The Economics of Home Brewing (i.e. $4.86)

One of the main reasons I started making my own beer was for financial reasons. Skeptically and cautiously, I asked: Is it possible to afford drinking beer that tastes like Two Hearted Ale (check out my video on how to make it)? Well, after making my 25th batch of beer, I was very happy to find out that my price per six pack has come down to exactly $4.86 per six pack. So yes, it's affordable. That's cheaper than Bud Light. And yes, I've taken very good notes on what I've spent--I have all my receipts. I've done this financial breakdown at several times ($8.52, $6.96, $6.30, etc). I must say I didn't expect it to get this low this fast. Think about it. A six pack of Two Hearted Ale costs at least $9.99. I just cracked open a Two Hearted Clone that tasted just as good for $4. And yes almost all of my beers are 7% ABV or above and hoppy, which happen to be expensive beers to make relatively speaking. Also I rarely buy beer at the store anymore. I must note that, although almost all of my batches tasted good, one was so bad that I didn't finish drinking it. I tried to mix it with Miller High Life and limes and still couldn't drink it!

Why would the cost come down? Well, I'm calculating every single cent I have every spent on equipment, ingredients, my KLOB membership (costs $15/year but gets me 10% off ingredients), the Scotch that I put in one of my beers--everything, not just ingredients. Basically what's happening is that the initial and occasional investment on equipment has gradually proven its value and now I'm mostly paying for just the ingredients to make the beer. How much are those? A 5 gallon of, say, Two Hearted will cost around 30 dollars to make, getting you around 45-50 beers. That's about 4 dollars per six pack. Most recipes will be cheaper than that. I made a nice brown ale for $17 and got 43 beers, which is only $2.40/six pack. So my cost should go down a little more but probably not below $4. All grain brewing, which I purposely don't do (I do "partial mash"), could potentially save more money, but comes with a huge initial investment on equipment--so the savings wouldn't show up for a while, at least a year I would say.

There's a shit load of things that I did to save money. I only bought what I needed. I reused yeast (that's a big one). I used sugar. I took good notes. I borrowed stuff from friends. People gave me stuff.

Yeah, but don't you drink more? Ummm....I don't think so, although this is a very good worry to have and I've noticed that home brewers never talk about it. My wife says I don't, so I trust her more than I trust myself to answer that. I agree with her. I blame it on becoming an adult. I certainly drink more frequently, but only one or two beers at a time, probably averaging about 22 oz. of beer per day. I believe that's called moderation. Of course sometimes I do have to test out the alcohol content of my beer (too cheap to buy a hydrometer which measures that), and so I will go ahead and get drunk just as a test. Just as a test , not because I want to get drunk off the delicious beer I've made. Course not.


