Monday, October 13, 2014

Where The Future (writing) Unfolds

I feel lucky to live in a place so beautiful as Maine, and yet too often, as is the case with many folks, I suspect, I also feel I am neglectful of my home. Acadia National Park is at my doorstep, a destination for more than two million visitors worldwide, and yesterday was only one of a handful of visits my family and I made to the park this year. With the peaks of Acadia always in view, it is strangely too easy to forget.

Jordan Pond by MT Nickerson
I can hike, run, snap photos, picnic, stand on my choice of two dozen peaks, all with spectacular views of the ocean, the foliage, the small towns and fleets of boats of all sizes, from one person sailboats to cruise liners. This is there everyday. Proximity breads neglect, the sense that it will be there for me always, unchanged and accessible whenever I choose. Acadia is a natural wonderland where ‘I will visit tomorrow, or next weekend.’

I’m reminded of my neglect and the fallacy behind the thought that tomorrows are guaranteed each trail I hike, each peak I crest. I’m reminded of how I miss as a person, a Mainer, as a writer, when I cast my surroundings as another item on the To Do List. If I can cross an item off, then great, but if not, it will still be there waiting for me, right?

Ollie-dog  by MT Nickerson
As a writer, the concept of ‘tomorrow’ should scare the crap out of you, because I realized yesterday while hiking how many tomorrows never came for me, how many To Do Lists I wrote, how many of those lists were replacements for unfinished replacement lists that were themselves replacements that wound back into my childhood of unrealized ‘tomorrow tasks’. Writers must be in the world, daily, because procrastination gets us nowhere in a hurry.

Writing is the process of transforming words to wonder. Living in the world, living now, with immediacy, is the key to making that transformation occur.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Too Easy To Hate

Often, when I get stuck in traffic, or while walking through a parking lot, I seek out bumper stickers to read so as to pass the time, and just as often, I end up engaging in long mental arguments with those same bumper stickers. I can’t break this silly and ultimately frustrating cycle no matter my resolve and renewed vows to find any other distraction, whether it’s fiddling with the radio or mindlessly fiddling with my nasal passages.

Anything is better than bumper sticker arguments.

There are too many know-it-all, smarmy, pseudo-intellectual bumper stickers out that just beg for a retort, and so, I always seem to step up to the challenge and get sucked into another argument. I mean, many of these bumper stickers, rather than sticky vinyl, should be carved in stone and hurled through car windows at the uneducated and the unbelievers.

The ‘peace’ bumper stickers, these one line commandments in their various forms, have especially driven me crazy in recent weeks. Sure, it better to treat folks with respect, not to bop them on the head, take their stuff and all that, but isn’t the concept of peace a bit more complicated than what can fit on a bumper stickers?

First of all, telling someone they should practice peace is, in of itself, a bit on the aggressive side, not to mention declaratives immediately irritate my inherent stubbornness. My back stiffens when I am told I have to do something, and my quick reaction is the thought, ‘or what?’ Second of all, and more important than personal reactions, is the over-simplistic notion behind the call for peace, because, really, is it that simple, to achieve peace by putting it on a bumper sticker? If so, why hasn’t it happened, yet?

I believe a person who presumes to make life decisions for those who can read their stupid bumper stickers should be held to a higher standard, that they should be made to back up their pronouncements with specific details, with clear how-to guides. Along with a bumper sticker that tells others what to do with their lives, the own of said bumper sticker should be required to plaster the rest of their automobile with an idiots guide to achieving world peace, energy independence, a cure for cancer or any of hundreds of equally complex issues.

I regards to peace, what do folks suggest is the best path? My own quick outline looks like this:

  • How to achieve peace
    • Stay ignorant
      • Don’t ask probing questions
      • Distain curiosity
      • Avoid news
    • Accept life at face value, skim the surface
    • Choose not to defend  personal actions or words
    • Avoid conflict
    • Never hold strong opinions
    • Be nice
    • Find a way for 100% population buy-in in the above rules

It seems to me, unless the above is observed 100% of the time, peace is kind of a bitch to achieve. A worthy life-goal to be sure, but ultimately, unachievable. And though popular with the bumper sticker crowd, peace, or any other concept reduced to a handful of words, does not represent the world in which we live.

There is too much to be passionate about, to fight for, to struggle to achieve, for a bumper sticker to encapsulate. Peace, condensed as an ultimatum on the back end of an automobile, is possible only if a populace willingly gives up passion, decides to allow uniformity to supplant individuality, checks their collective brains at the door and ceases to explore the limits of what it means to be human.

And being human isn’t a bumper sticker. We’re too complex and contrary to allow limitations and personally, I like life that way. It may be too easy to hate in this world in which we live, but alternately, it is also too easy to turn away, to shut off our brains and pretend that there aren’t things we should be willing to hate, to fight against.