The beauty of freedom

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“Tell me what to do,” the young one said.

“Whatever you wish,” replied the mentor. “That’s the beauty of freedom. You do whatever you think you need to do.”

“What if I don’t know?”

“Then do anything. Do something, and see if it fits you.”

“And if it doesn’t? Fit, that is?” the young one fidgeted.

“Then do something else, and something else again, until you find a fit,” the mentor said, patiently. “It’s your choice.”

“I don’t know how to choose.”

“Incorrect. You know how to choose, but you worry that you won’t make the right choice, and so you hesitate.” A pause. “Nothing is difficult about choosing, except working through the hesitation.”

Still inconsolate: “What if I run out of choices and am still unsatisfied?”

Now the mentor smiled, gently. “It is impossible to run out of choices.”

“And what if I refuse to choose?”

“Then you will have chosen nothing,” said the mentor, kindly. “Which will change the mix of choices when you return to a place of choosing.”

“Maybe it will be a better mix,” said the young one, hopefully.

“Maybe it will be,” said the mentor. “But you will have lost what may have been, had you chosen now.”

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Now that you mention it, it IS what it is

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At first listen “It is what it is,” especially when accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders, sounds like an infuriating capitulation, a resort to an infuriating cliche. But it is also a grown-up acceptance of reality.

The phrase says: These are the cards that I have been dealt; this is the situation I have built for myself; my actions and decisions and dumb luck and I suppose the weather have put me here, in this place – so let’s deal with it.

Fussing and fuming and fighting clear reality may be cathartic, but it won’t change the situation, which is what it is, so a better use of time is fixing to fix it.

Please stand by

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There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to — The Outer Limits.

2017 saved the best for last

W.B. at the Movies/W.B.’s Book Report:

I’ve been tracking the books I’ve read since 1994, and no year in this recorded history have I read as many as the 66 books that I devoured in 2017.

Michael Connelly accounted for 21 of those books, and my re-immersion into audiobooks (with a new 45-mile commute starting in March) is responsible for 44 of them. I became addicted to Connelly after deciding to sample his work after falling in love with the Amazon TV show Bosch, based on Connelly’s detective hero Harry Bosch. The books are as binge-worthy as the show, and the latest, Two Kinds of Truth, may be the best yet.

I also discovered Craig Johnson’s series of mysteries about Wyoming sheriff Walt Longmire, and for essentially the same reason: I thoroughly enjoyed the Longmire TV show on Netflix and wanted more. The best thing is that Johnson’s regular reader, actor George Guidall, embodies Walt Longmire even better than Robert Taylor does on screen, so the novels I’ve “read” (the first five of 13 so far) have been a delight.

Unbroken-coverThe last book I “read” in 2017 was Laura Hillenbrand’s page-turner biography, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption. I don’t read many biographies, but I was taken by Hillenbrand’s earlier book Seabiscuit and heard good things about this one.

Her story of Louis Zamperini – who carried the Olympic torch in 1990 through a town not far from the Japanese prisoner of war camp where he lived a hellacious existence for nearly two years – is as good as it gets.

Zamperini lived a remarkable 97-year life that saw him compete in the Olympics, survive 47 days in a liferaft on the Pacific Ocean after a bomber crash, struggle through the POW experience and post-war alcoholism, and emerge to find a way to forgive his tormentors. Hillenbrand’s prose more than does justice to an uncommon man.

Star-Wars-The-Last-Jedi-posterI don’t keep track of the movies or TV shows I’ve watched (there are too many), but I do know my favorite movie theater experience of 2017 was also the last one: Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi. This film starring Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker was the most fun I’ve had in that long-ago, far-away galaxy since 1980 and The Empire Strikes Back.

Writer-director Rian Johnson filled the story with surprises, some more breathtaking than others, and we had a ball. This is just me, but you should know that back in the 1970s and early ’80s I watched the first three Star Wars films six to eight times each on the big screen. I even watched the much-maligned prequels of 15-20 years ago multiple times in the theater.

The 2015 revival film, Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens, was tremendous, yet I didn’t watch it a second time until a couple of weeks ago. It was great, but it didn’t draw my inner geek back for repeats. As this latest film reached its climax, however, I felt that old familiar tug of wanting to get back in line for another ride on the roller coaster.

I wholly recommend Unbroken to people who love a great book and Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi to people who love a great space opera. I know some people think Johnson took too many liberties with what they consider the Star Wars canon, but I don’t agree in the slightest. Last Jedi is a rousing flick that adds a small handful of exclamation points to the legend.