Tuesday, January 31, 2006

R.I.P. Coretta Scott King, 1927-2006

Another one of my heroes has died, and along with her, another little piece of the once-powerful American civil rights movement. She was every bit the intellect and talent her husband was, and made many personal sacrifices over the years in order for him to continue his relentless work in support of the cause. She maintained her composure and dignity through some of the worst moments in this nation's history, and raised four children as a single mother.

Coretta Scott King helped us to recognize what was possible both for ourselves and for our country, and to dream of a future in which the impossible could become reality. She will be sorely missed.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Land-Locked Blues

Self-esteem is a funny thing; people do all kinds of crazy shit to get it, even worse to keep it. Money can’t buy it; it comes from inside your own head. And if one is particularly sensitive, or damaged in any way, it’s easily bruised and takes a lot of work to fix. This work is hard, and of course, it’s much easier to blame our wounds on others than to look inside ourselves. We see things we want to see, hear things we weren’t meant to hear, create scenarios in our own minds.

You know that cliché about how we always point out in others the things with which we fault our own selves? It helps to stop and think about that before one makes accusations about others. Judge not, baby, judge not. Yeah, I have a big mouth and strong opinions. But I know who I am and what I stand for, and passive aggression is something I particularly abhor, and something that I attempt to avoid at all costs. I’m half Italian – we’re all about being loud and direct and confrontational. It takes everything I have not to defend myself when accused; it’s so hard to turn the other cheek, to walk away. But it’s almost always the best thing to do.

If you walk away I’ll walk away.
--Conor Oberst

Monday, January 16, 2006

Life’s Mystery Seems So Faded

Some things puzzle me. How you can wish and wish so hard for something to come true and it doesn’t, and then it happens to a friend instead, to someone whom life has already hit harder than it should? And you feel terrible because you only wished it out of self-pity, and now it’s really happened to someone and it’s too late to take it back. You have put that negative energy out in the world, and you can only hope and pray that this person who has been dealt such a nasty deck of cards will rise above this, too. And you berate yourself for ever having sunk so low as to wish this fate on yourself.

I am also puzzled at how you can be open and friendly and do nice things for people out of kindness and generosity, out of the best of intentions because this is how you are and you don’t know how to be duplicitous and unkind, and then people can step all over you like you’re not even there, can forget all the favors, forget who you are and walk right past you, right through you because you don’t even matter anymore. And it can all happen in the blink of an eye. Why?

I wonder also at how some people can be so messed up and not see it, not want to see it, not want to get help, just continue to take it out on others, but worse, they keep on taking it out on themselves despite people’s offers of assistance. Because when you are deliberately mean, cruel and nasty to someone else, it’s really yourself that you are hurting in the end. How much longer can you keep up the act until it comes back to bite you in the ass?

It’s a mystery why those with the most depth, feeling and insight, the creative types who most deserve some small success in this world—some acclaim and respect—usually have to scratch out a meager existence in some soul-sucking occupation never really being recognized for their talent, and yet it’s the most shallow, boorish, monomaniacal people who seem to get all the power and the glory. With very few exceptions, among all artists, writers, poets, musicians—the ones who really matter, the really interesting people, the ones who challenge us, who make us see things differently, who shake us to our very core—those people seem to gain recognition of their genius only after they are gone, whilst the marginally talented but brilliantly lucky sort get all the notoriety when they’re still here on earth to bore us all to death with their insipid prattle. As though most of what any of us has to say is the least bit interesting to the general public. It’s not, nor should it be. But thanks to the Internet, to self-publishing, anyone can put his or her art out there for all to see. If only quantity equaled quality, we’d all be the richer. As more and more gets put out there, you’d think there would be more good stuff, wouldn’t you? That the ratio of good to bad would remain about the same. But unfortunately, what seems to be happening instead is that the value of the good stuff diminishes because fewer and fewer people out there are able to recognize it—standards of quality sink lower and lower, weighed down by the sheer volume of the mediocre. And when kids don’t learn about art and poetry and drama and music in school, how will they even know it exists? Where will the future artists come from? And how can human beings exist without art?

We all have value as human beings, as living things, and we all deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Most of us never get what we deserve. But small moments in our lives can still bring us joy. And most of the time we don’t even recognize them when they’re happening. It’s only later when we look back that we see how precious those times were and realize how quickly they disappear. How few of us really live in the moment and enjoy things while they’re still there to be enjoyed?

We are not all Picassos or Mozarts, but we are all here and we all deserve love. How few of us get real, unconditional love from anyone? How many people were never nurtured as children and have never really sorted things out since, have turned to crime and evil and desperation? How many lives turn on one fatal mistake?

Yes, it all can and will be taken away at any time, So be kind to each other, but be careful to whom you open your heart—it might just get stepped upon with big black combat boots.