My ego is the monster that needs tending to the most.

My ego is the monster that needs tending to the most. The Beast is the culmination, the sum of all of our egos come together, to try to create an immortal paradise here on earth in lieu of the one to come in heaven. I thought I was through serving two masters when I declared my love of Christ, but I soon realized that my former master wasn’t directly Satan, but my ego, through which Satan gains his power and mastery over me.

My ego was easy to ignore when I was busy declaring my humility and insignificance every single time a group of humans wanted to praise me for the work that I did. I would put on the cloak of humility, but busily feed my ego with secret lusts for human adoration. The cloak of humility was quickly rent as a garment quite useless at breaking the winds of humans who would flatter me.

“Look at me!” I still cry secretly. “Yes, you are so smarter than I am, but you know that you want to act amazed and surprised at the depth and breadth of my intelligence as you hear me utter nuggets of profundity!”

My eyes are cast down, and I smile shyly, but secretly I am cursing you for being so big and important, for having your shit together, and receiving accolades and awards for all of the hard work you did (which I dismiss as inconsequential in the face of your lucky lottery draw of genetics and social status). I secretly want to see you fall flat on your face–so much the better that you have been exulted that you may be put down more dramatically.

I constantly exult myself for being more special than others, including you. I may be unattractive, physically uncoordinated, not especially intelligent or articulate, but I am most definitely the most special and unique person there is when it comes to being special and unique. I want to set myself apart from you so that I needn’t ever face the fact that I am moving through life getting to know nobody at all. To know God would mean connecting with others empathically and intimately at the soul level–yes, I am actually busy setting myself apart from God, that is my true intent.

What then was my life about, if I were asked to tell you my story?

What then was my life about, if I were asked to tell you my story? Was my life about wistful nostalgia for visiting big cities during warm, humid months when rain threatens to send everyone dashing madly for an awning or a random cafe? Was my life about being a stranger or a friend? I can tell you that my life was full of novelty or uneventful. You can decide. If I didn’t fight in a war or waste away with an addiction, do I have an interesting story to tell?

What if my life was about isolating all that is truly me, and sloughing off the chaff that I had unintentionally or knowingly accrued? What if my life was about asking this world if true friends do exist–ones who don’t require you to be a certain way to fit their expectations of who you are and ever shall be through all of Time?

What if my life was about taking a lifetime to grow as much as most people do during their teenage years, and still discovering vast tracts of soulspace that required cultivation?

Are my happiest memories the most novel ones? Or, perhaps the ones where things were trending for the better? Or, did I choose to forget most of my happy experiences, so that I might mine the material of the soul at unease, anxious over its place in the afterlife, and anxious about befriending souls it couldn’t quite bring itself to completely trust?

It is a quiet Saturday morning

It is a quiet Saturday morning. That is to say, it is quiet inside the house. The lawn guy is out blowing leaves around. But, now he’s stopped. However, I am not holding my breath for someone else to start up a power tool, because this is Saturday morning in Waco, Texas. It is quiet inside the house, because my wife has taken my son to the farmer’s market, where she can socialize with other moms from B. We are planning on socializing with more of her friends from work this evening. I suppose I am okay with this. There is always a generous helping of booze at this lady’s house whose party we are attending. Of course, I will worry some about L being left with a babysitter for about the third time in his life. He does okay at the parents’ day out program, but a person from church who may or may not know all of the little details of taking care of someone L’s age–it’s somewhat different–but, it needs to be done.

I am writing because I feel like I have to. I can’t explain it, but I feel the need to write as much as I would feel the need to do anything biological. I feel that Jesus is calling me to an entirely different sort of life–perhaps one that looks more like my life as a teenager, when I was inclined to still have some regular dialogue with God, and generally believe Christ was available to help me get along.

I am not so much inclined to revisit the past to dwell on it like some scab that I scrape off and hence a wound reopened. I am more inclined to look for mental processes that were happening during certain periods of life–ones that were especially beneficial or detrimental that have now been buried under the strata of all my attempts to live an adult life.

It is kind of amazing how certain moments in the past can suddenly become sticky things–like earwig tunes that keep repeating themselves in your head. Most of the best times were experienced during travel, vacations, camping trips, scout camp, etc. I should say, most of the memorable good times were during such novel activities.