A Letter to my Unborn Son

A letter to my unborn son

Dear Immanuel,
Years ago I realized that my love was too big. I wanted a son or daughter to complete it, fill it, express  and expand it. Your mother and I planned on having you. In this way, you are a work of art. In our hearts, treasures and rooms are filled with love for you. You simply enter. We have set the stage.
I hope you become better than me, and my father and mother, and his father and his mother. I hope you become astounded at your potential, at your potential greatness and genius. I hope it haunts you as it haunts me, and as it haunted Emerson, as it haunted Gandhi and forced him to wake up at 4 in the morning and pray and work for peace and justice, as it propelled Jesus to take a spear as the words “forgive them” was on his lips. I hope you become a better man than me. I hope you have none of my faults, all of my virtues, and much more.
And yet I expect nothing of you at all besides this: be your own man; think for yourself; know yourself and do your duty, whatever that may be. You are your own man. I will be your father and your friend along the way. We are different people.
At your birth, if I cry, I will cry at the fact that you could one day become a great or terrible person; a Martin Luther King Jr., a Henry David Thoreau, a Mother Theresa, a Jesus, a Kant, Newton. I will cry at the fact that, whoever you become, my love will never waiver, never falter, and never disappear. I will cry at the beauty and terror of fate. Why are you here, and yet another baby is born in Togo, Benin, Central African Republic? Why are you born healthy and another addicted to drugs, adopted, aborted, poor and starving?
And as you live in an abundance of love and affection, I hope you learn one day why the good Lord spends his time loving other children, the lost and forgotten children. Perhaps you shall feel that love someday. Perhaps someday you shall look up at the universe with a smile and a nod. Or perhaps you will become an atheist, agnostic, communist, humanist, environmentalist, nihilist, anarchist. The world is big and everything is possible.
You are named after two people. One sacrificed his life for love, and the other constructed a philosophical structure that promoted love and dignity as the foundation of  a moral, rational life.
I hope you read. Perhaps above all things, I hope you read. When all the boys are too cool to dance, I hope you dance. I hope you find the world foolish, silly, and yet serious. I hope you are humble, modest, wise and strong. I hope you love your body,  brain, mind, and soul. I hope you love them all the same. I hope you help others. I hope you respect others, especially those who are different from you. I hope you become friends with Hindus and African Americans and Latinos.  I hope you become an astrophysicists, a teacher, a chaplain, an artist, a writer, a reformer. I hope you become a reformer.
I will teach you how to read. I will help you walk, and ride a bike, and throw a football. I will bring you to your first day of school and your first day of college. I will gladly meet your first girlfriend or boyfriend. One day we will go into the garage and hit the punching bag. We will have the time of our lives!  You will constantly say “dad, you are crazy.” And your mother will agree. You will laugh at me and also take me seriously, sometimes. At one time in your life you might reject me. You might think I’m full of shit and tell me to fuck off. That’s okay; it will pass. One day we will go to camp and walk through the woods.  Your mother will teach you the birds and plants. One day we will bury our cat Phoenix. If you cry, I will feel joy at your empathy. I will say “that is good that you cry, Immanuel. You are a good person.”  Simply imagining that you are a good person almost makes me cry right now. Is that not the point of life? I will teach you how to face confrontations head on, to never gossip or lie, to never be violent and to never be a coward, to be peaceful and brave. I will tell you stories about how your uncle and I learned how to talk, to have conversations, to be honest, to explore our thoughts and share the world. In the end, you will teach me more than I can ever teach you. Odds are you will be much smarter and more experienced than your father.
I have known you for about a year now. My love will grow over the years. Like God, love is infinite and never stops. It knows no bounds, has no conditions, has no fears, is indestructible. If you learn anything in life, I hope you learn that love mixed with truth and honesty is the most beautiful thing in the world. If God is anything, He is truth and love. And if life means anything, it means living in truth and love.

With love,

Your dad Matt


Intensity, Righteous Anger, Suffering with Gandhi, and Habit: or, My Secret to Exercising


In high school I would lift everyday and see no gains whatsoever. I was just going through the motions. Most people work out this way. In college I started lifting with extreme intensity--every single lift, red faced, sweating, straining. I gained about 25 pounds of muscle and never lost it. You need to get angry, pissed off, amped up. Whether you are trying to gain muscle or lose weight, this is most important. This is hard work. It's not for pussies. It's not social hour. You are going into battle; you are literally tearing your muscle fibers in order to build them back up. People forget that. Listen to 50 Cent on the way if you have to. Pretend you are an athlete in training. Enjoy the suffering. Get angry at all the things you could have done today, this week, this year, this life. Why aren't you living up to your potential? The world gives us plenty to get angry at: poverty, world hunger, texting while driving, politics, apathy, cheating, lying. That's the righteous anger that propelled Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. I'm not the guy who grunts and throws weights around, although in my head that's exactly what I'm doing. I feel alive in the suffering. I am Jesus and Gandhi. It's like running a 5K: a slow death that ends with the most exhilarating feeling of accomplishment I've ever had.

This is going to be hard at first. When it comes to practicing virtue as opposed to vice, everything worth doing is hard at first. It will take a few weeks (not days) for the body to get used to the soreness and for the mind to get used to the intensity. Will power leads to habit. As David Hume habitually repeated, we are "creatures of habit"; and that's a beautiful gift from God (Hume wouldn't agree with that last part). Now when I go to the gym I automatically exercise with the same intensity as I did in college. It's a beautiful thing. My brain is dialed in. I cannot have an easy lift or an easy run. If I do not exercise for a week, I get withdrawals. I look forward to it and love it. I am in the best shape and health of my life.

Perfect Form

Without perfect form (i.e., watch your spine) you will get hurt; especially when you are lifting with intensity. In college I hurt my back a few times because I lost form, which still affects me today. For each lift, learn what the correct form is and stick to it. Only do as much weight as you can do with perfect form. Simple as that. And do a warm-up; stretch or take a short run.

There are no secret programs, secret exercises, or secret supplements (except protein...if you want to gain muscle, your body will need more of it). But to me, focused intensity is the only secret.


