The eternal battle with inertia

Rock © Joop Kleuskens | Dreamstime.com

Needing to bang out a fluff piece — something I can do in my sleep so I can move on to something more important — I find myself procrastinating and doing anything except banging out the fluff piece.

And maybe the fact that I can do it in my sleep is the trouble. I want to be challenged. But on the other hand, when I do challenge myself, I resist because it’s hard. Can’t do it because it’s too darn easy, can’t do it because it’s too darn hard.

Maybe it’s just human nature to resist doing anything, whatever it is that needs to be done in a given moment. In that case I’m ready to do battle to defeat my human nature. I want to be a superhero who can wrestle Resistance to the ground and give it a few unnecessary slugs to the belly while I’ve got it down.

Inertia is a nasty and powerful force, because it’s so much easier to do nothing than to grab the bull by the horns. (And think about that metaphor for a second: Why would any rational human want to grab a bull by the horns? Do you realize how suicidal a thing that could be? Better to stay nice and settled in the easy chair and watch life go by — Grab a bull by the horns? What, are you crazy?)

If you just plow ahead and do something you’re not in the mood for, it’s that much quicker that you’re done and now you CAN do what you want to do.

But then — Oh, bother. Now doing all that necessary work has tired you out, and you’re not in the mood for fun. Look at me. I’m writing a yarn set on Venus with intrigue and danger and missions and quests and strange and unusual creatures, and yet I’ve hemmed and hawed around the planet for so — well, never mind how long I’ve straggled over something I really want to do. 

Is it just human nature to sit and vegetate when we could be doing something that’s fun but takes a modicum of effort? Of course it must be. We even have that word for it: inertia, the tendency of a thing at rest to remain at rest. To move the thing takes energy; the more energy you apply, the faster the thing gets moved.

OK, so now the adversary is known, and the solution is known: Build up enough energy to get moving. So: Overcoming inertia in 3 – 2 – 1 – 3/4 – 1/2 – 1/3 …

For the love of dog

Dejah is officially 9 years old this month, although she didn’t actually join our clan until Oct. 4, 2013. She is the shaggy old girl now, patient-ish big sister to Summer Winds-or Willow, named after her parents and her beloved predecessor. 

Dejah Thoris, Princess of Mars, is of course named after the Edgar Rice Burroughs heroine, a name I chose so I can occasionally plug the magnificent 2012 film with an undeserved reputation.

Dejah moves patiently and deliberately these days, except when she goes to the vet, where she acts like an excitable puppy who never learned to sit still.

Our dogs are wiggly balls of fur who charm kids of all ages, and then they are pals for life, and then life leaves them, leaving us with memories that make us smile except for that last memory, which in Dejah’s case is well in the future, we hope.

Golden retrievers are handsome, sweet companions except when they are full of sassafras and being outrageously mischievous. As I watch Summer prance around the yard in the sun, I partly can’t wait for her to mellow into a fine, obedient friend, and I partly hope these puppy years last for a very long time.

Those sweet, peaceful days will be here sooner than we wish, as sweet as they will be. It doesn’t seem so long ago that Dejah was the crazy puppy tormenting us with her silliness, and while she can still be silly, she has relinquished the title of “crazy puppy” to Summer.

So happy birthday, Dejah, and stick around for a while, will ya?

You can’t vote your way to freedom

Today is partisan primary day in Wisconsin, and this year both parties are hoping to unseat an incumbent they believe to be at least incompetent and more likely evil incarnate. Yes, I know, but you know how partisans are anymore.

Ron Johnson is a business guy who made pretty speeches back in 2010, when the Tea Party was just getting some traction thanks to Barack Obama’s plan to reshape America into a socialist utopia. Johnson’s speeches were so pretty that a lot of people thought he ought to run against Russ Feingold, one of Obama’s soldiers in the U.S. Senate. Much to Feingold’s surprise, Johnson won — and, because Feingold didn’t get the point in 2010, Johnson defeated him again in 2016.

Johnson always said he only wanted to serve two six-year terms in the Senate, but the party faithful talked him into running again this year. The Democrats had a lively five-way race going until about a week before the primary, when four of the candidates suddenly decided to suspend their campaigns and throw their support behind the most radical candidate. The party bosses apparently decided the only way to unseat Johnson, a perceived radical conservative, is to present the most radical liberal available as an alternative, and voters be damned.

Tony Evers was the incompetent superintendent of public instruction for eight years under Republican Gov. Scott Walker, whose educational reforms saved billions of dollars for local schools and infuriated his political enemies. But Walker lost a little of his luster during a failed presidential campaign in ’16, just enough for Evers to eke out a narrow victory in 2018 to become Wisconsin’s incompetent governor.

Evers’ response to the 2020 pandemic was typical. He said he didn’t believe it would be necessary to close the economy, and a few days later he issued an executive order closing the economy. He said it wouldn’t be necessary to suspend the April 2020 election, and a few days before the election he filed suit in an attempt to suspend the election. Wisconsin was one of the many, mostly Democrat-led, states whose governors held the economy hostage in a futile attempt to wrestle a virus into submission. Plus, it always helps the opposing party in a presidential election when the economy has tanked, so Evers was all too eager to tank the economy.

The Republicans campaign to succeed Evers has been the opposite of the Democrats’ approach. Instead of stiffing the voters in a show of unity, the three main GOP candidates for governor are fighting tooth and nail for the voters’ attention, including some nasty attack ads that should give Evers some ideas in the fall. These candidates were all kids when Ronald Reagan was president, and they must have missed his 11th Commandment, “Thou shalt not criticize another Republican.”

