Skip to main content

This might be the best thing I ever wrote

It was my final from a creative writing nonfiction class. Not stupendous or anything, but not too bad.

I was right at about the age where your parents are debating whether or not to start feeding you solid food. We were deep in the high desert of Utah, following an old power-line road that hadn’t been maintained in about twenty years. This was back when we had the old Ford Ranger pickup, before my folks forswore American cars altogether, because this Ranger was the lousiest hunk of steel that any greasy mechanic ever set to a torque wrench. That’s another story. This was about the halfway point on our journey and we were stopped for lunch. My parents were debating the solid food concept, and they failed to notice my shark-like gaze following them back and forth until my mother dropped her tuna fish sandwich within range of my chubby little talons. I seized it without a moment’s hesitation, and according to reliable sources, stuffed as much as could possibly fit into my mouth, grinning like a demon. That seemed to settle the debate.

I don’t remember this because I was too young, of course. It makes me wonder, though. Is there such a thing as a personal identity? Does it make sense to call the rascally little protagonist of that story me? I lean towards scientific materialism, meaning that the only things that exist are the various forms of matter and energy. One can draw a line through time and space following a collection of atoms that were always called by my name. These atoms have been swapped out numerous times in the course of my life and if I’m lucky will be changed many more times before I die. I’m not even sure this story about my infancy is true—in fact, I’d wager my father embellished it for comic effect. It seems to me that living things are like a sand dune being blown across the desert, each grain being replaced in its turn but the shape and size of the dune remaining roughly the same. A metaphysical naturalist would have no problem saying that emotions, theories and ideas like love and beauty exist solely as computational constructions of our brain, but I think this could be applied to living things as well. Ryan is a name for a particular shape of atoms that happens to be blowing across the desert right now; in a relatively short time that shape will disintegrate. Still, might as well enjoy the ride.

Copyright 2008, all rights reserved. No part of this writing can be reproduced, rewritten, broadcast, or published without the written consent of the author.


  1. Fantastic! I'd have to say you Cooper people have some of the best story-telling capabilities that i have ever known...seriously.



Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Why Did Reality Winner Leak to the Intercept?

So Reality Winner, former NSA contractor, is in federal prison for leaking classified information — for five years and three months, the longest sentence of any whistleblower in history. She gave documents on how Russia had attempted to hack vendors of election machinery and software to The Intercept , which completely bungled basic security procedures (according to a recent New York Times piece from Ben Smith, the main fault lay with Matthew Cole and Richard Esposito ), leading to her capture within hours. Winner recently contracted COVID-19 in prison, and is reportedly suffering some lingering aftereffects. Glenn Greenwald has been furiously denying that he had anything at all to do with the Winner clusterfuck, and I recently got in an argument with him about it on Twitter. I read a New York story about Winner, which clearly implies that she was listening to the Intercepted podcast of March 22, 2017 , where Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill expressed skepticism about Russia actually b

On Refusing to Vote for Bloomberg

Billionaire Mike Bloomberg is attempting to buy the Democratic nomination. With something like $400 million in personal spending so far, that much is clear — and it appears to be working at least somewhat well, as he is nearing second place in national polls. I would guess that he will quickly into diminishing returns, but on the other hand spending on this level is totally unprecedented. At this burn rate he could easily spend more than the entire 2016 presidential election cost both parties before the primary is over. I published a piece today outlining why I would not vote for Bloomberg against Trump (I would vote for Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, or Biden), even though I live in a swing state. This got a lot of "vote blue no matter who" people riled up . They scolded me and demanded that I pre-commit to voting for Bloomberg should he win the nomination. The argument as I understand it is to try to make it as likely as possible that whatever Democrat wins t

Varanus albigularis albigularis

That is the Latin name for the white-throated monitor lizard , a large reptile native to southern Africa that can grow up to two meters long (see pictures of one at the Oakland Zoo here ). In Setswana, it's called a "gopane." I saw one of these in my village yesterday on the way back from my run. Some kids from school found it in the riverbed and tortured it to death, stabbing out its eyes, cutting off its tail, and gutting it which finally killed it. It seemed to be a female as there were a bunch of round white things I can only imagine were eggs amongst the guts. I only arrived after it was already dead, but they described what had happened with much hilarity and re-enactment. When I asked why they killed it, they said it was because it would eat their chickens and eggs, which is probably true, and because it sucks blood from people, which is completely ridiculous. It might bite a person, but not unless threatened. It seems roughly the same as killing wolves tha