Idealism: or, What if God was the Matrix?

Not to be confused with optimism or happy thoughts--which I also believe in--philosophical idealism is the idea that all our perceptions are mental phenomenon, rather than physical, material, external, phenomena. They are "in the mind" just like dreams. But they are real. Idealism defines reality in a very simple way: reality is what you feel, hear, see, smell, and experience. That's it. No abstractions. A tree is how we perceive it.

Sounds crazy but think about it. While you are dreaming you have perceptions that are real. You see, feel, walk, hear, and have a range of emotions. They are, of course, mental, in your mind, yet real. So why can't reality be like that?

According to George Berkeley (and me) reality is exactly like that. And God is the dream maker. We live in God's dream, God's Matrix. When we wake, we exit our world and enter Gods. It's uniform, coherent, mathematical, beautiful. When we look at a tree, we are looking directly at one of God's ideas; or, God is implanting an experience in us. When we do science, we are uncovering the laws and rules of the Mind of God, the Grammatical Rules of the Author of Nature. Malebranche said we "see all things in God" and he meant it. For those who believe in God, it's an incredible, magnificent idea. Jesus said that people will look for the Kingdom of God, asking "Is it up there? Is it over here?" No, the Kingdom of God is within you, but men do not see it. God is present and immanent in a way we didn't even expect, "in whom we live, move, and have our being."

So does a tree make a noise if nobody is there to hear it fall? Yes, but only because God is there to "hear" it.

The metaphor is tempting. Also, you cannot really disprove it. That's the real bitch of it. We really could be living in the Matrix right now. We also could be living in God's dream. Or neither. Just admitting that it's a possibility is amazing from an intellectual standpoint. So much for certainty! The point is not to denigrate the amazing world we live in; it's to help make sense of why it's so amazing, to put it in a larger context. As Emerson said, Idealism looks around and feels that the universe is, somehow, at bottom, in its essence, mental, spiritual, mind-like. Matter is an expression of mind, not the other way around.



Transcendentalism was a group of intelligent, socially conscious men and women walking around Massachusetts around the mid 1800's. Think Emerson, Whitman, Thoreau (although several women were major parts of the movement). Emerson's essay "Self-Reliance," the most uplifting words that have flooded my eyes, changed my life forever and continue to do so. I re-read Emerson yearly. Also Whitman's "Song of Myself." I will warn readers that the language and writing style of these transcendentalists can be rough-going and non-sensical at times, but for me it always penetrates my soul, leaving me with wisdom that is non-propositional, felt, based in conduct.

They took their name partly from Kant's "transcendental idealism". They accepted that a world exists beyond our perception of reality. There is a "transcendent" reality. Secondly, the world as we perceive it is, in part, a mental construct interpreted by our brains, "in our minds" so to speak, mental rather than physical. At bottom, Emerson says, Mind is primal, not matter; mind comes first. Thus they were "idealists". They were not anti-science.

They were anti-establishment, anti-authority. In other words, they agreed with Kant's definition of Enlightenment: think for yourself. They lived it. They were against slavery well before the Civil War. When Thoreau disagreed with paying taxes to pay for a senseless war, he didn't pay them. He went to jail instead. This inspired Gandhi. When Thoreau disagreed with the materialistic consumption of America, he lived in the woods and wrote one of the most influential essays in the world. They disagreed with each other and themselves. "Do I contradict myself?" said Whitman. "Very well. Then I contradict myself. I am large; I contain multitudes."

They believed in the indomitable spirit of man, the amazing power of the self. We are God. "I am part and parcel of God," said Whitman. Therefore, we can do anything. Yet, amazingly, they were humble men. Emerson, an incredible man, was also tortured by his potential and his struggle to do great things; it haunted him.

They were unabashed optimists. Emerson, whose life was a series of family tragedies and suffering, was the most optimistic among them: "Crossing a bare common, in snow puddles, at twilight, under a clouded sky, without having in my thoughts any occurrence of special good fortune, I have enjoyed a perfect exhilaration. I am glad to the brink of fear."

They shared the religious and moral impulse, yet a fierce individualism found most of them in the ranks of Unitarianism, a pluralistic form of Christianity at the time. They hated dogma and loved the Divine so much they could not keep a religion. Emerson was a Unitarian preacher for a time; Thoreau's religion was nature; Whitman's God was in daily events: "I know nothing else but miracles."


