Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Not as a user. I don't network there, or have a profile. I don't post pictures, or send silly cartoon greeting cards to hosts of "friends" I'm connected to. And I certainly don't log on, and spend hours searching for people I might know, or even worse, for people I'd like to get to know (under any context).
So, let me rephrase my comment: I am, I admit, absolutely fascinated by people who are members of the MySpace community. Let me say this: there is a fine line, I think, between "social" drinking and alcoholism. So is there a fine line between healthy MySpace usage, and unhealthy usage.
Now, don't go away just yet. I can tell that some of you are already jumping to conclusions. Don't. I promise you-I'm not going to spout the same tired argument about thirty-eight year-old, pot-bellied guys sitting in their sweaty briefs in their dark living room, surrounded by crumpled Dorito's bags, empty Ben-and-Jerry's Cherry Garcia tubs, and crushed red bull cans, logged onto MySpace under the name "Amber," looking to "make friends" with other 14-year-old girls. No. The solution to that problem is pretty easy: parents-be parents! Mom, Dad: pay attention! Find out who Susy is really talking to online, and control it!
No, that's not what interests me. What I'm truly fascinated by is what this obsessive additiction to MySpace really says about an individual.
I've watched-particularly in the past few weeks, and these are my observations.
First, what is MySpace used for? Networking, they say. I'm honestly not exactly sure what that means. Most "normal" folks aren't out there meeting new people on MySpace-for the reason described above, to be quite honest. Most are paranoid to "add" anyone they don't already know. So, my guess is that very little "meeting" of people is done on MySpace. For the most part, people add other people who they already know, or used to know. Which, as best I can tell, allows them to feel ok about ignoring those folks in "real life", as long as they "check-in" every once in a while on MySpace. Interesting don't you think?
And then there are those that love MySpace because it's the only venue where they feel they can actually "be themself." And these-these are the ones whom I truly feel sorry for. Consider this:
"About Me: My name is Bethany. I'm an 18 year old, straight, non-smoking, non-drinking, single female. I just graduated high school and am going to start college in the fall. My friends say I'm cute. I like to hang-out with my friends. Music: I like music. Books: I LOVE to read! I'm Here For: I'm here looking for friendship. People I'd Like to Meet: the older guy from Hanson and the perfect man!"
Now, don't jump on MySpace and start searching for Bethany. I don't think she exists. These are just some of the things that I've seen on various profiles (well, except for the part about wanting to meet the guy from Hanson; does anyone even remember Hanson?). The point though is that this is, in my opinion, the potrait of a very shallow person. Please, MySpace users: don't take this personally! But this says absolutely nothing about you as a person! And if this is where you can "be yourself" then yourself is not someone who I'd like to meet! You have to know a person to know the person. And you can't do that on some page that exists out in cyberspace somewhere.
But the saddest ones, I think, are the ones whose self-worth is a reflection of their MySpace network of friends. The ones who live to be "added" as a friend; the ones who fly high for three straight days when they get moved up in the pecking order that is the "My Friends" heirarchy; the ones who live to see another tick added to their visit counter; the ones who obsessively check their profile, hungry for new bulletins or messages from some friend, somewhere-"Hey. Wassup?"
These ones-they have no grasp on reality, I don't think. They live in a virtual world, with virtual pseudo-friends, who, I can only guess, are equally entrenched in this unreal land of ridiculous names and cheeky quotes that are supposed to mean something, but are typically so obscure as to be utterly meaningless to anyone who's not in on the joke. These ones I feel sorry for.
But, I fear that the phenomenon has gone too far. Everyone has a MySpace! Search around on there a bit! Grandmothers, bikers, teenagers, even a parakeet name Blitzer (very strange, I've gotta say).
What to do, though? I don't know that there is much that can be done. At times I fear that we'll ultimately become a society that's incapable of functioning unless we're behind a computer monitor in some virtual world. Another example of progressive technology rushing us right into the dark ages.
But, I'll do my part. I'll not partake. And maybe-just maybe, it'll catch on. One here and one there will get tired of living shallow, digital life, and will re-emerge, blinking, rubbing their eyes, into the bright sunlight of this, the real world, amazed that there is such depth out there! That's what I hope for!
I just read that auditions for American Idol started yesterday. The first of seven days of auditions happened to be here in California (in San Diego), so I've obviously missed the chance for this year.
The question is, do I owe it to society as a whole to go out of my way to make one of the other auditions? Dallas, Omaha, Miami, Philadelphia-nothing even remotely near. But, in a sense, I feel as though I'm depriving the world of something special.
I am so torn.
Please-ease my troubled mind!
Monday, July 30, 2007
This morning I got blindsided by someone-in a way that, frankly, can be taken no other way than that it was intended to be deliberately hurtful. The message they sent was troubling in and of itself, but the way in which it was sent was injurious-to say the least.
And I have to admit that, initially, I was angry and hurt.
And the anger and pain burdened me-weighed me down-for quite a while today. To the point where I recognized that I was somewhere in that no-man's land between injury and hate, between pain and bitterness, hurt and rage.
And so, there in my office, I stopped, examined myself, and made a conscious effort to forgive. I determined in my heart that they were forgiven-whether they desired forgiveness or not; whether they cared or not.
And now, I'm free. It reminds me of a post from a few weeks ago, and so I went back and reread it. And realized that to forgive doesn't satiate the thirst for vengeance or justice, but it does loose the self-imposed bonds that the come with carrying the hurt.
Luke chapter 23 tells the story of Christ's crucifixion. Verse 34 contains one of the most powerful statements in the Bible, I think:
"Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."
With that, I think Jesus said all that needed to be said. They hurt Him-deliberately. They despised Him, and treated him worse than a common criminal. They mocked Him.
But Christ interceded on their behalf, because they were simply too blind to understand what they were doing.
