Wednesday, December 31, 2008

As the Year Turns

How many writers are sitting with their writing tools today trying to squeeze out a ruby? I would guess that most of us have our butt in the chair and are attempting to make something profound happen. Very few of us will be successful. All of us will produce something, even if it never sees the light of day. And that is perfectly okay. People ask me “how do I become a writer?” My answer is always the same: Write. That’s what writers do. It doesn’t particularly matter if you become a good writer. That’s not really for you to determine. Good writing is in the ears and mind of the reader. Some writers never find a readership that passes judgment. Myself, for example. This bloggy thing is read by only a handful of people, but I have earned my living as a writer for most of the last twenty-seven years, so I have developed some kind of competence over that time. My fiction has been published and so have some of my poems. My songs as well. Some of that stuff is pretty good, most of it is meaningful only to me. But that’s okay. It is the work and the working that counts.

My being able to make a difference is extremely important to me, as it is to most people. I think most people want to affect their environment in meaningful and positive ways. I wish I could say that we all want peace, and maybe we do, but we want it on our own terms. From that comes conflict and that is the nature of Nature. Conflict happens. It is intrinsic to our condition. We are isolated by skin and sinew.

What we learn to do to approximate peace is negotiate. I am willing to cede this to gain that. When the balance comes we call it win-win. But we still must all live with the facts of natural selection. Darwin was mostly right. Does a puma negotiate with a fawn? Only in the most esoteric of ways. Predation as part of the symbiotic energy cycle is not war, it is The Way It Is. War is a Human thing, obviously, and it comes when negotiation and compromise are cast aside.

Welcome to History. I don’t think the world will look back at 2008 and notice much. They will notice that a person of color, of both Caucasian and African heritage, was elected as President of the United States. Will that be a big deal in a hundred years? Hard to say. It depends a lot on what happens in 2009.

My challenge to myself is to make a difference, in some small way, every day in 2009. How that manifests itself could be any number of small things: a smile, a courteous gesture, a good deed, a profound use of imagination, whatever. That old bumper-sticker comes to mind: practice random acts of kindness. Focus on the good stuff. It’s been proven again and again that focusing on the negative calls more of it in. Stop that!

We must accept Nature for what it is. We can change that only by our behavior as a species. The only way to accomplish any change at all is through our individual behavior. When it multiplies in a positive way, we’re golden. The reverse is also true, which is why I make the choice to stay positive and count my many blessings. Down that road lies a negotiated peace.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Happy New Fear

I’ve had blank-page syndrome for weeks now. I sit down to write for this blog and all I find are excuses to do something else. Apparently, I haven’t been willing to do the work so that the voice shakes off its shackles. There’s been a lot going on too, it’s not like there is nothing to opine about. All sorts of amazing things have happened since October 17, the date of the last entry.

We have a new President-elect and he has potential. He certainly knows how to say the right things, the things that a huge audience wants to hear. He offers hope and a willingness to talk and work together with people of all faiths and of all nations. But is he for real? We shall see. His opponents are already making fun of him and the muckrakers are in full swing, attempting to link him to the sordid details of the Illinois Governor scandal. It always amazes me that we are so amazed when a politician is caught with his hand in the till. C’mon people, don’t be surprised. Wake up and smell the grifters. You should be more amazed when a politician turns out to be a caring humanitarian and who thinks first of service to constituency and to country. Now, THAT would be news.

Let’s see … what else? Oh yeah, the ten murderers who descended upon Mumbai and slaughtered almost two hundred people, ostensibly in the name of god or some other absolutely absurd notion. How easy was that to pull off? Pretty easy, I reckon. One of the most disgusting terms made popular in the last ten years is “soft targets.” I can’t quite wrap my head around the notion that exercising the will of some tinpot god involves automatic weapons and defenseless people. In my opinion, any fool who even gives a moment’s credence to any such act needs to completely reevaluate his or her concept of what it means to be fully human. Yeah, I know … humans are a cruel bunch and self-defense is a movable concept … but at some point don’t you have to put your foot down and just stop accepting that kind of behavior as a “fact of life?” The police can’t stop it, the government can’t stop it, so what it comes down to is that it is up to us, the every day citizens. It doesn’t matter if we’re Indian, Pakistani, Egyptian, American, or Armenian. It is up to us. It is the responsibility of each individual to stand up and say no. Vengeance does not work, it just escalates violence and anger. Any time fear is slathered on to the great toast of humanity, anger soon follows. They are inextricably related.

Here we are back to that righteous thing. Unfettered righteousness is like unfettered capitalism in that given free rein, it will gallop all over most everyone to the delight of a very few. I don’t want hoof prints up my back.

The holidays are almost over. The Christians celebrate the birth of The Holy Kid. My understanding of this timing is that the early faithful chose this time of year to celebrate the Virgin Birth because there were lots of other pagan celebrations going on and they wouldn’t stand out. Apparently, if you reconstruct all of the clues, Jesus (or Joshua, if you will) was born in the Spring, not the beginning of Winter. So the whole thing is kind of a sham. But I’m all for it, actually. People do set aside differences and offer themselves as beacons of hope, tolerance, and buy all kinds of stuff to give away. Not a bad set of sentiments.

Another new word has entered the lexicon of the last couple of months: BAILOUT.

I mean, jeez. This is another fabulous money-laundering scheme brought to us by The Guys with the Big Purse. What a great time to be a professional money person. The government gives you so much money that just trying to comprehend how much makes me dizzy and, because it’s Christmas, I guess, they don’t require any oversight concerning how you spend it. So guess what? It goes to nice hefty bonuses for the guys who created the crisis in the first place. Is anybody outraged about this? Well, yes, but we are not outraged enough. We are passively sitting around worrying about Other Stuff brought on by the crisis. Doesn’t anybody get it?

Thomas Jefferson must be choking on his own moldering face. This is another point that we citizens must stand up and make. But … but … but …

All these buts. Man. We should be ashamed. I don’t know what to do any more than anybody else does. If everyone in this country … and I mean ALL OF US … just didn’t pay taxes next April 15 … would all of us be thrown in jail? I believe in taxes, just as I believe in Fire Departments, Police, and city/county infrastructure. We need that stuff. I don’t mind paying for it. It is my duty and my honor to help pay for it. But I’m also paying for some incompetent bozo to fly in to Dana Point and sit in a luxury suite hot tub and laugh at me. Why is that? What can we do to wake people up?

And the car guys. Hokey Smoke, Bullwinkle. You drove your own business into the ground, misled everyone, and now want, yes, another bailout. GMAC has declared itself a bank so that it can cash in on the financial-sector bailout. It just goes on and on.

How stupid are we? Evidently, pretty stupid. And we're also deathly afraid of something, so afraid that we're, pretty much, paralyzed.

I don’t think I’m done for the week, but I’m done for now. I’m going to go try to wake myself up. Wish me luck.