Monday, January 30, 2012

A few days ago I pulled up on my computer screen a piece of writing I’d done quite a while ago. I read it over and, sure enough, there were a number of changes I wanted to make. It’s always like that for me and for every other writer I know. It seems we’re never satisfied with a piece of work, even one that has been published.

Why is that?

At first glance, it can be ascribed to spotting mistakes—typos or the like—or perhaps fussiness. Perhaps it is due to a streak of perfectionism or even lack of self confidence. There always seems to be a better way to say things. I was discussing the phenomenon with some friends and I think there might be a bit more to it than first appears. Through the passage of time, situations change. We change. None of us are exactly the same persons we were a year or so ago—even a few months ago, for that matter. Each of us has added to him- or herself through experiences, through living. To some extent, our ideas, our way of thinking has changed. The changes may be slight or extensive or anything in between, but we are not exactly the same.

Through this revised way of thinking, our former ideas and concepts change to a greater or lesser extent. That is to be expected and, if we really think about it, welcomed. One only hopes that the changes are a matter of us progressing. If that is true, then the changes we make to the piece of writing will improve it. Of course, one can spend too much time on a piece of work. For one thing, there is a certain danger in destroying the spontaneity of the work. For a second, there is always a time to put it away and move on to other things. I remember a piece of wisdom offered by a poet to the effect that a poem is never finished; it is simply abandoned. I think that applies to any piece of writing.

I wonder—can the same thing be said of life?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

“Spin” is a common term these days. It is used to describe an interpretation of events or statements, usually in relation to politics. It can be taken as being based on the fact that there are two (or more) sides to every subject. In that sense, it is only reasonable that all sides of a subject be presented in order for a person to make an informed decision. That’s the explanation that sounds good. But there are more devious reasons for spin.

Spin is a new term for something that has been in existence for a long time. Politicians have been crafting speeches for particular locations and audiences and vice versa as a matter of course for years—for decades if not centuries—for the purpose of making the greatest favorable impression. Several things have come into being that have influenced this practice. Some of these are: 1) there are better means of measuring the effectiveness of communication; 2) there are more accurate ways of discerning what people want or will accept; 3) there is new efficiency in presenting things in the most favorable and persuasive light; 4) there is a new “science” dealing with influencing people through persuasion, suggestion and that old standby, fear.

As a result we have spin. I believe this term is new enough and unique enough to go beyond any narrow definition and be applied to the entire modern situation of controlling people for specific purposes. And that is just it—its main use is for controlling people. We have an age of specialization, efforts that have relegated to a science the means for analyzing, predicting and controlling human behavior. And we have the rise of people with the talent, training and ability for putting such things into effect. “Packaging” is important; new names are devised for any number of things—products, ideas, concepts, laws, etc.—that sometimes have little to do with their content but everything to do with their acceptance by the public.

The results of this are not confined to the field of politics. Business, the military, education, even religions, make use of spin. And so we are inundated with it. We have spinners and spinees. It is all around us and when one thinks about it, it is probably quite accurately named. Being in the midst of spin can make one quite dizzy and when one is dizzy one is apt to not be able to think too well. That is just what the spinners, the purveyors of spin, are hoping for.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Global warming is quite an issue and has been so for a number of years. Many people debate the subject—including scientists. It seems no one really knows whether it actually exists and, if it does, whether or not it is caused by mankind.

Some sources say it exists but is cyclical, therefore is understandable and, by inference, of no great importance. But just what does that mean? To me, cyclical indicates that warming has happened before. But what caused it then and what is causing it now? It may have occurred in the past because of natural causes but that does not mean that we—mankind—is not causing or at least contributing to, this particular cycle. If that is true then can we not, at least in part, control it?