And so those, today, who inflicted pain, probably did so on purpose. And perhaps they even despise us.
But I think they're probably too blind to see what they are doing. So, I forgive them.
And for that, I'm free.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
The host was interviewing a prominent figure in national politics, and the discussion turned to the war in Iraq. Now, before you, my faithful readers, sign-off-hear me out: this is NOT a political post! I simply want to make a point regarding politics in general.
The discussion, specifically, centered around the hosts' belief that we, as a nation, would be well-served by providing daily reports of enemy casualties to the general American public. In his estimation, and I paraphrase, if we were to provide statistics showing that we were, in fact, killing more of the enemy than they were of us, then Americans, as a population, would be more inclined to be supportive of the war effort. The discussion then veered into which metric would be more likely to garner a greater level of public support-the number of enemy deaths on a daily basis (as compared to our deaths), or a trend showing decreasing terrorist attacks.
I have to say, the whole conversation caused me to just shake my head in disbelief. For the record, let me say that the political opinions typically expressed by the host of the show, as well as his guest today, generally align closely with mine. So I have no political axe to grind here. But what does it say about the state of affairs-or more importantly, how skewed our perspective is, when instead of talking about the merits of a military action, we debate what measures we should publish to ensure we garner the highest level of public support possible for the effort? In the mind of these two, their position on the war was inarguable, based upon the letter after their name; the only thing left to discuss or debate was what information to feed the masses in order to convince them to jump aboard.
I, for one, have a difficult time mustering up any level of respect for any group of people who disregard the merits of any particular issue in favor of trying to prove themselves right, or their "opponents" wrong.
Which gets to the crux of the issue: politics today is about winning-about playing the game. Issues are chosen and argued based upon the expected reaction of the general public-with little thought as to right or wrong; prudent or fair. Which is why, I guess, it's so hard to tell the major parties apart any more. In fact, give me a list of 30 randomly chosen elected officials; remove their names and party affiliations, and simply list for me their position on various social issues, as well as a list of votes cast, and I would expect that, with minor exception, guessing the party affiliation of each of these would be nothing more than a crap-shoot.
So, I guess Shawna has it right. She's never registerd to vote, and has no intention of doing so. Because, in her mind, it's pointless. Anymore, we're not sure who, exactly, it is we're voting for; we just know what letter to look for. And that, my friends, is a sad, and dangerous, place to be.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
I still remember Shawna shaking me awake at three in the morning, telling me that it was happening. We jumped out of bed, grabbed the stopwatch and started timing the contractions. And, sure enough, this time, it was for real.
We showered and dressed, and made our way to the hospital. Strangely enough, the only thing that I remember about the admittance process was Shawna asking whether they had stairs or not (she hates elevators).
And then countless (it seemed) hours of alternating crying, and fitful sleep on Shawna's part; I spent most of the day pacing the room and rubbing her back.
And then, in my mind, I see snippets of frenzied activity-intensifying contractions, pushing, doctors and nurses rushing in and out, and suddenly, without me even realizing it was happening, a crying baby girl lying on Shawna's belly.
And then they handed her to me-and the world went still for just a moment. Only the three of us existed in that instant-Shawna, Alexis and me. And I was, for perhaps the first time in my life, speechless. Because we two, who were joined in spirit, now had created one who was a part of each of us. And now three were joined in a way that is still inexplicable.
I was amazed by her that day, six years ago. And she has amazed me virtually every day since.
Happy Birthday Alexis! I love you, and thank God for blessing us with you.
Monday, July 23, 2007
She found it finally. I watched as she read through it, and knew right away she was frustrated.
"Aww man," she said. "I got the wrong stuff!"
I looked over at the recipe. It was for Apple Rings.
Yeah. She got the wrong stuff.
I Love You Shawna! You keep life interesting!
Sunday, July 22, 2007
"Hmm. Well, I've never seen one."
"Well, the angels are like God," I said. "You've never seen Him, have you? But you know He's real."
She thought for a moment, and said, "I can't wait to be an angel."
"Um-Lex: you're not angel," I said.
"But I'm going to be-when I get to Heaven!"
"No, no-you're Alexis, not an angel! Angels are-well, they're angels! You're a human being! When you get there, you're gonna be...well, not an angel; like a spirit human, but not an angel!"
She said, "No, I'm going to be an angel." I argued with her a bit more, until she finally said, "Dad, I'm going to be an angel. I know I am, because my Sunday School teacher told me so." I threatened to call her Sunday School teacher just to set the record straight. But she said no, it didn't matter. "Just wait-when you get to Heaven, find me; you'll see that I'm right!"
And with that, she inspired me. Because, you see, she knows me-all my faults; all my idiosyncricies, the fact that any time I have to do physical labor I get grouchy and yell a lot; I never take the garbage out, and then get gripe when the garbage piles up; and I'm impatient. She knows all this-just ask her, she'll tell you. But, even knowing all that, in her mind, it's settled; she'll see me in Heaven!
Now, I'm firmly convinced that if I do make it to Heaven, it'll be due to a typo in God's big book, or perhaps because God told Peter to take it easy-that PJ's always good for a few laughs-because I know me. I see the real me, and, frankly, sometimes, it seems hopeless. But then Lex comes along and reminds me that true love sees past all that, and sees the man I'm trying to be, and that man-he can make it!
And so, no, I'll never be an angel, but I think, if I can remember that God, like Lex, actually loves me, I'll make it! I think I'll be ok!
