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.
“Search for the grain of truth in other opinions,” Richard Carlson suggested this morning as I continued my slow stroll through Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.
Coincidentally, the morning feed brought word that an older person whose opinions rarely coincide with mine had sent out an Independence Day message taking issue with the phrase in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal.”
“Equal to what? What men? Only white men? Isn’t it something that they wrote this in 1776 when African Americans were enslaved? … They weren’t thinking about us then, but we’re thinking about us now!”
Well, yes, I said, rather than dismiss the thought, that is probably true. Since those words were penned, the meaning of “all men are created equal” has been reinterpreted to include persons with different plumbing as well as persons with different skin tones than the people who signed the document.
There’s a grain of truth in the statement that in 1776 they weren’t thinking as inclusively as we do nowadays. I suggest, however, that folks who dismiss the ancient author outright consider the revolution those words ignited.
Before Tom Jefferson, that white slave-owning hypocrite, declared that “all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain, unalienable rights,” it was considered a fact of life that some people are created to be better than the rest of us — monarchs, rulers, masters, bosses in general.
If no one had suggested that all men are created equal, other minds may not have been encouraged to expand the definition of “men” to include women, slaves, and other everyday joes who previously accepted the fallacy that they just weren’t entitled to be in the same room as those hoity-toits in charge of their lives.
And that’s why I believe Jefferson is one of the great minds of history, and why I accept that he was no better than you or me and in fact may have been a scoundrel in some ways, because we were created equal and all of us can be devils and angels.
Those who would dismiss ancient wisdom because it was voiced by ancient hypocrites might do well to consider Carlson’s wise advice to “Search for the grain of truth in other opinions.”
Because so much of who we are and what we believe begins, “All … are created equal.”
(I found this Jan. 3, 2020, entry at the beginning of a journal. I’ll have to think what I would add after the ensuing 18 months.)
Hi Warren. Remember me? It’s me — Warren.
My favorite books — Nineteen Eighty-Four. Pretty much anything by Ray Bradbury but Dandelion Wine most of all. The Scarlet Letter, of all things. To Kill A Mockingbird. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Harry Potter and Harry Bosch and Walt Longmire and Doc Savage, and the first 38 issues of Spider-Man and the first 51 issues of Fantastic Four. The Adventures of Kavalier and Klay. Brave New World.
My favorite movies — It’s A Wonderful Life. The Wizard of Oz. Casablanca. E.T. Arrival. Serenity. Raiders of the Lost Ark. Then it gets less easy to rank — John Carter, Avengers: Endgame, the best Star Wars movies (The Empire Strikes Back and The Last Jedi), True Grit (the newer one), Field of Dreams, Dances With Wolves, Bringing Up Baby, It Happened One Night, Meet John Doe, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Contact, A Christmas Story, A Christmas Carol (with Alaistir Sim), Miracle on 34th Street (Stop the car, Uncle Fred!!), Spider-Man, Doctor Strange. Too many to count.
I thought of that movie as my mind shifted to my philosophy/politics/no, my philosophy. Politics is the art of convincing people that they need a big brother — well, convincing them that other people need a big brother so the government will take care of them, one way or the other.
Zero Agression Principle: People are free to live their lives as they wish as long as they don’t initiate force/violence against other people or interfere with others’ lives and property.
Tenets of Common Wealth (from The Imaginary Revolution by moi)
No, fellow fans, I’m not going to write about Spider-Man today, but I am going to come to the same conclusion that Uncle Ben did.
Wednesday I banged out a blog post, as I often do, by copying from my journal and rearranging what I had penned onto the pages to form (hopefully) something more coherent. Among my points was this:
“I’m still a little amazed at the book publishing revolution, how an independent author can bypass an army of gatekeepers to march onto the virtual shelves.”
I read it over, posted the post here, and I posted a link on Facebook. An hour later, I checked to see if it resonated with anyone (we are such vain creatures) and noticed that I had typed “mark” instead of “march”:
“I’m still a little amazed at the book publishing revolution, how an independent author can bypass an army of gatekeepers to mark onto the virtual shelves.”
I fixed the typo, and only that first half-dozen or so readers ever saw it.
Then I got to thinking: Once upon a time, getting that little bit of writing to you would have taken time, to print it out and distribute, and fixing the typo would have taken even more time, and however many copies I had printed with the typo would always be out there.
That’s why the memory hole in Nineteen Eighty-Four always seemed a little unrealistic to me: No matter how many changes you made to history and how hard you tried to erase the past, there would always be a printed record somewhere. As disposable as newspapers are, you still can’t guarantee that you’ve destroyed every copy.
But now, the memory hole is nearly perfect: I can fix a typo in the time it takes to retype the word. It was a minute or two between finding “mark” and making it “march.”
Of course, anyone who ever regretted a stupid Tweet knows that caches and screen shots can preserve anything, but it’s much easier these days to make stuff disappear without anyone knowing. As someone who spent most of his adult life writing “the first draft of history,” it’s a little scary knowing how easy it is to delete a first draft, or any draft, or any finished product.
It’s a super power compared to print-based communication, and it’s another reason to advocate for keeping the printing presses going.
Any power, of course, can be used for good or for evil. May we always be vigilant to ensure we use it for good, and may we always be vigilant to spot when it’s used for evil.
Because, well, with great power comes great responsibility.
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.
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.