Thursday, September 11, 2008

Year turning

Anniversary means year turning.

Another year has turned and brought me back to this day that I remember fondly, not for the planes that crashed seven years ago but for the bittersweet moments I shared four years ago today. Those moments have been on my mind a lot over the past few days and a message yesterday brought them all back with stunning clarity.

Four years ago I thought I'd be in a different place than I am now, but I'm not unhappy with where I am. Checks arrive in the mail in payment for articles and books and unexpected windfalls arrive just when they're needed. People I love and have loved return and share their time apart. Through it all the one constant is the writing.

A few nights ago I was reading in bed, engrossed in the words and world spun with such artful grace that I didn't notice the slow beating of my heart. I had been upset a few moments before by a phone call and was getting back to center with a book, as is often the case. Outside in the darkness, summer's heartbeat worked its magic and my heart beat in time with it. That's when I realized that crickets singing in the night perform this miracle every time they sing and I had missed it until that moment. Cricket song has the same rhythm as a strong beating heart untouched by care and contention.

Since that night, I have fallen asleep feeling the blood coursing through my veins and arteries and my heart beating in time with the summer's heart, slowly lulling me to sleep with a rhythm as old as time and older than humans walking on this earth. No wonder the Chinese believe a cricket in the house is good luck. Even one cricket singing it's summer love song would be enough to pull us back toward the center with a strong and slow beating heart that smooths away the daily irritations and readies us for healing sleep.

There are four years of healing sleep between me and that wonderful day I shared with such open joy and optimistic dreams and yet the past pulls at me and reminds me of what could have been. It is those moments, preserved like bright treasures that remind me how lucky I have been and how blessed I continue to be. As long as I remember those moments, the turning year will keep me centered and content like the summer's heartbeat.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What if...?

My mother and I regularly discuss politics, especially the current candidates for president. She has gone from being a lifelong Republican solidly in the Obama camp to waffling back and forth between Obama and McCain and, finally, to deciding that she is going to write my name in on the ballot. I've been writing in Pat Paulsen for the past four elections since I'm not happy with the usual suspects pretending to the throne. This year I may write in my name, too.

That brings me to the thought that has been running around in my brain for the past few days. I mentioned my mother writing in my name on the ballot in a comment on someone else's blog and someone read it and said he'd vote for me, too. What if a real grassroots candidate with no ties to big business, the rich and famous (or infamous), lobbies, oil or arms dealers would run for president? Is it possible to use the power of the people and the vast resources of the Internet to get the word out between now and election day to create a campaign for a write-in candidate that would make enough of a showing to show the Powers That Be that they are on the wrong track and the change we want to see isn't about beautiful and moving rhetoric or religious posturing or being a millionaire but about someone who is of the people, by the people and for the people? Can we move the vast resources at our fingertips to put a real person not beholden to anyone's money or special interests in the White House?

Can it be done?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Another of the people on my F-list made their journal "friends only" yesterday and I caught in mid comment wen it happened. I was able to make my comment later and didn't lose the friend, but I've noticed that more and more of the people I read regularly are making their journals "friends only". It's easy to see why (sort of) she did; she has had a lot of negative comments about her postings on health issues (too much drama) and her femslash (nasty people out there) fan fiction. She almost deleted her journal, so closing her journal to people on her F-list at least keeps her from disappearing altogether.

She is one of a growing number of people who have gone underground for various reasons: trolls, hiding lies about themselves and other people, protecting their jobs.

Trolls infest every corner, crack and crevice of the blog world waiting for their chance to pounce and flame or just read and feel superior to the writer. I've known some bloggers who keep trolls around and use them to stir up people to build up the number of comments and get a good debate (flame war) going. There are the trolls and their patrons, comment whores more intent on how many people they can draw to their blogs and how often comments go over the hundred mark than anything else. They are the drama kings and queens of the blog world who add and subtract the people on their "friends" list according to how many comments are made and whether or not the "friends" are in or out of favor, which brings me to those who hide behind their "friends only" blogs to lie about themselves and people they have known.

The liars love drama, especially drama that brings them lots of attention and comments, and are not unlike comment whores, although comment whores are more indiscriminate. They whore for comments and comment in every one else's blogs like a nickel, dime and quarter whore racking up points so they are at the top of the list when people use those nifty little widgets that count how many comments people make. The liars are the real world equivalent of a gossip who spends most of their time trashing their "friends" or wailing about how they are maligned and misused by others and must thus close their journal to public traffic. This is especially strange considering most of these people are writers or whose work involves communication. Most of the liars make up fantastic stories about themselves and their lives (and enemies) because their own lives are so boring that no one would read what they wrote or comment sufficiently that they made things up. One of the people on my F-list was about to meet one such liar in person and was stunned when the truth came out. She felt violated because she really cared and had no idea the author was faking her life on the blog.