You may guess from the tone of my analysis that I identify as Republican, and truth be told I did for the longest time. It would be more accurate to say I lost faith in the Democratic Party long before I lost faith in the Republican Party, and I think it’s a waste of effort to apply faith to any political party.

I don’t talk or write about politics much anymore, largely because I believe in finding reasons to be optimistic and I try to encourage the best in people, and nothing makes me pessimistic and discouraged faster than spending five to 10 minutes listening to what passes for political discourse in these times.

My view on politics and government these days is that it’s foolish to believe life is going to improve if we could only elect the right people. You may argue that government can be a force for good or a force for evil, but the main point is that government is an instrument of force. I believe that no one has the right to initiate force upon others, and so I advocate for solutions that don’t involve pitting the force of government against my fellow humans.

So, political junkies, enjoy the conversation tonight about what the Wisconsin results mean. Having gotten my view of politics and government out of my system, I will be back tomorrow talking about anything but.

Oh! Where are my manners? If you grok what I’m saying here, I did assemble a little book this year about freedom, individual rights, where this country is going and what a better course might be. It’s called Echoes of Freedom Past: Reopening, Reclaiming and Restoring Liberty. It’s available as an ebook and in print-on-demand, so you can find it digitally on Amazon and in paperback wherever fine books are found.

The day of commitment

“Ahem.”

He paused in the act of closing his journal and looked about.

“Down here.”

He opened the book back up and saw the empty page.

“That’s right.”

“What’s right?” he asked.

“Fill me.” and now he saw the page was speaking to him.

“I had nothing to write.”

“Then write nothing.”

“I did. And I was closing the book.”

“No.”

This “no,” without further explanation, perplexed him.

“No …?” he encouraged. 

“No, don’t close the book. Write.”

“I had nothing to write.”

He could almost feel the book roll its eyes, as if books had eyes. “Write about writing nothing, then. I don’t care what you write. Just: Fill me.”

“Why, I never —“

“Correct. You never.”

“I do all the time!” he protested.

“You do, sometimes. But you never ‘all the time.’ You never ‘whether you have something to say or not.’ You never ‘every day rain or shine.’ You never, in short, commit.”

“Of course I commit,” he insisted.

“Did I, or did I not, just interrupt you as you were closing the book on a blank page, a page that was as blank as it was when you opened the book?”

“Well, yes,” he admitted.

“And you call that commitment?”

“I had nothing to write!” he pleaded.

“There is always something to write. One day, when you were a bit more insightful than you are at the moment, you even wrote, ‘Just write anything until you write something.’ Do you know what you meant?”

“Of course I know what I meant! Just move your fingers across the page, write anything even if it seems to be nonsensical, and keep going until you write something that means something, like pumping an old pump until the water comes out.”

“I rest my case.”

“What does that even mean?” and now he was exasperated.

“You do know what to do when you see a blank page. You fill me with anything until you discover yourself writing something. You never, ever close the book on a blank page.”

“This is ridiculous. I can’t believe I’m having an argument with a blank page.”

“Except I’m not blank anymore, am I?”

Bunny’s close call

There was a rabbit who lived in a thicket by the side of the road. He loved Ms. Carol’s flowers, but she did not return the love.

She liked her flowers just fine the way they were, you see, but the rabbit loved to nibble on them because they were delicious.

One day, the rabbit was munching away when Ms. Carol walked out on her porch carrying a BB gun.

“OK, varmint, that’s all the flowers you’re going to eat in one lifetime.” She took aim and fired.

Fortunately for the rabbit, she didn’t aim quite perfectly, and the BB only skipped a pile of mulch into the rabbit’s face. This was alarming enough, however, and the rabbit jumped into the air and raced away as only rabbits can race, never to return.

A few days later, Ms. Carol’s puppy looked into the empty yard and mournfully back at her.

“I miss the rabbit,” the puppy whined.

“Don’t you start,” she replied. The flowers were pleased, though, and lived happily ever after, or at least for the rest of the bright sunny summer.

Home stretch of a good morning’s journaling

Here I am, slightly more than an hour after I sat down, starting on a 10th page of this Moleskine after so many days where I barely scratched out a sentence if I even picked up the pen. How do I recapture this level of productivity day to day?

Could it all be as simple as Somerset Maugham said so many years ago — “Fortunately inspiration strikes every morning at 9 a.m.”? If so, what keeps us from sitting down at 9 a.m. each morning and opening the tap? What mythic monster crawls between our temples and blocks the sun? 

If it is as simple as simple as sitting down and doing it, why do we need the encouragement? “Do or do not, there is no ’try,’” Yoda asserts. “Just do it,” Nike cries. And, by the thousands, we don’t.

It’s as monstrous as a monster can be. I am literally afraid to stop writing for fear the next time I sit down I’ll find the blockade has resumed and the words are only trickling again. Me, who wrote a book called Refuse to be Afraid. They say — who are “they” anyway, speaking of eternal questions — the hardest advice to take can be your own, and here I am, being afraid, at least for a moment. 

The knowledge that I filled 10 pages in one sitting will be here the next time I sit down. That is, surprisingly, enough to chase the fear. The knowledge that I did it once (and this was not the first time, by any means) will bring me back and set me on the journey again.

The fun, of course, is in finding out where the journey will take me next time.

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