Sunday, January 27, 2013


WARNING!  This is a rant.  I'm going to claim a bully pulpit here for a few minutes.

"We are an illiterate people.  When a person says something, we don't ask where he learned it.  We just believe it."  That quote (printed in TIME Magazine) is from a Pakistani man talking about how he had come to the decision to not allow his daughter to receive a polio vaccination, a vaccination that would have prevented her being a cripple for the rest of her life.  I was struck by the parallel between his statement and what I have been observing in our own country for some time.  We are no less credulous just because we can read;  we accept any statement that supports what we already believe and reject any that doesn't.

A recent school shooting and, even more so, last years presidential campaign released a torrent of words. "All guns are bad."  "All teachers should be armed." "President Obama is not a citizen."  "Romney doesn't care about anyone but the rich."   No statement has been too outrageous and the only defense necessary seems to be "You can't prove it isn't true."  Even the most reasonable, sensible and modest proposals following in the wake of a shooting spree that left 16 children and six adults dead are called threats to the constitution.  One NRA pundit even tried to tie gun control to racism. I've also heard, "We know it won't work, so why even try," from someone I actually respect. Of course, she is right that "It won't work" in the sense that making assault weapons and hundred round magazines illegal will not immediately take them out of, or keep them out of, the hands of people who would misuse them. (Is there any way for a civilian to not misuse an assault rifle?)  Does that mean any attempt to control them is bad or that it is wrong to even offer ideas for consideration?  Is it even remotely reasonable that either presidential candidate was a willing conspirator in a plot to take over the world?

I suppose I am really angry about this because I recently caught myself holding on to an idea just because I "knew" it was so.  The subject was "Right to Work" laws.  Your dad was for them and I was against.  As he offered reasonable arguments to support his view, I realized that my response was basically knee-jerk; these were bad laws because I knew they were bad laws.  Long ago, I had accepted without question the viewpoint of the union to which I then belonged.  Thirty years later I still had not questioned that viewpoint.  I'm still not certain it was wrong, but I am much less certain that it was right.  I am now examining my willingness to examine my beliefs and finding it wanting.  It's annoying to find out you aren't as reasonable and rational as you think you are.

It was Will Rogers who said, "It ain't what you don't know that hurts you.  It's what you do know that just ain't so."  We need to examine what we "know." Is it fact or at least a reasonable idea based on facts?  Or is it just what we choose to believe?  If we do not challenge ourselves to challenge what we believe we have no basis for challenging what anyone else believes.  Be a skeptic.  Question everything, especially your  own beliefs.  And be willing, but not necessarily eager, to change.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


I've been stuck.  For almost two months now I haven't come up with anything that I have thought was worth committing to print. I woke up this morning with the beginning of an idea; enough of one that I felt compelled to get to the computer and try to capture it.  That was about an hour ago and as you can see, I am now at the point of idly tapping keys hoping something will come out.

Here's what I have been mulling over.  For Christmas this year your Dad created and gave to me a bound volume of this blog.  It was wonderfully done, filled with pictures of family, with one of me reading to you, Scarlett, on the front.  When I tore the wrapping off and saw what it was, my eyes filled with tears and my heart just filled.  It was a gift in the finest sense of the word because of the emotional impact it had. It wasn't until this morning that I began to understand why it had meant so much to me.  It was your dad saying to me, "I value you." I had, I suppose, something of the same feeling when he asked me to start this enterprise but the book gave it substance, made it real, in a way it hadn't been before.

I have written before about the joy of loving and being loved, but I had not realized (consciously) how much being valued means.  I had particularly not thought about how much it means to me.  I know that I am proud and vain, that what people think of me is of too much importance to me.  If you want to know how true this is, ask me how often I check to see how many times this blog has been read.  Nonetheless, there is a kernel of insight here.  I think this particular character defect of mine is probably common to almost all people and is, in fact, a major driver in most creative activity.  Actors, artists, writers, athletes, and many others continue to work in their chosen fields long after any economic need to work has been met.  Especially people who perform before live audiences seem unable to stop.  I believe it is the need to be valued, to have people appreciate them, that drives them.  I know it has driven me back to this keyboard when I don't think I have anything left to say. "Vanity of vanities;  all is vanity."  The author of Ecclesiastes understood this several thousand years ago.

I'm not just trying to beat my ego into submission here, or even to excuse my hubris in daring to write at all.  (I'm also not saying that those two things don't play a role here.)  Since I am usually trying to moralize in these essays, here is the moral of this one;  if you value someone or something someone has done for you, let them know. Of course, this "moral" is just a restatement of an earlier blog, "You Done Real Good," so I guess I still don't have anything to say.

 Except maybe this.  Perhaps that streak of vanity that runs through us isn't all bad.  We are brought up to honor humility (bit of an oxymoron there) and to view self-aggrandizement as something bad. To be sure, bragging and blowing your own horn is very unattractive, but putting yourself out there, singing your song or telling your story where it can be heard, is the only way anything gets created.  It is the desire to have our performance appreciated that drives us to do our best.  It has taken me all these years to figure out that it's OK to put on the show and it's also OK if it isn't always great. In his Gettysburg Address Lincoln said, "The world will little note nor long remember what is said here..."  Look how wrong he was.

So.  Sing your song;  tell your story; dance your dance.  Worry about what people think only to the extent that it makes you want to do your best. Do not let worry about what people will think (or even about how good you think your performance is) keep you from trying. Today's title comes from a line I once heard, "Behold the turtle; he makes no progress until he sticks his neck out."