I ask you: would that be nice? Would it, do you think, be well received? I think not. I know if they, the occupants of that house, were to gather up their neighbors garbage, and dump it in my front yard, I'd be a little cheesed. To be quite honest, it's probably a pretty natural reaction. Imagine how frustrating it would be to roll out of bed on Monday morning-too early, and stumble groggily to the hall closet to grab a towel-anly to find it empty. And as you grumble your way through the kitchen on the way to the dryer (because that's where we keep the clean towels in our house-I keep forgetting), you look out that huge picture window, and stop cold. Because it looks like hurricane Katrina spent the yesterday evening playing in your front yard! And so, you grumble and complain, but ultimately, you have to throw a pair of sweats and a t-shirt on, along with those grass stained Nike's that are buried somewhere in the garage, and you have to spend an hour shoveling...garbage...before you shower and dress for work. Yeah, I have to say-I'd be incensed!
When I was 8 or 9, my aunt and her friends let me ride along with them one freezing, foggy Saturday night in December. We went to the local grocery store, and one of our giddy group ran in, and bought a huge bag of picnic supplies. Then we drove into the city (I say that like we live in a huge metropolitan area...we call it "the city" because they actually have sidewalks there), to the house of one of her friends (I think she liked the guy-in fact, I'm almost sure of it).
We then commenced to engage in a spinoff of one of the strangest traditions known to human kind (in fact, we Americans may, in fact, be the only people strange enough to actually do this). We placed perhaps 300 paper plates across the front yard, and used plastic forks as stakes to hold them down. The randomly strewn toilet paper was the final touch. In hindsight, the tableau, when complete, was markedly similar to the aftermath of the last company picnic I attended (less the passed-out, drunken accountants).
We enjoyed ourselves-just as much as I'd enjoy delivering that garbage to my least favorite customer's front yard. But the amazing thing is, the occupant of that house? He called later. And, you know what? He wasn't upset! In fact, strangely enough, he sounded pleased! He laughed, and they joked about it, and I recall thinking, "what an idiot!" Because I didn't go back and help clean it up; neither did my aunt or the rest of her friends. He cleaned it up-all by himself!
We are truly strange and complex beings. He wasn't upset-in fact, he was pleased-because, even though we inconvenienced him, and caused him extra work, he recognized that we did it affectionately, because we were thinking of him (at least my aunt was; I didn't know the guy from Adam)! And it pleased him to know that when he wasn't around, Ruth (Ha! Hope I didn't embarrass you there, Ruth) was thinking about him, and wanted somehow to connect with him (even if that connection was so absurdly forged as to be utterly ridiculous-and childish).
But, my point in all this? It is simply a reminder that, you, my dear friends, are totally in control of your response to situtations and circumstances! We, essentially, dumped a load of garbage in the front yard of my aunt's crush, and he responded positively (obviously, markedly different than the response my ex-customer is going to have tomorrow morning when he looks out the window on the way to his dryer). He chose, because of my aunt's affection, to respond positively. My ex-customer, on the other hand (because of the obvious ill-will expressed by my actions), will respond negatively (if not violently).
I have to remind myself of this periodically (quite often, to be truthful), because I, like most, am prone to react to circumstances based upon how badly they inconvenience me-forgetting that I DO have a choice! I determine my response.
And so, I pledge, to myself, to respond positively to circumstances and situations that I come up against, regardless the frustration and inconvenience! Why don't you try it too?
Now, go and...OH MY GOODNESS!! WHO IN THE NAME OF GOD PUT ALL THAT STINKIN' GARBAGE ON MY FRONT LAWN?!?! DON'T YOU REALIZE THAT I HAVE TO GET TO WORK? I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS...WHAT A MESS!...
Saturday, July 21, 2007
"It is when I struggle to be brief that I become obscure."
Made me feel a little better, to be quite honest. I recognize that I'm a bit windy-perhaps I just like to hear myself-I can't say for sure, but I do have a tendency to be...wordy (a nice way of putting it, I think). But, as Horace stated, struggling to be brief results in obscurity. Then though, I found this:
"Certain brief sentences are peerless in their ability to give one the feeling that nothing remains to be said"
This is, I think, what every writer worth his salt strives for-the ability to in as few words as possible, say everthing that needs saying. How profound a statement! Which, of course, inspires me to strive for potent brevity-that is, brief, but so full of meaning that it says all there is to say.
But then I came across one final comment:
"I want to make a summing up, brief and to the point, but thorough. I have never supressed a word in my books out of regard for other people and their prejudices."
-John Henry Mackay
And this, I think, says it all: I'll say it as briefly as I can, but never sacrifice meaning or content. And I will endeavor to never strip down my writing simply to satisfy a critic. I will say everything that must be said, but endeavor to say no more.
Allow me though one indulgence. I am curious: do you, as a population, dear readers, universally agree that I'm too windy? Or is it only the uncivilized few? I have posted a poll on the right; vote-tell me if I need to shave it down from now on, or if I've got it just right!
Friday, July 20, 2007
"The road to success is filled with women
pushing their husbands along."
-Thomas R. Dewar
Thank you Shawna. The depth of your love and support never ceases to amaze me. I've come to recognize that, if I have achieved anything, had any measure of success in my life, it has been because of your strong arm of support. I'm a fool if I think that anything I've done is solely because of me. You've been the backbone that has held it together. Your love is the screwdriver that works tirelessly tightening up the screws that keep trying to work themselves out.
Thank you for continuing to pour your love, prayers and energy into the mix-even when I didn't appear to be adding anything of my own. I don't deserve you. I Love You!
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
I have had an altogether rotten day here at work; a coworker stopped by my office earlier today to, in my mind, remind me of my various inadequacies, and to affirm my deep fear that I'm nothing more than a joke-that I'll not amount to anything.
And so I decided to buy lunch for the office staff-in hopes that in doing so, I'd establish myself as valuable in somebody's mind around here. I went to the sandwich shop and picked it up; brought it back, delivered the sandwiches and salads around to the various suitably grateful, and gratifyingly thankful folks who work here. Then I took my sandwich back to the safe seclusion of my office, settled in for twenty minutes or so of browsing the net, reading-enriching myself, and trying to forget how worthless I felt.
