Speaking of the happy new year, I wonder if any year ever had less chance of being happy. It’s as though the whole race were indulging in a kind of species introversion — as though we looked inward on our neuroses. And the thing we see isn’t very pretty… So we go into this happy new year, knowing that our species has learned nothing, as a race, — that the experience of ten thousand years has made no impression on the instincts of the million years that preceded. ~ John Steinbeck’s letter written on January 1, 1941 to Pascal Covici
If any great author inspired me to write, it was John Steinbeck. I discovered him in high school when I read Of Mice and Men. By the time I graduated I had read all his books. The powerful ending of The Grapes of Wrath has stayed with me to this day. After all the struggle and sorrow the story told, it was that simple powerful image of a woman offering her breast to a starving man that I would never forget. This was the power of great literature.
E.B White once wrote “a writer should lift people up, not lower them down”.
During the last days of the awful year of 2016, I went back through my blogs looking for typos, editing repetition, and correcting run-on sentences. I don’t want to change anything major. I am intent on keeping the spirit of my early attempts at learning to write in public.
Here in the Green Mountains the last days of the year were snowy and cold. Epic icicles hung from the roof, but I was back in sunny Florida reading about those first days and months when we lived in the tropics. It has been interesting to look back at the things I was writing in 2013. Public libraries and the loss of public beaches along the Gold Coast shoreline caught my attention. Unbeknownst to me, and most of the world, I had my finger on the national zeitgeist. From the very first days when I started blogging back in 2013 I was drawn to the stories of everyday Americans like myself. I was repulsed by the opulent wealth and income inequality I saw all around me in South Florida. The anger and frustration of Election 2016 that came as a big surprise to so many came as no surprise to me.
My favorite pieces to write are not the stories about myself but the stories of average Americans I meet as I go about my everyday life. I like to keep my eyes wide open. I pay attention and I think empathy is a quality we all need to work on. The stories I’m attracted to are slice of life stories of everyday struggles, nothing unusual or heroic. I am not one of those confessional bloggers who talks about my personal struggles. I don’t find myself that interesting or insightful. What I’m trying to do is place myself in the spirit and mood of the times I live in. My generation, my particular time in history. Of course, the stories are told through my eyes and my personal perspective but what I discover is that most people I meet share the same problems I struggle with. I try to present the facts but often my opinion slips in. Just the act of choosing the stories I share is a political act but as I repeated quite often in the Florida blogs, politics have real life consequences.
Although some of the stories are about Me I prefer to write from the perspective of We. Some bloggers are very comfortable with confessional stories about their struggles with marriage, mothering, self-actualization, and living in the present. There are a lot of writers writing about sobriety right now. Although I have frequently written about living in the present, I prefer the perspective of We, as in We The People.
“Hard times are coming…we will need writers who remember freedom” ~ Ursula Le Guin
Steinbeck described his drive to write as a desire to make people understand each other.
“There is great tension in the world, tension toward a breaking point, and men are unhappy and confused…..At such a time it seems natural and good to me to ask myself these questions. What do I believe in? What must I fight for and what must I fight against?”
Despair is not an option. Hiding and going back in your hole is not an option. Not for me anyway. However small my voice may be, I have a voice. And so do you, dear reader. If you hear a story that moves you, please send me a note and I’ll share it in a blog. Names can remain anonymous, or if you’d like a shout out I’ll gladly credit you as my source. It could be a story about your cousin or someone you overheard in a supermarket check-out line. It could be your own story.
However much we are affected by the things of the world, however deeply they may stir and stimulate us, they become human for us only when we can discuss them with our fellows… We humanize what is going on in the world and in ourselves only by speaking of it, and in the course of speaking of it we learn to be human. ~ Hannah Arendt, Men in Dark Times
These are the stories I’ll be writing in the new year. I have a voice. Although it may be rather small, I intend to use it. I also plan to help out at a local food pantry and find other ways to help the people who will surely be hurting in the days ahead. I will share those stories too, beginning with the Women’s March in Washington, DC on January 21st. If you can’t join us check for local marches in your area.
I am working on the premise that entertainment – writing, movies, books, or music – can provide empathy and understanding, something we desperately need in these very divisive times we live in. If you like some of the blogs I write please share them. Real news will be a rare commodity in the coming year. We have a president who is going to tweet his own version of the story. So join me by volunteering, doing whatever you can, and helping spread the word.
Thanks for all your support over the last few years. Together we can change things for the better. Now is our time. Together we are writing history.
#bebrave #speakup #nowmorethanever. JOIN ME.
“When things go wrong, don’t go with them.” ― Elvis Presley