Keep it Stupid, Simple.

Americans—at least the 95% who believe in God—exercise their freedom of religion the way an incontinent nymphomaniac might exercise her Kegel muscles before hitting the conjugal wife-swap at San Quentin Prison. For the rest of us, mustering up the kind of zeal that makes Southern Baptists kill OB/GYN's and Muslims bomb skyscrapers isn't hard for me to comprehend, it's impossible. I treat agnosticism (my own, anyway) like an informed choice between things, like Olive Garden over dog shit, or God vs. Science. I've always chalked up my doubts about Fathers, Sons and Holy Ghosts to my mother's irreverent child-rearing skills. Now that mom's musings on her own mortality have taken a spiritual tenor, I think Nature, not Nurture, may be the impetus for my schisms.

If every characteristic from the color of our skin to the people we like to fuck is encrypted in our DNA, why not mental dispositions like morality, tolerance and doubt? Is it possible my tastes and tipping points are like an uptight lifeguard who screams "Settle down, shit ass!" to the kinetic kids in the deep end of my gene pool? Or, less metaphorically speaking, what makes me dick?

Certain people (most of them, it would appear), need a shepherd to guide them, the way meerkats need a matriarch to help them find a hole to crawl into. Cheetahs, on the other hand, are well equipped to run away from everything they can't control, and to prey on anything they can. But people aren't ground squirrels or jungle cats. Cogito ergo sum, right?

Wrong. I've been thinking about striking it rich since I was 13, and I'm still working harder than an illiterate dyslexic in a cliché-writing contest. Clinging to my belief in man's capacities for goodness and logic yield nothing sweet in terms of just desserts. Lunatics still run my asylum, and my blood still boils when I see suburban teenagers grabbing their dicks like prison inmates in size 40 pants. My list of loathing is legion. Stupid, lazy, shiftless, needy, cheating, cheap and crazy are everywhere. When a dog ravages a garbage can in the alley, he's looking for food. When a Mexican family leaves the remnants of a dozen piñatas in a public park, they're behaving like pigs. The former is an instinct, the latter is a choice. Why do all of us make so many shitty choices?

It's our nature. We're the only animals on earth who create for their own entertainment. Darwinism has turned our insatiable appetites for consumption into our Damocles sword. Art was invented to edify, to enlighten and to make us think. When it turned into a medium for hawking action figures, somebody had to realize the styrofoam packaging was going to get thick. Now I live in an apartment complex where second-generation Korean/American toddlers cruise around the basketball court in electric Escalades speaking Engrish as a second language while their mother paints her toenails by the swimming pool, oblivious to the fact her charge are leaving a trail of Capri Sun and juice boxes in their sticky, wailing wake.

For my part in this shit storm, I'm trying to do things differently. When the kids in the Escarade aimed their mini SUV at my dog, I didn't kick their mom in the baby maker or throw her Dolce & Gabana purse in the jacuzzi; I simply reeled Willis in and let him shit in another part of the complex. Then I collected the tiny steamer with a plastic bag and threw it in the trash. On the way back to my apartment I complimented a young couple on their sassy ensemblé, picked up some empty Otter Pop packages and adjusted an errant sprinkler so it didn't spray the playground behind my porch. Life, I have learned, is all about the little things. Everything else—God, country, material goods—is just more stuff.

I don't need any more stuff.