Thursday, November 29, 2007

Word Slinger

I didn't sleep much last night. It's not often that I find myself so restless, but once in a while it seems as though the words just come at me without mercy. The ability to arrange these symbols - these letters and punctuation marks - in a way that makes some sense is both a blessing and a curse. There are too many times when I am just not into it. But the words keep coming and if I don't transmit them to writing, there is no rest.

Human beings are unique in that we have the ability to recognize - and question - our own existence. Dogs don't. Monkeys don't. Even whales, as far as we can tell, don't. Only we are gifted with the ability to torment ourselves so completely. When disassembled, the "big question" is really nothing more than an infinite number of little questions. What is my purpose? What makes one thing right and another wrong? What is love and why do I need it? Good questions all, and all but impossible to answer. Yet philosophers, clerics, seekers of wisdom and just about everyone else have ventured out on a personal quest for truth. Or a quest for personal truth.

In some respects, we are far more knowledgeable than ever before. Science has solved many of the mysteries of the world, but there are still some that cannot be answered. Why do people do what they do? What are we driven by? Is there anything else? At times it seems as though the answers are just out of reach. Last night and in the small hours of this morning, I almost had a grasp of it. Maybe not the answer, but at least I had some insight to what might have been a path toward an answer. The words were flying at me. I collected them and stored them, meaning to record them later…

And later never came. Although my exhaustion is partially physical, much of it is due to wasted mental, emotional and perhaps even spiritual energy. I should have dragged myself out of bed and wrote - it is, after all, what I do. I should have poured the words out as they came, letting a fabric of understanding take shape. It is the method to the madness and I know it. But there are times when the burden is too great. There are times when I might not want to know what is coming to me and I resist. These words are a feeble attempt at seeking relief that will not come.

I never wanted to be a writer. Of all the talents that I could have been graced with, writing was not anywhere near the top of my list. It is, however, mine. It took a very long time to recognize it and even longer to embrace it. Often the words are known… I get the story and then re-tell it. There is a path, a beginning, middle and an end. But when the words come from out of nowhere, I never know what will appear before me until it's there. It's like magic.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving More Than Thanks

FAIR OAKS, Calif. - Dawn, Thanksgiving Day morning. At 37 degrees, it is cold for these parts. The world is quiet - there is much to be grateful for. These pages, for almost two years and in many of nearly 300 posts, have reflected this irrefutable fact. Personally to be sure, my lot in life has improved beyond what I ever dreamed possible. Just a few short years ago, my imagination wasn’t that big… I didn’t even dare hope for what has proven to be a life beyond my wildest dreams.

I used to believe that fame and fortune, or at least fortune, would bring contentedness. Although even in my younger years the evidence did not support this notion, there are even more profound examples today. I thought happiness was an externally influenced reality… that stuff would make me whole. It never did. It never could. I never knew. It seemed so simple: Get what I want when I want it and happiness followed. Unfortunately or not, gain without pain is a rather hollow victory and never satisfying. Stuff is a byproduct of happiness, success follows effort, effort creates worth and all of that brings all that stuff that I thought I needed so badly. I like my stuff, but is has nothing to do with who I am.

The list of gratitude is endless. I give thanks on a daily basis. Of late, it is not so much for the material items in my life, but more for those intangible qualities that have created them. Success can be measured in a number of ways. Today I am most grateful for the people in my life. My friends and family have always meant the world to me… but today I am part of that world. It is beautifully simple. I am now a participant in my own life; I am not just watching it go by. By placing one foot ahead of the other and living one day at a time, I have found peace in my world.

And my world is a subset of our world, a world that is in desperate need of more peace. There is plenty wrong in the world today, but if one looks hard enough, there is plenty right as well. It is my business to keep an eye on the government and this one has kept me busy. But even with all the mistakes, some of them monumental, no administration is bigger than this nation or, perhaps more accurately, the people of America. We, as a nation, have worked hard, sacrificed much and above all persevered even when there was not much hope. And we made it.

These are characteristics that Americans for generations have held close. There are times when it appears that we have perhaps become too comfortable, that we are resting on our collective laurels… that we are moving towards national retirement. Perhaps there is some truth to this perception; maybe with the ebb and flow of social evolution, we are facing generational indifference. Could it be that the apathy I was living is reflective of a population on cruise control? Maybe, but it is never too late to wake up and get moving. I am certain that my greatest days are ahead of me and likewise, so are America’s.

It helps if you believe it. So on Thanksgiving today, let us not only give thanks and reflect on how fortunate we are, let us also rededicate ourselves to our greatness personally… and nationally. Let us show the world not how powerful we are, but how benevolent America’s people are. Let’s remember our strength is not in our size or our wealth but in our compassion and our generosity. And let us not forget that it was the sacrifice and work of our predecessors to whom we owe our good fortune. Give thanks, yes, but also give your word, your sweat and your dedication, for these are the qualities that made this nation great. Our best days are still ahead of us.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Self-Imposed Deadlines

It has been a long time since I have written anything for this blog. Although it is true that I have been busy and also true that I recently dealt with illness that kept me down for a few days, these are not good excuses. I have been meaning to write here almost everyday and I have even had some compelling words swirling in my head. I just have not felt sufficiently motivated of late to commit them to paper (or its electronic equivalent). I have even given myself personal “deadlines” and what I have re-learned is as simple as it ever was: Without consequences, a deadline is nothing more than a good intention.

And I am not happy to say that for the first time in many months, I have missed a deadline. During my recent bout with bronchitis, I simply didn’t have it in me to get a column written by its due date. I had the assignment before I got sick and if I had written it right away, I would have met the deadline, but I don’t work that way. This one instance isn’t likely to change that either. In this case, since it was a school assignment and not for a publication, the consequences are not nearly as dire. If more was on the line, who knows? Maybe I would have found the energy to drag my butt out of bed and write it.

That assignment is for my latest blog, “Home of the Free.” It has become a more regular source of publication for me and it has truly been my saving grace. Although significantly more structured than what I write here, it has also been a great source of pride for me. I really like what I have come up with, how I have presented my arguments and what it has allowed me to do while staying within the confines of the assignments. The missed deadline probably won’t affect my grade much, if at all, as it is an isolated instance in an otherwise perfect record.

But I still miss writing here and more so, the visits from my regular readers. I also miss visiting all those blogs on my link list as well as a few others. I know how the blog world is and I have seen blogs come and I have seen them go in my nearly two years blogging. Rest assured, I am not going anywhere, but I have been silent and derelict in my reciprocation. Those who do not travel do not get visited. I will be making my rounds soon enough, but for now I can only leave this brief, rambling and sincere post.

Right now, it's all I’ve got.