Monday, December 31, 2007


It seems every time a new year rolls around, I tend to think back on the past, wishing in a lot of instances that I could have "do-overs." Isn't that what New Years resolutions are all about. We know we can't change what's been done, but it eases our consciences to think we can prevent making the same mistakes again. I've been known to join the tradition of those who write out their list of resolves, thinking that doing so will make this coming year a better one—only to give up on most, if not all of them, by the time the year's half over.

Recently, I've been eating chocolate like crazy. I do it to assuage the guilt that comes from realizing I was going to lay off the sweets a year ago in order to develop a healthier, handsomer body. But my resolve didn't last long, so in the back of my mind, I hear voices saying. "Come New Years day, we are going to quit putting chocolate in our morning coffee. We are going to get more exercise. We will lay off the fudge and ice cream." My answer to those scheming voices? "All righty, then. We've got one more day to down all this scrumptious Christmas candy and birthday cake."

Yep, come January 1—ohmygosh! that's tomorrow—we'll try once again to get back on that diet we started last year. The getting on isn't so hard, but like in bull riding, my trouble is staying on for the 8 second ride (or it's equivalent—8 weeks would be a record, I think.)

So maybe not. I think this year I'll forget all resolutions save one. I resolve to be kinder to myself by putting down the whip of self-flagellation and enjoying life, minute by precious minute. I'll do what I can—what I want to—with love in my heart and laughter in my voice. I'm going to strike certain words from my vocabulary...words those voices in the back of my head tend to harp on, even when I refrain from saying them out loud. "You gotta, you oughta, we should! You should've, could've, if only we would've."

No, I've decided that at my age, it's time to admit I'm fallible, that I won't always do everything perfectly, won't always be on time with all the work I lay out for myself, won't remember everything I'm supposed to remember. Like Al Franken's "Stuart Smally" (remember SNL?) I'll say, "and that's okay."

Life has been very good to me. I am surrounded by loved ones, and new and wonderful people come into my life all the time. I will allow myself to be blessed by them and accept their love and kindness to me with a heart full of gratitude. That is my resolution for 2008. I think it's going to be a very good year.

P.S. I don't mean I'll quit working, because I love what I do, especially the writing. As I come to the closing chapters of the second book of my trilogy, I'm hard to pull away from the keyboard.

I wish a very happy, be-kind-to-yourself New year to all of you.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

War and Peace

The many minds of mortal men
Make mutual musing mockery.
Various views and vantage points
Make millions mutter “crockery.”

Though two men see the exact same scene,
Their interpretations differ.
And thus we have a war of minds
Which arguments just make stiffer.

There are those who refuse to change.
There opinions stand for seasons.
And those who curse the stubbornness
Of those who will not reason.

I think I’m right and you are wrong
And you’re sure you are right.
And so we spend our lives apart
Or in a controversial fight.

Is it possible to tolerate
An opposing point of view
And still be friends; negotiate,
And love each other too?

I guess if it were there’d be no war
Yet people keep on killing.
The horror of horrors that promised to end
Are repeated from cold hearts chilling

Will there ever be horrors bad enough
To make us say, “No More!”
To decide to live for once in peace
Because we’ve seen enough of war?

Is it possible to befriend those
Whose convictions disagree?
Bringing hatred to an end?
Must we just wait and see?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Looking at the little picture can result in wrongful judgments.

I promised to expound on my comment about looking at the big picture, when I talked about playing God. I had an e-mail from a friend commenting on a recent blog post. She said, "Your new note on your own divinity, or lack of it, delighted me. Just think what a different world this would be--and what an entirely more positive, productive situation we'd be in--if each of us understood, and operated as though, we are not God!"

That pretty well sums up what I meant in my comments about playing God; about the big versus the little picture. In our humanity, it is not possible to see the "Big Picture" or to know and understand the extent of the far reaching consequences of our words, our actions, or lack thereof, or the words, deeds, and misdeeds of others. The best we can do is to stop thinking we know, behaving as if we understand, and making laws and judgment based on our narrow views and what we as individuals and a society feel sure is right.

Every morning as I start the day, I decode a cryptogram, as my thought for the day. The one this morning is fitting for this discussion, I think. "Whatever crushes individuality is despotism, by whatever name it may be called." (John Stuart Mill 1806-1873) Yet our society, and many other societies in the world are set up to crush individuality. Every faction, religion, institution, and government seem to believe conformity is preferable to individuality, and rules are made for all to follow. People are persecuted, and innocent victims destroyed in the name of righteousness and protection from perceived evil.

"The perfect society" in my limited way of thinking, would be a transparent one where everyone knew what everyone else was doing, communication was open and inclusive of all, and no one tried to control anyone else. Of course this is not a perfect society and some regulations are needed. I realize that. But let me expound on one small example, out of a myriad, where I think that our obsession to regulate has gone too far. Injustice to some is bound to occur when laws rise out of fear and generalizations.

