Spoils of War

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You put me in my place
in the ground
where the sound of my voice
won’t disturb
won’t curb your appetite
for this fight you’re bound to win
because no one else is in it

I didn’t fit the bill
so you gave me the boot
please don’t shoot the messenger
I’m just a fellow passenger on this red eye flight
this may seem trite
but brighter than bright only works
if no one shirks the labor
of making neighbor out of foe
and on we row
row row our boat gently down the stream
this dream was but a fancy
it would seem

Take the victor
and evict her
it’s time to ring the curtain
though you may be certain
the show is far from spoiled
a well-oiled machine are we
you’ll see me
when the ghost light’s lit
and from the pit the orchestra
will play
on

Who Does a Guy Have to Piss Off Around Here?

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Better to win by admitting my sin
than to lose with a halo

Evita

Vance offends half the world: 115 views, and a crapload of comments.

Vance apologizes for the offense and attempts a reformulation along more sensitive lines: 25 views, and one comment.

How’s that for a MasterCard commercial?

Welcome to the wonderful world of bits and pieces. A world in which one’s image depends on the snippet view. A world in which, as Madalyn at Wary Wonderlust pointed out, opposition often carries more weight than fellow feeling, and anger becomes the motivating force that both drives and derails our desire for communication.

Last week, I set off a barrage of protest with a post I wrote about race and gender relations. Most of the protest centered around the fact that, being neither Black nor a woman, I should check myself before venturing an opinion. Much of it was valid. And there was much of it: my blog stats went through the roof. One of those situations where your graph looks like it’s flipping you off: nothing, EVERYTHING, and then nothing again.

In my perceived offensiveness, I became a momentary celebrity. Not because I said something worth celebrating, but because I opened myself to easy attack (perhaps justified, but attack nonetheless). I painted a bullseye on my head, and people opened fire.

Okay. Fair enough.

The day after everything exploded, in an attempt to rectify whatever foul I had committed, I wrote a second post, in which I tried to explain myself more clearly and less offensively, and to acknowledge the possible poverty of my initial approach.

Then, I sat back and counted the tumbleweeds.

The pitchfork-laden crowd that had done such an effective job of raining criticism down upon my head the first time around apparently had other barns to burn. A couple of the people who had taken me to task stopped by, but for the most part…silence. No linking, pretty much no commenting. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

Now, you may be tempted to take this as me making everything about Me. But I’m really not out to be patted on the head, or to be showered with compliments for addressing my own misstep. That’s just what decent people do; no big whoop there. It is telling, though, that given the central remonstrance (men never listen) offered to the first post, no one had much to say when one of us tried.

But it’s a broader point I’m making here:

This bloggy-sphere of ours is the quintessential typecasting machine. It nails us to the lowest point in our rhetoric, and leaves us there to rot. It catches us on our worst day, at our darkest moments, and etches the image in stone. We become the villain of the story no matter what that story really is.

Now, I’ve been told exhaustively that it isn’t the blogosphere that does this, and that’s a valid point. The Internet doesn’t kill people; people who use the Internet kill people. At the end of the day, it’s us. We’re the ones who determine the nature of this beast, and the fact that its nature is so prone to conflict and confrontation says far more about us than it does about the medium in question.

We tend to choose the shortest possible route from A to B, and the shortest route from post to response is too often a bloodthirsty yell. It is your label of choice. It is the distance from the target, the remove that displaces responsibility from the one who pulls the trigger.

We are all human, and we all respond to criticism or disagreement in human ways which are often less than constructive, if not outright destructive. We all have our dark side and our light. We all have our triggers, and we’re all quick to pull them. And we all leave little chalk outlines strewn behind us as we go.

Sometimes we are the villains. More often, I think (I hope), we are simply people with complicated things to say and little clue how to say them, desperate for the patience and understanding of others, but unwilling to grant either ourselves. And here’s the rub: when we’re not willing to extend the same consideration to others that we desire for ourselves, everyone becomes our enemy. We arrogate to ourselves the best of intentions while assuming everyone else is out to get us. And you know what they say about assumptions…

They make bloggers out of U and Me.

High Res Newsolutions

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“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

– L.M. Montgomery

2016 is upon us, and as I prepare to bridge the New Year with a late anniversary trip to Santa Fe and points beyond, I want to inject a bit of optimism into the proceedings.

My whole life has been an exercise in mediocrity. (No, that’s not the optimistic part.) I have always been very good at being moderately accomplished in a variety of contexts–a sort of Renaissance-ish Man, if you will. I can play the piano, the viola, the drums, and a bit of the guitar, and I can sing…well enough to get by, to amuse myself, and no more. As a theater student, many moons ago, I could act my way onto a stage and off of it, without overly impressing or depressing anyone. I can write, and I dedicate myself to my craft…whenever the mood strikes, which isn’t terribly often. In other words, I coulda been a contender, but instead, I’ve rarely cleared the ceiling of “intender.”

But that all changed yesterday. Yesterday, instead of just carping on a cause, I stepped up and actually did something concrete. You see, yesterday, I officiated for the first time at a same-sex wedding. I’m not just talking about LGBT rights anymore; I’m standing up and doing something about it. It was in my power to offer something to someone that they hadn’t had access to before. And yes, I know anyone can perform these ceremonies now; I know someone else could have done this for these wonderful people. But it wasn’t someone else. It was me.

So that’s my New Year’s resolution: I’m done with the “just okay” approach to life. From now on, it’s balls to the wall. I’m going down swinging.