Stoicism; or, Know Thyself and Do Thy Duty

Stoicism comes from the freed-slave Epictetus and the Roman philosopher-emperor-general Marcus Aurelius (about 170 C.E.). It comes from suffering and Greek philosophy. Like Buddhism it's about freedom from suffering, but it's much more--it's a positive philosophy for living your life. It's about using the mind to control the emotions, to calm suffering and put it in perspective, and to create a peaceful life of true contentment that seeks virtue. Sounds like every religion, right? But Stoicism is not about being emotionless, or cold. To the contrary: it's about expressing the good emotions and suppressing the bad ones. So yes a Stoic might not cry at a funeral, but they might cry at a wedding. It has two fundamental imperatives:

(1) do not worry or concern yourself with things outside your control.

It's irrational. It makes no sense to stress about things that you can literally do nothing about. Death is the obvious example, but there are several others. Don't worry about what other people think of you, or luck, fortune, or fame. Don't worry about what your kids are doing. Stop controlling other peoples' freedom. Is there an election coming up? Then cast your vote. Are you hungry. Then eat. Will that person you hate be at the party? Then don't go. Or go. Might the weather destroy my crops? Then plan. However, some things are not so clear-cut: global warming, world hunger, war. These are global, general, constant worries. It requires wisdom and discernment to figure out how much you ought to worry, based on the amount of responsibility, time and effort you decide to give to particular causes. I'm not sure what the Stoics thought of prayer, but I'm guessing prayer is a good exercise as long as you not praying instead of acting (in other words, it's okay to pray for things beyond your control, but don't get bothered when God doesn't oblige). The world will constantly bring random events, some good, some bad. The Stoic accepts everything from God with a heart of grace and thanksgiving. God (or the Gods) know better. And even if the Gods do not exists, Aurelius says, that's outside our control too! Therefore, still accept serendipity and tragedy with grace.

(2) for those things within your control, accomplish them.

Once you get rid of all the crap filling your head, it's amazing how well you can accomplish your real tasks in life. Know thyself and do thy duty. This is the creed of the Stoic. Know thyself. Are you a good person? Do you constantly question yourself? At the end of the day, do you take stock of your life? Examine the depths. If you know yourself, then you don't need to look to others for the answer. Are you best suited to be a doctor? Then become one.  Do your duty. Purge vice and seek virtue. Do the things that need to be done and ought to be done. Simple as that. Living this way, people will think well of you (without you worrying about it). When you question yourself and live the best life you can, everything else falls into place. Perfect your talents, eat healthy, be graceful, forgiving, friendly. If someone has wronged you, go talk to them and work it out immediately, as Jesus also taught. Never let things fester in your soul; purify it constantly.

Stoicism, in my view, is extremely compatible with the teachings of Jesus and Kant.


How to Make Beer

Warning: Rated "R" for adult content (I say fuck a couple times because I spill everywhere)

This is Part 1 of a 9 Part Series. That beer ended up tasting really good, and very close to Bell's Two Hearted Ale.


How saying "they" might kill you

If you've worked in a factory, you've heard "they" a lot. They. Them. Those in power. Upper management, the government, the scientific establishment, etc. What will "they" do next to make my life miserable?

Sadly, from what I've read so far it turns out that this sort of worldview is a slow death. It's because the people who silently worry what they will do next are constantly under stress, animals in the wild. They have no control. It's a slow, lurking, chronic stress, barely detectable yet always there. The stress-response system ("fight or flight") is constantly running, which means the higher parts of the brain are not running properly, like calm reasoning, deliberation, judgement. It pains me to think of it. We all know these people.

I actually had the opposite opinion for a long time. Previously I thought that the rich people at the top were the most unhealthy, stressful, unhappy people in the world. Based partly on my religious views and partly because I wasn't rich, I would say "I never want to be rich...they are miserable." But then I read about the major studies that were conducted in England and other places, which clearly conclude that the lower you are on the social ladder, the more stressed you are, and the higher you are, the less stressed and more happy and healthy you are. It turns out Jesus was right when he said "Woe unto the rich, for they have their reward." In other words, they might have problems in the next world (due to love of money), but in this world they do pretty damn well. The book Born For Love comes to mind too.


It's human nature to fear and this is one example of it. Yet, as all great religions and moral philosophers say: it's human nature for us to transcend human nature. First, will power. Stop saying "they." Catch yourself. Start there. I've done it. In my job, I always say "we" made a decision, whether I agree or not (it's pretty easy, the library is one of the best places to work). We passed Obama Care. We went to the moon. We cloned a sheep. Get it? It feels great and sounds right.

