Full is, well, full

I needed a few more hundred words on the subject of freedom to complete my next book of poems and aphorisms, Full, and that more than anything is why I assembled my thoughts into yesterday’s post, “The cost of freedom.”

And so I have moved Full: Rockets, Bells & Poetry into “production” mode, and you should be able to find it wherever you find your books by mid-June. The big question is whether I will ever break the microphones out of storage and begin my audiobooks career.

Speaking of audiobooks, I just finished Mirror’s Edge, the third in Scott Westerfeld’s series that began with Impostors and continues the story of the universe from his Uglies series of a few years back. To say I like the new books better is an understatement. I am enthralled by the story of Frey, the twin of Rafia who is trained from birth to be her 25-minute-older sister’s secret body double, and their struggle against their tyrannical father. Like the rest of the series, Mirror’s Edge is filled with plenty of “what!” “WHAT?!?” and “WTF!” moments and grand emotion and adventure. The first series focused on Tally Youngblood was good, but Westerfeld has taken his storytelling to an entirely different level with the Impostors series.

And the narration by Therese Plummer is spectacular.

But: Full. Another short book along the lines of A Bridge at Crossroads, How to Play a Blue Guitar, and Gladness is Infectious. It’s subdivided into three roughly equal-length sections about creativity, freedom, and motivation/inspiration. If you follow this blog you’ve got an idea what you’ll get; in fact, you’ve already read most of it.

A couple of weeks ago I thought Full: Rockets, Bells & Poetry might be available by June 1. It’ll be a little later than that, but not much.

The cost of freedom

Freedom is, in fact, free. We are born free. Our creator bestows freedom on us upon birth, including the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The cost they talk about is the cost of protecting and defending those rights. There is also the cost of assuming the consequences of your free words and actions.

Who are these people who would attack your right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Well, when the phrase was coined and placed in a certain Declaration, the main culprits were a certain monarch and his minions, a king who was proclaimed the ruler over persons who lived thousands of miles from his throne room. Not surprisingly, those persons squirmed under his thumb and separated themselves from his rule.

As often happens, the ruler’s response was to commit violence. Ruling by violence never wins friends, but rulers have never learned this. It’s the height of arrogance to presume to rule another individual, as if the ruler knows that person’s needs more intimately than the person does. But centuries and millennia have passed, and rulers still rule with threats and violence and anger and hatred.

Every so often a person tries to lead — lead, not rule — without violence but rather with love, without chains but rather with freedom, and along come the rulers to squash them. Still, their names and messages resonate through history long after their critics and killers have passed to dust. These leaders continue to be examples of hope, icons to whom we turn when we dream of a better world.

Rulers inevitably disappoint their subjects. Rulers inevitably harm their subjects. It is not human nature to be ruled or whipped into obedience, but rulers don’t understand this and pull out the whips and chains and edicts and orders anyway.

Freedom is often defined as the absence of some external force. Freedom is better defined as the realization that the force has no real power and we are free to come and go as we please. Within reason, of course: No one is free to steal from or kill a neighbor, although a ruler might think he can and often does.

Without this realization that we are free, we become slaves of one sort or another. Rulers may exert ownership over our lives and property and persons, but they can never own our selves, that soul that resides in our hearts and heads. All they can do is restrict and, well, govern. But we are still free.

We can still discern right from wrong, freedom from slavery, war from peace, truth from deception, fact from fiction. They hate our freedom, but what the Creator has given, no human can fully remove. It drives them crazy, which is why so many rulers act as if they are simply insane. In fact, they are.

Because they can’t take freedom away from us.

Three hundred

What is it about numbers? What makes this daily blog post any different from the 299 that came before?

What makes us measure things? Why even track progress? What’s the point?

What’s the point of any action? What’s the point of any habit? What’s the point of any life?

Those questions interest me. But I think the answers will be more interesting.


I woke up the other morning with “Poinciana” by the Ahmad Jamal Trio running through my brain, one of the most persistent earworms I’ve had in a long, long time. It was a great morning.

Since discovering Jamal a couple of years ago, I’ve become an avid fan, especially of the early trio recordings featuring the jazz pianist with bass player Israel Crosby and drummer Vernel Fournier. They were a brilliant ensemble and can be heard on a series of great records on the Argo label from the late 1950s to 1962, when Crosby died suddenly. The interplay among the three musicians is stunning sometimes.

I’ve found one way to stay focused on my work is to have the trio playing on the turntable. As a result I know the music almost by heart, even if I don’t know the names of each piece — I’d played Live at the Pershing dozens of times before I knew for sure that the tasty 7-minute romp that opens Side 2 is called “Poinciana,” and there is still quite a handful of songs that I’d be hard-pressed to assign a name, even though I adore them.

I suppose it’s not an especially rare thing for a group of musicians to mesh so well, but it’s close to a miracle to capture for posterity those moments when musicians grasp each other’s rhythm so fluently.

Trusting in the possibilities

The possibilities are endless.

I look around my room and part of me is overwhelmed. How does it always get this messy? I’m like a kid who doesn’t know to put away his toys, leaving a pile of stuff everywhere I turn.

It’s like that when I sit down to write some mornings. What could I possibly write? It’s not: “I got nothing.” No, it’s: “So many choices!” How do you pick just one toy?

What wonder have I assembled within a couple of steps and an easy reach. Here are books collecting the first 50 editions of Fantastic Four, the first 40 editions of Spider-Man, similar collections of Batman and Captain Marvel and Zot. Not far away are A Treasury of Sherlock Holmes, a collection of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poetry, all of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter stories — right here at my elbow is the Emily Dickinson paperback I pulled off the shelf a couple of weeks ago, and Carole King is singing “Smackwater Jack” from the turntable.

Is there a more perfect album of songs than Tapestry? OK, Blue and Judee Sill are also within reach, so I can think of plenty of contenders just in my own collection. But still … “When my soul was in the lost and found, you came along to claim it …”

The robin eggs under our back deck have hatched, and mama is tending what were little fluffballs not long ago but this morning look, amazingly, like little robins.

And what a few weeks ago was a white landscape is now awash with green. It has always been my favorite color, green, speaking as it does of life and warmth and growth.

Sometimes I sit in my chair, pen posed expectantly over the page, and my fingers just hover. It’s not that I don’t know what to write. It’s that the possibilities are endless.

At those moments I have a choice to be frustrated, or I can remember the story of a friend who needed to start work on a promotional video for his nonprofit, but so many things called for his attention, he didn’t know where to begin.

“Just get started,” smiled the renowned actor who had agreed to appear in his video. “The rest will take care of itself.”

And so I send my fingers across the page — or the keyboard as I’m doing now — and see what happens. It’s not magic, it’s just trusting in the possibilities.

I suppose I should pick up some of this mess. What would company think? If I keel over unexpectedly today, how rude of me to leave this for someone else to pick up. It’s like wearing dirty underwear to the emergency room.

Even more important, though, there may be something miraculous waiting to be rediscovered. How cool is that?