Happenings around the world, including the attempted assassination of U.S. congressmen at a baseball practice this week, always remind me of the opening lines of my little anti-war anarchist novel The Imaginary Revolution, which I was merrily writing along five summers ago now.
This was the first fragment I wrote on the ImagRev blog, and it never got dislodged as the book’s introduction:
I always thought war was stupid.
I mean, think about it. You and your adversary disagree about something, and the solution is to send your citizens to fight each other to the death?
You’re never going to succeed in killing each and every one of your adversary’s citizens, so even if you win, there are thousands of people who still believe in whatever it was you were trying to obliterate.
You can’t kill an idea.
The book is told in the first person by the main character, Ray Kaliber, but on this point (among a few others) the author and his character are in complete agreement.
People are just so angry anymore, so easily offended, so eager to believe the worst about people who disagree with us, just so darn mad at each other.
How did we get this way? I got to thinkin’.
What if the smoke in the smoke-filled rooms was a good thing? You know, the smoke-filled rooms where political deals were hashed out, once upon a time.
What if there was something in the tobacco that calmed the soul and made people more amenable and more willing to listen? What if tobacco really is a sacred substance that brings peace among warring men? What if by injecting tobacco with cancerous additives that killed so many, we drove ourselves away from a substance that made us more willing to reason, to negotiate, to understand the other point of view?
What if we got so polarized, so indignant with one another, so intolerant of other world views, because deep down in our bodies we just needed a smoke?
So much might be accomplished for the good if we just reclaimed the universal opening line of so many successful meetings of the mind: “Hey, buddy, you got a cigarette?” “Hey, friend, you want a smoke?”
I don’t smoke – never have. I’m just wondering.
Lately I’ve been thrown into a reflective mood when the anniversary of my entry into the “real world” rolls around. Here are two better essays I’ve written around this date the past couple of years:
4 things I didn’t know on graduation day
A pretty good life, all told, so far
And here are some half-finished thoughts I scratched out this year: Continue reading Commencement collection
You’ve got to get up every morning
with a smile on your face
and show the world all the love in your heart,
and then people gonna treat you better.
You’re going to find – yes, you will! –
that you’re beautiful as you feel.
Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say,
“In this world, Elwood, you must be …
She always called me Elwood …
In this world, Elwood, you must be oh, so smart,
or oh, so pleasant.”
Well, for years I was smart.
I recommend pleasant.
And you may quote me.
Elwood P. Dowd
I used to talk about all of the incredible improvements in technology my dad had seen since he was a boy. And this was in the 1970s, when he was in his fifties. Now that he’s in his nineties, and I’m in my sixties, I marvel at what I’ve seen myself.
What a marvelous invention is the smartphone, for example. When I first broke into the real world and became a radio news guy, I was commissioned a cassette tape recorder that weighed about 10 pounds that I slung over my shoulder and plugged a microphone into – and that had replaced a reel-to-reel tape recorder that earlier news guys used and probably weighed 35 pounds. Continue reading Our incredible shrinking electronics
“If I miss one day of practice, I notice it. If I miss two days, the critics notice it. If I miss three days, the audience notices it.”
―Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1860-1941)
I have seen the quote attributed to several modern artists, usually classical musicians, but Google The Great and Powerful tells me Paderewski said it first.
I didn’t know who Ignacy Jan Paderewski was until today, but there he is on Google and YouTube and preserved for the ages, quoted and paraphrased by millions all the time.
And he’s right: To stay on top of your game, you must practice, practice, practice.
And what if you miss four days? or set your skills aside for weeks, months, years?
You start over. Fair warning. Get to work.