Second, go read Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. If you don't think ideas can change your life, keep reading--eventually you will find what's meant for you. Stoicism is perhaps the best philosophy to deal with the unpredictability of life, which says: (1) never worry about things outside your control (because that's stupid), and only worry about things within your control (that's smart); (2) now conquer and overcome those things within your control; (3) now your life is, by definition, free from worry. Everything else is accepted with grace and all things are seen as a beautiful play of events, a gift from God or Destiny or Chance. The events that led to meeting my wife were random, sad, beautiful, and ended in one of the best decisions in my life. I took them all with stoic grace.

Third, if things get really bad--and sometimes they do--try faith. Religion, as Jesus said so poetically in the Sermon is the Mount, is really for the lowly, the down trodden, the poor. When the world shits on you, when you don't have a family to love you, when your greedy employer downsizes you, when you become ill and your luck runs out--only God is left to love you. Or despair. Both are understandable. This is why Aristotle thought that the good life required a little bit of luck.


Religious Pluralism

All religions are valid paths to a transcendent Truth or divinity (capital "T" Truth means it's an ideal--unattainable and yet real at the same time). Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, Judaism, and the Baha'i faith are all after the same thing. But across time, language, geography and history they find it in different ways. These different ways, beliefs and practices are philosophically compatible.

Wait a minute. Bull shit. Jesus is God. Muhammad is His only prophet. How are those compatible?

This is where Kant comes in (and John Hick's An Interpretation of Relgion). All of these "beliefs" are no more than beliefs; they are grasping at a transcendent world that we cannot reach, unverifiable speculations about the nuemenal realm; doctrine or dogma is not knowledge. Beliefs, by definition, can be wrong. Only knowledge can be truly incompatible with non-knowledge (error). Nobody can disagree with e=mc2. But "Jesus is God" is on the exact same epistemological level as "Muhammad is His only prophet." We simply don't know; thus we believe. Therefore, they are both equally valid ways of thinking about God. Because we will never know, they can both exist together just fine.

And that's okay.

Two people stand in front of a Van Gogh. It means this, one says. No, says the other, it means this! They both give reasons. Perhaps we should ask the artist? Well, he's dead--and would that even help? Thus we have two different meanings of a piece of art that are compatible and can exist together just fine.

When it comes to practice (ritual), religions are quite different. When it comes to metaphysical beliefs, quite different. That's to be expected. But when it comes to morals, very similar. The moral codes of the major world religions are all based on love, compassion, forgiveness. They are compatible. They ground virtue and suppress vice in amazing different ways. Sweep away the hypocracy and you are left with love as the bedrock of religion.

Pluralism is an expression of love for other people, yet this will not satisfy a lot of people. Religious Pluralism is not for people who get angry when other people talk about other beliefs. It's not for people who are offended by the existence of Islam, or who use religion to define what they are not (rather than what they are). It is not for dogmatic, intolerance, judgemental types. It's for people who love religion and take it seriously, who realize that they are Christian perhaps because they grew up in a Christian household or nation (and that's okay). It is for people who are humble, who have a lot to learn, who realize the transcendent nature of their beliefs and place their hope in them.


Immanuel Kant

If Jesus saved my soul, Kant saved my mind. He brought together faith and reason, heart and mind, religion and science. He gave my Christianity a rational, philosophical grounding. He gave me a worldview, brought it all together. It still gives me delight to think about his synthesis of science and religion, of the phenominal and nuemenal worlds, and especially about his simple, rock-solid morality.

In his most important book the Critique of Pure Reason he said "I had to do away with knowledge in order to make room for faith."

It's a tricky quote. What knowledge is he doing away with? To figure it out is to figure out the man Kant, his philosophy, his scientific and religous beliefs, his humility. First, he disliked those religious people who claimed to have "knowledge" about God and His ways, to be dogmatically "certain" about "facts" like the trinity, virgin Mary, angels, or various other metaphysical beliefs. His philosophical system does away with that "knowledge" in the most respectful way--he brings it to the realm of faith and belief, where they belong. In this sense, he is "making room for faith." He was a humble Lutheran that was content to have his own religious beliefs and let others have theirs. Secondly, he disliked those scientists who claim to have "knowledge" about things that have no basic in experience or possible experience (alternate universes would be a present-day example, but he probably had Leibniz in mind). It's another form of dogmatism. Science, the pursuit of knowledge about nature, is tempted to delve into metaphysical speculations. And that's okay; it can't help it. But that's not knowledge either (and then there's people like Dawkins, a good scientist who has dogmatic beliefs against religion...I know God doesn't exist). Anyway, so when it comes to real knowledge, we are left with real science, all the things we can know about nature by testing, analysing, experimenting, deducing, falsifying.

