Friday, June 30, 2006

Magic Words

Staring at a blank page… it’s begging to be filled. Words and punctuation are only symbols. They mean nothing until they’re translated into something more. Not just another code – spoken words… or sounds - but into pure energy. Words are transformed by decomposition, decompression and decoding into flows of energy manifested in thoughts and ideas. Feelings and emotions can be created as well, as the never-ending cycle of energy transformation continues.

Backwards as forwards, energy flowing from thought into word is transferred into stored energy. Spoken words, or symbols of sounds, may be transmitted to one, to thousands, to millions. Indeed, this energy storage and transmission is not “renewable,” it’s inexhaustible. As the symbols and codes exist, so too does the power – readily available to be converted again. And again. The collected wisdom of mankind is available and ready; be it via known languages or long forgotten tongues, the energy is there, waiting to be released.

With the new age of technology and the pace of development in today’s world, the accumulated energy is so great that no one person is able to release it all. But imagine if one could… to have all that collected wisdom – the discoveries, the inventions, the creations – it boggles the mind. However, what if... what if technology could release that power? What if the power in those words and works were available, in an instant, to all who sought it? Could it be that the questions of all time, the riddles and the puzzles are already solved if one only had all the known information?

I have often wondered about magic. Fairytale magic, witchcraft, sorcery, incantations, natural, spiritual, scientific or physical – I don’t care – just magic. Why? To get “there” faster? Yes, there was once a time. To solve unsolvable problems? Sure, mine as well as yours. To make the world a better place? I’m not sure even magic alone could do that. To accomplish the impossible? To travel to the ends of the universe or… to travel to another one? Would magic be able to produce answers? Could it be an aide to finding the solution, or would it render the solution moot?

So, I have come to some conclusions that are, of course, subject to change without notice. First, there is no “Harry Potter,” magic wand brand of magic. That leads to several other conclusions that are similar regarding witches, warlocks, vampires, alchemy and a host of the other “classical” views of magic. I could be wrong, but the evidence as I see it is overwhelmingly lacking. However, the term “magic” is subject to interpretation and with a sufficiently accommodating definition, magic is very real indeed. It operates continually and forever. It cannot be extinguished or exhausted.

It is pure power. The energy that goes into and flows from words, coded from thought, born of magic. Pure magic. Whether it is defined by the electro-chemical nerve impulses firing from one nerve to next one ad infinitum or the vastness of all we have yet to learn or the miraculous progress we have made in the last ten, 20, 50, 100 years, magic is present. And it all stems from a means of translating the energy from one to another – of conveying the power that we as humans possess alone – the transmission and storage of unlimited, unbridled and unimaginable power.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Emotional Responsibility

Perhaps it’s due to the fact that my life has historically never resembled routine. Maybe it was because I always ran fast and loose; never having much more than short-term goals and not much in the way of dreams or aspirations, I never really noticed. Indeed, up until quite recently, my life did not even remotely resemble anything like what many would call routine, predictable or stable. Since coming of age when the ownership for these responsibilities are magically transferred, I never really had anything planned; except for periods of time lasting a few weeks or maybe months at the most, some kind of upheaval was always possible and often imminent.

I have experienced depression, jubilation, hopelessness, anticipation, grief, honor, fear and even death, though only very briefly. There would seem to always be an external reason for whatever I was feeling – something that life dished out elicited the appropriate and sometimes inappropriate responses I experienced. I was always able to peg my emotional state – good or bad – on some person, circumstance or situation. In other words, it was not my responsibility how I felt. My response was never my fault.

I remember once while in the hospital recovering from a near fatal auto wreck (that brief encounter with death…), at about the two month mark with no end in sight, I was quietly sobbing in my room. It had been a tough day; they all were, but this one was particularly tough. My recovery had suffered a slight setback that triggered all these built-up emotions to come out at once. I am not a whiner and I knew who got me into this mess, however, everyone has their limit. Much to my chagrin, the night nurse heard my sobs. Suffice it to say, I was not in the mood to “talk” about it.

