Wordsmith and podcaster, Warren is a reporter, editor and storyteller who lives near the shores of Green Bay with his two golden retrievers, Dejah and Summer. Author of Ebenezer, It's Going to Be All Right, Echoes of Freedom Past, Full, Refuse to be Afraid, Gladness is Infectious, 24 flashes, How to Play a Blue Guitar, Myke Phoenix: The Complete Novelettes, A Bridge at Crossroads, The Imaginary Bomb, A Scream of Consciousness, and The Imaginary Revolution.
I’m scribbling on Page 55 of the current journal, and I just took a minute to number the upcoming pages through 70, even though under normal circumstances it may take a week or so before I need Page 70.
I wonder what I’ll be thinking when I get to Page 70? I wonder what I’ll write? Of course, the future person who finds this journal can just turn there now and see, and in a couple of weeks I’ll be able to page back and see what it was that I wrote when I got there — but for today, it’s the future.
The main reason I number the pages in advance is I’ve found I forget to do so, and I’ll be writing along and see that I don’t know what page I’m on — so lost in the scribbling that I didn’t notice I was writing on an unnumbered page.
The numbers don’t matter until I need to go back and find something and make a note so it’s easy to find again: “Oh, that little piece about page numbers is on Page 55.”
Notice I said “is” on Page 55. I almost wrote “was,” but then I realized that it “is” on Page 55 and always will be, because that’s where I put it.
Now I’m really starting to wonder what I’ll be writing when I hit 70.
The old ways were about waiting to be found, waiting to be discovered, all of us diamonds in the rough looking for our big break.
The new ways are about climbing on a platform and eliminating the “middle man,” going directly into the act, whether someone tells us we’re ready or not, and maybe we’re rougher and less polished than if some intermediary had discovered and polished us up, or maybe we’re more real for the lack of polish: Maybe we’re more appealing warts and all, just as long as there aren’t so many warts that it’s distracting.
If I say, “Do you know what I mean?” and you don’t, then there’s still work to do — maybe. Maybe you don’t get it but the people I want to reach will. The only sure way to find out is to keep working and keep trying to make a connection until the connection is made — you and me across the void, discovering we’re not alone after all.
I had a dream where I was at a political convention, talking with an 80-something former governor who was thinking about running for governor again, and he was animated and delightfully surprised that people seemed to be excited about the idea, not dismissive.
I was hesitant to add my support because being governor is such a big job and age is a thing, but then again, if you have the energy and your mind is still there, why not keep going as long as you can?
“Do the best you can for as long as you can until you can’t anymore.” I used to tell nervous colleagues that when potential layoffs were hanging over our heads, except I would phrase it as “until they tell you that you can’t anymore.”
But in this freelance and gig economy world, this give-yourself-permission world, people have figured out that they don’t have to wait until someone says they can do it, and they don’t have to stop when someone tells them to stop.
Eventually the layoff people came for me and told me I couldn’t do my thing anymore, but I kept doing it, just not for them — for me, and for you.
I’ve been sitting here for five minutes, thinking about what I could be writing, instead of actually writing.
I wonder if that’s a metaphor for life: You could be living, but instead you sit and think about the life you could be living. Oh, it’s important to sit and think, too, it’s a form of preparing for what’s ahead, but you know, I’m not writing down any of the things I was thinking about — not yet anyway. First I wanted to explore the little metaphor.
How many of us think and think about what we’re going to do, until it’s too late to do it? How many of us don’t do anything because they think it’s too late, when really there’s no time like now? How many of us are so bogged down in thinking that they never understand that it’s always now?
It’s always time to do that thing! Why else do you think you’re thinking about it?
[I wrote this three years ago but slightly misquoted Mencken; he actually wrote “most of them” not “all of them.” So here’s a slight rewrite, #TBT on Tuesday.]
Remember when the government flew off a fiscal cliff and collapsed because Congress didn’t pass an extension of the national debt? Remember when millions of kids starved because of cuts to the federal school lunch program? Remember in the early 1980s when the world supply of oil ran out? Remember when all those computers crashed on Jan. 1, 2000, because they weren’t programmed to register years that began with “20”? And oh, yes, and remember when the world ended after the ancient Aztec calendar expired in 2012?
For Throwback Thursday, I’m going all the way back to yesterday and all the other times I reminded you of the venerable H.L. Mencken quote:
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.
Now, Mr. Mencken wrote that in In Defense of Women in 1918, so that bit of wisdom is 100 years old this year. And if he felt it was true in 1918, imagine what Mencken would make of 2018.
Watch any news broadcast, surf any web, browse any social media site, and that’s all you see: One after another, something alarming and a clamor that someone (usually the government) do something to lead us to safety.
You might hear a whisper from time to time of someone calling BS, but that person is likely to be shouted down, and perhaps insulted or defamed in the process.
I want to focus briefly on the final clause of Mencken’s quote: “an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”
Those last four words are strong stuff.
It’s clear the political beasts among us are rolling out “an endless series of hobgoblins,” but “most of them imaginary”?
Yep: Imaginary. That’s why the practical politicians don’t like to be reminded of what they were warning us about 10 years ago, or six months ago, or two weeks ago.
My favorite Tom Petty quote (you’ve heard this before, but hey, #TBT) is from the song “Crawling Back to You”:
Most things I worry about never happen anyway.
Let me mix and match Mencken and Petty:
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of which never happen anyway.
The only real menace is the practical politician. That’s the person who is whipping up fear and anger and fueling the flames of the clamor so that we can be “led to safety” – meaning the safety of the chains the practical politicians have graciously forged for us.
You can get an even clearer picture when you combine the hobgoblin quote with this other bit of pith and vinegar from Mr. Mencken in 1922:
The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic personally he is very apt to spread discontent among those who are.
I find it somewhat comforting that Mencken described the government 96 years ago as “dishonest, insane and intolerable,” because that means the human race managed to survive another century – and is even much healthier, wealthier and wiser than it was a century ago – despite politicians’ constant efforts to frighten us into submission.
We have endured through a then-unimaginable series of dishonest, insane and intolerable acts by practical politicians all over the world, and we will survive whatever imaginary hobgoblins they whip up for us next, if we have the good sense to prevent them from leading us to “safety.”
“You should carry a notepad and pen around wherever you go,” Red said. “In fact, I’ve started using the Notes feature on the iPhone.”
The subject was short-term memory retention. I worry more than I should about being absent-minded. Every person of a certain age starts to do things like walk into a room and forget what they came for. But it seems to be happening with greater frequency, and more than once a day I have a Homer Simpson “DOH!” moment when I remembered something I was going to do and had to retrace my steps.
So I brought the notepad along when I went to shower and shave and such. It was great! I wrote down things like “bring the new box of kitty litter downstairs” and “come into work early on Monday” and “check the status of that upcoming trial,” and I wrote down what the scale said and that we need body wash, and it was so good to write it down so I’d remember all of it.
I got dressed and came in here and fired up the computer and got ready to copy all the notes into appropriate places and take immediate action where appropriate.
Then I reached for the little notepad and realized I left it in the bathroom.
Now I’m back and ready to go down the list. Hang on a minute, I have to take the kitty litter to the basement.