The push is toward a certain state of purity, where I am 100% certain that the person I am presenting to the outside world is completely and authentically me. This might seem like an easy and trivial thing, but I have spent so many years allowing strange pieces of personality to erupt and tear away at my best self, that it is actually easier to find myself communicating with someone while in a state of mind that at best could be described as silly and fanciful, but is probably more accurately to be condemned as dangerous and chaotic.

Jesus and the Spirit–I am searching for a way to become more actively engaged with that still small voice planted in me, and not find myself wildly latching on to whatever idea, book, news story, activity, etc. strikes my fancy. On the inside, I am rarely sitting still and seeking the Kingdom from within.

Some truths that are hard to swallow: Jesus really does love me. Seriously. Jesus Christ has an unfathomable amount of abundant love for me. No matter how much it might seem like the rest of the world has no love left in its collective heart for me, Jesus has more love for me than the entire world could muster in unison. Think about that carefully. Jesus has more love for me than all of the world’s creatures, living/dead/yet to live, could possible muster in unison for me. What this means, is that I don’t need to waste my time seeking approval, validation, adoration and, yes, love, from the world, because I already have Someone who loves me more than the world could ever do.

The next truth: it’s okay for me to love myself. I should never become a narcissist, and egomaniac, an autoerotic, etc. But those kinds of people don’t truly love themselves, anyway. They are in love with fleeting characteristics of themselves–their personas, the way they looked at a certain age, misguided beliefs in their own powers of intelligence or physical strength. They will just as soon begin to completely and utterly hate themselves when those fleeting characteristics go away–except they will protest that they really do love themselves, but they are in love with an image that now only exists in their heads, and they will inevitably start hating others who can’t validate that image for them.

If I truly love myself, then I love the whole person that God made. I love myself as I am–not as I could be with just a little extra surgical tweaking or study of books. I have to learn to develop a love for myself that is gentle and light, that doesn’t cling ferociously to a snapshot of me in the present, that above all else goes easy on myself when I make mistakes, and forgives myself and loves myself the same way that Jesus does.

If I can finally reach a place of being able to do this in a sustained sort of way, then I will suddenly discover success in my ability to love others for who they are–as God made them to be. Somewhere, deep inside each individual, is a created spark of soul that was and maybe is a pure thing, free of any tendency to identify with wickedness. Only a truly and thoroughly evil human being, who has completely given themselves over to darkness and the devil, will know that this spark has been voided out. This is why Jesus left us with the all-important warning not to curse the Spirit–for the Spirit in a general sense is what generates our life and our humanity, and in a special sense is who Jesus left with us as the Comforter as we walk through life trying to become truly his disciples.

There is love that is very much the light yoke or burden Jesus spoke of, and then there is the love that is possessive, avaricious and exceedingly jealous. Of course, the latter kind of love is only love because we humans declare it to be so–in actuality it is hatred. The light and free kind of love really is our path to freedom, and freedom in a certain sense is my ultimate goal.

I want to be free of all tendencies to masturbate, erupt in anger, become silly and foolish, seek out a vain sort of immortality, curse, covet, wallow in that nostalgic melancholy that seeks to do my will vs. God’s, be envious, wrathful, avaricious, full of a desire to prove myself, etc. All of the sins that are mine, and mine alone. These may be to some degree sins that others helped me discover and perpetuate–perhaps I can blame the devil for tricking me now and then into thinking certain darknesses were Light. But, only I, with the constant help of the Lord, can stop sinning. No amount of pinning the responsibility of cessation on others will change the fact that I alone am uniquely the sinner who commits my sins. Trying to go back in time in my mind to find who/what got me started with a particular sin is in all likelihood a complete waste of time. I would be better off devoting that time to seeking ways of being sinless moving forward–replacing the mental and temporal vacuums created by removing the sinful thoughts and proclivities to sinful deeds with meditation and contemplation of God’s great Love for me.

God loves me. I seek the place where this love meets me by looking within. I seek the Kingdom of Heaven by way of the Spirit, whom Jesus as left with me as the Great Comforter. I no longer look to the outside world for the Kingdom of Heaven. I do, however, want very much to love others as I love myself, once I learn to love myself in a right and ordered fashion. I want to connect the spark that is within me with others’ sparks that arise from the one true pure Source. Eventually, I will be able to see God’s love and will at work even in people who no longer think that they believe in Him. They are still loved by God, and He wants very much to see them come home.

