I saw a meme or two to this effect over the weekend, so I’m not the first to think of it.
The fight over mandates last year was an interesting one, with the people who didn’t want to be forced to take an experimental gene therapy injection to fight COVID-19 declaring “My body, my choice,” and the pro-jabbers countering that it’s not just your body at stake, because innocent lives could be lost.
It was interesting because many who believed one way have, in the past, advocated the exact opposite position on another divisive subject. The people who declare a right to abortion have always been about “my body, my choice,” and they have always scoffed at the argument that it’s not just your body at stake, because an innocent life would be lost.
The irony is lost on the extremists on either side, of course. For those caught in between, perhaps it’s a chance to find, if not agreement, at least an understanding.
When Summer the 9-month-old puppy goes outside, either she is tethered to a leash or the area where she roams is surrounded by fencing, for her protection.
She loves foraging for sticks and leaves. We are still fearful because eight years ago her older sister, Dejah, needed emergency surgery at age 2 months because she ate so many sticks and twigs and pebbles and mulch that it threatened to damage her system.
So when Summer picks up a stick in her mouth, we chastise her. “Leave it!” We say sternly.
Usually, she lies down and starts chewing on the stick, a defiant look in her eye.
“Leave it!” we cry again. She drops one stick and picks up another.
“OK, back in the house!” we might insist.
She will skulk toward the house and, just before reaching the porch, she snatches a leaf from the ground and carries it into the house.
A dear friend of ours celebrates his birthday today, and in his card I told him how grand it is that we have lived to see H.L. Mencken’s prophecy fulfilled — the first quote below. Then I thought I would mark the occasion here by sharing some of Mencken’s timeless observations. I had 10 within minutes, and I could go on and on.
One thing we need in our time is an H.L. Mencken. Happy birthday, Stewart:
“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by an absolute moron.”
“The plain fact is that education is itself a form of propaganda — a deliberate scheme to outfit the pupil, not with the capacity to weigh ideas, but with a simple appetite for gulping ideas ready-made. The aim is to make ‘good’ citizens, which is to say, docile and inquisitive citizens.”
“I believe that it is better to tell the truth than a lie. I believe it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe it is better to know than to be ignorant.”
“A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.”
“Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.”
“Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.”
“You can’t do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth.”
“The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.”
“People do not expect to find chastity in a whorehouse. Why, then, do they expect to find honesty and humanity in government, a congeries of institutions whose modus operandi consists of lying, cheating, stealing, and if need be, murdering those who resist?”
“The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out … without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitable he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, intolerable.”
What, again? We didn’t win the big jackpot, and despite buying lottery tickets with the same numbers on and off for 35 years, we still haven’t gotten the millions of dollars that would set us up for the rest of our lives.
They say the lottery is a tax on the mathematically challenged, but I know enough math that I do understand the odds, so the less flattering description — that the lottery is a tax on stupidity — is more appropriate in my case.
On the other hand, I’ve never gambled to the point where I can’t pay the bills, so there’s that.
I took Summer on a lead around Willow’s Field, the big grassy area next to our home not far from the waters of Green Bay, and then unleashed her for some chasing of the orange disc around our fenced-in backyard. Our scrappy 9-month-old fought the leash at first — at one point I had to hold on with both hands — but once she accepted that we were going to have to stay within 10 feet of each other, we had a nice exploration together.
I was struck again by how calming the color green is. As the area greens up again, I feel my heart swell with contentment. Do people who don’t live with four seasons truly appreciate the greening of springtime? It’s probably not a fair question; they undoubtedly have their own season-change markers that give them a similar emotional rise.
I was able to get some iconic photos of Summer during the trip that I’ll share in days and weeks to come. Golden retrievers are beautiful animals, and she has a quirky beauty all her own. Dejah Thoris, Princess of Mars, joined us for the backyard romp, and one shot made onto my Facebook “cover” with the caption that she still has her feisty moments as she settles into this elder stateswoman thing.
Eight years old and counting, Dejah had a reunion with her old nemesis Lyme disease last month, and it’s hard to see her gimpy. She was the crazy foil to big sister Willow, and I rue the day they’re reunited because Will and Dejah were my all-time favorite pairing, but let’s just acknowledge that fact and return to the present day.
Summer is growing into a lovely dog and a stubborn cuss, and Dejah is here and now and appreciative of the times we turn our attention away from the attention-grabbing puppy and give the princess her due.
This post began life as a filler, because it was past 9 p.m. Tuesday and I had no topic for a Wednesday entry. The devil on my shoulder said that nobody cares whether I continue my daily blogging habit for a 642nd day, but the angel on the other shoulder said that’s not quite true, because I care.
And so, as has been the case every day for one year, 20 months, and 4 days now, here are a few words from me. And therein is my charge to my fellow writers and creators.
Do the work you promised yourself you would do. The raw truth is that no one else cares about that promise as much as you do. If you drop the ball, no one will blame you and the world will go on, very likely with not another soul noticing.
But it matters to you. They say you can tell someone’s character by the way they act when no one is watching, no one is listening, and no one is paying attention. So if you promise yourself to record something on your web-log* every day, and you fail to follow through, no one may notice, but you will have learned something about your character. (*You did know that’s where the word blog came from, right?)
I’ve broken promises to myself quite a few times in the past. My intention is to keep this particular promise. Goals are reached and accomplishments accomplished by taking the promises you make to yourself as seriously as the promises you make to family, friends, co-workers and the world.
Dean Wesley Smith quoted from Ingrid Bergman on Monday, applying the thought to the writer’s mindset.
“Happiness is good health and a bad memory.”
Smith encouraged writers to stop dwelling on things that have gone wrong — that is, develop a bad memory — and keep an eye on moving forward. I do spend a lot of my time lamenting unfinished projects and missed personal deadlines rather than my 18 books available in print-on-demand and my plans to produce many more. 18 is a good number.
I have written something professionally almost every day for 47 years as of later this month. I have had a middling career as a writer, and although I may not have written a lot of “what I want to write,” for a time measured in decades I have been assembling words into content, most of it disposable but some of it reaching for the ages.
Of course, like the driver who gives you the finger messes up your whole day even when everything else went fine, like many writers I find myself dwelling on the projects that are stalled or have never been completed rather than the 18 finished projects, 10 with my name as author and eight as the editor. I have five projects within shouting range of being ready for the printer, and for 641 days in a row, I have contributed something to this blog, which I am always mining for future projects.
I took inventory of my fiction projects Monday morning, because those are the projects that I spend the most time lamenting. (All five of the above-mentioned almost-completed projects are non-fiction.) The reason I did the review was not to despair again but to celebrate the progress I’ve managed over time.
What I found was that I have written more than 50,000 words for four of my novels, with at least a dozen more in various stages of “pre-production.” If a novel is at least 40,000 words, I’m more than halfway through one, more than a third of the way through another, and more than a quarter of the way through a third, with a cache of ideas about where to go next after these are completed.
The downside: It’s been three months since I worked on any of my novels-in-progress. That’s very discouraging. But I’m encouraged that for all my whining about wanting to be a book author and a novelist, I actually am one, have been one for some time, and am in the process of authoring several more.
Now, of course, I haven’t sold enough books to make a living at it yet. That’s a whine for another day.