Monthly Archives: January 2018

You Don’t Own Them

You Don’t Own Them

I just read a Facebook post by Mike Rowe ( https://www.facebook.com/TheRealMikeRowe/posts/1794612627215539 ).

A thought occurred to me when I read some of the comments:

“Mike, if you really want to stay out of politics, you might reconsider appearing with a squinty-eyed, race-baiting dipshit like Carlson.”

“Mike I respect your support for the trades as I am a high school trades teacher myself. Are you sure Tucker and Fox is the most credible source for you to voice your opinions? Tucker’s track record of his behavior and demeanor towards guests he does not agree with is disgusting. I have lost a little respect for you.”

I responded to the first comment thusly: “So what if he is? He has an audience that Mike wants to reach. I won’t complain if he appeared on a show I dislike, because Mike wants to reach that particular audience as well.

“Because Mike’s overall desire is to reach everyone, regardless of their political leanings.”

I’ve seen similar complaints when Mike appeared on shows considered more left-leaning as well.

He isn’t alone in taking that kind of criticism. Rush Limbaugh was once excoriated in the 1990s for doing an interview for “Playboy” magazine.

I constantly see tweets, Facebook posts, blogs, and articles of people complaining how a reporter, singer, actor, author, athlete, etc. broke some unwritten rule that violated their chosen political worldview.

Since when do we own famous people (or anyone else for that matter)?

It seems like an odd question, but when I read such comments, it has to come from a certain mentality. The only correlation I can think of is that between master and slave.

While people don’t literally own anyone (at least here in the States and other countries), if those posting overly-critical comments didn’t believe they held some kind of “ownership” over that celebrity, why give said celebrity a figurative public beating for breaking their “rules?”

Eyes Wide Open

When it comes to photography, I’m always keeping my eyes open for something interesting to photograph and share. I loved today especially, because it was cold, calm and foggy. Hoar frost abounded on the trees, grass and shrubs.

What normally takes me fifteen minutes to walk around a few blocks during my breaks almost doubled today, because I couldn’t get enough of the frost-coated — everything.

Unfortunately, I too often don’t have that kind of “eyes wide open” mentality when it comes to my writing — or even my faith at times.

I ran into a quote the other day: “If you wait for inspiration to write, you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.” ~ Dan Poynter.

I also found something I had written years ago to keep me motivated: “Write fearless. Anything less, it shows, and the words inevitably stumble and fall.”

Fear holds me back. Fear of offense, of being misunderstood, of boring my readers, my how the list is long!

Some people call writing — whether fiction or non-fiction — their ministry. They write to bring people closer to God. It’s a calling like any other type of ministry.

I, on the other hand, don’t. To me writing is my form of worship. Do I want to encourage people with my words? Absolutely. I’ll even admit that I hope my words will bring others closer to God; to see his love and beauty as I do. I also believe writing is my calling, because as much as I may complain about quitting, I never will. I can’t. God won’t let me (and believe me, I’ve tried).

I hesitate to call it my ministry, because I stumble so much. I don’t know enough about Jesus, scripture, or faith in general to claim any kind of authority. I see ministry as a form of spiritual leadership, and because I too often don’t know what the heck I’m doing, I don’t want anyone to follow me. I’ll only make them stumble as much as I do, if not more.

That kind of thinking, however, limits God. If God wants me to reach others with my words — whether it’s this blog or my stories — then I have to put those words out there, and trust that they will reach the right people at the right time.

Taking hoar frost pictures on my phone during my morning break may give me joy, but no one else if I don’t share them. Joy was never meant to be hoarded (see what I did there?).

Jesus’ love is the same way. It must be shared, and I can’t fear offending, being misunderstood, or boring my readers (be aware, yes, because writing is also a skill that requires a lot of practice, but never afraid). Doing so only means I would rather keep my eyes closed, and prevent others from seeing what I see.

I am no good to God that way. He gives us our gifts not for ourselves alone, but for others who need them even more than we do.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” ~ Matthew 5:14-16

Humility

The opposite of pride.

I have a lot of pride, which leaves little room for humility.

When humility does finally make an appearance, it’s particularly painful.

I hate it, but I must embrace it. How else am I to learn and grow? After all, no one likes an arrogant know-it-all. Not even me. Maybe because I sometimes act like one.

I posted this on Twitter today:

“Ever have a discussion and call it quits because you will otherwise lose the argument quite spectacularly? I did that today and it bums me out. Still, we learn more from our failures than our successes, so I will endeavor to use this experience to do better next time.”

The person I engaged with accused me of not reading his posts before responding. After thinking about it, to an extent he was right. He didn’t hear me as clearly, either, but that’s the disadvantage of trying to make a point in 280 characters or fewer.

What frustrated (and embarrassed) me the most is how he played me like a well-tuned violin. He inserted “what-ifs” in the discussion that led me to make almost the opposite stance on the issue than I started with. Ugh. I should have seen it at the start and found a way to avoid the trap.