The wisdom of the world is not wisdom at all. In the past 100 years, the wisdom of the world generated two great wars, several genocides in places like Armenia, Germany, Russia, Cambodia. The wisdom of the world sees foolish, random entertainment, a clownish sort of way of being, as the best way for humans to spend their free time. The wisdom of the world seeks to escape from certain responsibilities it has as mature, created sentient beings. It wants to see entertainers become world leaders, so that there becomes no difference between the silly entertainment and the (one time) serious business of leadership. What the world thinks being a grownup or adult means–this becomes less and less about one becoming more responsible for the care and service of others, and more and more about becoming full of the vanities of life. The obsessions with “manly” stuff, like facial hair, sports, gambling, cars, fine Scotch, cigars, etc. are actually childhood things that have been retooled to carry the sense of adulthood. There are similar collections of accouterments for women as well.

People of our age do not want to truly grow up, because a part of this process includes a profound understanding of one’s own mortality. As long as we don’t have children, wear clothes like our fathers wore, work in depressingly dull jobs like our fathers did, and care too much about anyone or anything, we can remain Peter Pans until our health and appearances give out completely and leave us starkly facing the fact that we grew old but never grew up. Then, we are forced to face mortality in some deeper fashion, even if we can’t seem to bring ourselves to face it in a truly profound sort of way. This is also why we cease to claim any sort of faith in a higher power–faith in a higher power by default implies that we care about what might happen to our consciousness after we die. If we claim that it just disappears, and that’s it, then we can continue to think of mortality in much the same way that children or animals do.

The majority of innovations and inventions that we have come to adopt in a widespread way are all things that help us perpetuate our little bubbles of pretend immortality. The cameras on phones for selfies allow us to constantly view our changing selves and correct speech and facial muscle patterns that might be construed as those of an aging individual. Of course, we still need a lot of extra chemicals to help keep our hair and skin looking young, but the technology can now give us instant and constant feedback. We can continue to “play grownup” in the ways in which we play with our facial hair, makeup on faces, hairstyles, clothes, etc. The beginnings of these activities came, of course, with painting portraiture, then photography, and then television and film. But with video cameras now ubiquitous and existing like extensions of our own selves, our feedback for our physical images is instantaneous. All of this to say that it makes us a million times more susceptible to the desire to attain immortality in this realm, instead of in a future, heavenly one.

The primary goal is that of significant transformation of one’s self

The primary goal is that of significant transformation of one’s self. Where I might have done X in a given situation, I now do Y. Such as, where I might have responded to someone’s “Hello” with a banal response, I reply with some clear interest in their welfare.

This is hard.

I am stuck on a comfortable autopilot. I don’t want to bake meatloaf for the neighbors and stay after church to socialize over coffee and donuts. I don’t feel like reaching out to lapsed friendships and familial relationships. I don’t want to stay up making a list of these things and preparing a strategy for tackling them. I am comfortably the person people expect me to be, because the first attempts at change are painful, and my anxiety is reflected in the faces of others.

It is often easier to clean up a living space, exercise, try a new cooking skill or read a new book. I pretend that I am changing by many degrees, when in actuality I am doing more of the same things that I am comfortable with doing. I don’t take classes on self defense or handling firearms or riding motorcycles or surviving the apocalypse. I don’t put myself in situations where I am going to be shown to be mostly an ignorant fool among the other people in the group.

Does significant transformation of one’s self only happen as it pertains to how one relates to others? Can’t a transformation take place without engaging another human being? Perhaps, but the evidence and proof that it actually did take place can’t be uncovered until interaction with someone else, preferably a group of others, takes place.

However, I think that I can at least begin to “prime the pump” so to speak, in that if I get in the habit of wanting to be given experiences and opportunities to act as someone in the process of a radical transformation, then I will be ready when a spontaneous engagement with another human arises and I am “put on the spot” as it were, ie, forced to either react on autopilot as my usual and expected self, or say or do something different, hopefully for the benefit and enrichment of the other person and possibly myself.

The problems lurking inside our culture are numerous

The problems lurking inside our culture are numerous, but they are also extremely difficult to uncover, due to the fact that we are immersed in our culture, and we have bias towards what we believe people should and shouldn’t do.

Are things better or worse than they were sixty years ago?