Of course, I had to check in on the blog-to see how things were (as if anything might have happened in my absence). I clicked, for some reason, on the link to Tony Woodlief's blog (if you can't tell by now, I truly admire him), and surfed around there for a moment...and found this page:
And now, a little over an hour later, I sit here at my computer, a crumbled up, tear dampened Quizno's napkin at my elbow, eyes still a little moist-because the story is sad, and it shames me. In so many ways-I can't even list them here, let alone describe them.
And, more than anything right now, I so desperately want to be home-to grab up Lex and Gentry, and to hold them so tight they squirm, and kiss them, and tell them how much I love them and cherish them. And to hold Shawna tightly for a moment-at least until she pushes away, and gives me that puzzled but pleased look. And to say sorry.
And I will. But I'm ashamed too-because somewhere along the way, I've fallen into the trap; I've looked at all my problems, and determined that the appropriate thing to do is to talk about your problems to other people, then feel sorry for yourself; and if you can muster up just the right mixture of sorrow and quiet stoicism, people will admire you for it.
At the end of the day, in comparison-I have no problems; I have no sorrow or grief (at least none which aren't self-imposed). And, I'm ashamed for acting as though I did.
God, please forgive me; and thank you so much for the simple blessings.
I have to ask myself-where does this drive for supremacy come from? I don't believe that, in all honesty, many of us would be satisfied in a position of supremacy. Why? Perhaps I'm opening myself up here, unnecessarily, but I think that it would be quite depressing to be the supreme anything-to be the best at anything, to be the heap of the pack, king of the hill, the acknowledged "king" of anything. Now, I know-those of you who know me, your collective jaws just hit the floor! Please-hear me out!
All of us, to some degree, need some measure of extrinsic motivation. We can argue the validity of that statement later (I can tell you, though: I'm right). I, for one, to some degree, desire (need) the admiration of those who I acknowledge as my superiors-whether in terms of talent, or social standing, or in terms of heirarchical position in a work environment. It means something to me to have that acknowledged superior admire me, say well done, pat me on the back, give me kudos. I think that, to some degree, it means something to you too!
So-I strive to be better, to receive more of that positive feedback, because it, in part, drives me! (For the record, folks, I'm cringing here! I'm admittedly not usually quite this open, and it's a little difficult). Perhaps this is an earmark of successful people-the drive to receive affirmation from their superiors, because, in a sense, it drives them to constantly attempt to achieve more.
Which all leads to my point: if, in fact, that positive affirmation from authority figures-from superiors-is part of what drives me, do I simply lay down and die when I reach the top? When there is nobody left who I admire as greater than me, does my motivation die? I'm, quite frankly, deathly afraid of that (not that I'm anywhere near the top of ANYTHING-don't get me wrong Richard!). But, what if I do get there? Does the journey cease to matter to me anymore?
I think Simba said, "I just can't wait to be King!" I respectfully disagree! I'm scared to death of being king! Kingship doesn't interest me in the least! Because, who pats the king on the back, says well done? Nobody of any import, I would contend! It's the journey toward kingship-and the affirmation that the "king" gives along the way-that I enjoy!
So, I'll continue striving-continue to bask in any occasional praise I receive from the acknowledged authorities in my life. But, hear this: if I ever feel like I'm getting close to the top, don't be suprised if I move on!
Until today, that is. In the car, during the long, boring commute home, I heard a woman on the news talking about her husband, and some infidelity in has past, and how she's dealt with it over the years, and stuck with him through it all. She made a comment that struck a chord with me. She said something like, "I choose to love him."
That's the key, I think. Love is a choice! I wonder why they love me, because in my mind, it's always been a response-as in, if I can buy them enough stuff, perhaps they'll love me! Or, if I can be fun to be around they'll love me; or if I can make enough money, and look like Brad Pitt, she'll love me; even if I can do everything, and do it perfectly, they'll ALL love me. If I am good enough, they'll love me in return.
The truth is, good or bad, splitting image of Brad Pitt or not, fortune and fame and lavish gifts or not-they love me-because they choose to! Because that's what wives do, and children, and family and friends. They choose to love!
And so now, for perhaps the first time in my life, I truly understand love. I Chronicles 13:13 in the New King James Version says:
"And now abideth faith, hope, love, these
three; but the greatest of these is love."
And you know what? It is! The greatest thing in my life is that love-that they choose to have for me! Wife, children, family, friends: have faith in me-please. It makes me feel good. And hope for me to achieve success in every facet-it means you care. But if you can no longer put your faith in me, and you feel hope is lost, at least love me. Choose to love me-no matter what! Because that love means the world to me-it's what I live for!
Monday, July 16, 2007
You can even borrow books from me (if, that is, of course, I know you, and trust you with my books).
Give me some time to get it complete. I have books stored EVERYWHERE!
And be sure and let Randall know that you agree with Tony!
Here's my problem, though (and, I apologize if I appear double-minded here folks; it's definitely not intended! You are merely fortunate enough to have access to these brief glimpses my mind-the amazing thing that it is-in action! And, yes Richard-I know: humility, right?). I am now, after giving this whole pseudonym issue much thought, not quite as conviced that I want to take on a pen name! It's not that I'm backtracking on my prior theory that unique names make for more successful people (although, stay tuned...a post is forthcoming regarding success; you folks who have decided to abstain, from this point forward, from bubble gum will appreciate it, I think). I do think that there is some correlation between unique names and success-the evidence is almost overwhelmingly supportive of that theory.