But in my knee-jerk and myopic pride, I stepped right in it. I bowed out of the discussion without concession, but I hope with some grace as I thanked him for being civil the entire time. Which he was. Mostly. He threw out a few subtle insults to my intelligence, but not enough for me to get upset over.

What I learned from this humble (and slightly humiliating) moment is the importance of listening and understanding any opposing view.

This video by Owen Benjamin expresses it better — and by far more entertaining — than I can (some adult language):

If you can’t argue the other side . . .

Forlorn

That’s me.

First I saw this on Twitter:

Then I saw this:

I’ve also been watching “Runaways” on Netflix, and in episode 9, the Karolina character out of nowhere expressed her physical attraction to Nico by kissing her. I say out of nowhere because I saw nothing to indicate Karolina was attracted to anyone, let alone Nico.

It’s almost as if the writers sat down after episode seven and decided, “We need gay characters. Who should we pick?”

It seems we can’t watch a single movie or television show that doesn’t at least suggest one or more characters are gay, especially in the speculative genres. Even animated films geared to young children aren’t free of it (such as “How to Train Your Dragon 2”).

As a writer who wants to see my stories in print, I can’t help but wonder if I have wasted decades improving my craft. I don’t avoid writing gay characters; it’s that most of my characters aren’t gay. Nor will I make them gay simply because some want gay characters, even if it makes no sense, and doesn’t move the story forward. It’s an unnecessary distraction.

I’m also tired of agenda and politics-driven storylines, whether they’re pushing homosexuality or so-called climate change. I just want to read and write good stories with interesting characters.

Some might accuse me at this point of being a climate-change-denying homophobe.

To the first. Climate changes. That’s its nature. As for whether or not it’s all caused by Man, sorry. I haven’t seen enough evidence to convince me.

As for the homophobe accusation, the short answer is “no.” Truth is I couldn’t care less a person’s sexual preferences. I’ll say it again: I don’t care. No one will never make me care, and I wish they’d quit throwing it in my face. How do you think they would feel if someone walked up to them and said, “I’m heterosexual. I really like to kiss and have sex with the opposite sex. Now love and accept me, because if you don’t, you must be a heterophobe!”

But I digress. As a writer, what am I to do? Are there still enough people who don’t need or want to read about at least one gay character in every story whether it’s organic to the story or not? Or am I a social dinosaur where everything I write deserves to be tossed on the trash heap of the unenlightened and set on fire? Should I therefore give up, and take nature pictures instead? After all, no one can accuse me of being a name-your-phobia-du-jour for posting pictures of clouds.

A Pixelated View

Have you ever zoomed into a digital photo so close all you see is a bunch of fuzzy, colored squares? If someone were to walk by the computer screen, they’d never guess what the photo actually shows, or that it’s even a photograph.

Only after zooming out does the picture become clear.

I think politics does the same thing, especially if we spend so much time delving into it, and from a single point of view. For instance, I mention President Donald Trump, and some people will react with a visceral loathing while others will want to cheer “MAGA!”

Polar opposite reactions over the same human being.

For the last few months, I’ve grown tired of politics. Anyone with a phone or computer uses their electronic soapbox to opine, and usually with either a progressive or conservative point of view. It’s tiresome and predictable.

As one also armed with multiple electronic devices, I am tempted to follow only those who fall in the same political spectrum as me. After all, why follow those I disagree with when all they do is cause anger and frustration?

Still, I refuse to give in to the temptation, and the answer is simple: I don’t like pixelated photographs. They look choppy, out of focus, little to no contrast to make the subject pop, too few colors, and the details are non-existent. Uninteresting. Boring.

Another word people use to describe looking at things from a single point of view is “myopic.” It means “lacking imagination, foresight, or intellectual insight.” Isn’t that a great word? And so accurate!

Since I never want to be accused of having no intellectual insight, I’ve decided to zoom out, and attempt to see the world as a whole in all its shadows, 16 million-plus colors, contrast, depth and richness.

I resolve to push my political biases behind me, and when I see a post or article I’ll likely disagree with, I still read it, gritted teeth and involuntary shakes of the head notwithstanding.

In doing so, I’ve stumbled on a few gems of wisdom. Did I agree with everything I read? Not at all. Sometimes as a little as ten percent. But still, one piece of new knowledge or wisdom out of ten is one more than I had before.

The impetus of this entry comes from comments made on a political website about commentator, Ben Shapiro. The comments were particularly viscous for the simple reason he was critical of Donald Trump during the primaries — a so-called “Never Trumper.” I often listen to his podcast, and while he’s still critical of Trump, he also gives him credit when it’s due. The funny part is, the commenters refuse to give Shapiro credit when it’s due. Since I know their political leanings, they would find more in common with Shapiro than not. Based on their responses when I tried to defend him, however, they are suffering from their own myopathy. Or to stick with my original analogy, they prefer to stare at pixelated photographs.

It’s a shame, really, because we are so much more than our labels, and opinions. Yet too many of us aren’t willing to step back from staring at a smattering of pixels to get a larger and deeper understanding of the entire photograph.