Are people nicer or meaner to each other? Do more or fewer people participate in the so-called American Dream?

Are we healthier mentally and physically?

Is the rest of the world better or worse off from having American innovations and culture exported to it unevenly for about seventy years?

It becomes easy to rely on anecdotal examples, which are always prone to bias and cherry-picking, but an over-reliance on statistics can yield results that are just as biased.

The first question is impossible to answer, because in all likelihood, there were aspects of the American culture and the global human condition that were much better in 1956 than they are today. However, it is probably easier to find things that are better today. Primarily, technology has accelerated the ability for more humans to have access to an American middle-class lifestyle (at least as it was defined in 1956), and more people, like minorities and women, have as much of a chance at achieving this lifestyle as white males do. I will loosely define the 1956 American Dream a little later–obviously, minorities and women do not have as much chance as white men do at achieving the 2016 American Dream–which is to say that we have evolved but still have a long way to go.

So, it becomes incredibly easy for both Liberal and Conservative optimists to pooh-pooh the chicken littles of the opposite party.

For example, Conservatives are going to claim that there is little or no racism and preference for males in leadership roles, because more minorities and women do have leadership roles and live middle class lifestyles. They will also ignore the fact that many different yardsticks to measure manmade global warming all point to the fact that this is a real issue that needs to be addressed immediately.

Meanwhile, Liberals laugh at Conservative notions that people are meaner and more rude to each other because they no longer have a moral compass guided by faith, and our moral fabric in general has torn our culture beyond repair. Liberals tend to ignore concerns of there being bias and preference in the media for language that is godless, and global human rights violations toward Christians.

It is also easy to create a narrative of things getting worse for the majority of people who matter in a society, and blame the condition on the President or majority party when they are not members of your party. And so, even though the process of sending overseas high-paying American manufacturing jobs for men with high school educations started almost forty years ago, the sitting Liberal President gets blamed for bad economies, high unemployment and low-paying service jobs. Both parties attempt to wrap themselves in the Flag and the Constitution, and sometimes the Bible, when it is convenient. The sitting Conservative President tends to generate more opportunities for lower income people to participate in military endeavors around the world.

Nobody wants to be seen as a non-supporter or even detractor of “The Troops,” but “supporting The Troops” can easily become a way to have pork spending sent to a given congressperson’s state or district to produce weaponry that isn’t needed or wanted by the military. It becomes a standard election-year trope to trot out veterans who are homeless and/or are not treated well by the VA, and blame it on the other party’s lack of concern for “The Troops.” This Senator voted against a bill that would have given troops better healthcare coverage, and that Senator voted against a bill that would have given them access to more education and employment opportunities after their service. In all likelihood, they didn’t even read the bill, but were simply told by their particular special interest group or party whip not to vote for it.

It all makes for great television, and generally, people can rest easy knowing they are members of the party that has the moral upper hand when it comes to “the troops” and the Constitution, and will be seen as being on the right side of history. But, often it also seems that nothing really changes from President to President and Congress to Congress.

Anyone who would dare propose to take a completely objective look at our society/culture/political system is probably going to be met with certain ridicule if they state anything that around half of the country finds offensive. The way an historian from two hundred years from now will objectively view our culture is probably bound to make all of us squirm a little.

Are we too caught up in fantasy television and sporting events?

Are we no longer passing on certain moral truths and wisdom to our children, in favor of having clever, money-making offspring?

Are we enjoying our middle-class lifestyles at the expense of people worldwide who are virtual slaves to their governments and big companies that receive handouts from the U.S. government to keep them repressed?

Have half of Americans determined that they and American companies can freely pollute the earth as much as they like because they don’t believe in global warming (which they used to, while only objecting to the man made piece of the puzzle)?

Are Americans more interested in seeing their candidate/party “win” than considering the impact that particular candidate will have on the future health of our country?

Are we the proverbial happy frogs in a pot, enjoying unsustainable lifestyles that will soon cause us or our children to be cooked to oblivion?

Are we more interested in the appearance of Truth than Truth itself?

Are we more inclined to defer personal responsibility (both talking about it as a correct way that others should conduct their lives as well as living this notion by example) when the President is with the opposing party?

Are we too easily lulled into a bubble of information that confirms all of our tenuous opinions and beliefs, instead of seeking out many diverse facts and opinions? And, of course, if we are so easily upset by conflicting beliefs and viewpoints, are we frightened that we might have a completely inaccurate picture of the Truth and reality?