She wanted to know what was wrong. I thought it was patently obvious and therefore a rather stupid question and… I didn’t hesitate to tell her so. She was just doing her job and limiting the institution’s liability – they don’t need a suicide on their hands. I was not, nor have I ever been suicidal, but they had no way of knowing that. She persisted. She wanted to know if I was “depressed.” I replied incredulously, “Of course I’m depressed! Look where I am! Who wouldn’t be?” I left out some choice explicatives, but I think I’ve made my point.

Little did I know that the term she suggested and I readily seized upon, “depressed,” carries with it institutional meanings far beyond what I meant. Indeed, I was suffering from depression - situational depression. It would go away when the situation improved, which it did the very next day. However, because I expressed that I was “depressed,” I received the obligatory visit from the resident shrink. Although I had moved out of the depression, I was still plenty pissed off for a variety of reasons – and now one more got added to the list. To make a long and entirely tangential story short, I eventually got better, in all respects.

Ironically enough, that three month hospital stay was among the more predictable periods of my adult life and coincidentally enough, it was a period that I was not controlling. I had no place in the planning of my day; every aspect of it was dictated by circumstance, my doctors and/or the hospital. Everything, right down to when I ate and the quality of the food (or lack thereof) was taken care of. When it came time to take back control of my life, it found the same path as before, which was, of course, no path at all.

Today and for the past two years or so, I have been working towards a long-term goal and beyond that I have very specific dreams and aspirations. I am not locked into a routine so rigid that my every waking moment is planned, but at the same time there are certain constants that I can count on. Regular intervals are taking a prominent place in my life and instead of “tying me down,” it grants me freedom. Furthermore, it gives life purpose and that was a quality my life seriously lacked. Surprises are not less surprising, but I am better situated – better prepared to deal with them.

What this predictability has revealed is that my emotional strength is dependant on being in touch with what I feel and why. This is not as easy as it may sound, but like anything else, it takes practice and after a couple of years, I think I may actually be getting it. Lately, I have been experiencing a lack of motivation… it’s a little like being in the doldrums, but not quite. It’s just a little blah. I am not, however, depressed – experience tells me that I need to make that perfectly clear.

I surmised that perhaps this was a cycle – one that I surely must have missed in the whirlwind that was my life. However, although my intent when starting this piece was to argue for that hypothesis, I must change my tack here and perhaps delve a little deeper. Indeed, the practice of getting in touch with myself through writing has once again proven that my head tends to be somewhat blind to second opinion. It is, in a word – lazy. Why pursue a new line of analysis when I already had it all figured out? And how convenient that I just naturally settled on a theory that represents no responsibility for my own emotional state. “It’s just a cycle.” Perfect!

Without the practiced skill of thinking via the written word, thinking out loud as it were, I would have come to the same conclusion that damned near killed me – a convoluted idea that it’s not my fault. Not that everything that happens in life is my fault or responsibility (really, I’m not that important!), but my reactions to these events are. There is nothing inherently “wrong” with any feeling. It is the behavior driven by these emotions that I hold responsibility for. Vigilance is important – my head almost took me there one more time, but introspection and a willingness to go deeper shut that door – this time.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Insight. Rationalization... Procrastination

Not done yet. After writing almost 500 words (and discarding perhaps more) for my main blog, I’ve got more to write. What I need to write, however, is what I am avoiding by writing this. And, now that I think about it, I was probably doing the same when I wrote that other piece. Indeed, I am substituting the kind of writing I know so well for the kind that is still foreign to me: Fiction.

My new blog, “This is Fiction,” is both a blessing and a curse – as much pain as it is pleasure. It represents risk but takes no responsibility. I am venturing into as yet uncharted territory but have no requirement to do so – no external pressure to do it at all, let alone to do it “right.” Furthermore, fiction is not dependant on getting the facts straight. Although the story in question relies heavily on actual experience, it is not dictated by it.

There is no structure, no rules and no rigidity whatsoever. I am allowing myself the freedom to go wherever I want – whatever direction “it” chooses to take. The pressure is self-imposed and therefore can be self-relieved. I could, if I so desired, just throw in the towel, or let it sit and die. I could, but I can’t. It has become a part of me – the motivation has existed long before the first word was ever written. Alas, it’s been residing in the back of my mind for well over five years, watching, waiting patiently for the opportunity to be told.

