I turned the page and saw two blank, facing pages. First I felt trepidation. Whatever do I have to say? What could I possibly write to fill such a space? Who am I to presume I could fill these pages?
Then I looked again and saw two blank, facing pages. This time a feeling of peace, contentment and anticipatory joy rose in my chest. Two pages to fill with whatever struck my fancy! What can I write to fill this space? It can be anything I choose, and oh! What fun!!
They were the same two pages. It was if a switch were thrown in my brain. One moment filling the pages was work to be dreaded. The next it was play to be savored.
I don’t know what caused the shift, but I need to find out. I need to bottle the sense of play, so that every morning I can pop off the cork and drink of it.
Should I expand the metaphor and apply it to life? I turn the page and see the work of drudging through the day. I turn the page and see the opportunity to create something new and fanciful and useful for myself and perhaps even for others.
How I greet the blank new pages makes the difference.
(On Friday I shared the end of a journal that spanned July 2016 to May 2017. Here is how I started that book.)
The world is never as bleak as all that. I have spent weeks despairing that my writing prowess is declining, only to wake up this morning to review the last few pages of my last journal and find them bristling with insight and creativity (if I say so myself).
We are all going to die, preferably of natural causes and when we have spent every last drop of creativity, and given all we have left to this world. And in the meantime we have a life to live. Make it your life. Make them your choices. Be intentional; intend to succeed. Intend to be alive. Intend to be here.
I don’t leaf through my old journals very often, so it was interesting Thursday morning to pick up a journal that I just happened to have completed May 11, 2017, five years and one day ago. I had started scratching out words in the 192-page journal July 27, 2016. During the months that I filled those pages, I had been laid off, started a digital newspaper, got a new job, republished a dozen Myke Phoenix novelettes, got married to Red after nearly 20 years … and (here’s the last page):
The world got scarier. No, that’s not true — it was pretty scary last July 27. Maybe more people realized it was scary.
I noticed people are OK. We have more in common than not. We all want to — on second thought, we want different things. We each have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but there are 7 billion definitions of happiness. Funny that all three of those rights are in jeopardy. We each have the right to life, but there are so many who wish us dead — often not us specifically, but “us.” “Kill the infidels!” “We ought to turn that country into glass.” We each have the right to liberty, but so many people make a career of setting limits on liberty. “You can’t do that!” “You can’t say that!” And we each have the right to pursue happiness, but oh! Does that make some people unhappy!
This is a valuable exercise, taking the time to pick up a pen and scrawl stuff in a book. I go back and wonder what I was thinking in some places — in other places I am inspired to go back and flesh out what I was thinking. My greatest fear is that I will overlook a gem of a thought that would have unlocked my Ultimate Masterpiece — no, actually my greatest fear is someone will read all this and find me boring — but my greatest hope is that this will make a difference for the better.
OK, that’s it. I’m turning off the electronic toys for the afternoon. No more sensory input for awhile; let me digest what I’ve been absorbing all day and week. Turn off the TV, sign out of the apps and all the other noise. Let me think about what I think. Then, once I’ve thought for awhile, maybe I’ll be that as it may.
I look up and around the room and discover my neck needed that stretching, rotating motion. I don’t move enough. Oh, I get up and walk from chair to chair, including the transport that moves the chair from here to there at 70 mph, so that I may walk to another chair to sit for a few more hours, but I need to actually move for awhile. I am more than a few pounds of flesh, and it would be useful and healthy to reduce their number.
On the other hand, it is nice to sit and do nothing for a little bit of time. Of course, I’m not actually doing nothing — I’m sitting and writing about doing nothing. I’m also writing about doing something besides sit. And I’m writing about how nice it is to have some time to do nothing. “Do or do not. There is no try,” but sometimes “Do not” is a valid choice.
I scream a silent scream, because I just had the impulse to turn the sensory inputs back on and type the last three paragraphs, which would start the cycle all over again. I need to sit for more than a handful of minutes. There will be time enough later to type — as I prove by typing this a few hours after I wrote it for you to read now. I’m in some sort of meta trance as I write this with a pen on paper to re-type later for mass consumption, or as much of a mass as I can muster.
Mostly I need a breath. “Stop the world, I want to get off” — a fun but honest thought conjured decades ago, and the ride has only increased in speed since then. It is a relief to empty one’s head from time to time, to let sleeping dogs lie and take a breath.
My writings about freedom and tyranny are, according to the analytics, not my most popular stuff. Should I turn from that theme, or should I keep writing in hopes I finally jar people into waking up?
Screw the analytics. It’s not a theme I can abandon. There’s too much at stake in these tyrannical times.
In fact, I’m putting the final tweaks on a collection of musings about this topic, you know, the topic about certain, unalienable rights and the unpleasant folks who fight tooth and nail to take those rights away.
Trouble is, I can’t figure out what to name the thing. I have some beige ideas — like Essays On Freedom — are you asleep yet? On the other end of the spectrum, I have ideas like Wake Up and Be Free, which sounds a little too strident to my ears. What is the “Goldilocks” title? Still thinkin’ on it.
All I know for sure is that my contribution to the freedom conversation will be available before the official first day of summer. Consider this the first “teaser trailer.”
Our attention has been redirected so many times in the last few years that a whiplash pandemic is the next national crisis.
As soon as we start sniffing the ground for a whiff of what really ails us, the Powers That Be shout “Squirrel!” and send us scampering in another direction — until we hold up and start to think there were no rodents there, after all. And then they shout “Squirrel!” again and point thataway.
We are herded this way and that and kept off-balance so much that we miss the overarching themes.
These people hate our freedom. These people don’t trust individual men and women. These people have a psychological need to keep us in line.
Who are these people? What are there motivations? It can’t be simply that they are megalomaniacal tyrants, although they act that way. They must have a reason — and of course they will say they have our best interests at heart, and they may actually believe that.
“Nobody puts Baby in a corner,” but they sure keep trying. If Baby squirms out of one corner, they push her toward another. The world is full of corners until you break out of the box.
Here, out in the sun where light outshines all darkness, Big Brother and Big Sister are revealed as little people the same as you and me — except you and I don’t need to force each other to act a certain way, to hand over half our earnings, to turn over private information, or otherwise stick our noses where they don’t belong.
There are regular folks who want to live and let live, and there are agents of the state, a faceless quasi-organism that purports to know best how we are to live, and your own choices be damned. This is the real divide, not political parties, genders, races, creeds or however else they try to split us.
Some of us see a better way. Some of us stirred when we heard the words, “All are created equal, endowed with certain unalienable rights, and among these are the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Like the folks who signed that document, we declare independence from tyranny. We declare freedom.
The idea was revolutionary in 1776, and it remains revolutionary today. The Powers That Be responded to that declaration with a violence that continues to this day. To a certain extent the struggle feels eternal — just when you think we’ve made our point, The Powers That Be launch another assault on the simple desire to live and let live. It’s in their nature, of course — they can’t control the urge to Be That Power. The movement that generated that venerable document hoped to wrangle The Powers That Be into leaving us alone, but they just keep trying.
If we are born free, then we only become not-free when we surrender the freedom and responsibility for our own lives. And when we do, eventually we realize that no one cares about our selves, our freedoms and our well-being as much as we do, so we may as well take back our freedom and live the life we desire — as long, of course, as we respect our neighbors’ right to do the same, and there, for many of us especially The Powers That Be, is the rub.
It’s all about boundaries, it seems.
But they don’t want us thinking in terms of freedom and individuals, so — as H.L. Mencken so aptly put it — they assail us with an endless barrage of alarming crises — hobgoblins — squirrels, if you will — to keep us running in circles while they loot.