Almost everyone runs the risk of being happily lied to by someone who has a “tell-it-like-it-is” persona, even if that person lies all of the time. This is probably a timeless human characteristic–why we find John Wayne such a beloved paradigm of masculinity even as he played soldiers during WWII instead of being one.

People who love myths and the process of mythmaking end up constituting a large enough section of the population, that once you get a sizeable majority to agree upon the same myths, you see a revolution or at least a significant change in the way things are.

Almost all of us do some amount of mythmaking–it’s how we live with ourselves and those around us. The man who is an accountant, lives in a suburban home with a small yard, and drives an oversize pickup truck to work, forcing it into a tiny parking space and stepping out in his cowboy boots, spitting his chewed tobacco where he pleases–this sort of man has the myth that on the inside he is a big cowboy, trapped in an era where cowboys are no longer needed or even welcome. This man might hunt occasionally, and has fantasies about how he would be a survivalist patriot in the coming collapse of our civilization, but in all likelihood he is ill prepared to do anything but follow everyone else to get in line for bread and soup when that time comes.

The intellectual snob–or even the cultural snob–he believes himself to possess exquisitely good taste–knowing when it is cool and hip to appropriate lowbrow culture and when it is not. This person, if he becomes successful enough to establish a modest following of people who believe that his taste in everything from hockey teams to barbecue joins is superior to theirs–this person is held up as an example for other would-be snobs to aspire to.

Nobody wants to be average–everyone wants to believe that they will eventually discover something that they are the best at in the world. Many people want to believe that they have as much of a chance to be a billionaire if they just work hard and think hard enough. Any government interference–including making them pay for more expensive health insurance that will keep them healthier longer and avoid having taxpayers foot the bill in their emergency room visits–any perceived interference is looked down upon–unless the government adopts a head of state who can help them with their myth-making narrative–then, they are convinced that they are part of a righteous cause to go defend the homeland.

Most people do not want to hear facts; cold, hard examinations of Reality, the Truth, etc. They want to participate in a mythological narrative that “holds up” when held to their half-lit, poorly trained lights. It doesn’t matter if they are Liberal or Conservative. The Liberal wants to create her mythology as much as the Conservative does. She may want to eat vegan, drive a hybrid and march in a rally that is for what she believes to be a game-changing and worthwhile cause. She will seem just as painfully willing to put her fingers in her ears and blabber nonsense if you attempt to show her facts that run contrary to what she believes. She surrounds herself in an information bubble of friends and likeminded individuals as much as the staunch Conservative does.

Indeed, anyone who has set up their own personal narrative to be one of “looking outside the bubble”, and only gets this far, will find themselves in a new sort of information bubble that may very well be less truthful and full of factual information than the one they were in.

The other error that often occurs is the false sense of security one gets from seeing and hearing cultural things that haven’t changed much sense one’s childhood, or even one’s parents’ childhood.

Perhaps sixty years ago isn’t long enough–the mid 1950s are a yardstick not because I believe they were a better era than the present, but they were the first time that a significant portion of a population (of any country) had access to all of the basics, plus a low-cost secondary education and the commonly thought-of “American Dream” creature comforts: home ownership, at least one car, one television, a refrigerator, probably air conditioning and a washer and dryer, an annual vacation to another part of the country for at least a week. While it is clear that women were still not treated equally in most professional environments and minorities in the U.S. had almost no access to the American Dream and upward mobility–I am attempting to abstract the kinds of tangible things most people would expect to have before they are even deemed lower middle-class.

People of the 1950s also still contended with polio to some degree and smallpox. So, the 1950s certainly isn’t a golden era to return to, but it was the first time that mankind got to witness a significantly large demographic having access to enough creature comforts that enabled more time to be spent in leisure than in work.

Is it simply a coincidence that the children who were born or grew up in the 1950s in America went on to create or help usher in several cultural revolutions that also changed us irrevocably? Was it access to more leisure time and technology like the television, phonograph and electric guitar that prompted widespread adoption of rock n’ roll as a preferred genre of music, or were larger cultural forces at work that prompted the mass protests, changes in dress, speech, mannerisms, sexuality, etc.? This would be worth deep study, but it is clear from seeing political campaigns and candidate archetypes change with the introduction of newer technologies, that technology plays a significant role in pre-empting whatever humanitarian cultural shifts we’d hope to trace as occurring independently of the technology changes.