The generalized belief, stemming from the proven reality of a few, has resulted in severely limiting freedom for a lifetime of those who've served time for their crime. I am speaking of convicted sex offenders. "All sex offenders are incurable," is a widely held belief, even though statistics disprove it. You must be wondering why I should care. Let me assure you that the safety of children against sexual predators is of utmost importance to me. Anyone who knows me well will attest that I will do everything in my power to make sure children are never left alone with anyone who has the slightest chance of being a molester. Years ago, when I felt an alleged (never tried nor convicted) perpetrator of sexual abuse was trying to gain unsupervised access to my grandchildren, I did everything in my power to keep it from happening, although it wasn't easy to do. If there is the slightest suspicion that a person poses a danger to a child, the child's safety comes first.

On the flip side, however, I've seen how the present laws inequitably affect those who have been convicted and have served time for sex offenses. Here's why.

1. Sex offenders, which make up from 3% to 11% of the prison population, are the only felons who have to register their physical address within three days of moving. They are the only ones who, in many states, face restrictions on where they can live based on the proximity of children. They cannot go to the beach, a park,  or anywhere children could be present. Not even convicted killers or drug pushers have similar requirements that I've been able to find.

2. Many who've been convicted of sex crimes were not guilty. I have a friend who was falsely accused of molesting an ex-girlfriend's daughter merely because the girlfriend wanted to get even with him for ending the relationship. He served his time and moved to another state, being careful to register his new address when he moved. But it's never over for him, or any other person with a record for a sex-related crime. He was never notified of a change in the law from requiring change of address registration within 3 days rather than the former 10 days. So, when he moved again from one rented house to another, he thought he still had time to register. He was arrested, jailed, and now faces more prison time for this infraction.

I know of two cases in which the alleged child molester ended his life, after being accused and on trial. One shot himself, one stepped in front of a train. In one case the accusers admitted that the man had never touched them. They only said he did because they were mad at him for not allowing them to go out one night.

I read of a school teacher in his early twenties who had a brief consensual affair with a 16-year-old student. He served prison time for statutory rape. He is remorseful about his mistake, but is now happily married and the father of two young children. But the laws do not allow him to take his children to a park, won't allow him to visit their schools or day care in the future. Is this really protecting anyone?

3. Many studies have been done to examine the recidivism of convicted sex offenders. Results of the several I've read range from 3.3% to 10%. Does that sound like "once a sex offender, always a sex offender?

4. Most sex crimes, especially those against children are never reported, so there are far more child molesters walking free than there are known offenders who must have their place of residence publicly reported.

5. These laws, as they are designed, do not protect a child from the most prevalent type of sex offender, which is someone a child knows and trusts, most commonly a relative, close friend or a socially respected adult.

6. Though there are sex-offenders who may never be cured, most are remorseful for their crime. I, who puts children's rights for a safe and healthy environment above all else, will do all I can to see that my grandchildren are never left alone with a person who has been either alleged or convicted of a sex crime. (I have both a friend and a relative in this category. I trust them both.) I take this precaution for two reasons. One is to protect the child. The other is to protect the registered sex-offender from danger of false accusations and suspicions. They walk a very fine line, living in fear that if they make one misstep or omission of a requirement, they'll be back in prison.

Much more could be done in our prison systems to educate and counsel the inmates, thereby decreasing repeat offenses. Such programs would go much farther in making our world a safer place. 

Well, I guess I went off on a tangent and gave more than I promised to discuss, but it all relates to our tendency to make critical judgments based on generalizations,  fear, and narrow views derived from partial facts, i.e. from looking at the little picture.  

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Newton's third law

I promised an explanation for what I said in my last post, As I learned in physics, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So my wishes are mere fantasies of what I perceive to be better for us—for me—when looking at the little picture.

When I wrote it, I meant that there are two sides to every story, every person, every situation. Newton's third law says, paraphrased, "To every action force there is an equal, but opposite, reaction force," I meant to apply this principle to every aspect of life.

According to Wikipedia, "A more direct translation is: To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction: or the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts. — Whatever draws or presses another is as much drawn or pressed by that other. If you press a stone with your finger, the finger is also pressed by the stone. If a horse draws a stone tied to a rope, the horse (if I may so say) will be equally drawn back towards the stone: for the distended rope, by the same endeavour to relax or unbend itself, will draw the horse as much towards the stone, as it does the stone towards the horse, and will obstruct the progress of the one as much as it advances that of the other. If a body impinge upon another, and by its force change the motion (momentum) of the other, that body also (because of the equality of the mutual pressure) will undergo an equal change, in its own motion (momentum), toward the contrary part. The changes made by these actions are equal, not in the velocities but in the motions of the bodies."

