Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Domestic Tranquility

I have written more blog entries this past year than I have since 2010. It was not an accident, I went into the new year with that goal in mind. It was not, however, a “New Year’s resolution.” My only resolution of that sort for the past many years was a resolution not to make any New Year’s resolutions. I have succeeded. But a goal to write more can be made anytime. Mine was not specific, it had no number attached to it. Just meaning to has accomplished what I meant to do. This will be my 35th entry this year and unless something monumental happens between now and the next few hours, it will be the last.

I am not an ├╝ber-talented individual. I am okay at some things, pretty good at others and I suck at many more. That is probably, in the vastness of humanity, more or less the norm. However, there are some who seem to be very good at just about everything they do. It is difficult to see that and not feel a sense of inadequacy. But as I now have a history of several decades, my perspective has shifted to a more realistic view of the world and, more importantly, my place in it. It has fostered a sense of humility that does not come with any less-than-ness. And, thankfully, I am very good at one thing. I am good at this. I am not the best there ever was, I am not the best of our time and I am seriously in awe of many other writers. I can say that and also know I have at least this one talent.

While I have been paid for my writing, I am not, currently, a professional writer. I could, maybe, make a living at it, but I am not sufficiently motivated to do all the things that are not writing to make writing a viable source of income. The marketing, in general terms, it takes to get and remain in the public eye, to find “customers” for my art is not something I am good at. It takes a mindset that does not fit well with my psyche. Selling anything, and especially selling myself, is not something I desire. I have written before that part of why I write – part of the reason most people write – is to be read. We want others to see a piece of our souls, we have a need to leave part of ourselves behind. This is true of all artists. But where some seek fortune and fame, I seek neither. But I do hope others will read what I have written and get something out of it.

This has been an eventful year, but is difficult to view it in isolation. Time doesn’t recognized the boundaries we place on it. Many of the big things that happened this year had their roots in last year and in years prior to that. My youngest son was in a near fatal motorcycle accident in late 2018. His recovery, while not complete, at least saw him return to work this year. My middle son was married last year, his first son and my fourth grandson arrived this year. My then girlfriend moved in last year, I ended that relationship this year. My annual motorcycle pilgrimage to Sturgis took me though Canada for the first time this year, but that trip (like all Sturgis rides) was planned the year before. And there is more, much more. However, working within these artificial boundaries we seem so compelled to use, 2019 was a good year.

I have been meaning to pour myself out in a much longer work, in a book. Over the past few years, I have started both fiction and non-fiction works – all are languishing in my computer storage as unfinished works. Some have made it several chapters before hitting a wall, others only a page or two. Some will remain forever stuck, others have promise. All of it will remain for my kids, grand-kids and future progeny to do with as they wish – maybe they will pick it up and run with it, maybe just to have a better idea of who this particular ancestor was. Maybe this yet to be written book will see print and actually go somewhere. Maybe I’ll hit the lottery.

In the meantime, a new decade is upon me. I am 57 years old and lucky to have lived this long. That much is never lost on me; several close calls and one direct hit very well could have punched my ticket, yet I am still here. The longer I live, the more each and every individual day means to me. They are not all good, but most are not bad. The coming year comes without a lot of balls in the air, my life is pretty peaceful. At the end of the day, that is what I desire most – peace. On Facebook, I have created a location called “Tranquility Base v2.1.” The “v2.1” part comes from the reestablishment of serenity after a tumultuous part of the summer and because there are already too many locations on Facebook named “Tranquility Base” (if I’m being completely honest, it is more the latter than the former).

There is a fine line between peace and being a doormat. Just letting everything go in the name of peace is not peace. Sometimes radical and uncomfortable things must be done – a stand must be taken – to have peace. I have done that. I will, in all likelihood, have to do it again. But at this point in my life, with – generously – only about 30 years left to live, I will settle for nothing less.


Sunday, December 01, 2019

Facebook Charities

I was just scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed (not really “news;” what it’s actually feeding us is open to debate – some other time) and I was solicited by well-meaning friends and strangers (though, still “friends” in Facebook’s world – again, a debate for some other time) for some worthy cause. No sarcasm, I mean “well-meaning” and “worthy” in their purest sense. Both consist of real, live people who are trying to make the world a better place – the former through solicitation and the latter through organization and activism. There is nothing inherently wrong with either nor is there anything wrong with seizing upon some opportunity, like one’s birthday, to stoke the “giving” fire.

Facebook, however and sadly, has made the act of giving, of altruism itself, a promotional tool. One cannot, apparently, simply ask others to give. Facebook, of course, knows my birthday is coming up. I have been solicited to solicit my “friends” numerous times over the past couple of weeks. Now, less than a week out, those “prompts” are coming daily. It tells me who among my friends have done so, who among my friends have donated and even makes suggestions as to which causes might be worthy of my promotion. It sounds like Facebook is, with our help (like, we’re a team, we are in this together) making the world a better place. But mostly we are making Facebook a bigger place.

Further, and getting beyond, and, in some respects, before Facebook, why do we need a “special occasion” to be altruistic? Why is there such a big push to donate Thanksgiving turkeys and other fixings this time of year when people are hungry all year? Why does it take a celebrity passing from some disease for us to care about everyone else suffering from it? Why does doing charitable acts need promotion and, even more so, why is anyone besides the recipient of the aid benefiting?

Okay, some of the answers are obvious. The “business” of raising money costs money. There are some charities that do a very good job reducing and minimizing those costs, but even they rely on people who do the work for pay so that they, too, will not need the aid of the charity they work for. Get it. There are others on the opposite end of the spectrum that are nothing but scams. Due diligence is important and, to some degree, the advice (or solicitation) of our friends serves that purpose. We trust our friends. They care, so we care. But Facebook has altered what the term “friend” means. I have more than 2,000 Facebook “friends.” I know several people who have hit their 5,000 friend limit. Absolutely no one can maintain that many friends. Period. So let’s just establish that of those friends, many if not most, are not really friends.

But taking a step back, do we really need the push of our friends or family to give? I would hope not and I would further hope that we are not waiting for opportunities to come along, but rather we are  actively seeking out those causes that are important to us. If we happen find out from a friend (a real friend) about some need that appeals to us, so much the better. But you (and I am speaking specifically to my own friends here) don’t need my suggestions or prodding to give. You also don’t need my birthday. You (everyone) can do it every day. It’s not even hard to do.

I am dead set against promoting my charitable acts. The power, for me, comes from my anonymity. I have made rare exceptions when a need is immediate and someone close to me is involved (usually through posting a GoFundMe campaign link – as much as that giving “service” goes against the very idea of charity). Generally, when I give, only I know about it. When possible, not even the recipient will know. Since I can’t give enough to affect my taxes, not even the IRS knows who got how much. And that is just the way I like it.

So, in six days I will turn 57 years old. For my birthday, give something to someone less fortunate. But don’t stop there. Do the same for your birthday. And the other 363 days? If you can, if you could find it in your heart and within your ability, give then, too. Give whenever and where ever you can. Make the world a better place. Don’t do it because I am having another birthday this year, do it because it is needed. You got yours, you worked hard, but you also got some luck. Maybe you can share the luck part, at least, a little. Do it for a birthday. It doesn’t matter whose, anyone’s is fine. Someone is having one today.