However, my original assertion that we can’t take a snapshot of a culture in its time and place and view it objectively against some higher moral and intellectual standards needs a closer look at an example. Take the Beatles–almost no one is going to argue that listening to rock music is the key to a depraved existence (ie, a moral point of view), and likewise, few people in our society would clamor for cessation of rock music due to the way in which it “dumbs down” the developing brain. Yet, someone arriving from an era where classical music was still often played in wealthier homes that had a piano, and was in many cases indistinguishable from more popular and folksy forms of music as being music worth listening to–that someone might indeed look at all music created for the masses since about 1955 as being dangerous to our brains in the sense of dumbing them down. This is to say that we have assimilated certain art forms as being legitimately high art forms, and what once was generally thought of as being exclusively high art is now most likely to be considered fit only for extremely sophisticated and/or wealthy palettes.

Are we then, dumbed down from generation to generation by the popular culture art forms that are presented to us? Are we headed for an Idiocracy kind of society? Probably not, since more people have access to all kinds of information, and being at least modestly literate is a general requirement for participating in the technologies that send and receive this information. While you can probably get by with a third grade reading proficiency online, you are exposed enough to sentences and words that stretch your mind to the point where it must change to keep up with everyone.

But, if we are to become objective analyzers of our own culture, we must at least consider the idea that most of our favorite forms of music are greatly simplified (fewer chords, simple lyrics, no time changes, repetitive notes, etc.) from where they once were, say, one hundred years ago, and the listening to the Beatles may be just as dangerous to our ability to see our reality clearly as listening to, say, Kesha.

However, the standard isn’t music as it was a hundred years ago, but either some imagined, exulted world of the most nuanced, sophisticated and complex music one can think of or simply a world without music at all–temporarily, we do without music so that we can see if having it with us, even if only while we are in the car and hearing it on television, we are losing out on the ability to develop ourselves in a noble, perfected sort of way.

But, what is the most perfected way of being? That could obviously be debated forever. Atheists will contend that people of faith are contaminated and imperfect and people of faith will assert that Atheists lack the profundity of human experience as spiritual beings. Christians will contend that Muslims are less noble for maintaining a tit-for-tat imperative in many areas of the world that practice Sharia law, and Muslims will claim that Christians are too permissive of morally degrading behaviors. And all of them are probably correct.

Is it possible to have a “local” perfected way of being, that is peculiar to individual tastes and a “global” one that could/should be practiced by every adult human being of sound mind?

Probably not, but we humans certainly strive for such with each enactment of a civilization, moral code, constitution, body of laws, etc. We want there to be a “global” one so that we can all feel to some degree like things are fair, but a “local” one is welcome so that folks of a certain “tribe” can flock together and keep each other in line.

Random people from my past pop into my head

Random people from my past pop into my head and then I obsess about them, mostly negatively, but sometimes positively. If they are female, I generally am not thinking about them with any sort of latent love interest–I simply wonder what happened to them, and perhaps why nothing ever happened between us.

Relationships with men usually ended negatively, and women positively.

I’ve sought my heart for my so-called feminine side, and it is not as strong as I used to think, or people used to believe. I have more of a negative masculine side–I can’t stand a lot of the things about my culture and other cultures that amounts to men preening their feathers, waving their dicks around, pissing on each other, etc. Most of it is utter BS–men get caught up in fantasy worlds where their image is everything as much as women do.

Image for me is nothing, or so I would like to believe.

Image always disappoints. People spend half of their adult lives building up these personalities, crafting them carefully, and watching with hawk’s eyes for gaps and cracks where their real selves might be leaking out.

They want you to know and love their personalities. I don’t know if I have a personality. I may very well have a few select personalities that I’ve tried to consolidate over time.

I like being liked just like anyone else, but most of the time I attain some degree of affection for my poorly crafted personality.

Kid’s shows

Kid’s shows. Mine probably were just as crazy, illogical and pointless, but I like to remember them teaching more fundamental concepts than these do. Why do they feel the need to show an hour of shows about dinosaurs who ride on a train? Just because kids like dinosaurs and trains? Forget about teaching reading, writing and arithmetic.