Christmas at the speed of life… A Guest Post by William F.X. O’Connell AKA Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie

Some years ago I became acquainted with someone over the internet who shares my penchant for individualism. I’d known of him years earlier via USENET, but it wasn’t until I began blogging in 2003 that I one day received an email from him concerning a particular post of mine. We’ve exchanged emails and chatted on the phone now and then, ever since.

Along with all the other writings he does, both in terms of his cultural / political writings and his professional writings, he does short stories and I’m not sure if he has other characters, but Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Willie must certainly be the main one.

I’ve read a number of these down through the years and they always, always give you something to think about. And it’s hard to pin down if there’s any central theme beyond the most important one: you as an individual and you as an egoist—so enamored with your one & only life that everything is important. The stories contain elements of regret, of loss, of sorrow and of random accident but most of all, the possibility of redemption.

Christmas at the speed of life… is a collection of such stories that takes place always during the holidays and are thus emotionally charged from the perspective of what the holidays truly mean to some. There are a number of religious overtones but then, the author believes none of them literally. Doesn’t mean they don’t have meaning metaphorically or in whatever other way you want to look at it.

The season’s greetings
A dumpster diver’s Christmas
A canticle for Kathleen Sullivan
A future more vivid
A father for Christmas
Merry Christmas, Princess Peach
A Costco family Christmas
How to slay dragons
Courtney at the speed of life

I downloaded the stories yesterday from Amazon for 99 cents and in all, it’s about a 2-hour read and well worth it to put yourself into a mindset of real appreciation of friends, family and your own life in this time of festivities.

Below is an excerpt from How to slay dragons, heavily bent toward the individualism theme.

I’ve been doing this, walking this nation and writing about what I see, for more than twenty years now. In that time, I’ve evolved four rules for these stories, the Willie stories, and this one breaks three of them. First, a Willie story is almost always short, and this one isn’t. Second, a Willie story is almost never self-revealing, and this one is. Third, every Willie story has at least one joke, and this one has none.

But the fourth rule stands: Every Willie story is about you. You think they’re about the people I’m making fun of, but they’re not. They’re about you, about people who are basically honest and decent, but who come to be complicit in everything that is vicious and venomous and vile. Not from loving vice, but from failing to love virtue.

Your mind or your life, lie or die. That’s the demand at the bottom of your tax return. Lie or die. That’s the threat they issue to your son, compelled to register for military enslavement. Lie or die. That’s the threat they make to your employer with thousands of pages of regulations. Lie or die, all day, every day, everywhere you turn. Lie or die, again and again, for every day of your life.

And every day of your life, you choose the lie. You choose to cooperate and to pretend to surrender control of your life, to insist by your actions that some other mind can control your behavior, but your own cannot. You lie and you lie and you lie, and millions of innocents die. And you yourself persist only by refusing to acknowledge your groveling. Your mind—the means of your life, the awareness and memory and anticipation of your actions—becomes the enemy of your survival. To be aware that you have desecrated the glorious gift of human sovereignty is the path to self-slaughter, so you must slaughter self-awareness instead.

This is a mistake.

The worst, most loathsome, most vicious tyrant on the Earth is no different from my late, unlamented non-mugger. He is nothing without your cooperation. Without your active voluntary cooperation. Even I am apt to say “compelled this” and “coerced that,” but in actual fact, human behavior cannot be coerced. Only human bodies can be coerced, pushed around like mannequins. Human behavior can only be initiated by an act of will originating within the person acting. It cannot be caused or controlled from the outside. If you refuse to cooperate with the tyrant, he cannot cause your cooperation. He can push you around, even kill you, but he cannot cause you to initiate any purposive action.

You live in chains. In this awful century just passed, more than 150 million innocent people died in chains. And yet every person ever born was born free—unalterably, inviolably, immaculately free…

And the tyrants know it. That’s why they have guns. That’s why they want to take away your guns. Again and again they demand that you lie or die, and they never for a moment doubt that you might choose neither. And they bluster and brag that you never will, and they toss and turn in sleepless nights, because they know someday you shall. Sic semper tyrannosauris. Thus always to dinosaurs.

Choose neither. This is my wish for the Third Millennium. Choose neither, that we might finally become a fully human race, neither killing nor being killed, neither enslaving nor being enslaved, neither seeking to control others nor pretending to surrender to their control.

Choose neither. Because this is the only human choice.

Choose neither. And the dragons will be slain.

Be well in this time of what should be both festive and reflective.

Since Covid killed my Cabo San Lucas vacation-rental business in 2021, this is my day job. I can't do it without you. Memberships are $10 monthly, $20 quarterly, or $65 annually. Two premium coffees per month. Every membership helps finance this work I do, and if you like what I do, please chip in. No grandiose pitches.


  1. Dave Sill on December 22, 2011 at 06:10

    Is it “lie or die” or “submit or go to jail”? My tax return isn’t a lie. Sure, I’d prefer not to pay taxes and not support the government financially when I disagree with 99% of what it does. But I’m not prepared to devote my life to protesting it. Especially when there’s nothing like a movement in that direction.

    My life isn’t a lie. I know I’m not free.

    • Richard Nikoley on December 22, 2011 at 16:56

      Dave Sill.

      Simple trick question. When you sign your tax form and pay your money (withholding is paying) , is this a voluntary act on your part?

      • Dave Sill on December 22, 2011 at 18:31

        It’s voluntary, of course. I’m perfectly free to not sign it and get hauled off to prison.

        That doesn’t explain “lie or die”, though.

      • Richard Nikoley on December 22, 2011 at 21:40

        Of course” because getting hauled off to prison is such a life,

      • Dave Sill on December 23, 2011 at 07:04

        I don’t disagree with you, Richard. But I still don’t understand the “lie or die” bit. Maybe I’m dense. How would you explain it to a child?

      • Richard Nikoley on December 23, 2011 at 07:36

        The lie is literal, “death” is literal or metaphorical — such as going to prison.

        First, realize that the final penalty is always death contra the state, if you take things far enough. Even for a parking ticket. A post from 2004.

        The lie is the tricky one. People lie to themselves by saying they are compelled or coerced to do this or that, but not in reality. You can’t compel or coerce a mind, only a body by physically moving it about to destroying it. The body can’t lie, only the mind.

        So, you are right. Signing the tax return is voluntary. You choose it over “death.”

        That’s really the only point. The point is not to be necessarily be a maverick or pioneer in resistance, but at least, don’t lie to yourself about it.

  2. West on December 22, 2011 at 15:56

    Dave et al, you are vastly more free than every generation that has preceded you . Nothing wrong with wanting more freedom, but a little perspective is in order.

    • Dave Sill on December 22, 2011 at 18:35

      That’s so obviously wrong I’m not going to bother explaining it.

    • jon w on December 24, 2011 at 15:19

      every generation? are you sure there weren’t a few million generations before recorded history that you’re overlooking? a little perspective is indeed in order.

  3. […] in the Phoenix area, is a long time friend of mine. And actually, he's the real writer behind the Ramblin' Gamblin' Willie stories I posted about last week. He also blogs about the human condition at I hope you […]

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