The ones who protect their jobs behind the anonymity of their locked blogs just want a place to vent and carry on discussions and conversations with people are just people who want to reach out so they will know they're not alone, which is why most people create blogs in the first place.

It is understandable that people want to lock their posts from the trolls that infest cyberspace, but nothing remains hidden for long. People have the uncanny ability to take what they find and share it, copying and pasting a locked post with a friend who doesn't frequent the blog. Once that happens, it's like throwing a pebble in a calm lake; the ripples keep expanding.

There is a sense of accomplishment and connection with the rest of the world that blogging gives with its almost instant gratification from people with their comments and commiseration that can be intoxicating, and for a writer it can be pure catnip. It's always been that way. Critics either make you feel like you're walking on air or they bring you down so far you have to dig up to reach bottom, but it takes time. It is probably why Emily Dickinson kept her poetry in a trunk to be opened and published after she was gone so she wouldn't be raised to the skies or dashed to the depths of hell.

Every writer who puts themselves and their work on display has to decide whether or not they can handle the praise and the rotten vegetables that will be heaped upon them. Even when a writer thinks they're prepared for the worst -- and the best -- they find they really didn't know how bad -- or good -- it could get. It eventually comes down to why a writer writes.

Do you write for yourself because you can't contain the words inside and need to get them out where you can see them, play with them, arrange and rearrange them? Do you write for adulation? Do you write to educate, inform or entertain? Do you care whether anyone reads what you write? Do you write because you think writing will make you famous and rich and adored? (You're probably delusional or unbelievably needy.) These are the questions you should ask and answer before you put your work on display.

No one, not even people who never believed they would be famous and hid their journals from prying eyes, ever really believed that what they wrote about their more private and intimate thoughts and feelings wouldn't see the light of day. They knew in their heart of hearts that some day (preferably after they were dead and forgotten) someone would find their journals and read them, perhaps even publish them for posterity, otherwise why bother to keep a journal in the first place.

Journals, even those here in cyberspace, are part of the unfolding history of the times. They are brief moments on the Mobius strip of time that offer a glimpse of what it is like to be alive, a minute spark of history that lives on long after the living fires have been extinguished. Without these glimpses into the hearts and minds (and even the lies and fantasies) of the people who passed this way. Death and time will wear away the rough edges and give the words a polish they never had when they were written. Journals are lasting evidence of intelligence and stupidity, honor and perfidy, integrity and dishonesty, and the nuts and bolts of every day life at its most basic. Journals are the training ground of budding writers and poets, the out of town tryout of novels, stories and plays, the anvil against which the words are tempered and made stronger or cast back into the fire to be reformed and reshaped. Journals serve a purpose now and in the future, one that we may never fully understand but one that will bring meaning out of the chaos of forgotten ages. To hide that is a shame and a loss that diminishes us all and one I hope more writers -- and bloggers -- reconsider.

It takes courage to put yourself on display and deal with the mobs that will inevitably gather from time to time to pelt you with obscenities and lies, flames and rotten vegetables. It takes no courage to stand up and lie to make yourself look better or create a persona and a life that will hide who you really are, but even liars serve a purpose.

One thing I have learned over the years is that being open and honest about who you and have been makes it more difficult for the trolls to dig up the dirt and throw it in your face. No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. (Clich├ęs and bromides, but they're true.) But none of us is completely unique. There is always someone who will read your words and find some common thread or experience that makes them feel a little less lost and alone. We are all connected and journals and blogs are proof. Journals and blogs are living history.

At the very basis of this phenomenon is one free speech. When people hide behind locked journals they give in to censorship. They allow someone else to dictate their life and how they live it. This is not to say that some things shouldn't remain private between friends, but to censor yourself because of someone else is the first step on the road to book burning and the end of free speech.

As with everything else in the universe, free speech has a price -- allowing people with differing opinions the right to speak freely even if it means another person's feelings are hurt in the process. It's all part of the give and take of freedom and conversation. There are going to be idiots and morons and people who learned their logic and manners in the gutter, but to give in to the morons and idiots and guttersnipes is to give up the freedom to speak and write as you choose.

That is all. Disperse.