A man goes on a journey, a guy walks into a bar

Photo by Mantas Hesthaven on Unsplash

According to the late novelist John Gardner, there are only two kinds of stories: “A man goes on a journey, or a stranger comes to town.” I figure the “a guy walks into a bar” qualifies as the latter. Here’s one that recently made me laugh:

A vegan, a cross-fitter, a Linux user, and a Raspberry Pi enthusiast walk into a bar.

They’re all the same guy.

One guy walks into a bar.

Why won’t he please shut up!

As a vegan myself, I find jokes about them funny. And my second-oldest friend is a cross-fitter. I’ve lots of Linux users in my circle. And one dear tech hobbyist friend loves to tinker with Raspberry Pi. It’s fun to laugh about yourself.

But here’s the thing: The joke doesn’t match my experience. I’ve heard nowhere near the amount of evangelism from those four groups in my entire life, than the amount of blowback from people complaining about them over just the past half dozen years.


If we’re honest, I think we have to admit that deep inside, these things make us feel judged.

  • Every time I see a cross-fitter’s post about some physical accomplishment, I feel a twinge of guilt for not taking better care of myself, not walking more, not using the free gym membership for seniors.
  • Every time a Linux enthusiast recommends dumping Windows or Mac for the open-source OS, I feel a twinge of foolishness or laziness for doling out cash to “rent” a corporate OS. Yes, there are valid reasons to justify that rental, but most of the work I do could just as well be done with open source software.
  • Every time someone mentions the customized computer they built to their own specs, I feel just a little bit ignorant and spendthriftish.

In each case, the thought is fleeting, but deep inside the feeling lasts awhile.

I’ve seen this with the topic of home schooling. “But how will your children learn social skills?” It’s couched as a question but serves as a criticism. And from my experience, home schoolers virtually never start the conversation, never say, “Well, I home school my children.” Instead someone else says, “Missy here home schools,” and the criticisms start flying.

It happens with veganism. “But where will you get your B12?” Most who ask the question have no idea what B12 is, why it matters, or what options there are. “How will you get your protein?” Same thing.

It happens with pacifists when they’re bullied or abused. It happens with religious persecution.

Not long ago, Cracker Barrel added a plant-based sausage to their menu and much of its customer base lost their minds. Logically, the response should be, “Well just don’t order it.” But emotionally, it seems pretty obvious that by its very existence, a plant-based sausage makes the traditional pork seem less healthy. And people don’t want the shadow of that implication cast across their breakfast plate.

People who home school imply, by their very existence, that public school is flawed. Which casts a shadow on parents who accept the status quo. Plant-based diets cast a shadow on the modern meat industry. Pacifism casts a shadow on the violence so inherent in our civilization, from household level to mass shootings to wars between nations. Religious faith—okay, in that case I gotta say that American Evangelicals have sort of spoiled things for the rest.

But in my experience, that guy walking into the bar doesn’t have to say a thing about his enthusiasms. The minute he asks if the fries are cooked in the same oil as the chicken, no matter how casually, the “So you think you’re better than us” circuit trips, and the blowback begins. It’s just human nature.

Nature Red in Tooth and Claw

Photo by jean wimmerlin on Unsplash
How many times in your life have you heard the words, “Dante’s Inferno”? How many times “Dante’s Paradiso”? I’m guessing the ratio leans heavily toward Inferno.

How familiar with those two works are you? This isn’t a Literature test. I’m just guessing that if you’re familiar with either, it’s probably the Nine Circles of Hell. And I’m willing to bet the Nine Circles of Heaven are a complete mystery.

It’s not just you, Inferno has been the subject of plays, movies, even a video game. By comparison, Paradiso is shunned.

And it’s not just Dante. William Blake said of Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, “The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of angels and God and at liberty when of Devils and Hell is because he was a true poet and of the Devil’s party without knowing it.”

It doesn’t take a poet to realize that writing about hell is easy, “at liberty,” and writing about heaven is difficult, “in fetters.”

I believe there’s a key to human nature and human history in that dichotomy. Our race’s origins are in savagery, “nature red in tooth and claw.” Civilization is something we build despite it. Nobility is something we strive for. We work to be better individuals, we labor at it, because selfishness, fear, and hatred are so easy. We strive to transcend our animal nature.

I’m vegan. I’m not asking you to be. But I’m weary of hearing the line, “It’s only natural for humans to eat meat.” Of course. I know as well as you that for our race, killing and eating other animals is natural. No argument there.

It’s natural.

But is it necessary?

The Accidental Vegan


I’m a vegan by accident. Consequently, I’m not evangelical about it. If anything, I’m apologetic for any inconvenience when out with other people. We can go anywhere you like; I’ll manage.

On the other hand, while it happened by accident, I’m not at all casual about it. My wallet, belt, and shoes are all fabric. I read and research the ingredients of everything I buy. And I’ve developed this lifestyle on purpose, with thought and determination behind each decision.

So how can it be both “by accident” and “on purpose”? Allow me to explain.
Read more

Kuto~urufu to Bejitarian Sushi

Jamie Chambers meets me for dinner to fulfill an old Cthulhu Haiku II Kickstarter promise. His performance really seals the deal.

Kuto~urufu to bejitarian sushi

CREDITS: Lester Smith as Cthulhu, Jamie Chambers as Jamie Chambers, Karalyn Smith as Voice of Server, Filmed by Karalyn Smith, Edited by Ralph Faraday, Music by Kevin MacLeod