Here is my concern: I aspire to be a writer-you know that. But I have this desperate need, in virtually all that I do, to be good at it; no, not merely good-I want to be great at everything that I do. In fact, if I were to be totally honest with you, I'd have to tell you that I have this inexplicable (ok, it's not inexplicable; I think that I understand it-I'm just not going to tell you; there are some things that should remain private) drive to be the absolute best at everything that I put my hand to. So, the truth of the matter is, I don't simply want to be a writer, I want to be a successful writer, a good writer, one of the very best writers ever! And-for you, my faithful readers, who are self-described critics, I'm going to head you off at the pass; I recognize that I am, most certainly, not one of the best writers ever! This post is evidence of that! But, I don't think that means that I can't be one of the best! In fact, I'll tell you a secret: this is practice! And you know what they say about practice? It makes perfect! So, my coming here, whipping up these delectable mind dishes for you in preparation for the real deal, is merely developing my craft.
But I digress. If, in fact, I wish to be a truly great writer, I wish to be known and rewarded for being a truly great writer. Now, let me ask you; if I take on a pseudonym in order to attract potential readers, will that cheapen any success that I might ever achieve? I think so. A recently read a book (it's called "Heart-Shaped Box"; a fantastic book-for those of you who like Stephen King, and that strange "thriller-esque" genre that is his alone). It's by a guy named Joe Hill, a fantastic writer, in his own right. But, I found out recently when reading the news headlines on the internet, that Joe Hill is not really Joe Hill. His name is, in fact, Joseph Hillstrom King. Yes, my perceptive readers-he is, in fact, Stephen King's son. So, why then, did he choose not to put "Heart-Shaped Box, by Joseph Hillstrom King" on the cover of this, his first book? My guess is that he'd have probably sold ten times the number of copies that he originally sold, had it been widely known that he was the child of one of the most renowned storytellers in recent history. But, in his mind, success was not about how many books he sold; it was about his writing speaking for itself! This, my friends, is where I am! I want to be successful-not because I have a catchy name; no, I want to be known for being a great writer. In fact, when it's all said and done, I'll be content to overhear a conversation on the street, a conversation something like this:
"Oh my goodness! Have you read that blog?"
"Whose blog is that?"
"Umm...Oh what's his name? Argh! I can't remember his name! O jeez! Well, can't tell you his name-but his blog is fantastic! He wrote this thing-this absolutely brilliant piece-everyone's talking about it! It's a post about Bubble gum-"
"OHH!! YES! I read it! That's an INCREDIBLE blog! The guy's a great writer! Um...I can't remember his name either!"
You get my point! I want to be known-if I am to be known-not for my name, but for my work. So, I ask you, faithful fellow diners: given that, would it be a breach of principle to take a pseudonym-simply to give myself a leg up on the competition?
Tell me what you think! I read your comments, and I cherish them all! They mean alot to me! I encourage you to comment-now and often!
And-oh, yeah: those of you, my critics (read Richard-aka Y.U.R.), who, I'm sure, will use this as your "humility" soapbox for an evening or two-let me say this: I hesitate to write like this, because, I am, in all actuality, humble. I'm a blessed man, and I am worth nothing without the grace of God. So, please, don't take my desire to be great as the product of a huge ego. I simply want to do the best that I possibly can!
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
As legend has it, in this small country, the custom was, when an individual was determined to have murdered someone, the victims family was gathered together. They were ushered down to the shore of the closest river or lake. A tribal leader would then take the convicted and bind him tightly, hand and foot, so that he could scarcely move. The leader would then take the bound convict, and place him in a boat, and row out to the middle of the river or lake. The convict was then pushed over the side, and into the water.
To stop there, though, gives the impression that this custom was nothing more than a particularly cruel twist on the old testament "eye-for-an-eye" credo. But there's more to the legend. The family was gathered there on the banks of the river for a reason-because this custom was really for their benefit. You see, they had a choice to make-in that instant when the convict entered the water, that individual's life rested in their hands, because, as the leader rowed the boat out with the convict aboard, the family was left with another boat at their disposal. And as they watched the convict go under, they were faced with a choice: whether to allow the convict to drown and die, or to row out, pull the convict from the water, and save his life.
Because, according to the legend, if the family stood and watched as the convict died there in the water, justice would have been served-they would have received their vengeance, but they would have to carry the grief of losing that loved one forever. Alternately, if they chose to save him, they would have been denied justice-no vengeance, but in saving that doomed man, in showing mercy, they immediately released themselves from the grief that they would otherwise have carried.
Human nature, when hurt, wants to do all in it's power to ensure justice-even vengeance. But I believe, just as demonstrated in the African legend, that tied tightly to the back of that vengeance is the ever present memory of the grief and hurt-that is, they're tied together-the hurt and the vengeance. And since vengeance can never be taken back, the moment you latch on to that vengeance, you accept that hurt and grief-probably forever. On the other hand, you can choose to forgive, and by doing so, release yourself from the burden of that hurt and grief.
I have been hurt. But so have I hurt. So, I choose to take up the oar, and paddle my way out, and pull that poor soul from the water. It's not easy-it's contrary to my nature. But, it's also a release.
I only hope and pray that, as I dip under the waves here in my own river of justice, that those I have hurt are already rowing out to meet me.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Forever, it seemed, we’d watched you
As you’d moved past us toward the door
And wondered lightly why
You didn’t stay near us any more.
Gradually you’d neared it-
Occasionally you’d look back-
But not once did you hesitate
Or permit your pace to slack.
Then suddenly we realized-
You were way too far ahead!
But you called back, “Don’t worry!”
“You’ll make it too!” you said.
We cried and said, “Come back”
Though by then it was too late-
You’d gone much too near the door
To ever hesitate.
You stumbled-then you touched the knob-
Miraculously it turned,
And then we finally realized
The vision that within you burned.
For as the door swung slowly inward
We were bathed in a glorious light
And your bent and feeble body
Once again was made upright.
A hand reached out and helped you through
The door shut slowly behind you
By a vision of life anew.