I hereby resolve:

  1. I will think not just outside the box, but outside the concept of box-ness. There are no boxes, as far as I’m concerned, anymore. It’s time for new and crazy-ass ideas, because today’s crazy is tomorrow’s hope for change.
  2. I will use this blog as a starting point, but it will be just that–a springboard for actual action, in the real world, because, while words are important and powerful, on their own they just aren’t enough.
  3. I will throw myself back into my work like never before, because at the end of the day, what you do and how you do it is who you are. Point me to my sled and tell me to mush; I’m ready to pull like my life depends on it. Because I firmly believe that in some cases, some people’s do.
  4. I will be a friend. I will answer my phone. I will help when asked, no matter who asks me. I will smile, even when it hurts, because it’s only dark until someone turns on a light. And my hand is on the switch.

Expect a post a week from me in future (if you’re listening); anything else takes up too much time, distracts too much from actually living a life that touches the lives of others. Unless your blog is how you touch the lives of others, in which case, blog away, and may it give you purpose.

But if you do seek to change the world by means of the blog, remember: hate breeds only more hate, bigotry cuts both ways, and there are real faces sporting real lives and back stories behind the little icons on your screen. So proceed with love and caution.

Happy New Year to you all,
and may 2016 be our moment, as a species,
to shine!

#OpenTheDoors

148499_10100741148544263_1419274769_nCLO warning: Confused Luddite Online.

God help me, I’ve created a Twitter account…

Two things:

  1. It is true that I have been quite vocal in the past regarding my doubts as to the real benefits of social media and online communication. That will not stop; I still have those doubts. There were, and are, doubts about every new means of mass communication ever invented: the telegraph, the radio, television, and so on. And they have each been used in ways that have both strengthened and compromised our moral identity as a people.
  2. It is also true that, as with all communications media, it is largely the user who determines the positive or negative impact of any given medium. Since the Internet is here to stay, it is up to individual users concerned about its moral and ethical implications not just to nitpick from the sidelines, but to map out ways in which those limitations may be transcended and overcome.

So, if I can’t beat them, I must join them.

Mind you, I haven’t the foggiest clue what I’m doing, and I’m more than a little convinced that I’m simply entering another arena in which silence will reign, but if I don’t try…well…

If you are interested, you’ll find me at @magnificenttoad. If you’re invested in changing the conversation, join me there. I’ll be the guy tilting at windmills.

Spread the word:
#OpenTheDoors

Candles

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What happens when a candle goes out?
Was it blown,
snuffed, simply
forgotten?
Did anyone see the guttering,
stuttering in flame?
Who’s to blame when a blaze,
extinguished (perhaps
in anguish),
disappears?

Couldn’t you hear the loneliness
dancing in outline upon your wall?
Cries that fall in silent wails,
heard askance…

Or were you busy
just then?

Did the light ever shine
if all are blind?
Tree to forest; the poorest eyesight
lives in mirrors warped and twisted…

we all missed it

Freshly (De)Pressed

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Once upon a time,
long ago, in a galaxy far, far away,
I was a simple blogger
going about his business

happily.

Typing away in relative obscurity
unaware of the dangers lurking
just around the corner.

And then…

I was Freshly Pressed!!!!!!!!

Now,
after sitting on my laurels
after my fifteen
after being inundated with the drive-by praise of random strangers,
I’m a nervous wreck.

‘Cause now,
I’m chasing the dragon…

Welcome to WordPress–
where you are one voice among millions
and the loudest scream barely clears a whisper

where your chances of being noticed
are about as good
as the guy’s who parks cars at the White House are
of inheriting the presidency…
How many would have to go down
for anything to land on us?

Dear WordPress…
dear, dear WordPress…
Thank you for amplifying our sense of
worthlessness
by introducing us to the fleeting nature of fame.

Isn’t it enough to create a space
and then let it be filled
with the variegated voices of valuable people?
We don’t need adulation;
we need registration…and then
freedom to move about our
worldviews
without the pressure of competition
of proving ourselves to strangers
instead of sharing ourselves with friends

Your voice; my voice:
they all count, whether we’ve been noticed or not.
Is this community?
Then let it be a community
of the few and the caring.

Silence is only golden when you know someone is there.

Here’s an award for you:
The Still, Small Voice Award.
Try that one on for size.

If you’ve spoken, you’ve won.
You are nominated; you are vindicated;
you are recognized

if only by those others of us
who share your cloak of
invisibility

Next Stop on the WTF! Tour

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I will grant you…
a lot of this is my own fault.

I am not the easiest person with whom to connect…

I’m not a recluse,
exactly…
but I’m not far off, either.
I march to the beat of my own
humdrum;
given the choice,
I’ll take the gun and the cannoli
and go home.

I love travel, but only on my terms;
other people get in the way.
I love being an uncle,
because I don’t have to take the kids home at night.

I’m a loner,
and I thrive on loneliness.
As the man once said…
Hurts so good…

Perhaps poorly wired for friendship.

Deeply prone to oppositional thinking:
without conflict, I could not express fully who I am.
I am not,
as some have suggested, rather archly, a
“COMPLAINER.”
I am simply a warrior in search of battle,
a knight errant in squeaky armor,
with grails coming out of the woodwork.

I am never content with being content;
I must exercise
(exorcise?)
my passions
or shrivel and die in quiet.

But sometimes even I,
even I,
(as we all)
in the midst of screaming,
in the depths of self-imposed solitude,
need answering.

There are the clever few who know
the magic words:

I hear you…