Similar to the Chinese philosophy of yin and yang, my view is that, for good reason, there are opposite sides to everything: Love vs. Hate, Good vs. Evil, Hot vs. Cold, Dark vs. Light, Old age vs. Youth, Optimism vs. Pessimism, Kindness vs. cruelty, and on and on. Our inclination is to want the good without the evil, the light without the dark. Love without hate. Sunshine without stormy weather. Would we appreciate it if we had it that way? It seems to take one to recognize and appreciate the other. Wikipedia says, Yin (dark) and yang (light) are descriptions of complementary opposites as well as absolutes. Any yin/yang dichotomy can be viewed from another perspective. All forces in nature can be seen as existing in yin or yang states, and two produce constant movement/force of the universe.

I'd like to make the world all peace, love, light, and safety, and I do everything I can to create such an environment for loved ones. Yet, if I had unlimited supernatural powers to make everyone agree with me, would the world be a better place? I don't think so. I also understand that whatever I write on my blog puts me at risk for experiencing an opposing force. And for me, a person who has always shrunk from controversy, that's important to know. Not everyone is going to agree with my words, my premises, my convictions, or my way of expressing myself (all of which are dynamic, subject to revision as I encounter new experiences, listen to opposing views, study new ideas, and interact with people who stimulate thought). By putting my ideas in public view, I become vulnerable to criticism and censor. This is true, not only in posting blogs, but in writing books and articles and in public speaking. However, in order to have a meaningful life and to be able to explore and mold my identity, it's a risk I must take. But isn't that a good thing? I find that it is opposition, questioning, criticism, and censor that makes me look harder at myself, my beliefs, and my writing to help me grow as a person as well as a writer.

Light is meaningful only in relation to darkness, and truth presupposes error. It is these mingled opposites which people our life, which make it pungent, intoxicating. We only exist in terms of this conflict, in the zone where black and white clash. Louis Aragon (1897-1982) French poet, novelist, and essayist.

Without contraries is no progression. Attraction and repulsion, reason and energy, love and hate, are necessary to human existence. William Blake (1757-1827) British poet and painter.

Next time: The big versus the little picture or withholding judgement.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Blogging and life

Life and Blogging

I’ve been asked to explain some of my comments in my last post, the blog tag. The paragraph in question includes my answer to the fourth question. Here is what I wrote. “Worse, though, are the online predators taking advantage of the unsuspecting, especially young people. I wish there were no predators on social sites like My Space and others so that our kids could safely surf the web and enjoy cyber friendships without fear of cruelty and exploitation. I wish that on the internet as well as in real life, we could only find knowledge and wholesome entertainment and interaction. I'd wish away pornography and violence, if I could.”

Yes, there are perversions of all kinds, violence, and exploitation on the internet. This is made painfully clear by news of the teenage girl who committed suicide. I’m not only saddened but enraged that it was a grown woman, posing as a teenage boy, who said such derogatory things, that the girl felt she couldn’t go on living. Adolescence is a turbulent time at best. Teens are vulnerable to suicidal thought when, like Shakespeare’s Ophelia, their affections are toyed with, their hearts won, and then their hopes dashed. This is just one example of how kids, eager to chat with new friends, are misled by predatory adults who pose as teens. Films, TV, and video games seem to promote more and more violence as children and adults alike become so inured they need more and more to elicit an emotional response.

I, a peace loving person, would remove all controversy from the world if I had my way. I would take away all danger to our children, that they might never suffer pain—emotional or physical. “But,” as I said in my blog-tag answers, “of course that is not the way life is, and why I am not God.” What I meant by this is that “my way” would remove individuality and the freedom to be different, which gives life meaning. I would be creating a drab gray “Pleasantville,” or a colorless world like we find in Lois Lowry’s book, The Giver.

Would I sacrifice, for even a moment, the fiery spirit of some of my friends, the complex and varied personalities of loved ones, the opposing views of acquaintances on complex issues? Maybe I’d be tempted when I want everyone to see issues from my point of view. It’s good I’m not God. What a boring world this would be if everyone thought, spoke, and behaved like me… or like any other one person, for that matter.

Even in the novels I write and call “True Fiction” (for reasons I’ve explained in an earlier blog post) there is diversity. My protagonists are never all “good,” and my antagonists aren’t all “bad.” My characters make mistakes; they make poor choices and reap the consequences. Issues are not black and white, in fiction or in life. No one is “good” or “evil.” We are all just human, and yet we are each unique—and that’s the way it should be.

Next time, I’ll explain the next sentence from my previous post: “As I learned in physics, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction—so my wishes are mere fantasies of what I perceive to be better for us—for me—when looking at the little picture.”