We think of you now as we look at that door
And what life must be like there;
But we each know that it’ll mean so much more
When we see you standing by your home
Dedicated to my grandmother
Oct. 14, 1939-Jan. 12, 1997
Julia Child, each of these others, too many more to list-they achieved success in the cooking field by, first, knowing how to create dishes that were pleasing to taste-that people enjoyed eating! They knew which ingredients to put together, and exactly how to do it, to cause people to enjoy the dish. But, it took more than that; taste is only one aspect of good cooking. The other is presentation: they were able to create these savory dishes, and present them in a manner that was visually pleasing. It must look appetizing before anyone is going to get anything out of it.
Can this be applied to my chosen field? I believe it can. I want to be a successful purveyor of mental nutrition-of word fodder, specifically. First, I have to be able to create something that is appealing-that looks good. This is good writing-you know, punctuation, sentence structure, vocabulary-all the the things that, if applied correctly, keep the dish from looking sloppy. I believe that, to some degree, I have that-but perhaps not. I am ALWAYS eager for you, my beloved taste-testers to critique me. Please do-often! But, I need more than just that; it has to taste good! Can I tell a story? That's the question, really! I can put together the best looking dish on the planet, but if it's bland, or even worse-terrible, then it's not very successful! So, I ask you, faithful readers, how does it taste? Let me know!
But, I think that there is one thing missing here-something that we haven't captured, that is common to each of these successful chefs. It's simple, really-when you think about it. The truth is, you can create the most visually appealing dish, and it can taste like heaven on earth, but if you don't let anyone taste it, then you're not very successful, nor will you be! So, this is the real answer to a comment regarding a previous post. An anonymous reader asked, "Can BLOGGERS be humble"? This is my response: I can't speak for the entire blogging community-that would certainly be egotistical! But I can speak for myself. Yes, if, anonymous, you say that bloggers are arrogant or egotistical because the very nature of what they do-blogging-is self-centered, or, as you said, "it's all about them," then perhaps I am not humble. Because, yes, this blog is about me (and the things that make me me-like family, friends, literature, music and the like), but yes, it is self-centered. Why? Because this is my testing ground; this is where I lay my various dishes out for you to sample. If I don't, then I'll never be as good as I might, because I'll never get independent feedback regarding the quality of my dishes. But, more importantly, even if I can lay out a beautiful dish, and it tastes fantastic, if I don't let anyone eat it, then it's just a wasted effort! So, for now, O cherished diners, you are the ones who I get to feed!
So, belly up ladies and gents! Free food-free fodder for everyone! Get it while it's hot! Plenty to go around!
Oh, yeah...how's it taste?
If you haven't read the post, you can find it here:
I have to say, I'm very excited about the rash of responses. It's obvious that many of you really do care about the social issues facing us today-but it does concern me that a number of you tend to minimize the impact that bubble gum chewing has on our society, as a whole! It saddens me that we are so eager to jump on so many seemingly socially relevant issues, and we do so much to try to solve them-yet we ignore the REAL issues-the ones that really cause long term damage.
Let me ask you-where are the weekend long concerts dedicated to healing entire societies that are scarred by gum chewing? Where are the Washington think tanks? Where are the senate subcommittee hearings? Where are the Hollywood activists?
I know, I know: this is supposed to be mentally nutritious, and mental nutrition and politics are an oxymoron, so I won't charge this politically. In fact, please, don't post any politically charged comments here...this venue should be politically neutral. I'm only trying to say that, social norms have caused us to ignore the truly meaningful societal issues, and focus on "trendy" issues. I'm encouraged to see that you care. I only hope that more of you will come to the realization that, to do nothing is, in effect, criminal.
Thank you for your input! Please, continue to comment! Circulate this among your family and friends-freely! Whether you agree or not-let's have enlightened discussion; at least get the issue out there!
Monday, July 9, 2007
So, in fairness to all of you, my loyal, trusting readers, I'd like to briefly explain my moral conviction against chewing bubble gum. Yes, that's right, I said that I am morally opposed to chewing bubble gum. Why, you might ask? Well, let me ask you, constant reader: what is the designated purpose for chewing? God gave us "chewing" as a mechanism for masticating our food-that is, the sole given purpose of chewing is to break down food so that it is digestible.
So, let's apply that chewing action to bubble gum: is it possible to actually break bubble gum down by chewing it? As best I can tell, bubble gum, given normal chewing, has a half-life that would rival that of two tons of weapon grade plutonium! The point? I've never seen gum actually broken down by chewing it; it's simply not possible under normal circumstances.
So, what does this, in turn, imply about someone who chooses to chew bubble gum? If, in fact, God gave us teeth and a jaw in order to chew our food so that it can be broken down, and we choose to apply that activity to something that, by definition, cannot or will not be broken down, then we are intentionally engaging in an activity that, by definition, subverts Gods true purpose for us. We are choosing to engage in something that is, apparently, contrary to Gods plan for our lives.
But, lest you choose not to believe in God, or really couldn't care less about His plan for your life, there's another facet to this. I firmly believe that, if the purpose of chewing is, in fact, to break down food, and you elect to chew something that absolutely will not be broken down, you are, at the outset, accepting failure! That's right; each and every time you pop a stick of gum in your mouth, you are, in effect saying that, I'm going to try my best, given the true purpose of this whole activity, to break you down; but I acknowledge that it'll never happen-I accept the defeat, yet I will still engage in the battle with you.
What must this do to our psyches? How must this terminally damage us? I have a strongly held belief (admittedly, no scientific support, but I'd be extremely interested in seeing any data that you, fellow partakers of this sumptuous fare we so affectionately call MyndFood) that bubble gum chewing (and other similar activities), have contributed largely to the sharp increases in juvenile deliquency, high-school dropouts, and jobless young adults, that we have experienced in recent decades. Think about it: when Mother was young, children weren't allowed to chew gum; in fact, most adults didn't even chew gum (they participated in more sociable, and far less psychologically damaging activities-like smoking). Then, as generations grew more "free"-less restrictive with their children (much of this happened in the 1960's-the hippie era), children were allowed, more often, to chew gum (particularly in their formative years). Further, parents engaged in the activity more often (as persons of particular political bent used their persuasive powers to convince us, as a society, that other, more sociable pastimes-like smoking-were damaging to our health, and we should, rather, engage in more innocuous activities-like gum chewing).