The entire issue has been complicated by allowing politics and religion to become involved with it. The ultimate of that was a Senator reading into the Congressional Record a passage from the Bible in which God promised that He would never visit upon man another disaster such as the flood. That, according to the Senator, meant that global warming would pose no threat to mankind. The problem with that is that God gave man free will. Nowhere does He say that He will prevent man from using his free will to bring disaster upon himself.

But politics and religion are only tools that are being used. The real source of the debate is money. If it is accepted that: 1) global warming is a fact, and; 2) man is even partly responsible for its existence, then to correct the problem is going to cost money. We don’t want that; Some people very much don’t want that.

So, we have not accepted the basic fact of the existence of global warming. And we will not. To accept that something is wrong could, in some minds, be the first step down a road to economic calamity. That attitude is somewhat akin to “denial”, the method used by the families of some alcoholics in regard to their problem. If one refuses to admit that there is a problem, then there is no problem and no one has to be concerned with finding a solution to a problem that does not exist.

Global warming is just one issue that faces us. The greatest problem that faces us, and one that is not being addressed, is money. We, as a society, are addicted to money. A definition of addiction that I like very much is: placing yourself under the influence of something that is lesser than yourself. We have done that. Money rules us all. Many of our problems, including our approach to global warming, will be solved once we beat our addiction.

Monday, January 9, 2012

I took my Christmas tree down this past Sunday. I usually do that on twelfth night but I had a meeting at my place on thirteenth afternoon so I decided to leave the decorations up for that and by thirteenth evening I was too tired to bother. So the task didn’t get done until fourteenth afternoon. But it’s done now. Christmas has been packed away for another year.

That’s sort of sad.

I like decorating for Christmas. In fact, it’s the one part of Christmas I really like—that and seeing friends. But you can see friends anytime in the year if you’re so inclined and you’re probably better off doing that instead of waiting until Christmas. But Christmas decorating is special—one time in the year that you can do something in concert with a great number of the people in the world. It’s not often you get to do something that way that has a positive, peaceful, good will meaning attached. I guess that’s the underlying reason I like it. There are other reasons as well, having to do with memories from earlier days. Then, too, there is creativity involved and also the fact that it’s fun.

But it’s over now and that’s probably just as well. Things have to be over in order for other things to take their place. We’re off into the New Year, with all its promises and foreboding and all its surprises. What will it bring? I guess that’s the reason for things being past; without the past how could there be a future?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

It snowed yesterday and into the night, a good snow that stayed, one fit for sled riding. It’s late for that—January 2nd. When I was a boy, there had been many sled-riding snows by this time in the year. And I and my friends took advantage of them all. But many things were different in those days. One of those things was where we did our sled riding.

I lived in Wexford, PA. At that time it was a farming community. There were no shopping centers, large housing developments or car dealerships. There was very little traffic—and that was a very good thing because our favorite place to sled ride was right down the main street of Wexford. That was a very good place for sled riding after a good, fresh snowfall, one that came of an afternoon and evening. The traffic that did exist packed the snow—perfect for a good, fast ride. The hill was a long one, the longest in the area and it was well lit because of light coming from the houses that lined the street.

Those of us for whom the hill was not long enough, could turn to the right at the bottom of the hill and continue down another road that was almost twice as long. The disadvantages of that were that it was dark (and possible a little scary) and that it was a very long way back up to the starting place while dragging a sled.

There was some traffic to be wary of but we received ample warning of the occasional car by shouts from our friends that lined the hill, either sledding down or walking back up. All the cars moved slowly because of the well-packed and sometimes icy surface. But that well-loved (by sledriders) slick surface was the very thing that limited our winter fun. Sooner or later the ash truck would come. In those days, a road was made safe for cars by a dump truck with ashes in its bed. A man with a shovel stood in the bed and with regular, practiced motions spread lane-wide coatings of ash.

The passage of that truck indicated the end of the good sled riding on the road. From then on we would be relegated to the lawns and pastures of the countryside for sledding tracks. It took a lot of work to make then as good and as fast as the packed snow of the main street of Wexford.