Seriously?

Facebook sent me a message:

“Learn about how you can make small changes in your daily life to have a positive impact on the planet.”

Why bother when there are people out there making big changes that have a negative impact?

Fix the problem, not the symptom

I think it will bring a lot more of us together if we focus on fixing what’s wrong with the political system than what people are doing wrong within the system.

Honestly, if the system is the problem, you’ll never fix it by attacking the individuals.

Down Around Our Ankles

In regard to the fires, coronavirus, et al..

Early man faced many direct threats to his (her) existence. And so we built civilization – a social construct that serves as chain mail – a level of protection between us and perpetual existential crises.

We have come to rely on this web, this matrix, this armor since we are no longer at such great risk of infections, attacks by wild beasts, extreme weather and on…

But what we fail to realize is that in protections ourselves, we have merely shifted the existential risk to the network in which we enclose ourselves: the framework of our safety only functions because it takes on those risks to itself, leaving its own existence continually under threat.

As long as our construct remains between us and danger, we have little to fear. But should that barrier be breached (as it has been of late) or worse yet should it fail completely, we no longer have individual or social experience in protecting ourselves.

It has been said that the more complex a system, the more vulnerable it is to collapse. The law of entropy is invoked at the underlying principle.

Like a house of cards, or a game of Jenga or pick-up-sticks, complex matrices expand until they maximize the volume then can contain – just as social interactions and relationships expand to form the largest possible network, and supply chains expand to move goods and services as efficiently as possible from the source to the consumer.

But connections within such a system become mutually dependent, just as do the components of bridge or of an assembly line. In the most interdependent systems, all it takes is a disruption in one component for the entire system to fail, often catastrophically.

Of course, this is not new. It is our innate knowledge of this that makes us laugh at Lucille Ball at the chocolate factory conveyor belt or Donald Duck in the gift wrapping assembly line.

As long as things run smoothly, the systems expand and become increasingly complex. But, just as the Tacoma Narrows Bridge begins to shimmy or an Imperial Walker staggers in directions its legs were not designed to move, disruptions in the smooth, orderly, and predictable function of a system provide indicators that it has become too complex for the environment in which it currently resides. Instability if the first harbinger of a coming collapse.

So as we take comfort that our supply chains are returning to normal, our health care services are being bolstered and retrofitted to handle our current pandemic, keep one eye open to the possibility that all of these disturbances are not only immediate problems to remedy, but may also be indicators of growing instability in the entire system as a whole.

The American Ideal

The American ideal is not a thing or even a state of things but an idea – a belief we are all created with equal worth, and equally entitled to pursue our best course as we see it, as long as we don’t interfere with someone else’s right to do the same.

We’ve never fully lived up to that ideal – never can. It is an unattainable beacon to guide our path, not a destination at which we can ever arrive.

Sometimes we’ve set a mark straight for it and other times we’ve drifted far afield. But the light is bright, the direction true, and it is easiest to see in the darkest night – showing us the way out of the wilderness toward a greater good.

Covid Conscience

In the Civil War rich people could hire others to go to war in their place and legally avoid the draft. I often think of this when I order groceries delivered. But, being 67, I realize my risk is far greater than the twenty-somethings delivering, so I uncomfortably accept their shopping in my place and soothe my Karmic wounds with the notions that I am helping to keep them employed and then I seal the rationalization deal with myself by tipping well.

The American Ideal

America is bigger than its leaders, bigger than its political parties, and even bigger than its people. It is a timeless ideal, that ALL PEOPLE – EVERYWHERE (not just within our borders) are created equal. Not equal in talents, looks, or inheritance, but of equal worth and equal value. And that we are all, every one of us – young or old, male or female, gay or straight, of any color, any heritage, any ethnicity, any creed, any religion, – EVERY ONE OF US is entitled to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, which allows us to think our own thoughts, speak our own minds, and choose how we wish to live as long as that does not limit others in those same inalienable rights. America, the country, the leaders, the political parties, and the people will never live up to this ideal because we are all human, filled with flaws, biases, and self-righteousness. But the ideal remains untarnished, undiminished, and as pure a beacon of freedom and compassion as the day it was born. It shines brighter for every man, woman, or child that holds that ideal in our hearts above our individual beliefs and desires. For in this way, we are all drawn together in a common unity that transcends petty differences and fans the eternal flame of freedom until it shall banish darkness from the earth.

–Came to me while listening to Home Free singing “God Bless The USA”

Write Down Your Stories…

Write down your stories.  Each of us has life experiences no other human being will ever have.  If we sift through those to find the nugget moments, we can share unique and wonderful perspectives in our stories.

Some may become the heart of a theme, or bring life and to the actions of a character, and make their reactions more believable.  Others might illuminate a way of looking at the world, or a lesson learned, that could help a reader find peace, closure, or motivation.

But even if one of your personal experiences or stories never make it into your works of fiction directly, reviewing them from time to time can inform and enrich the well from which you draw your inspiration.

And beyond this, in the age of social media, sharing the moments of your life with an authors practiced hand to put the reader in your shoes, focus on the core wisdom discovered, and to draw the framework of a narrative template they can overlay on their own lives, can create positive ripples in the cultural reservoir of our society.

Maybe each contribution to the flow is just a drop in the ocean (like this note itself), but I like to believe that the right insight will find the right person at the right time: a message in a bottle.

If you discover something of personal value and choose not to share, perhaps that message that was meant for that person at just that point in their lives won’t be there when they get there, leaving a vacuum that nothing else will ever fill.

So don’t hold back. You may never see the result of your contribution but, as an artist, that is neither necessary nor does it diminish the power of your work.

Holding the Line Against Tyranny

Both parties want to stack the deck in their favor. But neither party wants to create a country in which there is no deck to stack.

Note that today Mark Esper, secretary of defense, said that active duty military forces should not be used to put down protests and should only be used as a last resort in a law enforcement role to restore order.

Neither party wants a dictatorship. Neither party wants power at the expense of democracy. Each wants to control power in a free country, not to have absolute power in a different country because we changed what we have now into something else.

Since the president apparently has no such compunctions, thank God we have true American patriots willing to draw the line, declare “a bridge to far” and to stand against the gradual creep of authoritarianism and fascism.

Issues of racism, inequality, economic deprivation, and disenfranchisement must be addressed and improved toward the ultimate, though perhaps Utopian ideal of someday – someday soon – resolving them.

As a people, we have always forged an imperfect union – not a union of states, but a union of hearts and minds – a joining of cultures and points of view that, though disparate, come together as we all look toward that shining beacon of perfection that serves to guide us forward, ever forward toward increasing equality, expanding inclusion, and growing tolerance of diversity to the point of celebrating together that which makes each of us unique.

But this journey cannot continue and may end completely if we do not draw the line between democracy and absolute power, and to hold the line between freedom and tyranny.