hurt someone, either your wife or your mistress, to solve your problem.  The thing about relationships is that they make us better if we can tolerate staying in them.  Everyone fucks up.  Did you ever think she was too cold, she spends all your money, she's ungrateful or just mean?" His expression said yes but I didn't want him to feel like he had to admit it, so I continued.  "We can use these as excuses to hurt the people we love, but hurting them is always a fuckup, and if we're with someone really good, they'll bear the suffering and help us get better. So choose one of them."

"That seems so simple, but I can't," he said, after thinking about it.

Sometimes people tell me things I just don't believe and my strategy is to let their claim hang out, unchallenged, unsupported, and chill for a while.  I think about why they believe this unbelievable thing, and what they might think of on their own that would help them question it.  Sometimes this seems to make them think of it too, and maybe even say it.  Eventually, I figured he's just torturing himself with his inability to choose, so I broke the silence.

"You can't because you're sure that it will hurt one of them.  But then you're already hurting both of them.  If you don't choose, eventually the choice will be made for you, and maybe it won't be either of them.  Maybe it would be easier if you accept that you fuck up and one of them helps you get better.  Whatever you do, if you're going to be with someone, it should be someone who helps you become a better person.  And she should know that she does that, and she should expect better from you, and she probably does.  So give that to her, whoever she is."

We stood there for a few more seconds, both of us looking at the other and then away.  Finally, he said "Thanks," and walked away.