But the unforeseen results of this unfortunate shift in social philosophy have been, in my mind, far more damaging than any ill-effects that might possibly be associated with smoking. I am firmly convinced that chewing gum, and the requisite "mental surrender" that must come along with it, has, slowly and subconsciously, conditioned our minds to accept defeat, has caused our self-value, and belief in ourselves, to slowly erode-until our children feel resigned to failure, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy that is played out in juvenile courts, and in continuation schools, and in welfare lines everywhere.
So, I choose not to chew gum, not to participate in the degradation of our society. I ask you, what do you think? I encourage you to comment; I look forward to hearing your thoughts!
THE GRACE I KNOW
Grace comes for me in the loneliest part of the night, the way she used to do. Her steady tap on the door pulls me from sleep, and there she stands in the dim light of the hallway, wearing her little cotton nightgown embroidered with purple flowers. Her stare is fixed on the place where my head emerges from the darkness of our bedroom, as if her eyes can divine the black. I know what she wants before she raises her arms. She was always my little spool of thread, spilling out of her bed and down the hall to bump against my door, to wait until I cradled her and rewound the invisible string between her door and mine, returning her to rest.
So I lift her to my chest and she lays her head on my shoulder. Her soft dark curls tickle my nose as they always did, even when only wisps remained. “Do you remember,” she whispers in a voice that is still working out how to form words, “the time when I was sick from the medicine you let them give me, and how you yelled at me because I messed myself?”
“Yes.” My answer is thin and soft because I am ashamed, and because I don’t want Hannah to hear. It frightens her that our daughter still comes to me. “I was just so tired.”
She tightens her grip. Her muscles feel coordinated and purposeful, like that of a snake, and for a brief moment I imagine she will strangle me. Her lips are close to my ear as we walk down the hallway. “You promised I would get better.”
The shame is an icy wind and I close my eyes to it. “I know.” I stumble, then stop, fearful of waking Benjamin. We are outside his door, so close that I can hear a catch in his breath, as if he feels the same cold gust stab his skin. I don’t know what I am waiting for, only that we should wait.
I can feel Grace peering from beneath her hair, through Benjamin’s door, and suddenly I am certain that she is examining him with those relentless eyes. No, we shouldn’t wait here. My instincts have been unreliable for years. We move quickly past Benjamin’s door and I try to explain my lie. “I didn’t want you to be afraid.” Her throat extrudes a grim chuckle.
We are at the doorway to Grace’s room, which is closed, so I open it. Inside there is a small bed of painted white wood, and a matching dresser, and a child’s rocking chair surrounded by dolls. The smell of her is gone; there is only a faint mustiness, an odor of dust. The girl in my arms has no smell, now that I search for it. I used to be able to conjure her scents – baby shampoo and bubble gum and, after playing outside, something like a wet puppy rolled in flowers.
She doesn’t resist as I pull back the blankets and lay her body on the bed, but her gaze is a reproach. I sit and she takes my face in her hands, exactly the way she used to do. “Do you remember,” she asks, her eyes bright and cruel, “how you wanted me to die in the end? How you daydreamed about it?”
A moan forms in my throat. I pull my face from her hands of stone and stare at the floor, at the way my feet have gathered themselves at the side of her bed just as they would do when I sat here and prayed. There are no more prayers inside me. I close my eyes and pretend that the creature tugging at my arm is Grace.
“David?” Hannah stands in the doorway. For a moment I think perhaps I have become Grace, sitting alone on this little bed. There is pity and sadness in Hannah’s face, and the slightest fear. Her pale blue eyes can fill up so quickly, even now. She cradles my head against her stomach, which quivers with the cold, and she kisses me. Her tears drop onto my skin, warm at first, but quickly becoming cold touches, like the fingertips of a corpse. Hannah thinks I came here alone.
We squeeze onto the bed together and lie down, the way we used to do when we believed the lingering smell would spark dreams of Grace. Each of us was secretly treacherous back then, silently pleading with God that if only one of us could see her, that it not be the other. You think that you will dream about your child all the time, but that’s a lie. You hardly dream of her at all.
Only lately I needn’t dream, because she comes for me in the blackness. I know she isn’t my daughter, but I didn’t know it would be this way. I didn’t know that the days would stack themselves end on end, and shape themselves into months, and then years, until they became a relentless wave, carrying me away from that last moment I held her. Sometimes my arms ache from it, from the absence. It is too much, and so when she comes I always open the door.
Tony Woodlief is an MFA student in creative writing at Wichita State University and a regular essayist for World magazine. Some of his current essay interests are faith, children and annoying things like McDonalds's inability to properly place pickles on a cheeseburger. Tony has a forthcomingstory in Image, and his short memoir Raising Wild Boys into Men: A Modern Dad's Survival Guide is soon to be released (The New Pamphleteer, 2007). Tony lives in Wichita, Kansas, with his wife and four sons.
Sunday, July 8, 2007
Saturday, July 7, 2007
It got me to thinking, and I'll have to admit, I don't know that I have the answer! I said in an earlier post that I wanted this to be meaningful-for you who crave mental sustenance; something that you would enjoy, something that would draw you back, time and again. But is it supposed to be interactive? The answer, I think, depends upon the circumstances. If this is, in fact, supposed to be entertainment for you, my cherished readers, then two things come to mind: first, it's a good thing that there's no charge, because I have this sneaky suspicion that even you (yeah, I'm talking to you mom-as well as the handful of other folks who, apparently, have devoted a few minutes of their time to reading this) probably wouldn't come back if you had to pay! More importantly, though, what other entertainment venues demand, or even accept, interaction with the audience? Not too many!
