Why I choose optimism

The other day I posted the preface to the revised and expanded edition of my book Refuse to be Afraid, which begins:

“As this 2016 edition of Refuse to be Afraid is prepared, the major U.S. political parties have put up the two worst choices of my lifetime. To pick either one is to doom the United States government to four years of scary leadership, their ideas antithetical to the American standard of individual freedom and equality before the law.”

An old friend offered this comment: “I thought you were the eternal optimist. These words clearly convey a message of good old pessimism.”

Oh, perhaps those words are pessimistic, but they are an introduction to an introduction, and I chose the words carefully. Continue reading Why I choose optimism

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It is still your life to live

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I finished another journal today. Tomorrow morning I’ll be reaching for another bound book of blank pages waiting to be filled with fragments of thought and bursts of creativity.

I got curious as to how the last journal ended, so I grabbed it off the shelf and remembered that I used the last page and a half to write a new preface for my book Refuse to be Afraid, which I was re-releasing last summer.

Much has changed since I finished that last journal. But I still believe this with all my heart and soul: Continue reading It is still your life to live

I still choose whimsy

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I am surprised to discover it has been five years since I released my brief manifesto “I choose whimsy,” which I reproduce in its entirety here:

I see and hear the cranky and dyspeptic political tones, philosophical arguments dressed up as a battle between good and evil, and I have seen and heard enough.

“There ain’t no good guys, there ain’t no bad guys, there’s only you and me and we just disagree,” the poet sang.

And yet the demagogues behind the curtains conjure images of battlegrounds. We don’t just disagree; you are the embodiment of evil walking on Earth. If your kind keeps/retains power, then the rest of us die.

Hogwash. I say again, hogwash. Pay no attention to the demagogues behind the curtains.

My freedom is not dependent upon someone holding or being ejected from office, and neither is yours. Human beings are born to freedom, not granted liberty by benevolent rulers. What part of “endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights” is so hard to understand?

We have a choice to stew in our own bile – or in bile provided for us by willing political toadies – or to live our lives freely, joyfully and in celebration.

You may follow the path to fear and loathing and the infestation of imaginary hobgoblins. I choose whimsy.

A half a decade since I penned those words, choosing whimsy is more of a revolutionary act than ever. If the political conversation was cranky and dyspeptic in 2012, Lord knows it is more so by a hundredfold in 2017.

Is it foolish to seek out and embrace the whimsical in such a world as this? I argue that it’s more important than ever. It’s so easy to be aghast at what has become of the political debate; many people have decided to forget that we were presented with an impossible choice last fall, either of which was destined to lead the USA government into dystopia. The last four months has seen an extended primal scream, “No, not this dystopia! The other one!”

But for those with eyes to see and ears to hear, life has continued. Lives are still being led freely, joyfully and in celebration. The sun rises every day and sets at night, and stories are still being told of hope, of love and of inspiration.

The sweet taste of freedom is still in the air, waiting to be enjoyed. And it tastes much sweeter than bile. Choose whimsy.

Exorcising the bogeyman

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My experience is that people just want to carve out a niche, to make a living, to enjoy this life, to to seek a better live, to live and let live. Everything goes fine until it doesn’t, and it’s usually the bogeyman’s fault – except it isn’t.

Who is this bogeyman? He comes in different shapes and sizes. Once upon a time he was an evil villain or monster used to scare children into staying in bed where it was safe (more or less – also to be avoided was under the bed!) – and as time went on, we find that politicians and less subtle warlords use bogeymen to create fear and anger. We also use bogeymen of our own making to scare ourselves into not venturing forth into new territory.

Sometimes, though, we take steps despite the fear of the bogeymen. We actually go off to fight the bogeyman and discover he is really a creature much like ourselves, as the fighters in World War I discovered when they had a spontaneous Christmas Truce and interacted in comfort and joy until the holiday ended and they went back to the butchery.

One person’s bogeyman, carefully examined, is usually just some other person trying to carve out their niche – if you look without fear and hate, you find not bogeymen but just folks trying to live and let live.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we all looked around and discovered that the bogeyman never existed? Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t blame anyone for our troubles (except maybe ourselves) and instead took those troubles and just worked through them?

How to combat massive anxiety

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There is a cottage industry that thrives when people are anxious and even scared. It seems to be working overtime these days, feeding away at our fear.

I peeked at social media Monday morning, and tucked away among the puppy pictures and kitten videos and political arguments was a tweet that musician Rosanne Cash had posted in the early morning: Continue reading How to combat massive anxiety

A writer of stories and encouraging words

I never took advantage of my bully pulpit as small-town newspaper editor to promote the books I have written over the last eight years or so. It didn’t seem fair to leverage that audience when others had to buy ads to do the same.

But now that some of that audience has followed me here, wondering “What happened to Warren? What will he do next?” it behooves me, as young Chris Carter does at the end of every X-Files episode, to declare, “I made this!”

I promise I won’t engage in blatant advertising every day. This website is mainly the place where I deposit fragments of thought and potential stories, and offer some encouragement against the rampaging tides of Dark Silly that threaten your calm every day.

When I sat down some time ago to create a personal mission statement, the words that emerged were short and simple: “I am a writer of stories and encouraging words.” And that is the mission I aim to fulfill every time I sit down at this keyboard. Continue reading A writer of stories and encouraging words

That moment when you realize you’re being lied to

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(with grateful thanks to George Orwell, H.L. Mencken, Dr. Seuss and Joss Whedon)

Winston Smith sat in a corner where he was pretty sure the telescreen couldn’t see him, and he wrote in a journal. He questioned whether the vision of reality that came from state-controlled media was true. The more he thought and the words flowed from his mind and fingers, the angrier and more frustrated he felt, until he realized he was writing over and over, DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER. DOWN WITH BIG BROTHER.

Are human beings brutish and violent at their core? Is there nothing, when all veneer is stripped away, except violence and hatred? That is what they would have us believe – or perhaps: That is what they believe, and so they appeal to our hatred and the dark corner of our souls that most of us keep in check but some of us exercise in the most horrifying ways.

Continue reading That moment when you realize you’re being lied to