Science deals with the physical world, but the world beyond our experience--the "nuemenal" world, the transcendent--is very real for Kant. This is the world we speculate about and have beliefs about and hopes for. This is the realm of freedom, morality, and God. If we could somehow peel away our senses, our filters, our concepts--then we could experience that world (hint: we can't). Perhaps some day we will.

Kant also saved my soul by teaching me what morality consists of, by giving it strong philosophical principles--namely the "categorical imperative"--which resonated in my mind as much as the command to "love thy enemies" did. "Nothing fills my mind with greater awe," he said " than the starry heavens above and the moral law within." The moral law within is imprinted on our hearts and minds. It's not a complex thing. The fundamental rule of morality is this: only act on principles that could be also universal principles for everyone. Simple as that. Lying, stealing, cheating, and killing don't pass the test. He tries to deduce the virtues and invalidate the vices from this one principle. He does a descent job, but his legacy for me is really this: being a good person is nothing more than following a few principles and never wavering. Never lie; never steal or cheat or harm others. Always tell the truth, love others and help those in need. That is the secret. Whenever we waver, that's when we sin; that's when we start justifying our actions. That's when we think morality is "complex," or situational, or "it's different this time" because of x, y, or z. Don't fall into that trap. It might save your life.

I'm naming my baby Immanuel after this great hero of mine.



We are what we read. Of course "we are what we ____" is a truism. We are what we eat, what genes we have, what parents we had. But I am proud to say that I am what I read, and the more I read the more I am, the larger I get, the more multitudes I contain. My heroes are the list of dead people that live through me, that have inspired me, stayed with me, changed my behavior. They provoke and inspire me. Jesus, Plato, Emerson, Whitman, Aurelius, Descartes, Berkeley, Kant, Jung, Tolstoy, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., just to name a few. They feel like people to me, like friends.

May as well start with the first. In high school I had a real conversation to Christianity; that is, self-propelled, self-discovery, the only real way to do anything. To discover something yourself, to own it, chew it up, digest it, spit some out, internalize it. I would wake up at 6AM and go to the coffee shop. I would acquaint myself with Jesus by reading the gospels, slowly, gradually, from small to big. When your friend introduces you to someone, do they say "this is Jim, he is perfect and saved your life"? That's the most ridiculous introduction ever, yet that is still the way preachers present the man Jesus to little children. It's all absurd and, in the end, sadly exaggerated and ineffective. Jesus to me was a silly idea represented by the Trinity, another silly and absurd idea to present to children.

Finally, he was turning into a person, one that I could read about. By dropping the dogmatic belief that he somehow, mysteriously "saved my soul" by dying on a cross, I allowed him to really save my soul by showing the path to become a good person in the eyes of God. Quickly he became a hero in my life, which shouldn't be surprising to anyone who has simply read the gospels and met the Jesus found there. He stands for nothing more than love and forgiveness and everything that entails. He is a simple, tragic man that is horribly easy to understand and follow. He is as simple as Tolstoy, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr., with the same beautiful message.

Soon after reading the gospels I became obsessed with doing anonymous good deeds for other people. Secretly shovel a driveway, leave a dollar, write a warm letter. I was thrilled to think about it, plan it. I was thrilled to know that only God, the searcher of our hearts--if God exists--was the only other witness. After all, it's the only way to test whether a deed is truly moral (and Kant says we can still doubt).

I must say, looking back at my life, in proportion to the amount I have been reading the gospels there has been a correlation with good, selfless deeds on my part. That is not a coincidence. But neither do I claim that "the gospels" are somehow the only way to do this, or more special than the book that Martin Luther King Jr wrote on love, which also blew my mind and changed my life forever.

Jesus became a close friend, a fundamental hero, an archetype for pure love, principled and enlightened love, theistic-based love, never failing love in the face of the greatest hatred. When he said "love your enemies" it resonated in my soul as the most true thing I have ever heard and will ever hear in my life.