But, since I control the doling out of the brain grub, and, further, I have this drive to be in control, I say, yes-this is supposed to be interactive!
So, what does that mean for you-oh faithful few? Tell me what you think! There is, at the bottom of every post, a "comments" link. Use it! Respond to my rhetorical questions, my thoughts and comments on life, literature and music, and even seemingly absurd observations (like the fact that, whether Angela chooses to believe it or not, tanning is, in fact, chemically addictive).
I look forward to hearing from you!
Friday, July 6, 2007
Let's start with the media. Now, I recognize that some movie stars change their names early in their careers-most don't though. How many John Smith's or Jane Green's do you see in showbiz? No-you see Bruce Willis and Mandy Moore; Ashton Kutcher and Scarlett Johansson; Daniel Radcliffe, Will Ferrell and Uma Thurman; Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie-you get my point. Can't think of a single movie star of note who has a "normal" name.
But, fortunately for me, I have little desire to act. So, let's examine a few of my real interests-namely writing and music. First, music: any John Smith's there? Off the top of my head, I can't think of any. I can think of plenty of exotic, memorable artist names though: Alanis Morrisette, Israel Houghton, Peter Cetera...the list goes on. Writers? Fortunately for me, there are a few more "normal" names here-Stephen King and even Joe Hill (incidentally, great writer-but it's a pen name; he's actually Stephen King's son). But there are still plenty of exotic ones: Dean Koontz, Ursula Leguin, J.K. Rowling...you get the point.
Are you convinced yet? Well, before you answer, consider sports (Venus Williams, Tiger Woods, Danica Patrick); business (Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Donald Trump, Warren Buffet, Sam Walton, Carly Fiorina); even, to some degree, politics (Condoleeza Rice, Dick Cheney, Theodore Roosevelt, Mitt Romney). The lists go on.
So, what's in a name? Does a unique, somewhat exotic name, give the owner a "boost"-a leg up on the competition? Or, is it simply that because the name is more memorable, they pop up in their readers, or watchers, or supporters, minds more often? I'd be interested in seeing a scientific poll showing what proportion of "normal" named individuals ended up in the top 10% of their respective careers.
So-my reason for asking: as many of you know (as if anyone is actually reading this), I have started to write-short stories for now (maybe I'll let you, my nonexistent readers, read them at some point), and I hope to someday publish. But, will my chances of seeing my work in print be greater if I adopt a pen name, something more exotic than "P.J. Green"?
I invite comments (yes, from you, my host of loyal readers). In fact, tell your friends to stop by, because I will, in short order, post a poll on the right sidebar of this blog, asking for your input on a variety of pseudonyms.
Thursday, July 5, 2007
Author: Stephen King, writing as Richard Bachman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2007)
Category: Popular Fiction
Genre: Mystery/Horror/Science Fiction
Almost from the opening paragraph of this book, pulled from an old box in Stephen King's attic, dusted off, and published (under his old pseudonym-Richard Bachman), you'll be taken by Blaze, an oversized rather dimwitted, yet sincere and charming criminal, trying to make it on his own, after his partner, and only true friend dies.
The story is part reflection on Blaze's life-from his early life, when he actually excelled in school, to the severe abuse of his father that leaves him with a permanent mental disability as well as a huge dent in his forehead, to the many years spent in an orphanage, to his attempt to carry out the biggest job of his career-a job planned by his partner and friend prior to his death-solo (well, not solo; with the posthumous assistance of his good old partner).
The book is strongly reminiscent of Catcher in the Rye-it's a story of true friendship; of one man's struggle to prove himself, to himself and to those who wrote him off; the timeless story of good vs. evil. It'll likely leave you with watery eyes and a few used tissues, and will probably be one of those few times that you actually wish for good to lose out in this particular battle in the eternal war between good and evil.
MyndFood Rating: A-
I'll warn you up front-Stephen King can do no wrong! I'm an avid fan. But he's outdone himself on this one, in that he's departed (perhaps old Richard Bachman really was an alter ego) from the normal "freaky" nature of his writing, and created something that'll twang your emotions, yet not scare the socks off you! It's destined to be a classic! The A- is well-earned; I'm not an easy critic! You wont be sorry!
1. Material, that contains or consists of essential mental nutrients, such as written words, spoken words, or music, and is ingested and assimilated by the mind to produce intelligent thought, stimulate mental growth, and maintain intellectual life.
2. A specified kind of mental nourishment, without which intelligent thought cannot flourish.
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
In a way, it feels almost like I felt when I had my first child! You know-the "I'm excited, but more scared than I've ever been in my life," feeling? I know that I can do this-I think that I've got something meaningful to say (and even if I don't, it's kind of like therapy for me), but what if I'm wrong? What if I goof up? I know, I know-it's a blog right? I mean, first, how badly can you mess up a blog-especially if nobody's reading it? More importantly, though-what if you do? Are there eternal consequences for messing up a blog? Obviously not-except for the damage to my psyche. I want to do something meaningful here-something that makes sense, that people will read, identify with and enjoy. And, I think that I can-I hope I can! But if not, will it crush some small part of me-the part that wants to, someday, write a novel, but is scared to death of trying?
There, I've said it! This is, I guess, that first step-I'm getting my feet wet in preparation for the real deal. Thing is, if I embarrass myself, will I have the courage to try again?
I read somewhere that courage is a defining attribute-something that sets those that have it apart from everyone else. The courageous face the things-go the places-that scare everyone else to death. The key, though, is that courageous people are not fearless-on the contrary, if they're fearless, then courage really has nothing to do with it. No, courage is the willingess to go, despite the fear, in the face of the fear.
So, here I go! Step one! I stare the fear of failure in the face, and take that first step...
I am lion, hear me roar!