I believe it was Michelangelo that refered to his sculpting not as creating, but uncovering. The form is already in the marble; he just chipped away the excess. Writing for me is similar; I am not so much creating the story, just uncovering it. Michelangelo could “see” the figure in a solid block of marble. By altering the block, he enabled others to see what he saw. My hope is to be able to do the same.

I believe that in certain forms of writing, such as first-person introspection, I am able to accomplish this goal with regularity. It’s relatively easy for me. There are not, anymore, many wasted words. Usually I can take a fleeting thought and mold it into a complex idea just by writing. It is a sort of literary long division – I don’t or can’t do it in my head. Metaphors come to me as the words flow, descriptors I may have never used myself all of a sudden become the perfect placeholder.

Fiction is different and I have not worked out all the nuances that make that so. Sure, there is the quick and easy reasoning – I’m an analytical person trying to operate in an abstract world – but there is much more to it than that. I am using a non-fictional approach to writing fiction but it feels lacking. It is, in fact, lacking. There is necessarily a need to step out of the logic box to make it work. And I have necessarily done so – but I don’t like it. It is uncomfortable and I know it is a discomfort that is bred of unfamiliarity. There is only one way to eliminate this fear, for that is what it is: Practice.

Maybe later!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Tomorrow -

It’s late. After posting on “The 25 Year Plan” and responding to all my outstanding comments – I’m tired. I have a lot to catch up on. Tomorrow will be pretty busy, but my goal (and now that it’s in writing, it’s a commitment) is to catch up on my sidebar links – comment and (don’t hold me to this) put up a new installment on “This is Fiction.” It is also my plan NOT to publish anything new here or on “The 25 Year Plan.” Hope all had a good weekend and that everyone has a wonderful week.


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Sweet N' Saur

It is not uncommon for me to get so wrapped up in someone else's post or (in this case) blog that I'll make a comment that is a post in its own right. There is a blog that deals with kid's issues in Pinellas County, Florida that has attracted my attention. Although the following comment-turned-post elaborates on why I care about a local matter taking place clear across the nation, it captures far greater issues related to community involvement, public service and trust and how the people can have not only a voice in their government, but also dictate its behavior. This little local issue oriented blog is but a microcosm of what needs to happen nationwide: a grass roots, common sense and cooperative effort to force the government to return to its one and only purpose: serve its citizens.

This link will go to the specific post and, of course, since what follows is a comment there, it will be repeated in the comments section. These comments, for the most part are intelligent and well reasoned. Those that are posting here do not have desire to be right - they have a desire to solve a problem on the behalf of those who can not fight for themselves - the children. Clicking on the title will link to the blog's main page. As important as being an informed voter is, this sort of activism is at least as important.

I must admit, I am strangely drawn to this conflict and I have mixed feelings as to why this is so. I mean, I really shouldn’t care that much. I only have one kid left in school, I live several states and several thousand miles away and any efficacy I may have for bringing about change is negligible. Despite all these rationalizations, I do care and find myself frequently outraged over what passes for public service these days.

I have always been drawn to the good fight. Often, it means pulling for the underdog. When the underdog consists of the public, the “we” in “We the people… ,” it makes the battle all the more sacred. It never ceases to amaze me how so many of our public servants serve us. It’s almost as though we are just in the way, we don’t know what we’re doing or talking about and that anything that happens under their watch is our fault, or at least it’s not theirs.

Your dear superintendent (bless his heart) had a perfectly reasonable explanation for his low numbers. "I think it's a lot of other stuff," he said. Of course it is; it couldn’t possibly be him or anything he did or didn’t do. The article goes on to state that:
Chairwoman Carol Cook said tough decisions that resulted in $19-million in budget cuts in April {and that] could have contributed to teachers' perceptions about the board's leadership.
I’ll go out on a limb here – those budget cuts came out of the teacher’s salaries? The article did not mention the cause of the $19 million shortfall, but one thing is for sure, it’s not the board or superintendent’s fault – it never is.

This story has all the elements that grab my attention. Incompetent, smug and blameless public servants, an informed, angry and mobilized public that won’t take it lying down, innocent victims (the children), a troll and just for good measure – a sock puppet. I can’t put it down! The people of Pinellas County are showing public “officials” that they are not royalty – they may not act with impunity and they will be held accountable. Like it or not.

~Mike Althouse